THE promise of a new elective in political economy ought to be one of the most welcome of all the additional courses. Considering the importance of the subject and the benefits which a knowledge of its principles confers on those who would be intelligent and active citizens, one elective would seem scarcely sufficient to give a comprehensive view of the subject.
We cannot help attributing a greater value to an increase in the amount of instruction in this direction, on account of the alarming degree of ignorance which prevails in some parts of the country and even in the minds of many of our legislators. This ignorance has been disagreeably apparent during the discussion on the currency bill now before Congress. Of late we have read nothing but repeated protests against the folly of inflation, and complaints of the wilfulness of Congressmen, who, through ignorance, are unconsciously heightening the dangers of a worthless paper-currency. Either the nature of values has been too little taught hitherto, or very incompetent men have been sent to Congress. If the legislators who favor inflation merely advocate the views of their constituents, it is earnestly to be desired that some philanthropic, or at least patriotic, men will emigrate South and West with their pockets filled with political-economy tracts.
It has been repeatedly said since the discussion on currency began, that the perusal of the most elementary books on the subject would show the evil consequences of increasing the amount of paper money. If so, what excuse can any one have for advocating a plan which cannot but bring misfortune?
One theory with regard to money and its value might have been as tenable as the other before either was tested. But when one has failed to stand the test of usefulness, it is difficult to see how it can reasonably be advocated for another trial at the cost of public credit. Representatives from the West and South, apparently ignorant of the subject, and unwilling to be persuaded by their opponents, might at least listen to a few lessons from the learned and anxious pens that appeal to them from the chief cities of the country.
For many reasons it would be a vain hope to expect to see a majority of a legislative body composed of the wisest men in the country. Colleges, however, have a power almost as great as that of the legislatures, although it has not yet been fully exercised. Instruction might be given every year on political economy and kindred subjects, which would make its principles almost as common and as well known to the voters of the country as the changes of the moon are. To exercise this power seems to be not only a privilege but the duty of every college.
If it is a source of honor to be able to produce eminent scholars in mathematics, in languages, and in science, it should be a matter of greater pride to send out men thoroughly educated in the means of legislating and governing wisely. A complete course in college for training men to be useful and honest statesmen is what Mr. Adams thought most needful to be added to the present courses of instruction.
This proposed addition of a course in political economy is one step towards the desired end. This, with the course already taught, the courses on constitutional history, elocution, and perhaps ethics, constitutes a good nucleus to which others may in time be added. When we hear the expressions of fear from all around us of the consequences of so general and great ignorance on financial subjects, we cannot ask too much instruction on such vital principles.