85.: ricardo to malthus1[Reply to 84.—Answered by 86] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815.
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ricardo to malthus
[Reply to 84.—Answered by 86]
London 21 March 1815
My dear Sir
On no subject that we have been lately discussing have we so materially differed as on the one now occupying our attention. Your position, if established, would, I think, overturn both your theory of rent and population, for I understand you to maintain that the higher the price of corn rises, in consequence of more men being employed on the poorer land, the greater will be, not only the surplus produce after paying the labourers, but the ratio of that surplus produce to the whole capital employed on the land. If this be true there is no check to the increase of population, and food can be increased in a ratio exceeding that at which mankind increase. Your statement requires that with every additional labourer not only an equal increase but a greater increase of surplus produce should be obtained. More labourers may then be employed without limit, and rent and profit together must not only increase, but increase in a geometrical progression. I am sure I am correct in thus stating your proposition, because if as you say the whole corn expense of production pr. quarter will be diminished with every rise of price, the surplus must increase in a geometrical ratio with the capital employed. If you meant only that the surplus produce would increase with every accumulation of capital on the land, though in a diminishing ratio to the capital employed on the land, that is not only advanced, but strenuously maintained as the groundwork of my theory, and is the basis also on which my table is formed. You have misapprehended a passage in my last letter. I certainly never said, nor ever thought, that any good reason could be given for an increased number of men being required to produce precisely the same quantity of corn from precisely the same land. What I said was that if at one period the number of labourers required to produce 10 millions of quarters of corn was 2½ millions of men, and at another, in consequence of increased demand, 15 millions of quarters could not be produced with a portion of worse land at a less cost of labour than that of 4½ millions, at this latter period a production of 10 millions would require 3 millions of men, because 15 is to 4½, as 10 to 3. And if we supposed the price of corn under such circumstances to increase in the proportion of 2½ to 3, a supposition much more favorable to your view of the question than we should be obliged to concede, yet that it would not support the conclusions to which you arrive but on the contrary would prove my theory to be the correct one. If the calculation had been made, as you think would have been more correct, on an increase from 10 millions to 10½ millions, the result would have been the same, but we should be puzzled with the decimals or fractions which must be employed on such a supposition.—
I agree with you “that the natural price of corn depends entirely upon the price of the last additions and it does not matter whether with regard to the old land a capital yields 50 pct. (rent and profit together) or 20 pct. In either case the price of corn on such land has nothing to do with the cost of production.” I do not see how the admission of this fact can assist your argument, which relates only to the ratio of the surplus produce to the whole capital employed.
I cannot conceive by what argument you could shew that it might be possible that the addition of another labourer on the land would not pay his expences although not more than ¼ of the population were employed upon the land. Allowing as I most fully do that no pressure can destroy rents, yet as the last portions of capital employed on the land pay no rent, it is to me inconceivable that there would be no inducement to employ more labourers whilst their average production should be 3 times more food than they could themselves consume. If the whole of this surplus, after maintaining in the most frugal manner the owners of stock, were absorbed by the landlords as rent, they would increase their revenue, and employ more labourers on the land, if any among them saved any part of his income and lent it at the common rate of interest.
I am sorry you do not come to town for the next club.