86.: malthus to ricardo1[Reply to 85.—Answered by 87] - 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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malthus to ricardo
[Reply to 85.—Answered by 87]
E I Coll March 24th 
My dear Sir
What a dreadful reverse! and what a prospect we have before us! It is scarcely possible not to be always thinking of it; but it is of no use; so that we may as well distract our attention as much as we can by other subjects.
I think you push my principle much too far; and do not recollect the limitations to which it must necessarily be subject. In the first place all depends upon the relation between corn and other commodities, and as labour and corn enter into the price of all commodities, the difference between corn and other commodities cannot possibly increase in any proportion to the increase in the money price of corn. I have supposed that ⅔ of the farmers advances still consist necessarily of raw produce; and even if the fixed, and other parts of the capital besides food could be had for nothing, and the whole remaining ¼ went in profits and rent, the principle of population would not be destroyed by it. There is no more food produced, on the old land. It is only that there is a difference in the distribution of it, and a larger share of the raw produce remains for profit and rent, chiefly of course the latter. Before,—the farmer to pay his money wages and purchase his fixed capital, was obliged to sell more corn:— Now, he can do this with less, and will have a larger remainder, but the same quantity of corn, neither more nor less, is distributed to the public, and as we dont suppose the people to live worse, precisely the same number are supported from the old land.
On the new land brought into cultivation in consequence of the demand, more men are employed in proportion to the quantity of corn produced, and as the same number of men as before are employed to obtain the old produce, there will be a greater number of men employed in proportion to the whole produce. But if the new produce be inconsiderable compared with the old, it appears to me quite certain that the increased corn expenditure of the former will be more than counterbalanced, by the diminished corn expenditure of the latter; and owing to the increased value of corn, the whole money cost of production on the land will bear a less proportion to the money value of the whole produce. On the other hand, if the new produce is so large, as to require 2 millions of labourers to obtain it, the increased corn expenditure owing to the additional number of persons employed, will more than counterbalance the diminished corn expenditure arising from the increased relative value of corn. It is of course quite impossible to suppose that the relative value of corn to other commodities can continue regularly increasing in proportion to any additional number of men which we may chuse to suppose employed upon the land. There will be in fact a constant reaction to prevent such increasing difference. The increased profits of agriculture, and diminished profits of other employments will increase the quantity of raw produce compared with other commodities, and this joined to the increased money price of corn, will be continually raising the money price of commodities, and bringing them again nearer to a level. I think further that the increased price of corn is in the order of things rather a cause than a consequence of more men being employed. The price rises first from increased demand, and this rise, by increasing the value of produce compared with the instruments of production determines what poor lands can be cultivated. No greater number of men can be employed at the same wages till the price rises.
I have been wrong however in supposing as I did at one time that a greater quantity of raw produce would be set free from the old land for the use and encouragement of the manufacturing and mercantile classes. While the same number of men are employed on the old land without a greater production, and living as well, this cannot be the case. In fact, while that capital the produce of which relatively rises in value becomes more productive, those capitals the produce of which relatively falls in value will become less productive, or yield less profits. But then the greatly increased money value of the corn in the country arising both from its increased quantity and increased price cannot fail to occasion such an increased demand for manufactured and foreign products as to encourage the growth of them and to render improvements in machinery particularly advantageous. Under such circumstances general profits may rise with rising prices of corn, and fall with falling prices, as we find from experience, though such periods are not likely to be of long continuence. The subject is very curious, and the principle when properly matured will I think throw some light on it. I have had little or no leisure lately, and am expecting company in the house. I have written part of answer to Torrens for a new Edition of the Grounds, but I think it would be too long, and as I hear of more attacks, I fear if I begin to answer I shall be led too much into publick controversies, which I had rather avoid. Do you know whether Torrens is much read. I think he has treated me unjustly in the preface and that the instances of inconsistency which he produces, even if established, would by no means warrant his sweeping accusation.
If you would lay a tax on foreign corn on account of a tax on our own; does not the same principle apply to the indirect taxes that raise the price of labour? As rents cannot be absorbed, profits and rents together must be high when population stops.
T R Malthus
Can you come and see us Saturday sennight?