178.: malthus to ricardo1[Reply to 174.—Answered by 179] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818.
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malthus to ricardo
[Reply to 174.—Answered by 179]
E I Coll Sept 8th. 1816
My dear Sir,
As I know you don’t much mind rain I hope you have been enjoying yourself at Gatcomb notwithstanding the bad weather, and that your progress on the whole has been less impeded than that of the harvest. It has begun about us at last and seems as if it would be pretty good if it could be got in, but there has hardly ever been known so late a year, and in the backward parts of the country, a late year is always a bad one. How is the harvest about you?
I was glad to hear that you had got your Oxford boat safe in Gatcomb water. From George’s account of Mrs. Hall I did not expect that she would have been so rapid. I am a little afraid that it is larger than you find convenient, and that it might have been better if the original order had gone. Should this be the case, it might be worth while to change it; though probably from the state of the weather you have hardly tried it sufficiently fully to determine whether it is of the size that best suits you.
For myself I have been still a good deal engaged in College matters, but am now beginning to think seriously of my new edition , which I believe will be confined as before to 2 Vols. I have nearly determined to leave out the questions about bounties and restrictions, or only allude to them very shortly, as far as they are connected with population.
If, as you say, you have no difficulty in agreeing with me that the rate of profits depends mainly upon the demand and supply of stock compared with the demand and supply of labour it is surely allowing that the profits of stock depend upon competition, and not on facility of production; and it will clearly follow that when land is thrown out of cultivation, the profits of stock will not necessarily rise on the remainder, if capital and labour continue still in the same proportion to each other. Of course I should be the very last to deny that the difficulty of procuring food has an incessant operation; but to shew that the mode in which it operates is chiefly by checking food and population without proportionately checking other sorts of commodities, I would ask whether, if population were miraculously stopped while the most fertile land remained uncultivated, profits would not fall upon the supposition of an increase of capital still going on, owing to the further accumulation of materials and machinery and the employment of a greater proportion of the stationary population in productive labour. I really think that you have sometimes conceeded these points; but such concessions seem quite at variance with your general doctrine respecting profits, which the longer I consider it, appears to me more and more erroneous. The nature of every species of capital may be illustrated by a machine the value of which, however great its powers of production will only be determined by the price necessary to supply it. Upon the same principle in the most fertile soil if nothing is wanted but to plough and sow, and the trifling advances necessary for this purpose are in great abundance compared with the population, is it possible to conceive that the rate of profits should be very high? and does it not follow as I have always said that the productiveness of industry, or the facility of production, is totally different from the productiveness of capital, or the rate of profits. The only reason why profits on land are generally high in the early periods of society is, because labour is so well paid that population increases faster than capital, and capital is in consequence scarce compared with population and demand.
With regard to demand in general I cannot help thinking that in all our discussions,—bullion, as well as corn—&c: you have greatly underrated the effect of the wants and tastes of mankind, on which, after all every exertion of human industry [depends] ; and so far is it from being true that they may be considered as always ready for the supply, they are really very difficult to generate. Two alternatives are always ready to check their growth as far as the employment of capital is concerned. Among the higher classes the luxury of menial service, and among the lower classes the luxury of idleness, may always be preferred to commodities, and if this were to take place when labour and capital were thrown out of employment in equal proportions, would not capital become more abundant than labour, and profits fall?
Do you expect to be in Town at Xmas, or not till the Spring? Mrs. Malthus desires to be kindly remembered to Mrs. Ricardo. I hope Mrs. Austin is quite well after her travels.
Ever truly Yours
T R Malthus.