Front Page Titles (by Subject) Section IV.—: Of the Causes which tend to lower Rents. - Principles of Political Economy
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Section IV.—: Of the Causes which tend to lower Rents. - Thomas Robert Malthus, Principles of Political Economy 
Principles of Political Economy (London: W. Pickering, 1836).
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Of the Causes which tend to lower Rents.
The causes which lead to a fall of rents are, as may be expected, exactly of an opposite description to those which lead to a rise: namely, diminished capital, diminished population, an operose system of cultivation, and a falling price of raw produce from deficiency of demand. They are almost always* indications of poverty and decline, and are necessarily connected with the throwing of inferior land out of cultivation, and the continued deterioration of the land of a superior quality.
The necessary effects of a diminished capital and diminished population in lowering rents, are too obvious to require explanation; nor is it less clear that an operose and bad system of cultivation might prevent the formation of rents, even on fertile land, by checking the progress of population and demand beyond what could be supplied from the very richest qualities of soil. I will only therefore advert to the fourth cause here noticed.
We have seen that a rise in the price of corn, terminating in a diminished value of the precious metals, would give a considerable stimulus to cultivation for a certain time, and some facilities permanently, and might occasion a considerable and permanent rise of rents. And this case was exemplified by what happened in this country during the period from 1794 to 1814.
It may be stated in like manner, that a fall in the price of corn terminating in a rise in the value of money, must, upon the same principles, tend to throw land out of cultivation and lower rents. And this may be exemplified by what happened in this country at the conclusion of the war. The fall in the price of corn at that period necessarily disabled the cultivators from employing the same quantity of labour on their land. Many labourers, therefore, were unavoidably thrown out of employment; and, as the land could not be cultivated in the same way, without the same number of hands, some of the worst soils were no longer worked, much agricultural capital was destroyed, and rents universally fell; while this great failure in the power of purchasing, among all those who either rented or possessed land, naturally occasioned a general stagnation in all other trades. But the fall in the money price of labour* from the competition of the labourers, and the poverty of the cultivators; together with the fall of rents, from the want of power to pay the former rents, would tend to restore the former relations of produce, wages, and rents to each other, though they would all be lower in price than they were before. The land which had been thrown out of tillage might then again be cultivated with advantage; but in the progress from the lower to the higher value of money, a period would have elapsed of diminished produce, diminished capital, and diminished rents. The country would recommence a progressive movement from an impoverished state; and, owing to a fall in the value of corn greater than in taxed commodities, in foreign commodities, and in others which form a part of the capital of the farmer and of the necessaries and conveniences of the labourer, the permanent difficulties of cultivation would be great compared with the natural fertility of the worst soil actually in tillage.
It has appeared that, in the progress of cultivation and of increasing rents, it is not necessary that all the causes which tend to advance rents should operate at the same time; and that the difference between the price of produce and the expense of cultivation might increase, although either the profits of stock or the wages of labour might be higher, instead of lower.
In the same manner, when the produce of a country is declining from a diminution of demand, and rents in consequence falling, it is not necessary that all the causes which tend to lower rents should be in action. In the natural progress of such a decline, the profits of stock must be low; because it is specifically the want of adequate returns which occasions this decline. After some capital has been destroyed, money wages will fall; but the low price of raw produce may more than counterbalance the low money wages of labour, and prevent the profitable cultivation of land where much capital is required.
It has appeared also, that in the progress of cultivation, and of increasing rents, if not accompanied by very decided agricultural improvements, rent, though greater in positive amount, often bears a less proportion to the quantity of capital employed upon the land, and the quantity of produce derived from it. According to the same principle, when produce diminishes and rents fall, though the amount of rent will be less, the proportion which it bears to capital and produce may be greater. And as, in the former case, the diminished proportion of rent was owing to the necessity of yearly taking fresh land, consisting of rough pasture and wood, into cultivation, and proceeding in the improvement of old land, when it would return only the common profits of stock, with little or no rent; so, in the latter case, the higher proportion of rent is owing to the discouragement of a great expenditure in agriculture, and the necessity of employing the reduced capital of the country in the exclusive cultivation of the richest lands, and leaving the remainder to yield what rent can be got for them in natural pasture, which, though small, will bear a large proportion to the labour and other capital employed. In proportion, therefore, as the relative state of prices is such as to occasion a progressive fall of rents, more and more land will be gradually thrown out of cultivation, the remainder will be worse cultivated, and the diminution of produce will generally proceed still faster than the diminution of rents.*
If the doctrine here laid down respecting the laws which govern the rise and fall of rents be near the truth, the doctrine which maintains that, if the produce of agriculture were sold at such a price as to yield less neat surplus, agriculture would be equally productive to the general stock, must be very far from the truth. And if, under the impression that the ordinary excess of the price of raw produce above the costs of production which occasions rent on the great mass of land is as injurious to the consumer as it is advantageous to the landlord, a rich and improved nation were determined by law to lower the price of its produce, till no surplus in the shape of rent any where remained, it would inevitably throw not only all the poor land, but all except the very best land, out of cultivation, and probably reduce its produce and population to less than one-tenth of their former amount.
[* ] The only practical exception is in the case of importing foreign corn, the effects of which will be considered more particularly in the next section, and a subsequent part of this chapter.
[* ] This is an instance of the incidental causes of the high or low value of money prevailing over the necessary cause just in an opposite direction to that noticed in the last section. Profits unquestionably fell after the war, and the value of money ought to have fallen, and the money price of labour to have risen; but the rise in the value of money, owing to the slackness of the circulation, the withdrawing of much paper, and the comparative want of demand for corn and labour, combined with the diminished money value of our exported commodities, quite overcame the natural effects of the fall of profits, and occasioned a decided rise in the value of money.
[* ] It should be recollected, however, that both the results here contemplated will be essentially affected by taxes which fall on the land.