Front Page Titles (by Subject) The County Family. - Fabian Essays in Socialism
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The County Family. - George Bernard Shaw, Fabian Essays in Socialism 
Fabian Essays in Socialism, ed. G. Bernard Shaw, American Edition Ed. by H.G. Wilshire, (New York: The Homboldt Publishing Co., 1891).
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The County Family.
Let us return to our ideal country. Adam is retiring from productive industry on £500 a year; and his neighbors are hastening to imitate him as fresh tenants present themselves. The first result is the beginning of a tradition that the oldest families in the country enjoy a superior position to the rest, and that the main advantage of their superior position is that they enjoy incomes without working. Nevertheless, since they still depend on their tenants' labor for their subsistence, they continue to pay Labor, with a capital L, a certain meed of mouth honor; and the resultant association of prosperity with idleness, and praise with industry, practically destroys morality by setting up that incompatibility between conduct and principle which is the secret of the ingrained cynicism of our own time, and which produces the curious Ricardian phenomenon of the man of business who goes on Sunday to the church with the regularity of the village blacksmith, there to renounce and abjure before his God the line of conduct which he intends to pursue with all his might during the following week.
According to our hypothesis, the inland sea of cultivation has now spread into the wilderness so far that at its margin the return to a man's labor for a year is only £500. But as there is always a flood tide in that sea, caused by the incessant increase of population, the margin will not stop there: it will at last encroach upon every acre of cultivable land, rising to the snow line on the mountains and falling to the coast of the actual salt water sea, but always reaching the barrenest places last of all, because the cultivators are still, as ever, on the make, and will not break bad land when better is to be had. But suppose that now, at last, the uttermost belt of free land is reached, and that upon it the yield to a man's year's labor is only £100. Clearly now the rent of Adam's primeval patch has risen to £900, since that is the excess of its produce over what is by this time all that is to be had rent free. But Adam has yielded up his land for £500 a year to a tenant. It is this tenant accordingly who now lets Adam's patch for £900 a year to the new comer, who of course loses nothing by the bargain, since it leaves him the £100 a year with which he must be content anyhow. Accordingly he labors on Adam's land; raises £1,000 a year from it; keeps £100 and pays £900 to Adam's tenant, who pays £500 to Adam, keeping £400 for himself, and thus also becoming an idle gentleman, though with a somewhat smaller income than the man of older family. It has, in fact, come to this, that the private property in Adam's land is divided between three men, the first doing none of the work and getting half the produce; the second doing none of the work and getting two-fifths of the produce; and the third doing all the work and getting only one-tenth of the produce. Incidentally also, the moralist who is sure to have been prating somewhere about private property leading to the encouragement of industry, the establishment of a healthy incentive, and the distribution of wealth according to exertion, is exposed as a futile purblind person, starting a priori from blank ignorance, and proceeding deductively to mere contradiction and patent folly.
All this, however, is a mere trifle compared to the sequel. When the inland sea has risen to its confines—when there is nothing but a strip of sand round the coast between the furrow and the wave—when the very waves themselves are cultivated by fisherfolk—when the pastures and timber forests have touched the snow line—when, in short, the land is all private property, yet every man is a proprietor, though it may be only of a tenant right. He enjoys fixity of tenure at what is called a fair rent: that is, he fares as well as he could on land wholly his own. All the rent is economic rent: the landlord cannot raise it nor the tenant lower it: it is fixed naturally by the difference between the fertility of the land for which it is paid and that of the worst land in the country. Compared with the world as we know it, such a state of things is freedom and happiness.