Front Page Titles (by Subject) Capitalism - Fabian Essays in Socialism
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Capitalism - 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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At this stage the acquisition of labor becomes a mere question of provender. If a railway is required, all that is necessary is to provide subsistence for a sufficient number of laborers to construct it. If, for example, the railway requires the labor of a thousand men for five years, the cost to the proprietors of the site is the subsistence of a thousand men for five years. This subsistence is technically called capital. It is provided for by the proprietors not consuming the whole excess over wages of the produce of the labor of their other wage workers, but setting aside enough for the subsistence of the railway makers. In this way capital can claim to be the result of saving, or, as one ingenious apologist neatly put it, the reward of abstinence, a gleam of humor which still enlivens treatises on capital. The savers, it need hardly be said, are those who have more money than they want to spend: the abstainers are those who have less. At the end of the five years, the completed railway is the property of the capitalists; and the railway makers fall back into the labor market as helpless as they were before. Sometimes the proprietors call the completed railway their capital; but, strictly, this is only a figure of speech. Capital is simply spare subsistence. Its market value, indicated by the current rate of interest, falls with the increase of population, whereas the market value of established stock rises with it.96 If Mr. Goschen, encouraged by his success in reducing Consols, were to ask the proprietors of the London and Northwestern Railway to accept as full compensation for their complete expropriation capital just sufficient to make the railway anew, their amazement at his audacity would at once make him feel the difference between a railway and capital. Colloquially, one property with a farm on it is said to be land yielding rent; while another, with a railway on it, is called capital yielding interest. But economically there is no distinction between them when they once become sources of revenue. This would be quite clearly seen if costly enterprises like railways could be undertaken by a single landlord on his own land out of his own surplus wealth. It is the necessity of combining a number of possessors of surplus wealth, and devising a financial machinery for apportioning their shares in the produce to their shares in the capital contributed, that modifies the terminology and external aspect of the exploitation. But the modification is not an alteration: shareholder and landlord live alike on the produce extracted from their property by the labor of the proletariat.
[96.]The current rate must, under present conditions, eventually fall to zero, and even become "negative." By that time shares which now bring in a dividend of 100 per cent., may very possibly bring in 200 or more. Yet the fall of the rate has been mistaken for a tendency of interest to disappear. It really indicates a tendency of interest to increase.—Am. Ed.