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Interest in the Middle Ages. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, by Karl Marx. Ed. Federick Engels. Trans. from the 1st German edition by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co. Cooperative, 1909).
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Interest in the Middle Ages.
In the Middle Ages the population was purely agricultural. And there, as under feudal rule, commerce can be but small and consequently profit but slight. Hence the laws against usury were justified in the Middle Ages. Moreover, in an agricultural country one has rarely any occasion for borrowing money, except when reduced by poverty and misery....Henry VIII limits interest to 10%, Jacob I. to 8%, Charles II, to 6%, Anne to 5%....In those days the money-lenders, if not legally, were at least in fact monopolists, and therefore it was necessary to place them under restriction like other monopolists....In our times the rate of profit regulates the rate of interest; in those times the rate of interest regulated the rate of profit. If the money-lender loaded a heavy rate of interest on the merchant, then the merchant had to add a higher rate of profit to the price of his commodities. Consequently a large sum of money was taken out of the pockets of the buyers in order to put it into the pockets of the money-lenders. (Gilbart, History and Principles of Banking, pp. 164, 165.)
"I have been told that 10 gulden are now taken annually on every Leipsic fair, that is 30 on each hundred; some add the Neuenburg fair and make it 40 per hundred; whether that is so, I don't know. For shame, where the devil is that going to end?...Whoever has now 100 florins at Leipsic, takes 40 annually, which is the same as devouring one peasant or burgher each year. If one has 1,000 florins, he takes 400 annually, which means devouring a knight or a rich noble per year. If one has 10,000 florins, he takes 4,000 per year, which means devouring a rich count each year. If one has 100,000 florins, as the great merchants must have, he takes 40,000 annually, which means devouring one great rich prince each year. If one has 1,000,000 florins, he takes 400,000 annually, which means devouring one great king each year. And he does not run any risks, either in his person or his wares, does not work, sits near his fireplace and roasts apples; so might a petty robber be sitting at home and devour a whole world in ten years." (Bücher vom Kaufhandel und Wucher, 1524. Luther's Works, Wittenberg, 1589, Part VI.)
"Fifteen years ago I wrote against usury, when it had spread so alarmingly, that I did not hope for any improvement. Since then it has become so proud, that it does not care to be classed as a vice, sin, or shame, but gets itself praised as a pure virtue and honor, just as though it were doing people a great favor and Christian service. What are we going to do now that shame has become honor and vice virtue? (Martin Luther, An die Pfarherrn wider den Wucher zu predigen. Wittenberg,1540.)
Jews, Lombards, usurers and bloodsuckers were our first bankers, our original bank sharks, their character being such as to be called almost infamous....They were joined by the London goldsmiths. On the whole...our original bankers...were a very bad crowd, they were greedy usurers, stony-hearted vampires. (J. Hardcastle, Banks and Bankers. Second edition, London, 1843, pages 19 and 20.)
The example given by Venice (in the matter of establishing a bank) was quickly imitated; all sea towns, and in general all towns which had made a name for themselves by their independence and their commerce, founded their first banks. The return of their ships, which often took a long time, led inevitably to the custom of giving credit, which was further intensified by the discovery of America and the commerce with it. (This is one of the main points.) The freighting of ships made the taking of heavy loans necessary, a thing already occuring in ancient Athens and Greece. In 1380 the Hansa town of Bruges had an insurance company. (M. Augier, l. c., pages 202 and 203.)
To what extent the making of loans to land owners, and to wealth consumers in general, still prevailed in the last third of the 17th century, even in England, before the development of the modern credit system, may be seen in the works of Sir Dudley North, among others. He was not only one of the first English merchants, but also one of the most prominent theoretical economists of his time. And he says: The money loaned among our people at interest is not even to a tenth part given to business people for carrying on their affairs; it is loaned for the greater part for articles of luxury, and for the expenditures of people, who, although great real estate owners, nevertheless spend money faster than is made by their real estate; and since they hate to sell their estates, prefer to mortgage them. (Discourses upon Trade. London, 1691, pages 6 and 7.)
Poland in the 18th century: "Warsaw did a great business in exchange, which, however had for its principal basis and aim the usury of its bankers. In order to secure money, which they might lend to spendthrift nobles at 8% and more, they sought and obtained abroad an exchange credit in blank, that is, it had no commerce with commodities at all for a foundation, but the foreign endorser of the bill stood it patiently, so long as the returns from swindling with bills of exchange did not fail. However, they paid heavily for this by the bankruptcies of men like Tapper and other highly respected Warsaw bankers." (J. G. Büsch, Theoretisch-praktische Darstellung der Handlung, etc., third edition, Hamburg, 1808, volume II, pages 232 and 233.)
Advantage of the Prohibition of Interest for the Church.
"The taking of interest had been forbidden by the church. But the sale of property for the purpose of getting out of a tight place had not been forbidden. It had not even been forbidden to transfer property for a certain period to the money lender as a security, until such time as the debtor should repay his loan, so that the money lender might have the use of the property as a reward for the absence of his money....The church itself and the various corporations and communes belonging to it derived much profit from this practice, particularly during the period of the crusades. This brought a very large portion of the national wealth into the possession of the so-called 'dead hand,' all the more so because the Jews were barred from engaging in such usury, the possession of such fixed liens not being concealable....Without the ban on interest the churches and cloisters would never have become so rich." (L. c., p. 55.)
TRANSFORMATION OF SURPLUS PROFIT INTO GROUND-RENT.
THE analysis of landed property in its various historical forms belongs outside of the limits of this work. We shall occupy ourselves with it in this place only to the extent that a portion of the surplus-value produced by the industrial capital falls into the hands of the land owner. We assume, then, that agriculture is dominated by the capitalist mode of production, just as manufacture is, in other words, that agriculture is carried on by capitalists, who differ primarily from the other capitalists only through the element, in which their capital and the wage-labor set in motion by this capital are invested. So far as we are concerned, the capitalist farmer produces wheat, etc., in the same way that the manufacturer produces yarn or machines. The assumption that the capitalist mode of production has seized agriculture implies that it rules all spheres of production and bourgeois society, so that its prerequisites, such as free competition among capitals, the possibility of transferring them from one sphere of production to another, a uniform level of the average rate of profit, etc., are fully matured. The form of landed property which we consider here is a specifically historical one, a form altered through the influence of capital and of the capitalist mode of production, and evolved either out of feudal land ownership, or out of small peasants' agriculture carried on for a living, in which the possession of land constitutes one of the prerequisites of production for the direct producer, and in which his ownership of land appears as the most advantageous condition for the prosperity of his mode of production. Just as capitalist production is conditioned in a general way on the expropriation of the laborers from their requirements of production, so capitalist agriculture demands the expropriation of the rural laborers from the land and their subordination to a capitalist, who carries on agriculture for the sake of profit. For the results of our analysis the objection, that other forms of landed property and of agriculture have existed or still exist, is quite irrelevant. Such an objection cannot apply to any one else but to those economists, who treat of the capitalist mode of production in agriculture, and of the form of landed property corresponding to it, as though it were not a historical but an eternal category.
For our purposes it is necessary to study the modern form of landed property, because it is our business to consider the typical conditions of production and commerce, which arise from the investment of capital in agriculture. Without this our analysis of capital would not be complete. We therefore confine ourselves exclusively to the investment of capital in agriculture strictly so-called, that is, capital invested in the production of the principal plant crop, on which a certain population lives. We may say wheat, because it is the principal article of food among the modern capitalistically developed nations (or mining instead of agriculture, because the laws of both are the same).
It is one of the great merits of Adam Smith to have shown that the ground rent for capital invested in the production of such crops as flax, dye stuffs, independent cattle raising, etc., is determined by the ground rent obtained from capital invested in the production of the principal article of subsistence. In fact no progress has been made in this since his time. What we might add in the way of exception or supplement belongs in a separate study of landed property, not here. Hence we shall not speak of landed property outside of the land destined for the production of wheat in the manner of exports, but shall merely refer to it occasionally by way of illustration.
For the sake of completeness we shall remark, that we include also water, etc., in the term land, so far as it has an owner and belongs as an accessory to the soil.
Landed property is conditioned on the monopolisation of certain portions of the globe by private persons, for the purpose of making these portions the exclusive spheres of their private will and keeping all others away from it.119 With this in mind, the problem is to ascertain the economic value, that is, the employment of this monopoly on the basis of capitalist production. With the legal power of these persons to use or misuse certain portions of the globe nothing is settled. The use of this power depends wholly upon economic conditions, which are independent of their will. The legal conception itself signifies nothing else but that the land owner may do with the soil what the owner of commodities may do with them. And this conception, this legal conception of free property in land, arises in the ancient world only with the dissolution of the organic order of society, and in the modern world only with the development of capitalist production. Into Asia it has been imported by Europeans in but a few places. In that Part of our work, which deals with primitive accumulation (Volume I, chapter XXVI), we have seen that this mode of production presupposes on the one hand the separation of the direct producers from their position as mere attachments to the soil (in their capacity of bondsmen, serfs, slaves, etc.), on the other hand the expropriation of the mass of the people from the land. To this extent the monopoly of landed property is a historical premise, and remains the basis, of the capitalist mode of production, just as it does of all other modes of production, which rests on the exploitation of the masses in one form or another. But that form of landed property, which the capitalist mode of production meets in its first stages, does not suit its requirements. It creates for itself that form of property in land, which is adapted to its requirements, by subordinating agriculture to the dominion of capital. It transforms feudal landed property, tribal property, small peasants' property in mark communes, whatever may be their legal form, into the economic form corresponding to the requirements of capitalism. It is one of the great outcomes of the capitalist mode of production, that it transforms agriculture from a merely empirical and mechanically perpetuated process of the least developed part of society into a consciously scientific application of agronomics, so far as this is at all feasible under the conditions going with private property;120 that it detaches property in land on the one side from the relations between master and servant, and on the other hand totally separates land as an instrument of production from property in land and land owners, for whom it represents merely a certain tribute of money, which he collects by force of his monopoly from the industrial capitalist, the capitalist farmer. It dissolves all these connections so thoroughly, that the owner of the land may spend his whole life in Constantinople, while his estates are in Scotland. Private property in land thus receives its purely economic form by discarding all its former political and social trappings and implications, in brief all those traditional accessories, which are denounced as a useless and absurd attachment by the industrial capitalists and their theoretical spokesmen in the heat of their struggle with landed property, as we shall see later. The rationalising of agriculture on the one hand and thus rendering it capable of operation on a social scale, and the reduction ad absurdum of private property in land on the other hand, these are the great merits of the capitalist mode of production. Like all its other historical advances it bought these also by first completely pauperizing the direct producers.
Before we pass on to the problem itself, we must make a few more preliminary remarks in order to forestall misunderstanding.
The premises for a capitalist production in agriculture are these: The actual tillers of the soil are wage-laborers, employed by a capitalist, the capitalist farmer, who carries on agriculture merely as a special field of exploitation for his capital, an investment of his capital in a special sphere of production. This renting capitalist pays to the land owner, the owner of the soil exploited by him, a sum of money at definite periods fixed by contract, for instance annually (just as the borrower of money-capital pays a fixed interest), for the permission to invest his capital in this particular sphere of production. This sum of money is called ground-rent, no matter whether it is paid for agriculture soil, building lots, mines, fishing grounds, forests, etc. It is paid for the entire time, during which the land owner has rented his land to the capitalist by contract. Ground-rent, therefore, is that form, in which property in land realizes itself economically, that is, produces value. Here, then, we have all three classes together, which constitute the frame work of modern society, and they have divergent interests—wage-laborers, industrial capitalists, land owners.
Capital may be fixed in the soil, may be incorporated in it, either in a transient manner, as it is by improvements of a chemical nature, fertilization, etc., or more permanently, as in drainage canals, irrigation works, leveling, farm buildings, etc. In another place I have called the capital thus incorporated in the soil land-capital.121 It belongs in the categories of fixed capital. The interest on the capital thus incorporated in the soil and the improvements thus made in it as an instrument of production may form a part of the rent paid by the capitalist farmer to the land owner,122 but it does not constitute that ground-rent, strictly speaking, which is paid for the use of the soil as such, whether it be in a natural state or cultivated. In a systematic treatment of private property in land, which is not included in our plan, this part of the revenue of the land owner would have to be discussed at length. But a few words about it will suffice here. The more transient investments of capital which go with the ordinary processes of production in agriculture, are made without exception by the capitalist farmer. These investments, like cultivation proper, improve the soil,123 if cultivation is carried on in a moderately rational manner and does not reduce itself to a brutal spoilation of the soil, such as used to be in vogue among the former slave holders in the United States, a thing against which the land owners may provide by contract. In this way material land is transformed into land-capital. A cultivated field is worth more than an uncultivated one of the same natural quality. Likewise the more permanent fixed capitals, which are incorporated in the soil and worn out in longer time, are largely, and in some spheres often exclusively, invested by the capitalist farmer. But as soon as the time stipulated by contract has expired—and this is one of the reasons why the land owners seek to shorten the time of contract as much as possible when capitalist production develops—the improvements embodied in the soil become the property of the land owner as an inseparable part of the land. In the new contract, which the land owner makes, he adds the interest for the capital incorporated in the soil to the real ground-rent. And he does this whether he leases the land to the same capitalist who made these improvements or to some other capitalist farmer. His rent is thus increased; or, if he wishes to sell his land (we shall see immediately how its price is determined), its value has risen. He sells not merely the soil, but the improved soil, the capital incorporated in the soil for which he did not pay anything. Quite aside from the movements of real ground-rent, this is one of the secrets of the increasing enrichment of the land owners, of the continuous inflation of their rents, and of the growing money-value of real estate in proportion as economic development proceeds. Thus they pocket a result of social development brought about without their help, fruges consumere nati, they are born to consume the fruits of the earth. But this is at the same time one of the greatest obstacles to a rational development of agriculture, because the capitalist renter avoids all improvements and expenses, for which he cannot expect any returns during the time of his lease. We find this fact denounced as such an obstacle, not only in the 18th century by James Anderson, the actual discoverer of the modern theory of rent, who was also a practical capitalist farmer and an advanced agronomist for his time, but also in our own days by the opponents of the present constitution of landed property in England.
A. A. Walton, in his "History of the Landed Tenures of Great Britain and Ireland," London, 1865, says on this score: All the efforts of the numerous agricultural institutes in our country cannot accomplish any very important or really appreciable results in the actual progress of improved cultivation, so long as such improvements increase in a far higher degree the value of real estate and the size of the rent roll of the land owner, than they improve the condition of the tenant or the farm laborer. The tenants in general know quite as well as the land owner, his rent collector, or even the president of an agricultural society, that good drainage, ample manuring, and good management, together with an increased application of labor, cleaning the land thoroughly and working it over, will produce wonderful results, both in the improvement of the soil and in an increased production. But all this demands considerable expense, and the tenants also know very well, that no matter how much they may improve the soil or raise its value, the land owner will in the long run get the principal benefit of it in raised rents and increased land values....They are cunning enough to observe, what those speakers [land owners and their agents speaking at agricultural feasts] always forget to tell them, namely that the lion's share of all improvements made by the tenants must always pass ultimately into the pockets of the land owners....No matter how much the former tenant may have improved his leasehold, his successor will always find, that the land owner will raise the rent in proportion to the increased land value due to previous improvements. (Pages 96 and 97.)
In agriculture proper this process does not yet appear quite so plainly as when the land is used for building lots. The overwhelming part of the land used in England for building purposes, but not sold as a freehold, is rented by the land owners for 99 years, or for a shorter time if possible. After the lapse of this time the buildings fall into the hands of the land owner together with the land. The tenants are obliged, says Walton, to deliver the house to the great land owner in a good inhabitable condition after the expiration of the lease, after they have paid up to this time an exorbitant ground-rent. Hardly has the lease expired, when the agent or inspector of the landlord comes, inspects your house, takes care that you get it into good condition, takes possession of it and annexes it to the domain of his landlord. The fact is that if this system is permitted to exert its full effects for some time longer, the entire ownership of houses as well as of country real estate will be in the hands of the great landed proprietors. The whole West End of London, north and south of Temple Bar, belongs almost exclusively to half a dozen great landlords, is rented at enormous ground-rents, and if the leases have not quite expired, most of them expire in rapid succession. The same applies in a greater or smaller degree to every city in the Kingdom. But even here this greedy system of exclusiveness and monopoly does not stop. Nearly all the docking facilities of our port cities are in the hands of the great land leviathans in consequence of the same process of usurpation. (L. c., p. 93.) Under these circumstances it is evident that if the census for England and Wales in 1861 gives the total population as 20,066,224 and the number of house owners as 36,032, the proportion of the owners to the number of houses and to the population would take on a very different aspect, if the great house owners were placed on one side and the small ones on the other.
This illustration of property in buildings is important. In the first place, it clearly shows the difference between real ground-rent and interest on fixed capital incorporated in the soil, which may form an addition to the ground-rent. The interest on buildings, like that on capital incorporated in the soil by the tenant, falls into the hands of the industrial capitalist, the building speculator, or the tenant, so long as the lease lasts, and has in itself nothing to do with the ground-rent, which must be paid annually at stated dates for the use of the soil. In the second place it shows, that the capital incorporated in the soil ultimately passes into the hands of the landlord together with the land, and that the interest on it helps to swell his rent.
Some writers, either acting as spokesmen of landlordism against the attacks of bourgeois economists, or endeavoring to transform the capitalist system of production from a system of antagonisms into one of "harmonies," as did Carey, have tried to represent ground-rent, the specific economic expression of private property in land, as identical with interest. For this would obliterate the antagonism between landlords and capitalists. The opposite method was employed in the beginning of capitalist production. In those days landed property was still regarded by popular conception as the primitive and respectable form of private property, while interest on capital was decried as usury. Dudley North, Locke and others, therefore represented interest on capital as a form analogous with ground-rent, just as Turgot deduced the justification of interest from the existence of ground-rent.—Aside from the fact that ground-rent may, and does, exist in its pure form without any addition for interest on capital incorporated in the soil, these more recent writers also forget, that in this way the landlord does not only receive interest on the capital of other people that cost him nothing, but also pockets this capital of others without any compensating return. The justification of private property in land, like that of all other forms of property within a certain mode of production, is that the mode of production is itself a transient historical necessity, and this includes the conditions of production and exchange, which flow from it. It is true, as we shall see later, that property in land differs from the other kinds of property by the fact that it appears superfluous, and even noxious, at a certain stage of development, even from the point of view of capitalist production.
In another form, ground-rent may be confounded with interest and its specific character overlooked. Ground-rent assumes the shape of a certain sum of money, which the landlord draws annually out of the lease of a certain piece of the globe. We have seen that every sum of money may be capitalised, that is, considered as the interest on an imaginary capital. For instance, if the average rate of interest is 5%, then an annual ground-rent of 200 pounds sterling may be regarded as the interest on a capital of 4,000 pounds sterling. Ground-rent so capitalised forms the purchase price or value of the land, a category which is on its face irrational, just as the price of labor is, since the earth is not the product of labor and therefore has no value. But on the other hand a real relation in production is concealed behind this irrational form. If a capitalist buys land yielding a rent of 200 pounds sterling annually and pays 4,000 pounds sterling for it, then he draws the average interest of 5% on his capital of 4,000 pounds sterling, just as though he had invested this capital in interest-bearing papers or loaned it directly at 5% interest. It is the utilisation of a capital of 4,000 pounds sterling at 5%. On this assumption he would recover the purchase price of his estate in twenty years by its revenues. In England, therefore, the purchase price of land is calculated on so many years' purchase, and this is merely a different expression for the capitalisation of the ground-rent. It is in fact the purchase price, not of the land, but of the ground-rent yielded by it, calculated on the ordinary rate of interest. But this capitalisation of rent has for its premise the existence of rent, for rent cannot be explained and derived from its own capitalisation. Its existence, independent of its sale, is rather the condition from which the inquiry must start.
It follows, then, that the price of land may rise or fall inversely as the rate of interest rises or falls, if we assume that ground-rent is a constant magnitude. If the ordinary rate of interest should fall from 5% to 4%, then the annual ground-rent of 200 pounds sterling would represent the annual self-expansion of a capital of 5,000 pounds sterling instead of 4,000 pounds sterling. The price of the same piece of land would thus have risen from 4,000 to 5,000 pounds sterling, or from 20 years' to 25 years' purchase. The reverse would take place in the opposite case. This is a movement of the price of land, which is independent of the movement of ground-rent itself and regulated only by the rate of interest. But as we have seen that the rate of profit has a tendency to fall in the course of social progress, and that the rate of interest has the same tendency, so far as it is regulated by the rate of profit; and since, furthermore, the rate of interest has a tendency to fall in consequence of the growth of loanable capital, aside from the influence of the rate of profit, it follows that the price of land has a tendency to rise, even independently of the movement of ground-rent and the prices of the products of the soil, of which the rent forms a part.
The mistaking ground-rent for the interest form, which it assumes for the buyer of the land—a mistake due to a complete unfamiliarity with the nature of ground-rent—must lead to the most absurd conclusions. Since landed property is considered, in all old countries, as a particularly noble form of property, and its purchase also as an eminently safe investment of capital, the rate of interest at which ground-rent is bought is generally lower than that of other investments of capital for a long time, so that a buyer of real estate draws, for instance, only 4% on his purchase price, whereas he would draw 5% for the same capital in other investments. In other words, he pays more capital for the ground-rent than he would for the same amount of income in other investments. This leads Mr. Thiers to conclude in his utterly valueless work on La Propriété (a reprint of a speech of his made in 1849 against Proudhon in the French National Assembly) that ground-rent is low, while it proves merely that its purchase price is high.
The fact that capitalised ground-rent represents itself as the price or value of land, so that the earth is bought and sold like any other commodity, serves to some apologists as a justification of private property in land, seeing that the buyer pays an equivalent for it the same as he does for other commodities, and that the major portion of property in land has changed hands in this way. The same reason would, in that case, serve also to justify slavery, since the returns from the labor of the slave, whom the slave holder has bought, represent merely the interest on the capital invested in this purchase. To derive from the sale and purchase of ground-rent a justification for its existence signifies to justify its existence by its existence.
It is very important for a scientific analysis of ground-rent, that is of the independent and specifically economic form of property in land on the basis of capitalist production, to study it in its pure form and free from all falsifying and obliterating by-work. And it is no less important for an understanding of the practical effects of property in land, even for a theoretical comprehension of a multitude of facts, which run counter to the conception and nature of ground-rent and yet appear as modes of existence of ground-rent, to know the elements which give rise to such obscurities in theory.
In practice everything appears naturally as ground-rent that is paid in the form of lease money by the tenant to the landlord for the permission of cultivating the soil. Whatever may be the composition of this tribute, whatever may be its sources, it has this in common with real ground-rent that the monopoly of the so-called owner of a piece of the globe enables him to levy such a tribute and impose such a tax. This tribute furthermore shares with the real ground-rent the fact that it determines the price of land, which, as we have indicated above, is nothing but the capitalised income from the lease of the land.
We have already seen, that the interest for the capital incorporated in the soil may form one of those foreign ingredients in ground-rent, an element which must become a continually growing addition to the total rent of a certain country in proportion as economic development proceeds. But aside from this interest it is possible that the lease money may conceal a deduction from the average profit or from the normal wages, or both, being made up of them either in part or wholly, so that in some cases it may not represent any real ground-rent at all and the soil may be valueless. This portion of the profit, or of wages, appears then as ground-rent, because instead of falling normally into the hands of the industrial capitalist or the wage worker, it is paid to the land-lord in the form of lease money. Economically speaking neither the one nor the other of these portions constitutes any ground-rent; but in practice they constitute some of the revenue of the landlord, an economic utilisation of his monopoly, just as real ground-rent does, and they have a determining influence on land prices just as ground-rent has.
We are not now speaking of conditions, in which ground-rent, the form of landed property adapted to the capitalist mode of production, formally exists without the capitalist mode of production itself, so that the tenant is not an industrial capitalist, nor the mode of his management a capitalist one. Such is the case in Ireland. The tenant is here generally a small farmer. What he pays to the landlord in the shape of rent absorbs frequently not merely a part of his profit, that is, of his own surplus-labor, to which he is entitled as the possessor of his own instruments of production, but also a part of his normal wages, which he would receive under different conditions for the same amount of labor. Besides, the landlord, who does not do anything for the improvement of the soil, also expropriates him from his small capital, which he incorporates for the greater part in the soil by his own labor, just as a usurer would do under similar circumstances. Only the usurer would at least risk his own capital in the operation. This continual robbery is the center of the disputes over the Irish Land Bill, which has for its principal aim to compel the landlord, when giving notice to his tenant to vacate, should pay him an indemnity for the improvements made by him in the soil, or for the capital incorporated by him in the land. Palmerston used to meet this demand with the cynical answer: "The House of Commons is a house of landlords."
Nor do we speak of exceptional circumstances, in which the landlord may enforce a high rent even in countries with a capitalist production, although this rent may not be in any way connected with the product of the soil. Of such a nature is the renting of small patches of ground to laborers in English factory districts, either for small gardens or for amateur agriculture in spare hours. (Reports of Inspectors of Factories.)
We are speaking of ground-rent in countries with a developed capitalist production. Among English tenants, for instance, there is a number of small capitalists, who are destined and compelled by education, training, tradition, competition, and other circumstances, to invest their capital as tenants in agriculture. They are compelled to be satisfied with less than the average profit, and to yield up a part of it to the landlords for rent. This is the only condition on which they are permitted to invest their capital in the soil, in agriculture. Since the landlords exert everywhere a considerable, in England even an overwhelming, influence on legislation, they are in a position to exploit this for the purpose of grinding down the entire class of tenants. The corn laws of 1815, for instance, a bread tax confessedly imposed upon the country for the purpose of securing for the idle landlords a continuation of their abnormally increased rentals during the anti-Jacobin wars, had indeed the effect, with the exception of a few extraordinarily rich years, of keeping the prices of agricultural products above the level which they could have held in free competition. But they did not have the effect of keeping prices at that level, which had been ordered by the law-making landlords to serve as standard prices in such a way as to form the legal limit for the importation of foreign corn. But the leases were made out under the impression created by these normal prices. As soon as the illusion passed away, a new law was made, with new normal prices, which were as much an impotent expression of the greedy land-lord's phantasy as the old ones. In this way the tenants were cheated from 1815 to the thirties. Hence we have during all this period the standing subject of agricultural distress. And with it we have during this period the expropriation and the ruin of a whole generation of tenants, and the appropriation of their places by a new class of capitalists.124
A much more general and important fact, however, is the depression of the wages of the actual farm laborers below their normal average, so that a portion of the wages is deducted in order to become a part of the lease money and thus flowing into the pockets of the landlord instead of the laborer under the disguise of ground-rent. This is the case quite generally in England and Scotland, with the exception of a few favorably situated counties. The inquiries of the Parliamentarian Committees into the scale of wages made before the passing of the corn laws in England—so far the most valuable and almost unexploited contributions to a history of wages in the 19th century, and at the same time a monument of disgrace erected for themselves by the English aristocracy and bourgeoisie—proved convincingly and beyond a doubt that the high rates of rent and the corresponding raise in the land prices during the anti-Jacobin wars, were due in part to no other cause but the deductions from wages and the depression of wages even below the physical minimum. In other words, a part of the wages had been paid over to the landlords. Various circumstances such as the depreciation of money, the handling of the poor laws in the agricultural districts, etc., had made these operations possible, at a time when the incomes of the tenants were rising enormously and the landlords amassed fabulous riches. Yes, one of the main arguments for the introduction of the corn laws, used by both tenants and landlords, was that it was physically impossible to depress the wages of the farm laborers still more. This condition of things has not been materially altered, and in England as well as in all European countries a portion of the normal wages is absorbed by the ground-rent the same as ever. When Count Shaftsbury, then Lord Ashley, one of the philanthropic aristocrats, was so extraordinarily moved by the condition of the English factory laborers and acted as their spokesman in Parliament during the agitation for a ten hour day, the spokesmen of the industrials got their revenge by publishing statistics on the wages of the agricultural laborers in the villages belonging to him (see Volume I, chapter XXV, 5e, The British Agricultural Proletariat), which showed clearly, that a portion of the ground-rent of this philanthropist consisted of the loot, which his agents filched for him out of the wages of the agricultural laborers. This publication is also interesting for the reason, that the facts exposed by it may rank in the same class with the worst exposures made by the Committees in 1814 and 1815. As soon as circumstances permit of a temporary raise in the wages of the agricultural laborers, a cry goes up from the capitalist tenants to the effect that a raising of the wages to their normal level, as customary in other lines of industry, would be impossible and would ruin them, unless ground-rent were reduced at the same time. This is a confession, that the tenants deduct a portion from the wages of the laborers under the name of ground-rent and pay it over to the landlords. For instance, from 1849 to 1859 the wages of the agricultural laborers rose in England through a combination of overwhelming circumstances, such as the exodus from Ireland, which cut off the supply of agricultural laborers coming from that country; an extraordinary absorption of the agricultural population by the factories; a demand for soldiers to go to war; an exceptional emigration to Australia and the United States (California), and other causes which need not be mentioned here. At the same time the average prices of grain fell by more than 16% during this period, with the exception of the poor agricultural years from 1854 to 1856. The tenant capitalists shouted for a reduction of their rents. They succeeded in single cases. But on the whole they failed to get what they wanted. They sought refuge in a reduction of the cost of production, among other things by introducing steam engines and new machinery in abundance, which partly replaced horses and crowded them out of the business, but partly also created an artificial overpopulation by throwing agricultural laborers out of work and thereby causing a fall in wages. And this took place in spite of the general relative decrease of the agricultural population during that decade, compared to the growth of the total population, and in spite of the absolute decrease of the agricultural population in some purely agricultural districts.125 In the same way Fawcett, then professor of political economy at Cambridge, who died in 1884 as Postmaster General, said at the Social Science Congress, October 12, 1865: "The agricultural laborers began to emigrate and the tenants began to complain, that they would not be able to pay such high rents as they had been accustomed to pay, because labor became dearer in consequence of emigration." Here, then, the high ground-rent is directly identified with low wages. And so far as the level of the prices of land is determined by this circumstance increasing the rent, a rise in the value of the land is identical with a depreciation of labor, a high price of land with a low price of labor.
The same is true of France. "The price of rent rises, because the prices of bread, wine, meat, vegetables and fruit rise on the one side, while on the other the price of labor remains unchanged. If the older people compare the bills of their fathers, taking us back about 100 years, they will find that the price of one day's labor was then the same in rural France as it is now. The price of meat has trebled since them....Who is the victim of this revolution? Is it the rich, who is the proprietor of the estate, or the poor who works it?...The raising of the prices of rent is the proof of a national disaster." (Du Mécanisme de la Société en France et en Angleterre. Par M. Rubichon, Second edition, Paris, 1837, p. 101.)
We now give some illustrations of rent representing deductions either from the average profit or from the average wages.
The above quoted Morton, real estate agent and agricultural engineer, says that the observation has been made in many localities that the rent for large estates is smaller than for small ones, because "competition for the latter is generally greater than for the former, and because small tenants, who are rarely able to take up any other business but farming, are frequently willing to pay a rent, which they themselves know to be too high, pressed by the want of finding some other business." (John C. Morton, The Resources of Estates. London, 1858, p. 116.)
However, he is of the opinion that this difference is gradually disappearing in England, and he attributes this largely to the emigration of the class of small tenants. The same Morton gives an illustration, in which evidently the wages of the tenant himself, and still more surely of the laborers, suffer a deduction for ground-rent. This takes place in the case of estates of 70 to 80 acres, who cannot keep a two-horse plow. "Unless the tenant works as diligently with his own hands as any laborer, he cannot make out on his lease. If he leaves the execution of the work to his men and confines himself to superintending them, he will most likely find very quickly that he is unable to pay his rent." (L. c., p. 118.) Morton concludes, therefore, that unless the tenants of a certain locality are very poor, the leaseholds should not be smaller than 70 acres, so that the tenants may keep two or three horses.
Extraordinary wisdom of Monsieur Léonce de Lavergne, Membre de l'Institut et de la Société Centrale d'Agriculture. In his Economic Rurale de l'Angleterre (quoted from the English translation, London, 1855), he makes the following comparison of the annual advantages from cattle, that work in France but not in England, where they are replaced by horses (p. 42):
But the higher amount for England is obtained here, according to his own statement, because milk is twice as dear in England than in France, while he counts the same prices for meat in both countries (p. 35); therefore the English milk product reduces itself to 8 million pounds sterling, and the total product to 28 million pounds sterling, the same as in France. It is indeed a strong dose, that Mr. Lavergne lumps the quantities and price differences together in his calculation, when England produces certain articles more expensively than France, so that this appears as an advantage of English agriculture, whereas it signifies at best only a higher profit for tenants and landlords.
That Mr. Lavergne is not only familiar with the advantages of English agriculture, but also believes in the prejudices of the English tenants and landlords, is proved by him on page 48: "One great disadvantage is generally connected with grain plants...they exhaust the soil that bears them." Mr. Lavergne believes not only that other plants do not do so, but he also believes that leguminous crops and root crops enrich the soil: "Leguminous plants draw the principal elements of their growth out of the air, while they give back to the soil more than they take from it; therefore they help both directly and indirectly through their return in the shape of animal manure to make good in a double way the damage caused by grain crops and other exhausting crops; hence it is a matter of principle that they should at least alternate with such crops; in this consists the Norfolk rotation." (Pages 50 and 51.)
No wonder that Mr. Lavergne, who believes these fairy tales of the English rural mind, also believes that the wages of the English farm laborers have lost their abnormality since the repeal of the corn tax. See what we have said on this point in another place, Volume I, chapter XXV, 5c, pages 739 to 766. But let us also listen to Mr. John Bright's speech in Birmingham, December 14, 1865. After mentioning the 5 million families that are not represented in Parliament, he continues: "Among these are one million, or rather more than one million in the United Kingdom, who are put down on the luckless list of paupers. Then there is still another million, who are holding themselves just above pauperism, but who are continually in danger of likewise becoming paupers. Their condition and prospects are not any better. Now take a look at the ignorant lower strata of this portion of society. Consider their outcast condition, their poverty, their complete hopelessness. Even in the United States, even in the southern states during the reign of slavery, every negro looked forward to some jubilee year. But these people, this mass of the lowest strata of our country, I am here to express it, have neither the faith in any improvement nor even a longing for it. Did you read the other day that item about John Cross, a farm laborer of Dorsetshire? He worked six days in the week, had an excellent character from his employer, for whom he had worked 24 years for a weekly wage of 8 sh. John Cross had to keep a family of seven children in his hut out of this wage. In order to warm his sickly wife and her suckling babe, he took, or legally speaking he stole, a wooden hurdle worth six pence. For this crime he was sentenced to 14 or 20 days' imprisonment by the justices of the peace. I can tell you that many thousands of cases like that of John Cross may be found in the whole country, and particularly in the South, and that their condition is such, that so far the most sincere investigator has not been able to solve the secret, how they keep body and soul together. And now throw your glances over the whole country and look at those 5 million families and the desperate condition of this stratum of them. Can we not say truly that the mass of the nation excluded from the suffrage toils and toils again and knows almost no rest? Compare them with the ruling class—but if I do that I shall be accused of communism...but compare this great toiling and suffrageless nation with that part which may be regarded as the ruling class. Look at their wealth, their showiness, their luxury. Look at their weariness—for there is a weariness also among them, but it is the weariness of satiety—and see how they hasten from place to place, as though it were only a question of discovering new pleasures." (Morning Star, December 15, 1865.)
We will show hereafter, in what manner surplus-labor, and consequently surplus-products, are confounded with ground-rent, which is, at least under the capitalist mode of production, qualitatively and quantitatively a specifically determined part of the surplus-product. The natural basis of surplus-labor in general, that is a natural condition without which such labor cannot be performed, is that nature must supply, either in animal or vegetable products of the soil or in fisheries, etc., the necessary means of subsistence by an expenditure of labor which does not consume the entire working day. This natural productivity of agricultural labor (which implies here the labor of gathering, hunting, fishing, cattle raising) is the basis of all surplus-labor; so is all labor primarily and originally directed toward the appropriation and production of food. (The animal supplies at the same time skins for warmth in colder climates; also cave dwellers, etc.)
The same confusion between surplus-product and ground-rent, differently expressed, is shown by Mr. Dove. Originally agricultural and industrial labor are not separated. The second joins into the first. The surplus-labor and the surplus-product of the farming tribe, the house commune or family, comprise both agricultural and industrial labor. Both go hand in hand. Hunting, fishing, agriculture are impossible without suitable tools. Weaving, spinning, etc., were first carried on as side occupations to farming.
We have shown previously, that in the same way in which the labor of the individual workman may be separated into necessary and surplus-labor, the aggregate labor of the working class may be divided so that that portion, which produces the total means of subsistence for the working class (including the means of production required for this purpose) performs the necessary labor for the whole society. The labor performed by all the remainder of the working class may then be regarded as surplus-labor. But the necessary includes by no means only agricultural labor, but also that labor which produces all other products that necessarily pass into the average consumption of the laborer. Socially speaking, some perform only necessary, others only surplus-labor, and vice versa. It is but a division of labor between them. It is the same with the division of labor between agricultural and industrial laborers in general. The purely industrial character of labor on the one side is offset by the purely agricultural one on the other. This purely agricultural labor is by no means natural, but is rather a product, and a very modern one at that, which has not yet been acquired everywhere, of social development, and it corresponds to a very definite stage of development. Just as a portion of the agricultural labor is materialised in products, which either minister only to luxury or serve as raw materials in industry, but do not serve as food, particularly not as food for the masses, so a portion of the industrial labor is materialised in products, which serve as necessary means of consumption of both the agricultural and industrial laborers. It is a mistake to consider this industrial labor, from a social point of view, as surplus-labor. It is in part as much necessary labor as the necessary portion of the agricultural labor. It is likewise but a separated form of a part of industrial labor which was formerly naturally connected with agricultural labor, it is a necessary and mutual supplement to the purely agricultural labor, which is now separated from it. (From a purely material point of view 500 mechanical weavers may produce surplus-fabrics to a far greater degree, that is, more than is required for their own clothing.)
It should finally be remembered in the study of the various forms which appear as ground-rent, that is, of the lease money paid under the name of ground-rent to the landlord for the use of the land for the purposes of production or consumption, that the price of things, which have in themselves no value, not being the products of labor, such as the land, or which at least cannot be reproduced by labor, such as antiquities, works of art of certain masters, etc., may be determined by many accidental combinations. In order to sell a thing, nothing more is required than that it can be monopolised and alienated.
There are three great errors, which should be avoided in the study of ground-rent, and which obscure its analysis.
1) Confusion of the various forms of rent, which correspond to different stages of development of the process of social production.
Whatever may be the specific form of rent, all types of it have this in common that the appropriation of rent is that economic form, in which property in land realises itself, and that ground-rent on its part is conditioned on the existence of private property in land, the ownership of certain portions of the globe by certain individuals. The owner may be the individual representing the community, as in Asia, Egypt, etc., or this private ownership in land may be merely accessory to the ownership of the persons of the direct producers by some individuals, as under the slave or serf system, or it may be a purely private ownership of nature by nonproducers, a mere title to land, or finally it may be a relation to the soil which, as in the case of colonists and small peasants owning land, seems included under a system of isolated and unsocial labor in the appropriation and production of the products of certain pieces of land by the direct producers.
This common element in the various forms of rent, namely that of being the economic realisation of property in land, a legal fiction by grace of which certain individuals have an exclusive right to certain pieces of the globe, misleads into overlooking the differences.
2) All ground-rent is surplus-value, the product of surplus-labor. In its undeveloped form, as natural rent (rent in kind), it is as yet directly the surplus-product itself. This gives rise to the mistaken idea that the rent corresponding to the capitalist mode of production is explained by merely explaining the general prerequisites of surplus-value and profit, whereas this ground-rent is always a surplus over and above profit. It is a peculiar and specific portion of surplus-value, over and above that portion of the value of commodities, which is known as profit and consists itself of surplus-value (surplus-labor). The general conditions for the existence of surplus-value and profit are: The direct producers must work beyond the time necessary for the reproduction of their own labor-power. They must perform surplus labor in general. This is the subjective condition. The objective condition is that they must be able to perform surplus-labor. The natural conditions must be such that a part of their available labor time suffices for their reproduction and selfmaintenance as producers, that the production of their necessary means of subsistence shall not consume their whole labor-power. The fertility of nature forms a limit here, a starting point, a basis. The development of the social productivity of their labor forms the other limit. Still more strictly speaking, since the production of means of subsistence is the very first condition of their existence and of all production, the labor used in this production, that is the agricultural labor in the widest economic meaning, must be productive enough, so that it will not absorb the entire available labor time in the production of means of subsistence for the direct producers. Agricultural surplus-labor and an agricultural surplus-product must be possible. More widely applied, it means that the total agricultural labor, both necessary and surplus-labor, of a part of society suffices to produce the necessary subsistence for the whole society, including the laborers who are not agricultural. It means that this great division of labor between farmers and industrials must be possible, also that between farmers producing subsistence and farmers producing raw materials. Although the labor of the producers of subsistence consists of necessary and surplus-labor, so far as their own point of view goes, it represents from the social standpoint only the labor necessary to produce the social subsistence. The same takes place in the case of division of labor within society as a whole, as distinguished from division of labor in the individual workshop. It is the labor necessary for the production of particular articles, for the satisfaction of some particular need of society. If this division is proportional, then the products of the various groups are sold at their values (at a later stage of development at their prices of production), or at prices which are modifications of their values or prices of production due to general laws. It is indeed the law of value enforcing itself, not with reference to individual commodities or articles, but to the total products of the particular social spheres of production made independent by division of labor. Every commodity must contain the necessary quantity of labor, and at the same time only the proportional quantity of the total social labor time must have been spent on the various groups. For the use-value of things remains a prerequisite. The use-value of the individual commodities depends on the particular need which each satisfies. But the use-value of the social mass of products depends on the extent to which it satisfies in quantity a definite social need for every particular kind of product in an adequate manner, so that the labor is proportionately distributed among the different spheres in keeping with these social needs, which are definite in quantity. (This point is to be noted in the distribution of capital to the various spheres of production.) The social need, that is the use-value on a social scale, appears here as a determining factor for the amount of social labor which is to be supplied by the various particular spheres. But it is only the same law, which showed itself in the individual commodity, namely that its use-value is the basis of its exchange-value and thus of its surplus-value. This point has any bearing upon the proportion between necessary and surplus-labor only in so far as a violation of this proportion makes it impossible to realise the value of the commodities and the surplus-value contained in it. For instance, take it that proportionally too much cotton goods have been produced, although only the labor-time necessary for this total product under the prevailing conditions is realised in it. But too much social labor has been expended in this particular line, in other words, a portion of this product is useless. The whole of it is therefore sold only as though it had been produced in the necessary proportion. This quantitative limit of the quota of social labor available for the various particular spheres is but a wider expression of the law of value, although the necessary labor time assumes a different meaning here. Only just so much of it is required for the satisfaction of the social needs. The limitation is here due to the use-value. Society can use only so much of its total labor for this particular kind of products under the prevailing conditions of production. But the subjective and objective conditions of surplus-labor and surplus-value in general have nothing to do with the peculiar form of either the profit or the rent. These conditions apply to surplus-value as such, no matter what special form it may assume. Hence they do not explain ground-rent.
3) It is precisely the self-expansion of private property, the development of ground-rent, which reveals the characteristic peculiarity, that its amount is by no means determined by the actions of its recipient, but by the independent development of social labor, in which he does not take part. It may easily happen, therefore, that something is regarded as a peculiarity of rent (and of the products of agriculture in general), which is really a common feature of all lines of production and all their products on the basis of the production of commodities, or, more strictly speaking, of capitalist production.
The amount of ground-rent (and with it the value of the soil) develops with the progress of social advance as a result of the total labor of society. On the one hand this leads to a growth of the market and of the demand for products of the soil, on the other it stimulates the demand for the land itself, which is a prerequisite of competitive production in all lines of business, even in those which are not agricultural. Speaking strictly of real-ground rent, this rent, and with it the value of the soil, develops with the market for the products of the soil, and thus with the increase of the other than agricultural population, with its needs and demand for either means of subsistence or raw materials. It is the nature of capitalist production to reduce the agricultural population continually as compared to the non-agricultural, because in industry (strictly speaking) the increase of the constant capital compared to the variable capital goes hand in hand with an absolute increase, though relative decrease, of the variable capital; whereas in agriculture the variable capital required for the exploitation of a certain piece of land decreases absolutely and cannot increase, unless new land is taken into cultivation, which implies a still greater previous growth of the non-agricultural population.
In fact we are not dealing here with a characteristic peculiarity of agriculture and its products. On the contrary, the same applies to all other lines of production and products on the basis of a production of commodities and of its absolute form, capitalist production.
These products are commodities, use-values, which have an exchange-value which can be realised, converted into money, only to the extent that other commodities form an equivalent for them, that other products face them as commodities and values. They have an exchange-value to the extent that they are not produced as immediate means of subsistence for the producers themselves, but as commodities, as products which become use-values only by their conversion into exchange-values (money), by being gotten rid of. The market for these commodities develops through the social division of labor; the separation of the productive labor into various departments transforms their respective products mutually into commodities, into mutual equivalents, makes them serve mutually as markets. This is in no way peculiar to agricultural products.
Rent can develop as money-rent only on the basis of a production of commodities, more strictly of capitalist production, and it so develops in proportion as the agricultural production becomes a production of commodities. This is the same proportion in which other than agricultural lines of production develop independently of agriculture, for to that extent does the agricultural product become a commodity, an exchange-value, a value. To the same extent that the production of commodities develops as a capitalist production, and as a production of value, does the production of surplus-value and surplus-products proceed. But to the same extent that this continues does property in land acquire the faculty of capturing an ever increasing portion of this surplus-value by means of its land monopoly. Thereby it raises its rent and the price of the land itself. The capitalist performs at least an active function himself in the development of surplus-value and surplus-products. But the land owner has but to capture his growing share in the surplus-product and the surplus-value created without his assistance. It is this which is the characteristic peculiarity of his position, and not the fact that the value of the products of the soil and thus of the land increases in proportion as the market for them expands, the demand grows and with it the world of commodities which are not agricultural products, the mass of producers and products outside of agriculture. But as this is done without the assistance of the landowner, it appears as something specifically his own, that measures of value, measures of surplus-value, and the conversion of a portion of surplus-value into ground-rent should depend upon the process of social production, on the development of the production of the commodities in general. For this reason a man like Dove wants to develop rent out of this element. He says that rent does not depend upon the mass of agricultural products, but upon their value; but this depends upon the mass and productivity of the non-agricultural population. But it is also true of all other products that they cannot develop the character of commodities, unless the mass, the variety and the succession of other commodities form equivalents for them. We have shown this previously in the discussion of the general nature of value. On the one hand the exchangeability of a certain product depends altogether on the multiplicity of commodities existing outside of it. On the other hand this circumstance determines in particular to what extent this product shall be put out as a commodity.
No producer, whether an industrial or farmer, considered by himself alone, produces value or commodities. His product becomes a commodity only in definite social interrelations. It becomes a commodity, in the first place, to the extent that it represents social labor, so that the individual producer's labor counts as a part of the general social labor. And in the second place this social character of his labor appears impressed upon his product through its pecuniary character and through its general exchangeability determined by its price.
Instead of explaining rent, such vagaries confine themselves to explaining merely surplus-value in general, or, still more absurdly, surplus-products in general, and on the other hand they make the mistake of ascribing a character, which belongs to all products in their capacity as commodities, to agricultural products exclusively. This is still more vulgarised by those who pass from a general analysis of value over to the realisation of a certain commodity's value. Every commodity can realise its value only in the process of circulation, and whether it realises its value, and to what extent it does so, depends on the prevailing market conditions.
It is not a peculiarity of ground-rent, then, that the products of agriculture develop into values and as values, that they face other commodities as commodities, and that products not agricultural face them as commodities, or that they develop as specific expressions of social labor. The peculiarity of ground-rent is rather that in proportion as the conditions develop, in which agricultural products develop as commodities (values), and in which they can realise their values, so does also property in land develop the power to appropriate an increasing portion of these values, which were created without its assistance, and so does an increasing portion of the surplus-value assume the form of ground-rent.
DIFFERENTIAL RENT. GENERAL REMARKS.
IN the analysis of ground-rent we shall start from the assumption, that products paying such a rent, that is, products a portion of whose surplus-value and general price resolves itself into ground-rent, are sold at their prices of production, like all other commodities. It suffices for our purposes to confine ourselves to products of agriculture and mining. In other words, their selling prices are made up of the elements of their cost (the value of the consumed constant and variable capital) plus a profit, which is determined by the average rate of profit and calculated on the total capital advanced, whether consumed or not consumed. We assume, then, that the average selling prices of these products are equal to their prices of production. The question is now, how can a ground-rent develop under these conditions, how can a portion of the profit become converted into ground-rent, so that a portion of the prices of the commodities falls into the hands of the landlord.
In order to show the general character of this form of ground-rent, we assume that most of the factories of a certain country are driven by steam engines, while a certain smaller number of them are driven by natural waterfalls. Let us further assume that the price of production in those industries amounts to 115 for a quantity of commodities which have consumed a capital of 100. The 15% of profit are calculated, not merely on the consumed capital of 100, but on the total capital invested in the production of this value in the commodities. We have previously shown that this price of production is not determined by the individual cost-price of every single producing industrial, but by the cost-price required on an average for the commodity under the average conditions of capital in the entire sphere of production. It is, in fact, the market price of production, as distinguished from its oscillations. For it is in the form of the market price, and in a wider sense of the regulating market price, or market price of production, that the nature of value asserts itself in commodities. It becomes evident, in this way, that it is not determined by the labor time necessary in the case of any individual producer for the production of a certain quantity of commodities, or of some individual commodity, but by the socially necessary labor time. This is that quantity of labor time, which is necessary for the production of the socially required total quantity of commodities of any kind on the market under the existing average conditions of social production.
As definite figures are immaterial in this case, we shall furthermore assume that the cost price in the factories driven by water power is only 90 instead of 100. Since the regulating market price of production of this quantity of commodities is 115, with a profit of 15%, the factories driven by water power will also sell their commodities at 115, the average price regulating the market price. Their profit would then be 25 instead of 15; the regulating market price of production would allow them a surplus-profit of 10%, not because they sell their commodities above the price of production, but because they sell them at the price of production, because their commodities are produced, or their capital expanded, under exceptionally favorable conditions, under conditions, which are above the average prevailing in this sphere.
Two things become evident at once.
1) The surplus-profit of the producers, who use the natural waterfall as motive power, is in the same class with all surplus-profit (and we have already analysed this category when discussing the prices of production), which is not the result of mere transactions in the sphere of circulation, of mere fluctuations of market prices. This surplus-profit, then, is likewise equal to the difference between the individual price of production of these favored producers and the general social price of production regulating the market in this entire sphere. This difference is equal to the excess of the general price of production of the commodities over their individual price of production. The two regulating limits of this excess are on the one hand the individual cost price, and thus the individual price of production, on the other hand the general price of production. The value of the commodities produced with water power is smaller, because a smaller quantity of labor is required for their production, namely less labor materialised in the constant capital. The labor here employed is more productive, its individual power of production is greater than that employed in the majority of the factories of the same kind. Its greater productive power is shown in the fact that it requires a smaller quantity of constant capital, a smaller quantity of materialised labor, than the others. It also requires less living labor, because the water wheel need not be heated. This greater individual power of production of the employed labor reduces the value, and at the same time the cost price and price of production of the commodity. For the individual industrial capitalist this expresses itself in a lower cost price of his commodities. He has to pay for less materialised labor, and less wages for less labor-power employed. Since the cost price of his commodities is smaller, his individual price of production is also smaller. His cost price is 90 instead of 100. His individual price of production would therefore be only 103½ instead of 115 (100: 115 = 90: 103½). The difference between his individual price of production and the general one is limited by the difference between his individual cost price and the general one. This is one of the magnitudes which form the limits of his surplus-product. The other is the magnitude of the general price of production, into which the average rate of profit enters as a regulating factor. If coal should become cheaper, the difference between his individual cost-price and the general cost-price would decrease, and with it his surplus-profit. If he should be compelled to sell his commodities at their individual value, or at the price of production determined by its individual value, then the difference would disappear. It is on the one side a result of the fact that the commodities are sold at their general market-price, the price brought about by the equalisation of individual prices through competition, on the other side a result of the fact that the greater individual productivity of the laborers employed by him does not benefit the laborers, but their employer, as does all productivity of labor. This productivity represents itself as a faculty of capital.
Since the level of the general price of production is one of the limits of the surplus-product, the level of the average rate of profit being one of its factors, it can have no other source but the difference between the general and the individual price of production, and consequently the difference between the general and the individual rate of profit. An excess of this difference would imply the sale of products above the price of production regulated by the market, not at this price.
2) So far as the surplus profit of the manufacturer using natural water power instead of steam for motive power does not differ in any way from any other surplus profit. All normal surplus profit, that is all surplus profit not due through accidental sales or fluctuations of the market price, is determined by the difference between the individual price of production of the commodities of these particular capitals and the general price of production, which regulates in a general way the market prices of the commodities produced by the capitals of this sphere of production, or the market prices of the commodities of the total capital invested in this sphere of production.
But now we come to the difference.
To what circumstance does the industrial capitalist in the present case owe his surplus-profit, the surplus resulting for him personally from the price of production regulated by the average rate of profit?
He owes it in the last resort to a natural power, the motive power of water, which is found ready at hand in nature and which is not itself a product of labor like coal, which transforms water into steam. The water has no value, it need not be paid by an equivalent, it costs nothing. It is a natural agency of production, which is not produced by labor.
But this is not all. The manufacturer who works with a steam engine also employs natural powers, which cost him nothing and yet make his labor more productive and, to the extent that they cheapen the manufacture of the means of subsistence required for the laborers, increase the surplus-value and with it the profit. These natural powers are quite as much monopolised by capital as the natural powers of social labor arising from co-operation, division, etc. The manufacturer pays for the coal, but not for the faculty of the water to alter its aggregate state, of passing over into steam, not for the elasticity of the steam, etc. The monopolisation of natural powers, that is of the increased productivity of labor due to them, is common to all capital working with steam engines. It may increase that portion of the product of labor which represents surplus-value as against that portion which is converted into wages. To the extent that it does this, it raises the general rate of profit, but it does not make any surplus-profit, for this consists of the excess of the individual profit over the average profit. The fact that the application of a natural power, of a waterfall, creates a surplus-profit in this case, cannot therefore be due solely to the circumstance that the increased productivity of labor is here due to a natural force. There must be still other modifying circumstances.
Look at the reverse side. The mere application of natural powers to industry may influence the level of the general rate of profit, because it affects the quantity of labor necessary to produce the means of subsistence. But in itself it does not create any deviations from the general rate of profit, and this is the point in which we are interested here. Furthermore, the surplus-profit, which some individual capital may ordinarily realise in its particular sphere of production—for the deviations of the rates of profits in the various spheres of production are continually balanced by competition into an average rate—are due, aside from accidental deviations, to a reduction of the cost-price, of the cost of production. This reduction arises either from the fact that a capital is used in greater than ordinary quantities, so that the dead expenses of the production are reduced, while the general causes increasing the productivity of labor, such as co-operation, division, etc., can exert themselves with a higher degree of intensity, their field of expression being larger. Or it may arise from the fact that, aside from the greater volume of the invested capital, better methods of labor, new inventions, improved machinery, chemical secrets in manufacture, etc., in short new and improved means of production and methods are used, which are above the average. The reduction of the cost price and the surplus profit arising from it arise here from the manner, in which the self-expanding capital is invested. They arise either from the circumstance that it is concentrated in one hand in extraordinarily large masses (a circumstance which is neutralised when capitals of the same size become the average), or from the circumstance that a capital of a certain size expands itself under exceptionally favorable circumstances (a circumstance which is neutralised as soon as the exceptional method of production becomes general or is superseded by a still more developed one).
The cause of the surplus profit, then, arises here from the capital itself (which includes the labor set in motion by it); it is either due to the greater size of the capital employed, or to its more improved application; and there is no particular reason why all the capital in the same sphere of production should not be invested in the same way. In fact, the competition between the capitals tends to neutralise their differences more and more. The determination of value by the socially necessary labor time asserts itself by the cheapening of commodities and the necessity of making commodities under the same favorable conditions. But it is different with the surplus profit of the industrial capitalist who uses water power. The increased productive power of his labor is not due either to his capital or his labor, nor to the mere application of some natural force separate from capital and labor, but incorporated in the capital. It arises from the greater natural power of production of labor in conjunction with some other natural power, which natural power is not at the command of all capitals in this sphere, whereas such a thing as the elasticity of steam is. The application of this other natural power does not follow as a selfunderstood matter, whenever capital is invested in this sphere. It is a monopolised natural power, which, like a water fall, is only at the command of those who can avail themselves of particular pieces of the globe and its opportunities. It is not within the power of capital to call to life this natural premise for a greater productivity of labor, whereas any capital may transform water into steam. Water power is found only locally in nature, and wherever it does not exist, it cannot be created by any investment of capital. It is not dependent upon products which labor can secure, such as machines, coal, etc. It is dependent upon definite natural conditions of definite portions of the globe. That section of industrial capitalists who own waterfalls excludes the other section who do not own any from the application of this power, because the land, and particularly land supplied with water power, is limited. Of course this does not prevent the quantity of water power available for industrial purposes from being increased, even if the number of natural waterfalls in a certain country is limited. Water power may be artificially diverted, in order to exploit its motive force fully. Under certain conditions a water wheel may be inproved so as to use the highest possible amount of water power; in places where the ordinary wheel is not suitable for supplying water, turbines may be used, etc. The possession of this natural power forms a monopoly in the hand of its owner, it is a premise for the increase of the productivity of the invested capital, which cannot be created by the process of production of the capital itself.126 This natural power, which can be monopolised in this way, is always attached to the soil. Such a natural power does not belong to the general conditions of that particular sphere of production, and not to those conditions, which may be made general.
Now let us assume that the waterfalls with the land on which they are found are held in the hands of persons, who are considered the owners of these portions of the globe, who are land owners. These owners may exclude others and prevent them from investing capital in the waterfalls or using waterfalls by means of capital. They can permit such a use or forbid it. The capital cannot create a waterfall out of itself. Therefore the surplus profit, which arises from this employment of waterfall, is not due to capital, but to the harnessing of a natural power, which can be monopolised and has been monopolised, by capital. Under these circumstances the surplus-profit is transformed into ground-rent, that is, it falls into the hands of the owner of the waterfall. If the industrial capitalist pays to the owner of the waterfall 10 pounds sterling annually, then his profit is 15 pounds sterling, that is 15% on the 100 which then make up his cost of production; and he is just as well off, or possibly better, as all other capitalists of his sphere of production, who work with steam. It would not matter, if this capitalist should be the owner of the waterfall. He would in that case pocket the surplus profit of 10 pounds in his capacity as a landowner, not in his capacity as an industrial capitalist, just because this surplus is not due to his capital as such, but to a limited natural power separate from his capital, over which he has command, because he has a monopoly of it. And so it is converted into ground-rent.
1) It is evident that this is always a differential rent, for it does not enter as a determining factor into the average price of production of commodities, but rather is based on it. It always arises from the difference between the individual price of production of the individual capital having command over monopoly of natural power and the general price of production of the total capital invested in that particular sphere of production.
2) This ground-rent does not arise from the absolute increase of the productivity of the employed capital, or of the labor appropriated by it, since this can only reduce the value of commodities; it is due to the greater relative fertility of definite individual capitals invested in a certain sphere of production, as compared with investments of capital, which are excluded from these exceptional and natural conditions favoring the productivity. For instance, if the use of steam should offer overwhelming advantages not attached to the use of water power, or tending to neutralise the benefits to be derived from water power, then, water power would not be used and could not produce any surplus profit, or ground-rent, even though coal has a value and water power has not.
3) The natural power is not the source of the surplus profit, but only its natural basis, because this natural basis permits an increase in the productive power of labor. In the same way the use-value is the general bearer of the exchange-value, but not its cause. If the same use-value could be created without labor, it would have no exchange-value, yet it would have the same useful effect as ever. On the other hand, nothing can have an exchange-value unless it has a use-value, unless it has this useful bearer of labor. Were it not for the fact that the different values are neutralised into prices of production, and the different individual prices of production into one average price of production regulating the market, the mere increase in the productivity of labor by the use of a waterfall would merely lower the price of the commodities produced with the waterfall, without adding anything to the share of profit contained in those commodities. On the other hand, this increased productivity of labor would not be converted into surplus-value, were it not for the fact that capital appropriates the natural and social productivity of labor as though it were its own.
4) The private ownership of the waterfall has nothing to do with the creation of that portion of the surplus-value (profit), and of the price of a commodity in general, which is produced by the help of the waterfall. This surplus profit would also exist, if private property did not prevail, for instance, if the land supplied with the waterfall were appropriated by the industrial capitalist as masterless booty. Hence private property in land does not create that portion of value, which is transformed into surplus profit, but it merely enables the landowner, who has possession of the waterfall, to coax this surplus profit out of the pocket of the industrial capitalist into his own. It is the cause, not of the creation of this surplus profit, but of its transformation into ground-rent, of the appropriation of this portion of the profit, or of the price of commodities, by the owner of the land or of the waterfall.
5) It is evident that the price of the waterfall, that is the price which the owner of it would receive if he were to sell it to some other man, perhaps to the industrial capitalist, would not enter directly into the general price of production of the commodities, although it would enter into the individual cost-price of the industrial capitalist. For the rent arises here from the price of production of the commodities produced by steam machinery, and this price is regulated independently of the waterfall. Furthermore, this price of the waterfall is an irrational expression, behind which a real economic relation is concerned. The waterfall, like the earth in general, and like any natural force, has no value, because it does not represent any materialised labor, and therefore it really has no price, which is normally but the expression of value in money. Where there is no value, it is obvious that it cannot be expressed in money. This price is merely capitalised rent. The ownership of land enables the landowner to catch the difference between the individual profit and the average profit. The profit thus acquired, which is renewed every year, may be capitalised, and then it appears as the price of a natural power itself. If the surplus profit realised by the use of the waterfall amounts to 10 pounds sterling per year, and the average interest is 5%, then these 10 pounds sterling annually represent the interest on a capital of 200 pounds sterling; and this capitalisation of the annual 10 pounds sterling, which the waterfall enables its owner to catch, appears then as the capital-value of the waterfall itself. That it is not the waterfall itself, which has a value, but that its price is a mere reflex of the appropriated surplus profit, which the use of the waterfall yields to the industrial capitalist, capitalistically calculated, becomes at once evident in the fact that the price of 200 pounds sterling represents merely the product of a surplus profit of 10 pounds sterling for 20 years, whereas the same waterfall will enable its owner to catch these 10 pounds sterling every year for 30 years, or 100 years, or an indefinite number of years, so long as circumstances remain the same. On the other hand, if some new method of production, which is not suitable for water power, should reduce the cost price of the commodities produced by steam machinery from 100 to 90 pounds sterling, the surplus profit, and with it the rent, and with it the price of the waterfall, would disappear.
Now that we have explained our general conception of differential rent, we will pass on to its consideration in agriculture, strictly so-called. What applies to it will also apply on the whole to mines.
THE FIRST FORM OF DIFFERENTIAL RENT.
|A||1 qr. = 60 sh.||1 qr. = 60 sh.|
|B||2 qrs. = 60 sh.||1 qr. = 30 sh.|
|C||3 qrs. = 60 sh.||1 qr. = 20 sh.|
|D||4 qrs. = 60 sh.||1 qr. = 15 sh.|
|10 qrs. = 240 sh.||Average||1 qr. = 24 sh.|
The actual price of production of these 10 quarters is 240 shillings. But they are sold at 600 shillings, 250% too dear. The actual average price for 1 quarter is 24 shillings; the market price is 60 shillings, also 250% too dear.
This is a determination by the market-value, which is enforced on the basis of capitalist production by means of competition; it creates a false social value. This arises from the law of the market-value, to which the products of the soil are subject. The determination of the market-value of the products, including the products of the soil, is a social act, although performed by society unconsciously and unintentionally. It rests necessarily upon the exchange-value of the product, not upon the soil and its differences in fertility.
If we imagine that the capitalistic form of society is abolished and society is organized as a conscious and systematic association, then those 10 quarters represent a quantity of independent labor, which is equal to that contained in 240 shillings. In that case society would not buy this product of the soil at two and a half times the labor time contained in it. The basis of a class of land owners would thus be destroyed. This would have the same effect as a cheapening of the product to the same amount by foreign imports. While it is correct to say that, by retaining the present mode of production but paying the differential rent to the state, the prices of the products of the soil would remain the same, other circumstances remaining unchanged, it is wrong to say that the value of the products would remain the same, if capitalist production were superseded by association. The sameness of the market prices for commodities of the same kind is the way in which the social character of value asserts itself on the basis of capitalist production, as it does of any production resting on the exchange of commodities between individuals. What society in its capacity as a consumer pays too much for the products of the soil, what constitutes a minus for the realisation of its labor time in agricultural production, is now a plus for a portion of society, for the landlords.
A second circumstance, important for the analysis to be given under II in the next chapter, is the following:
It is not merely a question of the rent per acre, or per hectare, nor in general of a difference between the price of production and the market price, nor between the individual and general price of production per acre, but it is also a question of how many acres of each class of soil are under cultivation. The point of importance is here primarily the magnitude of the rental, that is, of the total rent of the entire cultivated area; but it serves us at the same time as a transition to the development of a rise in the rate of the rent, although there is neither a rise in the prices, nor an increase in the differences of the relative fertility of the various kinds of soil when prices are falling.
We had above:
Now let us assume that the number of cultivated acres is doubled in every class. Then we have:
Let us assume two other cases, and let the first be one, in which production expands on the two inferior classes of soil, in the following manner:
Finally let us assume an unequal expansion of production and of the cultivated area on all four classes, in the following manner:
In the first place, the rent per acre remains the same in all these four cases I, I a, I b and I c. For in fact the result of the same investment of capital per acre of the same class of soil has remained unchanged. Nothing more has been assumed than a fact which may be observed in any country at any given moment, namely that the various classes of soil participate in certain definite proportions in the entire cultivated area. And furthermore, a fact which may be observed in any two countries that are compared, or in the same country at different periods of time, namely that the proportion varies in which the cultivated area is distributed among these classes.
If we compare Ia with I, then we see, if the cultivation of the soils of all four classes grows in the same proportion, that a doubling of the cultivated acres doubles the total production, and at the same time doubles the rent in grain and money.
If we compare Ib and Ic successively with I, we see that in both cases a triplication of the area subject to cultivation takes place. It rises in both cases from 4 acres to 12, but in Ib it is the classes A and B which get the greatest share of the increase, although A pays no rent, and B yields the smallest differential rent. But of 8 newly cultivated acres A and B get 3 each, or 6 between the two of them, whereas C and D get only 1 acre each, or together 2 acres. In other words, three-quarters of the increase go to A and B, and only one-quarter to C and D. According to this assumption and comparing Ib with I, the trebled area of cultivation does not result in a trebled product, for the product does not increase from 10 to 30, but only to 26. On the other hand, seeing that a considerable portion of the increase takes place on A, which does not yield any rent, and since the principal portion of the remaining increase takes place on B, the rent in grain rises only from 6 quarters to 14, and the rent in money from 18 pounds sterling to 42.
But if we compare Ic with I, where the soil yielding no rent does not increase in area, and the soil yielding a minimum rent increases but slightly, while the principal portion of the increase takes place on C and D, we find that the trebled area results in an increase of production from 10 quarters to 36, more than three times the quantity. The rent in grain has risen from 6 quarters to 24, or quadrupled; and so has the money rent from 18 pounds sterling to 72.
In all these cases the price of the agricultural product naturally remains stationary. The total rental increases in all cases with the extension of cultivation, unless it takes place exclusively on the worst soil, which does not pay any rent. But the growth is unequal. In proportion as the extension of cultivation takes place upon the superior classes of soil and consequently the quantity of the products grows not merely at the ratio of expansion of the area, but even faster, the rent in grain and money increases. In proportion as the worst soil and the class next above it share principally in the expansion of the area (provided that the worst soil represents a constant class), the total rental does not rise in proportion to the extension of cultivation. If there are two countries, in which the class A, that yields no rent, is of the same nature, the rental stands in the reverse ratio to the aliquot part represented by the worst soil and the lesser classes next above it in the total area of the cultivated soil, and therefore in the reverse ratio to the quantity of the products of equal investments of capital on the same total areas of land. The proportion between the quantity of the worst cultivated soil and that of the better soil, within the total cultivated area of a certain country, thus has the opposite effect upon the total rental than the proportion between the quality of the worst cultivated soil and that of the better soil has upon the rent per acre and, other circumstances remaining the same, upon the total rental. The confounding these two things has given rise to many mistaken objections to differential rent.
The total rental, then, increases by the mere extension of the cultivation, and by the consequent greater investment of capital and labor in the soil.
But the most important point is this: Although it is our assumption that the proportion of the rents upon the various classes of soil remains the same, calculated per acre, and therefore also the rate of rent considered with reference to the capital invested in each acre, yet we must observe the following: If we compare Ia with I, the case in which the number of cultivated acres and the capital invested in them have been proportionately increased, we find that just as the total production has increased proportionately to the expanded agricultural area, that is just as both of them have been doubled, so has the rental. It has risen from 18 pounds sterling to 36, just as the number of acres has risen from 4 to 8.
If we take the total area of 4 acres, we find that the total rental amounted to 18 pounds sterling, or the average rent, including the soil which does not pay any rent, 4½ pounds sterling. This calculation might be made, say, by a landlord owning all 4 acres. And in this way the average rent is statistically calculated upon a whole country. The total rental of 18 pounds sterling is secured by the investment of a capital of 10 pounds sterling. We call the ratio of these two figures the rate of rent; in the present case it is 180%.
The same rate of rent follows in Ia, where 8 instead of 4 acres are cultivated, but all classes of land have shared in the same proportion in the increase. The total rental of 36 pounds sterling gives for 8 acres and an invested capital of 20 pounds sterling an average rent of 4½ pounds sterling per acre and a rate of rent of 180%.
But if we consider Ib, in which the increase has taken place mainly upon the two inferior classes of soil, we find there a rent of 42 pounds sterling upon 12 acres, or an average rent of 3½ pounds sterling per acre. The invested total capital is 30 pounds sterling, and the rate of rent 140%. The average rent per acre has decreased by one pound sterling, and the rate of rent has fallen from 180 to 140%. Here then we have an increase of the total rental from 18 pounds sterling to 42, and yet a fall of the average rent, calculated both per acre and per capital, while production grows also, but not proportionately. This takes place, although the rent upon all classes of soil, both per acre and per capital, remains the same. It does so, because three-quarters of the increase go to the class A, which does not pay any rent, and upon class B, which pays only the minimum rent.
If the total extension in the case Ib had taken place only upon the soil A, then we should have 9 acres upon A, 1 acre upon B, 1 acre upon C and 1 acre upon D. The total rental would be 18 pounds sterling, the same as before, the average rent upon the 12 acres would be 1½ p. st. per acre; and a rent of 18 pounds sterling on an invested capital of 30 pounds sterling would give a rate of rent of 60%. The average rent, both per acre and per invested capital, would have decreased, and the total rental would not have increased.
Finally, let us compare Ic with I and Ib. Compared to I, the area has been trebled, also the invested capital. The total rental is 72 pounds sterling upon 12 acres, or 6 pounds sterling per acre against 4½ pounds sterling in case I. The rate of rent upon the invested capital (72: 30 pounds sterling) is 240% instead of 180%. The total product has risen from 10 quarters to 36.
Compared to Ib, where the total area of the cultivated acres, the invested capital, and the difference between the cultivated classes are the same, but the distribution different, the product is 36 quarters instead of 26, the average rent per acre is 6 pounds sterling instead of 3½, and the rate of rent with reference to the same invested total capital is 240% instead of 140%.
No matter whether we regard the various conditions in Tables Ia, Ib and Ic as existing side by side in different countries, or as existing successively in the same country, we come to the following conclusions: so long as we have the conditions mentioned hereafter, that is, so long as the price of cereals remains unchanged, because the worst rentless soil has the same product; so long as the differences in the productivity of the different cultivated soils remain the same; so long as the respective products of the same invested capitals are the same for aliquot parts (acres) of the areas cultivated in every class of soil; so long as the ratio between the rents per acre of each class of soils and with the same rate of rent upon the capital invested in each portion of the same kind of soil is constant: 1) the rental always increases with the extension of the cultivated area and with the consequent increased investment of capital, with the exception of the case in which the entire increase falls on the rentless soil. 2) Both the average rent per acre (total rental divided by the total number of acres) and the average rate of rent (total rental divided by the invested total capital) may vary very considerably; both of them in the same direction, but in different proportions compared to one another. If we leave out of consideration the case, in which the increase takes place upon the rentless soil, we find that the average rent per acre and the average rate of rent upon the capital invested in agriculture depend upon the proportional shares, which the various classes of soil claim in the cultivated area; or, what amounts to the same, upon the distribution of the employed total capital among the classes of soil of different fertility. Whether much or little land is cultivated, and whether the total rental is therefore larger or smaller (with the exception of the case, in which the increase is confined to A) the average rent per acre, or the average rent per invested capital, remains the same so long as the proportions of the participation of the various classes of soil in the total cultivated area remain unchanged. In spite of the rise, even of a very considerable one, in the total rental with the extension of cultivation and the expansion of the invested capital, the average rent per acre and the average rent per capital fall whenever the extension of the rentless lands, or of the lands of inferior fertility, increases more than that of the superior rent paying ones. On the other hand the average rent per acre and the average rent per capital increase in proportion as the better lands constitute a greater part of the total area and employ a relatively greater share of the invested capital.
Hence, if we consider the average rent per acre, or hectare, of the total cultivated soil, in the way that is generally done in statistical works, by comparing either different countries at different epochs, or different epochs in the same country, we find that the average level of the rent per acre, and consequently the total rental, corresponds in certain proportions (although by no means equal ones, but rather more rapidly moving ones) to the absolute, not to the relative, productivity of agriculture in a certain country, that is, to the mass of products brought forth by it on an average upon the same area. For the larger the share taken by the superior soils in the total cultivated area, the greater is the mass of products brought forth by equal investments of capital upon equally large areas of land. And the higher is the average rent per acre. In the opposite case the reverse takes place. In this way the rent does not seem to be determined by the ratios of differential fertility, but of absolute fertility, and the law of differential rent seems thereby abolished. For this reason certain phenomena are disputed, or perhaps they are explained by non-existing differences in the average prices of cereals and in the differential fertility of the cultivated lands, whereas such phenomena are merely due to the fact that the ratio of the total rental, either to the total area of the cultivated soil, or to the total capital invested in this soil, so long as the fertility of the rentless soil remains the same and with it the price of production, and so long as the differences of the various classes of soil remain unchanged, is determined not merely by the rent per acre or the rate of rent per capital, but quite as much by the proportional number of acres of each class of soil in the total number of cultivated acres; or, what amounts to the same, by the distribution of the invested total capital among the various classes of land. Curiously enough this fact has been completely overlooked so far. At any rate we see (and this is important for the progress of our analysis), that the relative level of the average rent per acre, and the average rate of rent (or the ratio of the total rental to the total capital invested in the soil), may rise or fall, through the mere extensive expansion of cultivation, while prices remain the same, the differential fertilities of the various soils remain unaltered, and the rent per acre is constant, or while the rate of rent for the capital invested per acre in every actual rent paying class of soil, or for every rent paying capital, remains unchanged.
We have to make the following additional remarks with reference to the form I of the differential rent, which also apply partly to form II:
1) We have seen that the average rent per acre, or the average rate of rent per capital, may rise with an extension of cultivation, with stationary prices, and unaltered differential fertilities of the cultivated lands. As soon as all the land in a certain country has been appropriated, while the investment of capital in land, the cultivation of the soil, and the population, have reached a certain level—all of which conditions are matters of fact as soon as the capitalist mode of production becomes the prevailing one and invades also agriculture—the price of the uncultivated soil of various classes (assuming differential rent to exist) is determined by the price of the cultivated lands of the same quality and equivalent location. The price is the same—after deducting the cost of breaking the ground—although this soil does not carry any rent. The price of the land is, indeed, nothing but the capitalised rent. But even in the case of cultivated lands their price pays only future rents, as for instance, when the regulating rate of interest is 5% and the rent for twenty years is paid in advance at one time. When land is sold, it is sold as a rent paying land, and the prospective character of the rent (which is here considered as a fruit of the soil, which it is only seemingly) does not distinguish the uncultivated from the cultivated soil. The price of the uncultivated lands, like their rent, which it represents as though it were its contracted formula, is quite illusory, so long as the land is not actually used. But it is thus determined beforehand and realised as soon as a purchaser is found. Hence, while the actual average rent of a certain land is determined by its real average rental per year and by its proportion to the entire cultivated area, the price of the uncultivated portions of land is determined by that of the cultivated land, and is therefore but a reflex of the capital invested in cultivated land and of the results obtained by such investments. Since all lands with the exception of the worst carry rent (and this rent, as we shall see under the head of differential rent II, rises with the mass of the capital and the corresponding intensity of cultivation), the nominal price of the uncultivated portions of the soil is thus formed, and thus they become commodities, a source of wealth for their owners. This explains at the same time, why the price of land increases in the whole region, even in the uncultivated part (Opdyke). The speculation in land, for instance in the United States, rests merely upon this reflex, which capital and labor throw on the uncultivated land.
2) The advance in the extension of the cultivated soil in general takes place either toward inferior soil, or upon the various existing soils in different proportions according to the way in which they present themselves. The step toward inferior soil naturally is never made voluntarily, but cannot be due to anything but to rising prices (assuming the capitalist mode of production to be a fact), and under any mode of production it will be a result of necessity. However, this is not absolutely so. An inferior soil is preferred to a relatively better soil on account of its location, which decides the point during all extension of cultivation in new countries; furthermore for the reason that, while the formation of the soil in a certain region may belong to the superior ones, the better will nevertheless be relieved here and there by inferior soil, so that the inferior soil must be cultivated along with the superior on account of its location. If inferior soil is surrounded by superior soil, then the better soil gives to the poorer soil the advantage of location as against other and more fertile soil, which is not connected with the already cultivated soil, or with soil about to be cultivated.
In this way the state of Michigan was one of the first to export corn. Yet its soil is on the whole poor. But its vicinity to the state of New York and its water routes by lakes and by the Erie Canal gave to it the advantage before the naturally more fertile states which were farther west. The example of this state, as compared to the state of New York, shows us also the transition from superior to inferior soil. The soil of the state of New York, particularly the western portion of it, is far more fertile, particularly in the raising of wheat. This fertile soil was made sterile by robbing it, and now the soil of Michigan appeared as the more fertile.
"In 1836 wheat flour was shipped from Buffalo to the West, principally from the wheat belt of New York and Canada. At present, only 12 years later, enormous supplies of wheat and flour are brought from the West, by way of Lake Erie, and shipped East upon the Erie Canal, in Buffalo and the neighboring port of Blackrock. The export of wheat and flour was particularly stimulated by the European famine in 1847. The wheat in western New York thus became cheaper, and the raising of wheat less profitable; this caused the New York farmers to throw themselves more upon cattle raising and dairying, fruit growing, etc., lines in which the Northwest, in their opinion, will be unable to compete with them directly." (J. W. Johnston, Notes on North America, London, 1851, I, p. 222.)
3) It is a mistaken assumption that the land in colonies, and in new countries generally, which can export cereals at cheaper prices, must for that reason be necessarily of a greater natural fertility. The cereals are not only sold below their value in such cases, but below their price of production, namely below the price of production determined by the rate of profit in the older countries.
The fact that we, as Johnston says (p. 223) "are accustomed to connect with these new states, which ship annually such large supplies of wheat to Buffalo, the idea of great natural fertility and endless stretches of rich soil," depends primarily upon economic conditions. The entire population of such a country, for instance of Michigan, is at first almost exclusively engaged in agriculture, and particularly in producing agricultural goods in large masses, which they can alone exchange for products of industry and tropical goods. The whole surplus product of this population appears, therefore, in the shape of cereals. This distinguishes from the outset the colonial states founded on the basis of the modern world market from those of former, particularly of antique, times. They receive from the world market finished products, which they would have to make themselves under different circumstances, such as clothing, tools, etc. Only on such a basis were the southern states of the Union enabled to make of cotton their staple product. The division of labor upon the world market permitted this. Hence, if they seem to produce a large surplus product in spite of their youth and small relative population, it is not due to the fertility of their soil, nor to the productivity of their labor, but to the onesided form of their labor, and therefore of the surplus product, in which this labor is incorporated.
Furthermore, a relatively inferior soil, which is newly cultivated and was never touched by civilisation before, has accumulated much easily soluble plant food, at least in its upper layers, provided the climatic conditions are not extremely hard, so that it will yield crops without any manure for a long time, even with very superficial cultivation. The western prairies have the additional advantage of requiring hardly any expenses for clearing, since nature has cleared them herself.127 In less fertile districts of this kind a surplus is produced, not through the great fertility of the soil or the yield per acre, but through the large number of acres, which may be superficially cultivated, because this soil costs the cultivator little or nothing compared with older countries. For instance, where share farming exists, as it does in certain parts of New York, Michigan, Canada, etc., there this condition is found. A family cultivates superficially, say, 100 acres, and although the product per acre is not large, the product of 100 acres yields a considerable surplus for sale. In addition to this cattle may be kept on natural pastures for almost nothing, without any artificial grass meadows. It is the quantity, not the quality of the soil, which decides the point here. The possibility of this superficial cultivation is naturally more or less rapidly exhausted, in a reverse ratio to the fertility of the new soil, and in a direct ratio to the export of its products. "And yet such a country will yield excellent harvests, even of wheat; whoever skims the first cream off the soil, will be able to ship an abundant surplus of wheat to the market" (L. c., p. 224). In countries of older civilisation the property relations, the determination of the price of the uncultivated soil by that of the cultivated, etc., make such an extensive economy impossible.
That this soil does not have to be very rich, as Ricardo imagines, nor soils of equal fertility have to be cultivated, may be seen from the following: In the state of Michigan 465,900 acres were planted in 1848 with wheat and produced 4,739,300 bushels, or an average of 10 1/5 bushels per acre; deducting the seed grain this leaves less than 9 bushels per acre. Of the 29 counties of this state 2 produced an average of 7 bushels, 3 an average of 8 bushels, 2 one of 9, 7 one of 10, 6 one of 11, 3 one of 12, 4 one of 13 bushels, and only one county produced an average of 16 bushels, and another of 18 bushels per acre (L. c., p. 226).
In practical agriculture a higher fertility of the soil coincides with a greater immediate utilisation of this fertility. This may be greater in a naturally poor soil than in a naturally rich one; but it is the kind of soil which a colonist will take up first, and must take up from lack of capital.
4) The extension of cultivation to greater areas—aside from the case just mentioned, in which recourse must be had to inferior soil than that hitherto cultivated—upon the various classes of soil from A to D, for instance, the cultivation of larger tracts of B and C, does not presuppose by any means a previous rise of the prices of cereals, any more than the annually increasing expansion, for instance of cotton spinning, presupposes a continual rise in the price of yarn. Although a considerable rise or fall of market prices affects the volume of production, nevertheless, aside from this, that relative overproduction which is in itself identical with accumulation always takes place even with average prices, whose stand has neither a paralysing nor an exceptionally stimulating effect upon production. This takes place in agriculture as well as in all other capitalistically managed lines of production. Under different modes of production, this relative overproduction is effected directly by the increase of population, and in colonies by continual immigration. The demand increases constantly, and in anticipation of this new capital is continually invested in new land, although the products of this land will vary according to circumstances. It is the formation of new capitals, which in itself brings this about. But so far as the individual capitalist is concerned, he measures the volume of his production by that of his available capital, to the extent that he himself can still superintend it. What he aims at is to occupy as much room as possible on the market. If there is any overproduction, he does not blame himself, but his competitors. The individual capitalist may expand his production by appropriating a larger aliquot share of the existing market, or by expanding the market itself.
THE SECOND FORM OF DIFFERENTIAL RENT.
(Differential Rent II.)
So far we have considered differential rent only as the result of the different productivity of different investments of capital upon equal areas of land with different fertilities, so that the differential rent was determined by the difference between the yield of the capital invested in the worst, rentless, soil and that of the capital invested in the superior soils, Here we had the invested capitals side by side upon different areas of land, so that every new investment of capital signified a more extensive cultivation of the soil, an expansion of the cultivated area. But in the last analysis the differential rent was by its nature merely the result of the different productivity of equal capitals invested in land.
But could it make any difference, perhaps, whether masses of capital of different productivities are invested successively on the same piece of land, or side by side on different pieces of land, provided that the results are the same?
In the first place, it cannot be denied that it is immaterial, so far as the formation of surplus profit is concerned, whether 3 pounds sterling of cost of production are invested in one acre of A and yield one-quarter of wheat, so that 3 pounds sterling are the price of production and regulating market price of 1 quarter, while 3 pounds sterling of cost of production applied to one acre of B give 2 quarters, and with them a surplus profit of 3 pounds sterling, while in the same way 3 pounds sterling of cost of production applied to one acre of C give 3 quarters and 6 pounds sterling of surplus profit, and finally 3 pounds sterling of cost of production applied to one acre of D give 4 quarters and 9 pounds sterling of surplus profit; or whether the same result is accomplished by applying these 12 pounds sterling of cost of production, or 10 pounds sterling of capital, with the same results and in the same succession upon one and the same acre. It is in either case a capital of 10 pounds sterling, a part of whose successively invested shares of a value of 2½ pounds sterling each, whether invested in four acres of different fertility side by side, or successively upon one and the same acre, does not yield any surplus profit on account of their different products, whereas the other parts yield a surplus profit in proportion to the difference of their yield from that of the rentless investment.
The surplus profits and the various rates of surplus profit for different parts of the value of capital are formed in the same way in either case. And the rent is nothing but a form of this surplus profit, which constitutes its substance. But at any rate, there are some difficulties in this second method in the way of the transformation of surplus profit into rent, of this change of form, which implies the transfer of the surplus profit from the capitalist tenant to the owner of the land. This accounts for the obstinate resistance of the English tenants to an official statistics of agriculture. It accounts for the struggle between them and the landlords over the ascertainment of the actual results of an investment of capital (Morton). For the rent is fixed when the lease for the land is made out, and after that the surplus profits arising from excessive investments of capital flow into the pockets of the tenant so long as the lease lasts. Therefore the tenants fought for long leases, and on the other hand the landlords enforced by their superior numbers an increase of the tenancies at will, which could be cancelled annually.
It is evident from the outset that even though it is immaterial for the law forming the surplus profit, whether equal capitals are invested with unequal results side by side upon equal areas of land, or whether they are invested successively on the same land, it does make a considerable difference for the conversion of surplus profit into ground-rent. The latter method confines this conversion within boundaries, which are narrower on one side and less definite on the other. For this reason the business of the tax assessor, as Morton shows in his "Resources of Estates," becomes a very important, complicated and difficult profession in countries with an intensive cultivation (and economically we mean by intensive cultivation nothing else but the concentration of capital upon the same piece of land, instead of its distribution over adjoining pieces of land). If the improvements of the soil are of the more permanent kind, the artificially raised differential fertility of the soil coincides with its natural fertility as soon as the lease expires, and this leads to the assessment of the rent by the basis of that which is due to the mere differences of fertility in different soils generally. On the other hand, so far as the formation of surplus profit is determined by the magnitude of the working capital, the amount of the rent paid by a certain amount of capital is added to the average rent of the country and care is taken that the new tenant commands sufficient capital to continue cultivation in the same intensive manner.
In the study of differential rent II, the following points must be noted:
1) Its basis and point of departure, not merely historically, but even as concerns its movements at any given period, is differential rent I, that is the simultaneous cultivation side by side of soils of different fertility and location; in other words the simultaneous application, side by side, of different portions of the total agricultural capital upon soil areas of different quality.
Historically this is a matter of course. In colonies the colonists have but little capital to invest. The principal agents of production are labor and land. Every individual head of a family seeks to acquire for himself and his, an independent field of employment, apart from that of his fellow colonists. This must be generally the case even under precapitalist modes of production in agriculture proper. In the case of sheep pastures, and generally of cattle raising as an independent line of production, the exploitation of the soil is more or less collective, and it is extensive from the outset. The capitalist mode of production starts out from former modes of production, in which the means of production are actually or legally the property of the tiller himself, in which agriculture is carried on by professionals. Naturally this mode of agriculture gives way but gradually to the concentration of means of production and their transformation into capital with a simultaneous change of direct producers into wage workers. So far as the capitalist mode of production asserts itself here in a typical manner, it does so at first mainly in sheep pastures and cattle raising; after that it does not assert itself by a concentration of capital upon a relatively small area of land, but in production on a larger scale, so that the expense of keeping horses and other costs of production may be saved; but in fact not by investing more capital in the same land. It is furthermore in the nature of field tillage that capital, which implies at this stage also the means of production already produced, should become the dominating element of agriculture, when cultivation has reached a certain hight and the soil has become correspondingly exhausted. So long as the tilled land constitutes a small area compared to the untilled, and so long as the strength of the soil has not been exhausted (and this is the case so long as cattle raising prevails with meat as the staple food, before agriculture proper and plant food have become dominant), the beginnings of the new mode of production show their opposition to peasants' economy mainly by large tracts of land which are tilled for the account of some capitalist, in other words, the new mode of production itself starts out with an extensive application of capital to larger areas of land. It should therefore be remembered from the outset, that differential rent No. I is the historical basis from which a start is made. On the other hand, the movement of differential rent No. II puts in its appearance at any given moment only upon a territory, which is itself but the variegated basis of differential rent No. I.
2) In differential rent No. II, the differences in the distribution of capital (and of the ability to get credit) among tenants are added to the differences in fertility. In manufacture proper, each line of business rapidly develops its own minimum volume of business and a corresponding minimum of capital, below which no individual business can be carried on successfully. In the same way each line of business develops, above this minimum, a normal size of capital, which the mass of producers must be able to command and do command. Whatever exceeds this, can form extra profits; whatever is below this, does not get the average profit. The capitalist mode of production invades agriculture but slowly and unevenly, as may be seen in England, the classic land of the capitalist mode of production in agriculture. To the extent that no free importation of cereals exists, or that its effect is but limited, because its volume is small, the producers working upon inferior soil and thus with worse than average conditions of production determine the market price. A large portion of the total mass of capital invested in husbandry and available for it is in their hands.
It is true that the farmer spends much labor on his small plot of land. But it is labor isolated from the objective social and material conditions of productivity, labor robbed and stripped of these conditions.
This circumstance makes it possible for the real capitalist tenants to appropriate a portion of the surplus profit; this would not be so, at least so far as this point is concerned, if the capitalist mode of production were as uniformly developed in agriculture as in manufacture.
Let us first consider the formation of surplus profit in differential rent No. II, without taking notice for the present of the conditions under which the conversion of this surplus profit into ground rent may take place.
It is evident, in that case, that differential rent No. II is but a different expression of differential rent No. I, but that it coincides with it in substance. The different fertility of the various kinds of soil exerts its influence in the case of differential rent No. I only to the extent that it brings about unequal results of the capitals invested in the soil, so that the products of equal capitals, or of equal aliquot parts of unequal capitals, are unequal. Whether this inequality takes place for different capitals invested successively in the same land, or for capitals invested in various tracts of different classes of soil, cannot alter anything in the differences of fertility, or in the differences of their products, nor in the formation of the differential rent for the more productively invested parts of capital. It is still the soil which shows different fertilities with the same investment of capitals, only that in this case the same soil does for a capital successively invested in different portions what different kinds of soil do in the case of differential rent No. I for various equally large portions of social capital invested in them.
If the same capital of 10 pounds sterling, which is shown by Table I to be invested in the shape of separate capitals of 2½ pounds sterling by different tenants in one acre of each of the soils A, B, C and D, were invested successively in one and the same acre D, so that its first investment yielded 4 quarters, the second 3 quarters, the third 2 quarters and the fourth 1 quarter (or vice versa), then the price of the 1 quarter, which is furnished by the least productive capital, namely the price of 3 pounds sterling, would not pay any differential rent, but would determine the price of production, so long as the supply of wheat with a price of production of 3 pounds sterling would be needed. And since our assumption is that the capitalist mode of production prevails, so that the price of 3 pounds sterling includes the average profit made by a capital of 2½ pounds sterling generally, the other three portions of capital of 2½ pounds sterling each will make surplus profits according to the difference of their product, since this product is not sold at their own price of production, but at the price of production of the least productive investment of 2½ pounds sterling, which does not pay any rent and whose price of production is determined by the general law of prices of production. The formation of the surplus profits would be the same as in Table I.
We see here once more that differential rent No. II is conditioned upon differential rent No. I. The minimum product raised by a capital of 2½ pounds sterling upon the worst soil is here assumed to be 1 quarter. Take it then that the tenant using soil of class D invests in this same soil, aside from the 2½ pounds sterling which raise 4 quarters and pay a differential rent of 3 quarters, still another capital of 2½ pounds sterling, which raise only 1 quarter, like the same capital upon the worst soil A. This would be a rentless investment, which would pay him only the average profit. There would be no surplus profit, which could be converted into rent. On the other hand, this decreasing yield of the second investment of capital in D would not have any influence on the rate of profit. It would be the same as though 2½ pounds sterling had been invested in another acre of the soil of class A, a circumstance which would in no way affect the surplus profit, nor for that reason the differential rent of the classes A, B, C, and D. But for the tenant this additional investment of 2½ pounds sterling in D would have been quite as profitable as the investment of the original 2½ pounds sterling had been per acre of D, according to our assumption, although this had raised 4 quarters. Furthermore, if two other investments of 2½ pounds sterling each should yield an additional product of 3 quarters and 2 quarters respectively, another decrease would have taken place compared with the product of the first investment of 2½ pounds sterling in D, which amounted to 4 quarters and paid a surplus profit of 3 quarters, But it would be merely a decrease in the amount of surplus profit, and would not affect either the average profit or the regulating price of production. It would have such an effect only if the additional production yielding this decreasing surplus profit should make the production upon A superfluous and throw class A out of cultivation. In that case the decreasing fertility of the additional investments of capital in class D would be accompanied by a fall of the price of production, for instance from 3 pounds sterling to 1½ pounds sterling, and the class B would become the rentless regulator of the market price.
The product of D would not be 4 + 1 + 3 + 2 = 10 quarters, whereas it was only 4 quarters formerly. But the price per quarter as regulated by B would have fallen to 1½ pounds sterling. The difference between D and B would be 10-2 = 8 quarters, at 1½ pounds sterling per quarter, or 12 pounds sterling, whereas the money rent in D used to be 9 pounds sterling. This should be noted. Calculated per acre, the amount of the rent would have risen by 33 1/3% in spite of the decreasing rate of the surplus profits on the two additional capitals of 2½ pounds sterling each.
We see by this to what highly complicated combinations differential rent in general, and particularly form II coupled with form I, may give rise, whereas Ricardo, for instance, treats it very onesidedly and as a simple matter. One may meet, as in the above case, with a fall of the regulating market price and at the same time with a rise of the rent upon superior soils, so that both the absolute product and the absolute surplus product grow. (In differential rent No. I, in a descending line, the relative surplus product and thus the rent per acre may increase, although the absolute surplus product per acre may remain constant or even decrease.) But at the same time the fertility of the investments of capital made successively in the same soil decreases, although a large portion of them falls upon the superior lands. From a certain point of view—both as concerns the product and the prices of production—the productivity of labor has risen. But from another point of view it has decreased, because the rate of surplus profit and the surplus product per acre decrease for the various investments of capital in the same soil.
Differential rent No. II, with a decreasing fertility of the successive investments of capital, would be necessarily accompanied with a rise of the price of production and an absolute decrease of the productivity only in the case that these investments of capital could be made on none but the worst soil A. If one acre of A, which raised with an investment of a capital of 2½ pounds sterling 1 quarter at a price of production of 3 pounds sterling, should raise only a total of 1½ quarters with an additional investment of 2½ pounds sterling, or a total investment of 5 pounds sterling, then the price of production of this 1½ quarter would be 6 pounds sterling, or that of one quarter 4 pounds sterling. Every decrease of the productivity with a growing investment of capital would imply a relative decrease of the product per acre in such a case, whereas it would signify only a decrease of the surplus product upon superior soils.
The nature of the matter will carry with it the fact that with the development of intensive culture, i.e., with successive investments of capital upon the same soil, mainly the superior soils will show this tendency, or will show it to a greater degree. (We are not speaking now of permanent improvements, by which a hitherto useless soil is converted into useful soil.) The decreasing fertility of the successive investments of capital must, therefore, have principally the effect indicated above. The better soil is chosen, because it offers the best prospects that the capital invested in it will be profitable, since this soil contains the greater quantity of the useful elements of fertility, which need but be utilised.
When after the abolition of the corn laws the cultivation in England was made still more intensive, a great deal of the former wheat land was used for other purposes, particularly for cattle pastures, while the tracts best adapted to wheat and fertile were drained and otherwise improved. The capital for wheat culture was thus concentrated into a more limited area.
In this case—and all possible surplus rates between the highest surplus product of the best soil and the product of the rentless soil A coincide here, not with a relative, but with an absolute increase of the surplus product per acre—the newly formed surplus profit (eventually rent) does not represent a portion of a former average profit converted into rent (not a portion of the product in which the average profit formerly incorporated itself) but an additional surplus profit, which converted itself out of this form into rent.
Only in the case in which the demand for cereals would increase to such an extent, that the market price would rise above the price of production of A, so that for this reason the surplus product of A, B, or any other class of soil could be supplied only at a higher price than 3 pounds sterling, would the decrease of the results of an additional investment of capital in A, B, C and D be accompanied by a rise of the price of production and of the regulating market price. To the extent that this would last for a certain length of time without calling forth the cultivation of additional soil (which should be at least of the quality of A), or without bringing on a cheaper supply through other circumstances, wages would rise in consequence of the dearness of bread, other circumstances remaining the same, and the rate of profit would fall accordingly. In this case it would be immaterial, whether the increased demand would be satisfied by drawing upon inferior soil than A, or by additional investments of capital, no matter upon which of the four classes of soil. Differential rent would then rise in connection with a falling rate of profit.
This one case, in which the decreasing fertility of additional capitals invested in already cultivated soils may lead to an increase of the price of production, a fall in the rate of profit, and a formation of higher differential rents—for this rent would rise under the given circumstances upon all classes of soil just as though inferior soil than A were regulating the market—has been stamped by Ricardo as the only case, the normal case, to which he reduces the entire formation of differential rent No. II.
This would also be the case, if only the class A of soils were cultivated, and if successive investments of capital upon it were not accompanied by a proportional increase of the product.
Here then differential rent No. I is entirely lost sight of when analysing differential rent No. II.
With the exception of this case, in which the supply from the cultivated classes of soil is insufficient, so that the market price stands continually higher than the price of production, until new soil of an inferior character is taken under cultivation in addition to the others, or until the total product of the additional capitals invested in the various classes of soil can be supplied only at a higher price of production than the hitherto customary one, with the exception of this case the proportional decrease in the productivity of the additional capitals leaves the regulating price of production and the rate of profit unchanged. For the rest three cases are possible.
a) If the additional capital upon any one of the classes of soil A, B, C or D yields only the rate of profit determined by the price of production of A, then no surplus profit, and therefore no rent, is formed, any more than there would be, if additional soil of the A class had been cultivated.
b) If the additional capital yields a larger product, then a new surplus profit (potential rent) is, of course, formed, provided the regulating price remains the same. This is not necessarily the case, namely it is not the case when this additional production throws the soil A out of cultivation and thus out of the succession of the competing soils. In this case the regulating price of production falls. The rate of profit would rise, if a fall in wages were connected with this, or if the cheaper product were to enter into the constant capital as one of its elements. If the increased productivity of the additional capital had taken place upon the best soils C and D, it would depend entirely upon the degree of the increased productivity and the mass of the additional capitals to what extent a formation of increased surplus profit (and thus increased rent) would be connected with the fall in prices and the rise of the rate of profit. This rate may also rise without a fall in wages, by a cheapening of the elements of constant capital.
c) If the additional investment of capital takes place with decreasing surplus profits, but in such a way that the product of such additional investment still leaves a surplus above the product of the same capital in A, a new formation of surplus profits takes place under all circumstances, unless the increased supply throws the soil A out of cultivation. This new formation of surplus profit may take place simultaneously upon all four soils, D, C, B and A. But if the worst soil A is crowded out of cultivation, then the regulating price of production falls, and it will depend upon the proportion between the reduced price of 1 quarter and the increased number of quarters yielding a surplus profit, whether the surplus profit expressed in money, and consequently the differential rent, shall rise or fall. But at any rate we meet here with the peculiarity, that in spite of decreasing surplus profits of successive investments of capital the price of production may fall, instead of rising, as it seems it ought to do at first sight.
These additional investments of capital with decreasing surplus products correspond entirely to the case, in which four new and separate capitals would be invested in soils having a fertility ranging between A and B, B and C, C and D, for instance four capitals of 2½ pounds sterling each and yielding 1½, 2 1/3, 2 2/3, and 3 quarters respectively. Surplus profits (potential rents) would form upon all these kinds of soil for all four additional capitals, although the rate of surplus profit, compared with the surplus profit of the same investment of capital, on the corresponding better soil, would have decreased. And it would be immaterial, whether these four capitals were invested in D, etc., or distributed between D and A.
We now come to one essential difference between the two forms of differential rent.
With a constant price of production and constant differences, the rental and the average rent per acre, or the average rent per capital, may rise under differential rent No. I. But the average is a mere abstraction. The actual amount of the rent, calculated per acre or per capital, remains the same here.
On the other hand, under the same conditions, the amount of the rent calculated per acre may rise, although the rate of rent, measured by the invested capital, remains the same.
Let us assume that production is doubled by the investment of 5 pounds sterling in each of the soils A, B, C and D instead of 2½ pounds sterling, a total of 20 pounds sterling instead of 10 pounds sterling, with the relative fertilities unchanged. This would be the same as though 2 acres instead of 1 were being cultivated, with the same cost, on each one of these classes of soil. The rate of profit would remain the same, also its ratio to the surplus profit or the rent. But if A were raising 2 quarters now, and B, 4, C, 6, D, 8, the price of production would nevertheless remain at 3 pounds sterling per quarter because this increment is not due to a doubled fertility of the same capital, but to the same proportional fertility of a doubled capital. The two quarters of A would now cost 6 pounds sterling, just as one quarter used to cost 3 pounds sterling. The profit would have doubled on all four classes of soils, but only because the invested capital did. But in the same proportion the rent would also have become doubled. It would now be two quarters for B instead of one, four for C instead of two, and six for D instead of three. And corresponding to this the money rent for B, C, and D would now be 6 pounds sterling, 12 pounds sterling, and 18 pounds sterling respectively. Like the product per acre, so the rent in money per acre would be doubled, and consequently the price of the land also, in which this rent is capitalised. If calculated in this manner, the amount of the rent in grain and money rises, and thus the price of land, because the standard by which the calculation is made, the acre, is a tract of a constant magnitude. On the other hand, calculating it as the rate of rent on the invested capital, no change has taken place in the proportional amount of the rent. The total rental of 36 is proportioned to the invested capital of 20 as the rental of 18 was proportioned to the invested capital of 10. The same holds good for the ratio of the money rent of all classes of soil to the capital invested in them, for instance, 12 pounds sterling of rent in C are proportioned to 5 pounds sterling of capital, as 6 pounds sterling of rent used to be proportioned to 2½ pounds sterling of capital. No new differences arise here between the invested capitals, but new surplus profits arise, because the additional capital is invested in one of the rent paying soils, or in all of them, with the same proportional product. If this double investment were made only in one of these soils, for instance in C, the differential rent, calculated per capital, would remain the same between C, B, and D. For while its mass is doubled in C, so is the invested capital.
This shows that the amount of rent in products and money, and with it the price of the land, may rise while the price of production, the rate of profit, and the differences of fertility remain unchanged (and with them remain unchanged the rate of surplus profit or the rent, calculated on the capital).
The same may take place with decreasing rates of surplus profits and of rent, that is, with a decreasing productivity of the rent paying additional investments of capital. If the second investments of capital of 2½ pounds sterling had not doubled the product, but B would raise only 3½ quarters, C, 5 quarters, and D, 6 quarters, then the differential rent for the second capital of 2½ pounds sterling in B would be only ½ quarter instead of one quarter, in C, one quarter instead of two, and in D, two quarters instead of three. The proportions between rent and capital for the two successive investments would then be as follows:
In spite of this decreased rate of the relative productivity of capital and thus of surplus profit, calculated per capital, the rent in grain and money would have risen in B from one to one and a half quarter (from 3 to 4½ pounds sterling), in C, from two quarters to three (from 6 pounds sterling to 9 pounds sterling), and in D, from three quarters to five (from 9 pounds sterling to 15 pounds sterling). In this case the differences for the additional capitals, compared with the capital invested in A, would have decreased, the price of production would have remained the same, but the rent per acre, and consequently the price of the land per acre, would have risen.
The combinations of differential rent No. II, which are conditioned upon differential rent No. I as their basis, are analysed in the following chapters.
DIFFERENTIAL RENT II.—FIRST CASE: CONSTANT PRICE OF PRODUCTION.
THIS assumption implies that the market price is regulated the same as ever by the capital invested in the worst soil A.
1) If the additional capital invested in any one of the rent paying soils B, C, D, produces no more than the same capital upon the soil A, in other words, if it pays only the average profit by means of the regulating price of production, but no surplus profit, then the effect upon the rent is nil. Everything remains as it is. It is the same as though any number of acres of the A quality, of the worst soil, had been added to the cultivated area.
2) The additional capital brings forth upon every one of the different soils additional products proportional to their magnitude; in other words, the volume of production grows according to the specific fertility of every class of soil, in proportion to the magnitude of the additional capital. We started out in chapter XXXIX from the following Table I:
This table is now transformed into Table II.
It is not necessary in this case that the investment of capital should be doubled in all classes of soil, as it does in this Table. The law is the same, so long as additional capital is invested in one, or several, of the rent paying soils, no matter in what proportion. It is only necessary that production should increase upon every kind of soil in the same ratio as the capital. The rent rises here merely in consequence of an increased investment of capital in the soil, and in proportion to this increase. This increase of the product and of the rent in consequence of, and proportionately to, the increased investment of capital is just the same, so far as the quantity of the product and of the rent is concerned, as though the cultivated area of the rent paying lands of the same quality had been increased and taken under cultivation with the same investment of capital as that previously invested in the same classes of land. In the case of Table II, for instance, the result would remain the same, if the additional capital of 2½ pounds sterling per acre were invested in one additional acre each of B, C and D.
This assumption, furthermore, does not imply a more productive investment of capital, but only an investment of more capital upon the area with the same success as before.
All proportional relations remain the same here. True, if we do not consider the proportional differences, but the purely arithmetical ones, then the differential rent may change upon the various classes of soil. Let us assume, for instance, that the additional capital has been invested only in B and D. In that case the difference between D and A is 7 quarters, whereas it was only 3 before; the difference between B and A is 3 quarters, whereas it was one; that between C and B is minus one, whereas it was plus one, etc. But this arithmetical difference, which is decisive in differential rent I, so far as it expresses the difference of productivity with equal investments of capital, is here quite immaterial, because it is a consequence of different additional investments, or of no additional investments, of capital, while the difference for each aliquot part of capital upon the various lands remains unchanged.
3) The additional capitals bring forth surplus products and thus form surplus profits, but at a decreasing rate, not in proportion to their increase. TABLE III
In the case of this third assumption it is again immaterial, whether the additional second investments of capital are uniformly distributed over the various classes of soil or not; whether the decreasing production of surplus profit proceeds in equal or unequal proportions; whether the additional investments of capital fall all of them upon the same rent paying class of soil, or whether they are distributed equally or unequally over soils of different quality paying rent. All these circumstances are immaterial for the law which we are developing here. The only premise is that additional investments of capital must yield a surplus profit upon any one of the rent paying soils, but in a decreasing ratio to the amount of the increase of capital. The limits of this decrease move in the above illustration of Table III between 4 quarters = 12 p.st., the product of the first investment of capital upon the best soil D, and 1 quarter = 3 p.st., the product of the same investment of capital upon the worst soil A. The product of the best soil on the first investment of capital forms the maximum boundary, and the product of the same investment of capital in the worst soil A, which pays no rent and yields no surplus profit, forms the minimum limit of the product, which the successive investments of capital yield upon any of the various classes of soils producing a surplus profit with successive investments of capital and a decreasing productivity. Just as assumption No. II corresponds to a condition, in which new pieces of the same quality are added to the cultivated area among the superior soils, so that the quantity of any one of the cultivated soils is increased, so assumption No. III corresponds to a condition, in which additional pieces of soil are cultivated in such a way that their various degrees of fertility are distributed among soils between D and A, among soils from the best to the worst kind. If the successive investments of capital take place exclusively upon the soil D, they may include the existing differences between D and A, likewise those between D and C and those between D and B. If all the successive investments are made upon soil C, they will comprise only differences between C and A and C and B; if made exclusively upon B, only differences between B and A.
But this is the law: That the rent increases absolutely upon all these classes of soil, although not in proportion to the additional capital invested.
The rate of surplus profit, considering both the additional capital and the total capital invested in the soil, decreases; but the absolute magnitude of the surplus profit increases. In like manner the decreasing rate of profit on capital in general is generally accompanied by an absolutely increasing mass of profit. Thus the average surplus profit of the investment of capital upon B amounts to 90% on the capital, whereas it amounted to 120% on the first investment of capital. But the total surplus profit increases from one quarter to one and a half quarter, or from 3 pounds sterling to 4½ pounds sterling. Considering the total rent by itself—and not comparing it with the doubled magnitude of the advanced capital—it has risen absolutely. The differences of the rents of the various kinds of soil and their relative proportions may vary here; but this variation in the differences is here a consequence, not a cause, of the increase of the rents compared to one another.
4) The case, in which the additional investments of capital upon the superior soils bring forth a greater product than the original ones, requires no further analysis. It is a matter of course that under this assumption the rent per acre will rise, and will do so at a greater rate than the additional capital, no matter upon which kind of soil the investment may have been made. In this case the additional investment of capital is accompanied by improvements. This includes the case, in which an additional investment of less capital produces the same or a greater result than did formerly an investment of more capital. This case is not quite identical with the former one, and this is a distinction, which is important in all investments of capital. For instance, if 100 make a profit of 10, and 200, employed in a certain form, make a profit of 40, then the profit has risen from 10% to 20%, and to that extent it is the same as though 50, employed in a more effective form, make a profit of 10 instead of 5. We assume here that the profit is combined with a proportional increase of the product. But the difference is this, that I must double the capital in the one case, whereas in the other I produce the double effect by the same capital. It is by no means the same whether I bring forth the same product as before with half as much living and materialized labor, or twice the product as before with the same labor, or four times the former product with twice the labor. In the first case, labor in a living or materialised form is released, which may be employed otherwise; the power to dispose of capital and labor increases. The release of capital (and labor) is in itself an augmentation of wealth; it has just the same effect as though this additional capital had been obtained by accumulation, but it saves the labor of accumulation.
Take it that a capital of 100 has produced a product of ten yards. The 100 may include both constant capital, living labor and profit. In that case one yard costs 10. Now if I can produce 20 yards with the same capital of 100, then one yard costs 5. On the other hand, if I can produce 10 yards with a capital of 50, then one yard likewise costs 5, and a capital of 50 is released, assuming the former supply of commodities to be sufficient. Again, if I have to invest 200 of capital in order to produce 40 yards, then one yard also costs 5. The determination of the value, or price, does not indicate such differences as these, neither does the mass of products proportional to the investment of capital. But in the first case, capital is released; in the second case additional capital is saved to the extent that a duplication of production would be required; in the third case the increased product can be obtained only by an augmentation of the invested capital, although not in the same proportion as it would be if the increased product had to be supplied by the old productive power. (This belongs in Part I.)
From the point of view of capitalist production the employment of constant capital is always cheaper than that of variable capital, not where it is a question of increasing the surplus-value, but of reducing the cost price. For a saving of costs even in the element creating the surplus-value, labor, performs this service for the capitalist and makes profit for him, so long as the regulating price of production remains the same. This presupposes in fact the existence of a development of credit and of an abundance of loan capital corresponding to the capitalist mode of production. On the one hand I employ 100 pounds sterling of additional constant capital, if 100 pounds sterling are the product of five laborers during one year; on the other hand, 100 pounds sterling in variable capital. If the rate of surplus-value is 100%, then the value created by those five laborers in 200 pounds sterling; on the other hand, the value of 100 pounds sterling of constant capital is 100 pounds sterling, or perhaps 105 pounds sterling in its capacity as loan capital, if the rate of interest is 5%. The same sums of money express largely different values in product, according to whether they are advanced to production as values of constant or variable capital. Furthermore, as concerns the cost of the commodities from the point of view of the capitalist, there is also this difference that of 100 pounds sterling of constant capital only the wear and tear passes into the value of the product to the extent that this money is invested in fixed capital, whereas 100 pounds sterling invested in wages pas wholly into the values of commodities and must be reproduced in them.
In the case of colonists and of independent small producers in general, who have no command at all over capital or at least command it only at a high rate of interest, that part of the product which stands in place of wages is their revenue, whereas it constitutes an investment of capital for the capitalist. The colonist, therefore, regards this expenditure of labor as the indispensable prerequisite of his product, which is the thing that interests him first of all. As for his surplus-labor, after deducting that necessary labor, it is evidently realised in a surplus-product and as soon as he can sell this, or even use it for himself, he looks upon it as something that cost him nothing, because it cost him no materialised labor. It is only the expenditure of materialised labor which appears to him as an outlay of wealth. Of course, he tries to sell as high as possible; but even a sale below value and below the capitalist price of production still appears to him as a profit, unless this profit is claimed beforehand by debts, mortgages, etc. But for the capitalist the investment of both variable and constant capital represents an outlay of capital. The relatively large outlay of the capitalist reduces the cost-price, and in fact the value of commodities, provided other circumstances remain the same. Hence, although the profit arises only from surplus-labor, consequently only from the employment of variable capital, still it may seem to the individual capitalist that living labor is the most expensive element of his cost of production, which should be reduced to a minimum above all others. This is but a capitalistically distorted form of the correct view that the relatively greater use of past labor, compared to living labor, signifies an increase in the productivity of social labor and a greater social wealth. From the point of view of competition, everything appears thus distorted and invested.
Assuming the prices of production to remain unchanged, additional investments of capital may be made with an unaltered, an increasing, or a decreasing productivity upon the better soils, that is upon all soils from B upward. Upon soil A this would be possible, under the conditions assumed by us, only in the case that productivity should remain the same, in which case this land continues to pay no rent, or in the case that productivity increases in which case a portion of the capital invested in A would produce rent, while the remainder would not. But it would be impossible, if the productivity upon A were to decrease, for in that case the price of production would not remain unchanged, but would rise. But under all these circumstances the surplus-product and the surplus-profit corresponding to it increases per acre, and with them eventually the rent, in grain or in money, regardless of whether the surplus-product yielded by them is proportional to their magnitude, or above or below this proportion, regardless of whether the rate of the surplus-profit of capital remains constant, rises of falls when this capital increases. The growth of the mere mass of surplus-profit, or of the rent calculated per acre, that is, an increasing mass calculated on the same unaltered unit, in the present case on a definite quantity of land, such as an acre or an hectare, expresses itself as an increasing ratio. Hence the magnitude of the rent, calculated per acre, increases under such circumstances simply in consequence of the increase of the capital invested in the soil. This takes place when the price of production remain the same, no matter whether the productivity of the additional capital stays unaltered, or decreases, or increases. These last named circumstances modify the volume, in which the level of the rent per acre rises, but not the fact of this increase itself. This is a phenomenon, which is peculiar to differential rent No. II and distinguishes it from differential rent No. I. If the additional investments of capital, instead of being made successively one after another upon the same soil, were made side by side upon new additional soil of the corresponding quality, the mass of the rental would have increased, and, as previously shown, the average rent of the cultivated total area would like wise have increased, but not the size of the rent per acre. When results remain the same so far as the mass the value of the total production and of the surplus product are concerned, the concentration of capital upon a smaller area of land develops the size of the rent per acre, whereas its distribution over a larger area, under the same circumstances, and other circumstances remaining the same, does not produce this effect. But the more the capitalist mode of production develops, the more develops also the concentration of capital upon the same area of land, and the higher rises the rent calculated per acre. Consequently, if we have two countries, in which the prices of production are identical, the differences of the various kinds of soil the same, and the same amount of capital invested, but in such a way that the investment is made in the form of successive outlays upon a limited area in one country, whereas in the other country it is made more in the shape of co-ordinated outlays upon a wider are, then the rent per acre, and with it the price of land, would be higher in the first and lower in the second country, although the mass of the rent would be the same in both countries. The difference in the size of the rent could not be explained in such a case out of the natural fertility of the various kinds of soil, nor out of the quantity of employed labor, but solely out of the different ways in which the capital is invested.
In speaking of a surplus-product in this case, we mean that aliquot part of the product, in which the surplus-profit presents itself. Ordinarily we mean by surplus-product that portion of the product, in which the total surplus-value is materialised, or in some cases that portion, in which the average profit presents itself. The specific significance, which this term assumes in the case of rent-paying capital, give rise to misunderstanding, as we have shown in another place.
DIFFERENTIAL RENT II.—SECOND CASE: FALLING PRICE OF PRODUCTION.
THE price of production may fall, when the additional investments of capital take place with an unaltered, a falling, or a rising rate of productivity.
[119.] Nothing could be more comical than Hegel's development of private property in land. According to him, man as an individual must give reality to his will as the soul of external nature, and to this end he must take possession of nature and make her his private property. If this were the destiny of "the individual," of man as an individual, it would follow that every human being must be a land-owner, in order to materialise as an individual. Free private property in land, a very recent product, is not a definite social relation, according to Hegel, but a relation of man as an individual to "nature, an absolute right of man to appropriate all things." (Hegel, Philosophy of Law, Berlin, 1840, p. 79.) So much at least, is evident, that the individual cannot maintain himself as a landowner by his mere "will" against the will of another individual, who likewise wants to materialise himself in the same piece of land. It requires a good many other things besides the good will. Furthermore, it is absolutely beyond any one's ken to decide, where "the individual" should draw the line for the realisation of his will, whether the presence of his will should materialise in one whole country, or whether it should require a whole bunch of countries by whose appropriation I might "manifest the supremacy of my will over the thing." Here Hegel breaks down. "The appropriation is of a very individual kind; I do not take possession of more than I touch with my body, but the second point is at the same time that external things have a greater extension than I can grasp. While I thus have possession of a thing, something else is likewise in touch with it. I exercise my appropriation by my hand, but its scope may be extended." (P. 90.) But this other thing is again in touch with still another, and so the boundary disappears, within which I might pour my will as the soul of the soil. "If I own anything, my reason at once passes on to the idea that not only this property, but also the thing it touches is mine. Here positive right must fix its boundaries, for nothing more can be deduced from the conception." (P. 91.) This is an extraordinarily naive confession of the "conception," and it proves that this conception, which makes at the outset the mistake of regarding a very definite legal conception of landed property belonging to bourgeois society as an absolute one, does not understand anything of the actual articulations of this property. This implies at the same time the confession, that the "positive" law may, and must, alter its decisions in proportion as the requirements of social, i.e. economic development, change.
[120.] Very conservative agricultural chemists, for instance Johnston, admit that a really rational agriculture meets everywhere insurmountable barriers through the existence of private property. So do writers, who are confessedly advocates of the monopoly of private property on the globe, for instance Charles Comte in his work of two volumes, which has for its special aim the defense of private property. "A nation," says he, "cannot attain to the degree of prosperity and power compatible with its nature, unless every portion of the soil nourishing it is assigned to that purpose which agrees best with the general interest. In order to give to its wealth a strong development, one sole and highly enlightened will should, if possible, take it upon himself to assign to each piece of his domain its task and make every piece contribute to the prosperity of all others. But the existence of such a will...would be incompatible with the division of the land into private plots...and with the ability of each owner to dispose of his property in an almost absolute manner, according to constitutional guarantees."—Johnston, Comte, and others, have in mind only the necessity of tilling the land of a certain country as a whole, when they speak of an antagonism of private property to a rational system of agronomics. But the dependence of the cultivation of particular products of the soil upon the fluctuations of market prices, and the continual changes of this cultivation with these fluctuations of prices, the whole spirit of capitalist production, which is directed toward the immediate gain of money, contradicts agriculture, which has to minister to the entire range of permanent necessities of life required by a network of human generations. A striking illustration of this is furnished by the forests, which are occasionally managed in a way befitting the interests of society as a whole, when they are not private property, but subject to the control of the state.
[121.] The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 148. There I have made a distinction between land-capital and material land. "By merely applying additional capital to land already transformed into means of production land-capital may be augmented without adding anything to the material land, that is to say, to the extent of the land....As capital, land is not more eternal than any other capital....Land-capital is fixed capital, but fixed capital is used up as well as circulating capital."
[122.] I say "may," because under certain circumstances this interest is regulated by the law of ground-rent and may disappear, for instance, in the case of competition between lands of great natural fertility.
[123.] See James Anderson and Carey.
[124.] See the anti-corn law prize essays. However, the corn laws always kept prices at an artificially higher level. For the better situated tenants this was favorable. They profited by the stationary condition, in which the protective duties kept the great mass of tenants, who relied with or without reason on the exceptional average price.
[125.] John C. Morton, The Forces Used in Agriculture. Lecture in the London Society of Arts, 1860, based upon authentic documents, collected by about 100 tenants from 12 Scotch and 35 English counties.
[126.] As to the extra profit, see the "Inquiry" (against Malthus).
[127.] [It is precisely the rapidly growing cultivation of such prairie or steppe districts which of late turns the renowned statement of Malthus, that the population "presses upon the means of subsistence," into ridicule, and has created the reverse of it in the complaints of the agrarians, who wail that agriculture and with it Germany will be ruined, unless the means of subsistence which are pressing upon the population are kept out by force. The cultivation of these steppes, prairies, pampas, Hanos, etc., is only in its beginnings; its revolutionising effect on European agriculture will, therefore, make itself felt later on even more than hitherto.—F. E.]