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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume II – The Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy (Books I-II) [1848]

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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume II – The Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy (Books I-II), ed. John M. Robson, introduction by V.W. Bladen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965).

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Vol. 2 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains Part 1 of Mill’s Principles of Political Economy.

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The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.

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Edition: current; Page: [i]
volume ii
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Collected Edition of the works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.

Editorial Committee

f. e. l. priestley, General Editor

j. m. robson, Associate Editor

v. w. bladen, alexander brady, j. b. conacher

r. f. mcrae, a. s. p. woodhouse

marsh jeanneret, francess halpenny

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy
Introduction by V. W. Bladen Dean of Arts and Professor of Political Economy, University of Toronto
Textual Editor J. M. Robson Associate Professor of English, Victoria College, University of Toronto
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

© University of Toronto Press 1965

Printed in Canada

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • Introduction, by V. W. Bladen xxiii
  • Textual Introduction, by J. M. Robson lxv
  • prefaces lxxxix
  • preliminary remarks 3
    • book i: production1
      • chapter i. Of the Requisites of Production 25
        • § 1. Requisites of production, what, 25
        • 2. The function of labour defined, 26
        • 3. Does nature contribute more to the efficacy of labour in some occupations than in others? 28
        • 4. Some natural agents limited, others practically unlimited, in quantity, 29
      • chapter ii. Of Labour as an Agent of Production 31
        • § 1. Labour employed either directly about the thing produced, or in operations preparatory to its production, 31
        • 2. Labour employed in producing subsistence for subsequent labour, 33
        • 3. Labour employed in producing materials, 35
        • 4. Labour employed in producing implements, 36
        • 5. Labour employed in the protection of labour, 37
        • 6. Labour employed in the transport and distribution of the produce, 38
        • 7. Labour which relates to human beings, 40
        • 8. Labour of invention and discovery, 41
        • 9. Labour agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial, 43
      • chapter iii. Of Unproductive Labour 45
        • § 1. Labour does not produce objects, but utilities, 45
        • 2. These utilities are of three kinds, 46
        • 3. Productive labour is that which produces utilities fixed and embodied in material objects, 48 Edition: current; Page: [vi]
        • 4. All other labour, however useful, is classed as unproductive, 50
        • 5. Productive and Unproductive Consumption, 52
        • 6. Labour for the supply of Productive Consumption, and labour for the supply of Unproductive Consumption, 53
      • chapter iv. Of Capital 55
        • § 1. Capital is wealth appropriated to reproductive employment, 55
        • 2. More capital devoted to production than actually employed in it, 57
        • 3. Examination of some cases illustrative of the idea of Capital, 59
      • chapter v. Fundamental Propositions Respecting Capital 63
        • § 1. Industry is limited by Capital, 63
        • 2. Industry is limited by Capital, but does not always come up to that limit, 65
        • 3. Increase of capital gives increased employment to labour, without assignable bounds, 66
        • 4. Capital is the result of saving, 68
        • 5. All capital is consumed, 70
        • 6. Capital is kept up, not by preservation, but by perpetual reproduction, 73
        • 7. Why countries recover rapidly from a state of devastation, 74
        • 8. Effects of defraying government expenditure by loans, 75
        • 9. Demand for commodities is not demand for labour, 78
        • 10. Fallacy respecting Taxation, 88
      • chapter vi. On Circulating and Fixed Capital 91
        • § 1. Fixed and Circulating Capital, what, 91
        • 2. Increase of fixed capital, when at the expense of circulating, might be detrimental to the labourers, 93
        • 3. But this detriment to the labourers seldom if ever occurs, 97
      • chapter vii. On What Depends the Degree of Productiveness of Productive Agents 100
        • § 1. Land, labour, and capital, are of different productiveness at different times and places, 100
        • 2. Causes of superior productiveness. Natural advantages, 101
        • 3. Causes of superior productiveness. Greater energy of labour, 102
        • 4. Causes of superior productiveness. Superior skill and knowledge, 106
        • 5. Causes of superior productiveness. Superiority of intelligence and trustworthiness in the community generally, 107
        • 6. Causes of superior productiveness. Superior security, 112
      • chapter viii. Of Co-operation, or the Combination of Labour 116
        • § 1. Combination of Labour a principal cause of superior productiveness, 116
        • 2. Effects of separation of employments analyzed, 118
        • 3. Combination of labour between town and country, 120
        • 4. The higher degrees of the division of labour, 122 Edition: current; Page: [vii]
        • 5. Analysis of the advantages of the division of labour, 124
        • 6. Limitations of the division of labour, 129
      • chapter ix. Of Production on a Large, and Production on a Small Scale 131
        • § 1. Advantages of the large system of production in manufactures, 131
        • 2. Advantages and disadvantages of the joint-stock principle, 135
        • 3. Conditions necessary for the large system of production, 140
        • 4. Large and small farming compared, 142
      • chapter x. Of the Law of the Increase of Labour 153
        • § 1. The law of the increase of production depends on those of three elements, Labour, Capital, and Land, 153
        • 2. The Law of Population, 154
        • 3. By what checks the increase of population is practically limited, 156
      • chapter xi. Of the Law of the Increase of Capital 160
        • § 1. Means and motives to saving, on what dependent, 160
        • 2. Causes of diversity in the effective strength of the desire of accumulation, 161
        • 3. Examples of deficiency in the strength of the desire of accumulation, 164
        • 4. Exemplification of excess in the strength of the desire of accumulation, 170
      • chapter xii. Of the Law of the Increase of Production from Land 173
        • § 1. The limited quantity and limited productiveness of land are the real limits to production, 173
        • 2. The law of production from the soil is a law of diminishing return in proportion to the increased application of labour and capital, 173
        • 3. Antagonist principle to the law of diminishing return; the progress of improvements in production, 177
      • chapter xiii. Consequences of the Foregoing Laws 186
        • § 1. Remedies when the limit to production is the weakness of the principle of accumulation, 186
        • 2. Necessity of restraining population not confined to a state of inequality of property, 187
        • 3. Necessity of restraining population not superseded by free trade in food, 190
        • 4. Necessity of restraining population not in general superseded by emigration, 194
    • book ii: distribution
      • chapter i. Of Property 199
        • § 1. Introductory remarks, 199
        • 2. Statement of the question concerning Property, 201 Edition: current; Page: [viii]
        • 3. Examination of Communism, 203
        • 4. aExamination of St. Simonism band Fourierismb, 210
      • chapter ii. The Same Subject Continued 215
        • § 1. The institution of property implies freedom of acquisition by contract, 215
        • 2. The institution of property implies the validity of prescription, 217
        • 3. The institution of property implies the power of bequest, but not the right of inheritance. Question of inheritance examined, 218
        • 4. Should the right of bequest be limited, and how? 223
        • 5. Grounds of property in land are different from those of property in moveables, 226
        • 6. Grounds of property in land are only valid on certain conditions, which are not always realized. The limitations considered, 228
        • 7. Rights of property in abuses, 232
      • chapter iii. Of the Classes Among Whom the Produce Is Distributed 235
        • § 1. The produce is sometimes shared among three classes, 235
        • 2. The produce sometimes belongs undividedly to one, 235
        • 3. The produce is sometimes divided between two, 237
      • chapter iv. Of Competition, and Custom 239
        • § 1. Competition is not the sole regulator of the division of the produce, 239
        • 2. Influence of custom on rents, and on the tenure of land, 240
        • 3. Influence of custom on prices, 242
      • chapter v. Of Slavery 245
        • § 1. Slavery considered in relation to the slaves, 245
        • 2. Slavery in relation to production, 246
        • 3. Emancipation considered in relation to the interest of the slave-owners, 249
      • chapter vi. Of Peasant Proprietors 252
        • § 1. Difference between English and Continental opinions respecting peasant properties, 252
        • 2. Evidence respecting peasant properties in Switzerland, 254
        • 3. Evidence respecting peasant properties in Norway, 259
        • 4. Evidence respecting peasant properties in Germany, 262
        • 5. Evidence respecting peasant properties in Belgium, 267
        • c6. Evidence respecting peasant properties in the Channel Islandsc, 271
        • d7.d Evidence respecting peasant properties in France, 273
        Edition: current; Page: [ix]
      • chapter vii. Continuation of the Same Subject 278
        • § 1. Influence of peasant properties in stimulating industry, 278
        • 2. Influence of peasant properties in training intelligence, 280
        • 3. Influence of peasant properties in promoting forethought and self-control, 281
        • 4. Their effect on population, 283
        • 5. Their effect on the subdivision of land, 292
      • chapter viii. Of Metayers 297
        • § 1. Nature of the metayer system, and its varieties, 297
        • 2. Its advantages and inconveniences, 299
        • 3. Evidence concerning its effects in different countries, 301
        • 4. Is its abolition desirable? 310
      • chapter ix. Of Cottiers 313
        • § 1. Nature and operation of cottier tenure, 313
        • 2. In an overpeopled country its necessary consequence is nominal rents, 316
        • 3. Nominal rents are inconsistent with industry, frugality, or restraint on population, 318
        • 4. Ryot tenancy of India, 319
      • chapter x. Means of Abolishing Cottier Tenancy 324
        • e§ 1. Irish cottiers should be converted into peasant proprietors, 324
        • 2. Present state of this questione, 331
      • chapter xi. Of Wages 337
        • § 1. Wages depend on the demand and supply of labour—in other words, on population and capital, 337
        • 2. Examination of some popular opinions respecting wages, 338
        • 3. Certain rare circumstances excepted, high wages imply restraints on population, 343
        • 4. Restraints on population are in some cases legal, 346
        • 5. Restraints on population are in other cases the effect of particular customs, 348
        • 6. Due restriction of population the only safeguard of a labouring class, 351
      • chapter xii. Of Popular Remedies for Low Wages 355
        • § 1. A legal or customary minimum of wages, with a guarantee of employment, 355
        • 2. Such a minimum and guarantee would require as a condition legal measures for repression of population, 357 Edition: current; Page: [x]
        • 3. Allowances in aid of wages, 360
        • 4. The Allotment System, 362
      • chapter xiii. The Remedies for Low Wages Further Considered 367
        • § 1. Pernicious direction of public opinion on the subject of population, 367
        • 2. Grounds for expecting improvement, 370
        • 3. Twofold means of elevating the habits of the labouring people: by education, 374
        • 4. Twofold means of elevating the habits of the labouring people: by large measures of immediate relief, through foreign and home colonization, 376
      • chapter xiv. Of the Differences of Wages in Different Employments 380
        • § 1. Differences of wages arising from different degrees of attractiveness in different employments, 380
        • 2. Differences of wages arising from natural monopolies, 385
        • 3. Effect on wages of a class of subsidized competitors, 388
        • 4. Effect on wages of the competition of persons with independent means of support, 391
        • 5. Wages of women, why lower than those of men, 394
        • 6. Differences of wages arising from restrictive laws, and from combinations, 396
        • 7. Cases in which wages are fixed by custom, 398
      • chapter xv. Of Profits 400
        • § 1. Profits resolvable into three parts; interest, insurance, and wages of superintendence, 400
        • 2. The minimum of profits; and the variations to which it is liable, 402
        • 3. Differences of profits arising from the nature of the particular employment, 403
        • 4. General tendency of profits to an equality, 405
        • f5. Profits do not depend on prices, nor on purchase and salef, 410
        • g6.g The advances of the capitalist consist ultimately in wages of labour, 411
        • h7.h The rate of profit depends on the Cost of Labour, 413
      • chapter xvi. Of Rent 416
        • § 1. Rent is the effect of a natural monopoly, 416
        • 2. No land can pay rent except land of such quality or situation, as exists in less quantity than the demand, 417
        • 3. The rent of land consists of the excess of its return above the return to the worst land in cultivation, 419
        • 4. The rent of land consists of the excess of its return above the return to the worst land in cultivation or to the capital employed in the least advantageous circumstances, 420
        • 5. Is payment for capital sunk in the soil, rent, or profit? 423
        • 6. Rent does not enter into the cost of production of agricultural produce, 428 Edition: current; Page: [xi]
      • appendix [to book ii] 431
        • Substance of three articles in the Morning Chronicle of 11th, 13th, and 16th January, 1847, in reply to MM. Mounier and Rubichon and to the Quarterly Review, on the Subdivision of Landed Property in France, 434
    • book iii: exchange
      • chapter i. Of Value 455
        • § 1. Preliminary remarks, 455
        • 2. Definitions of Value in Use, Exchange Value, and Price, 456
        • 3. What is meant by general purchasing power, 457
        • 4. Value a relative term. A general rise or fall of values is a contradiction, 458
        • 5. How the laws of Value are modified in their application to retail transactions, 460
      • chapter ii. Of Demand and Supply, in Their Relation to Value 462
        • § 1. Two conditions of Value: Utility, and Difficulty of Attainment, 462
        • 2. Three kinds of Difficulty of Attainment, 464
        • 3. Commodities which are absolutely limited in quantity, 465
        • 4. The Equation of Demand and Supply is the law of their value, 466
        • 5. Miscellaneous cases falling under this law, 468
      • chapter iii. Of Cost of Production, in Its Relation to Value 471
        • § 1. Commodities which are susceptible of indefinite multiplication without increase of cost. Law of their Value, Cost of Production, 471
        • 2. Law of their Value, Cost of Production operating through potential, but not actual, alterations of supply, 473
      • chapter iv. Ultimate Analysis of Cost of Production 477
        • § 1. Principal element in Cost of Production—Quantity of Labour, 477
        • 2. Wages not an element in Cost of Production, 479
        • 3. Wages not an element in Cost of Production except in so far as they vary from employment to employment, 480
        • 4. Profits an element in Cost of Production, in so far as they vary from employment to employment, 481
        • 5. Profits an element in Cost of Production, in so far as they are spread over unequal lengths of time, 482
        • 6. Occasional elements in Cost of Production: taxes, and scarcity value of materials, 485
        Edition: current; Page: [xii]
      • chapter v. Of Rent, in Its Relation to Value 488
        • § 1. Commodities which are susceptible of indefinite multiplication, but not without increase of cost. Law of their Value is Cost of Production in the most unfavourable existing circumstances, 488
        • 2. Such commodities, when produced in circumstances more favourable, yield a rent equal to the difference of cost, 490
        • 3. Rent of mines and fisheries, and ground-rent of buildings, 492
        • 4. Cases of extra profit analogous to rent, 494
      • chapter vi. Summary of the Theory of Value 497
        • § 1. The theory of Value recapitulated in a series of propositions, 497
        • 2. How the theory of Value is modified by the case of labourers cultivating for subsistence, 499
        • 3. How the theory of Value is modified by the case of slave labour, 500
      • chapter vii. Of Money 502
        • § 1. Purposes of a Circulating Medium, 502
        • 2. Why Gold and Silver are fitted for the purposes of a Circulating Medium, 503
        • 3. Money is a mere contrivance for facilitating exchanges, which does not affect the laws of Value, 505
      • chapter viii. Of the Value of Money, as Dependent on Demand and Supply 508
        • § 1. The value of money is an ambiguous expression, 508
        • 2. The value of money depends, cæteris paribus, on its quantity, 509
        • 3. The value of money depends also on the rapidity of circulation, 512
        • 4. Explanations and limitations of this principle, 514
      • chapter ix. Of the Value of Money, as Dependent on Cost of Production 517
        • § 1. The value of money, in a state of freedom, conforms to the value of the bullion contained in it, 517
        • 2. The value of bullion is determined by the cost of production, 519
        • 3. How this law is related to the principle laid down in the preceding chapter, 521
      • chapter x. Of a Double Standard, and Subsidiary Coins 524
        • § 1. Objections to a double standard, 524
        • 2. How the use of the two metals as money is obtained without making both of them legal tender, 525
      • chapter xi. Of Credit, as a Substitute for Money 527
        • § 1. Credit is not a creation but a transfer of the means of production, 527 Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
        • 2. In what manner credit assists production, 528
        • 3. Function of credit in economizing the use of money, 530
        • 4. Bills of exchange, 531
        • 5. Promissory notes, 535
        • 6. Deposits and cheques, 536
      • chapter xii. Influence of Credit on Prices 538
        • § 1. The influence of bank notes, bills, and cheques, on price is a part of the influence of Credit, 538
        • 2. Credit is a purchasing power similar to money, 539
        • 3. Effects of great extensions and contractions of credit. Phenomena of a commercial crisis analyzed, 540
        • 4. Bills are a more powerful instrument for acting on prices than book credits, and bank notes than bills, 544
        • 5. The distinction between bills, book credits, and bank notes is of little practical importance, 546
        • 6. Cheques are an instrument for acting on prices, equally powerful with bank notes, 550
        • i7. Are bank notes money?i 552
        • j8.j There is no generic distinction between bank notes and other forms of credit, 553
      • chapter xiii. Of an Inconvertible Paper Currency 556
        • § 1. The value of an inconvertible paper, depending on its quantity, is a matter of arbitrary regulation, 556
        • 2. If regulated by the price of bullion, an inconvertible currency might be safe, but not expedient, 558
        • 3. Examination of the doctrine that an inconvertible currency is safe if representing actual property, 560
        • kl4.l Examination of the doctrine that an increase of the currency promotes industryk, 562
        • m5.m Depreciation of currency is a tax on the community, and a fraud on creditors, 565
        • n6.n Examination of some pleas for committing this fraud, 566
      • chapter xiv. Of Excess of Supply 570
        • § 1. Can there be an oversupply of commodities generally? 570
        • 2. The supply of commodities in general cannot exceed the power of purchase, 571
        • 3. The supply of commodities in general never does exceed the inclination to consume, 572
        • 4. Origin and explanation of the notion of general oversupply, 574
        Edition: current; Page: [xiv]
      • chapter xv. Of a Measure of Value 577
        • § 1. In what sense a Measure of Exchange Value is possible, 577
        • 2. A Measure of Cost of Production, 578
      • chapter xvi. Of Some Peculiar Cases of Value 582
        • § 1. Values of Commodities which have a joint cost of production, 582
        • 2. Values of the different kinds of agricultural produce, 584
      • chapter xvii. Of International Trade 587
        • § 1. Cost of production is not the regulator of international values, 587
        • 2. Interchange of commodities between distant places is determined by differences not in their absolute, but in their comparative, cost of production, 589
        • 3. The direct benefits of commerce consist in increased efficiency of the productive powers of the world, 590
        • 4. The direct benefits of commerce do not consist in a vent for exports, or in the gains of merchants, 591
        • 5. Indirect benefits of commerce, economical and moral, are still greater than the direct, 593
      • chapter xviii. Of International Values 595
        • § 1. The values of imported commodities depend on the terms of international interchange, 595
        • 2. The terms of international interchange depend on the Equation of International Demand, 596
        • 3. Influence of cost of carriage on international values, 600
        • 4. The law of values which holds between two countries and two commodities, holds of any greater number, 601
        • 5. Effect of improvements in production on international values, 604
        • o6. The preceding theory not complete, 607
        • 7. International values depend not solely on the quantities demanded, but also on the means of production available in each country for the supply of foreign markets, 609
        • 8. The practical result is little affected by this additional elemento, 612
        • p9.p On what circumstances the cost to a country of its imports depends, 615
      • chapter xix. Of Money, Considered as an Imported Commodity 618
        • § 1. Money imported in two modes; as a commodity, and as a medium of exchange, 618
        • 2. As a commodity, it obeys the same laws of value as other imported commodities, 619
        • 3. Its value does not depend exclusively on its cost of production at the mines, 621
        Edition: current; Page: [xv]
      • chapter xx. Of the Foreign Exchanges 623
        • § 1. Purposes for which money passes from country to country as a medium of exchange, 623
        • 2. Mode of adjusting international payments through the exchanges, 623
        • 3. Distinction between variations in the exchanges which are self-adjusting, and those which can only be rectified through prices, 627
      • chapter xxi. Of the Distribution of the Precious Metals Through the Commercial World 630
        • § 1. The substitution of money for barter makes no difference in exports and imports, nor in the law of international values, 630
        • 2. The preceding theorem further illustrated, 633
        • 3. The precious metals, as money, are of the same value, and distribute themselves according to the same law, with the precious metals as a commodity, 636
        • 4. International payments of a non-commercial character, 637
      • chapter xxii. Influence of the Currency on the Exchanges and on Foreign Trade 639
        • § 1. Variations in the exchange which originate in the currency, 639
        • 2. Effect of a sudden increase of a metallic currency, or of the sudden creation of bank notes or other substitutes for money, 640
        • 3. Effect of the increase of an inconvertible paper currency. Real and nominal exchange, 644
      • chapter xxiii. Of the Rate of Interest 647
      • chapter xxiv. Of the Regulation of a Convertible Paper Currency 660
        • § 1. Two contrary theories respecting the influence of bank issues, 660
        • 2. Examination of each theory, 662
        • 3. Reasons for thinking that the Currency Act of 1844 produces a part of the beneficial effect intended by it, 665
        • 4. But the Currency Act produces mischiefs more than equivalent, 670 Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
        • 5. Should the issue of bank notes be confined to a single establishment? 682
        • 6. Should the holders of notes be protected in any peculiar manner against failure of payment? 684
      • chapter xxv. Of the Competition of Different Countries in the Same Market 686
        • § 1. Causes which enable one country to undersell another, 686
        • 2. Low wages is one of the causes which enable one country to undersell another, 688
        • 3. Low wages is one of those causes when peculiar to certain branches of industry, 689
        • 4. Low wages is not one of those causes when common to all branches of industry, 691
        • 5. Some anomalous cases of trading communities examined, 693
      • chapter xxvi. Of Distribution, as Affected by Exchange 695
        • § 1. Exchange and Money make no difference in the law of wages, 695
        • 2. Exchange and Money make no difference in the law of rent, 697
        • 3. Exchange and Money make no difference in the law of profits, 698
    • book iv: influence of the progress of society on production and distribution
      • chapter i. General Characteristics of a Progressive State of Wealth 705
        • § 1. Introductory remarks, 705
        • 2. Tendency of the progress of society towards increased command over the powers of nature; increased security; and increased capacity of co-operation, 706
      • chapter ii. Influence of the Progress of Industry and Population on Values and Prices 710
        • § 1. Tendency to a decline of the value and cost of production of all commodities, 710
        • 2. Tendency to a decline of the value and cost of production of all commodities except the products of agriculture and mining, which have a tendency to rise, 711
        • 3. That tendency from time to time is counteracted by improvements in production, 713
        • 4. Effect of the progress of society in moderating fluctuations of value, 714
        • 5. Examination of the influence of speculators, and in particular of corn-dealers, 715
      • chapter iii. Influence of the Progress of Industry and Population, on Rents, Profits, and Wages 719
        • § 1. First case; population increasing, capital stationary, 719 Edition: current; Page: [xvii]
        • 2. Second case; capital increasing, population stationary, 722
        • 3. Third case; population and capital increasing equally, the arts of production stationary, 722
        • 4. Fourth case; the arts of production progressive, capital and population stationary, 723
        • 5. Fifth case; all the three elements progressive, 729
      • chapter iv. Of the Tendency of Profits to a Minimum 733
        • § 1. Doctrine of Adam Smith on the competition of capital, 733
        • 2. Doctrine of Mr. Wakefield respecting the field of employment, 735
        • 3. What determines the minimum rate of profit, 736
        • 4. In opulent countries, profits are habitually near to the minimum, 738
        • 5. Profits are prevented from reaching the minimum by commercial revulsions, 741
        • 6. Profits are prevented from reaching the minimum by improvements in production, 742
        • 7. Profits are prevented from reaching the minimum by the importation of cheap necessaries and instruments, 743
        • 8. Profits are prevented from reaching the minimum by the emigration of capital, 745
      • chapter v. Consequences of the Tendency of Profits to a Minimum 747
        • § 1. Abstraction of capital is not necessarily a national loss, 747
        • 2. In opulent countries, the extension of machinery is not detrimental but beneficial to labourers, 749
      • chapter vi. Of the Stationary State 752
        • § 1. Stationary state of wealth and population is dreaded and deprecated by writers, 752
        • 2. But the stationary state is not in itself undesirable, 753
      • chapter vii. On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes 758
        • § 1. The theory of dependence and protection is no longer applicable to the condition of modern society, 758
        • 2. The future well-being of the labouring classes is principally dependent on their own mental cultivation, 763
        • 3. Probable effects of improved intelligence in causing a better adjustment of population—Would be promoted by the social independence of women, 765
        • 4. Tendency of society towards the disuse of the relation of hiring and service, 766
        • 5. Examples of the association of rlabourers with capitalistsr, 769
        • 6. sExamples of the association of labourers among themselvess, 775
        • t7. Competition is not pernicious, but useful and indispensablet, 794
      Edition: current; Page: [xviii]
    • book v: on the influence of government
      • chapter i. Of the Functions of Government in General 799
        • § 1. Necessary and optional functions of government distinguished, 799
        • 2. Multifarious character of the necessary functions of government, 800
        • 3. Division of the subject, 804
      • chapter ii. On the General Principles of Taxation 805
        • § 1. Four fundamental rules of taxation, 805
        • 2. Grounds of the principle of Equality of Taxation, 806
        • 3. Should the same percentage be levied on all amounts of income? 808
        • 4. Should the same percentage be levied on perpetual and on terminable incomes? 813
        • 5. The increase of the rent of land from natural causes is a fit subject of peculiar taxation, 819
        • 6. A land tax, in some cases, is not taxation, but a rent-charge in favour of the public, 821
        • 7. Taxes falling on capital are not necessarily objectionable, 822
      • chapter iii. Of Direct Taxes 825
        • § 1. Direct taxes either on income or on expenditure, 825
        • 2. Taxes on rent, 825
        • 3. Taxes on profits, 826
        • 4. Taxes on wages, 828
        • 5. An Income Tax, 830
        • 6. A House Tax, 833
      • chapter iv. Of Taxes on Commodities 838
        • § 1. A Tax on all Commodities would fall on profits, 838
        • 2. Taxes on particular commodities fall on the consumer, 839
        • 3. Peculiar effects of taxes on necessaries, 840
        • 4. How the peculiar effects of taxes on necessaries are modified by the tendency of profits to a minimum, 843
        • 5. Effects of discriminating duties, 847
        • 6. Effects produced on international exchange by duties on exports and on imports, 850
      • chapter v. Of Some Other Taxes 857
        • § 1. Taxes on contracts, 857
        • 2. Taxes on communication, 860
        • 3. Law Taxes, 862
        • 4. Modes of taxation for local purposes, 862
      • chapter vi. Comparison Between Direct and Indirect Taxation 864
        • § 1. Arguments for and against direct taxation, 864
        • 2. What forms of indirect taxation are most eligible, 868
        • 3. Practical rules for indirect taxation, 870
        Edition: current; Page: [xix]
      • chapter vii. Of a National Debt 873
        • § 1. Is it desirable to defray extraordinary public expenses by loans? 873
        • 2. Not desirable to redeem a national debt by a general contribution, 876
        • 3. In what cases it is desirable to maintain a surplus revenue for the redemption of debt, 878
      • chapter viii. Of the Ordinary Functions of Government, Considered as to Their Economical Effects 880
        • § 1. Effects of imperfect security of person and property, 880
        • 2. Effects of over-taxation, 882
        • 3. Effects of imperfection in the system of the laws, and in the administration of justice, 883
      • chapter ix. The Same Subject Continued 887
        • § 1. Laws of Inheritance, 887
        • 2. Law and Custom of Primogeniture, 889
        • 3. Entails, 892
        • 4. Law of compulsory equal division of inheritances, 894
        • 5. Laws of Partnership, 895
        • 6. Partnerships with limited liability. Chartered Companies, 897
        • 7. Partnerships in commandite, 901
        • 8. Laws relating to Insolvency, 906
      • chapter x. Of Interferences of Government Grounded on Erroneous Theories 913
        • § 1. Doctrine of Protection to Native Industry, 913
        • 2. Usury Laws, 922
        • 3. Attempts to regulate the prices of commodities, 926
        • 4. Monopolies, 927
        • 5. Laws against Combination of Workmen, 929
        • 6. Restraints on opinion or on its publication, 934
      • chapter xi. Of the Grounds and Limits of the Laisser-Faire or Non-Interference Principle 936
        • § 1. Governmental intervention distinguished into authoritative and unauthoritative, 936
        • 2. Objections to government intervention—the compulsory character of the intervention itself, or of the levy of funds to support it, 937
        • 3. Objections to government intervention—increase of the power and influence of government, 939
        • 4. Objections to government intervention—increase of the occupations and responsibilities of government, 940
        • 5. Objections to government intervention—superior efficiency of private agency, owing to stronger interest in the work, 941
        • 6. Objections to government intervention—importance of cultivating habits of collective action in the people, 942
        • 7. Laisser-faire the general rule, 944 Edition: current; Page: [xx]
        • 8. Large exceptions to laisser-faire. Cases in which the consumer is an incompetent judge of the commodity. Education, 947
        • 9. Case of persons exercising power over others. Protection of children and young persons; of the lower animals. Case of women not analogous, 950
        • 10. Case of contracts in perpetuity, 953
        • 11. Cases of delegated management, 954
        • 12. Cases in which public intervention may be necessary to give effect to the wishes of the persons interested. Examples: hours of labour; disposal of colonial lands, 956
        • 13. Case of acts done for the benefit of others than the persons concerned. Poor Laws, 960
        • 14. Case of acts done for the benefit of others. Colonization, 962
        • 15. Case of acts done for the benefit of others. Miscellaneous examples, 968
        • 16. Government intervention may be necessary in default of private agency, in cases where private agency would be more suitableu, 970
  • appendices
    • appendix a. Book II, Chapter i, “Of Property,” §§ 3-6, 2nd edition (1849), collated with the 1st edition and the MS 975
    • appendix b. Book II, Chapter x, “Means of Abolishing Cottier Tenancy,” §§ 1-7, 2nd edition (1849), collated with the 1st edition and the MS 988
    • appendix c. Book II, Chapter x, “Means of Abolishing Cottier Tenancy,” § 3, 4th edition (1857), collated with the earlier editions and the MS 1003
    • appendix d. Book IV, Chapter vii, “On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes,” §§ 5-6, 2nd edition (1849), collated with the 1st edition 1006
    • appendix e. Appendix to Vol. II, 4th edition (1857) 1015
    • appendix f. Account of the MS of the Principles 1021
    • appendix g. John Stuart Mill—Harriet Taylor Mill correspondence concerning the Principles 1026
    • appendix h. John Stuart Mill—John E. Cairnes correspondence and notes concerning the Principles 1038 Edition: current; Page: [xxi]
    • appendix i. Bibliographic Index of persons and works cited in the Principles, with variants and notes 1096
  • index 1157
  • facsimiles
    • Facsimile of the first folio of the text, from the MS in the Pierpont Morgan Library facing page 3
    • Facsimile of the beginning of Book I, Chapter iv, from the MS in the Pierpont Morgan Library facing page 1025
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the textual precision and inclusiveness of this edition of the Principles of Political Economy are due entirely to the intelligence and industry of the textual editor, Professor Robson, and it is only proper that he has written the second introduction, which is concerned with the successive changes in thought and exposition recorded in this edition, and which lays down the principles of textual criticism and procedure followed in preparing the text. It is my privilege to contribute an economist’s introduction to the Principles as a single complete work, rather than to deal with variations of text. I fully recognize the importance of the work of the textual editor and the value of this edition, but I must explain how different is my own approach. I welcomed an edition which would make the Principles in its final form readily available and easy to read because I believe that it is a living book which has present value and significance. The members of the editorial committee have emphasized always the importance of providing easy reading of the main text of the Works for those who want to ignore changes over successive editions, and I was glad to have this 7th edition of the Principles in such a form. I have always set a high value on the Ashley edition, and was anxious that its virtues should be retained in this edition. Ashley’s was not a fully collated edition: it did not meet the needs of the scholar trying to reconstruct the successive editions after 1848; but as a working edition for the modern economist it was superb. It indicated nearly all the textual changes of importance to the modern economist. I am proud that it was the work of the first professor of economics in this University and it is with some sentiment of filial piety that I, one of his successors in the Department of Political Economy, write this introduction.

I have said that this book has present value and significance, and this I must defend. I know that in many universities economists are trained without reading any economics written before World War I. I know that Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] in most universities the history of economic thought, if included in the curriculum, is, nevertheless, considered of no real importance, though possibly of some antiquarian interest. Even where the classical literature is seriously studied the attitude is often that stated by Professor Frank Knight in his brilliant article on the “Ricardian Theory of Production and Distribution”:1 he there said that our “primary interest in the ‘ancients’ in such a field as economics is to learn from their mistakes,” and the primary theme of his article was “the contrast between the ‘classical’ system and ‘correct’ views.” By contrast, I am not interested in examining the inadequacies of the “founders” but rather in discovering what we can still learn from them. From my own experience, and from observation of the development of my students, I would argue that the study of the classical economists, and in particular of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, is important in the development of the modern economist, in the development of insight if not in the development of analytical skill.

The advance of our science has not been even on all fronts: while we now answer with greater precision and certainty some of the questions the classical economists asked, there are many other questions that we have ceased to ask because we have seen no better way of answering and have been dissatisfied with the apparent lack of a sound basis for the answers given. Some of these questions are, I suggest, as important as, or more important than, the ones we now answer. One of the values of the classical literature is to remind us to ask these questions and to seek anew ways of answering them. The student of this book will not improve his technical analytical skill, but he may come to recognize more fully how much more he needs than technical equipment. There is, as Professor Redfield reminded us, an element of art in science.2 Alfred Marshall had this in mind when he said: “The economist needs the three great intellectual faculties, perception, imagination and reason: and most of all he needs imagination.”3 More recently, Professor Boulding has said: “Insight (judgment) and logic (mathematics) are strictly complementary goods.”4 We know a good deal about training in the techniques of science, we know incredibly little about the development of imagination or judgment. Indeed I am sometimes worried lest we kill off imagination in the process of such training. I cannot prove that a study of the great classics will Edition: current; Page: [xxv] develop those scarce qualities of imagination and judgment; but I assert that it will develop those qualities in some of us.

This is a lonely position, and I therefore take great comfort in the support of the late Professor Schumpeter and of Lord Robbins. Said Schumpeter in his History of Economic Analysis:5

Teachers or students who attempt to act upon the theory that the most recent treatise is all they need will soon discover that they are making things unnecessarily difficult for themselves. . . . Any treatise that attempts to render “the present state of science” really renders methods, problems, and results that are historically conditioned and are meaningful only with reference to the historical background from which they spring. . . . The state of any science at any given time implies its past history and cannot be satisfactorily conveyed without making this implicit history explicit.

And Schumpeter went on to a further justification of the study of the classical literature with which I am particularly sympathetic. “Our minds,” he said, “are apt to derive new inspiration from the study of the history of science. Some do so more than others, but there are probably few that do not derive from it any benefit at all. A man’s mind must be indeed sluggish if, standing back from the work of his time and beholding the wide mountain ranges of past thought, he does not experience a widening of his own horizon.” Lord Robbins, in his Theory of Economic Policy,6 gives similar support: “I suspect,” he there said, “that damage has been done, not merely to historical and speculative culture, but also to our practical insight, by this indifference to our intellectual past—this provincialism in time—which has been so characteristic of our particular branch of social studies.” Lord Robbins went on to a further comment of great importance: “It is no exaggeration to say that it is impossible to understand the evolution and meaning of Western liberal civilization without some understanding of Classical Political Economy.” The contribution of the classical political economists to this cultural heritage may well have been as important as their contribution to the development of the science of economics. Modern economists have some responsibility for conserving and interpreting this part of our cultural and intellectual heritage.

I have said that there is an element of “art” in the science of economics; I need hardly add that economic policy making is an “art”. It involves much more than prescribing on the basis of scientific analysis a particular action with a view to achieving a stated end. In this it is like medicine: in both political economy and medicine when practitioners diagnose and prescribe, judgment is involved. There must be a readiness to act in spite Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] of incomplete knowledge which makes the result of the action uncertain. For economists the problem is frequently complicated by the desire of the public to promote two, or more, ends without recognition of their conflict; to make such conflict clear so that the public may be faced with the necessity of choice is an important function of the economist. But perhaps a more important function of the political economist is to make explicit the implicit but unrecognized values of the community of which he is a member, values which he is likely to share. This function John Stuart Mill performed more fully than most: study of his work may lead more of us to recognize the values implicit in our policy statements, and to attempt to develop similar recognition on the part of the public. Political Economy in the classical tradition comprehended more than economic analysis; some of its inadequacies in analysis may be forgiven when we consider the total contribution it made.

Some of its supposed inadequacies I shall later argue are the product of misinterpretation of the literature, the inadequacy being in the modern reader rather than in the classical writer. Most frequently the source of misinterpretation lies in the failure to identify the question which the writer was trying to answer. Too often we assume that the ancients asked the same questions that we ask; their answers seem stupid in relation to our questions, but may be very intelligent in relation to those they asked. This habit of ours is sometimes a barrier to understanding in current discussion between modern economists; it is a formidable one in understanding the classics. The habit of mind developed in the sympathetic study of the classics may well contribute to more effective communication between modern economists.

It is over fifty years since W. J. Ashley wrote his introduction to his edition of the Principles,7 but what he said of it then is not inappropriate at this later date:

. . . Mill’s Principles will long continue to be read and will deserve to be read. It represents an interesting phase in the intellectual history of the nineteenth century. But its merit is more than historical. It is still one of the most stimulating books that can be put into the hands of students, if they are cautioned at the outset against regarding it as necessarily final in all its parts. On some topics there is still, in my opinion, nothing better in the English language; on others Mill’s treatment is still the best point of departure for further enquiry. Whatever its faults, few or many, it is a great treatise, conceived and executed on a lofty plane, and breathing a noble spirit. Mill—especially when we penetrate beneath the magisterial flow of his final text, as we are now enabled to do by the record in this edition of his varying moods—is a very human personality. The reader of to-day is not likely to come to him in too receptive a spirit; and for a long time there will be much that even those who most differ from him will still be able to learn from his pages.

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though mill had been raised in the Ricardian tradition, the Principles is in the tradition of Adam Smith (and Malthus) rather than of Ricardo. Its title suggests this: Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy. His Preface to the 1st edition elaborates the point made in the title. Of Adam Smith’s work Mill says:

The most characteristic quality . . . is that it invariably associates the principles with their applications. This of itself implies a much wider range of ideas and of topics, than are included in Political Economy, considered as a branch of abstract speculation. For practical purposes, Political Economy is inseparably intertwined with many other branches of social philosophy. Except on matters of mere detail, there are perhaps no practical questions, even among those which approach nearest to the character of purely economical questions, which admit of being decided on economical premises alone. And it is because Adam Smith never loses sight of this truth; because, in his applications of Political Economy, he perpetually appeals to other and often far larger considerations than pure Political Economy affords—that he gives that well-grounded feeling of command over the principles of the subject for purposes of practice. . . .


But Mill felt that advances in “Political Economy, properly so called,” and in “the philosophy of society” had rendered the Wealth of Nations “in many parts obsolete” (I.xcii. 11-3). So he decided to attempt to “combine his practical mode of treating his subject with the increased knowledge since acquired of its theory” and to “exhibit the economical phenomena of society in the relation in which they stand to the best social ideas of the present time” (I.xcii.17-20). But while he wanted to make his treatise “more than a mere exposition of the abstract doctrines of Political Economy” he intended that “such an exposition should be found in it” (I.xcii. 28-30). The Principles is, then, the product of a Ricardian economist who was also, in the judgment of F. Y. Edgeworth,9 “pre-eminent in general philosophy,” in which respect he, and he alone, was “comparable to Adam Smith.”

A full understanding of Mill’s view of the scope and method of Political Economy involves some semantic difficulty. The term “political economy” as distinguished from “economics” has come to refer to a study of the functioning of the economy in which historical, political, sociological, customary, and non-logical aspects are treated, and in which “values” are examined and policies are discussed not only with reference to the probability of the expected results being achieved, but with reference to the acceptability of the results in the light of values of the individual political Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] economist or of the society of which he is a member. Since most policies have indirect as well as direct effects, it is the business of the political economist to determine as carefully and as fully as he can these indirect effects. The problem of values then becomes not simply that of the choice of the end directly sought, but of the net advantage of achieving the chosen direct end plus the advantages and minus the disadvantages of the indirect results of pursuing the given policy. A simple prescription of policy is only possible when there is certainty as to its direct and indirect effects, and when there is no doubt, or disagreement, as to the net advantages, that is, when there is complete agreement as to the “values” involved. The art of political economy requires, along with the best scientific estimate of probable effects of action (or inaction), a readiness to act (or to recommend action) even though the results are uncertain, and even though the results, if achieved, will not be universally recognized as good. How far the political economist should be honest in indicating the degree of probability of the result, and in identifying the value system which leads him to consider the net advantages of the policy to be positive (and greater than the net advantages of alternative policies which might have been adopted) may be disputed. My own use of the word “honest” indicates my bias. The science of political economy is related to the art of government in much the same way that the science of medicine is related to the art of medicine: there is the same necessity to decide what to do (if anything) in spite of the uncertainty as to the effect of that action (or of inaction): in relation to the art of medicine, the choice of values might seem to be absent, since health is an agreed end, but of course the conflict of values must still enter in since “health” is not simple and indivisible. Even Bentham’s formula, “minimize pain,” may prove an inadequate guide.

Now what has all this to do with John Stuart Mill? Political Economy meant to him something different from the modern conception, and the difference is not just a matter of words. Political Economy he seems to have used as the name for what we would now call Economic Theory; prescription of policy required, in his view, a consideration of many factors excluded from the abstract analysis of political economy, the effects of which factors could not be as adequately determined as could those of the factors which formed the basis of the analytic part of the study; but if the knowledge and understanding of the economy and of the society were adequate, then Mill would, I think, claim that a “scientific” decision on policy was possible. The problem of values and the conflict of values as something beyond science does not seem to have arisen. I have sometimes argued that the absence of the discussion of values in the classical literature of political economy is explicable in terms of the Edition: current; Page: [xxix] common acceptance of an implicit scheme of values which, being taken for granted, did not need to be made explicit. But this is hard to maintain in the face of the vigorous criticism in Mill’s Principles of many of the “bourgeois” ideals, some examples of which will be noted later in this introduction.

I must try to justify these general remarks by some specific examination of Mill’s writings, and this takes me back to his early essay on method. In his essay “On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper to It,”10 Mill restricted the term “political economy” to the narrow sphere that we would now call “economic theory.” He ruled out not only the “art” but even much of the science on which the art must depend:

What is now commonly understood by the term “Political Economy” is not the science of speculative politics, but a branch of that science. It does not treat of the whole of man’s nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end. It predicts only such of the phenomena of the social state as take place in consequence of the pursuit of wealth. It makes entire abstraction of every other human passion or motive; except those which may be regarded as perpetually antagonizing principles to the desire of wealth, namely, aversion to labour, and desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgences. . . . [The actions it studies], though many of them are really the result of a plurality of motives, are considered by Political Economy as flowing solely from the desire of wealth. The science then proceeds to investigate the laws which govern these several operations, under the supposition that man is a being who is determined, by the necessity of his nature, to prefer a greater portion of wealth to a smaller in all cases, without any other exception than that constituted by the two counter-motives already specified. Not that any political economist was ever so absurd as to suppose that mankind are really thus constituted, but because this is the mode in which science must necessarily proceed. . . . With respect to those parts of human conduct of which wealth is not even the principal object, to these Political Economy does not pretend that its conclusions are applicable. But there are also certain departments of human affairs, in which the acquisition of wealth is the main and acknowledged end. It is only of these that Political Economy takes notice. . . . [It treats] the main and acknowledged end as if it were the sole end. . . . The political economist inquires, what are the actions which would be produced by this desire, if . . . it were unimpeded by any other. In this way a nearer approximation is obtained than would otherwise be practicable. . . . This approximation is then to be corrected by making proper allowance for the effects of any impulses of a different description. . . .

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Given this definition of the nature of the science as “abstract,” the “method of investigation proper to it” is obviously a priori. “It reasons, and, as we contend, must necessarily reason, from assumptions, not from facts. . . . Geometry presupposes an arbitrary definition of a line. . . . Just in the same manner does Political Economy presuppose an arbitrary definition of a man, as a being who invariably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained in the existing state of knowledge.” Mill regretted that this “definition of man is not formally prefixed to any work on Political Economy,” for if it were, “it would be less in danger of being forgotten.” He warned the economist to be “on his guard not to ascribe to conclusions which are grounded upon an hypothesis a different kind of certainty from that which really belongs to them. They would be true without qualification, only in a case which is purely imaginary.”11

All of this is very sound comment on the character and limitation of what we would now call “pure theory,” what Mill refers to in the preface to the Principles as “pure political economy.” But Mill asserted that the a priori method was not only a legitimate method but was the only legitimate method for the study of economics and social phenomena:12 “it is vain,” he said, “to hope that truth can be arrived at, either in Political Economy or in any other department of the social science, while we look at the facts in the concrete, clothed in all the complexity with which nature has surrounded them, and endeavour to elicit a general law by a process of induction. . . .”13 Yet he urged the political economist to study the facts. “Although . . . a philosopher be convinced that no general truths can be attained in the affairs of nations by the à posteriori road, it does not the less behove [sic] him . . . to sift and scrutinize the details of every specific experiment. Without this, he may be an excellent professor of abstract science,” but “he must rest contented to take no share in practical politics; to have no opinion, or to hold it with extreme modesty, on the applications which should be made of his doctrines to existing circumstances.”14

Before writing the Principles, Mill wrote his Logic; he again discussed the problem of method, but this time he was concerned with the social sciences in general rather than with political economy in particular. The approach remained substantially the same: “The conclusions of theory cannot be trusted, unless confirmed by observation; nor those of observation, Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] unless they can be affiliated to theory. . . .”15 This indicates some further recognition of the value of “observation,” due probably to the influence of Comte. It was, however, for “ethology” and particularly for the “general science of society” that the “inverse deductive or historical method”16 was suggested. This general science of society was concerned with the laws of the development of social institutions. This, he saw, required historical study, not only for verification, but for suggestion of hypotheses:

while it is an imperative rule never to introduce any generalization from history into the social science unless sufficient grounds can be pointed out for it in human nature, I do think any one will contend that it would have been possible, setting out from the principles of human nature and from the general circumstances of the position of our species, to determine à priori the order in which human development must take place, and to predict, consequently, the general facts of history. . . .17

But for political economy the method remained deductive, “reasoning from . . . one law of human nature, and from the principal outward circumstances (whether universal or confined to particular states of society).”18

One should not take too seriously what people say about method; what they do is often very different. In the Principles Mill decided to follow the example of Adam Smith in associating “the principles with their applications” (I.xci.22). This, he recognized, “implies a much wider range of ideas and of topics, than are included in Political Economy, considered as a branch of abstract speculation,” for there are, perhaps, no practical questions “which admit of being decided on economical premises alone” (I.xci.23-9). That Mill was wise in choosing to go beyond the bounds of the abstract science can scarcely be doubted. He should, perhaps, have been readier to distinguish those propositions which were precise but limited in application by the nature of the assumptions from which they were deduced, from those propositions which were less precise but were relevant to the real society, not the unreal model. He should also have been more confident, and more venturesome, in his study of the actual. He recognized that in society “custom” was a determinant of income distribution along with “competition.” But he had not yet perceived the possibility of the “scientific” study of custom: “only through the principle of competition,” he said, “has political economy any pretension to the character of a science” (I.239.13-4). Recognition of the modifying influence of custom was essential: “To escape error, we ought, in applying the Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] conclusions of political economy to the actual affairs of life, to consider not only what will happen supposing the maximum of competition, but how far the result will be affected if competition falls short of the maximum” (I.244.22-6). But he gave no estimate of how far short of the maximum competition did fall and no estimate of how much the result was affected. Nor did he see that pure political economy might be able to deal with problems of monopoly and of limited competition. But he did anticipate the results of such modern theory when he argued with reference to retail trade that “when competition does exist, it often, instead of lowering prices, merely divides the gains of the high price among a greater number of dealers” (I.243.7-9).

Curiously enough Mill said little about another source of divergence between “the laws of the science and the facts of life” arising from the unreality of the concept of the economic man. Professor Edgeworth questioned, in his article in Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy, whether Mill could consistently retain his view of the deductive character of the science as he began to “doubt the universality of the principle of self-interest.” This doubt was reflected in the chapter on communism, where Mill said: “Mankind are capable of a far greater amount of public spirit than the present age is accustomed to suppose possible” (I.205.16-8). But his eulogy of peasant proprietorship, and for that matter of co-operative factories, was based on the expectation of increased productivity from more direct pecuniary incentive to produce, as it would become the interest of the workers “to do the utmost, instead of the least possible, in exchange for their remuneration” (II.792.4-5). The principle of self-interest might not be universal, but it was recognized to be very powerful. Like Alfred Marshall, Mill seems to have been ready to take advantage of the strongest rather than the highest motives in order to get things done.

In spite of the insistence on the a priori character of the science of economics, the complementary insistence on observation of concrete facts opened the way to a more general attack on problems of society through historical and statistical studies; and indeed Mill did not restrict himself to explanations that could be derived a priori. Though he was not prepared to consider his broader inquiries as “scientific,” he appears to have been quite confident in the reliability of his explanations, predictions, and judgments in the broader field. What I find missing is a recognition of the dependence of many of his prescriptions on the choice of ends. There is, in the last pages of the Logic, a brief discussion of the “Logic of Practice or Art; including Morality and Policy.” He here stated very properly: “A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued . . . it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.”19 If we combine this statement on teleology with his statements on the nature of the science one might suppose that Mill would specify the end before prescribing policy. Much of the best writing in the Principles is relevant to the choice of ends, yet there appears to be no recognition of the dependence of his policy prescriptions on the choice of ends. Curiously enough this failure to discuss the choice of ends is explained by the definition of the “science,” and some of the inadequacy of the “abstract science” for purposes of explanation and prediction is related to the neglect of the problems of the choice of ends by the people who are being studied. I propose to elaborate this proposition because I believe it to have contemporary significance.

The definition of “political economy” quoted above specified the end: “the pursuit of wealth.” But two “perpetually antagonizing principles . . . namely aversion to labour and desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgences” were noted. Here we have a problem of competing ends: more wealth or more leisure, more wealth or more current income. Some passages in the Principles are relevant. “In England, it is not the desire of wealth that needs to be taught, but the use of wealth, and appreciation of the objects of desire which wealth cannot purchase. . . . Every real improvement in the character of the English, whether it consist in giving them higher aspirations, or only a juster estimate of the value of their present objects of desire, must necessarily moderate the ardour of their devotion to the pursuit of wealth” (I.105.4-10). The first two editions had put this even more strongly, referring to “the all engrossing torment of their industrialism.” “The desirable medium,” he went on to argue, “is one which mankind have not often known how to hit: when they labour, to do it with all their might, and especially with all their mind; but to devote to labour, for mere pecuniary gain, fewer hours in the day, fewer days in the year, and fewer years of life” (I.105.14—106.3). This is good preaching of values; and is highly relevant to the “art” of political economy, but it also illustrates the need to determine what values are held in order to predict, that is, for the purpose of the science. To treat the problem as one of defining the supply function of labour does not change it from a problem of values.

What Mill thought of as the purely scientific part of economics had only predictive value as long as the specified end was in fact the choice of the people studied. If the chosen end is other than that specified not only is the prescription necessarily different, but this other end enters into Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] the making of the prediction as to the effect of proposed action on which the prescription is based. This relation between the science and the art can be illustrated by a homely example: John Doe is in Toronto one morning and wants to be in Montreal by evening. He has chosen his end; knowledge of the timetables for air and railway travel, of the state of the weather and of the roads, enables him to select the means of getting to Montreal: such knowledge constitutes his science. But suppose the problem really to be that of the scientist in predicting where John Doe (or a thousand like him) will be on a particular night. Knowledge of the timetables (the science relevant to the simpler question) is not enough: the scientist must know what end John Doe has chosen, to stay in Toronto, to go to Montreal, or to go to Windsor.

Consider next the other “antagonizing” principle, “desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgences.” My first comment is that this involves confusion between “wealth” and “income.” Surely the motive assumed for the abstract science is not the maximum accumulation of wealth with consumption limited to “productive consumption,” so that even the few luxuries of the poor come under scrutiny as doubtfully proper. “. . . [C]onsumption even of productive labourers is not all of it productive consumption. . . . What they consume in keeping up or improving their health, strength, and capacities of work, or in rearing other productive labourers to succeed them, is productive consumption. But consumption on pleasures or luxuries, whether by the idle or by the industrious . . . must be reckoned unproductive: with a reservation perhaps of a certain quantum of enjoyment which may be classed among necessaries, since anything short of it would not be consistent with the greatest efficiency of labour” (I.52.24-33). If consumption were assumed to be so limited the abstract science would be easier, but Mill does not pretend that it either is, or ought to be, so limited. “It would be a great error to regret the large proportion of the annual produce, which in an opulent country goes to supply unproductive consumption. It would be to lament that the community has so much to spare from its necessities, for its pleasures and for all higher uses. This portion of the produce is the fund from which all the wants of the community, other than that of mere living, are provided for. . . . That so great a surplus should be available for such purposes . . . can only be a subject of congratulation” (I.54.29-30).

What then of the antagonizing principle? Mill the preacher is offended by the “costly indulgences”: what is to be regretted is not the size of the surplus available for unproductive consumption but the “prodigious inequality with which this surplus is distributed, the little worth of the objects to which the greater part of it is devoted, and the large share which Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] falls to the lot of persons who render no equivalent service in return” (I.54.32-5). For the abstract science the problem is to establish a supply function for savings which emerges from these values, the choices, of the people. For the art a conflict of ends has emerged: is the wealth pursued worth pursuing, would it be worth pursuing if that wealth were more equally divided? Mill returns to this theme in the chapter on the “Stationary State”:

those who do not accept the present very early stage of human improvement as its ultimate type, may be excused for being comparatively indifferent to the kind of economical progress which excites the congratulations of ordinary politicians; the mere increase of production and accumulation. . . . I know not why it should be a matter of congratulation that persons who are already richer than any one needs to be, should have doubled their means of consuming things which give little or no pleasure except as representative of wealth. . . . It is only in the backward countries of the world that increased production is still an important object. . . .


(This J. K. Galbraith has elaborated in his The Affluent Society.20)

The unkind reference to the Americans in the 1st edition was a dramatic condemnation of the motive “assumed” for the science and of the Malthusian sin of the people. “They have the six points of Chartism, and they have no poverty: and all that these advantages do for them is that the life of the whole of one sex is devoted to dollar-hunting, and of the other to breeding dollar-hunters” (II.754a-a). This is preaching, but success in preaching a different set of values would change the data of the science. The scientific study of the values of the community is, therefore, I reiterate, a major part of political economy in the wide sense as distinct from political economy conceived as an abstract science; assessment of values is relevant to the determination of means, as well as to the choice of ends. The choice of means requires prediction of the effect of any proposed action (prediction that requires a knowledge of the values held by the community); the choice of ends requires an assessment of cost (what is foregone) of any proposed action. Knowledge of values is required for the science; skill in the science is required for realization of the values.

A very important element remains to be noticed: the means may become partially ends in themselves. Of modern writers, Professor Frank Knight has dealt most effectively with this problem:

When we consider that productive activity takes up the larger part of the waking lives of the great mass of mankind, it is surely not to be assumed without investigation or inquiry that production is a means only, a necessary evil, a sacrifice made for the sake of some good entirely outside the production process. We are impelled to look for ends in the economic process itself, other Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] than the mere consumption of the produce, and to give thoughtful consideration to the possibilities of participation in economic activity as a sphere of self expression and creative achievement.21 . . . Economists and publicists are coming to realize how largely the efficiency of business and industry is the result of this appeal to intrinsic interest in action; how feeble, in spite of the old economics, is the motivation of mere appetite or cupidity; and how much the driving power of our economic life depends on making and keeping the game interesting. A rapidly growing literature on “incentive” is a witness to this awakening.22

That Mill was not unaware of this interplay of means and ends is shown in the chapter on the “Stationary State” where he argues that increased production is a matter of minor importance because it means consuming more things that give little or no pleasure, but also argues: “That the energies of mankind should be kept in employment by the struggle for riches, as they were formerly by the struggle of war, until the better minds succeed in educating the others into better things, is undoubtedly more desirable than that they should rust and stagnate” (II.754.24-7).

Some of the elements of this problem have been exposed (or possibly hidden) in modern discussion of the “net advantages” of particular occupations; but here it is only differential advantages of particular occupations that are considered, not the net advantages of the process of production as a whole. In the calculation of these “net advantages” one needs to consider what the process of production to satisfy the wants of the people does to the character of the people. The means most effective in the supply of their existing wants may mould people into more or less desirable patterns. To Ruskin it appeared that there was a premium on the less desirable characteristics, for success in the business world seemed to depend on these. “In a community regulated by the law of demand and supply but protected from open violence,” Ruskin said, “the persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive and ignorant. The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, the entirely merciful, just, and godly person.”23 One may not accept this condemnation, but one must recognize that the effect of the process on the people is relevant to the choice of the kind of process.

Mill’s discussion of communism raises another aspect of this when he asks whether communism or competitive capitalism is “consistent with the greatest amount of human liberty and spontaneity” (I.208.34-5). The Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] fluctuation in his assessment of the desirability of communism involves conflict of ends and uncertainty as to the efficacy of means. “After the means of subsistence are assured,” he said, “the next in strength of the personal wants of human beings is liberty . . .” (I.208.35-7). But the schemes which he discussed seemed to involve renouncing “liberty for the sake of equality” (I.209.3-4); and there was reason to fear that equality might weaken the motivation for production. He recognized that the “restraints of Communism would be freedom in comparison with the present condition of the majority of the human race” (I.209.14-5) and he urged his readers to “compare Communism at its best, with the régime of individual property, not as it is but as it might be made” (I.207.23-5). It was not enough for communism to promise “greater personal and mental freedom than is now enjoyed by those who have not enough of either to deserve the name” (I.209.24-6); nor was it acceptable to denounce the restriction on freedom under socialism while accepting the restrictions on freedom of the existing society. “The generality of labourers . . . ,” said Mill, “have as little choice of occupation or freedom of locomotion, are practically as dependent on fixed rules and on the will of others, as they could be on any system short of actual slavery . . .” (I.209.15-9). With this should be read those splendid pages at the beginning of his chapter on the “Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes” (IV.vii), where he discussed “the two conflicting theories respecting the social position desirable for manual labourers,” the “theory of dependence and protection,” and the “theory of self dependence.” Liberty implies independence. There were those who were arguing for a paternal relationship between the rich and the poor, “affectionate tutelage on the one side, respectful and grateful deference on the other” (II.759.25-6) (“spaniel-like servility” was the phrase William Thomas Thornton used). To them Mill pointed out that “All privileged and powerful classes, as such, have used their power in the interest of their own selfishness, and have indulged their self-importance in despising, and not in lovingly caring for, those who were, in their estimation, degraded, by being under the necessity of working for their benefit” (II.760.8-12). He made it clear that even if the “superior classes could be sufficiently improved to govern in the tutelary manner supposed, the inferior classes would be too much improved to be so governed” (II.760.17-9). “Of the working men, at least in the more advanced countries of Europe, it may be pronounced certain, that the patriarchal or paternal system of government is one to which they will not again be subject” (II.761.28—762.2).

Liberty, spontaneity, equality, productivity, all must be considered and to them we now add the preservation of natural beauty. His plea in the chapter on the “Stationary State” is still worthy of consideration: “solitude Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur, is the cradle of thoughts and aspirations which are not only good for the individual, but which society could ill do without” (II.756.11-4). There is little satisfaction in contemplating a world “with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature; . . . [with] every flowery waste or natural pasture ploughed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for man’s use exterminated as his rivals for food . . . , and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture” (II.756.15-21). He feared that the earth might lose that “great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it” (II.756.22-4). This became the theme of George Gissing’s novel Demos.24 At the opening of the novel, Stanbury Hill, “remote but two hours’ walk from a region blasted with mine and factory and furnace, shelters with its western slope a fair green valley, a land of meadows and orchard, untouched by poisonous breath.”25 In Chapter vii, John Eldon looks out on a different scene: “building of various kinds was in progress in the heart of the vale; a great massive chimney was rising to completion, and about it stood a number of sheds. Beyond was to be seen the commencement of a street of small houses, promising infinite ugliness in a little space . . . in truth, the benighted valley was waking up and donning the true nineteenth-century livery.”26 But a turn of fortune puts Eldon back in the position of owner and all is changed. “It is springtime, and the valley of Wanley is bursting into green and flowery life, peacefully glad as if the foot of Demos had never come that way. Incredible that the fumes of furnaces ever desecrated that fleece-sown sky of tenderest blue, that hammers clanged and engines roared where now the thrush utters his song so joyously. Hubert Eldon has been as good as his word. In all the valley no trace is left of what was called New Wanley.”27 Whether we consider this a case of competing ends, wealth or beauty, or whether we consider beauty part of the wealth which is to be maximized, the problems raised are still relevant. Professor Joseph Spengler has, for instance, turned to this theme in his address as President of the Population Association of America, “The Aesthetics of Population.”28 “Every year 1.1 million acres reportedly are taken permanently out of crop use by urban and suburban development, together with the expansion of industry, airports, military establishments, Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] and new highways; and another 700,000 acres are lost annually through soil erosion, tree planting, water-logging, salt deposits, and other contamination.”29 There is a “continuing replacement of Arcadian beauty by cardominated, bill-boarded, neon-signed shabbiness.”30 Or again: “these uses chew up and uglify the countryside.”31 All of which is not to say that all beauty must be preserved at any cost: but that growth in the gross national product is not the sole object of the community without reference to the consequent destruction of natural beauty.


while mill the preacher might doubt the importance of increasing production except in “the backward countries,” Mill the political economist was more realistic and put the problem of production, the causes of productivity and of increasing productivity, at the forefront of his study. Perhaps this was related to his expectation of continued population increase: increasing accumulation and increasing productivity would be necessary even if no further improvement in standards of living were desired; and whatever improvement in the condition of the poor might be achieved by redistribution with a stationary population, the existing standard could not be maintained with increasing population without such increase in productivity. The preacher was contemplating the Stationary State, the political economist was concerned with the practical problems of contemporary society. Increase in the productivity of labour, and accumulation of capital were recognized as urgent necessities. They remain urgently necessary, and modern economists in developing countries, backward or advanced, particularly in countries where population is once again increasing rapidly, do well to reconsider Mill’s treatment if only to stimulate them to develop a modern theory of production.


One important element in Mill’s treatment is his emphasis on investment in human beings. After a century of neglect this has come to the fore as a result of the immense investment in education required in backward and advanced countries alike. In discussing “Labour as an Agent of Production” (I, ii) he devotes one section (§7) to “labour of which the subject is human beings” (I.40.35). Much of this labour is “incurred from other motives than to obtain such ultimate return, and, for most purposes of political economy, need not be taken into account as expenses of production” Edition: current; Page: [xl] (I.41.6-8). But “technical or industrial education” is generally “undergone for the sake of the greater or more valuable produce thereby attained” and should therefore be treated as “part of what the produce costs to society” (I.41.8-19). Similarly “the labour employed in keeping up productive powers; in preventing them from being destroyed or weakened by accident or disease,” though not generally employed by the individual patients from “economical motives,” must be considered “as part of the advance by which society effects its productive operations” (I.41.19-37). There follows a section on the labour of the inventor and the savant. Again there is the difference between the individual and the social aspect: “these material fruits, though the result, are seldom the direct purpose of the pursuits of savants . . . . But when (as in political economy one should always be prepared to do) we shift our point of view, and consider not individual acts, and the motives by which they are determined, but national and universal results, intellectual speculation must be looked upon as a most influential part of the productive labour of society . . .” (I.43.4-16).

Mill recurs to this theme in the chapter on “Unproductive Labour” (I, iii) where he discusses “utilities fixed and embodied in human beings.” He would have preferred, he says, to “regard all labour as productive which is employed in creating permanent utilities, whether embodied in human beings, or in any other animate or inanimate objects” (I.48.21-3). But he accepted the usage which limited the term to labour which produces “utilities embodied in material objects” (I.49.23). He then broke through this limitation to include as productive, “labour expended in the acquisition of manufacturing skill . . . not in virtue of the skill itself, but of the manufactured products created by the skill” (I.49.28-30). The emphasis is on the “investment” aspect of some part of education: if the labour of the teacher is classed as “unproductive” this is not “derogatory,” but in classing it as “productive” its contribution to increasing future productivity is established. That part of education expense is essentially part of the “accumulation” which is so urgently required. Finally one notes the chapter on the degrees of productiveness (I, vii). “Successful production . . . depends more on the qualities of the human agents, than on the circumstances in which they work . . .” (I.103.13-5). So he discussed as the second of the causes of superior productiveness “the greater energy of labour” (I.103.27). Here the preacher comes back into the picture (the sermon varying somewhat between the editions but remaining essentially the same). In the first edition the essential problem is stated: “An Englishman, of almost every class, is the most efficient of all labourers, because, to use a common phrase, his heart is in his work. But it is surely quite possible to put heart into his work without being incapable of putting it Edition: current; Page: [xli] into anything else” (I.105r-r). Mill had, and continued to have, no doubt about the cause of the high productivity: he had serious doubts as to the ultimate “welfare” of people who were productive of material objects but incapable of enjoying them. But if he would “moderate the ardour of their devotion to the pursuit of wealth” (I.105.10), he would hope not to diminish “the strenuous and businesslike application to the matter in hand, which is found in the best English workmen” (I.105.11-3).

The third element determining the productiveness of labour is “the skill and knowledge therein existing” (I.106.6). The effects of increased knowledge in increasing wealth “have become familiar. . . . A thing not yet so well understood and recognised, is the economical value of the general diffusion of intelligence among the people” (I.107.25-8). The scarcity of “persons fitted to direct and superintend any industrial enterprise” (I.107.28-9) is only one aspect of the problem: another is the “connexion between mental cultivation and moral trustworthiness” (I.108.35). Mr. Escher of Zurich is quoted at some length: “The better educated workmen . . . are distinguished by superior moral habits . . . they are entirely sober; they are discreet in their enjoyments . . .; they have a taste for much better society, which they approach respectfully . . .; they cultivate music; they read; they enjoy the pleasures of scenery . . .; they are . . . honest and trustworthy” (I.108.36—109.9). Of the uneducated English Mr. Escher says they are “the most skilful,” but the most “debauched . . . and least respectable and trustworthy”: if treated with “urbanity and friendly feeling” they become “unmanageable and useless.” Mill comments, “As soon as any idea of equality enters the mind of an uneducated English working man, his head is turned by it. When he ceases to be servile, he becomes insolent” (I.109.11-28). Again we are going beyond the theory of productivity: for that theory it is important to recognize with Mill that the “moral qualities of the labourers are fully as important to the efficiency and worth of their labour, as the intellectual” (I.109.29-30). But the plea for moral improvement is not primarily a plea for improving productivity: the whole character of society and the future condition of man is involved. We shall return to the issue when commenting on Mills’ chapters on communism and on the probable futurity of the working class. Appropriately, in view of the emphasis on education and the development of knowledge in the beginning of the book, Mill devotes a section of his final chapter on the limits of the province of government to a plea for provision for scientific research and for the maintenance of a “learned class.” “The cultivation of speculative knowledge, though one of the most useful of all employments, is a service rendered to a community collectively, not individually, and one consequently for which it is, primâ facie, reasonable that the community collectively should pay . . .” (II.968.34-7).

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In the neo-classical economics the theory of production was essentially a theory of allocation of resources, of the “right” proportions of factors in the production of the “right” things (“right” interpreted with reference to least cost and conformity to demand). In the Keynesian economics the concern was with full employment of resources. In the classical economics, as in the new economics of growth and development, the full employment and proper allocation of given resources took second place to a concern for the development of new resources. This is perhaps clearer in Adam Smith than in Mill, but I believe that the continued use of the distinction between productive and unproductive labour indicates a continued concern for the liquidation of the primitive sector of the economy in which menial servants were maintained in idleness on a more or less feudal basis, and for the development of “industry,” the advanced sector of the economy in which workers, well equipped, well managed, well disciplined, would probably be employed at wages considerably higher than those prevailing in the primitive sector. I cannot here examine in detail this interpretation of the concept of productive labour and the related theory of development,32 but I propose to quote from Adam Smith and from Malthus to give the necessary background. “We are more industrious than our forefathers,” said Adam Smith, “because in the present times the funds destined for the maintenance of industry are much greater in proportion to those which are likely to be employed in the maintenance of idleness than they were two or three centuries ago.”33 And Malthus: “Three or four hundred years ago, there was undoubtedly much less labour in England in proportion to the population, than at present; but there was much more dependence; and we probably should not now enjoy our present degree of civil liberty, if the poor, by the introduction of manufactures, had not been enabled to give something in exchange for the provisions of the great Lords, instead of being dependent upon their bounty.”34 The idle, be it noted, were not unemployed; the problem was to absorb them into “industry” where they would be more productive.

Much of the difficulty of interpreting, or accepting, the propositions about capital in Mill may be reduced if it is recognized that these chapters Edition: current; Page: [xliii] are concerned with “development.” As Professor Myint put it in his Theories of Economic Welfare we should not read “our latter-day pre-occupation with the ‘allocative’ problem into the classics through the distorting spectacles provided by the General Equilibrium economists of the Marginal Utility School. It is time we learned to cure ourselves of this theoretical anthropomorphism and to approach the classical economists in the context of their own intellectual climate.”35 In this context the chapters in Mill on capital must be read, not as discussion of the economies of roundabout production, nor even of the employment problems rising from an imbalance of saving and investment, but as discussion of the development of “industry” at the expense of the pre-industrial, quasi-feudal, sector of the economy, with the recruiting of the idle-employed into the ranks of the industrious, with the employment in productive labour of those “whom we shall suppose to have been previously, like the Irish peasantry, only half employed and half fed” (I.56.36-7).

While continuing the theme of development as being a process of expanding the number of productive labourers, Mill added a discussion of the distinction between productive and unproductive consumption. What productive labourers “consume in keeping up or improving their health, strength, and capacities of work, or in rearing other productive labourers to succeed them, is productive consumption. But consumption on pleasures or luxuries, whether by the idle or by the industrious, since production is neither its object nor is in any way advanced by it, must be reckoned unproductive: with a reservation perhaps of a certain quantum of enjoyment which may be classed among necessaries, since anything short of it would not be consistent with the greatest efficiency of labour” (I.52.26-33). From this discussion of unproductive consumption there develops the proposition that there is a more important distinction than that between productive and unproductive labour, “namely, between labour for the supply of productive, and for the supply of unproductive, consumption” (I.53.27-8). If the former were suspended, “the country at the end of the twelvemonth would have been entirely impoverished” (I.54.20-1); if the latter were suspended, “the sources of production would be unimpaired” (I.54.15-6). Mill went on to say that it would be a great error to regret the “large proportion of the annual produce, which in an opulent country goes to supply unproductive consumption” (I.54.22-4). It is rather a matter for congratulation. It is surprising that he does not here press home the point that this fund for unproductive consumption is the basis for that process of accumulation which provides for a spiral of economic development. He underestimated the effect on human productivity of better living and he Edition: current; Page: [xliv] underestimated the magnitude of the necessary increase in fixed capital. He was right in directing attention to the increase in that “labour which tends to the permanent enrichment of society.” He was right in directing attention to the “fund from which all the wants of the community, other than that of mere living, are provided for” (I.54.26-7); he was right to continue Ricardo’s concern for “net produce,” and to parallel Marx’s concern for surplus value; he was right because he was concerned with growth. Thrift is important, and a study of its causes is important: but we must not forget “that to increase capital there is another way besides consuming less, namely, to produce more” (I.70.15-6). . . . “[W]hatever increases the productive power of labour, creates an additional fund to make savings from, and enables capital to be enlarged not only without additional privation, but concurrently with an increase of personal consumption” (I.70.3-6). In these circumstances “abstinence” is a rather odd description of the basis for capital accumulation.

In this context of “development” the difficulties of interpretation of the chapters on capital, even of the fourth proposition, disappear. Capital must be interpreted as “real capital,” wage goods, materials and instruments to supply “productive labour” with the “pre-requisites of production.” “. . . [I]ndustry is limited by capital” (I.63.9): for there cannot be more persons employed in productive labour than can be supplied with wage goods, materials and instruments. Capital “is the result of saving” (I.68.27-8); for there can be no increase in capital if the “net produce” of productive labour is dissipated in unproductive consumption. Clearly more capital requires either less wage goods used to support unproductive labour and transferred to the use of productive labour, or less production of luxury goods permitting the production of more wage goods, material, and instruments. And since the “industrious” are likely to enjoy more wage goods than the “idle” some reduction in the purchase of luxury goods needs to go along with the reduction in the number of servants. Capital “although saved . . . is nevertheless consumed” (I.70.18-9): the food that the servants would have eaten the industrious eat, the food and materials produced in place of the plate and silks are eaten and worked up by the industrious. “Demand for commodities is not demand for labour” (I.78.26) is the fourth proposition and it has produced an extraordinary variety of comment, most of which, including my own comment in a “Centenary Estimate,”36 is misguided because of the failure to recognize the dynamic Edition: current; Page: [xlv] context. To Cairnes this proposition was simply “a different mode of stating the third fundamental theorem.” In his very interesting and valuable “Notes on the Principles of Political Economy” (see Appendix H below) Cairnes presented an alternative formulation: “In short to establish the doctrine that ‘demand for commodities is not demand for labour’—i.e. does not benefit the labouring classes—all that is needed is the two assumptions 1. that he who profits by (i.e. enjoys) wealth is he who consumes it, and 2. that productive labourers consume saved wealth, while wealth unproductively spent is consumed wholly by the unproductive consumers.”37 Cairnes then illustrated his argument by a reductio ad absurdum, “if it be equally for the benefit of the poorer classes whether I consume my wealth unproductively or set aside a portion in the form of wages or alms for their direct consumption, then on what ground can the policy be justified of taking my money from me to support paupers.” That Cairnes understood Mill’s intention is indicated by the adaptation of this passage from Cairnes in the 6th edition of the Principles (I.84.10-4). There remains the proposition in Chapter vi, “that all increase of fixed capital, when taking place at the expense of circulating, must be, at least temporarily, prejudicial to the interests of the labourers” (I.93.40-94.2). From this proposition he argues, first, that “All attempts to make out that the labouring classes as a collective body cannot suffer temporarily by the introduction of machinery, or by the sinking of capital in permanent improvements, are . . . necessarily fallacious” (I.96.22-5). He then argues that “as things are actually transacted” improvements are not “often, if ever, injurious, even temporarily, to the labouring classes in the aggregate” (I.97.8-9). This is because improvements are “seldom or never made by withdrawing circulating capital from actual production, but are made by the employment of the annual increase” (I.97.12-4). The ultimate benefit is not in doubt but “this does not discharge governments from the obligation of alleviating, and if possible preventing, the evils of which this source of ultimate benefit is or may be productive to an existing generation” (I.99.2-4). To return to the proposition: is not Mill’s problem that of many modern nations, how to increase fixed capital faster than voluntary savings permit: the modern solution is often by planned reduction in consumption or by inflation-induced reduction of consumption. There remains the old-fashioned solution, to save more: but the “extreme incapacity of the people for personal enjoyment, which is a characteristic of countries over which puritanism has passed” (I.171.27-9) can no longer be relied on, and “the silly desire for the appearance of a large expenditure” still “has the force of a passion” (I.171.33-4).

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The problems of population crop up throughout the Principles. The study of production becomes a study of the race between production and population. In the chapter on the “Law of the Increase of Labour” (I, x), it is held that “It is a very low estimate of the capacity of increase, if we only assume, that in a good sanitary condition of the people, each generation may be double the number of the generation which preceded it” (I.155.11-3). That population does not increase at that pace is not “through a providential adaptation of the fecundity of the human species to the exigencies of society” (I.155.20-1) but through “prudent or conscientious self-restraint” (I.157.35-6). An “acceleration of the rate [of population increase] very speedily follows any diminution of the motives to restraint” (I.159.7-8). Thus the problem is posed: “Unless, either by their general improvement in intellectual and moral culture, or at least by raising their habitual standard of comfortable living, they can be taught to make a better use of favourable circumstances, nothing permanent can be done for them; the most promising schemes end only in having a more numerous, but not a happier people” (I.159.14-8). The problem is here posed as an individual one; in Chapter xiii it is posed as a social one. “The return to labour has probably increased as fast as the population; and would have outstripped it, if that very augmentation of return had not called forth an additional portion of the inherent power of multiplication in the human species. . . . [N]othing could have prevented a general deterioration in the condition of the human race, were it not that population has in fact been restrained. Had it been restrained still more, and the same improvements taken place, there would have been a larger dividend. . . . The new ground wrung from nature by the improvements would not have been all used up in the support of mere numbers.” (I.189.36—190.17.)

In Book II there is further discussion of the prospects for prudence. In his discussion of communism (Chapter i) he appears less afraid of the population effect than was Malthus: there would be provided “motives to restraint.” “. . . Communism is precisely the state of things in which opinion might be expected to declare itself with greatest intensity against this kind of selfish intemperance. . . . [O]pinion could not fail to reprobate, and if reprobation did not suffice, to repress by penalties of some description, this or any other culpable self-indulgence at the expense of the community” (I.206.9-19). This sounds more like Orwell’s bad dream of 1984 than the sentiments of the author of the essay On Liberty!

He recurs to the problem in his three chapters on wages (II, xi, xii, and xiii). Again the “motives for restraint” are the primary concern: “No remedies for low wages have the smallest chance of being efficacious, which Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] do not operate on and through the minds and habits of the people” (I.366.6-7). Education might help. “If the opinion were once generally established among the labouring class that their welfare required a due regulation of the numbers of families, the respectable and well-conducted of the body would conform to the prescription . . .” (I.372.16-8). But a more important influence would follow the admission of women “to the same rights of citizenship with men” (I.372.28—373.1). In commenting on “hard-hearted Malthusianism” he said: “as if it were not a thousand times more hard-hearted to tell human beings that they may, than that they may not, call into existence swarms of creatures who are sure to be miserable . . . and forgetting that the conduct, which it is reckoned so cruel to disapprove, is a degrading slavery to a brute instinct in one of the persons concerned, and . . . in the other, helpless submission to a revolting abuse of power” (I.352.6-12). And later: “It is seldom by the choice of the wife that families are too numerous; on her devolves (along with all the physical suffering and at least a full share of the privations) the whole of the intolerable domestic drudgery resulting from the excess. . . . Among the barbarisms which law and morals have not yet ceased to sanction, the most disgusting surely is, that any human being should be permitted to consider himself as having a right to the person of another” (I.372.6-15). To education and a change in the status of women must be added, Mill argued, a dramatic improvement in the condition of the poor. The minor improvement resulting from the repeal of the Corn Laws he did not consider important. “Things which only affect them a very little, make no permanent impression upon their habits and requirements, and they soon slide back into their former state. To produce permanent advantage, the temporary cause operating upon them must be sufficient to make a great change in their condition. . . . Of cases in point, the most remarkable is France after the Revolution” (I.342.21-32). He recurs to this point in Chapter xiii. “For the purpose therefore of altering the habits of the labouring people, there is need of a twofold action, directed simultaneously upon their intelligence and their poverty. An effective national education of the children of the labouring class, is the first thing needful: and, coincidently with this, a system of measures which shall (as the Revolution did in France) extinguish extreme poverty for one whole generation” (I.374.34-9). “Unless comfort can be made as habitual to a whole generation as indigence is now, nothing is accomplished; and feeble half-measures do but fritter away resources . . .” (I.378.11-4). All of this is highly relevant to the problem of the modern world; I propose to underline only one point. With reference to the poorer countries with high fertility one may well ask whether external aid, like poor relief in nineteenth-century England, may simply postpone the necessary adjustment in the birth rate, may be “frittered away,” mere numbers Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] rather than happiness resulting. One may also wonder whether Mill had the answer for his day and for ours. He saw that relief (or aid) must be on a massive scale to permit the dawn of hope. If this is correct, as I believe it to be, we should concentrate our “aid” on a few countries, and those countries must be chosen as most nearly ready for massive improvement. This “hard-hearted Malthusianism” would be hard to practise. The choice of those to be aided would be heart-breaking; and there is the danger that those not chosen will in exasperation and frustration do injury to themselves and us.38


In the “Preliminary Remarks,” Mill distinguished the laws of production from those of distribution. The “manner in which wealth is distributed in any given society, depends on the statutes or usages therein obtaining” (I.21.17-8). So, at the beginning of Book II, he says: “The laws and conditions of the production of wealth partake of the character of physical truths. . . . It is not so with the Distribution of Wealth. That is a matter of human institution solely” (I.199.4-29). In fact Mill has much to say about the effect on productivity of “human institutions” as I propose to demonstrate. The really important distinction that he made was between the inevitability of the consequences which flow from any given circumstances and the freedom to modify the circumstances. Thus in the “Preliminary Remarks” he says: “though governments or nations have the power of deciding what institutions shall exist, they cannot arbitrarily determine how those institutions shall work” (I.21.18-20). And in Book II: “We have here to consider, not the causes, but the consequences, of the rules according to which wealth may be distributed. Those, at least, are as little arbitrary, and have as much the character of physical laws, as the laws of production. Human beings can control their own acts, but not the consequences of their acts either to themselves or to others” (I.200.20-5). One of these “consequences” is reflected in productivity. It is of great importance to recognize the effect of “institutions” on productivity, and in particular to recognize the effect on productivity of institutions devised with a view to improving the distribution of wealth. The smaller the amount to be divided the more seriously must the effect of redistribution on the size of the dividend be examined. The problem becomes one of identifying “useful injustices” (as Sir Dennis Robertson has called them).39

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In the chapter on the “Degrees of Productiveness” the importance of “Security” is emphasized. “This consists of protection by the government, and protection against the government” (I.112.4-5), and much of it seems to be “the effect of manners and opinion rather than of law” (I.114.11-2). The key sentence is this: “the efficiency of industry may be expected to be great, in proportion as the fruits of industry are insured to the person exerting it” (I.114.33-5). This is a recurrent theme. In Chapter ix, when discussing the conduct of large scale enterprise by joint stock, he states two qualifications of the manager: “fidelity and zeal.” The former he thinks it is easy to secure, the latter very difficult. The “directing mind should be incessantly occupied with the subject; should be continually laying schemes by which greater profit may be obtained. . . . This intensity of interest . . . it is seldom to be expected that any one should feel, who is conducting a business as the hired servant and for the profit of another. There are experiments in human affairs which are conclusive on the point. Look at the whole class of rulers, and ministers of state” (I.137.39—138.5). Again, in Chapter xii, the doctrine is applied to agriculture: “Improvements in government, and almost every kind of moral and social advancement, operate in the same manner. Suppose a country in the condition of France before the Revolution: taxation imposed . . . on such a principle as to be an actual penalty on production. . . . Was not the hurricane which swept away this system of things, even if we look no further than to its effect in augmenting the productiveness of labour, equivalent to many industrial inventions?” (I.183.6-14). From taxation we turn to tenure to note the effect in Ireland “of a bad system of tenancy, in rendering agricultural labour slack and ineffective. No improvements operate more directly upon the productiveness of labour, than those in the tenure of farms, and in the laws relating to landed property” (I.183.24-7). So, in Book I, on “Production,” discussion of the expediency of social institutions crept in, and in Book II, on “Distribution,” the problems of justice did not crowd out the problems of expediency through effects on production.

The chapter on “Property” (II, i) underwent very great changes. In the preface to the 2nd edition, Mill says that the objections stated in the 1st edition to “the specific schemes propounded by some Socialists, have been erroneously understood as a general condemnation of all that is commonly included under that name” (I.xcii.35-7). To meet the objection he enlarged the chapter. In the 3rd edition he rewrote it. “The only objection to which any great importance will be found to be attached in the present edition, is the unprepared state of mankind in general, and of the labouring classes in particular; their extreme unfitness at present for any order of Edition: current; Page: [l] things, which would make any considerable demand on either their intellect or their virtue” (I.xciii.12-6). These changes, and his later posthumous Chapters on Socialism, provide scope for long debates about how socialistic Mill was at various points in his career. What is really valuable is not his changing answers, but his continuing questions. The criteria for judging society as it existed, and society as it might be, emerge from the questions. One of the criteria is the degree of motivation to work:

The objection ordinarily made to a system of community of property and equal distribution of the produce, that each person would be incessantly occupied in evading his fair share of the work, points, undoubtedly, to a real difficulty. But those who urge this objection, forget to how great an extent the same difficulty exists under the system on which nine-tenths of the business of society is now conducted. . . . From the Irish reaper or hodman to the chief justice or the minister of state, nearly all the work of society is remunerated by day wages or fixed salaries. A factory operative has less personal interest in his work than a member of a Communist association. . . . Mankind are capable of a far greater amount of public spirit than the present age is accustomed to suppose possible. . . . To what extent, therefore, the energy of labour would be diminished by Communism, or whether in the long run it would be diminished at all, must be considered . . . an undecided question.


This is a more favourable judgment than that in the 1st edition, and is seemingly inconsistent with the general attitude of the Principles on motivation and incentive. The explanation of the change and the “inconsistency” lies in the addition of “two conditions . . . without which neither Communism nor any other laws or institutions could make the condition of the mass of mankind other than degraded and miserable. One of these conditions is universal education; the other, a due limitation of the numbers of the community” (I.208.21-5). He may dream of a utopia where pecuniary incentives are unnecessary; but he has a very realistic recognition of the importance of pecuniary incentives for some time to come: “we may, without attempting to limit the ultimate capabilities of human nature, affirm, that the political economist, for a considerable time to come, will be chiefly concerned with the conditions of existence and progress belonging to a society founded on private property and individual competition” (I.214.5-9).

If productivity is assured under “Communism” there remains the question of “human liberty and spontaneity.” Of liberty as an end in itself I have said something earlier. One sentence has peculiar relevance to the modern world: “No society in which eccentricity is a matter of reproach, can be in a wholesome state” (I.209.33-4). But here the concern is with productivity and I would argue that the atmosphere of liberty and spontaneity is especially conducive to productivity. Indeed I think Mill would so argue, and in support of this view I would cite his attitude to competition as Edition: current; Page: [li] developed in the chapter on the “Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes” (IV, vii) in a section, be it noted, that was added in the 3rd edition. “To be protected against competition is to be protected in idleness, in mental dulness . . .” (II.795.37-8). Competition, innovation, enterprise, are the fruits of liberty, the complement of spontaneity. Mill’s dissent from the socialists’ declamation against competition comes at the end of his discussion of co-operative societies: communism was a matter of the distant future, co-operatives promised improvement in the immediate future. The co-operative movement promised, not only a new dignity to labour and “the healing of the standing feud between capital and labour” (II.792.7-8), but a great increase in the “productiveness of labour.” This increase would result from the “vast stimulus given to productive energies, by placing the labourers, as a mass, in a relation to their work which would make it their principle and their interest—at present it is neither—to do the utmost, instead of the least possible, in exchange for their remuneration” (II.792.1-5). Yet Mill believed that it would be desirable, “for a considerable length of time,” that individual capitalists should “coexist” with co-operative societies. “A private capitalist, exempt from the control of a body, if he is a person of capacity, is considerably more likely than almost any association to run judicious risks, and originate costly improvements” (II.793.3-5).

Along with his admiration for the co-operative association in industry, Mill had a curiously individualistic attitude to the organization of agriculture. His chapters on “Peasant Proprietors,” “Metayers,” and “Cottiers” all reflect his idealization of the small agriculturists of Wordsworth’s Lakes (I.253n). The theme is essentially motivation to hard work: “ ‘The magic of property turns sand to gold. . . . Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden. . . .’ ” (I.274.19-30.) But it is not just a matter of increased exertion: peasant proprietorship stimulates “mental activity” and is “propitious to the moral virtues of prudence, temperance, and self-control. Day-labourers . . . are usually improvident. . . . [P]easant proprietors . . . are oftener accused of penuriousness than of prodigality” (I.281.28—282.8). Mill indeed recognized the dangers of morcellement and the advantages of grande culture, but he concluded that compared with the English system of cultivation by hired labour peasant proprietorship was “eminently beneficial” and he did not feel “on the present occasion called upon to compare it with the joint ownership of the land by associations of labourers” (I.296.2-4).

Mill proceeded to examine two other systems of tenure: metayers and cottiers. He contrasts the happy stage of Lombardy and its metayers with the miserable condition of the Irish cottiers. “Under a metayer system there is an established mode in which the owner of land is sure of participating Edition: current; Page: [lii] in the increased produce drawn from it” (I.316.5-7). Of the cottier he says: “If the landlord at any time exerted his full legal rights, the cottier would not be able even to live. If by extra exertion he doubled the produce of his bit of land, or if he prudently abstained from producing mouths to eat it up, his only gain would be to have more left to pay to his landlord . . . if he is lazy or intemperate, it is at his landlord’s expense” (I.318.30—319.3). Mill watched closely the revolution in Ireland, and Cairnes (as is clear from Appendix H) kept him posted. Repeal of the Corn Laws “would of itself have sufficed to bring about this revolution in tenure” (I.333.2-3), but it was “immensely facilitated and made more rapid by the vast emigration, as well as by that greatest boon ever conferred on Ireland by any Government, the Encumbered Estates Act” (I.332.6-9). The change, however, was toward the English system of capitalist farming; “The truly insular ignorance of her public men respecting a form of agricultural economy which predominates in nearly every other civilized country” made it doubtful whether action would be taken to promote peasant proprietorship; “Yet there are germs of a tendency . . .” (I.334.7-10).


“Happily,” said Mill, “there is nothing in the laws of value which remains for the present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is complete.” This was injudicious. Professor Schumpeter, commenting on the state of the economic science just before World War I in his Preface to Dr. Zeuthen’s Problems of Monopoly,40 gave one reason for thinking it injudicious:

There was a belief that the great work had been done—a belief very similar to that expressed by Mill in that famous passage. . . . In a sense, this attitude was both right and fruitful. Great work had undoubtedly been done, and it was certainly necessary to bend to the task of defending, expounding and applying it. Yet there was some danger of petrifaction ahead, and the almost immediate rise of anti-theoretic schools of thought . . . is the proof that Theory was about to pay the penalty for that air of finality which was beginning to get on the nerves of the rising generation in very much the same way as it did in the case of Mill.

It appeared injudicious, too, in the light of the new theory of the “neoclassics” which soon emerged as victor (albeit a relatively considerate and co-operative victor) in the “war of the methods.” Because there has been some misunderstanding as to the nature of the advance made from Mill to Jevons, and consequently some misunderstanding of Mill, I propose to state very briefly what I consider to have been the real improvements.

The new analysis of marginal utility seems to me to be the least important Edition: current; Page: [liii] element: the solution of the paradox of water and diamonds was academically interesting but little was added, if anything, to the understanding of the role of demand in the process of exchange. The essential notion of elasticity of demand, present in Adam Smith, was clarified in Mill and only waited to be christened by Marshall. The notion of “consumers’ sovereignty,” again without the name, was basic to the economics of Mill, as of Adam Smith: and it might well be argued that this general notion of appropriate economic organization makes more sense than the precision of the demonstrations of the conditions for maximizing utility, having in mind the fact that the utility for any individual is unmeasurable and that interpersonal comparisons are strictly impossible. Edgeworth’s verdict on Mill’s performance, in his article in Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy, is just: “The general theory of demand and supply seems to be stated by Mill as clearly as is possible without the aid of mathematical apparatus.”41 If utility analysis added little to the general theory of demand, the utility theorists did make very important advances. Perhaps the most important advances lay in the clear recognition of the simultaneous pricing of goods and factors of production, and of the generality of the notion of “variable proportions” leading to elucidation of the role of substitution. Closely related was the development of the concept of “alternative opportunity” as the basis of cost. Much of the confusion of the classics in dealing with capital appears to me to have been compounded by the capital theory of Jevons and Bohm Bawerk, but the way out was demonstrated by Walras when he treated the pricing of the services of people and of durable goods as essentially the same and went on to discuss the pricing of the durable goods as the sources of those services. Perhaps equally important with these specific advances lay the advance towards more precision in the specification of models with the promise of more rigorous theory and with the clearer obligation to recognize the difficulty of using such theory in understanding the real economic process, in diagnosing its ills and in prescribing remedies.

When the pricing of the factors of production is seen as part of a whole process of equilibrium, the organization of Mill’s Principles appears very odd. Distribution is the subject of Book II; pricing is left to Book III. It is true that he says that he has not “escaped the necessity of anticipating some small portion of the theory of Value, especially as to the value of labour and of land” (II.455.12-3), but, at the end of Book III, the chapter on “Distribution as Affected by Exchange” is devoted to the thesis that distribution is not affected by exchange. “Wages depend on the ratio between population and capital; and would do so if all the capital in the world were the property of one association, or if the capitalists among whom it is shared Edition: current; Page: [liv] maintained each an establishment for the production of every article consumed in the community, exchange of commodities having no existence” (II.695.26—696.2). Similarly, rent: “Exchange, and money, therefore, make no difference in the law of rent” (II.698.9-10). And profits: “Wages and Rent being thus regulated by the same principles when paid in money, as they would be if apportioned in kind, it follows that Profits are so likewise. For the surplus, after replacing wages and paying rent, constitutes Profits” (II.698.18-21). The verdict of Alfred Marshall is found in his Appendix J:

By putting his main theory of wages before his account of supply and demand, he cut himself off from the chance of treating that theory in a satisfactory way. . . . The fact is that the theories of Distribution and Exchange are so intimately connected as to be little more than two sides of the same problem. . . . If Mill had recognized this great truth he would not have been drawn on to appear to substitute, as he did in his second Book, the statement of the problem of wages for its solution: but he would have combined the description and analysis in his second Book, with the short but profound study of the causes that govern the distribution of the national dividend, given in his fourth Book.42

Noting Marshall’s assessment of the profundity of Book IV, perhaps one should remember the limitation, as well as the value, of the new pricing theory: Mill ignored the importance of the pricing process in the theory of distribution but his successors were too readily content with a static solution. Mill may have been unsatisfactory in his explanation of why factor prices were what they were, but he had brilliant insights into the probable trend of change. And his successors were too ready to accept a theory of the pricing of factors as a theory (not just a part of a theory) of distribution ignoring the really exciting problems of why particular people had particular factors for sale at these prices.

To the thesis that distribution is not affected by exchange is added the further thesis that the process of exchange is unaffected by money:

There cannot, in short, be intrinsically a more insignificant thing, in the economy of society, than money; except in the character of a contrivance for sparing time and labour. It is a machine for doing quickly and commodiously, what would be done, though less quickly and commodiously, without it: and like many other kinds of machinery, it only exerts a distinct and independent influence of its own when it gets out of order.

The introduction of money does not interfere with the operation of any of the Laws of Value laid down in the preceding chapters.


What follows is a sequence of chapters on money, monetary theory, and monetary policy, which indicate that he knew that the “machinery” very easily got out of order, so that money was in fact far from “insignificant.” I do not propose to examine these chapters in detail but I assert that they Edition: current; Page: [lv] wear well. They need to be read, however, with patience; an initial dogmatic statement is later qualified. His assertion of the “quantity theory,” for instance, is followed by qualifications which “under a complex system of credit like that existing in England, render the proposition an extremely incorrect expression of the fact” (II.516.32-4). Professor Schumpeter has said of these chapters that “they contain some of Mill’s best work. [They display] indeed some contradictions, hesitations, and unassimilated compromises . . . but even these were not unmixed evils since they brought out, in strange contrast to Mill’s own belief in the finality of his teaching, the unfinished state of the analysis of that time, and thus indicated lines for further research to follow.”43 Of the chapters on international trade the judgment is more universally favourable, the development of the relationship between reciprocal demand and the commodity terms of trade being considered by Professor Viner to constitute “his chief claim to originality in the field of economics.”44 This favourable judgment is related to his performance in the static sphere; it is only in recent years that the dynamic aspect of his trade theory has been revived. When Mill denounced the fallacy of Adam Smith’s “vent for surplus” approach to the benefit of foreign trade, “that it afforded an outlet for the surplus produce of a country” (II.592.12-3), he turned his back on the development aspects of the problem of unproductive labour, and argued on the level of the static theorists. The new concern for the economics of growth has brought new appreciation of the Adam Smith approach. Professor Allyn Young45 and J. H. Williams46 were among the first in this generation to recognize the value of that part of international trade theory that had been considered “crude” and fallacious by the orthodox. Professor Myint47 has shown that “in general, the ‘vent-for-surplus’ theory produces a more effective approach than the comparative costs theory to the international trade of the underdeveloped countries.” He recognized that this theory “does not provide an exact fit to all the particular patterns of development,” but that it is more relevant than a theory which “assumes that the resources of a country are given and fully employed before it enters into international trade.” Professor Myint was concerned with the relatively backward countries: but no countries are “fully developed” and in all it is necessary to consider more than effective allocation of given resources, in all there are some unused Edition: current; Page: [lvi] productive capacities, some additional resources to develop. We should pay attention therefore to what Mill has to say about the “indirect effects” of international trade “which must be counted as benefits of a high order” (II.593.24-5). One of these indirect effects is “the tendency of every extension of the market to improve the processes of production” (II.593.25-6); another is that the opening of a new market “sometimes works a sort of industrial revolution in a country whose resources were previously undeveloped for want of energy and ambition in the people” (II.593.39—594.2).


The “agenda” of government change with changes in the nature of the economy, with changes in the character (particularly the honesty and efficiency) of the government. We do not look at the English prescription for 1848 as likely to be satisfactory for the England of 1965, nor do we look for one prescription appropriate for all countries in 1965. But examination of Mill’s writing on the “influence of government,” on the “economical effects” of the manner in which governments carry on their “necessary” functions and on the proper extension of their optional functions, is not just a matter for the economic historian. As in other parts of the inquiry, questions are raised that still demand answers, and insight may be stimulated to the point where answers relevant to our time may be found. But the answers depend on much more than “economical” effects; liberty and democracy are at issue:

impatient reformers, thinking it easier and shorter to get possession of the government than of the intellects and dispositions of the public, are under a constant temptation to stretch the province of government. . . [and] many rash proposals are made by sincere lovers of improvement, for attempting, by compulsory regulation, the attainment of objects which can only be effectually or only usefully compassed by opinion and discussion . . . .


The itch to interfere, to impose one’s will on others, might seem to need restraining, but Mill had no narrow concept of the function of government: “the admitted functions of government embrace a much wider field than can easily be included within the ring-fence of any restrictive definition, and . . . it is hardly possible to find any ground of justification common to them all, except the comprehensive one of general expediency; nor to limit the interference of government by any universal rule, save the simple and vague one, that it should never be admitted but when the case of expediency is strong” (II.803.42—804.6).

In Book I Mill had emphasized the economic importance of security of person and property, and in Book II he had argued that the rights of property were not absolute. He returns to these matters in Book V. Edition: current; Page: [lvii] “Insecurity of person and property . . . means, not only that labour and frugality are not the road to acquisition, but that violence is” (II.880.11-7). But there is also the very suggestive qualification: “a certain degree of insecurity, in some combinations of circumstances, has good as well as bad effects, by making energy and practical ability the conditions of safety. Insecurity paralyzes, only when it is such in nature and in degree, that no energy of which mankind in general are capable, affords any tolerable means of self-protection.” (II.881.19-24.) After some discussion of the imperfection of the laws of property, he reverts to the problem of inheritance which he had discussed in Book II. He argues that “no one person should be permitted to acquire, by inheritance, more than the amount of a moderate independence” (II.887.19-21). In Book II he had noted, with scorn, the view that “the best thing which can be done for objects of affection is to heap on them to satiety those intrinsically worthless things on which large fortunes are mostly expended” (I.225.22-4). If restriction of the right to inherit could be made effectual, “wealth which could no longer be employed in over-enriching a few, would either be devoted to objects of public usefulness, or if bestowed on individuals, would be distributed among a larger number” (I.226.4-6). He noted with great approval the endowment of charitable foundations in the United States “where the ideas and practice in the matter of inheritance seem to be unusually rational and beneficial” (I.226.18-9), and he comments that to make similar bequests in England would be to run “the risk of being declared insane by a jury after . . . death, or at the least, of having the property wasted in a Chancery suit to set aside the will” (I.226.n18-21).

The “optional” functions of government are treated in two chapters: one deals with those “grounded on erroneous theories” (V, x), the other discusses in general the “grounds and limits of the laisser-faire or non-interference principle” (V, xi). In the former I would note his discussion of Protectionism, “the most notable” of the false theories. But the “infant industry” plea is recognized:

The superiority of one country over another in a branch of production, often arises only from having begun it sooner. There may be no inherent advantage on one part, or disadvantage on the other, but only a present superiority of acquired skill and experience. A country which has this skill and experience yet to acquire, may in other respects be better adapted to the production than those which were earlier in the field: and besides, it is a just remark of Mr. Rae, that nothing has a greater tendency to promote improvements in any branch of production, than its trial under a new set of conditions. But it cannot be expected that individuals should, at their own risk, or rather to their certain loss, introduce a new manufacture, and bear the burthen of carrying it on until the producers have been educated up to the level of those with whom the processes are traditional.

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But if infants are to be protected, they must grow up to compete freely with the world. I would also note his treatment of the Combination Laws. Mill recognized “a limited power of obtaining, by combination, an increase of general wages at the expense of profits” (II.930.2-3). But he argued that the “limits of this power are narrow” (II.930.3-4). He denounced those “aristocratic” unions which were “hedging themselves in against competition, and protecting their own wages by shutting out others from access to their employment” (II.931.27-8). He insisted that it is “an indispensable condition of tolerating combinations, that they should be voluntary” (II.933.16-7). He considered mischievous the opposition to piece work and the insistence on equal pay for all workers of a given grade: mischievous because “they place the energetic and the idle, the skilful and the incompetent, on a level” (II.934.4-5). But he argued the right to free association: “though combinations to keep up wages are seldom effectual . . . the right of making the attempt is one which cannot be refused to any portion of the working population without great injustice, or without the probability of fatally misleading them respecting the circumstances which determine their condition. So long as combinations to raise wages were prohibited by law, the law appeared to the operatives to be the real cause of the low wages. . . .” (II.931.37—932.7.) What Mill did not perceive was the change in the status of the worker which strong unions might achieve: conditions of employment other than wages became a matter of contract, and the development of a “grievance procedure” gave protection against management, especially against the petty tyranny of the lower levels. Perception of this change would have led to a very different chapter on the “Probable Futurity of the Working Class” from that actually written.

The limits of the province of government are discussed in the last chapter of the book. First there is the plea for “privacy”: “there is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion, within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled. . . . [T]here is, or ought to be, some space in human existence thus entrenched around, and sacred from authoritative intrusion. . . .” (II.938.4-8.) The second “general objection” is that every increase of the functions “devolving on the government is an increase of its power, both in the form of authority, and still more, in the indirect form of influence” (II.939.14-6). The danger of such power, no less in a democracy than in any other form of government, makes it necessary to develop “powerful defences, in order to maintain that originality of mind and individuality of character, which are the only source of any real progress” (II.940.3-5). A third “general objection” lies in the danger of overloading: “Every additional function undertaken by the government, is a fresh occupation imposed upon a body already overcharged with duties” (II.940.17-9). The final objection is that Edition: current; Page: [lix] which Alfred Marshall later stressed in relation to “small business”: “The business of life is an essential part of the practical education of a people . . .” (II.943.1-2). Finally Mill proceeded to discuss some cases of appropriate interference. Public provision of elementary education is defended, but a monopoly of that provision is denounced: “A government which can mould the opinions and sentiments of the people from their youth upwards, can do with them whatever it pleases” (II.950.19-21). Support of research I have already noted as one of his important items of government policy:

The fellowships of the Universities are an institution excellently adapted for such a purpose; but are hardly ever applied to it, being bestowed, at the best, as a reward for past proficiency, in committing to memory what has been done by others, and not as the salary of future labours in the advancement of knowledge. . . . The most effectual plan . . . seems to be that of conferring Professorships, with duties of instruction attached to them. The occupation of teaching a branch of knowledge, at least in its higher departments, is a help rather than an impediment to the systematic cultivation of the subject itself. The duties of a professorship almost always leave much time for original researches; and the greatest advances which have been made in the various sciences, both moral and physical, have originated with those who were public teachers of them. . . .


A generous statement this from a servant of the East India Company who was developing further the economics of the stockbroker Ricardo—but Adam Smith and T. R. Malthus were professors.


i have written about the Principles as an individual book with little reference to the context of the whole thought of Mill or of the thought of the mid-nineteenth century. To have done otherwise would have involved embarking on a book, not an introductory essay. But reference must be made to Mill’s own account of the context in his Autobiography.48 The beginning of his study of economics at the age of thirteen was strictly Ricardian:

Though Ricardo’s great work was already in print, no didactic treatise embodying its doctrines, in a manner fit for learners, had yet appeared. My father, therefore, commenced instructing me in the science by a sort of lectures, which he delivered to me in our walks. He expounded each day a portion of the subject, and I gave him next day a written account of it, which he made me rewrite over and over again until it was clear, precise, and tolerably complete. In this manner I went through the whole extent of the science; and the written outline of it which resulted from my daily compte rendu, served him afterwards Edition: current; Page: [lx] as notes from which to write his Elements of Political Economy. After this I read Ricardo, giving an account daily of what I read, and discussing, in the best manner I could, the collateral points which offered themselves in our progress.

On Money, as the most intricate part of the subject, he made me read in the same manner Ricardo’s admirable pamphlets, written during what was called the Bullion controversy; to these succeeded Adam Smith; and in this reading it was one of my father’s main objects to make me apply to Smith’s more superficial view of political economy, the superior lights of Ricardo, and detect what was fallacious in Smith’s arguments, or erroneous in any of his conclusions.49

Two years later he went over the same ground again:

my father was just finishing for the press his “Elements of Political Economy,” and he made me perform an exercise on the manuscript, which Mr. Bentham practised on all of his writings, making what he called, “marginal contents”; a short abstract of every paragraph, to enable the writer more easily to judge of, and improve, the order of the ideas, and the general character of the exposition.50

Four years later he reviewed the same material in company with a group of young men who met in Mr. Grote’s house in Threadneedle Street:

Our first subject was Political Economy. We chose some systematic treatise as our text-book; my father’s “Elements” being our first choice. One of us read aloud a chapter, or some smaller portion of the book. The discussion was then opened, and any one who had an objection, or other remark to make, made it. Our rule was to discuss thoroughly every point raised, whether great or small, prolonging the discussion until all who took part were satisfied with the conclusion they had individually arrived at; and to follow up every topic of collateral speculation which the chapter or the conversation suggested, never leaving it until we had untied every knot which we found. We repeatedly kept up the discussion of some one point for several weeks, thinking intently on it during the intervals of our meetings, and contriving solutions of the new difficulties which had risen up in the last morning’s discussion. When we had finished in this way my father’s Elements, we went in the same manner through Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy, and Bailey’s Dissertation on Value. These close and vigorous discussions were not only improving in a high degree to those who took part in them, but brought out new views of some topics of abstract Political Economy. The theory of International Values which I afterwards published, emanated from these conversations, as did also the modified form of Ricardo’s theory of Profits, laid down in my Essay on Profits and Interest.51

The account in the Autobiography of the impact on the Ricardian, Benthamite Mill, of Coleridge, Maurice, Sterling, St. Simon, and Comte, of Carlyle, and finally of Harriet Taylor, cannot here be quoted, but if not familiar should be read by every reader of the Principles. Here I confine Edition: current; Page: [lxi] myself to the direct references to the Principles. The point of view is evident in his explanation of the change of his views from the days of his “extreme Benthamism” to the time when he wrote this treatise:

In those days I had seen little further than the old school of political economists into the possibilities of fundamental improvement in social arrangements. Private property, as now understood, and inheritance, appeared to me, as to them, the dernier mot of legislation: and I looked no further than to mitigating the inequalities consequent on these institutions, by getting rid of primogeniture and entails. The notion that it was possible to go further than this in removing the injustice—for injustice it is, whether admitting of a complete remedy or not—involved in the fact that some are born to riches and the vast majority to poverty, I then reckoned chimerical, and only hoped that by universal education, leading to voluntary restraint on population, the portion of the poor might be made more tolerable. In short, I was a democrat, but not the least of a Socialist. We were now much less democrats than I had been, because so long as education continues to be so wretchedly imperfect, we dreaded the ignorance and especially the selfishness and brutality of the mass: but our ideal of ultimate improvement went far beyond Democracy, and would class us decidedly under the general designation of Socialists. While we repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The social problem of the future we considered to be, how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action, with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labour.52

He then described the production of the book:

In the “Principles of Political Economy,” these opinions were promulgated, less clearly and fully in the first edition, rather more so in the second, and quite unequivocally in the third. The difference arose partly from the change of times, the first edition having been written and sent to press before the French Revolution of 1848, after which the public mind became more open to the reception of novelties in opinion, and doctrines appeared moderate which would have been thought very startling a short time before. In the first edition the difficulties of Socialism were stated so strongly, that the tone was on the whole that of opposition to it. In the year or two which followed, much time was given to the study of the best Socialistic writers on the Continent, and to meditation and discussion on the whole range of topics involved in the controversy: and the result was that most of what had been written on the subject Edition: current; Page: [lxii] in the first edition was cancelled, and replaced by arguments and reflections which represent a more advanced opinion.

The Political Economy was far more rapidly executed than the Logic, or indeed than anything of importance which I had previously written. It was commenced in the autumn of 1845, and was ready for the press before the end of 1847.53

Finally, there is Mill’s generous, perhaps over-generous, account of the part played by Harriet Taylor:

The first of my books in which her share was conspicuous was the “Principles of Political Economy.” The “System of Logic” owed little to her except in the minuter matters of composition, in which respect my writings, both great and small, have largely benefited by her accurate and clear-sighted criticism. The chapter of the Political Economy which has had a greater influence on opinion than all the rest, that on “the Probable Future of the Labouring Classes,” is entirely due to her: in the first draft of the book, that chapter did not exist. She pointed out the need of such a chapter, and the extreme imperfection of the book without it: she was the cause of my writing it; and the more general part of the chapter, the statement and discussion of the two opposite theories respecting the proper condition of the labouring classes, was wholly an exposition of her thoughts, often in words taken from her own lips. The purely scientific part of the Political Economy I did not learn from her; but it was chiefly her influence that gave to the book that general tone by which it is distinguished from all previous expositions of Political Economy that had any pretension to being scientific, and which has made it so useful in conciliating minds which those previous expositions had repelled. This tone consisted chiefly in making the proper distinction between the laws of the Production of Wealth, which are real laws of nature, dependent on the properties of objects, and the modes of its Distribution, which, subject to certain conditions, depend on human will. The common run of political economists confuse these together, under the designation of economic laws, which they deem incapable of being defeated or modified by human effort; ascribing the same necessity to things dependent on the unchangeable conditions of our earthly existence, and to those which, being but the necessary consequences of particular social arrangements, are merely co-extensive with these: given certain institutions and customs, wages, profits, and rent will be determined by certain causes; but this class of political economists drop the indispensable presupposition, and argue that these causes must, by an inherent necessity, against which no human means can avail, determine the shares which fall, in the division of the produce, to labourers, capitalists, and landlords. The “Principles of Political Economy” yielded to none of its predecessors in aiming at the scientific appreciation of the action of these causes, under the conditions which they presuppose; but it set the example of not treating those conditions as final. The economic generalization which depend, not on necessities of nature but on those combined with the existing arrangements of society, it deals with only as provisional, and as liable to be much altered by the progress of social improvement.54

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I conclude with a quotation from Professor Harold Laski’s introduction to the World’s Classics edition of the Autobiography:

The modern economist may use a technique more refined than that of Mill; he rarely conveys the same sense of generous insight into his material. The modern logician has an apparatus incomparably more delicate and subtle; but those very qualities make his work less accessible, and therefore, less educative than Mill’s. The tradition is different because he wrote; and that, after all, is the final answer to critical analysis.55

In this judgment I concur.

Edition: current; Page: [lxiv] Edition: current; Page: [lxv]

Textual Introduction


john stuart mill’s Principles of Political Economy, with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, went through seven Library editions (in two volumes) in his lifetime, plus a People’s edition (in one volume of difficult double-column type) which was frequently reissued. The first five editions were published by Parker; the last two Library editions and the People’s editions by Longmans.1

Mill, evidently encouraged by Parker’s willingness to publish his Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy in 1844 (consequent upon the success of his System of Logic in the preceding year), decided to write “a systematic treatise on Political Economy” as early as April, 1844,2 and as his letters to Comte in the spring of that year show, he already had his line of approach in mind. Not until the autumn of 1845, however, did he begin to write the first draft, which was completed early in March, 1847. Mill expected to finish the book in a few months,3 and probably he spent little more than a few months on it, for in this period of less than a year and a half he took a two-month holiday, revised and published the 2nd edition of his Logic, wrote two long articles for the Edinburgh Review and a notice in the Spectator, and supplied fifty-eight leaders for the Morning Chronicle, forty-three of them (5 Oct., 1846-7 Jan., 1847) on Irish affairs.4 He also, of course, continued his duties at the Edition: current; Page: [lxvi] East India House. From the account in Alexander Bain’s John Stuart Mill (London: Longmans, Green, 1882), 84-7, we learn that “the third part” is written by February, 1846; in September of the same year (after the appearance of the 2nd edition of the Logic, and his holiday) he writes to Bain that he is “on the point of finishing the third book (‘Exchange’).” And in December he says: “I continue to carry on the Pol. Econ. as well as I can with the articles in the Chronicle.

The rewriting, from March to December, 1847 (when the work went to press), was less interrupted, Mill publishing only five leaders, a notice, and a letter during this period. The Principles was published in April, 1848, in an edition of one thousand copies. This was sold out within a year, and a second edition, also of a thousand copies, appeared a year later (having been revised during February and March).5 The third edition, of 1200 copies, the Preface dated July, 1852,6 was the most extensively revised of all the editions. Further Library editions appeared in 1857 (4th),7 1862 (5th), 1865 (6th), and 1871 (7th). Also, in 1865, “in compliance with a wish frequently expressed to [him] by working men” (Autobiography, 195), Mill published a cheap People’s edition of the Principles which went through several reprintings.8

The early draft seems to have disappeared, along with all proof sheets, and the manuscript of the press copy contains only Volume I of the published work (Books I and II, and Chapters i-vi of Book III, with the Appendix to Volume I).

The editions vary little in length (there is a slight increase in bulk over the years, the 7th edition being eighty-three pages longer than the 1st), but a word by word collation of the Library editions reveals a huge number of variants: there are over 500 substantive variants between the MS and Volume I of the 1st edition; between the 1st and 7th editions there are nearly 3000: making about 3500 in all.9

Mill’s successive prefaces call attention to the fact of revision, but except Edition: current; Page: [lxvii] in the major instances, do not indicate where changes will be found, and rather disguise their extent. In each preface after the first, following six paragraphs of explanation found in all editions, a brief account of the current edition is given. As these accounts supplant one another, only one is found in each edition.

The Preface to the 2nd edition says, “The additions and alterations in the present edition are generally of little moment,” except for those in the chapter on the “Socialist controversy” (II, i, “On Property”), but Mill lessens the apparent importance of the chapter and the changes by concluding: “A full appreciation of Socialism, and of the questions which it raises, can only be advantageously attempted in a separate work”—which he, of course, did not live to complete, the posthumous Chapters on Socialism being fragmentary.

The 3rd edition’s Preface, the longest, most detailed, and most important, is dignified by a separate heading. Here Mill calls attention to chapters “either materially added to or entirely re-cast,” mentioning II, i (“On Property”), II, x (“Means of Abolishing Cottier Tenantry”),10 III, xviii (“Of International Values”), and IV, vii (“On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes”). An important paragraph in this Preface is devoted to each of II, i, and IV, vii.

In the 4th edition, the Preface says, as do all those from the 3rd through the 6th, that the text has been revised throughout; without detail, it mentions specially III, xii (“Influence of Credit on Prices”) and III, xxiv (“On the Regulation of a Convertible Paper Currency”). The Preface to the 5th edition mentions no specific chapters. That to the 6th calls attention to III, xxiii (“Of the Rate of Interest”), and to the help given to the author by Professor J. E. Cairnes.11 The People’s edition, published in the same year as the 6th, announces in its Preface that, except for the translation of “all extracts and most phrases in foreign languages” into English, the removal of a small number of superfluous quotations or parts of quotations, and the cancelling of the Appendix to Volume I, it “is an exact transcript from the sixth.” And finally, the 7th edition, Mill says in its Preface, “with the exception of a few verbal corrections, corresponds exactly” with the 6th and People’s editions. (He also remarks that alterations in the accounts of the Wages Fund and the land laws of Ireland are deferred by him until more trustworthy facts are available.)

Only when Mill’s text had been superseded by others, that is, when it became really a text in the history of political economy, was attention called to the presence and importance of revisions by Miriam A. Ellis, in Edition: current; Page: [lxviii] “Variations in the Editions of J. S. Mill’s Principles of Political Economy” (Economic Journal, XVI [June, 1906], 291-302). Miss Ellis was partly interested in assessing the validity of the posthumous 8th (1878) and 9th (1886) editions,12 but her main concerns were to discuss the importance of some of the differences between the 2nd and 3rd editions, to mention those changes in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th to which Mill’s prefaces refer, and to point out the confusion caused by the unindicated gap of years between different parts of the text. As she gives no clue to her method, it may be assumed that she worked, originally at least, from Mill’s prefatory accounts. In any case, she calls attention to the chapters in which the most important changes occur, that is, those listed above in the account of Mill’s prefaces.13 In looking at these chapters, she mentions some sixty passages which were altered, of which forty-five were rewritten in the 3rd edition. Her “notes” are obviously not intended as a comprehensive account of the variants, or even as a detailed discussion of those she mentions; but actually her article had more effect than most do, for it led to W. J. Ashley’s important one-volume edition (London: Longmans, Green, 1909).

Ashley’s edition has been of great value, and has justifiably become the text for students of Mill. His introduction is illuminating and forceful, and his appendices, containing some of Mill’s opinions, expressed elsewhere, on the Wages Fund and Socialism, and opinions of later economists on a variety of topics, are very useful to students. But Professor Ashley’s greatest service was to indicate in footnotes Mill’s revisions of the text.

He made no attempt to provide a fully collated text, but tried, he says in his Introduction (xxv), to give “indications” of “all the significant changes or additions,” erring “rather in the direction of including than of excluding every apparent indication of change of opinion or even of mood.” His editorial discretion was good, and considering the short time he took to prepare the edition, with the help only of Miss Ellis’ notes, his comprehensiveness is surprising. The edition has, however, limitations, some of which will be suggested by the words indication, significant, and apparent.

As the present edition is intended to correct these limitations (without, it is hoped, revealing new ones), a few words in criticism are offered, without any intention of denigrating Ashley’s work.

From the standpoint of the textual scholar, the text is faulty in that, while purporting to be that of the 7th edition, there is in fact a slight admixture of texts, especially of that of the People’s edition, and there are Edition: current; Page: [lxix] a few unsupported readings. His treatment of punctuation will seem cavalier to the purist, and some erroneous readings in the 7th edition are preserved.

More serious is his indication of only some 16 per cent of the variant readings. While it is true that he calls attention to almost all of those which would be admitted to be of major importance by everyone, he does not pay heed to a large number which to many people are highly significant. There are also (inevitably?) some mistakes in wording and placing of variants and dates.

But the main fault, from the standpoint of the student of Mill, is that the text of the earlier editions, even in the most important places, cannot be reconstructed with acceptable accuracy. Constant reference to the earlier editions, which are seldom available, is necessary. The final judgment must be that Ashley’s notes are most useful as guides to the places where most of the important variants will be found, but they are not adequate as guides through the variants. In this respect, as in others, the present edition is intended to be definitive. For this reason, all substantive variants (described below) are given in a form permitting of easy reconstruction.

The full extent of the revisions is revealed only by a full collation,14 which yields the following results:

15Changes between the MS and the 1st edition; that is, proof changes.
Preliminary remarks Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Total
184815 9 188 266 64 527
1849 4 46 104 42 38 53 287
1852 29 230 431 197 115 319 1321
1857 1 35 86 77 54 98 351
1862 11 76 151 82 38 116 474
1865 8 84 79 67 48 48 334
1871 0 18 47 47 25 41 178
Total 62 677 1164 576 318 675 3472

The table speaks for itself, but it should be noted that, as expected, by far the largest number of changes comes in the 3rd edition;16 it is surprising that (after the MS revisions for the 1st) the 5th is third in total Edition: current; Page: [lxx] number, for Mill’s preface would indicate that it, like the 7th, was little altered. Again it was to be expected that Book II should contain most altered passages, but it is surprising that Book V has such a large number of revisions, for the prefaces do not mention it at all.17 Such figures are of little help, however, until the content of the changes is considered, but it can be seen that the book containing most economic analysis, Book III, is least altered, and that the heavy revision of Book II can be related to Mill’s strong belief that the laws of distribution are more amenable to human control than those of production, and hence their description is more liable to change.

A complete account of the changes is not here possible, and opinions about them are certain to be varied, if not idiosyncratic. Such opinions properly derive only from a careful study of the collated text in the present volumes, but a few general remarks may be useful preliminaries.

First, the changes in the manuscript: almost every folio contains cancellations and interlineations, with occasional interpolations of passages on the verso of the previous folio, all of which indicate again the careful attention Mill paid to rewriting. (It should be remembered, in view of the heavy revisions, that this is undoubtedly not the first draft of the work.) Apart from the cancellations (which are discussed in Appendix F below), there are many places where the manuscript version and the 1st edition differ. In analyzing such variants, I separate them, in decreasing order of importance, into the following categories (which are also used in the subsequent discussion of alterations amongst editions): (1) alterations in opinion or fact, including major amplifications and corrections of information; (2) alterations resulting from the time between writings, including changes in statement of fact resulting from the passage of time and new publications; (3) alterations which qualify, emphasize, or give technical clarity; and (4) alterations which are purely verbal, or give semantic clarity, or result from changes in word usage.

In summary statement, it appears that more than one-half of the changes between the manuscript and the 1st edition18 are of the fourth kind, and almost all the rest are of the third (some of them quite interesting), only a very few being of the first.19 Two of these last may be mentioned: Edition: current; Page: [lxxi] after the quotation from Babbage at I.111n, the MS has a passage praising in strong terms Dunoyer’s De la liberté du travail; the greatest alteration is the deletion of a long paragraph from Thornton’s Over-Population and its Remedy at II.997a (the whole passage was deleted in 1852).

A few of the lesser changes merit comment. In all his writings Mill limits reference to himself, but one kind of variant here shows his extreme sensitivity: at I.26c-c, where the printed text reads “upper stone”, the manuscript reads “upper millstone”; at I.28m-m, “machine” is substituted for “windmill or watermill”; and in four other cases within five pages the possible pun is deleted. (It does, of course, appear in other places in the Principles.)20 The peculiar reading of the first two editions, “approximatively” for “approximately” (II.483.11-2) is found in the manuscript. In only three cases did Mill revert to a manuscript reading which differs from that of the 1st edition where no error is involved, and in two of these he restores the manuscript reading only in 1862 (5th edition). It seems certain that he corrected the editions without reference to the earlier texts or the manuscript (the changes in punctuation discussed below support this conclusion). Of the four cases in which the 2nd edition, correcting errors in the 1st, returns to the MS reading, only one is of importance: at I.121c-c, the correct “superior” replaces “inferior”.

It would be reckless to attempt extensive inference from the changes in punctuation between the MS and the 1st edition, but some guesses may be made about them. Of 672 changes in Book I, 329 involve the addition of a comma (or two enclosing commas), and 212 the deletion of a comma (or two enclosing commas). The vast majority of these are possibly the result of printers’ decisions and of the normal transition from MS to printed page in the nineteenth century, but more than a few must reflect Mill’s dedication to precision. His attention to this sort of detail is surely seen in the return in the 2nd edition to the MS reading in thirty-seven places. Similarly, a large number of the 102 changes which suggest choice rather than printers’ practice or misreading are likely Mill’s, especially those which involve a full stop.21

Many other changes are probably caused by difficulties in reading Mill’s hand, and by printing-house practice.22 A final trivial example will Edition: current; Page: [lxxii] indicate the amount of work that went into revision: in just over one hundred places in Books I-III, a hyphen was added in the 1st edition, almost always, I would think, by the printer (in only two cases is a hyphen removed). One conclusion is unquestionable: if most of these changes in punctuation and spelling were made by Mill, the printers had just cause for complaint—and vice versa.

Leaving the MS changes for those in the printed editions, I again choose Book I to illustrate the pattern:

23Of these, 52 are noted in Ashley’s edition (14 in the first category, 16 in the second, 18 in the third, and 4 in the fourth); given his intention, it is my opinion that he should have noted all in the first two categories, and a much higher proportion of the third.
Opinion, fact, etc. Time, etc. Qualification, etc. Verbal, etc. Total
1849 3 5 10 28 46
1852 11 23 88 108 230
1857 2 5 11 17 35
1862 4 9 28 35 76
1865 7 11 42 24 84
1871 1 4 5 8 18
Total 28 57 184 220 48923

When this table is compared with the former one, it is seen that Book I is fairly typical of the work as a whole, although there are relatively fewer changes in the 1857 and 1871 editions, and relatively more (nearly twice as many) in the 1865 edition. But the main point the table makes is that almost half the changes could be called stylistic. These do not here claim attention, but I append a few samples in a note.24

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The alterations caused by time are easily accounted for: most of them are simple changes of tense, or of adjectives of time (I.159p-p reads “forty years”; in 1852 and 1857 it read “thirty years”; in MS, 1848, and 1849, “sixteen years”). Slightly different are those like that at I.148k-k, where “as until lately in Ireland” read “as hitherto in Ireland” in 1857, and “as in Ireland” in MS, 1848, 1849, and 1852. Such changes as the inclusion of the note to I.37 in 1849, quoting a review of the 1st edition, are not infrequent, and there are a few like that at I.65b-b, where in 1862 the words “(now called Western Australia)” were added after “the Swan River settlement”.

The changes which are most characteristic of Mill are those which I have described as alterations which qualify, emphasize, or give technical clarity. Professional interest and personal taste will determine one’s attitude towards these, and they spread (whatever one’s interests and tastes) from the territory of stylistics to that of factual interpretation. An extreme example of Mill’s worry over apparently small matters is found in his revisions of the following sentence (I.42c-c): “The stupidest hodman, who repeats from day to day the mechanical act of climbing a ladder, performs a function partly intellectual; so much so, indeed, that the most intelligent dog or elephant could not, probably, be taught to do it.” In the MS, the sentence ends, “could not be taught to do it”; in 1848 and 1849, “probably could not be taught to do it”; in 1852 and 1857, “could not, perhaps, be taught to do it”; the final reading appeared in 1862. More typical is the introduction in 1852 of the qualifying “in some degree” at I.52o-o, or the alteration on the next page, g-g and h-h, of “no labour really tends to the enrichment of society, which . . .” to “no labour tends to the permanent enrichment of society, which . . .” in 1865. Small changes presumably in the interest of technical clarity may be illustrated by the substitution in 1857 of “productive reinvestment” for “productive employment” at I.57g-g. An alteration in 1865 which would interest few (and which may even be accidental), but which I would argue reveals Mill’s adherence to part of his father’s training, is the reversing, in a persuasive context, of “stronger and clearer” to read “clearer and stronger” (I.59a-a). Another change, and a typical one, appears to me indicative of his movement away from his father’s modes of thought: at I.79e-e, the final reading, “This theorem, that to purchase produce is not to employ labour . . . ”, replaced in 1852 the original, “This truth, that purchasing produce is not employing labour . . . .” The following case is, I suppose, a factual correction, but of a very minor kind: at I.101b-b, when Mill is listing agricultural products found as one moves to the south and east in Europe, the final reading of part of the list, “silk, figs, olives”, appeared only in 1871, as a correction of “figs, olives, silk”. Another kind of change Edition: current; Page: [lxxiv] could be the result of altered opinion or simply of a desire for precision: these are typified at I.109g-g where in the sentence, “As soon as any idea of equality enters the mind of an uneducated English working man, his head is turned by it”, the reading until 1865 was “ordinary English working man”.25

The most important changes, those which I have described as alterations in opinion or fact, including major amplifications and corrections of information, occur mainly in the chapters mentioned by Mill in his prefaces, and should be studied in close detail. But the grossest changes can be briefly described. In II, i, the first major change occurs in §2 (“Statement of the Question”) in the 2nd edition. The 1st edition here contained a short account of St. Simonism, which was deleted in the 2nd, and replaced by a longer and more favourable account of all kinds of socialism; this account remained throughout all editions (with minor changes). The long preceding sentence which argued that attacks on property will necessarily increase until laws of property are made just, was cut down in the 3rd edition to a clause of no special weight. In §3 (“Examination of Communism”) only a few sentences from the 1st and 2nd editions correspond to those in later versions; parts of the section are roughly equivalent but in different order, and some parts of §6 in the edition of 1849 are here incorporated in later editions. The general tone in 1852 is more favourable to socialism, but the change is less dramatic than might be thought. In both early and late versions the emphasis is on liberty. An interesting change in 1849 is the deletion of one long and one short passage emphasizing the comparative advantages of a competitive economy. In 1852 the account of Fourierism which was added in 1849 as §5 was combined with the account of St. Simonism in §4, and a long introductory paragraph was added to point out more clearly the differences between St. Simonism and Fourierism on the one hand, and strict and theoretical Communism on the other. Also in 1852 Mill deleted his recommendation of St. Simonism as a probable stimulant to social diversity. Finally, the concluding paragraph of §4 (the last section) in 1852 replaced the end of §5 in the version of 1849, and all of §6 in the versions of 1848 and 1849.

In II, x, the eight sections of 1848 and 1849 were reduced in 1852 to three, and in 1862 to two. In 1852, §1 is a rewriting of §§1-3 in the earlier versions; in 1862, §1 is a further rewriting of §§1-7 in the 1848 and 1849 versions (§§1-2 of 1852 and 1857); the final §2 (which was further rewritten in 1865) replaces §8 of 1848 and 1849 (§3 of 1852 Edition: current; Page: [lxxv] and 1857). This final section contained in its early versions a long footnote which was incorporated in II, vii from 1862 on.

Book III contains many alterations in sections, mostly additions to the early text. In III, xii, for example, §7 (“Are bank notes money?”) was added in 1857. In III, xviii, §6 (“The preceding theory not complete”), §7 (“International values depend not solely on the quantities demanded, but also on the means of production available in each country for the supply of foreign markets”), and §8 (“The practical result little affected by this additional element”) were added in 1852. In III, xxiii, most of §4 (“The rate of interest, how far, and in what sense connected with the value of money”) was rewritten in 1865; it was formerly entitled: “The rate of interest not really connected with the value of money, but often confounded with it.” The other chapter in Book III to which Mill calls attention, xxiv, was not altered in its sections, the rewriting being mostly of paragraphs in §§3, 4, and 6 (most of which took place in 1857, as Mill indicates, but §3 was as much altered again in 1865).

Finally, in Book IV, Chapter vii, the main changes are in the final sections: §5 (“Examples of the association of labourers with capitalists”), §6 (“Examples of the association of labourers among themselves”), and §7 (“Competition not pernicious, but useful and indispensable”); these replaced in 1852 §5 (“Examples of the association of the labourers in the profits of industrial undertakings”) and §6 (“Probable future developement of this principle”).

Other gross changes, involving new or greatly altered sections, but not mentioned by Mill in his prefaces, are in II, vi (§6 added in 1849), II, xv (§5 added in 1857), and III, xiii (§4 added in 1849 and deleted in 1862).

A few remarks should be made about changes in spelling and punctuation. The changes in spelling seem to indicate indecision rather than careless proofreading. Such changes as “recognise” (7th edition) for “recognize” occur in the 3rd, 5th, and 6th editions, the earlier form remaining in isolated places until these editions. The earlier “shews,” “shewed,” etc., are altered in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions. And “artisan(s)” is replaced by “artizan(s)” sixteen times, with the reverse change occurring once in the 2nd edition. The only other frequent change is the substitution of initial “e” for initial “i” in such words as “enclosure” and “encumbrance,” and the reverse change in such words as “inquiry” and “insure” (fifty-five words in all are altered). There is also (especially in the later editions) an increase in initial capitalization and in hyphenation. A common change, especially in the 6th edition, is from the simple adjectival or singular possessive forms to the plural possessive in such words as “days.’ ”

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Concerning punctuation little need be said, and again little can be inferred, because the printers may be responsible for most of the changes. There is an increase in the number of commas (especially in the 2nd edition) until the 5th, and a decrease in the last two editions (which were published, it will be recalled, by Longmans rather than Parker). There is a tendency throughout to substitute semi-colons for colons and (less frequently) for commas. After the first two editions, the one showing most revision is the 5th; and the 7th, apart from a few comma changes, is almost free from alteration.

About one hundred sources are quoted by Mill, some of them at considerable length. The notes to these quotations are typical of nineteenth-century practice, in being often too slender for accurate identification, and not infrequently wrong in page reference. The quotations themselves are fairly accurate by nineteenth-century standards; that is, there is considerable variation in punctuation and paragraphing, occasional words are wrongly transcribed, passages are sometimes summarized or rearranged within quotation marks, and words and sentences and even paragraphs are omitted without indication. (See Appendix I below.) A few of the word errors show once more the printers’ difficulty in reading Mill’s hand; in other cases the printer has simply made an error not justified by such difficulty; in others the error is Mill’s.26 Summary and rearrangement within quotation marks, without indication, which are not common, are both found in one passage, I.168.13-4, where the interpolation “(who seems . . . all classes,)” is a summary of the note which occurs a page further on in the original (John Rae, Statement of Some New Principles . . . of Political Economy).

Omission of words, sentences, and notes is quite common, and longer omissions are not rare. For example, at I.382.19-20, after “employment,” he omits two of Adam Smith’s paragraphs, and at II.780.n2-3, he omits one of Cherbuliez’s. These omissions suggest again carelessness and also a desire for brevity, rather than suppression or distortion.27 Some but by no means all of the longer omissions actually are indicated in the MS by two or more dots which the printer ignored (e.g., I.129i, where six sentences are omitted). But occasionally an omission, or the point at which a quotation ends, suggests that bias is involved. For example, his Edition: current; Page: [lxxvii] attitude towards religion is surely evident when, in quoting (II.770) from Samuel Laing, Mill ends the praise of the Cornish miners with the word “miners”, whereas the original, after a semi-colon and quotation marks, continues:

and, finally, they are, as a class, “a religious people, leading habitually excellent and religious lives, and giving conclusive evidence of the real influence of the great doctrines of revelation on their hearts, by their equanimity under suffering and privation, and in calmness and resignation when death is known to be inevitable.” This is, by many degrees, the brightest picture we have ever met with of the condition of any considerable portion of the labouring class in England at the present day.

To this, Laing appends a note (which, of course, is also omitted by Mill), beginning: “The reasons assigned for the high moral standard among a large proportion of the Cornish Miners are ‘the ministration of the Church of England, exercised by an able and excellent body of clergy, and the persevering zeal of the Wesleyan methodists. . . . ’ ”28

The omission of one long note by Mill is as indicative of his tastes (and his sense of relevance) as the note is of its author’s: in quoting the passage from de Quincey’s Logic of Political Economy about musical snuff-boxes (II.463), Mill omits a long note concerning de Quincey’s personal acquaintance with snuff-boxes and their owners.29

One final matter merits mention: the text of the People’s edition, which has some peculiarities.30 Its Preface, after the paragraphs common to all the prefaces, reads:

The present edition is an exact transcript from the sixth, except that all extracts and most phrases in foreign languages have been translated into English, and a very small number of quotations, or parts of quotations, which appeared superfluous, have been struck out. A reprint of an old controversy with the “Quarterly Review” on the condition of landed property in France, which had been subjoined as an Appendix, has been dispensed with.

As indicated in the discussion of Ashley’s edition, this description is partly accurate: the People’s edition does translate passages from foreign languages (usually including book titles), and omits the Appendix to Volume I. A few, but only a few, quotations or parts of quotations are deleted (e.g., I.123n—People’s, 76n—where only the identification of the Edition: current; Page: [lxxviii] source remains). Many titles are italicized, as they are not in the Library editions, and the English equivalents of French measures are usually given in square brackets following the French (Ashley adopts this practice). The foreign phrases and tags in the text are occasionally translated, but Mill is erratic.31 The main point of interest, however, is that—admitting the exceptions—the description of the text as “an exact transcript from the sixth” edition is not accurate. A paragraph added (I.9w-w) in 1865 is, as Miss Ellis notes, interchanged with the following one (People’s, 5-6), and in three of the four other places where the paragraphing differs from that in the 6th edition, the relevant passage was added in or rewritten for the 6th edition. In two other cases, the paragraphing of Mill’s translations in the People’s edition differs from that of his rendering of the original in the Library editions. These differences suggest that others exist, and a check of those places in Book I where the 5th and 6th editions differ shows that the People’s edition follows the 5th rather than the 6th in fourteen of eighty-four cases.32 The destruction of Longmans’ records during the London Blitz makes explanation uncertain, but it is clear at least that the People’s edition is properly seen as intermediate between the 5th and 6th rather than as an altered version of the 6th. Certainly the People’s and the 6th editions cannot have used the same proof.

It can safely be concluded, from all the evidence above, that second versions were second nature to Mill. He could not, of course, remember the vast number of minor changes which he made as successive editions passed through his hands. New knowledge and new opponents led to important changes (though not so many as in his Logic), as did a few second and third thoughts; and these will provide the main interest in the collated text. But the rewriting as a whole should be seen as rhetorical—and that, of course, not in a pejorative sense. Isolation of analytical, descriptive, and normative approaches in social science is possible, and the twentieth century has seen a plethora of works in which persuasion towards a ‘better’ point of view is expressly excluded, although often the exclusion Edition: current; Page: [lxxix] is specious or founded on a naive attitude towards structural analysis and statistics. But Mill in his Preface states his determination to go beyond the “theory of the subject” and “abstract speculation” in order to challenge and indeed surpass Adam Smith on his own grounds, by associating the applications of the theory with the principles. And his reference to the “improved ideas of the present age” and “the best social ideas of the present time” surely suggests that he hopes his book will be ‘better’ than Adam Smith’s not simply in an economic way. In fact, his determination to subordinate such special sciences as economics to sociology, and further to subordinate sociology to ethics, makes it impossible for him to keep theoretical, actual, and ideal models separate, and while he aims at honesty (a more valid goal than objectivity) in his account of economic phenomena, he is deeply concerned with the furthering of social justice. His attempt to be honest prevents him, for the most part, from ignoring facts and tendencies which he dislikes, but not from presenting those which he likes in the most persuasive form.

His dedication of the Principles to Harriet Taylor (quoted in full in Appendix G below) again indicates, both in tone and implication, his purpose. He praises her for her ability “to originate” and “to appreciate speculations on social improvement,” and says the Principles is an “attempt to explain and diffuse ideas many of which were first learned from herself. . . .” The implications here33 are made explicit in the Preface, where Mill states that his intention has been to write a “practical” and “popular” work, without sacrificing “strict scientific reasoning.” The Principles of Political Economy is not simply a textbook; it is also a measured polemic. As such, it was open to endless revision, always in the direction of clarity and effective persuasion, and also in response to the changing climate of opinion. The successive revisions show this, as they show in their relative density in certain parts of the work just what Mill felt most deeply about. The cumulative effects of nearly 3500 changes over a period of twenty-four years cannot be precisely assessed, but the Principles was, in its final form, undeniably a more satisfactory work. He would not, and I cannot, consider that the revisions were wasted effort.


there will always be arguments about the “best” text of any work, centring on two main issues: which text represents the author at his best; and which most accurately reproduces what the author wrote. When a book has gone through as many authorial revisions as the Principles has, a consensus of opinion on the first of these issues is hard to achieve. For the Edition: current; Page: [lxxx] reasons stated above and below, and because Mill was not senile when the 7th edition was prepared, I believe it shows him at his best.

With the intention of producing texts which most closely approximate accuracy, literary scholars now, following the lead of Sir Walter Greg and Professor Fredson Bowers, commonly use as a basic text the manuscript or (if it is not known, or in conjunction with it) the earliest edition known to have been supervised by the author. The virtues of this approach need not be presented here, but it should be made clear why it has not been adopted. The method was devised to deal with Elizabethan and other early texts in which, because of printing-house and publishing practices, there is demonstrable evidence of corruption. Seldom did an author see his work through the press for edition after edition, and reprinting almost always took the text further away from the author’s intention.

A different approach is valid for nineteenth-century works such as the Principles. Each edition was revised by Mill himself, who read and altered the proofs carefully; there is no question of substantial corruption in the editions published during his lifetime. The manuscript and 1st edition have validity primarily as a starting point, as an indication of the state of economic thought in 1848, and of Mill’s knowledge of, and attitude towards, economic phenomena and theory at that time. There can surely be few who believe in plenary economic inspiration. Each successive edition reveals more information, as well as changed attitudes, and therefore, considered primarily as a textbook of economics, the 7th edition best represents Mill’s considered judgment, and is, because of the constant re-readings, more reliable than any previous edition. For him, and for the student of political economy from 1871 to the present, this is the best text, and it has been adopted in this edition.

The Principles, however, must now appear in a light different from that of the years immediately following its publication. Both in evidence and analysis, the science of economics has advanced beyond Mill, and its primacy as a textbook cannot be asserted, although, as Dean Bladen argues in his Introduction above, its value purely as an economic text has been under-exploited.

Its importance in other areas, however, has steadily increased. It served as an economic text to several generations of policy framers and law makers, even into the twentieth century, and its influence on them must be recognized. If one is to study the effect of political and economic thought on events, the changes in such thought are of obvious importance. Each edition of the Principles takes on separate value then, as do the changes from edition to edition. Similarly, the way in which events alter theory is shown by a comparison of the various editions. One might examine, for example, the changes in Mill’s expressed opinions about Edition: current; Page: [lxxxi] socialism after the French Revolution of 1848, or the effect of Irish experience on his views concerning land tenure. Again, any study in the history of economic and social ideas can benefit from a close study of the changing attitudes revealed by a comparison of the various editions. Here one might look at Mill’s remarks on slavery in the years before and during the American Civil War. And most obviously, the development of Mill’s own thought is demonstrated by such a comparison. For example, his increased attention to co-operative experiments is evident in the revisions of IV, vii.

We have, therefore, while accepting the 7th edition as the best in both senses, incorporated the textual changes found in a complete collation of the seven Library editions of the Principles. Of all editorial practices, the recording of variants is most obviously a matter of diminishing returns. Furthermore, the returns, defying all quantification, do not accrue to one person or group, and are certainly not monetary. There is no clear distinction between the significant and the insignificant, between stylistic orchestration and mere fiddling. Given the exigencies of printing and the frailty of editors, which make it impossible to record all changes, and the justifiable impatience of readers who cannot follow the text through jungles of textual apparatus, some compromise is necessary. The one adopted for this edition is intended to meet the needs of all potential readers, and does not represent a licentious acceptance of particular views (including those of the editors).

In simple statement, the following pages contain all substantive variants amongst the various editions. “Substantive” here means all changes of text except spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, punctuation, demonstrable typographical errors, such necessary alterations as changed footnote references to the Principles itself, and such printing-house concerns as type size, etc. (There are two exceptions—to prove the rule—Mill’s frequent changes between “though” and “although” and between “on” and “upon” are not recorded.)

A glance at any of the heavily revised pages in this edition will reveal the difficulties involved in providing variant readings without at the same time making the text difficult if not impossible to follow. The method adopted, after considerable trial, has these objectives: a text as little interrupted by editorial apparatus as possible; variant readings which allow reconstruction of the earlier texts without separate instructions for each variant; the minimum number of levels of text on each page consistent with accuracy and with the above objectives. The method is, I believe, harder to describe than to apply, and I beg the reader’s indulgence in the following account.

On a typical page, there will be three levels of text: the text of the 7th Edition: current; Page: [lxxxii] edition; in slightly smaller type, Mill’s own notes; in smaller type again, notes containing the variant readings. In the text itself, the usual indicators (*, †, etc.) call attention to Mill’s notes, while small italic superscript letters, in alphabetical sequence (beginning anew in each section) call attention to variant readings. These variants are of three kinds: addition of a word or words, substitution of a word or words, deletion of a word or words. Examples to illustrate these three kinds will be drawn from the “Preliminary Remarks.”

Addition of a word or words: see I.7p-p. In the text, the word “power” appears as “ppowerp”; the variant note reads “p-p+65, 71”. Here the plus sign indicates that the word “power” was added; the following numbers (65, 71) indicate the editions in which it appears. The editions are always indicated by the last two numbers of the year of publication, as follows: 48 = 1848 (1st edition), 49 = 1849 (2nd edition), 52 = 1852 (3rd edition), 57 = 1857 (4th edition), 62 = 1862 (5th edition), 65 = 1865 (6th edition), 71 = 1871 (7th edition). The manuscript is indicated by MS. (This indicator does not appear in variants after Book III, Chapter vi, where the manuscript ends.) If the variant occurs within a quotation, and the earlier version (i.e., that in the variant note) is the reading of the source from which Mill is quoting, the word “Source” precedes the manuscript and edition indicators in the variant note. If the reading in the text, as opposed to that in the variant note, is the same as that of the source, no indicator is needed. If the text varies from the source, but not amongst editions, there is no variant note; the variant will, however, appear in Appendix I.

Placing the example above (I.7p-p) in context, then, the interpretation is that from the manuscript through the 5th edition, the reading is “grinding by water instead of by hand”; in the 6th edition (65) this is altered to “grinding by water power instead of by hand”, and the reading of the 6th edition is retained (as is clear in the text) in the 7th edition (71).

Before going on to the second kind of variant, it should be noted that in all cases, any added editorial information, except “Source,” “MS,” the edition indicators, and page references, is in italics. Also, in the case of long added or substituted passages, the second enclosing superscript may be found on the next page, or even several pages, after the first; when necessary, the superscript notation in the footnote will give the page number on which the variant passage concludes (see, e.g., I.81l-l84).

Substitution of a word or words: see I.5e-e. In the text the word “promoting” appears as “epromotinge”; the variant note reads “e-eMS, 48, 49, 52, 57, 62 favouring”. Here the word following the edition indicators is that for which “promoting” was substituted; again applying the same rules and putting the variant in context, the interpretation is that from the Edition: current; Page: [lxxxiii] manuscript through the 5th edition the reading is “concurred in favouring it”; in the 6th edition this was altered to “concurred in promoting it”, and the reading of the 6th edition was retained (as is clear in the text) in the 7th edition.

Deletion of a word or words: see I.5f. In the text, a single superscript f appears centred between “absurdity” and “seemed”; the variant note reads “fMS, 48, 49 must have”. Here the words following the edition indicators are those deleted; applying the same rules and putting the variant in context, the interpretation is that the manuscript (MS), 1st edition (48), and 2nd edition (49) read “absurdity must have seemed”; the words “must have” were deleted in the 3rd edition and the reading of the 3rd edition was retained through all subsequent editions.

Variants within variants: see I.10a-a. Often, of course, Mill altered a passage more than once. In this case the text reads “aamong most savagesa”; the variant note reads “a-aMS even in the most savage state] 48, 49 in most savage states”. The different readings are given in chronological order, with a square bracket separating them, and the interpretation is that in the manuscript the reading is “exists even in the most savage state”; in the 1st and 2nd editions the reading is “exists in most savage states”; and the final reading is found in all editions from the 3rd through the 7th. In longer variants of this sort, it seems unnecessary to repeat the whole passage, and so such variant notes as those at I.7n-n and I.21m-m appear. In the first of these the note reads “n-nMS want, answers no purpose whatsoever:] 48, 49 as MS . . . purpose:”—the interpretation is that the 1st and 2nd editions have the same reading as the manuscript up to and including the word “purpose” and end in the same way (i.e., with a colon); in other words, “whatsoever” is found in the manuscript but not in the 1st and 2nd editions. At I.21m-m the variant note reads “m-mMS determined by laws as rigid, & as independent of human control, as those of Production itself] 48, 49 as MS . . . rigid as those . . . as MS”—the interpretation is, similarly, that the passage “, & as independent of human control,” which appears in the manuscript, is not in the 1st and 2nd editions.

Variants in Mill’s footnotes. To avoid four levels of text on the page, a different method has been used to indicate changes in the notes supplied by Mill. An example will be seen at I.37n, where the footnote reads in part “. . . According to these definitions [49 this distinction], the . . . .” Here a simple substitution of “these definitions” for “this distinction” took place in the 3rd edition. Often, to allow for accurate placing of the variant, the words before and/or after the altered passage are given (see the other variants in the same note).

Dates of footnotes. Here the practice (borrowed from Ashley’s edition, Edition: current; Page: [lxxxiv] but applied more rigorously) is to place immediately after the footnote indicator, in square brackets, the figure indicating the edition in which the note first appeared. In the last cited example, for instance, the beginning of the note reads “*[49] The . . .”, indicating that the note was added in the 2nd edition. If no such figure appears, the note is in the first version (manuscript or 1st edition) and in all subsequent editions. If a note was deleted, it will appear in the variant notes at the bottom of the page, with suitable indication (see, for example, I.27b). If a note was lengthened in a subsequent edition, the appropriate date is given, again in square brackets, before the added passage (see, for example, I.174n, where the original MS note was added to in the 1st edition).

Punctuation and spelling. In general, changes in punctuation and spelling (including capitalization and hyphenation) are ignored. Those changes which occur as part of a substantive variant are included in that variant, and the superscript letters in the text are placed exactly with reference to punctuation. Changes within variants are ignored, however, so that if a reference is, say, to MS, 48, 49 the punctuation and spelling derive from the 2nd edition, the last cited. In a few cases changes in capitalization and punctuation (especially terminal punctuation) reveal at least a change in emphasis, and these are noted as normal variants. Changes from or to italic type are noted.

Prefaces. After the Preface to the 1st edition, the additional prefatory passages have been added in chronological order (as in Ashley’s edition).

Other textual liberties. The typographical errors in the 7th edition have been silently corrected.34 Mill’s section titles in the Table of Contents Edition: current; Page: [lxxxv] have been introduced, in square brackets and italics, after each section number. (The wording has been slightly altered in a few cases for the sake of brevity and clarity.) The volumes are divided between Books II and III, instead of between Chapters vi and vii of Book III, and the Appendix to Volume I has been moved to the end of Book II, to which it has reference. Mill occasionally uses square brackets in his footnotes; these have been altered to round brackets to avoid confusion with editorial information. Mill’s footnotes referring to sources have been completed and corrected, with all added information being placed in square brackets. Also in Mill’s footnotes, the page references to other parts of the Principles have been altered to apply to the present edition. A few alterations in printing style have been made: for example, small capitals for proper names have been replaced by lower case in a few places; the form of tables has been altered; and periods have been removed after section titles. The running heads and the style of chapter headings, etc., have been altered when necessary or desirable.


Appendices A to D. Further to avoid difficulty in reading and reconstruction, those sections most heavily revised by Mill have been printed separately as appendices. Appendix A contains Book II, Chapter i, §§3-6 in the 2nd edition, with variant notes giving the readings of the manuscript and 1st edition. Appendix B contains Book II, Chapter x, §§1-7 in the 2nd edition, again with variants from the manuscript and 1st edition. Appendix C contains (from the same heavily revised chapter) Book II, Chapter x, §3 in the 4th edition, with variants from the manuscript, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions. Appendix D contains Book IV, Chapter vii, §§5-6 in the 2nd edition, with variants from the 1st edition. For all these passages, then, the text itself (as is indicated at the appropriate places) does not indicate variants from editions earlier than that reproduced in the appendices; that is, variants in Book II, Chapter i, §3, for example, will be found in the text proper only for the 3rd and later editions—the earlier variants will be found only in Appendix A. To facilitate comparison of the appendices with the text, square brackets have been placed around those passages which are retained into the 7th edition, with referential notes. Again, the rule is more complicated than its application, and it will easily be seen that to include these long and complicated variants in the notes would make normal reading impossible.

Appendix E. In an appendix to Volume II of the 4th edition, Mill included information he had lately gathered from Villiaumé, which he incorporated into Book IV, Chapter vii in the 5th and subsequent editions. Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvi] This appendix is here reproduced in its original form, with square brackets in the text indicating those passages which were later used in IV, vii.

Appendix F. In this appendix the press-copy manuscript of the Principles is described and discussed, and examples of cancelled readings are given.

Appendix G. Little is known about the specific role played by Harriet Taylor in the writing and revision of the Principles, but the epistolary evidence (mostly quoted by Professor Hayek in his John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor) is best understood in close conjunction with the text, and so has been here included.

Appendix H. In the Preface to the 6th edition, as mentioned above, Mill pays warm tribute to John E. Cairnes for his helpful suggestions concerning revision. The extent of his debt is revealed only when one sees the lengthy and detailed letters and notes which Cairnes sent to Mill late in 1864 and early in 1865, when the revision for the 6th edition was taking place. The relevant parts of their correspondence and of Cairnes’ notes are here reproduced, with added references indicating which passages were being criticized, and which were altered as a result of the criticism.

Appendix I. One’s admiration for the speed with which Mill wrote the Principles is perhaps slightly lessened when one becomes aware of the extent of his quotations. A list of the sources from which he drew material or opinions is in itself a guide to nineteenth-century economic literature, and this appendix was devised to provide such a list. At the same time, the slight disservice which the inaccuracy of the quotations does to their sources and to readers is compensated by the inclusion of substantive variants between the sources and the Principles. Because this appendix includes all references to authors and books, it is in effect also an index of names and titles, which are therefore omitted in the Index proper.

Index. As will be seen by reference to II.1090-1 below, Cairnes’ need rather than Mill’s scepticism has been recognized in the provision of an index of topics, which has been prepared by Julian Patrick.


for permission to publish manuscript material, we are indebted to the National Provincial Bank (literary executors and residual legatees of Mary Taylor, Mill’s step-grand-daughter), to the Pierpont Morgan Library and Herbert Cahoon (the manuscript of the Principles), to the British Library of Political and Economic Science and C. G. Allen (the Mill—Cairnes correspondence and “Notes on the Principles”), to the National Library of Ireland and Alf Mac Lochlainn (Cairnes’ “Notes on Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvii] Ireland”), to Dr. C. K. Mill (for the heirs of J. E. Cairnes), to the Yale University Library (the Mill—Harriet Taylor letters), to the Huntington Library (the letter to Furnivall), and to the University of Illinois Library (the letter to Villiaumé). I should also like to thank the library staff of the British Museum Reading Room and of the British Library of Political and Economic Science for patience, help, and guidance. To Dean Bladen and Professor Priestley, and the other members of the Editorial Committee of the Collected Works, to the staff of the University of Toronto Press, and especially to the Editor, Miss Francess Halpenny, and our copy-editor, Dr. Ron Schoeffel, my grateful thanks are overdue. Without invidious intent, I shall mention only a few of the individuals whose labours have lessened mine and made them a pleasure: Bernard J. Harrison, William H. Hughes, Peter M. Jackson, Dennis B. Lee, Miss Pamela Millar, Professor Francis E. Mineka, Professor Jack Stillinger, Dr. Adelaide Weinberg, and John Willoughby. Also, and not merely for Millian or conventional reasons, I am deeply grateful to my wife, who was involved from the beginning of my textual work up to the beginning of this sentence.

Victoria College
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[To all editions]

the appearance of a treatise like the present, on a subject on which so many works of merit already exist, may be thought to require some explanation.

It might, perhaps, be sufficient to say, that no existing treatise on Political Economy contains the latest improvements which have been made in the theory of the subject. Many new ideas, and new applications of ideas, have been elicited by the discussions of the last few years, especially those on Currency, on Foreign Trade, and on the important topics connected more or less intimately with Colonization: and there seems reason that the field of Political Economy should be re-surveyed in its whole extent, if only for the purpose of incorporating the results of these speculations, and bringing them into harmony with the principles previously laid down by the best thinkers on the subject.

To supply, however, these deficiencies in former treatises bearing a similar title, is not the sole, or even the principal object which the author has in view. The design of the book is different from that of any treatise on Political Economy which has been produced in England since the work of Adam Smith.

The most characteristic quality of that work, and the one in which it most differs from some others which have equalled aanda even surpassed it as mere expositions of the general principles of the subject, is that it invariably associates the principles with their applications. This of itself implies a much wider range of ideas and of topics, than are included in Political Economy, considered as a branch of abstract speculation. For practical purposes, Political Economy is inseparably intertwined with many other branches of social philosophy. Except on matters of mere detail, there are perhaps no practical questions, even among those which approach nearest to the character of purely economical questions, which admit of being decided on economical premises alone. And it is because Adam Smith never loses sight of this truth; because, in his applications of Political Economy, he perpetually appeals to other and often far larger considerations Edition: current; Page: [xcii] than pure Political Economy affords—that he gives that well-grounded feeling of command over the principles of the subject for purposes of practice, owing to which the “Wealth of Nations,” alone among treatises on Political Economy, has not only been popular with general readers, but has impressed itself strongly on the minds of men of the world and of legislators.

It appears to the present writer, that a work similar in its object and general conception to that of Adam Smith, but adapted to the more extended knowledge and improved ideas of the present age, is the kind of contribution which Political Economy at present requires. The “Wealth of Nations” is in many parts obsolete, and in all, imperfect. Political Economy, properly so called, has grown up almost from infancy since the time of Adam Smith; and the philosophy of society, from which practically that eminent thinker never separated his more peculiar theme, though still in a very early stage of its progress, has advanced many steps beyond the point at which he left it. No attempt, however, has yet been made to combine his practical mode of treating his subject with the increased knowledge since acquired of its theory, or to exhibit the economical phenomena of society in the relation in which they stand to the best social ideas of the present time, as he did, with such admirable success, in reference to the philosophy of his bcenturyb.

Such is the idea which the writer of the present work has kept before him. To succeed even partially in realizing it, would be a sufficiently useful achievement, to induce him to incur willingly all the chances of failure. It is requisite, however, to add, that although his object is practical, and, as far as the nature of the subject admits, popular, he has not attempted to purchase either of those advantages by the sacrifice of strict scientific reasoning. Though he desires that his treatise should be more than a mere exposition of the abstract doctrines of Political Economy, he is also desirous that such an exposition should be found in it.

[Concluding paragraph in the 2nd edition (1849)]

The additions and alterations in the present edition are generally of little moment; but the increased importance which the Socialist controversy has assumed since this work was written, has made it desirable to enlarge the chapter which treats of it; the more so, as the objections therein stated to the specific schemes propounded by some Socialists, have been erroneously understood as a general condemnation of all that is commonly included under that name. A full appreciation of Socialism, and of the questions which it raises, can only be advantageously attempted in a separate work.

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[Additional Preface in the 3rd edition (1852) only]

The present edition has been revised throughout, and several chapters either materially added to or entirely re-cast. Among these may be mentioned that on the “Means of abolishing Cottier Tenantry,” the suggestions contained in which, had reference exclusively to Ireland, and to Ireland in a condition which has been much modified by subsequent events. An addition has been made to the theory of International Values laid down in the eighteenth chapter of the Third Book.

The chapter on Property has been almost entirely re-written. I was far from intending that the statement which it contained, of the objections to the best known Socialist schemes, should be understood as a condemnation of Socialism, regarded as an ultimate result of human progress. The only objection to which any great importance will be found to be attached in the present edition, is the unprepared state of mankind in general, and of the labouring classes in particular; their extreme unfitness at present for any order of things, which would make any considerable demand on either their intellect or their virtue. It appears to me that the great end of social improvement should be to fit mankind by cultivation, for a state of society combining the greatest personal freedom with that just distribution of the fruits of labour, which the present laws of property do not profess to aim at. Whether, when this state of mental and moral cultivation shall be attained, individual property in some form (though a form very remote from the present) or community of ownership in the instruments of production and a regulated division of the produce, will afford the circumstances most favourable to happiness, and best calculated to bring human nature to its greatest perfection, is a question which must be left, as it safely may, to the people of that time to decide. Those of the present are not competent to decide it.

The chapter on the “Futurity of the Labouring Classes” has been enriched with the results of the experience afforded since this work was first published, by the co-operative associations in France. That important experience shows that the time is ripe for a larger and more rapid extension of association among labourers, than could have been successfully attempted before the calumniated democratic movements in Europe, which though for the present put down by the pressure of brute force, have scattered widely the seeds of future improvement. I have endeavoured to designate more clearly the tendency of the social transformation, of which these associations are the initial step; and at the same time to disconnect the co-operative cause from the exaggerated or altogether mistaken declamations against competition, so largely indulged in by its supporters.

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[Concluding paragraph in the 4th edition (1857)]

The present edition (the fourth) has been revised throughout, and some additional explanations inserted where they appeared to be necessary. The chapters to which most has been added are those on the Influence of Credit on Prices, and on the Regulation of a Convertible Paper Currency.

[Concluding paragraph in the 5th edition (1862)]

The present fifth edition has been revised throughout, and the facts, on several subjects, brought down to a later date than in the former editions. Additional arguments and illustrations have been inserted where they seemed necessary, but not in general at any considerable length.

[Concluding paragraph in the 6th edition (1865)]

The present, like all previous editions, has been revised throughout, and additional explanations, or answers to new objections, have been inserted where they seemed necessary; but not, in general, at any considerable length. The chapter in which the greatest addition has been made is that on the Rate of Interest; and for most of the new matter there introduced, as well as for many minor improvements, I am indebted to the suggestions and criticisms of my friend Professor Cairnes, one of the most scientific of living political economists.

[Concluding paragraph in the 7th edition (1871)]

The present edition, with the exception of a few verbal corrections, corresponds exactly with the last Library Edition and with the People’s Edition. Since the publication of these, there has been some instructive discussion on the theory of Demand and Supply, and on the influence of Strikes and Trades Unions on wages, by which additional light has been thrown on these subjects; but the results, in the author’s opinion, are not yet ripe for incorporation in a general treatise on Political Economy.* For an analogous reason, all notice, of the alteration made in the Land Laws of Ireland by the recent Act, is deferred until experience shall have had time to pronounce on the operation of that well-meant attempt to deal with the greatest practical evil in the economic institutions of that country.

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Preliminary Remarks

aIn every department of human affairs, Practice long precedes Science: systematic enquiry into the modes of action of the powers of nature, is the tardy product of a long course of efforts to use those powers for practical ends. The conception, accordingly, of Political Economy as a branch of science is extremely modern; but the subject with which its enquiries are conversant has in all ages necessarily constituted one of the chief practical interests of mankind, and, in some, a most unduly engrossing one.

That subject is Wealth. Writers on Political Economy profess to teach, or to investigate, the nature of Wealth, and the laws of its production and distribution: including, directly or remotely, the operation of all the causes by which the condition of mankind, or of any society of human beings, in respect to this universal object of human desire, is made prosperous or the reverse. Not that any treatise on Political Economy can discuss or even enumerate all these causes; but it undertakes to set forth as much as is known of the laws and principles according to which they operate.

bEvery one has a notion, sufficiently correct for common purposes, of what is meant by wealth. The enquiries which relate to it are in no danger of being confounded with those relating to any other of the great human interests. All know that it is one thing to be rich, another thing to be enlightened, brave, or humane; that the questions how a nation is made wealthy, and how it is made free, or virtuous, or eminent in literature, in the fine arts, in arms, or in polity, are totally distinct enquiries. cThosec things, indeed, are all indirectly connected, and react upon one another. A people has sometimes become free, because it had first grown wealthy; or wealthy, because it had first become free. The creed and laws of a people act powerfully upon their economical condition; and this again, by its influence on their mental development and social relations, reacts upon their creed and laws. But though the subjects are in very close contact, they are essentially different, and have never been supposed to be otherwise.

It is no part of the design of this treatise to aim at metaphysical nicety of definition, where the ideas suggested by a term are already as determinate as practical purposes require. But, little as it might be expected that any Edition: current; Page: [4] mischievous confusion of ideas could take place on a subject so simple as the question, what is to be considered as wealth, it is matter of history, that such confusion of ideas has existed—that theorists and practical politicians have been equally and at one period universally, infected by it, and that for many generations it gave a thoroughly false direction to the policy of Europe. I refer to the set of doctrines designated, since the time of Adam Smith, by the appellation of the Mercantile System.

While this system prevailed, it was assumed, either expressly or tacitly, in the whole policy of nations, that wealth consisted solely of money; or of the precious metals, which, when not already in the state of money, are capable of being directly converted into it. According to the doctrines then prevalent, whatever tended to heap up money or bullion in a country added to its wealth. Whatever sent the precious metals out of a country impoverished it. If a country possessed no gold or silver mines, the only industry by which it could be enriched was foreign trade, being the only one which could bring in money. Any branch of trade which was supposed to send out more money than it brought in, however ample and valuable might be the returns in another shape, was looked upon as a losing trade. Exportation of goods was favoured and encouraged (even by means extremely onerous to the real resources of the country), because, the exported goods being stipulated to be paid for in money, it was hoped that the returns would actually be made in gold and silver. Importation of anything, other than the precious metals, was regarded as a loss to the nation of the whole price of the things imported; unless they were brought in to be re-exported at a profit, or unless, being the materials or instruments of some industry practised in the country itself, they gave the power of producing exportable articles at smaller cost, and thereby effecting a larger exportation. The commerce of the world was looked upon as a struggle among nations, which could draw to itself the largest share of the gold and silver in existence; and in this competition no nation could gain anything, except by making others lose as much, or, at the least, preventing them from gaining it.

It often happens that the universal belief of one age of mankind—a belief from which no one was, nor without an extraordinary effort of genius and courage, could at that time be free—becomes to a subsequent age so palpable an absurdity, that the only difficulty then is to imagine how such a thing can ever have appeared credible. It has so happened with the doctrine that money is synonymous with wealth. The conceit seems too preposterous to be thought of as a serious opinion. It looks like one of the crude fancies of childhood, instantly corrected by a word from any grown person. But let no one feel confident that he dwouldd have escaped the delusion if he had lived at the time when it prevailed. All the associations Edition: current; Page: [5] engendered by common life, and by the ordinary course of business, concurred in epromotinge it. So long as those associations were the only medium through which the subject was looked at, what we now think so gross an absurdity fseemed a truism. Once questioned, indeed, it was doomed; but no one was likely to think of questioning it whose mind had not become familiar with certain modes of stating and of contemplating economical phenomena, which have only found their way into the general understanding through the influence of Adam Smith and of his expositors.

In common gdiscourseg, wealth is always expressed in money. If you ask how rich a person is, you are answered that he has so many thousand pounds. All income and expenditure, all gains and losses, everything by which one becomes richer or poorer, are reckoned as the coming in or going out of so much money. It is true that in the inventory of a person’s fortune are included, not only the money in his actual possession, or due to him, but all other articles of value. These, however, enter, not in their own character, but in virtue of the sums of money which they would sell for; and if they would sell for less, their owner is reputed less rich, though the things themselves are precisely the same. It is true, also, that people do not grow rich by keeping their money unused, and that they must be willing to spend in order to gain. Those who enrich themselves by commerce, do so by giving money for goods as well as goods for money; and the first is as necessary a part of the process as the last. But ha personh who buys goods for purposes of gain, does so to sell them again for money, and in the expectation of receiving more money than he laid out: to get money, therefore, seems even to the person himself the ultimate end of the whole. It often happens that he is not paid in money, but in something else; having bought goods to a value equivalent, which are set off against those he sold. But he accepted these at a money valuation, and in the belief that they would bring in more money eventually than the price at which they were made over to him. A dealer doing a large amount of business, and turning over his capital rapidly, has but a small portion of it in ready money at any one time. But he only feels it valuable to him as it is convertible into money: he considers no transaction closed until the net result is either paid or credited in money: when he retires from business it is into money that he converts the whole, and not until then does he deem himself to have irealizedi his gains: just as if money were the only wealth, and money’s worth were only the means of attaining it. If jit be now askedj for what end money is desirable, unless to supply the wants or pleasures of koneselfk or Edition: current; Page: [6] others, the champion of the system would not be at all embarrassed by the question. True, he would say, these are the uses of wealth, and very laudable uses while confined to domestic commodities, because in that case, by exactly the amount which you expend, you enrich others of your countrymen. Spend your wealth, if you please, in whatever indulgences you have a taste for; but your wealth is not the indulgences, it is the sum of money, or the annual money income, with which you purchase them.

While there were so many things to render the assumption which is the basis of the mercantile system plausible, there is also some small foundation in reason, though a very insufficient one, for the distinction which that system so emphatically draws between money and every other kind of valuable possession. We really, and justly, look upon a person as possessing the advantages of wealth, not in proportion to the useful and agreeable things of which he is in the actual enjoyment, but to his command over the general fund of things useful and agreeable; the power he possesses of providing for any exigency, or obtaining any object of desire. Now, money is itself that power; while all other things, in a civilized state, seem to confer it only by their capacity of being exchanged for money. To possess any other article of wealth, is to possess that particular thing, and nothing else: if you wish for another thing instead of it, you have first to sell it, or to submit to the inconvenience and delay (if not the impossibility) of finding some one who has what you want, and is willing to barter it for what you have. But with money you are at once able to buy whatever things are for sale: and lonel whose fortune is in money, or in things rapidly convertible into it, seems both to himself and others to possess not any one thing, but all the things which the money places it at his option to purchase. The greatest part of the utility of wealth, beyond a very moderate quantity, is not the indulgences it procures, but the reserved power which its possessor holds in his hands of attaining purposes generally; and this power no other kind of wealth confers so immediately or so certainly as money. It is the only form of wealth which is not merely applicable to some one use, but can be turned at once to any use. And this distinction was the more likely to make an impression upon governments, as it is one of considerable importance to them. A civilized government derives comparatively little advantage from taxes unless it can collect them in money: and if it has large or sudden payments to make, especially payments in foreign countries for wars or subsidies, either for the sake of conquering or of not being conquered (the two chief objects of national policy until a late period), scarcely any medium of payment except money will serve the purpose. All these causes conspire to make both individuals and governments, in estimating their means, attach almost exclusive importance to money, either in esse Edition: current; Page: [7] or in posse, and look upon all other things (when viewed as part of their resources) scarcely otherwise than as the remote mmeansm of obtaining that which alone, when obtained, affords the indefinite, and at the same time instantaneous, command over objects of desire, which best answers to the idea of wealth.

An absurdity, however, does not cease to be an absurdity when we have discovered what were the appearances which made it plausible; and the Mercantile Theory could not fail to be seen in its true character when men began, even in an imperfect manner, to explore into the foundations of things, and seek their premises from elementary facts, and not from the forms and phrases of common discourse. So soon as they asked themselves what is really meant by money—what it is in its essential characters, and the precise nature of the functions it performs—they reflected that money, like other things, is only a desirable possession on account of its uses; and that these, instead of being, as they delusively appear, indefinite, are of a strictly defined and limited description, namely, to facilitate the distribution of the produce of industry according to the convenience of those among whom it is shared. Further consideration showed that the uses of money are in no respect promoted by increasing the quantity which exists and circulates in a country; the service which it performs being as well rendered by a small as by a large aggregate amount. Two million quarters of corn will not feed so many persons as four millions; but two millions of pounds sterling will carry on as much traffic, will buy and sell as many commodities, as four millions, though at lower nominal prices. Money, as money, satisfies no nwant;n its worth to any one, consists in its being a convenient shape in which to receive his incomings of all sorts, which incomings he afterwards, at the times which suit him best, converts into the forms in which they can be useful to him. oGreat as the difference would be between a country with money, and a country altogether without it, ito would be only one of convenience; a saving of time and trouble, like grinding by water ppowerp instead of by hand, or (to use Adam Smith’s illustration) like the benefit derived from roads; and to mistake money for wealth, is the same sort of error as to mistake the highway which may be the easiest way of getting to your house or lands, for the house and lands themselves.

qMoney, being the instrument of an important public and private purpose, is rightly regarded as wealth; but everything else which serves any human purpose, and which nature does not afford gratuitously, is wealth also. To be wealthy is to have a large stock of useful articles, or the means of Edition: current; Page: [8] purchasing them. Everything forms therefore a part of wealth, which has a power of purchasing; for which anything useful or agreeable would be given in exchange. Things for which nothing could be obtained in exchange, however useful or necessary they may be, are not wealth in the sense in which the term is used in Political Economy. Air, for example, though the most absolute of necessaries, bears no price in the market, because it can be obtained gratuitously: to accumulate a stock of it would yield no profit or advantage to any one; and the laws of its production and distribution are the subject of a very different study from Political Economy. But though air is not wealth, mankind are much richer by obtaining it gratis, since the time and labour which would otherwise be required for supplying the most pressing of all wants, can be devoted to other purposes. It is possible to imagine circumstances in which air would be a part of wealth. If it became customary to sojourn long in places where the air does not naturally penetrate, as in diving-bells sunk in the sea, a supply of air artificially furnished would, like water conveyed into houses, bear a price: and if from any revolution in nature the atmosphere became too scanty for the consumption, or could be monopolized, air might acquire a very high marketable value. In such a case, the possession of it, beyond his own wants, would be, to its owner, wealth; and the general wealth of mankind might at first sight appear to be increased, by what rwould ber so great a calamity to them. sThe error would lie in not tconsideringt, thats however rich the possessor of air might become at the expense of the rest of the community, all persons else would be poorer by all that they were compelled to pay for what they had before obtained without payment.

uThis leads to an important distinction in the meaning of the word wealth, as applied to the possessions of an individual, and to those of a nation, or of mankind. In the wealth of mankind, nothing is included which does not of itself answer some purpose of utility or pleasure. To an individual anything is wealth, which, though useless in itself, enables him to claim from others a part of their stock of things useful or pleasant. Take, for instance, a mortgage of a thousand pounds on a landed estate. This is wealth to the person to whom it brings in a revenue, and who could perhaps sell it in the market for the full amount of the debt. But it is not wealth to the country; if the engagement were annulled, the country would be neither poorer nor richer. The mortgagee would have lost a thousand pounds, and the owner of the land would have gained it. Speaking nationally, the mortgage was not itself wealth, but merely gave A a claim to a portion of the wealth of B. It was wealth to A, and wealth which he could transfer to a third person; but what he so transferred was in fact a joint ownership, to the extent of a Edition: current; Page: [9] thousand pounds, in the land of which B was nominally the sole proprietor. The position of fundholders, or owners of the public debt of a country, is similar. They are mortgagees on the general wealth of the country. The cancelling of the debt would be no destruction of wealth, but a transfer of it: a wrongful abstraction of wealth from certain members of the community, for the profit of the government, or of the tax-payers. Funded property therefore cannot be counted as part of the national wealth. This is not always borne in mind by the dealers in statistical calculations. For example, in estimates of the gross income of the country, founded on the proceeds of the income-tax, incomes derived from the funds are not always excluded: though the tax-payers are assessed on their whole nominal income, without being permitted to deduct from it the portion levied from them in taxation to form the income of the fundholder. In this calculation, therefore, one portion of the general income of the country is counted twice over, and the aggregate amount made to appear greater than it is by valmostv thirty millions. A country, however, may include in its wealth all stock held by its citizens in the funds of foreign countries, and other debts due to them from abroad. But even this is only wealth to them by being a part ownership in wealth held by others. It forms no part of the collective wealth of the human race. It is an element in the distribution, but not in the composition, of the general wealth.

wAnother example of a possession which is wealth to the person holding it, but not wealth to the nation, or to mankind, is slaves. It is by a strange confusion of ideas that slave property (as it is termed) is counted, at so much per head, in an estimate of the wealth, or of the capital, of the country which tolerates the existence of such property. If a human being, considered as an object possessing productive powers, is part of the national wealth when his powers are owned by another man, he cannot be less a part of it when they are owned by himself. Whatever he is worth to his master is so much property abstracted from himself, and its abstraction cannot augment the possessions of the two together, or of the country to which they both belong. In propriety of classification, however, the people of a country are not to be counted in its wealth. They are that for the sake of which its wealth exists. The term wealth is wanted to denote the desirable objects which they possess, not inclusive of, but in contradistinction to, their own persons. They are not wealth to themselves, though they are means of acquiring it.w

It has been proposed to define wealth as signifying “instruments:” meaning not tools and machinery alone, but the whole accumulation possessed by individuals or communities, of means for the attainment of their ends. Edition: current; Page: [10] Thus, a field is an instrument, because it is a means to the attainment of corn. Corn is an instrument, being a means to the attainment of flour. Flour is an instrument, being a means to the attainment of bread. Bread is an instrument, as a means to the satisfaction of hunger and to the support of life. Here we at last arrive at things which are not instruments, being desired on their own account, and not as mere means to something beyond. This view of the subject is philosophically correct; or rather, this mode of expression may be usefully employed along with others, not as conveying a different view of the subject from the common one, but as giving more distinctness and reality to the common view. It departs, however, too widely from the custom of language, to be likely to obtain general xacceptancex, or to be of use for any other purpose than that of occasional illustration.

Wealth, then, may be defined, all useful or agreeable things which possess exchangeable value; or, in other words, all useful or agreeable things except those which can be obtained, in the quantity desired, without labour or sacrifice. To this definition, the only objection seems to be, that it leaves in uncertainty a question which has been much debated—whether what are called immaterial products are to be considered as wealth: whether, for example, the skill of a workman, or any other natural or acquired power of body or mind, shall be called wealth, or not: a question, not of very great importance, and which, so far as requiring discussion, will be more conveniently considered in yanother placey.*

zThese things having been premised respecting wealth, we shall next turn our attention to the extraordinary differences in respect to it, which exist between nation and nation, and between different ages of the world; differences both in the quantity of wealth, and in the kind of it; as well as in the manner in which the wealth existing in the community is shared among its members.

There is, perhaps, no people or community, now existing, which subsists entirely on the spontaneous produce of vegetation. But many tribes still live exclusively, or almost exclusively, on wild animals, the produce of hunting or fishing. Their clothing is skins; their habitations, huts rudely formed of logs or boughs of trees, and abandoned at an hour’s notice. The food they use being little susceptible of storing up, they have no accumulation of it, and are often exposed to great privations. The wealth of such a community consists solely of the skins they wear; a few ornaments, the taste for which exists aamong most savagesa; some rude utensils; the Edition: current; Page: [11] weapons with which they kill their game, or fight bagainstb hostile competitors for the means of subsistence; canoes for crossing rivers and lakes, or fishing in the sea; and perhaps some furs or other productions of the wilderness, collected to be exchanged with civilized people for blankets, brandy, and tobacco; of which foreign produce also there may be some unconsumed portion in store. To this scanty inventory of material wealth, ought to be added their land; an instrument of production of which they make slender use, compared with more settled communities, but which is still the source of their subsistence, and which has a marketable value if there be any agricultural community in the neighbourhood requiring more land than it possesses. This is the state of greatest poverty in which any entire community of human beings is known to exist; though there are much richer communities in which portions of the inhabitants are in a condition, as to subsistence and comfort, cas little enviable as that of the savage.

The first great advance beyond this state consists in the domestication of the more useful animals; giving rise to the pastoral or nomad state, in which mankind do not live on the produce of hunting, but on milk and its products, and on the annual increase of flocks and herds. This condition is not only more desirable in itself, but more conducive to further progress: and a much more considerable amount of wealth is accumulated under it. So long as the vast natural pastures of the earth are not yet so fully occupied as to be consumed more rapidly than they are spontaneously reproduced, a large and constantly increasing stock of subsistence may be collected and preserved, with little other labour than that of guarding the cattle from the attacks of wild beasts, and from the force or wiles of predatory men. Large flocks and herds, therefore, are in time possessed, by active and thrifty individuals through their own exertions, and by the heads of families and tribes through the exertions of those who are connected with them by allegiance. There thus arises, in the shepherd state, inequality of possessions; a thing which scarcely exists in the savage state, where no one has much more than absolute necessaries, and in case of deficiency must share even those with his tribe. In the nomad state, some have an abundance of cattle, sufficient for the food of a multitude, while others have not contrived to appropriate and retain any superfluity, or perhaps any cattle at all. But subsistence has ceased to be precarious, since the more successful have no other use which they can make of their surplus than to feed the less fortunate, while every increase in the number of persons connected with them is an increase both of security and of power: and thus they are enabled to divest themselves of all labour except that of government and superintendence, and acquire dependents to fight for them in war and to serve them in peace. One of the features of this state of society is, that a Edition: current; Page: [12] part of the community, and in some degree even the whole of it, possess leisure. Only a portion of time is required for procuring food, and the remainder is not engrossed by anxious thought for the morrow, or necessary repose from muscular activity. Such a life is highly favourable to the growth of new wants, and opens a possibility of their gratification. A desire arises for better clothing, utensils, and implements, than the savage state contents itself with; and the surplus food renders it practicable to devote to these purposes the exertions of a part of the tribe. In all or most nomad communities we find domestic manufactures of a coarse, and in some, of a fine kind. There is ample evidence that while those parts of the world which have been the cradle of modern civilization were still generally in the nomad state, considerable skill had been attained in spinning, weaving, and dyeing woollen garments, in the preparation of leather, and in what appears a still more difficult invention, that of working in metals. Even speculative science took its first beginnings from the leisure characteristic of this stage of social progress. The earliest astronomical observations are attributed, by a tradition which has much appearance of truth, to the shepherds of Chaldea.

dFrom this state of society to the agricultural the transition is not indeed easy (for no great change in the habits of mankind is otherwise than difficult, and in general either painful or very slow), but it lies in what may be called the spontaneous course of events. The growth of the population of men and cattle began in time to press upon the earth’s capabilities of yielding natural pasture: and this cause doubtless produced the first tilling of the ground, just as at a later period the same cause made the superfluous hordes of the nations which had remained nomad precipitate themselves upon those which had already become agricultural; until, these having become sufficiently powerful to repel such inroads, the invading nations, deprived of this outlet, were eobliged alsoe to become agricultural communities.

But after this great step had been completed, the subsequent progress of mankind seems by no means to have been so rapid (certain rare combinations of circumstances excepted) as might perhaps have been anticipated. The quantity of human food which the earth is capable of returning even to the most wretched system of agriculture, so much exceeds what could be obtained in the purely pastoral state, that a great increase of population is invariably the result. But this additional food is only obtained by a great additional amount of labour; so that not only an agricultural has much less leisure than a pastoral population, but, with the imperfect tools and unskilful processes which are for a long time employed (and which over the greater part of the earth have not even yet been abandoned), agriculturists do not, unless in unusually advantageous circumstances of climate Edition: current; Page: [13] and soil, produce so great a surplus of food, beyond their necessary consumption, as to support any large class of labourers engaged in other departments of industry. The surplus, too, whether small or great, is usually torn from the producers, either by the government to which they are subject, or by individuals, who by superior force, or by availing themselves of religious or traditional feelings of subordination, have established themselves as lords of the soil.

The first of these modes of appropriation, by the government, is characteristic of the extensive monarchies which from a time beyond historical record have occupied the plains of Asia. The government, in those countries, though varying in its qualities according to the accidents of personal character, seldom leaves much to the cultivators beyond mere necessaries, and often strips them so bare even of these, that it finds itself obliged, after taking all they have, to lend part of it back to those from whom it has been taken, in order to provide them with seed, and enable them to support life until another harvest. Under the régime in question, though the bulk of the population are ill provided for, the government, by collecting small fcontributionsf from great numbers, is enabled, with any tolerable management, to make a show of riches quite out of proportion to the general condition of the society; and hence the inveterate impression, of which Europeans have only at a late period been disabused, concerning the great opulence of Oriental nations. In this wealth, without reckoning the large portion which adheres to the hands employed in collecting it, many persons of course participate, besides the immediate household of the sovereign. A large part is distributed among the various functionaries of government, and among the objects of the sovereign’s favour or caprice. A part is occasionally employed in works of public utility. The tanks, wells, and canals for irrigation, without which in gmanyg tropical climates cultivation could hardly be carried on; the embankments which confine the rivers, the bazars for dealers, and the seraees for travellers, none of which could have been made by the scanty means in the possession of those using them, owe their existence to the liberality and enlightened self-interest of the better order of princes, or to the benevolence or ostentation of here and there a rich individual, whose fortune, if traced to its source, is always found to have been drawn immediately or remotely from the public revenue, most frequently by a direct grant of a portion of it from the sovereign.

The ruler of a society of this description, after providing largely for his own support, and that of all persons in whom he feels an interest, and after maintaining as many soldiers as he thinks needful for his security or his state, has a disposable residue, which he is glad to exchange for articles of luxury suitable to his disposition: as have also the class of persons who Edition: current; Page: [14] have been enriched by his favour, or by handling the public revenues. A demand thus arises for elaborate and costly manufactured articles, adapted to a narrow but a wealthy market. This demand is often supplied almost exclusively by the merchants of more advanced communities, but often also raises up in the country itself a class of artificers, by whom certain fabrics are carried to as high excellence as can be given by patienceh, quickness of perception and observation,h and manual dexterity, without any considerable knowledge of the properties of objects: such as some of the cotton fabrics of India. These artificers are fed by the surplus food which has been taken by the government and its agents as their share of the produce. So literally is this the case, that in some countries the workman, instead of taking his work home, and being paid for it after it is finished, proceeds with his tools to his customer’s house, and is there subsisted until the work is complete. The insecurity, however, of all possessions in this state of society, induces even the richest purchasers to give a preference to such articles as, being of an imperishable nature, and containing great value in small bulk, are adapted for being concealed or carried off. Gold and jewels, therefore, constitute a large proportion of the wealth of these nations, and many a rich Asiatic carries nearly his whole fortune on his person, or on those of the women of his harem. No one, except the monarch, thinks of investing his wealth in a manner not susceptible of removal. He, indeed, if he feels safe on his throne, and reasonably secure of transmitting it to his descendants, sometimes indulges a taste for durable edifices, and produces the Pyramids, or the Taj Mehal and the Mausoleum at Sekundra. The rude manufactures destined for the wants of the cultivators are worked up by village artisans, who are remunerated by land given to them rent-free to cultivate, or by fees paid to them in kind from such share of the crop as is left to the villagers by the government. iThisi state of society, however, is not destitute of a mercantile class; composed of two divisions, grain dealers and money dealers. The grain dealers do not usually buy grain from the producers, but from the agents of government, who, receiving the revenue in kind, are glad to devolve upon others the business of conveying it to the places where the prince, his chief civil and military officers, the bulk of his troops, and the artisans who supply the wants of these various persons, are assembled. The money dealers lend to the unfortunate cultivators, when ruined by bad seasons or fiscal exactions, the means of supporting life and continuing their cultivation, and are repaid with enormous interest at the next harvest; or, on a larger scale, they lend to the government, or to those to whom it has granted a portion of the revenue, and are indemnified by assignments on the revenue collectors, or by having certain districts put into their possession, that they may pay themselves from the revenues; to enable Edition: current; Page: [15] them to do which, a great portion of the powers of government are usually made over simultaneously, to be exercised by them until either the districts are redeemed, or their receipts have liquidated the debt. Thus, the commercial operations of both these classes of dealers take place principally upon that part of the produce of the country which forms the revenue of the government. From that revenue their capital is periodically replaced with a profit, and that is also the source from which their original funds have almost always been derived. Such, in its general features, is the economical condition of most of the countries of Asia, as it has been from beyond the commencement of authentic history, and is still, wherever not disturbed by foreign influences.

jIn the agricultural communities of ancient Europe whose early condition is best known to us, the course of things was different. These, at their origin, were mostly small town-communities, at the first plantation of which, in an unoccupied country, or in one from which the former inhabitants had been expelled, the land which was taken possession of was kregularlyk divided, in equal or lin graduatedl allotments, among the families composing the community. In some cases, instead of a town there was a confederation of towns, occupied by people of the same reputed race, and who were supposed to have settled in the country about the same time. Each family produced its own food and the materials of its clothing, which were worked up within itself, usually by the women of the family, into the coarse fabrics with which the age was contented. Taxes there were none, as there were either no paid officers of government, or if there were, their payment had been provided for by a reserved portion of land, cultivated by slaves on account of the state; and the army consisted of the body of citizens. The whole produce of the soil, therefore, belonged, without deduction, to the family which cultivated it. So long as the progress of events permitted this disposition of property to last, the state of society was, for the majority of the free cultivators, probably not an undesirable one; and under it, in some cases, the advance of mankind in intellectual culture was extraordinarily rapid and brilliant. This more especially happened where, along with madvantageousm circumstances of race and climate, and no doubt with many favourable accidents of which all trace is now lost, was combined the advantage of a position on the nshoresn of a great inland sea, the other coasts of which were already occupied by settled communities. The knowledge which in such a position was acquired of foreign productions, and the easy access of foreign ideas and inventions, made the chain of Edition: current; Page: [16] routine, usually so strong in a rude people, hang loosely on these communities. To speak only of their industrial development; they early acquired variety of wants and desires, which stimulated them to extract from their own soil the utmost which they knew how to make it yield; and when their soil was sterile, or after they had oreached the limito of its capacity, they often became traders, and bought up the productions of foreign countries, to sell them in other countries with a profit.

The duration, however, of this state of things was from the first precarious. These little communities lived in a state of almost perpetual war. For this there were many causes. In the ruder and purely agricultural communities a frequent cause was the mere pressure of their increasing population upon their limited land, aggravated as that pressure so often was by deficient harvests, in the rude state of their agriculture, and depending as they did for food upon a very small extent of country. On these occasions, the community often emigrated en masse, or sent forth a swarm of its youth, to seek, sword in hand, for some less warlike people, who could be expelled from their land, or detained to cultivate it as slaves for the benefit of their despoilers. What the less advanced tribes did from necessity, the more prosperous did from ambition and the military spirit: and after a time the whole of these city-communities were either conquerors or conquered. In some cases, the conquering state contented itself with imposing a tribute on the vanquished: who being, in consideration of that burden, freed from the expense and trouble of their own military and naval protection, might enjoy under it a considerable share of economical prosperity, while the ascendant community obtained a surplus of wealth, available for purposes of collective luxury or magnificence. From such a surplus the Parthenon and the Propylæa were built, the sculptures of Pheidias paid for, and the festivals celebrated, for which Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes composed their dramas. But this state of political relations, most useful, while it lasted, to the progress and ultimate interest of mankind, had not the elements of durability. A small conquering community which does not incorporate its conquests, always ends by being conquered. Universal dominion, therefore, at last rested with the people who practised this art—with the Romans; who, whatever were their other devices, always either began or ended by taking a great part of the land to enrich their own leading citizens, and by adopting into the governing body the principal possessors of the remainder. It is unnecessary to dwell on the melancholy economical history of the Roman empire. When inequality of wealth once commences, in a community not constantly engaged in repairing by industry the injuries of fortune, its advances are gigantic; the great masses of wealth swallow up the smaller. The Roman empire ultimately became covered with Edition: current; Page: [17] the vast landed possessions of a comparatively few families, for whose luxury, and still more for whose ostentation, the most costly products were raised, while the cultivators of the soil were slaves, or small tenants in a nearly servile condition. From this time the wealth of the empire progressively declined. In the beginning, the public revenues, and the resources of rich individuals, sufficed at least to cover Italy with splendid edifices, public and private; but at length so dwindled under the enervating influences of misgovernment, that what remained was not even sufficient to keep those edifices from decay. The strength and riches of the civilized world became inadequate to make head against the nomad population which skirted its northern frontier; they overran the empire, and a different order of things succeeded.

pIn the new frame in which European society was now cast, the population of each country may be considered as composed, in unequal proportions, of two distinct nations or races, the conquerors and the conquered: the first the proprietors of the land, the latter the tillers of it. These tillers were allowed to occupy the land on conditions which, being the product of force, were always onerous, but seldom to the extent of absolute slavery. Already, in the later times of the Roman empire, predial slavery had extensively transformed itself into a kind of serfdom: the coloni of the Romans were rather villeins than actual slaves; and the incapacity and distaste of the barbarian conquerors for personally superintending industrial occupations, left no alternative but to allow to the cultivators, as an incentive to exertion, some real interest in the soil. If, for example, they were compelled to labour, three days in the week, for their superior, the produce of the remaining days was their own. If they were required to supply the provisions of various sorts, ordinarily qneededq for the consumption of the castle, and were often subject to requisitions in excess, yet after supplying these demands they were suffered to dispose at their will of whatever additional produce they could raise. Under this system during the Middle Ages it was not impossible, no more than in rmodern Russia (where, up to the recent measure of emancipation, the same system still essentially prevailed),r for serfs to acquire property; and in fact, their accumulations are the primitive source of the wealth of modern Europe.

In that age of violence and disorder, the first use made by a serf of any small provision which he had been able to accumulate, was to buy his freedom and withdraw himself to some town or fortified village, which had remained undestroyed from the time of the Roman dominion; or, without Edition: current; Page: [18] buying his freedom, to abscond thither. In that place of refuge, surrounded by others of his own class, he attempted to live, secured in some measure from the outrages and exactions of the warrior caste, by his own prowess and that of his fellows. These emancipated serfs mostly became artificers; and lived by exchanging the produce of their industry for the surplus food and material which the soil yielded to its feudal proprietors. This gave rise to a sort of European counterpart of the economical condition of Asiatic countries; except that, in lieu of a single monarch and a fluctuating body of favourites and employés, there was a numerous and in a considerable degree fixed class of great landholders; exhibiting far less splendour, because individually disposing of a much smaller surplus produce, and for a long time expending the chief part of it in maintaining the body of retainers whom the warlike habits of society, and the little protection afforded by government, rendered indispensable to their safety. The greater stability, the fixity of personal position, which this state of society afforded, in comparison with the Asiatic polity to which it economically corresponded, wass one main reason why it was also found more favourable to improvement. From this time the economical advancement of society has not been further interrupted. Security of person and property grew slowly, but steadily; the arts of life made constant progress; plunder ceased to be the tprincipalt source of accumulation; and feudal Europe ripened into commercial and manufacturing Europe. In the latter part of the Middle Ages, the towns of Italy and Flanders, the free cities of Germany, and some towns of France and England, contained a large and energetic population of artisans, and many rich burghers, whose wealth had been acquired by manufacturing industry, or by trading in the produce of such industry. The Commons of England, the Tiers-Etat of France, the bourgeoisie of the Continent generally, are the descendants of this class. As these were a saving class, while the posterity of the feudal aristocracy were a squandering class, the former by degrees substituted themselves for the latter as the owners of a great proportion of the land. This natural tendency was in some cases retarded by laws contrived for the purpose of detaining the land in the families of its uexistingu possessors, in other cases accelerated by political revolutions. Gradually, though more slowly, the immediate cultivators of the soil, in all the more civilized countries, ceased to be in a servile or semi-servile state: though the legal position, as well as the economical condition attained by them, vary extremely in the different nations of Europe, and in the great communities which have been founded beyond the Atlantic by the descendants of Europeans.

vThe world now contains several extensive regions, provided with the Edition: current; Page: [19] various ingredients of wealth in a degree of abundance of which former ages had not even the idea. Without compulsory labour, an enormous mass of food is annually extracted from the soil, and maintains, besides the actual producers, an equal, sometimes a greater number of labourers, occupied in producing conveniences and luxuries of innumerable kinds, or in transporting them from place to place; also a multitude of persons employed in directing and superintending these various labours; and over and above all these, a class more numerous than in the most luxurious ancient societies, of persons whose occupations are of a kind not directly productive, and of persons who have no occupation at all. The food thus raised supports a far larger population than had ever existed (at least in the same regions) on an equal space of ground; and supports them with certainty, exempt from those periodically recurring famines so abundant in the early history of Europe, and in Oriental countries even now not unfrequent. Besides this great increase in the quantity of food, it has greatly improved in quality and variety; while conveniences and luxuries, other than food, are no longer limited to a small and opulent class, but descend, in great abundance, through many widening strata in societyw. The collective resources of one of these communities, when it chooses to put them forth for any unexpected purpose; its ability to maintain fleets and armies, to execute public works, either useful or ornamental, to perform national acts of beneficence like the ransom of the West India slaves; to found colonies, to have its people taught, to do anything in short which requires expense, and to do it with no sacrifice of the necessaries or even the substantial comforts of its inhabitants, are such as the world never saw before.

But in all these particulars, characteristic of the modern industrial communities, those communities differ widely from one another. Though abounding in wealth as compared with former ages, they do so in very different degrees. Even of the countries which are justly accounted the richest, some have made a more complete use of their productive resources, and have obtained, relatively to their territorial extent, a much larger produce, than others; nor do they differ only in amount of wealth, but also in the rapidity of its increase. The diversities in the distribution of wealth are still greater than in the production. There are great differences in the condition of the poorest class in different countries; and in the proportional numbers and opulence of the classes which are above the poorest. The very nature and designation of the classes who originally share among them the produce of the soil, vary not a little in different places. In some, the landowners are a class in themselves, almost entirely separate from the classes engaged in industry: in others, the proprietor of the land is Edition: current; Page: [20] almost universally its cultivator, owning the plough, xand oftenx himself holding it. Where the proprietor himself does not cultivate, there is sometimes, between him and the labourer, an intermediate agency, that of the farmer, who advances the subsistence of the labourers, supplies the yinstrumentsy of production, and receives, after paying a rent to the landowner, all the produce: in other cases, the landlord, his paid agents, and the labourers, are the only sharers. Manufactures, again, are sometimes carried on by scattered individuals, who own or hire the tools or machinery they require, and employ little labour besides that of their own family; in other cases, by large numbers working together in one building, with expensive and complex machinery owned by rich manufacturers. The same difference exists in the operations of trade. The wholesale operations indeed are everywhere carried on by large capitals, where such exist; but the retail dealings, which collectively occupy a zvery greatz amount of capital, are sometimes conducted in small shops, chiefly by the personal exertions of the dealers themselves, with their families, and perhaps an apprentice or two; and sometimes in large establishments, of which the funds are supplied by a wealthy individual or association, and the agency is that of numerous salaried shopmen or shopwomen. Besides these differences in the economical phenomena presented by different parts of what is usually called the civilized world, all those earlier states which we previously passed in review, have continued in some part or other of the world, down to our own time. Hunting communities still exist in America, nomadic in Arabia and the steppes of Northern Asia; Oriental society is in essentials what it has always been; athe great empire of Russia isa even now, in many respects, the scarcely modified image of feudal Europe. Every one of the great types of human society, down to that of the Esquimaux or Patagonians, is still extant.

bThese remarkable differences in the state of different portions of the human race, with regard to the production and distribution of wealth, must, like all other phenomena, depend on causes. And it is not a sufficient explanation to ascribe them exclusively to the degrees of knowledge possessed at different times and places, of the laws of nature and the physical arts of life. Many other causes co-operate; and that very progress and unequal distribution of physical knowledge are partly the effects, as well as partly the causes, of the state of the production and distribution of wealth.

In so far as the economical condition of nations turns upon the state of physical knowledge, it is a subject for the physical sciences, and the arts founded on them. But in so far as the causes are moral or psychological, Edition: current; Page: [21] dependent on institutions and social relations, or on the principles of human nature, their investigation belongs not to physical, but to moral and social science, and is the object of what is called Political Economy.

The production of wealth; the extraction of the instruments of human subsistence and enjoyment from the materials of the globe, is evidently not an arbitrary thing. It has its necessary conditions. Of these, some are physical, depending on the properties of matterc, dandd on the amount of knowledge of those properties possessed at the particular place and timec. These Political Economy does not investigate, but assumes; referring for ethe groundse, to physical science or common experience. Combining with these facts of outward nature other truths frelating tof human nature, it attempts to trace the secondary or derivative laws, by which the production of wealth is determined; gin which must lie the explanation of the diversities of riches and poverty in the present and past, and the ground of whatever hincreaseh in wealth is reserved for the future.

Unlike the laws of Production, those of Distribution are partly of human institution: since the manner in which wealth is distributed in any given society, depends on the statutes or usages therein iobtainingi. But though governments or nations jhave the power of decidingj what institutions shall kexistk, they cannot arbitrarily determine how those institutions shall work. The conditions on which the power they possess over the distribution of wealth is dependent, and the manner in which the distribution is leffectedl by the various modes of conduct which society may think fit to adopt, are mas much a subject for scientific enquiry as any of the physical laws of naturem.

The laws of Production and Distribution, and some of the practical consequences deducible from them, are the subject of the following treatise.

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CHAPTER I: Of the Requisites of Production

§ 1. [Requisites of production, what] The requisites of production are two: labour, and appropriate natural objects.

Labour is either bodily or mental; or, to express the distinction more comprehensively, either muscular or nervous; and it is necessary to include in the idea, not solely the exertion itself, but all feelings of a disagreeable kind, all bodily inconvenience or mental annoyance, connected with the employment of one’s thoughts, or muscles, or both, in a particular occupation. Of the other requisite—appropriate natural objects—it is to be remarked, that some objects exist or grow up spontaneously, of a kind suited to the supply of human wants. There are caves and hollow trees capable of affording shelter; fruit, roots, wild honey, and other natural products, on which human life can be supported; but even here a considerable quantity of labour is generally required, not for the purpose of creating, but of finding and appropriating them. In all but these few and (except in the very commencement of human society) unimportant cases, the objects supplied by nature are only instrumental to human wants, after having undergone some degree of transformation by human exertion. Even the wild animals of the forest and of the sea, from which the hunting and fishing tribes derive their sustenance—though the labour of which they are the subject is chiefly that required for appropriating them—must yet, before they are used as food, be killed, divided into fragments, and subjected in almost all cases to some aculinary processa, which are operations requiring a certain degree of human labour. The amount of transformation which natural substances undergo before being brought into the shape in which they are directly applied to human use, varies from this or a still less degree of alteration in the nature and appearance of the object, to a change so total that no trace is perceptible of the original shape and structure. There is little resemblance between a piece of a mineral substance found in the earth, and a plough, an axe, or a saw. There is less resemblance between porcelain and the decomposing granite of which it is made, or between sand mixed with sea-weed, and glass. The difference is greater still between the fleece of a sheep, or a handful of cotton seeds, and a web Edition: current; Page: [26] of muslin or broad cloth; and the sheep and seeds themselves are not spontaneous growths, but results of previous labour and care. In these several cases the ultimate product is so extremely dissimilar to the substance supplied by nature, that in the custom of language nature is represented as only furnishing materials.

Nature, however, does more than supply materials; she also supplies powers. The matter of the globe is not an inert recipient of forms and properties impressed by human hands; it has active energies by which it co-operates with, and may even be used as a substitute for, labour. In the early ages bpeopleb converted their corn into flour by pounding it between two stones; they next hit on a contrivance which enabled them, by turning a handle, to make one of the stones revolve upon the other; and this process, a little improved, is still the common practice of the East. The muscular exertion, however, which it required, was very severe and exhausting, insomuch that it was often selected as a punishment for slaves who had offended their masters. When the time came at which the labour and sufferings of slaves were thought worth economizing, the greater part of this bodily exertion was rendered unnecessary, by contriving that the upper cstonec should be made to revolve upon the lower, not by human strength, but by the force of the wind or of falling water. In this case, natural agents, the wind or the gravitation of the water, are made to do a portion of the work previously done by labour.

§ 2. [The function of labour defined] Cases like this, in which a certain amount of labour has been dispensed with, its work being devolved upon some natural agent, are apt to suggest an erroneous notion of the comparative functions of labour and natural powers; as if the co-operation of those powers with human industry were limited to the cases in which they are made to perform what would otherwise be done by labour; as if, in the case of things made (as the phrase is) by hand, nature only furnished passive materials. This is an illusion. The powers of nature are as actively operative in the one case as in the other. A workman takes a stalk of the flax or hemp plant, splits it into separate fibres, twines together several of these fibres with his fingers, aided by a simple instrument called a spindle; having thus formed a thread, he lays many such threads side by side, and places other similar threads directly across them, so that each passes alternately over and under those which are at right angles to it; this part of the process being facilitated by an instrument called a shuttle. He has now produced a web of cloth, either linen or sackcloth, according to the material. He is said to have done this by hand, no natural force being supposed to have acted in concert with him. But by what force is each step of Edition: current; Page: [27] this operation rendered possible, and the web, when produced, held together? aBy the tenacity, or force of cohesion, of the fibres:a which is one of the forces in nature, and which we can measure exactly against other mechanical forces, and ascertain how much of any of them it suffices to neutralize or counterbalance.

If we examine any other case of what is called the action of man upon nature, we shall find in like manner that the powers of nature, or in other words the properties of matter, do all the work, when once objects are put into the right position. This one operation, of putting things into fit places for being acted upon by their own internal forces, and by those residing in other natural objects, is all that man does, or can do, with matterb. He only moves one thing to or from another. He moves a seed into the ground; and the natural forces of vegetation produce in succession a root, a stem, leaves, flowers, and fruit. He moves an axe through a tree, and it falls by the natural force of gravitation; he moves a saw through it, in a particular manner, and the physical properties by which a softer substance gives way before a harder, make it separate into planks, which he arranges in certain positions, with cnails driven through them, orc adhesive matter between them, and produces a table, or a house. He moves a spark to fuel, and it dignitesd, and by the force egenerated ine combustion it cooks the food, melts or softens the iron, converts into beer or sugar the malt or cane-juice, which he has previously moved to the spot. He has no other means of acting on matter than by moving it. Motion, and resistance to motion, are the only things which his muscles are constructed for. By muscular contraction he can create a pressure on an outward object, which, if sufficiently powerful, will set it in motion, or if it be already moving, will check or modify or altogether arrest its motion, and he can do no more. But this is enough to have given fall the command which mankind have acquired over natural forces immeasurably more powerful than themselves; a command which, great as it is already, is without doubt destined to become indefinitely greater. He gexertsg this power either by availing himself of natural forces in existence, or by arranging objects in those mixtures and combinations by which natural forces are generated; as when by putting a lighted match to fuel, and water into a boiler over it, he Edition: current; Page: [28] generates the expansive force of steam, a power which has been made so largely available for the attainment of human purposes.*

Labour, then, in the physical world, is always and solely employed in putting objects in motion; the properties of matter, the laws of nature, do the rest. The skill and ingenuity of human beings hareh chiefly exercised in discovering movements, practicable by their powers, and capable of bringing about the effects which they desire. But, while movement is the only effect which man can immediately and directly produce by his muscles, it is not necessary that he should produce directly by them all the movements which he requires. The first and most obvious substitute is the muscular action of cattle: by degrees ithe powers of inanimate nature are made to aidi in this too, as by making the wind, or water, things already in motion, communicate a part of their motion to the jwheelsj, which before that invention kwere made tok revolve by muscular force. lThis service is extortedl from the powers of wind and water by a set of actions, consisting like the former in moving certain objects into certain positions in which they constitute what is termed a mmachinem; but the muscular action necessary for this is not constantly renewed, but performed once for all, and there is on the whole a great economy of labour.

§ 3. [Does nature contribute more to the efficacy of labour in some occupations than in others?] Some writers have raised the question, whether nature gives more assistance to labour in one kind of industry or in another; and have said that in some occupations labour does most, in others nature most. In this, however, there seems much confusion of ideas. The part which nature has in any work of man, is indefinite and incommensurable. It is impossible to decide that in any one thing nature does more than in any other. One cannot even say that labour does less. aLess labour may bea required; but if that which is required is absolutely indispensable, the result is just as much the product of labour, as of nature. When two conditions are equally necessary for producing the effect at all, it is bunmeaningb to say that so much of it is produced by one and so much by the other; it is like Edition: current; Page: [29] attempting to decide which half of a pair of scissors has most to do in the act of cutting; or which of the factors, five and six, contributes most to the production of thirty. The form which this conceit usually assumes, is that of supposing that nature lends more assistance to human endeavours in agriculture, than in manufactures. This notion, held by the French Economistes, and from which Adam Smith was not free, arose from a misconception of the nature of rent. The rent of land being a price paid for a natural agency, and no such price being paid in manufactures, these writers imagined that since a price was paid, it was because there was a greater amount of service to be paid for: whereas a better consideration of the subject would have shown cthat the reason why the use of land bears a price is simply the limitation of its quantity, and that if air, heat, electricity, chemical agencies, and the other powers of nature employed by manufacturers, were sparingly supplied, and could, like land, be engrossed and appropriated, a rent could be exacted for them also.

§ 4. [Some natural agents limited, others practically unlimited, in quantity] This leads to a distinction which we shall find to be of primary importance. Of natural powers, some are unlimited, others limited in quantity. By an unlimited quantity is of course anot meanta literally, but practically unlimited: a quantity beyond bthe use which can in any, or at leastb in present circumstances, be made of it. Land is, in some newly settled countries, practically unlimited in quantity: there is more than can be used by the existing population of the country, or by any accession likely to be made to it for cgenerationsc to come. But even there, land favourably situated with regard to markets or means of carriage, is generally limited in quantity: there is not so much of it as persons would gladly occupy and cultivate, or otherwise turn to use. In all old countries, land capable of cultivation, land at least of any tolerable fertility, must be ranked among agents limited in quantity. Water, for ordinary purposes, on the banks of rivers or lakes, may be regarded as of unlimited abundance; but if required for irrigation, it may even there be insufficient to supply all wants, while in places which depend for their consumption on cisterns or tanks, or on wells which are not copious, or are liable to fail, water takes its place among things the quantity of which is most strictly limited. Where water itself is plentiful, yet waterpower, i.e. a fall of water applicable by its mechanical force to the service of industry, may be exceedingly limited, compared with the use which would be made of it if it were more abundant. Coal, metallic Edition: current; Page: [30] ores, and other useful substances found in the earth, are still more limited than land. They are not only strictly local but exhaustible; though, at a given place and time, they may exist in much greater abundance than would be applied to present use even if they could be obtained gratis. Fisheries, in the sea, are in most cases a gift of nature practically unlimited in amount; but the Arctic whale fisheries have long been insufficient for the demand which exists even at the very considerable price necessary to defray the cost of appropriation: and the immense extension which the Southern fisheries have in consequence assumed, is tending to exhaust them likewise. River fisheries are a natural resource of a very limited character, and would be rapidly exhausted, if allowed to be used by every one without restraint. Air, even that state of it which we term wind, may, in most situations, be obtained in a quantity sufficient for every possible use; and so likewise, on the sea coast or on large rivers, may water carriage: though the wharfage or harbour-room applicable to the service of that mode of transport is in many situations far short of what would be used if easily attainable.

It will be seen hereafter how much of the economy of society depends on the limited quantity in which some of the most important natural agents exist, and more particularly land. For the present I shall only remark that so long as the quantity of a natural agent is practically unlimited, it cannot, unless susceptible of artificial monopoly, bear any value in the market, since no one will give anything for what can be obtained gratis. But as soon as a limitation becomes practically operative; as soon as there is not so much of the thing to be had, as would be appropriated and used if it could be obtained for asking; the ownership or use of the natural agent acquires an exchangeable value. When more dwater power isd wanted in a particular district, than there are falls of water to supply eite, persons will give an equivalent for the use of a fall of water. When there is more land wanted for cultivation than a place possesses, or than it possesses of a certain quality and certain advantages of situation, land of that quality and situation may be sold for a price, or let for an annual rent. This subject will hereafter be discussed at length; but it is often useful to anticipate, by a brief suggestion, principles and deductions which we have not yet reached the place for exhibiting and illustrating fully.

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CHAPTER II: Of Labour as an Agent of Production

§ 1. [Labour employed either directly about the thing produced, or in operations preparatory to its production] The labour which terminates in the production of an article fitted for some human use, is either employed directly about the thing, or in previous operations destined to facilitate, perhaps essential to the possibility of, the subsequent ones. In making bread, for example, the labour employed about the thing itself is that of the baker; but the labour of the miller, though employed directly in the production not of bread but of flour, is equally part of the aggregate sum of labour by which the bread is produced; as is also the labour of the sower and of the reaper. Some may think that all these persons ought to be considered as employing their labour directly about the thing; the corn, the flour, and the bread being one substance in three different states. Without disputing about this question of mere language, there is still the ploughman, who prepared the ground for the seed, and whose labour never came in contact with the substance in any of its states; and the plough-maker, whose share in the result was still more remote. All these persons ultimately derive the remuneration of their labour from the bread, or its price: the plough-maker as much as the rest; for since ploughs are of no use except for tilling the soil, no one would make or use ploughs for any other reason than because the increased returns, thereby obtained from the ground, afforded a source from which an adequate equivalent could be assigned for the labour of the plough-maker. If the produce is to be used or consumed in the form of bread, it is from the bread that this equivalent must come. The bread must suffice to remunerate all these labourers, and several others; asuch asa the carpenters and bricklayers who erected the farm-buildings; the hedgers and ditchers who made the fences necessary for the protection of the crop; the bminers and smeltersb who extracted or prepared the iron of which the plough and other cinstrumentsc were made. These, however, and the plough-maker, Edition: current; Page: [32] do not depend for their remuneration upon the bread made from the produce of a single harvest, but upon that made from the produce of all the harvests which are successively gathered until the plough, or the dbuildings and fences, are worn out. We must add yet another kind of labour; that of transporting the produce from the place of its production to the place of its destined use: the labour of carrying the corn to market, and from market to the miller’s, the flour from the miller’s to the baker’s, and the bread from the baker’s to the place of its final consumption. This labour is sometimes very considerable: flour is transported to England from beyond the Atlantic, corn from the heart of Russia; and in addition to the labourers immediately employed, the waggoners and sailors, there are also costly instruments, such as ships, in the construction of which much labour has been expended: that labour, however, not depending for its whole remuneration upon the bread, but for a part only; ships being usually, during the course of their existence, employed in the transport of many different kinds of commodities.

To estimate, therefore, the labour of which any given commodity is the result, is far from a simple operation. The items in the calculation are very numerous—as it may seem to some persons, infinitely so; for if, as a part of the labour employed in making bread, we count the labour of the blacksmith who made the plough, why not also (it may be asked) the labour of making the tools used by the blacksmith, and the tools used in making those tools, and so back to the origin of things? But after mounting one or two steps in this ascending scale, we come into a region of fractions too minute for calculation. Suppose, for instance, that the same plough will last, before being worn out, a dozen years. Only one-twelfth of the labour of making the plough must be placed to the account of each year’s harvest. A twelfth part of the labour of making a plough is an appreciable quantity. But the same set of tools, perhaps, suffice to the plough-maker for forging a hundred ploughs, which serve during the twelve years of their existence to prepare the soil of eas manye different farms. A twelve-hundredth part of the labour of making fhisf tools, is as much, therefore, as has been expended in procuring one year’s harvest of a single farm: and when this fraction comes to be further apportioned among the various sacks of corn and loaves of bread, it is seen at once that such quantities are not worth taking into the account for any practical purpose connected with the commodity. It is true that if the tool-maker had not laboured, the corn and bread never would have been produced; but they will not gbe soldg a tenth part of a farthing dearer in consideration of his labour.

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§ 2. [Labour employed in producing subsistence for subsequent labour] Another of the modes in which labour is indirectly or remotely instrumental to the production of a thing, requires particular notice: namely, when it is employed in producing subsistence, to maintain the labourers while they are engaged in the production. This previous employment of labour is an indispensable condition to every productive operation, on any other than the very smallest scale. Except the labour of the hunter and fisher, there is scarcely any kind of labour to which the returns are immediate. Productive operations require to be continued a certain time, before their fruits are obtained. Unless the labourer, before commencing his work, possesses a store of food, or can obtain access to the stores of some one else, in sufficient quantity to maintain him until the production is completed, he can undertake no labour but such as can be carried on at odd intervals, concurrently with the pursuit of his subsistence. He cannot obtain food itself in any abundance; for every mode of so obtaining it, requires that there be already food in store. Agriculture only brings forth food after the lapse of months; and though the labours of the agriculturist are not necessarily continuous during the whole period, they must occupy a considerable part of it. Not only is agriculture impossible without food produced in advance, but there must be a very great quantity in advance to enable any considerable community to support itself wholly by agriculture. A country like England or France is only able to carry on the agriculture of the present year, because that of past years has provided, in those countries or somewhere else, sufficient food to support their agricultural population until the next harvest. They are only enabled to produce so many other things besides food, because the food which was in store at the close of the last harvest suffices to maintain not only the agricultural labourers, but a large industrious population besides.

The labour employed in producing this stock of subsistence, forms a great and important part of the past labour which has been necessary to enable present labour to be carried on. But there is a difference, requiring particular notice, between this and the other kinds of previous or preparatory labour. The miller, the reaper, the ploughman, the plough-maker, the waggoner and waggon-maker, even the sailor and ship-builder when employed, derive their remuneration from the ultimate product—the bread made from the corn on which they have severally operated, or supplied the instruments for operating. The labour that produced the food which fed all these labourers, is as necessary to the ultimate result, the bread of the present harvest, as any of those other portions of labour; but is not, like them, remunerated from it. That previous labour has received its remuneration from the previous food. In order to raise any product, there are needed labour, tools, and materials, and food to feed the labourers. But the tools Edition: current; Page: [34] and materials are of no use except for obtaining the product, or at least are to be applied to no other use, and the labour of their construction can be remunerated only from the product when obtained. The food, on the contrary, is intrinsically useful, and is applied to athe direct usea of feeding human beings. The labour expended in producing the food, and recompensed by it, needs not be remunerated over again from the produce of the subsequent labour which it has fed. If we suppose that the same body of labourers carried on a manufacture, and grew food to sustain themselves while doing it, they have had for their trouble the food and the manufactured article; but if they also grew the material and made the tools, they have had nothing for that trouble but the manufactured article alone.

The claim to remuneration founded on the possession of food, available for the maintenance of labourers, is of another kind; remuneration for abstinence, not for labour. If a person has a store of food, he bhas it in his power tob consume it himself in idleness, or in feeding others to attend on him, or to fight for him, or to sing or dance for him. If, instead of these things, he gives it to productive labourers to support them during their work, he can, and naturally will, claim a remuneration from the produce. He will not be content with simple repayment; if he receives merely that, he is only in the same situation as at first, and has derived no advantage from delaying to apply his savings to his own benefit or pleasure. He will look for some equivalent for this forbearance: he will expect his advance of food to come back to him with an increase, called in the language of business, a profit; and the hope of this profit will generally have been a part of the inducement which made him accumulate a stock, by economizing in his own consumption; or, at any rate, which made him forego the application of it, when accumulated, to his personal ease or satisfaction. The food also which maintained other workmen while producing the tools or materials, must have been provided in advance by some one, and he, too, must have his profit from the ultimate product; but there is this difference, that here the ultimate product has to supply not only the profit, but also the remuneration of the labour. The tool-maker (say, for instance, the plough-maker) does not indeed usually wait for his payment until the harvest is reaped; the farmer advances it to him, and steps into his place by becoming the owner of the plough. Nevertheless, it is from the harvest that the payment is to come; since the farmer would not undertake this outlay unless he expected that the harvest would repay him, and with a profit too on this fresh advance; that is, unless the harvest would yield, besides the remuneration of the farm labourers (and a profit for advancing it), a sufficient residue to remunerate the plough-maker’s labourers, give the plough-maker a profit, and a profit to the farmer on both.

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§ 3. [Labour employed in producing materials] From these considerations it appears, that in an enumeration and classification of the kinds of industry which are intended for the indirect or remote furtherance of other productive labour, we need not include the labour of producing subsistence or other necessaries of life to be consumed by productive labourers; for the main end and purpose of athisa labour is the subsistence itself; and though the possession of a store of it enables other work to be done, this is but an incidental consequence. The remaining modes in which labour is indirectly instrumental to production, may be arranged under five heads.

First: Labour employed in producing materials, on which industry is to be afterwards employed. This is, in many cases, a labour of mere appropriation; extractive industry, as bit has been aptly named by M. Dunoyerb. The labour of the miner, for example, consists of operations for digging out of the earth substances convertible by industry into various articles fitted for human use. Extractive industry, however, is not confined to the extraction of materials. Coal, for instance, is employed, not only in the cprocessc of industry, but in directly warming human beings. When so used, it is not a material dof productiond, but is itself the ultimate product. So, also, in the case of a mine of precious stones. These are to some small extent employed in the productive arts, as diamonds by the glass-cutter, emery and corundum for polishing, but their principal destination, that of ornament, is a direct use; though they commonly require, before being so used, some process of manufacture, which may perhaps warrant our regarding them as materials. Metallic ores of all sorts are materials merely.

Under the head, production of materials, we must include the industry of the wood-cutter, when employed in cutting and preparing timber for building, or wood for the purposes of the carpenter’s or any other art. In the forests of America, Norway, Germany, the Pyrenees and Alps, this sort of labour is largely employed on trees of spontaneous growth. In other cases, we must add to the labour of the wood-cutter that of the planter and cultivator.

eUnder the same head are also comprisede the labours of the agriculturist in growing flax, hemp, cotton, feeding silkworms, raising food for cattle, producing bark, dye-stuffs, fsomef oleaginous plants, and many other things only useful because required in other departments of industry. So, too, the labour of the hunter, as far as his object is furs or feathers; of the shepherd and the cattle-breeder, in respect of wool, hides, horn, bristles, horse-hair, Edition: current; Page: [36] and the like. The things used as materials in some process or other of manufacture are of a most miscellaneous character, drawn from almost every quarter of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. And besides this, the finished products of many branches of industry are the materials of others. The thread produced by the spinner is applied to hardly any use except as material for the weaver. Even the product of the loom is chiefly used as material for the fabricators of articles of dress or furniture, or of further instruments of productive industry, as in the case of the sailmaker. The currier and tanner find their whole occupation in converting raw material into what may be termed prepared material. In strictness of speech, almost all food, as it comes from the hands of the agriculturist, is nothing more than material for the occupation of the baker or the cook.

§ 4. [Labour employed in producing implements] The second kind of indirect labour is that employed in making tools or implements for the assistance of labour. I use these terms in their most comprehensive sense, embracing all permanent instruments or helps to production, from a flint and asteel for striking a light, to a steam ship, or the most complex apparatus of manufacturing machinery. There may be some hesitation where to draw the line between implements and materials; and some things used in production (such as fuel) would scarcely in common language be called by either name, popular phraseology being shaped out by a different class of necessities from those of scientific exposition. To avoid a multiplication of classes and denominations answering to distinctions of no scientific importance, political economists generally include all things which are used as immediate means of production (the means which are not immediate will be considered presently) either in the class of implements or in that of materials. Perhaps the line is most usually and most conveniently drawn, by considering as a material every instrument of production which can only be used once, being destroyed (at least as an instrument for the purpose in hand) by a single employment. Thus fuel, once burnt, cannot be again used as fuel; what can be so used is only any portion which has remained unburnt the first time. And not only it cannot be used without being consumed, but it is only useful by being consumed; for if no part of the fuel were destroyed, no heat would be generated. A fleece, again, is destroyed as a fleece by being spun into thread; and the thread cannot be used as thread when woven into cloth. But an axe is not destroyed as an axe by cutting down a tree: it may be used afterwards to cut down a hundred or a thousand more; and though deteriorated in some small degree by each use, it does not do its work by being deteriorated, as the coal and the fleece do theirs by being destroyed; on the contrary, it is the better instrument the better it Edition: current; Page: [37] resists deterioration. There are some things, rightly classed as materials, which may be used as such a second and a third time, but not while the product to which they at first contributed remains in existence. The iron which formed a tank or a set of pipes may be melted bto form a plough or a steam-engine; the stones with which a house was built may be used after it is pulled down, to build another. But this cannot be done while the original product subsists; their function as materials is suspended, until the exhaustion of the first use. Not so with the things classed as implements; they may be used repeatedly cforc fresh work, until the time, sometimes very distant, at which they are worn out, while the work already done by them may subsist unimpaired, and when it perishes, does so by its own laws, or by casualties of its own.*

The only practical difference of much importance arising from the distinction between materials and implements, is one which has attracted our attention in another case. Since materials are destroyed as such by being once used, the whole of the labour required for their production, as well as the abstinence of the person who supplied the means for carrying it on, must be remunerated from the fruits of that single use. Implements, on the contrary, being susceptible of repeated employment, the whole of the products which they are instrumental in bringing into existence are a fund which can be drawn upon to remunerate the labour of their construction, and the abstinence of those by whose accumulations that labour was supported. It is enough if each product contributes a fraction, commonly an insignificant one, towards the remuneration of that labour and abstinence, or towards indemnifying the immediate producer for advancing that remuneration to the person who produced the tools.

§ 5. [Labour employed in the protection of labour] Thirdly: Besides materials for industry to employ itself on, and implements to aid it, provision Edition: current; Page: [38] must be made to prevent its operations from being disturbed, and its products injured, either by the destroying agencies of nature, or by the violence or rapacity of men. This gives rise to another mode in which labour not employed directly about the product itself, is instrumental to its production; namely, when employed for the protection of industry. Such is the object of all buildings for industrial purposes; all manufactories, warehouses, docks, granaries, barns, farm-buildings devoted to cattle, or to the operations of agricultural labour. I exclude those in which the labourers live, or which are destined for their personal accommodation: these, like their food, supply actual wants, and must be counted in the remuneration of their labour. There are many modes in which labour is still more directly applied to the protection of productive operations. The herdsman has little other occupation than to protect the cattle from harm: the positive agencies concerned in the realization of the product, go on nearly of themselves. I have already mentioned the labour of the hedger and ditcher, of the builder of walls or dykes. To these must be added that of the soldier, the policeman, and the judge. These functionaries are not indeed employed exclusively in the protection of industry, nor does their payment constitute, to the individual producer, a part of the expenses of production. But they are paid from the taxes, which are derived from the produce of industry; and in any tolerably governed country they render to its operations a service far more than equivalent to the cost. To society at large they are therefore part of the expenses of production; and if the returns to production were not sufficient to maintain these labourers in addition to all the others required, production, at least in that form and manner, could not take place. Besides, if the protection which the government affords to the operations of industry were not afforded, the producers would be under a necessity of either withdrawing a large share of their time and labour from production, to employ it in defence, or of engaging armed men to defend them; all which labour, in that case, must be directly remunerated from the produce; and things which acoulda not pay for this additional labour, would not be produced. Under the present arrangements, the product pays its quota towards the same protection, and notwithstanding the waste and prodigality incident to government expenditure, obtains it of better quality at a much smaller cost.

§ 6. [Labour employed in the transport and distribution of the produce] Fourthly: There is a very great amount of labour employed, not in bringing the product into existence, but in rendering it, when in existence, accessible to those for whose use it is intended. Many important classes of labourers find their sole employment in some function of this kind. There is first the Edition: current; Page: [39] whole class of carriers, by land or water: muleteers, waggoners, bargemen, sailors, wharfmen, coalheavers, porters, railway establishments, and the like. Next, there are the constructors of all the implements of transport; ships, barges, carts, locomotives, &c., to which must be added roads, canals, and railways. Roads are sometimes made by the government, and opened gratuitously to the public; but the labour of making them is not the less paid for from the produce. Each producer, in paying his quota of the taxes levied generally for the construction of roads, pays for the use of those which conduce to his convenience; and if made with any tolerable judgment, they increase the returns to his industry by far more than an equivalent amount.

Another numerous class of labourers employed in rendering the things produced accessible to their intended consumers, is the class of dealers and traders, or, as they may be termed, distributors. There would be a great waste of time and trouble, and an inconvenience often amounting to impracticability, if consumers could only obtain the articles they want by treating directly with the producers. Both producers and consumers are too much scattered, and the latter often at too great a distance from the former. To diminish this loss of time and labour, the contrivance of fairs and markets was early had recourse to, where consumers and producers might periodically meet, without any intermediate agency; and this plan answers tolerably well for many articles, especially agricultural produce, agriculturists having at some seasons a certain quantity of spare time on their hands. But even in this case, attendance is often very troublesome and inconvenient to buyers who have other occupations, and do not live in the immediate vicinity; while, for all articles the production of which requires continuous attention from the producers, these periodical markets must be held at such considerable intervals, and the wants of the consumers must either be provided for so long beforehand, or must remain so long unsupplied, that even before the resources of society aadmitted ofa the establishment of shops, the supply of these wants fell universally into the hands of itinerant dealers: the pedlar, who might appear once a month, being preferred to the fair, which only returned once bor twiceb a year. In country districts, remote from towns or large villages, the industry of the pedlar is not yet wholly superseded. But a dealer who has a fixed abode and fixed customers is so much more to be depended on, that consumers prefer resorting to him if he is conveniently accessible; and dealers therefore find their advantage in establishing themselves in every locality where there are sufficient consumers near at hand to afford them a remuneration.

In many cases the producers and dealers are the same persons, at least Edition: current; Page: [40] as to the ownership of the funds and cthec control of the operations. The tailor, the shoemaker, the baker, and many other tradesmen, are the producers of the articles they deal in, so far as regards the last stage in the production. This union, however, of the functions of manufacturer and retailer is only expedient when the article dcand advantageously be made at or near the place convenient for retailing it, and is, besides, manufactured and sold in small parcels. When things have to be brought from a distance, the same person cannot effectually superintend both the making and the retailing of them; when they are best and most cheaply made on a large scale, a single manufactory requires so many elocal channelse to carry off its supply, that the retailing fis most convenientlyf delegated to other agency; and even shoes and coats, when they are to be furnished in large quantities at once, as for the supply of ga regimentg or of a workhouse, are usually obtained not directly from the producers, but from intermediate dealers, who make it their business to ascertain from what producers they can be obtained best handh cheapest. Even when things are destined to be at last sold by retail, convenience soon creates a class of wholesale dealers. When products and transactions have multiplied beyond a certain point; when one manufactory supplies many shops, and one shop has often to obtain goods from many different manufactories, the loss of time and trouble both to the manufacturers and to the retailers by treating directly with one another makes it more convenient to them to treat with a smaller number of great dealers or merchants, who only buy to sell again, collecting goods from the various producers and distributing them to the retailers, to be by them further distributed among the consumers. Of these various elements is composed the iDistributing Class, whose agency is supplementary to that of the Producing Class: and the produce so distributed, or its price, is the source from which the distributors are remunerated for their jexertions, and for the abstinence which enabled them to advance the funds needful for the business of distribution.

§ 7. [Labour which relates to human beings] We have now completed the enumeration of the modes in which labour employed on external nature is subservient to production. But there is yet another mode of employing labour, which conduces equally, though still more remotely, to that end: this is, labour of which the subject is human beings. Every human being has been brought up from infancy at the expense of much labour to some person or persons, and if this labour, or part of it, had not been bestowed, the Edition: current; Page: [41] child would never have attained the age and strength which enable him to become a labourer in his turn. To the community at large, the labour and expense of rearing its infant population aforma a part of the outlay which is a condition of production, and bwhichb is to be replaced with increase from the future produce of their labour. By the cindividualsc, this labour and expense are usually incurred from other motives than to obtain such ultimate return, and, for most purposes of political economy, need not be taken into account as expenses of production. But the technical or industrial education of the community; the labour employed in learning and in teaching the arts of production, in acquiring and communicating skill in those arts; this labour is really, and in general solely, undergone for the sake of the greater or more valuable produce thereby attained, and in order that a remuneration, equivalent or more than equivalent, may be reaped by the learner, besides an adequate remuneration for the labour of the teacher, when a teacher has been employed.

As the labour which confers productive powers, whether of hand or of head, may be looked upon as part of the labour by which society accomplishes its productive operations, or in other words, as part of what the produce costs to society, so too may the labour employed in keeping up productive powers; in preventing them from being destroyed or weakened by accident or disease. The labour of a physician or surgeon, when made use of by persons engaged in industry, must be regarded in the economy of society as a sacrifice incurred, to preserve from perishing by death or infirmity that portion of the productive resources of society which is fixed in the lives and bodily or mental powers of its productive members. To the individuals, indeed, this forms but a part, sometimes an imperceptible part, of the motives that induce them to submit to medical treatment: it is not principally from economical motives that persons have a limb amputated, or endeavour to be cured of a fever, though when they do so, there is generally sufficient inducement for it even on that score alone. This is, therefore, one of the cases of labour and outlay which, though conducive to production, yet not being incurred for that end, or for the sake of the returns arising from it, are out of the sphere of most of the general propositions which political economy has occasion to assert respecting productive labour: though, when society and not the individuals are considered, this labour and outlay must be regarded as part of the advance by which society effects its productive operations, and for which it is indemnified by the produce.

§ 8. [Labour of invention and discovery] Another kind of labour, usually classed as mental, but conducing to the ultimate product as directly, Edition: current; Page: [42] though not so immediately, as manual labour itself, is the labour of the inventors of industrial processes. I say, usually classed as mental, because in reality it is not exclusively so. All human exertion is compounded of some mental and some bodily elements. The stupidest hodman, who repeats from day to day the mechanical act of climbing a ladder, performs a function apartlya intellectual; bso much so, indeed, thatb the most intelligent dog or elephant ccould not, probably,c be taught to do it. The dullest human being, instructed beforehand, is capable of turning a mill; but a horse cannot turn it without somebody to ddrived and watch him. On the other hand, there is some bodily ingredient in the labour most purely mental, when it generates any external result. Newton could not have produced the Principia without the bodily exertion either of penmanship or of dictation; and ehe must have drawn many diagrams, and written out many calculations and demonstrations,e while he was preparing it in his mind. Inventors, besides the labour of their brains, generally go through much labour with their hands, in the models which they construct and the experiments they have to make before their idea can realize itself successfully in act. Whether mental, however, or bodily, their labour is a part of that by which the production is brought about. The labour of Watt in contriving the steamengine was as essential a part of production as that of the mechanics who build or the engineers who work the instrument; and was undergone, no less than theirs, in the prospect of a remuneration from the produce. The labour of invention is often estimated and paid on the very same plan as that of execution. Many manufacturers of ornamental goods have inventors in their employment, who receive wages or salaries for designing patterns, exactly as others do for copying them. All this is strictly part of the labour of production; as the labour of the author of a book is equally a part of its production with that of the printer and binder.

In a national, or universal point of view, the labour of the savant, or speculative thinker, is as much a part of production in the very narrowest sense, as that of the inventor of a practical art; many such inventions having been the direct consequences of theoretic discoveries, and every extension of knowledge of the powers of nature being fruitful of applications to the purposes of outward life. The electromagnetic telegraph was the wonderful and most unexpected consequence of the experiments of Œrsted and the mathematical investigations of Ampère: and the modern art of navigation is an unforeseen emanation from the purely speculative and apparently merely Edition: current; Page: [43] curious enquiry, by the mathematicians of Alexandria, into the properties of three curves formed by the intersection of a plane surface and a cone. No limit can be set to the importance, even in a purely productive and material point of view, of mere thought. Inasmuch, however, as these material fruits, though the result, are seldom the direct purpose of the pursuits of savants, nor is their remuneration in general derived from the increased production which may be caused incidentally, and mostly after a long interval, by their discoveries; this ultimate influence does not, for most of the purposes of political economy, require to be taken into consideration; and speculative thinkers are generally classed as the producers only of the books, or other useable or saleable articles, which directly emanate from them. But when (as in political economy one should always be prepared to do) we shift our point of view, and consider not individual acts, and the motives by which they are determined, but national and universal results, intellectual speculation must be looked upon as a most influential part of the productive labour of society, and the portion of its resources employed in carrying on and in remunerating such labour, as a highly productive part of its expenditure.

§ 9. [Labour agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial] In the foregoing survey of the modes of employing labour in furtherance of production, I have made little use of the popular distinction of industry into agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial. For, in truth, this division fulfils very badly the purposes of a classification. Many great branches of productive industry find no place in it, or not without much straining; for example (not to speak of hunters or fishers) the miner, the road-maker, and the sailor. The limit, too, between agricultural and manufacturing industry cannot be precisely drawn. The miller, for instance, and the baker—are they to be reckoned among agriculturists, or among manufacturers? Their occupation is in its nature manufacturing; the food has finally parted company with the soil before it is handed over to them: this, however, might be said with equal truth of the thresher, the winnower, the makers of butter and cheese; operations always counted as agricultural, probably because it is the custom for them to be performed by persons resident on the farm, and under the same superintendence as tillage. For many purposes all these persons, the miller and baker inclusive, must be placed in the same class with ploughmen and reapers. They are all concerned in producing food, and depend for their remuneration on the food produced; awhena the one class abounds and flourishes, the others do so too; they form collectively the “agricultural interest;” they render but one service to the community by their united labours, and are paid from one common Edition: current; Page: [44] source. Even the tillers of the soil, again, when the produce is not food, but the materials of what are commonly termed manufactures, belong in many respects to the same division in the economy of society as manufacturers. The cotton-planter of Carolina, and the wool-grower of Australia, have more interests in common with the spinner and weaver than with the corn-grower. But, on the other hand, the industry which operates immediately upon the soil has, as we shall see hereafter, some properties on which many important consequences depend, and which distinguish it from all the subsequent stages of production, whether carried on by the same bpersonb or not; from the industry of the thresher and winnower, as much as from that of the cotton-spinner. When I speak, therefore, of agricultural labour, I shall generally mean this, and this exclusively, unless the contrary is either stated or implied in the context. The term manufacturing is too vague to be of much use when precision is required, and when I employ it, I wish to be understood as intending to speak popularly rather than scientifically.

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CHAPTER III: Of Unproductive Labour

§ 1. [Labour does not produce objects, but utilities] Labour is indispensable to production, but has not always production for its effect. There is much labour, and of a high order of usefulness, of which production is not the object. Labour has accordingly been distinguished into Productive and Unproductive. There has been not a little controversy among political economists on the question, what kinds of labour should be reputed to be unproductive; and they have not always perceived, that there was in reality no matter of fact in dispute between them.

Many writers have been unwilling to class any labour as productive, unless its result is palpable in some material object, capable of being transferred from one person to another. There are others (among whom are Mr. M‘Culloch and M. Say) who looking upon the word unproductive as a term of disparagement, remonstrate against imposing it upon any labour which is regarded as useful—which produces a benefit or a pleasure worth the cost. The labour of officers of government, of the army and navy, of physicians, lawyers, teachers, musicians, dancers, actors, domestic servants, &c., when they really accomplish what they are paid for, and are not more numerous than is required for its performance, ought not, say these writers, to be “stigmatized” as unproductive, an expression which they appear to regard as synonymous with wasteful or worthless. But this seems to abea a misunderstanding of the matter in dispute. Production not being the sole end of human existence, the term unproductive does not necessarily imply any stigma; nor was ever intended to do so in the present case. The question is one of mere language and classification. Differences of language, however, are by no means unimportant, even when not grounded on differences of opinion; for though either of two expressions may be consistent with the whole truth, they generally tend to fix attention upon different parts of it. We must therefore enter a little into the consideration of the various meanings which may attach to the words productive and unproductive when applied to labour.

In the first place, even in what is called the production of material objects, it must be remembered that what is produced is not the matter Edition: current; Page: [46] composing them. All the labour of all the human beings in the world could not produce one particle of matter. To weave broadcloth is but to rearrange, in a peculiar manner, the particles of wool; to grow corn is only to put a portion of matter called a seed, into a situation where it can draw btogether particles of matter from the earth and air, to formb the new combination called a plant. Though we cannot create matter, we can cause it to assume properties, by which, from having been useless to us, it becomes useful. What we produce, or desire to produce, is always, as M. Say rightly terms it, an utility. cLabourc is not creative of objects, but of utilities. Neither, again, do we consume and destroy the objects themselves; the matter of which they were composed remains, more or less altered in form: what has really been consumed is only dthe qualities by which they were fitted for the purpose they have been applied tod. It is, therefore, pertinently asked by M. Say and others—since, when we are said to produce objects, we only produce utility, why should not all labour which produces utility be accounted productive? Why refuse that title to the esurgeon who sets a limbe, the judge or legislator who confers security, and give it to the lapidary who cuts and polishes a diamond? Why deny it to the teacher from whom I learn an art by which I can gain my bread, and accord it to the confectioner who makes bonbons for the momentary pleasure of a sense of taste?

It is quite true that all these kinds of labour are productive of utility; and the question which now occupies us could not have been a question at all, if the production of utility were enough to satisfy the notion which mankind have usually formed of productive labour. Production, and productive, are of course elliptical expressions, involving the idea of a something produced; but this something, in common apprehension, I conceive to be, not utility, but Wealth. Productive labour means labour productive of wealth. We are recalled, therefore, to the question touched upon in our first chapter, what Wealth is, and whether only material products, or all useful products, are to be included in it.

§ 2. [These utilities are of three kinds] Now the utilities produced by labour are of three kinds. They are,

First, utilities fixed and embodied in outward objects; by labour employed in ainvestinga external material things with properties which render them serviceable to human beings. This is the common case, and requires no illustration.

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Secondly, utilities fixed and embodied in human beings; the labour being in this case employed in conferring on human beings, qualities which render them serviceable to themselves and others. To this class belongs the labour of all concerned in education; not only schoolmasters, tutors, and professors, but bgovernments, so far as they aim successfully at the improvement of the people; moralists, and clergymen, as far as productive of cbenefit; the labour of physicians, as far as instrumental in preserving life and physical or mental efficiency; of the teachers of bodily exercises, and of the various trades, sciences, and arts, together with the labour of the learners in acquiring them; and all labour bestowed by any persons, throughout life, in improving the knowledge or cultivating the bodily or mental faculties of themselves or others.

Thirdly and lastly, utilities not fixed or embodied in any object, but consisting in a mere service rendered; a pleasure given, an inconvenience or a pain averted, during a longer or a shorter time, but without leaving a permanent acquisition in the improved qualities of any person or thing; the labour being employed in producing an utility directly, not (as in the two former cases) in fitting some other thing to afford an utility. Such, for example, is the labour of the musical performer, the actor, the public declaimer or reciter, and the showman. Some good may no doubt be produced, dand much emoree might be produced,d beyond the moment, upon the feelings and disposition, or general state of enjoyment of the spectators; or instead of good there may be harm; but neither the one nor the other is the effect intended, is the result for which the exhibitor works and the spectator pays; nothing but the immediate pleasure. Such, again, is the labour of the army and navy; they, at the best, prevent a country from being conquered, or from being injured forf insulted, which is a service, but in all other respects leave the country neither improved nor deteriorated. Such, too, is the labour of the legislator, the judge, the officer of justice, and all other agents of government, in their ordinary functions, apart from any influence they may exert on the improvement of the national mind. The service which they render, is to maintain peace and security; these compose the utility which they produce. It may appear to some, that carriers, and merchants or dealers, should be placed in this same class, since their labour does not add any properties to objects: but I reply that it does: it adds the property of being in the place where they are wanted, instead of being in some other place: which is a very useful property, and the utility it confers is embodied in the things themselves, which now Edition: current; Page: [48] actually are in the place where they are required for use, and in consequence of that increased utility could be sold at an increased price, proportioned to the labour expended in conferring it. This labour, therefore, does not belong to the third class, but to the first.

§ 3. [Productive labour is that which produces utilities fixed and embodied in material objects] We have now to consider which of these three classes of labour should be accounted productive of wealth, since that is what the term productive, when used by itself, must be understood to import. Utilities of the third class, consisting in pleasures which only exist while being enjoyed, and services which only exist while being performed, cannot be spoken of as wealth, except by an acknowledged metaphor. It is essential to the idea of wealth to be susceptible of accumulation: things which cannot, after being produced, be kept for some time before being used, are never, I think, regarded as wealth, since however much of them may be produced and enjoyed, the person benefited by them is no richer, is nowise improved in circumstances. But there is not so distinct and positive a violation of usage in considering as wealth any product which is both useful and susceptible of accumulation. The skill, and the energy and perseverance, of the artisans of a country, are reckoned part of its wealth, no less than their tools and machinery.* According to this definition, we should regard all labour as productive which is employed in creating permanent utilities, whether embodied in human beings, or in any other animate or inanimate objects. aThisa nomenclature I have, in a former Edition: current; Page: [49] publication,* recommended, as bmost conducive tob the ends of classificationc; and I am still of that opinionc.

But in applying the term wealth to the industrial capacities of human beings, there seems always, in popular apprehension, to be a tacit reference to material products. The skill of an artisan is accounted wealth, only as being the means of acquiring wealth in a material sense; and any qualities not tending visibly to that object are scarcely so regarded at all. A country would hardly be said to be richer, except by a metaphor, however precious a possession it might have in the genius, the virtues, or the accomplishments of its inhabitants; unless indeed these were looked upon as marketable articles, by which it could attract the material wealth of other countries, as the Greeks of old, and several modern nations have done. While, therefore, I should prefer, were I constructing a new technical language, to make the distinction turn upon the permanence rather than upon the materiality of the product, yet when employing terms which common usage has taken complete possession of, it seems advisable so to employ them as to do the least possible violence tod usage; since any improvement in terminology obtained by straining the received meaning of a popular phrase, is generally purchased beyond its value, by the obscurity arising from the conflict between new and old associations.

I shall, therefore, in this treatise, when speaking of wealth, understand by it only what is called material wealth, and by productive labour only those kinds of exertion which produce utilities embodied in material objects. But in limiting myself to this sense of the word, I mean to avail myself of the full extent of that restricted acceptation, and I shall not refuse the appellation productive, to labour which yields no material product as its direct result, provided that an increase of material products is its ultimate consequence. Thus, labour expended in the acquisition of manufacturing skill, I class as productive, not in virtue of the skill itself, but of the manufactured products created by the skill, and to the creation of which the labour of learning the trade is essentially conducive. The labour of officers of government in affording the protection which, afforded in some manner or other, is indispensable to the prosperity of industry, must be classed as productive even of material wealth, because without it, material wealth, in anything like its present abundance, could not exist. Such labour may Edition: current; Page: [50] be said to be productive indirectly or mediately, in opposition to the labour of the ploughman and the cotton-spinner, which are productive immediately. They are all alike in this, that they leave the community richer in material products than they found it; they increase, or tend to increase, material wealth.

§ 4. [All other labour, however useful, is classed as unproductive] By Unproductive Labour, on the contrary, will be understood labour which does not terminate in the creation of material wealth; which, however largely or successfully practised, does not render the community, and the world at large, richer in material products, but poorer by all that is consumed by the labourers while so employed.

All labour isa, in the language of political economy,a unproductive, which ends in immediate enjoyment, without any increase of the accumulated stock of permanent means of enjoyment. And ballb labour, according to our present definition, must be classed as unproductive, which terminates in a permanent benefit, however important, provided that an increase of material products forms no part of that benefit. The labour of saving a friend’s life is not productive, unless the friend is a productive labourer, and produces more than he consumes. To a religious person the saving of a soul must appear a far more important service than the saving of a life; but he will not therefore call a missionary or a clergyman productive labourers, unless they teach, as the South Sea Missionaries have in some cases done, the arts of civilization in addition to the doctrines of ctheirc religion. It is, on the contrary, evident that the greater number of missionaries or clergymen a nation maintains, the less it has to expend on other things; while the more it expends judiciously in keeping agriculturists and manufacturers at work, the more it will have for every other purpose. By the former it diminishes, cæteris paribus, its stock of material products; by the latter, it increases them.

Unproductive may be as useful as productive labour; it may be more useful, even in point of permanent advantage; or its use may consist only in pleasurable sensation, which when gone leaves no trace; or it may not afford even this, but may be absolute waste. In any case society or mankind grow no richer by it, but poorer. All material products consumed by any one while he produces nothing, are so much subtracted, for the time, from the material products which society would otherwise have possessed. But though society grows no richer by unproductive labour, the individual may. An unproductive labourer may receive for his labour, from those Edition: current; Page: [51] who derive pleasure or benefit from it, a remuneration which may be to him a considerable source of wealth; but his gain is balanced by their loss; they may have received a full equivalent for their expenditure, but they are so much poorer by it. When a tailor makes a coat and sells it, there is a transfer of the price from the customer to the tailor, and a coat besides which did not previously exist; but what is gained by an actor is a mere transfer from the spectator’s funds to his, leaving no article of wealth for the spectator’s indemnification. Thus the community collectively gains nothing by the actor’s labour; and it loses, of his receipts, all that portion which he consumes, retaining only that which he lays by. A community, however, may add to its wealth by unproductive labour, at the expense of other communities, as an individual may at the expense of other individuals. The gains of Italian opera singers, dGermand governesses, French ballet dancers, &c., are a source of wealth, as far as they go, to their respective countriese, if they return thithere. The petty states of Greece, especially the ruder and more backward of those states, were nurseries of soldiers, who hired themselves to the princes and satraps of the East to carry on useless and destructive wars, and returned with their savings to pass their declining years in their own country: these were unproductive labourers, and the pay they received, together with the plunder they took, was an outlay without return to the countries which furnished it; but, though no gain to the world, it was a gain to Greece. At a later period the same country and its colonies supplied the Roman empire with another class of adventurers, who, under the name of philosophers or of rhetoricians, taught to the youth of the higher classes what were esteemed the most valuable accomplishments: these were mainly unproductive labourers, but their ample recompense was a source of wealth to their own country. In none of these cases was there any accession of wealth to the world. The services of the labourers, if useful, were obtained at a sacrifice to the world of a portion of material wealth; if useless, all that these labourers consumed was fto the worldf waste.

To be wasted, however, is a liability not confined to unproductive labour. Productive labour may equally be gwastedg, if more of it is expended than really conduces to production. If defect of skill in labourers, or of judgment in those who direct them, causes a misapplication of productive industry; if a farmer hpersistsh in ploughing with three horses and two men, when experience has shown that two horses and one man are sufficient, the surplus labour, though employed for purposes of production, is wasted. If a new process is adopted which proves no better, or not so good as those Edition: current; Page: [52] before in use, the labour expended in perfecting the invention and in carrying it into practice, though iemployed for a productive purposei, is wasted. Productive labour may render a nation poorer, if the wealth it produces, that is, the increase it makes in the stock of useful or agreeable things, be of a kind not immediately wanted: as when a commodity is unsaleable, because produced in a quantity beyond the present demand; or when speculators build docks and warehouses before there is any trade. jSome of thej States of North America, kby makingk premature railways and canals, lare thought tol have made this kind of mistake; and it mwas for some time doubtfulm whether England, in the disproportionate development of railway enterprise, nhadn noto, in some degree,o followed the example. Labour sunk in expectation of a distant return, when the great exigencies or limited resources of the community require that the return be rapid, may leave the country not only poorer in the meanwhile, by all which those labourers consume, but less rich even ultimately than if immediate returns had been sought in the first instance, and enterprises for distant profit postponed.

§ 5. [Productive and Unproductive Consumption] The distinction of Productive and Unproductive is applicable to consumption as well as to labour. All the members of the community are not labourers, but all are consumers, and consume either unproductively or productively. Whoever contributes nothing directly or indirectly to production, is an unproductive consumer. The only productive consumers are productive labourers; the labour of direction being of course included, as well as that of execution. But the consumption even of productive labourers is not all of it productive consumption. There is unproductive consumption by productive consumers. What they consume in keeping up or improving their health, strength, and capacities of work, or in arearinga other productive labourers to succeed them, is productive consumption. But consumption on pleasures or luxuries, whether by the idle or by the industrious, since production is neither its object nor is in any way advanced by it, must be reckoned unproductive: with a reservation perhaps of a certain quantum of enjoyment which may be classed among necessaries, since anything short of it would not be consistent with the greatest efficiency of labour. That alone is productive consumption, which goes to maintain and increase the productive powers Edition: current; Page: [53] of the community; either those residing in its soil, in its materials, in the number and efficiency of its instruments of production, or in its people.

There are numerous products which bmay be said not tob admit of being consumed otherwise than unproductively. The annual consumption of gold lace, pine apples, or champagne, cmust be reckonedc unproductive, since these things dgive no assistance to production, nor any support to life or strength, but what would equally be given by things much less costlyd. Hence it might be supposed that the labour employed in producing etheme ought not to be regarded as productive, fin the sense in which the term is understood by political economistsf. I grant that no labour gtends to the hpermanenth enrichment of society, which is employed in producing things for the use of unproductive consumers. The tailor who makes a coat for a man who produces nothing, is a productive labourer; but in a few weeks or months the coat is worn out, while the wearer has not produced anything to replace it, and the community is then no richer by the labour of the tailor, than if the same sum had been paid for a istalli at the opera. Nevertheless, society has been richer by the labour while the coat lasted, that is, until society, through one of its unproductive members, chose to consume the produce of the labour unproductively. The case of the gold lace or the pine apple is no further different, than that jthey are still further removed than the coat from the character of necessariesj. These things also are wealth until they have been consumed.

§ 6. [Labour for the supply of Productive Consumption, and labour for the supply of Unproductive Consumption] We see, however, by this, that there is a distinction, more important to the wealth of a community than even that between productive and unproductive labour; the distinction, namely, between labour for the supply of productive, and for the supply of unproductive, consumption; between labour employed in keeping up or in adding to the productive resources of the country, and that which is employed otherwise. Of the produce of the country, a part only is destined to be consumed productively; the remainder supplies the unproductive consumption of producers, and the entire consumption of the unproductive Edition: current; Page: [54] classes. Suppose that the proportion of the annual produce applied to the first purpose amounts to half; then one-half the productive labourers of the country are all that are employed in the operations on which the permanent wealth of the country depends. The other half are occupied from year to year and from generation to generation in producing things which are consumed and disappear without return; and whatever this half consume is as completely lost, as to any permanent effect on the national resources, as if it were consumed unproductively. Suppose that this second half of the labouring population ceased to work, and that the government or their parishes maintained them in idleness for a whole year: the first half would suffice to produce, as they had done before, their own necessaries and the necessaries of the second half, and to keep the stock of materials and implements undiminished: the unproductive classes, indeed, would be either starved or obliged to produce their own subsistence, and the whole community would be reduced during a year to bare necessaries; but the sources of production would be unimpaired, and the next year there would not necessarily be a smaller produce than if no such interval of inactivity had occurred; while if the case had been reversed, if the first half of the labourers had suspended their accustomed occupations, and the second half had continued theirs, the country at the end of the twelvemonth would have been entirely impoverished.

It would be a great error to regret the large proportion of the annual produce, which in an opulent country goes to supply unproductive consumption. It would be to lament that the community has so much to spare from its necessities, for its pleasures and for all higher uses. This portion of the produce is the fund from which all the wants of the community, other than that of mere living, are provided for; the measure of its means of enjoyment, and of its power of accomplishing all purposes not productive. That so great a surplus should be available for such purposes, and that it should be applied to them, acan only be a subjecta of congratulation. The things to be regretted, and bwhich are not incapable of beingb remedied, are the prodigious inequality with which this surplus is distributed, cthe little worth of the objects to which the greater part of it is devoted,c and the large share which falls to the lot of persons who render no equivalent service in returnd.

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CHAPTER IV: Of Capital

§ 1. [Capital is wealth appropriated to reproductive employment] It has been seen in the preceding chapters that besides the primary and universal requisites of production, labour and natural agents, there is another requisite without which no productive operations, beyond the rude and scanty beginnings of primitive industry, are possible: namely, a stock, previously accumulated, of the products of former labour. This accumulated stock of the produce of labour is termed Capital. The function of Capital in production, it is of the utmost importance thoroughly to understand, since a number of the erroneous notions with which our subject is infested, originate in an imperfect and confused apprehension of this point.

Capital, by persons wholly unused to reflect on the subject, is supposed to be synonymous with money. To expose this misapprehension, would be to repeat what has been said in the introductory chapter. Money is no more synonymous with capital than it is with wealth. Money cannot in itself perform any part of the office of capital, since it can afford no assistance to production. To do this, it must be exchanged for other things; and anything, which is susceptible of being exchanged for other things, is capable of contributing to production in the same degree. What capital does for production, is to afford the shelter, protection, tools and materials which the work requires, and to feed and otherwise maintain the labourers during the process. These are the services which present labour requires from past, and from the produce of past, labour. Whatever things are destined for this use—destined to supply productive labour with these various prerequisites—are Capital.

To familiarize ourselves with the conception, let us consider what is done with the capital invested in any of the branches of business which compose the productive industry of a country. A manufacturer, for example, has one part of his capital in the form of buildings, fitted and destined for carrying on ahisa branch of manufacture. Another part he has in the form of machinery. A third consists, if he be a spinner, of raw cotton, flax, or wool; if a weaver, of flaxen, woollen, silk, or cotton, thread; and the like, according to the nature of the manufacture. Food and clothing for his Edition: current; Page: [56] operatives, it is not the custom of the present age that he should directly provide; and few capitalists, except the producers of food or clothing, have any portion worth mentioning of their capital in that shape. Instead of this, each capitalist has money, which he pays to his workpeople, and so enables them to supply themselves: he has also finished goods in his warehouses, by the sale of which he obtains more money, to employ in the same manner, as well as to replenish his stock of materials, bto keep his buildings and machinery in repair, and to replace themb when worn out. His money and finished goods, however, are not wholly capital, for he does not wholly devote them to these purposes: he employs a part of the one, and of the proceeds of the other, in supplying his personal consumption and that of his family, or in hiring grooms and valets, or maintaining hunters and hounds, or in educating his children, or in paying taxes, or in charity. What then is his capital? Precisely that part of his possessions, whatever it be, which cis to constitute his fund forc carrying on fresh production. It is of no consequence that a part, or even the whole of it, is in a form in which it cannot directly supply the wants of labourers.

Suppose, for instance, that dthed capitalist is a hardware manufacturer, and that his stock in trade, over and above his machinery, consists at present wholly in iron goods. Iron goods cannot feed labourers. Nevertheless, by a mere change of the destination of these iron goods, he can cause labourers to be fed. Suppose that with a portion of the proceeds he intended to maintain a pack of hounds, or an establishment of servants; and that he changes his intention, and employs it in his business, paying it in wages to additional workpeople. These workpeople are enabled to buy and consume the food which would otherwise have been consumed by the hounds or by the servants; and thus without the employer’s having seen or touched one particle of the food, his conduct has determined that so much more of the food existing in the country has been devoted to the use of productive labourers, and so much less consumed in a manner wholly unproductive. Now vary the hypothesis, and suppose that what is thus paid in wages would otherwise have been laid out not in feeding servants or ehoundse, but in buying plate and jewels; and in order to render the effect perceptible, let us suppose that the change takes place on a considerable scale, and that a large sum is diverted from buying plate and jewels to employing productive labourers, whom we shall suppose to have been previously, like the Irish peasantry, only half employed and half fed. The labourers, on receiving their increased wages, will not lay them out in plate Edition: current; Page: [57] and fjewels,f but in food. There is not, however, additional food in the country; nor any unproductive labourers or animals, as in the former case, whose food is set free for productive purposes. Food will therefore be imported if possible; if not possible, the labourers will remain for a season on their short allowance: but the consequences of this change in the demand for commodities, occasioned by the change in the expenditure of capitalists from unproductive to productive, is that next year more food will be produced, and less plate and jewellery. So that again, without having had anything to do with the food of the labourers directly, the conversion by individuals of a portion of their property, no matter of what sort, from an unproductive destination to a productive, has had the effect of causing more food to be appropriated to the consumption of productive labourers. The distinction, then, between Capital and Not-capital, does not lie in the kind of commodities, but in the mind of the capitalist—in his will to employ them for one purpose rather than another; and all property, however ill adapted in itself for the use of labourers, is a part of capital, so soon as it, or the value to be received from it, is set apart for productive greinvestmentg. The sum of all the values so destined by their respective possessors, composes the capital of the country. Whether all those values are in a shape directly applicable to productive uses, makes no difference. hTheir shape, whatever it may be, is a temporary accident: but once destined for productionh, they do not fail to find a way of transforming themselves into things icapable of beingi applied to it.

§ 2. [More capital devoted to production than actually employed in it] As whatever of the produce of the country is devoted to production is capital, so, conversely, the whole of the capital of the country is devoted to production. This second proposition, however, must be taken with some limitations and explanations. A fund may be seeking for productive employment, and find none, adapted to the inclinations of its possessor: it then is capital still, but unemployed capital. Or the stock may consist of unsold goods, not susceptible of direct application to productive uses, and not, at the moment, marketable: these, until sold, are in the condition of unemployed capital. Again, artificial or accidental circumstances may render it necessary to possess a larger stock in advance, that is, a larger capital before entering on production, than is required by the nature of things. Suppose that the government lays a tax on the production in one of its earlier stages, as for instance by taxing the material. The manufacturer Edition: current; Page: [58] has to advance the tax, before commencing the manufacture, and is therefore under a necessity of having a larger accumulated afunda than is required for, or is actually employed in, the production which he carries on. He must have a larger capital, to maintain the same quantity of productive labour; or (what is equivalent) with a given capital he maintains less labour. This mode of levying taxes, therefore, limits unnecessarily the industry of the country: a portion of the fund destined by its owners for production being diverted from its purpose, and kept in a constant state of advance to the government.

For another example: a farmer may enter on his farm at such a time of the year, that he may be required to pay one, two, or even three quarters’ rent before obtaining any return from the produce. This, therefore, bmust be paidb out of his capital. Now rent, when paid for the land itself, and not for improvements made in it by labour, is not a productive expenditure. It is not an outlay for the support of labour, or for the provision of implements or materials the produce of labour. It is the price paid for the use of an appropriated natural agent. cThisc natural agent is indeed as indispensable (and even more so) as any implement: but the having to pay a price for it, is not. In the case of the implement (a thing produced by labour) a price of some sort is the necessary condition of its existence: but the land exists by nature. The payment for it, therefore, is not one of the expenses of production; and the necessity of making dthed payment out of capital, makes it requisite that there should be a greater capital, a greater antecedent accumulation of the produce of past labour, than is naturally necessary, or than is needed where land is occupied on a different system. This extra capital, though intended by its owners for production, is in reality employed unproductively, and annually replaced, not from any produce of its own, but from the produce of the labour supported by the remainder of the farmer’s capital.

Finally, that large portion of the productive capital of a country which is employed in paying the wages and salaries of labourers, evidently is not, all of it, strictly and indispensably necessary for production. As much of it as exceeds the actual necessaries of life and health (an excess which in the case of skilled labourers is usually considerable) is not expended in supporting labour, but in remunerating it, and the labourers could wait for this part of their remuneration until the production is completed; it needs not necessarily pre-exist as capital: and if they unfortunately had to forego it altogether, the same amount of production might take place. In order Edition: current; Page: [59] that the whole remuneration of the labourers should be advanced to them in daily or weekly payments, there must exist in advance, and be appropriated to productive use, a greater stock, or capital, than would suffice to carry on the existing extent of production: greater, by whatever amount of remuneration the labourers receive, beyond what the self-interest of a prudent slave-master would assign to ehise slaves. In truth, it is only after an abundant capital had already been accumulated, that the practice of paying in advance any remuneration of labour beyond a bare subsistence, could possibly have arisen: since whatever is so paid, is not really applied to production, but to the unproductive consumption of productive labourers, indicating a fund for production sufficiently ample to admit of habitually diverting a part of it to a mere convenience.

It will be observed that I have assumed, that the labourers are always subsisted from capital: and this is obviously the fact, though the capital needs not necessarily be furnished by a person called a capitalist. When the labourer maintains himself by funds of his own, as when a peasant-farmer or proprietor lives on the produce of his land, or an artisan works on his own account, they are still supported by capital, that is, by funds provided in advance. The peasant does not subsist this year on the produce of this year’s harvest, but on that of the last. The artisan is not living on the proceeds of the work he has in hand, but on those of work previously executed and disposed of. Each is supported by a small capital of his own, which he periodically replaces from the produce of his labour. The large capitalist is, in like manner, maintained from funds provided in advance. If he personally conducts his operations, as much of his fpersonal or household expendituref as does not exceed a fair remuneration of his labour at the market price, must be considered ga part of his capital, expended, like any other capital, for production: and his personal consumption, so far as it consists of necessaries, is productive consumption.

§ 3. [Examination of some cases illustrative of the idea of Capital] At the risk of being tedious, I must add a few more illustrations, to bring out into a still aclearer and strongera light the idea of Capital. As M. Say truly remarks, it is on the very elements of our subject that illustration is most usefully bestowed, since the greatest errors which prevail in it may be traced to the want of a thorough mastery over the elementary ideas. Nor is this surprising: a branch may be diseased and all the rest healthy, but unsoundness at the root diffuses unhealthiness through the whole tree.

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Let us therefore consider whether, and in what cases, the property of those who live on the interest of what they possess, without being personally engaged in production, can be regarded as capital. It is so called in common language and, with reference to the individual, not improperly. All funds from which the possessor derives an income, which income he can use without sinking and dissipating the fund itself, are to him equivalent to capital. But to transfer hastily and inconsiderately to the general point of view, propositions which are true of the individual, has been a source of innumerable errors in political economy. In the present instance, that which is virtually capital to the individual, is or is not capital to the nation, according as the fund which by the supposition he has not dissipated, has or has not been dissipated by somebody else.

For example, let property of the value of ten thousand pounds belonging to A, be lent to B, a farmer or manufacturer, and employed profitably in B’s occupation. It is as much capital as if it belonged to B. A is really a farmer or manufacturer, not personally, but in respect of his property. bCapital worthb ten thousand pounds is employed in production—in maintaining labourers and providing tools and materials; which capital belongs to A, while B takes the trouble of employing it, and receives for his remuneration the difference between the profit which it yields and the interest he pays to A. This cis the simplest casec.

Suppose next that A’s ten thousand pounds, instead of being lent to B, are lent on mortgage to C, a landed proprietor, dby whom they ared employed in improving the productive powers of his estate, by fencing, draining, road-making, or permanent manures. This is productive employment. The ten thousand pounds are sunk, but not dissipated. They yield a permanent return; the land now affords an increase of produce, sufficient, in a few years, if the outlay has been judicious, to replace the amount, and in time to multiply it manifold. Here, then, is a value of ten thousand pounds, employed in increasing the produce of the country. This constitutes a capital, for which C, if he lets his land, receives the returns in the nominal form of increased rent; and the mortgage entitles A to receive from these returns, in the shape of interest, such annual sum as has been agreed eone We will now vary the circumstances, and suppose that C does not employ the loan in improving his land, but in paying off a former fmortgage, or in making a provision for children. Whether the ten thousand pounds thus employed are capital or gnotg, will depend on what is done with the amount Edition: current; Page: [61] by the ultimate receiver. If the children invest their fortunes in a productive employment, or the mortgagee on being paid off lends the amount to another hlandholderh to improve his land, or to a manufacturer to extend his business, it is still capital, because productively employed.

Suppose, however, that C, the borrowing landlord, is a spendthrift, who burdens his land not to increase his fortune but to squander it, expending the amount in equipages and entertainments. In a year or two it is dissipated, and without return. A is as rich as before; he has no longer his ten thousand pounds, but he has a lien on the land, which he could still sell for that amount. C, however, is 10,000l. poorer than formerly; and nobody is richer. It may be said that those are richer who have made profit out of the money while it was being spent. No doubt if C lost it by gaming, or was cheated of it by his servants, that is a mere transfer, not a destruction, and those who have gained the amount may employ it productively. But if C has received the fair value for his expenditure in articles of subsistence or luxury, which he has consumed on himself, or by means of his servants or guests, these articles have ceased to exist, and nothing has been produced to replace them: while if the same sum had been employed in farming or manufacturing, the consumption which would have taken place would have been more than balanced at the end of the year by new products, created by the ilabouri of those who would in that case have been the consumers. By C’s prodigality, that which would have been consumed with a return, is consumed without return. C’s tradesmen may have made a profit during the process; but if the capital had been expended productively, an equivalent profit would have been made by builders, fencers, tool-makers, and the tradespeople who supply the consumption of the labouring classes; while at the expiration of the time (to say nothing of any increase), C would have had the ten thousand pounds or its value replaced to him, which now he has not. There is, therefore, on the general result, a difference to the disadvantage of the community, of at least ten thousand pounds, being the amount of C’s unproductive expenditure. To A, the difference is not material, since his income is secured to him, and while the security is good, and the market rate of interest the same, he can always sell the mortgage at its original value. To A, therefore, the lien of ten thousand pounds on C’s estate, is virtually a capital of that amount; but is it so in reference to the community? It is not. A had a capital of ten thousand pounds, but this has been extinguished—dissipated and destroyed by C’s prodigality. A now receives his income, not from the produce of his capital, but from some other source of income belonging to C, probably from the rent of his land, that is, from payments made to him by farmers Edition: current; Page: [62] out of the produce of their capital. The national capital is diminished by ten thousand pounds, and the national income by all which those ten thousand pounds, employed as capital, would have produced. The loss does not fall on the owner of the destroyed capital, since the destroyer has agreed to indemnify him for it. But his loss is only a small portion of that sustained by the community, since what was devoted to the use and consumption of the proprietor was only the interest; the capital itself was, or would have been, employed in the perpetual maintenance of an equivalent number of labourers, regularly reproducing what they consumed: and of this maintenance they are deprived without compensation.

Let us now vary the hypothesis still further, and suppose that the money is borrowed, not by a landlord, but by the State. A lends his capital to Government to carry on a war: he buys from the State what are called government securities; that is, obligations jonj the government to pay a certain annual income. If the government employed the money in making a railroad, this might be a productive employment, and A’s property would still be used as capital; but since it is employed in war, that is, in the pay of officers and soldiers who produce nothing, and in destroying a quantity of gunpowder and bullets without return, the government is in the situation of C, the spendthrift landlord, and A’s ten thousand pounds are so much national capital which once existed, but exists no longer: virtually thrown into the sea, as far as wealth or production is concerned; though for other reasons the employment of it may have been justifiable. A’s subsequent income is derived, not from the produce of his own capital, but from taxes drawn from the produce of the remaining capital of the community; to whom his capital is not yielding any return, to indemnify them for the payment; it is lost and gone, and what he now possesses is a claim on the returns to other people’s capital and industry. This claim he can sell, and get back the equivalent of his capital, which he may afterwards employ productively. True; but he does not get back his own capital, or anything which it has produced; that, and all its possible returns, are extinguished: what he gets is the capital of some other person, which that person is willing to exchange for his lien on the taxes. Another capitalist substitutes himself for A as a mortgagee of the public, and A substitutes himself for the other capitalist as the possessor of a fund employed in production, or available for it. By this exchange the productive powers of the community are neither increased nor diminished. The breach in the capital of the country was made when the government kspentk A’s money: whereby a value of ten thousand pounds was withdrawn or withheld from productive employment, placed in the fund for unproductive consumption, and destroyed without equivalent.

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CHAPTER V: Fundamental Propositions Respecting Capital

§ 1. [Industry is limited by Capital] If the preceding explanations have answered their purpose, they have given not only a sufficiently complete possession of the idea of Capital according to its definition, but a sufficient familiarity with it in the concrete, and amidst the obscurity with which the complication of individual circumstances surrounds it, to have prepared even the unpractised reader for certain elementary propositions or theorems respecting capital, the full comprehension of which is already a considerable step out of darkness into light.

The first of these propositions is, That industry is limited by capital. This is so obvious as to be taken for granted in many common forms of speech; but to see a truth occasionally is one thing, to recognise it habitually, and admit no propositions inconsistent with it, is another. The axiom was until lately almost universally disregarded by legislators and political writers; and doctrines irreconcileable with it are still very commonly professed and inculcated.

The following are common expressions, implying its truth. The act of directing industry to a particular employment is described by the phrase “applying capital” to the employment. To employ industry on the land is to apply capital to the land. To employ labour in a manufacture is to invest capital in the manufacture. This implies that industry cannot be employed to any greater extent than there is capital to invest. The proposition, indeed, must be assented to as soon as it is distinctly apprehended. The expression “applying capital” is of course metaphorical: what is really applied is labour; capital being an indispensable condition. Again, we often speak of the “productive powers of capital.” This expression is not literally correct. The only productive powers are those of labour and natural agents; or if any portion of capital can by a stretch of language be said to have a productive power of its own, it is only tools and machinery, which, like wind or water, may be said to co-operate with labour. The food of labourers and the materials of production have no productive power; but labour cannot exert its productive power unless provided with them. There can be no Edition: current; Page: [64] more industry than is supplied with materials to work up and food to eat. Self-evident as the thing is, it is often forgotten that the people of a country are maintained and have their wants supplied, not by the produce of present labour, but of past. They consume what has been produced, not what is about to be produced. Now, of what has been produced, a part only is allotted to the support of productive labour; and there will not and cannot be more of that labour than the portion so allotted (which is the capital of the country) can feed, and provide with the materials and instruments of production.

Yet, in disregard of a fact so evident, it long continued to be believed that laws and governments, without creating capital, could create industry. Not by making the people more laborious, or increasing the efficiency of their labour; these are objects to which the government can, in some degree, aindirectlya contribute. But bwithout cany increase in the skill or energy of the labourers, and without causing any persons to labour who had previously been maintained in idlenessb, it was still thought that the government, without providing additional funds, could create additional employment. A government would, by prohibitory laws, put a stop to the importation of some commodity; and when by this it had caused the commodity to be produced at home, it would plume itself upon having enriched the country with a new branch of industry, would parade in statistical tables the amount of produce yielded and labour employed in the production, and take credit for the whole of this as a gain to the country, obtained through the prohibitory law. Although this sort of political arithmetic has fallen a little into discredit in England, it still flourishes in the nations of Continental Europe. Had legislators been aware that industry is limited by capital, they would have seen that, the aggregate capital of the country not having been increased, any portion of it which they by their laws had caused to be embarked in the newly-acquired branch of industry must have been withdrawn or withheld from some other; in which it gave, or would have given, employment to probably about the same quantity of labour which it employs in its new occupation.*

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§ 2. [Industry is limited by Capital, but does not always come up to that limit] Because industry is limited by capital, we are not however to infer that it always reaches that limit. aCapital may be temporarily unemployed, as in the case of unsold goods, or funds that have not yet found an investment: during this interval it does not set in motion any industry. Or therea may not be as many labourers obtainable, as the capital would maintain and employ. This has been known to occur in new colonies, where capital has sometimes perished uselessly for want of labour: the Swan River settlement b(now called Western Australia)b, in the first years after its foundation, was an instance. There are many persons maintained from existing capital, who produce nothing, or who might produce much more than they do. If the labourers were reduced to lower wages, or induced to work more hours for the same wages, or if their families, who are already maintained from capital, were employed to a greater extent than they now are in adding to the produce, a given capital would afford employment to more industry. The unproductive consumption of productive labourers, the whole of which is now supplied cbyc capital, might cease, or be postponed until the produce came in; and additional productive labourers might be maintained with the amount. By such means society might obtain from its existing resources a greater quantity of produce: and to such means it has been driven, when the sudden destruction of some large portion of its capital rendered the employment of the remainder with the greatest possible effect, a matter of paramount consideration for the time.

dWhend industry has not come up to the limit imposed by capital, governments may, in various ways, for example by importing additional labourers, bring it nearer to that limit: as ebye the importation of Coolies Edition: current; Page: [66] and free Negroes into fthe West Indiesf. There is another way in which governments can create additional industry. They can create capital. They may lay on taxes, and employ the amount productivity. They may do what is nearly equivalent; they may lay taxes on income or expenditure, and apply the proceeds towards paying off the public debts. The fundholder, when paid off, would still desire to draw an income from his property, most of which therefore would find its way into productive employment, while a great part of it would have been drawn from the fund for unproductive expenditure, since people do not gwhollyg pay their taxes from what they would have saved, but partly, if not chiefly, from what they would have spent. It may be added, that any increase in the productive power of capital (or, more properly speaking, of labour) by improvement in the arts of life, or otherwise, tends to increase the employment for labour; since, when there is a greater produce altogether, it is always probable that some portion of the increase will be saved and converted into capital; especially when the increased returns to productive industry hold out an additional temptation to the conversion of funds from an unproductive destination to a productive.

§ 3. [Increase of capital gives increased employment to labour, without assignable bounds] While, on the one hand, industry is limited by capital, so on the other, every increase of capital gives, or is capable of giving, additional employment to industry; and this without assignable limit. I do not mean to deny that the capital, or part of it, may be so employed as not to support labourers, being fixed in machinery, buildings, improvement of land, and the like. In any large increase of capital a considerable portion will generally be thus employed, and will only co-operate with labourers, not maintain them. What I do intend to assert is, that the portion which is destined to their maintenance, may (supposing no alteration in anything else) be indefinitely increased, without creating an impossibility of finding them employment: in other words, that if there are human beings capable of work, and food to feed them, they may always be employed in producing something. This proposition requires to be somewhat dwelt upon, being one of those which it is exceedingly easy to assent to when presented in general terms, but somewhat difficult to keep fast hold of, in the crowd and confusion of the actual facts of society. It is also very much opposed to common doctrines. There is not an opinion more general among mankind than this, that the unproductive expenditure of the rich is necessary to the employment of the poor. Before Adam Smith, the doctrine had hardly been questioned; and even since his time, authors of the highest name and of Edition: current; Page: [67] great merit* have contended, that if consumers were to save and convert into capital more than a limited portion of their income, and were not to devote to unproductive consumption an amount of means bearing a certain ratio to the capital of the country, the extra accumulation would be merely so much waste, since there would be no market for the commodities which the capital so created would produce. I conceive this to be one of the many errors arising in political economy, from the practice of not beginning with the examination of simple cases, but rushing aat once into the complexity of concrete phenomenaa.

Every one can see that if a benevolent government possessed all the food, and all the implements and materials, of the community, it could exact productive labour from all bcapable of it,b to whom it allowed a share in the food, and could be in no danger of wanting a field for the employment of this productive labour, since as long as there was a single want unsaturated (which material objects could supply), of any one individual, the labour of the community could be turned to the production of something capable of satisfying that want. Now, the individual possessors of capital, when they add to it by fresh accumulations, are doing precisely the same thing which we suppose to be done by cac benevolent government. As it is allowable to put any case by way of hypothesis, let us imagine the most extreme case conceivable. Suppose that every capitalist came to be of opinion that not being more meritorious than a well-conducted labourer, he ought not to fare better; and accordingly laid by, from conscientious motives, the surplus of his profits; or dsuppose this abstinence not spontaneous, but imposed by law or opinion upon all capitalists, and upon landowners likewise. Unproductive expenditure is now reduced to its lowest limit: and it is asked, how is the increased capital to find employment? Who is to buy the goods which it will produce? There are no longer customers even for those which were produced before. The goods, therefore, e(it is said)e will remain unsold; they will perish in the warehouses; until capital is brought down to what it was originally, or rather to as much less, as the demand of the consumers has lessened. But this is seeing only one-half of the matter. In the case supposed, there would no longer be any demand for luxuries, on the part of capitalists and landowners. But when these classes turn their income into capital, they do not thereby annihilate their power of consumption; they do but transfer it from themselves to the labourers to whom they Edition: current; Page: [68] give employment. Now, there are two possible suppositions in regard to the labourers; either there is, or there is not, an increase of their numbers, proportional to the increase of capital. If there is, the case offers no difficulty. The production of necessaries for the new population, takes the place of the production of luxuries for a portion of the old, and supplies exactly the amount of employment which has been lost. But suppose that there is no increase of population. The whole of what was previously expended in luxuries, by capitalists and landlords, is distributed among the existing labourers, in the form of additional wages. We will assume them to be already sufficiently supplied with necessaries. What follows? That the labourers become consumers of luxuries; and the capital previously employed in the production of luxuries, is still able to employ itself in the same manner: the difference being, that the luxuries are shared among the community generally, instead of being confined to a few. The increased accumulation and increased production, might, rigorously speaking, continue, until every labourer had every indulgence of wealth, consistent with continuing to work; fsupposing that the power of their labour weref physically sufficient to produce all this amount of indulgences for their whole number. Thus the limit of wealth is never deficiency of consumers, but of producers and productive power. Every addition to capital gives to labour either additional employment, or additional remuneration; enriches either the country, or the labouring class. If it finds additional hands to set to work, it increases the aggregate produce: if only the same hands, it gives them a larger share of it; and perhaps even in this case, by stimulating them to greater exertion, augments the produce itself.

§ 4. [Capital is the result of saving] A second fundamental theorem respecting Capital, relates to the source from which it is derived. It is the result of saving. The evidence of this lies abundantly in what has been already said on the subject. But the proposition needs some further illustration.

If all persons were to expend in personal indulgences all that they produce, and all the income they receive from what is produced by others, capital could not increase. All capital, with a trifling exception, was originally the result of saving. I say, with a trifling exception; because a person who labours on his own account, may spend on his own account all he produces, without becoming destitute; and the provision of necessaries on which he subsists until he has reaped his harvest, or sold his commodity, though a real capital, cannot be said to have been saved, since it is all used for the supply of his own wants, and aperhaps as speedily as if it had been Edition: current; Page: [69] consumed in idlenessa. We may imagine a number of individuals or families settled on as many separate pieces of land, each living on what their own labour produces, and consuming the whole produce. But even these must save (that is, spare from their personal consumption) as much as is necessary for seed. Some saving, therefore, there must have been, even in this simplest of all states of economical relations; people must have produced more than they used, or used less than they produced. Still more must they do so before they can employ other blabourersb, or increase their production beyond what can be accomplished by the work of their own hands. All that any one employs in supporting and carrying on any other labour than his own, must have been originally brought together by saving; somebody must have produced it and forborne to consume it. We may say, therefore, without material inaccuracy, that all capital, and especially all addition to capital, are the result of saving.

In a rude and violent state of society, it continually happens that the person who has capital is not the very person who has saved it, but some one who, being stronger, or belonging to a more powerful community, has possessed himself of it by plunder. And even in a state of things cin which property was protectedc, the increase of capital has usually beend, for a long time, mainlyd derived from privations which, though essentially the same with saving, are not generally called by that name, because not voluntary. The actual producers have been slaves, compelled to produce as much as force could extort from them, and to consume as little as the self-interest or the usually very slender humanity of their etaskmasterse would permit. This kind of compulsory saving, however, would not have caused any increase of capital, unless a part of the amount had been saved over again, voluntarily, by the master. If all that he made his slaves produce and forbear to consume, had been consumed by him on personal indulgences, he would not have increased his capital, nor been enabled to maintain an increasing number of slaves. To maintain any slaves at all, implied a previous saving; a stock, at least of food, provided in advance. This saving may not, however, have been made by any self-imposed privation of the master; but more probably by that of the slaves themselves while free; the rapine or war, which deprived them of their personal liberty, having transferred also their accumulations to the conqueror.

There are other cases in which the term saving, with the associations usually belonging to it, does not exactly fit the operation by which capital is increased. If it were said, for instance, that the only way to accelerate the Edition: current; Page: [70] increase of capital is by increase of saving, the idea would probably be suggested of greater abstinence, and increased privation. But it is obvious that whatever increases the productive power of labour, creates an additional fund to make savings from, and enables capital to be enlarged not only without additional privation, but concurrently with an increase of personal consumption. Nevertheless, there is here an increase of saving, in the scientific sense. Though there is more consumed, there is also more spared. There is a greater excess of production over consumption. It is consistent with correctness to call this a greater saving. Though the term is not unobjectionable, there is no other which is not liable to as great objections. To consume less than is produced, is saving; and that is the process by which capital is increased; not necessarily by consuming less, absolutely. We must not allow ourselves to be so much the slaves of words, as to be unable to use the word saving in this sense, without being in danger of forgetting that to increase capital there is another way besides consuming less, namely, to produce more.

§ 5. [All capital is consumed] A third fundamental theorem respecting Capital, closely connected with the one last discussed, is, that although saved, and the result of saving, it is nevertheless consumed. The word saving does not imply that what is saved is not consumed, anor even necessarily that its consumption is deferred; but only that, if consumed immediately,a it is not consumed by the person who saves it. If merely laid by for future use, it is said to be hoarded; and while hoarded, is not consumed at all. But if employed as capital, it is all consumed; bthough notb by the capitalistc. Part is exchanged for tools or machinery, which are worn out by use; part for seed or materials, which are destroyed as such by being sown or wrought up, and destroyed altogether by the consumption of the ultimate product. The remainder is paid in wages to productive labourers, who consume it for their daily wants; or if they in their turn save any part, this also is not, generally speaking, hoarded, but (through savings banks, benefit clubs, or some other channel) re-employed as capital, and consumed.

The principle now stated is a strong example of the necessity of attention to the most elementary truths of our subject: for it is one of the most elementary of them all, and yet no one who has not bestowed some thought on the matter is habitually aware of it, and most are not even willing to admit it when first stated. To the vulgar, it is not at all apparent that what is saved is consumed. To them, every one who saves, appears in the light Edition: current; Page: [71] of a person who hoards: they may think such conduct permissible, or even laudable, when it is to provide for a family, and the like; but they have no conception of it as doing good to other people: saving is to them another word for keeping a thing to oneself; while spending appears to them to be distributing it among others. The person who expends his fortune in unproductive consumption, is looked upon as diffusing benefits all around; and is an object of so much favour, that some portion of the same popularity attaches even to him who spends what does not belong to him; who not only destroys his own capital, if he ever had any, but under pretence of borrowing, and on promise of repayment, possesses himself of capital belonging to others, and destroys that likewise.

This popular error comes from attending to a small portion only of the consequences that flow from the saving or the spending; all dthe effects of either which ared out of sight, being out of mind. The eye follows what is saved, into an imaginary strong-box, and there loses sight of it; what is spent, it follows into the hands of etradespeoplee and dependents; but without reaching the ultimate destination in either case. Saving (for productive investment), and spending, coincide very closely in the first stage of their operations. The effects of both begin with consumption; with the destruction of a certain portion of wealth; only the things consumed, and the persons consuming, are different. There is, in the one case, a wearing out of tools, a destruction of material, and a quantity of food and clothing supplied to labourers, which they destroy by use: in the other case, there is a consumption, that is to say, a destruction, of wines, equipages, and furniture. Thus far, the consequence to the national wealth has been much the same; an equivalent quantity of it has been destroyed in both cases. But in the spending, this first stage is also the final stage; that particular amount of the produce of labour has disappeared, and there is nothing left; while, on the contrary, the saving person, during the whole time that the destruction was going on, has had labourers at work repairing it; who are ultimately found to have replaced, with an increase, the equivalent of what has been consumed. And as this operation admits of being repeated indefinitely without any fresh act of saving, a saving once made becomes a fund to maintain a corresponding number of labourers in perpetuity, reproducing annually their own maintenance with a profit.

It is the intervention of money which obscures, to an unpractised apprehension, the true character of these phenomena. Almost all expenditure being carried on by means of money, the money comes to be looked upon as the main feature in the transaction; and since that does not perish, but only changes hands, people overlook the destruction which takes place in Edition: current; Page: [72] the case of unproductive expenditure. The money being merely transferred, they think the wealth also has only been handed over from the spendthrift to other people. But this is simply confounding money with wealth. The wealth which has been destroyed was not the money, but the wines, equipages, and furniture which the money purchased; and these having been destroyed without return, society collectively is poorer by the amount. It may be said, perhaps, that wines, equipages, and furniture, are not subsistence, tools, and materials, and could not in any case have been applied to the support of labour; that they are adapted for no other than unproductive consumption, and that the detriment to the wealth of the community was when they were produced, not when they were consumed. I am willing to allow this, as far as is necessary for the argument, and the remark would be very pertinent if these expensive luxuries were drawn from an existing stock, never to be replenished. But since, on the contrary, they continue to be produced as long as there are consumers for them, and are produced in increased quantity to meet an increased demand; the choice made by a consumer to expend five thousand a year in luxuries, keeps a corresponding number of labourers employed from year to year in producing things which can be of no use to production; their services being lost so far as regards the increase of the national wealth, and the tools, materials, and food which they annually consume being so much subtracted from the general stock of the community applicable to productive purposes. In proportion as any class is improvident or luxurious, the industry of the country takes the direction of producing luxuries for their use; while not only the employment for productive labourers is diminished, but the subsistence and instruments which are the means of such employment do actually exist in smaller quantity.

Saving, in short, enriches, and spending impoverishes, the community along with the individual; which is but saying in other words, that society at large is richer by what it expends in maintaining and aiding productive labour, but poorer by what it consumes in its enjoyments.*

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§ 6. [Capital is kept up, not by preservation, but by perpetual reproduction] To return to our fundamental theorem. Everything which is produced is consumed: both what is saved and what is said to be spent; and the former quite as rapidly as the latter. All the ordinary forms of language tend to disguise this. When apeoplea talk of the ancient wealth of a country, of riches inherited from ancestors, and similar expressions, the idea suggested is, that the riches so transmitted were produced long ago, at the time when they are said to have been first acquired, and that no portion of the capital of the country was produced this year, except as much as may have been this year added to the total amount. The fact is far otherwise. The greater part, in value, of the wealth now existing in England has been produced by human hands within the last twelve months. A very small proportion indeed of that large aggregate was in existence ten years ago;— Edition: current; Page: [74] of the present productive capital of the country scarcely any part, except farm-houses and bmanufactoriesb, and a few ships and machines; and even these would not in most cases have survived so long, if fresh labour had not been employed within that period in putting them into repair. The land subsists, and the land is almost the only thing that subsists. Everything which is produced perishes, and most things very quickly. Most kinds of capital are not fitted by their nature to be long preserved. There are a few, and but a few productions, capable of a very prolonged existence. Westminster Abbey has lasted many centuries, with occasional repairs; some cGrecianc sculptures have existed above two thousand years; the Pyramids perhaps double or treble that time. But these were objects devoted to unproductive use. If we except bridges and aqueducts (to which may din some countriesd be added tanks and embankments), there are few instances of any edifice applied to industrial purposes which has been of great duration; such buildings do not hold out against wear and tear, nor is it good economy to construct them of the solidity necessary for permanency. Capital is kept in existence from age to age not by preservation, but by perpetual reproduction: every part of it is used and destroyed, generally very soon after it is produced, but those who consume it are employed meanwhile in producing more. The growth of capital is similar to the growth of population. Every individual who is born, dies, but in each year the number born exceeds the number who die: the population, therefore, always increases, though not one person of those composing it was alive until a very recent date.

§ 7. [Why countries recover rapidly from a state of devastation] This perpetual consumption and reproduction of capital affords the explanation of what has so often excited wonder, the great rapidity with which countries recover from a state of devastation; the disappearance, in a short time, of all traces of the mischiefs done by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the ravages of war. An enemy lays waste a country by fire and sword, and destroys or carries away nearly all the moveable wealth existing in it: all the inhabitants are ruined, and yet in a few years after, everything is much as it was before. This vis medicatrix naturæ has been a subject of sterile astonishment, or has been cited to exemplify the wonderful strength of the principle of saving, which can repair such enormous losses in so brief an interval. There is nothing at all wonderful in the matter. What the enemy have destroyed, would have been destroyed in a little time by the inhabitants themselves: the wealth which they so rapidly reproduce, would have needed Edition: current; Page: [75] to be reproduced and would have been reproduced in any case, and probably in as short aa timea. Nothing is changed, except that during the reproduction they have not now the advantage of consuming what had been produced previously. The possibility of a rapid repair of their disasters, mainly depends on whether the country has been depopulated. If its effective population have not been extirpated at the time, and are not starved afterwards; then, with the same skill and knowledge which they had before, with their land and its permanent improvements undestroyed, and the more durable buildings probably unimpaired, or only partially injured, they have nearly all the requisites for their former amount of production. If there is as much of food left to them, or of valuables to buy food, as enables them by any amount of privation to remain alive and in working condition, they will in a short time have raised as great a produce, and acquired collectively as great wealth and as great a capital, as before; by the mere continuance of that ordinary amount of exertion which they are accustomed to employ in their occupations. Nor does this evince any strength in the principle of saving, in the popular sense of the term, since what takes place is not intentional abstinence, but involuntary privation.

Yet so fatal is the habit of thinking through the medium of only one set of technical phrases, and so little reason have studious men to value themselves on being exempt from the very same mental infirmities which beset the vulgar, that this simple explanation was never given (so far as I am aware) by any political economist before Dr. Chalmers; a writer many of whose opinions I think erroneous, but who has always the merit of studying phenomena at first hand, and expressing them in a language of his own, which often uncovers aspects of the truth that the received phraseologies only tend to hide.

§ 8. [Effects of defraying government expenditure by loans] The same author carries out this train of thought to some important conclusions on another closely connected subject, that of government loans for war purposes or other unproductive expenditure. These loans, being drawn from capital (in lieu of taxes, which would generally have been paid from income, and made up in part or altogether by increased economy) must, according to the principles we have laid down, tend to impoverish the country: yet the years in which expenditure of this sort has been on the greatest scale, have often been years of great apparent prosperity: the wealth and resources of the country, instead of diminishing, have given every sign of rapid increase during the process, and of greatly expanded dimensions after its close. This was confessedly the case with Great Edition: current; Page: [76] Britain during the last alonga Continental war; and it would take some space to enumerate all the unfounded theories in political economy, to which that fact gave rise, and to which it secured temporary credence; almost all tending to exalt unproductive expenditure, at the expense of productive. Without entering into all the causes which operated, and which commonly do operate, to prevent these extraordinary drafts on the productive resources of a country from being so much felt as it might seem reasonable to expect, we will suppose the most unfavourable case possible: that the whole amount borrowed and destroyed by the government, was abstracted by the lender from a productive employment in which it had actually been invested. The capital, therefore, of the country, is this year diminished by so much. But unless the amount abstracted is something enormous, there is no reason in the nature of the case why next year the national capital should not be as great as ever. The loan cannot have been taken from that portion of the capital of the country which consists of tools, machinery, and buildings. It must have been wholly drawn from the portion employed in paying labourers: and the labourers will suffer accordingly. But if none of them are starved; if their wages can bear such an amount of reduction, or if charity interposes between them and absolute destitution, there is no reason that their labour should produce less in the next year than in the year before. If they produce as much as usual, having been paid less by so many millions sterling, btheseb millions are gained by their employers. The breach made in the capital of the country is thus instantly repaired, but repaired by the privations and often the real misery of the labouring class. Here is ample reason why such periods, even in the most unfavourable circumstances, may easily be times of great gain to those whose prosperity usually passes, in the estimation of society, for national prosperity.c*

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This leads to the vexed question to which Dr. Chalmers has very particularly adverted; whether the funds required by a government for extraordinary unproductive expenditure, are best raised by loans, the interest only being provided by taxes, or whether taxes should be at once laid on to the whole amount; which is called in the financial vocabulary, raising the whole of the supplies within the year. Dr. Chalmers is strongly for the latter method. He says, the common notion is that in calling for the whole amount in one year, you require what is either impossible, or very inconvenient; that the people cannot, without great hardship, pay the whole at once out of their yearly income; and that it is much better to require of them a small payment every year in the shape of interest, than so great a sacrifice once for all. To which his answer is, that the sacrifice is made equally in either case. Whatever is spent, cannot but be drawn from yearly income. The whole and every part of the wealth dproducedd in the country, forms, or helps to form, the yearly income of somebody. The privation which it is supposed must result from taking the amount in the shape of taxes is not avoided by taking it in a loan. The suffering is not averted, but only thrown upon the labouring classes, the least able, and who least ought, to bear it: while all the inconveniences, physical, moral, and political, produced by maintaining taxes for the perpetual payment of the interest, are incurred in pure loss. Whenever capital is withdrawn from production, or from the fund destined for production, to be lent to the State, and expended unproductively, that whole sum is withheld from the labouring classes: the loan, therefore, is in truth paid off the same year; the whole of the sacrifice necessary for paying it off is actually made: only it is paid to the wrong persons, and therefore does not extinguish the claim; and paid by the very worst of taxes, a tax exclusively on the labouring class. And after having, in this most painful and unjust ewaye, gone through the whole effort necessary for extinguishing the debt, the country remains charged with it, and with the payment of its interest in perpetuity.

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These views appear to me strictly just, in so far as the value absorbed in loans would otherwise have been employed in productive industry within the country. The practical state of the case, however, seldom exactly corresponds with this supposition. The loans of the less wealthy countries are made chiefly with foreign capital, which would not, perhaps, have been brought in to be invested on any less security than that of the government: while those of rich and prosperous countries are generally made, not with funds withdrawn from productive employment, but with the new accumulations constantly making from income, and often with a part of them which, if not so taken, would have migrated to colonies, or sought other investments abroad. In these cases (which will be more particularly examined hereafter*), the sum wanted may be obtained fby loanf without detriment to the labourers, or derangement of the national industry, and even perhaps with g advantage to both, in comparison with raising the amount by taxation, since taxes, especially when heavy, are almost always partly paid at the expense of what would otherwise have been saved and added to capital. hBesidesh, in a country which makes so great yearly additions to its wealth that a part can be taken and expended unproductively without diminishing capital, or even preventing a considerable increase, it is evident that even if the whole of what is so taken would have become capital, and obtained employment in the country, the effect on the labouring classes is far less prejudicial, and the case against the loan system much less strong, than in the case first supposed. This brief anticipation of a discussion which will find its proper place elsewhere, appeared necessary to prevent false inferences from the premises previously laid down.

§ 9. [Demand for commodities is not demand for labour] We now pass to a fourth fundamental theorem respecting Capital, which is, perhaps, oftener overlooked or misconceived than even any of the foregoing. What supports and employs productive labour, is the capital expended in setting it to work, and not the demand of purchasers for the produce of the labour when completed. Demand for commodities is not demand for labour. The demand for commodities determines in what particular branch aof production thea labour and capital shall be employed; it determines the direction of the labour; but not the more or less of the labour itself, or of the maintenance or payment of the labour. bThese dependb on the amount of the capital, or other funds directly devoted to the sustenance and remuneration of labour.

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Suppose, for instance, that there is a demand for velvet; a fund ready to be laid out in buying velvet, but no capital to establish the manufacture. It is of no consequence how great the demand may be; unless capital is attracted into the occupation, there will be no velvet made, and consequently none bought; unless, indeed, the desire of the intending purchaser for it is so strong, that he employs part of the price he would have paid for it, in making advances to work-people, that they may employ themselves in making velvet; that is, unless he converts part of his income into capital, and invests that capital in the manufacture. Let us now reverse the hypothesis, and suppose that there is plenty of capital ready for making velvet, but no demand. Velvet will not be made; but there is no particular preference on the part of capital for making velvet. Manufacturers and their labourers do not produce for the pleasure of their customers, but for the supply of their own wants, and having still the capital and the labour which are the essentials of production, they can either produce something else which is in demand, or if there be no other demand, they themselves have one, and can produce the things which they want for their own consumption. So that the cemployment afforded to labour does not depend on the purchasers, but on the capital.c I am, of course, not taking into consideration the effects of a sudden change. If the demand ceases unexpectedly, after the commodity to supply it is already produced, dthis introduces a different element into the questiond: the capital has actually been consumed in producing something which nobody wants or uses, and it has therefore perished, and the employment which it gave to labour is at an end, not because there is no longer a demand, but because there is no longer a capital. This case therefore does not test the principle. The proper test is, to suppose that the change is gradual and foreseen, and is attended with no waste of capital, the manufacture being discontinued by merely not replacing the machinery as it wears out, and not reinvesting the money as it comes in from the sale of the produce. The capital is thus ready for a new employment, in which it will maintain as much labour as before. The manufacturer and his work-people lose the benefit of the skill and knowledge which they had acquired in the particular business, and which can only be partially of use to them in any other; and that is the amount of loss to the community by the change. But the labourers can still work, and the capital which previously employed them will, either in the same hands, or by being lent to others, employ either those labourers or an equivalent number in some other occupation.

This etheorem, that to purchase produce is not to employe labour; that Edition: current; Page: [80] the demand for labour is constituted by the wages which precede the production, and not by the demand which may exist for the commodities resulting from the production; is a proposition which greatly needs all the illustration it can receive. It is, to common apprehension, a paradox; and even among political economists of reputation, I can hardly point to any, except Mr. Ricardo and M. Say, who have kept it constantly and steadily in view. Almost all others occasionally express themselves as if a person who buys commodities, the produce of labour, was an employer of labour, and created a demand for it as really, and in the same sense, as if he bought the labour itself directly, by the payment of wages. It is no wonder that political economy advances slowly, when such a question as this still remains open at its very threshold. fI apprehend, that if by demand for labour be meant the demand by which wages are raised, or the number of labourers in employment increased, demand for commodities does not constitute demand for labour. I conceive that a person who buys commodities and consumes them himself, does no good to the labouring classes; and that it is only by what he abstains from consuming, and expends in direct payments to labourers in exchange for labour, that he benefits the labouring classes, or adds anything to the amount of their employment.f

For the better illustration of gtheg principle, let us put the following case. A consumer may expend his income either in buying services, or commoditiesh. Heh may employ part of it in hiring journeymen bricklayers to build a house, or excavators to dig artificial lakes, or labourers to make plantations and lay out pleasure grounds; or, instead of this, he may expend the same value in buying velvet and lace. The question is, whether the difference between these two modes of expending his income affects the interest of the labouring classes. It is plain that in the first of the two cases he employs labourers, who will be out of employment, or at least out of that employment, in the opposite case. But those from whom I differ say that this is of no consequence, because in buying velvet and lace he equally employs labourers, namely, those who make the velvet and lace. iI contend, however, that in this last case he does not employ labourers; but merely decides in what kind of work some other person shall employ themi. The consumer does not with his own funds pay to the weavers and Edition: current; Page: [81] lacemakers their day’s wages. He buys the finished commodity, which has been produced by labour and capital, the labour not being paid nor the capital furnished by him, but jby the manufacturerj. Suppose that he had been in the habit of expending this portion of his income in hiring journeymen bricklayers, who laid out the amount of their wages in food and clothing, which were also produced by labour and capital. He, however, determines to prefer velvet, for which he thus creates an extra demand. This demand cannot be satisfied without an extra supply, nor can the supply be produced without an extra capital: where, then, is the capital to come from? There is nothing in the consumer’s change of purpose which makes the capital of the country greater than it otherwise was. It appears, then, that the increased demand for velvet could not for the present be supplied, were it not that the very circumstance which gave rise to it has set at liberty a capital of the exact amount required. The very sum which the consumer now employs in buying velvet, formerly passed into the hands of journeymen bricklayers, who expended it in food and necessaries, which they now either go without, or squeeze by their competition, from the shares of other labourers. The labour and capital, therefore, which formerly produced necessaries for the use of these bricklayers, are deprived of their market, and must look out for other employment; and they find it in making velvet for the new demand. I do not mean that the very same labour and capital which produced the necessaries turn themselves to producing the velvet; but, in some one or other of a hundred modes, they take the place of that which does. There was capital in existence to do one of two things—to make the velvet, or to produce necessaries for the journeymen bricklayers; but not to do both. It was at the option of the consumer which of the two should happen; kandk if he chooses the velvet, they go without the necessaries.

lFor further illustration, let us suppose the same case reversed. The consumer has been accustomed to buy velvet, but resolves to discontinue that expense, and to employ the same annual sum in hiring bricklayers. If the Edition: current; Page: [82] common opinion be correct, this change in the mode of his expenditure gives no additional employment to labour, but only transfers employment from velvet-makers to bricklayers. On closer inspection, however, it will be seen that there is an increase of the total sum applied to the remuneration of labour. The velvet manufacturer, supposing him aware of the diminished demand for his commodity, diminishes the production, and sets at liberty a corresponding portion of the capital employed in the manufacture. This capital, thus withdrawn from the maintenance of velvet-makers, is not the same fund with that which the customer employs in maintaining bricklayers; it is a second fund. There are, therefore, two funds to be employed in the maintenance and remuneration of labour, where before there was only one. There is not a transfer of employment from velvet-makers to bricklayers; there is a new employment created for bricklayers, and a transfer of employment from velvet-makers to some other labourers, most probably those who produce the food and other things which the bricklayers consume.

mIn answer to this it is said, that thoughm money laid out in buying velvet is not ncapital, it replaces a capital; that though it does not create a new demand for labour, it is the necessary means of enabling the existing demand to be kept up. The funds (it may be said) of the manufacturer, while locked up in velvet, cannot be directly applied to the maintenance of labour; they do not begin to constitute a demand for labour until the velvet is sold, and the capital which made it replaced from the outlay of the purchaser; and thus, it may be said, the velvet-maker and the velvet-buyer have not two capitals, but only one capital between them, which by the act of purchase the buyer transfers to the manufacturer, and if instead of buying velvet he buys labour, he simply transfers this capital elsewhere, extinguishing as much demand for labour in one quarter as he creates in another.

The premises of this argument are not denied. To set free a capital which would otherwise be locked up in a form useless for the support of labour, is, no doubt, the same thing to the interests of labourers as the creation of a new capital. It is perfectly true that if I expend 1000l. in buying velvet, I enable the manufacturer to employ 1000l. in the maintenance of labour, which could not have been so employed while the velvet remained unsold: and if it would have remained unsold for ever unless I bought it, then by changing my purpose, and hiring bricklayers instead, I undoubtedly create no new demand for labour: for while I employ 1000l. in hiring labour on the one hand, I annihilate for ever 1000l. of the velvet-maker’s capital on the other. But this is confounding the effects arising from the mere suddenness Edition: current; Page: [83] of a change with the effects of the change itself. If when the buyer ceased to purchase, the capital employed in making velvet for his use necessarily perished, then his expending the same amount in hiring bricklayers would be no creation, but merely a transfer, of employment. The increased employment which I contend is given to labour, would not be given unless the capital of the velvet-maker could be liberated, and would not be given until it was liberated. But every one knows that the capital invested in an employment can be withdrawn from it, if sufficient time be allowed. If the velvet-maker had previous notice, by not receiving the usual order, he will have produced 1000l. less velvet, and an equivalent portion of his capital will have been already set free. If he had no previous notice, and the article consequently remains on his hands, the increase of his stock will induce him next year to suspend or diminish his production until the surplus is carried off. When this process is complete, the manufacturer will find himself as rich as before, with undiminished power of employing labour in general, though a portion of his capital will now be employed in maintaining some other kind of it. Until this adjustment has taken place, the demand for labour will be merely changed, not increased: but as soon as it has taken place, the demand for labour is increased. Where there was formerly only one capital employed in maintaining weavers to make 1000l. owortho of velvet, there is now that same capital employed in making something else, and 1000l. distributed among bricklayers besides. There are now two capitals employed in remunerating two sets of labourers; while before, one of those capitals, that of the customer, only served as a wheel in the machinery by which the other capital, that of the manufacturer, carried on its employment of labour from year to year.

The proposition for which I am contending is in reality equivalent to the following, which to some minds will appear a truism, though to others it is a paradox: that a person does good to labourers, not by what he consumes on himself, but solely by what he does not so consume. If instead of laying out 100l. in wine or silk, I expend it in wagesp, the demand for commodities is precisely equal in both cases: in the one, it is a demand for 100l. worth of wine or silk, in the other, for the same value of bread, beer, labourers’ clothing, fuel, and indulgences: but the labourers of the community have in the latter case the value of 100l. more of the produce of the community distributed among them. I have consumed that much less, and made over my consuming power to them. If it were not so, my having consumed less would not leave more to be consumed by others; which is a manifest contradiction. When less is not produced, what one person forbears to consume is necessarily added to the share of those to whom he transfers his power of purchase. In the case supposed I do not Edition: current; Page: [84] necessarily consume less ultimately, since the labourers whom I pay may build a house for me, or make something else for my future consumption. But I have at all events postponed my consumption, and have turned over part of my share of the present produce of the community to the labourers. If after an interval I am indemnified, it is not from the existing produce, but from a subsequent addition made to it. I have therefore left more of the existing produce to be consumed by others; and have put into the possession of labourers the power to consume it.q

rThere cannot be a better reductio ad absurdum of the opposite doctrine than that afforded by the Poor Law. If it be equally for the benefit of the labouring classes whether I consume my means in the form of things purchased for my own use, or set aside a portion in the shape of wages or alms for their direct consumption, on what ground can the policy be justified of taking my money from me to support paupers? since my unproductive expenditure would have equally benefited them, while I should have enjoyed it too. If society can both eat its cake and have it, why should it not be allowed the double indulgence? But common sense tells every one in his own case (though he does not see it on the larger scale), that the poor rate which he pays is really subtracted from his own consumption, and that no shifting of payment backwards and forwards will enable two persons to eat the same food. If he had not been required to pay the rate, and had consequently laid out the amount on himself, the poor would have had as much less for their share of the total produce of the country, as he himself would have consumed more.rl*

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sIt appears, then,s that a demand delayed until the work is completed, and furnishing no advances, but only reimbursing advances made by others, contributes nothing to the demand for labour; and that what is so expended, is, in all its effects, so far as regards the employment of the labouring class, a mere nullity; it does not and cannot create any employment except at the expense of other employment which existed before.

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tBut thought a demand for velvet does nothing more in regard to the employment uforu labour and capital, than to determine so much of the employment vwhichv already existed, into that particular channel instead of any other; still, to the producers already engaged in the velvet manufacture, and not intending to quit it, this is of the utmost importance. To them, a falling off in the demand is a real loss, and one which, even if none of their goods finally perish unsold, may mount to any height, up to that which would make them choose, as the smaller evil, to retire from the business. On the contrary, an increased demand enables them to extend their transactions—to make a profit on a larger capital, if they have it, or can borrow it; and, turning over their capital more rapidly, they wwillw employ their labourers more constantly, or employ a greater number than before. So that an increased demand for a commodity does really, in the particular department, often cause a greater employment to be given to labour by the same capital. The mistake lies in not perceiving that in the cases supposed, this advantage is given to labour and capital in one Edition: current; Page: [87] department, only by being withdrawn from another; and that when the change has produced its natural effect of attracting into the employment additional capital proportional to the increased demand, the advantage itself ceases.

xThe grounds of a proposition, when well understood, usually give a tolerable indication of the limitations of it. The general principle, now stated, is that demand for commodities determines merely the direction of labour, and the kind of wealth produced, but not the quantity or efficiency of the labour, or the aggregate of wealth. But to this there are two exceptions. First, when labour is supported, but not fully occupied, a new demand for something which it can produce, may stimulate the labour thus supported to increased exertions, of which the result may be an increase of wealth, to the advantage of the labourers themselves and of others. Work which can be done in the spare hours of persons subsisted from some other source, can (as before remarked) be undertaken without withdrawing capital from other occupations, beyond the amount (often very small) required to cover the expense of tools and materials, and even this will often be provided by savings made expressly for the purpose. The reason of our theorem thus failing, the theorem itself fails, and employment of this kind may, by the springing up of a demand for the commodity, be called into existence without depriving labour of an equivalent amount of employment in any other quarter. The demand does not, even in this case, operate on labour any otherwise than through the medium of an existing capital, but it affords an inducement which causes that capital to set in motion a greater amount of labour than it did before.x

yThe second exception, of which I shall speak at length in a subsequent chapter, consists in the known effect of an extension of the market for a commodity, in rendering possible an increased development of the division of labour, and hence a more effective distribution of the productive forces Edition: current; Page: [88] of society. This, like the former, is more an exception in appearance than it is in reality. It is not the money paid by the purchaser, which remunerates the labour; it is the capital of the producer: the demand only determines in what manner that capital shall be employed, and what kind of labour it shall remunerate; but if it determines that the commodity shall be produced on a large scale, it enables the same capital to produce more of the commodity, and may by an indirect effect in causing an increase of capital, produce an eventual increase of the remuneration of the labourer.y

The demand for commodities is a consideration of importance rather in the theory of exchange, than in that of production. Looking at things in the aggregate, and permanently, the remuneration of the producer is derived from the productive power of his own capital. The sale of the produce for money, and the subsequent expenditure of the money in buying other commodities, are a mere exchange of equivalent values for mutual accommodation. It is true that, the division of employments being one of the principal means of increasing the productive power of labour, the power of exchanging gives rise to a great increase of the produce; but even then it is production, not exchange, which remunerates labour and capital. We cannot too strictly represent to ourselves the operation of exchange, whether conducted by barter or through the medium of money, as the mere mechanism by which each person transforms the remuneration of his labour or of his capital into the particular shape in which it is most convenient to him to possess it; but in no wise the source of the remuneration itself.

§ 10. [Fallacy respecting Taxation] The preceding principles demonstrate the fallacy of many popular arguments and doctrines, which are continually reproducing themselves in new forms. For example, it has been contended, and by some from whom better things might have been expected, that the argument for the income-tax, grounded on its falling on the higher and middle classes only, and sparing the poor, is an error; some have gone so far as to say, an imposture; because in taking from the rich what they would have expended among the poor, the tax injures the poor as much as if it had been directly levied from them. Of this doctrine we now know what to think. So far, indeed, as what is taken from the rich in taxes, would, if not so taken, have been saved and converted into capital, or even expended in the maintenance and wages of servants or of any class of unproductive labourers, to that extent the demand for labour is no doubt diminished, and the poor injuriously affected, by athea tax on the rich; and as these effects are almost always produced in a greater or less degree, it is impossible so to tax the rich as that no portion whatever of the tax can fall Edition: current; Page: [89] on the poor. But even here the question arises, whether the government, after receiving the amount, will not lay out as great a portion of it in the direct purchase of labour, as the taxpayers would have done. In regard to all that portion of the tax, which, if not paid to the government, would have been consumed in the form of commodities (or even expended in services if the payment has been advanced by a capitalist), this, according to the principles we have investigated, falls definitively on the rich, and not at all on the poor. There is exactly the same demand for labour, so far as this portion is concerned, after the tax, as before it. The capital which hitherto employed the labourers of the country, remains, and is still capable of employing the same number. There is the same amount of produce paid in wages, or allotted to defray the feeding and clothing of labourers.

If those against whom I am now contending were in the right, it would be impossible to tax anybody except the poor. If it is taxing the labourers, to tax what is laid out in the produce of labour, the labouring classes pay all the taxes. The same argument, however, equally proves, that it is impossible to tax the labourers at all; since the tax, being laid out either in labour or in commodities, comes all back to them; so that taxation has the singular property of falling on nobody. On the same showing, it would do the labourers no harm to take from them all they have, and distribute it among the other members of the community. It would all be “spent among them,” which on this theory comes to the same thing. The error is produced by not looking directly at the realities of the phenomena, but attending only to the outward mechanism of paying and spending. If we look at the effects produced not on the money, which merely changes hands, but on the commodities which are used and consumed, we see that, in consequence of the income-tax, the classes who pay it do really diminish their consumption. Exactly so far as they do this, they are the persons on whom the tax falls. It is defrayed out of what they would otherwise have used and enjoyed. So far, on the other hand, as the burthen falls, not on what they would have consumed, but on what they would have saved to maintain production, or spent in maintaining or paying unproductive labourers, to that extent the tax forms a deduction from what would have been used and enjoyed by the labouring classes. But if the government, as is probably the fact, expends fully as much of the amount as the tax-payers would have done in the direct employment of labour, as in hiring sailors, soldiers, and policemen, or in paying off debt, by which last operation it even increases capital; the labouring classes not only do not lose any employment by the tax, but may possibly gain some, and the whole of the tax falls exclusively where it was intended.

All that portion of the produce of the country which any oneb, not a Edition: current; Page: [90] labourer,b actually and literally consumes for his own use, does not contribute in the smallest degree to the maintenance of labour. No one is benefited by mere consumption, except the person who consumes. And a person cannot cbothc consume his income himself, and make it over to be consumed by others. Taking away a certain portion by taxation cannot deprive both him and them of it, but only him or them. To know which is the sufferer, we must understand whose consumption will have to be retrenched in consequence: this, whoever it be, is the person on whom the tax really falls.

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CHAPTER VI: aOna Circulating and Fixed Capital

§ 1. [Fixed and Circulating Capital, what] To complete our explanations on the subject of capital, it is necessary to say something of the two species into which it is usually divided. The distinction is very obvious, and though not named, has been often adverted to, in the btwob preceding chapters: but it is now proper to define it accurately, and to point out a few of its consequences.

Of the capital engaged in the production of any commodity, there is a part which, after being once used, exists no longer as capital; is no longer capable of rendering service to production, or at least not the same service, cnorc to the same sort of production. Such, for example, is the portion of capital which consists of materials. The tallow and alkali of which soap is made, once used in the manufacture, are destroyed as alkali and tallow; and cannot be employed any further in the soap manufacture, though in their altered condition, as soap, they are capable of being used as a material or an instrument in other branches of manufacture. In the same division must be placed the portion of capital which is paid as the wages, or consumed as the subsistence, of labourers. dThed part of the capital of a cotton-spinner which he pays away to his work-people, once so paid, exists no longer as his capital, or as a cotton-spineer’s capital: such portion of it as the workmen consume, no longer exists as capital at all: even if they save any part, it emay now be more properly regardede as a fresh capital, the result of a second act of accumulation. Capital which in this manner fulfils the whole of its office in the production in which it is engaged, by a single use, is called Circulating Capital. The term, which is not very appropriate, is derived from the circumstance, that this portion of capital requires to be constantly renewed by the sale of the finished product, and when renewed is perpetually parted with in buying materials and paying wages; so that it does its work, not by being kept, but by changing hands.

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Another large portion of capital, however, consists in instruments of production, of a more or less permanent character; which produce their effect not by being parted with, but by being kept; and the efficacy of which is not exhausted by a single use. To this fclassf belong buildings, machinery, and all or most things known by the name of implements or tools. The durability of some of these is considerable, and their function as productive instruments is prolonged through many repetitions of the productive operation. In this class must likewise be included capital sunk (as the expression is) in permanent improvements of land. So also the capital expended once for all, in the commencement of an undertaking, to prepare the way for subsequent operations: the expense of opening a mine, for example: of cutting canals, of making roads or docks. Other examples might be added, but these are sufficient. Capital which exists in any of these durable shapes, and the return to which is spread over a period of corresponding duration, is called Fixed Capital.

Of fixed capital, some kinds require to be occasionally or periodically renewed. Such are all implements and buildings: they require, at intervals, partial renewal by means of repairs, and are at last entirely worn out, and cannot be of any further service as buildings and implements, but fall back into the class of materials. In other cases, the capital does not, unless as a consequence of some unusual accident, require entire renewal: but there is always some outlay needed, either regularly or at least occasionally, to keep it up. A dock or a canal, once made, does not require, like a machine, to be made again, unless purposely destroyed, or unless an earthquake gor some similar catastropheg has filled it up: but regular and frequent outlays are necessary to keep it in repair. The cost of opening a mine needs not be incurred a second time; but unless some one goes to the expense of keeping the mine clear of water, it is soon rendered useless. The most permanent of all kinds of fixed capital is that employed in giving increased productiveness to a natural agent, such as land. The draining of marshy or inundated tracts like the Bedford Level, the reclaiming of land from the sea, or its protection by embankments, are improvements calculated for perpetuity; but drains and dykes require frequent repairs. The same character of perpetuity belongs to the improvement of land by subsoil draining, which adds so much to the productiveness of the clay soils; or by permanent manures, that is, by the addition to the soil, not of the substances which enter into the composition of vegetables, and which are therefore consumed by vegetation, but of those which merely alter the relation of the soil to air and water; as sand and lime on the heavy soils, clay and marl on the light. Even such works, however, require some, though it may be very little, occasional outlay to maintain their full effect.

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These improvements, however, by the very fact of their deserving that title, produce an increase of return, which, after defraying all expenditure necessary for keeping them up, still leaves a surplus. This surplus forms the return to the capital sunk in the first instance, and that return does not, as in the case of machinery, terminate by the wearing out of the machine, but continues for ever. The land, thus increased in productiveness, bears a value in the market, proportional to the increase: and hence it is usual to consider the capital which was invested, or sunk, in making the improvement, as still existing in the increased value of the land. There must be no mistake, however. The capital, like all other capital, has been consumed. It was consumed in maintaining the labourers who executed the improvement, and in the wear and tear of the tools by which they were assisted. But it was consumed productively, and has left a permanent result in the improved productiveness of an appropriated natural agent, the land. We may call the increased produce the joint result of the land and of a capital fixed in the land. But as the capital, having in reality been consumed, cannot be withdrawn, its productiveness is thenceforth indissolubly blended with that arising from the original qualities of the soil; and the remuneration for the use of it thenceforth depends, not upon the laws which govern the returns to labour and capital, but upon those which govern the recompense for natural agents. What these are, we shall see hereafter.*

§ 2. [Increase of fixed capital, when at the expense of circulating, might be detrimental to the labourers] There is a great difference between the effects of circulating and those of fixed capital, on the amount of the gross produce of the country. Circulating capital being destroyed as such, or at any rate finally lost to the owner, by a single use; and the product resulting from that one use being the only source from which the owner can replace the capital, or obtain any remuneration for its productive employment; the product must of course be sufficient for those purposes, or in other words, the result of a single use must be a reproduction equal to the whole amount of the circulating capital used, and a profit besides. This, however, is by no means necessary in the case of fixed capital. Since machinery, for example, is not wholly consumed by one use, it is not necessary that it should be wholly replaced from the product of that use. The machine answers the purpose of its owner if it brings in, during each interval of time, enough to cover the expense of repairs, and the deterioration in value which the machine has sustained during the same time, with a surplus sufficient to yield the ordinary profit on the entire value of the machine.

From this it follows that all increase of fixed capital, when taking place Edition: current; Page: [94] at the expense of circulating, must be, at least temporarily, prejudicial to the interests of the labourers. This is true, not of machinery alone, but of all improvements by which capital is sunk; that is, rendered permanently incapable of being applied to the maintenance and remuneration of labour. Suppose that a person farms his own land, with a capital of two thousand quarters of corn, employed in maintaining labourers during one year (for simplicity we omit the consideration of seed and tools), whose labour produces him annually two thousand four hundred quarters, being a profit of twenty per cent. This profit we shall suppose that he annually consumes, carrying on his operations from year to year on the original capital of two thousand quarters. Let us now suppose that by the expenditure of half his capital he effects a permanent improvement of his land, which is executed by half his labourers, and occupies them for a year, after which he will only require, for the effectual cultivation of ahisa land, half as many labourers as before. The remainder of his capital he employs as usual. In the first year there is no difference in the condition of the labourers, except that part of them have received the same pay for ban operation onb the land, which they previously obtained for ploughing, sowing, and reaping. At the end of the year, however, the improver has not, as before, a capital of two thousand quarters of corn. Only one thousand quarters of his capital have been reproduced in the usual way: he has now only those thousand quarters and his improvement. He will employ, in the next and in each following year, only half the number of labourers, and will divide among them only half the former quantity of subsistence. The loss cwillc soon be made up to them if the improved land, with the diminished quantity of labour, dproducesd two thousand four hundred quarters as before, because so enormous an accession of gain ewille probably induce the improver to save a part, add it to his capital, and become a larger employer of labour. fBut it is conceivable that this may notf be the case; for (supposing, as we may do, that the improvement will last indefinitely, without any outlay worth mentioning to keep it up) the improver will have gained largely by his improvement if the land now yields, not two thousand four hundred, but one thousand five hundred quarters; since this will replace the one thousand quarters forming his present circulating capital, with a profit of twenty-five per cent (instead of twenty as before) on the whole capital, fixed and circulating together. The improvement, therefore, may be a very profitable one to him, and yet very injurious to the labourers.

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gThe supposition, in the terms in which it has been stated, is purely ideal; or at most applicable only to such a case as that of the conversion of arable land into pasture, which, though formerly a hfrequenth practice, is regarded by modern agriculturists as the reverse of an improvement.* iBut this does not affect the substance of the argument. Suppose that the improvement does not operate in the manner supposed—does not enable a part of the labour previously employed on the land to be dispensed with—but only enables the same labour to raise a greater produce.g Suppose, too, that the greater produce, which by means of the improvement can be raised from the soil with the same labour, is all wanted, and will find purchasers. The improver will in that case require the same number of labourers as before, at the same wages. But where will he find the means of paying them? He has no longer his original capital of two thousand quarters disposable for the purpose. One thousand of them are lost and gone—consumed in making the improvement. If he is to employ as many labourers as before, and pay them as highly, he must borrow, or obtain from some other source, a thousand quarters to supply the deficit. But these thousand quarters already maintained, or were destined to maintain, an equivalent quantity of labour. They are not a fresh creation; their destination is only changed from one productive employment to another; and though the agriculturist has made up the deficiency in his own circulating capital, the breach in the circulating capital of the community remains unrepaired.

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fThef argument relied on by most of those who contend that machinery can never be injurious to the labouring class, kisk, that by cheapening production it creates such an increased demand for the commodity, as enables, ere long, a greater number of persons than ever to find employment in producing it. lThis argument does not seem to me to have the weight commonly ascribed to it.l The fact, though too broadly stated, is, no doubt, often true. The copyists who were thrown out of employment by the invention of printing, were doubtless soon outnumbered by the compositors and pressmen who took their place; and the number of labouring persons now occupied in the cotton manufacture is many times greater than were so occupied previously to the inventions of Hargreaves and Arkwright, which shows that besides the enormous fixed capital now embarked in the manufacture, it also employs a far larger circulating capital than at any former time. But if this capital was drawn from other employments; if the funds which took the place of the capital sunk in costly machinery, were supplied not by manym additional saving consequent on the improvements, but by drafts on the general capital of the community; what better nweren the labouring classes for the mere transfer? In what manner owaso the loss they sustained by the conversion of circulating into fixed capital made up to them by a mere shifting of part of the remainder of the circulating capital from its old employments to a new one?

All attempts to make out that the labouring classes as a collective body cannot suffer ptemporarilyp by the introduction of machinery, or by the sinking of capital in permanent improvements, are, I conceive, necessarily fallacious. That they would suffer in the particular department of industry to which the change qappliesq, is generally admitted, and obvious to common sense; but it is often said, that though employment is withdrawn from labour in one department, an exactly equivalent employment is opened for it in others, because what the consumers save in the increased cheapness of one particular article enables them to augment their consumption of others, thereby increasing the demand for other kinds of labour. This is plausible, but, as rwas shownr in the last chapter, involves a fallacy; demand for commodities being a totally different thing from demand for labour. It is true, the consumers have now additional smeans of buyings other things; but this will not create the other things, unless there is capital to produce them, and the improvement has not set at liberty any capital, if even it has not absorbed some from other employments. The supposed increase of production and of employment for labour in other departments therefore Edition: current; Page: [97] will not take place; and the increased demand for commodities by some consumers, will be balanced by a cessation of demand on the part of others, namely, the labourers who were superseded by the improvement, and who will now be maintained, if at all, by sharing, either in the way of competition or of charity, in what was previously consumed by other people.

§ 3. [But this detriment to the labourers seldom if ever occurs] Nevertheless, I do not believe that as things are actually transacted, improvements in production are often, if ever, injurious, even temporarily, to the labouring classes in the aggregate. They would be so if they took place suddenly to a great amount, because much of the capital sunk must necessarily in that case be provided from funds already employed as circulating capital. But improvements are always introduced very gradually, and are seldom or never made by withdrawing circulating capital from actual production, but aare madea by the employment of the annual increase. bThere are few if any examplesb of a great increase of fixed capital, at a time and place where circulating capital was not rapidly increasing likewise. It is not in poor or backward countries that great and costly improvements in production are made. To sink capital in land for a permanent return—to introduce expensive machinery—are acts involving immediate sacrifice for distant objects; and indicate, in the first place, tolerably complete security of property; in the second, cconsiderable activity of industrial enterprise; and in the third, a high standard of what has been called the “effective desire of accumulation:” which three things are the elements of a society rapidly progressive in its amount of capital. Although, therefore, the labouring classes must suffer, not only if the increase of fixed capital takes place at the expense of circulating, but even if it is so large and rapid as to retard that ordinary increase to which the growth of population has habitually adapted itself; yet, in point of fact, this is very unlikely to happen, since there is probably no country whose fixed capital increases in a ratio more than proportional to its circulating. If the whole of the railways whichd, during the speculative madness of 1845,d obtained the sanction of Parliament, ehad beene constructed in the times fixed for the completion of each, this improbable contingency would, most likely, fhave beenf realized; but this very case ghas afforded a strikingg example of the difficulties which oppose the diversion into new channels, of any hconsiderableh portion of the capital that supplies the old: difficulties generally much more than Edition: current; Page: [98] sufficient to prevent enterprises that involve the sinking of capital, from extending themselves with such rapidity as to impair the sources of the existing employment for labour.

To these considerations must be added, that even if improvements did for a time decrease the aggregate produce and the circulating capital of the community, they would not the less tend in the long run to augment both. They increase the return to capital; and of this increase the benefit must necessarily accrue either to the capitalist in greater profits, or to the icustomeri in diminished prices; affording, in either case, an augmented fund from which accumulation may be made, while enlarged profits also hold out an increased inducement to accumulation. In the case we before selected, in which the immediate result of the improvement was to diminish the gross produce from two thousand four hundred quarters to one thousand five hundred, yet the profit of the capitalist being now five hundred quarters instead of four hundred, the extra one hundred quarters, if regularly saved, jwouldj in a few years replace the one thousand quarters subtracted from his circulating capital. Now the extension of business which almost certainly follows in any department in which an improvement has been made, affords a strong inducement to those engaged in it to add to their capital; and hence, at the slow pace at which improvements are usually introduced, a great part of the capital which the improvement ultimately absorbs, is drawn from the increased profits and increased savings which it has itself called forth.

This tendency of improvements in production to cause increased accumulation, and thereby ultimately to increase the gross produce, even if temporarily diminishing it, will assume a still more decided character if it should appear that there are assignable limits both to the accumulation of capital, and to the increase of production from the land, which limits once attained, all further increase of produce must stop; but that improvements in production, whatever may be their other effects, tend to throw one or both of these limits farther off. Now, these are truths which will appear in the clearest light in a subsequent stage of our investigation. It will be seen, that the quantity of capital which will, or even which can, be accumulated in any country, and the amount of gross produce which will, or even which can, be raised, bear a proportion to the state of the arts of production there existing; and that every improvement, even if for the time it diminish the circulating capital and the gross produce, ultimately makes room for a larger amount of both, than could possibly have existed otherwise. It is this which is the conclusive answer to the objections against machinery; and the proof thence arising of the ultimate kbenefitk lto labourers of mechanical Edition: current; Page: [99] inventions even in the existing state of societyl, will hereafter be seen to be conclusive.* But this does not discharge governments from the obligation of alleviating, and if possible preventing, the evils of which this source of ultimate benefit is or may be productive to an existing generation. If the sinking or fixing of capital in machinery or useful works were ever to proceed at such a pace as to impair materially the funds for the maintenance of labour, it would be incumbent on legislators to take measures for moderating its rapidity: and since improvements which do not diminish employment on the whole, almost always throw some particular class of labourers out of it, there cannot be a more legitimate object of the legislator’s care than the interests of those who are thus sacrificed to the gains of their fellow-citizens and of posterity.

To return to the theoretical distinction between fixed and circulating capital. Since all wealth which is destined to be employed for reproduction comes within the designation of capital, there are parts of capital which do not agree with the definition of either species of it; for instance, the stock of finished goods which a manufacturer or dealer at any time possesses unsold in his warehouses. But this, though capital as to its destination, is not yet capital in actual exercise: it is not engaged in production, but has first to be sold or exchanged, that is, converted into an equivalent value of some other commodities; and therefore is not yet either fixed or circulating capital; but will become either one or the other, or be eventually divided between them. With the proceeds of his finished goods, a manufacturer will partly pay his work-people, partly replenish his stock of the materials of his manufacture, and partly provide new buildings and machinery, or repair the old; but how much will be devoted to one purpose, and how much to another, depends on the nature of the manufacture, and the requirements of the particular moment.

It should be observed further, that the portion of capital mconsumed in the form of seed or material, though, unlike fixed capital, it requires to be at once replaced from the gross produce, stands yet in the same relation to the employment of labour, as fixed capital does. What is expended in materials is as much withdrawn from the maintenance and remuneration of labourers, as what is fixed in machinery; and if capital now expended in wages were diverted to the providing of materials, the effect on the labourers would be as prejudicial as if it were converted into fixed capital. This, however, is a kind of change which nseldom, if ever,n takes place. The tendency of improvements in production is always to economize, never to increase, the expenditure of seed or material for a given produce; and the interest of the labourers has no detriment to apprehend from this source.

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CHAPTER VII: On What Depends the Degree of Productiveness of Productive Agents

§ 1. [Land, labour, and capital, are of different productiveness at different times and places] We have concluded our general survey of the requisites of production. We have found that they may be reduced to three: labour, capital, and the materials and motive forces afforded by nature. Of these, labour and the raw material of the globe are primary and indispensable. Natural motive powers may be called in to the assistance of labour, and are a help, but not an essential, of production. The remaining requisite, capital, is itself the product of labour: its instrumentality in production is therefore, in reality, that of labour in an indirect shape. It does not the less require to be specified separately. A previous application of labour to produce the capital required for consumption during the work, is no less essential than the application of labour to the work itself. Of capital, again, one, and by far the largest, portion, conduces to production only by sustaining in existence the labour which produces: the remainder, namely the instruments and materials, contribute to it directly, in the same manner with natural agents, and the materials supplied by nature.

We now advance to the second great question in political economy; on what the degree of productiveness of these agents depends. For it is evident that their productive efficacy varies greatly at various times and places. With the same population and extent of territory, some countries have a much larger amount of production than others, and the same country at one time a greater amount than itself at another. Compare England either with a similar extent of territory in Russia, or with an equal population of Russians. Compare England now with England in the Middle Ages; Sicily, Northern Africa, or Syria at present, with the same countries aata the time of their greatest prosperity, before the Roman Conquest. Some of the causes which contribute to this difference of productiveness are obvious; others not so much so. We proceed to specify several of them.

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§ 2. [Causes of superior productiveness. Natural advantages] The most evident cause of superior productiveness is what are called natural advantages. These are various. Fertility of soil is one of the principal. In this there are great varieties, from the deserts of Arabia to the alluvial plains of the Ganges, the Niger, and the Mississippi. A favourable climate is even more important than a rich soil. There are countries capable of being inhabited, but too cold to be compatible with agriculture. Their inhabitants cannot pass beyond the nomadic state; they must live, like the Laplanders, by the domestication of the rein-deer, if not by hunting or fishing, like the miserable Esquimaux. There are countries where oats will ripen, but not wheat, such as the North of Scotland; others where wheat can be grown, but from excess of moisture and want of sunshine, affords but a precarious crop; as in parts of Ireland. With each advance towards the asoutha, or, in the European temperate region, towards the east, some new branch of agriculture becomes first possible, then advantageous; the vine, maize, bsilk, figs, olivesb, rice, dates, successively present themselves, until we come to the sugar, coffee, cotton, spices, &c. of climates which also afford, of the more common agricultural products, and with only a slight degree of cultivation, two or even three harvests in a year. Nor is it in agriculture alone that differences of climate are important. Their influence is felt in many other branches of production: in the durability of all work which is exposed to the air; of buildings, for example. If the temples of Karnac and Luxor had not been injured by men, they might have subsisted in their original perfection almost for ever, for the inscriptions on some of them, though anterior to all authentic history, are fresher than is in our climate an inscription fifty years old: while at St. Petersburg, the most massive works, solidly executed in granite hardly a generation ago, are already, as travellers tell us, almost in a state to require reconstruction, from calternate exposure toc summer heat and intense frost. The superiority of the woven fabrics of Southern Europe over those of England in the richness and clearness of many of their colours, is ascribed to the superior quality of the atmosphere, for which neither the knowledge of chemists nor the skill of dyers has been able to provide, in our hazy and damp climate, a complete equivalent.

Another part of the influence of climate consists in lessening the physical requirements of the producers. In hot regions, mankind can exist in comfort with less perfect housing, less clothing; fuel, that dabsoluted necessary of life in cold climates, they can almost dispense with, except for industrial usese. They alsoe require less aliment; as experience had proved, long before Edition: current; Page: [102] theory had accounted for it by ascertaining that most of what we consume as food is not required for the actual nutrition of the organs, but for keeping up the animal heat, and for supplying the necessary stimulus to the vital functions, which in hot climates is almost sufficiently supplied by air and sunshine. Much, therefore, of the labour elsewhere expended to procure the mere necessaries of life, not being required, more remains disposable for its higher uses and its enjoyments; if the character of the inhabitants does not rather induce them to use up these advantages in over-population, or in the indulgence of repose.

Among natural advantages, besides soil and climate, must be mentioned abundance of mineral productions, in convenient situations, and capable of being worked with moderate labour. Such are the coal-fields of Great Britain, which do so much to compensate its inhabitants for the disadvantages of climate; and the scarcely inferior fresourcef possessed by this country and the United States, in a copious supply of an easily reduced iron ore, at no great depth below the earth’s surface, and in close proximity to coal deposits available for working it. In mountain and hill districts, the abundance of natural water-power makes considerable amends for the usually inferior fertility of those regions. But perhaps a greater advantage than all these is a maritime situation, especially when accompanied with good natural harbours; and, next to it, great navigable rivers. These advantages consist indeed wholly in saving of cost of carriage. But few who have not considered the subject, have any adequate notion how great an extent of economical advantage this comprises; nor, without having considered the influence exercised on production by exchanges, and by what is called the division of labour, can it be fully estimated. So important is it, that it often does more than counterbalance sterility of soil, and almost every other natural inferiority; especially in that early stage of industry in which labour and science have not yet provided artificial means of communication capable of rivalling the natural. In the ancient world, and in the Middle Ages, the most prosperous communities were not those which had the largest territory, or the most fertile soil, but rather those which had been forced by natural sterility to make the utmost guse of a convenient maritime situation; as Athens, Tyre, Marseilles, Venice, the free cities on the Baltic, and the like.

§ 3. [Causes of superior productiveness. Greater energy of labour] So much for natural advantages; the value of which, cæteris paribus, is too obvious to be ever underrated. But experience testifies that natural advantages scarcely ever do for a community, no more than fortune and station Edition: current; Page: [103] do for an individual, anything like what it lies in their nature, or in their capacity, to do. aNeither now nor in former ages have the nations possessing the best climate and soil, been either the richest or the most powerful; but (in so far as regards the mass of the people) generally among the poorest, though, in the midst of poverty, probably on the whole the most enjoying. Human life in those countries can be supported on so little, that the poor seldom suffer from anxiety, and in climates in which mere existence is a pleasure, the luxury which they prefer is that of repose. Energy, at the call of passion, they possess in abundance, but not that which is manifested in sustained and persevering labour: and as they seldom concern themselves enough about remote objects to establish good political institutions, the incentives to industry are further weakened by imperfect protection of its fruits. Successful production, like most other kinds of success, depends more on the qualities of the human agents, than on the circumstances in which they work: and it is difficulties, not facilities, that nourish bodily and mental energy. Accordingly the tribes of mankind who have overrun and conquered others, and compelled them to labour for their benefit, have been mostly reared amidst hardship. They have either been bred in the forests of northern climates, or the deficiency of natural hardships has been supplied, as among the Greeks and Romans, by the artificial ones of a rigid military discipline. bFrom the time whenb the circumstances of modern society cpermitted the discontinuance of that discipline, the South has no longer produced conquering nations; military vigour, as well as speculative thought and industrial energy, have all had their principal seats in the less favoured North.

As the second, therefore, of the causes of superior productiveness, we may rank the greater energy of labour. By this is not to be understood occasional, but regular and habitual energy. No one undergoes, without murmuring, a greater amount of occasional fatigue and hardship, or has his dbodily powers, and such faculties of mind as he possesses,d kept longer at their utmost stretch, than the North American Indian; yet his indolence is proverbial, whenever he has a brief respite from the pressure of present wants. Individuals, or enationse, do not differ so much in the efforts they are able and willing to make under strong immediate incentives, as in their capacity of present exertion for a distant object; and in the thoroughness of Edition: current; Page: [104] their application to work on ordinary occasions. fSome amount of these qualities isf a necessary condition of any great improvement among mankind. gTo civilize a savage, he must be inspired with new wants and desires, even if not of a very elevated kind, provided that their gratification can be a motive to hsteady and regularh bodily and mental exertion. If the negroes of Jamaica and Demerara, after their emancipation, had contented themselves, as it was predicted they would do, with the necessaries of life, and abandoned all labour beyond the little which in a tropical climate, with a thin population and iabundance of the richest land, is sufficient to support existence, they would have sunk into a condition more barbarous, though fless unhappyf, than their previous state of slavery. The motive which was most relied on for inducing them to work was their love of fine clothes and personal ornaments. No one will stand up for this taste as kworthy of being cultivated, and in most societies its indulgence tends to impoverish rather Edition: current; Page: [105] than to enrich; but in the state of mind of the negroes it lmightl have been the only incentive that could make them voluntarily undergo systematic labour, and so acquire or maintain habits of mvoluntarym industry which may be converted to more valuable ends. nIn Englandn, it is not the desire of wealth that needs to be taught, but the use of wealth, and appreciation of the objects of desire which wealth cannot purchase, or for attaining which it is not required. Every real improvement in the character of the Englisho, whether it consist in giving them higher aspirations, or only pa juster estimate of the value of their present objects of desire, must necessarily moderate the ardour of their devotion to the pursuit of wealth.p There is no need, however, that it should diminish qtheq strenuous and businesslike application to the matter in hand, which ris found in the best English workmen, and is their most valuable quality.r

sThe desirable medium is one which mankind have not often known how Edition: current; Page: [106] to hit: when they tlabour, to do it with all their might, and especially with all their mind; but to devote to labour, for mere pecuniary gain, fewer hours in the day, fewer days in the year, and fewer years of life.

§ 4. [Causes of superior productiveness. Superior skill and knowledge] The third element which determines the productiveness of the labour of a community, is the skill and knowledge therein existing; whether it be the skill and knowledge of the labourers themselves, or of those who direct their labour. No illustration is requisite to show how the efficacy of industry is promoted by the manual dexterity of those who perform mere routine processes; by the intelligence of those engaged in operations in which the mind has a considerable part; and by the amount of knowledge of natural powers and aofa the properties of objects, which is turned to the purposes of industry. That the productiveness of the labour of a people is limited by their knowledge of the arts of life, is self-evident; and that any progress in those arts, any improved application of the objects or powers of nature to industrial uses, enables the same quantity and intensity of labour to raise a greater produce.

One principal department of these improvements consists in the invention and use of tools and machinery. The manner in which these serve to increase production and to economize labour, needs not be specially detailed in a work like the present: it will be found explained and exemplified, in a manner at once scientific and popular, in Mr. Babbage’s wellknown “Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.” An entire chapter of Mr. Babbage’s book is composed of instances of the efficacy of machinery in “exerting forces too great for human power, and executing operations too delicate for human touch.”[*] But to find examples of work which could not be performed at all by unassisted labour, we need not go so far. Without pumps, worked by steam-engines or otherwise, the water which collects in mines could not in many situations be got rid of at all, and the mines, after being worked to a little depth, must be abandoned: without ships or boats the sea could never have been crossed; without tools of some sort, trees could not be cut down, nor rocks excavated; a plough, or at least a bhoeb, is necessary to any tillage of the ground. Very simple and rude instruments, however, are sufficient to render literally possible most works hitherto executed by cmankindc; and subsequent inventions have chiefly served to enable the work to be performed in greater perfection, and, above Edition: current; Page: [107] all, with a greatly diminished quantity of labour: the labour thus saved becoming disposable for other demploymentsd.

The use of machinery is far from being the only mode in which the effects of knowledge in aiding production are exemplified. In agriculture and horticulture, machinery eis only now beginning to show that it can do anythinge of importance, beyond the invention and progressive improvement of the plough and a few other simple instruments. The greatest agricultural inventions have consisted in the direct application of more judicious processes to the land itself, and ftof the plants growing on it: such as rotation of crops, to avoid the necessity of gleaving the land uncultivatedg for one season in every two or three; improved manures, to renovate its fertility when exhausted by cropping; hploughing and draining the subsoil as well as the surface;h conversion iof bogs and marshes into cultivable land; such modes of pruning, and of training and propping up plants and trees, as experience has shown to deserve the preference; in the case of the more expensive cultures, planting the jroots or seedsj further apart, and more completely pulverizing the soil in which they are placed, &c. In manufactures and commerce, some of the most important improvements consist in economizing time; in making the return follow more speedily upon the labour and outlay. There are others of which the advantage consists in economy of material.

§ 5. [Causes of superior productiveness. Superiority of intelligence and trustworthiness in the community generally] But the effects of the increased knowledge of a community in increasing its wealth, need the less illustration as they have become familiar to the most uneducated, from such conspicuous instances as railways and steam-ships. A thing not yet aso well understood and recognised, is the economical value of the general diffusion of intelligence among the people. The number of persons fitted to direct and superintend any industrial enterprise, or even to execute any process which cannot be reduced almost to an affair of memory and routine, is always far short of the demand; as is evident from the enormous difference between the salaries paid to such persons, and the wages of ordinary labour. The deficiency of practical good sense, which renders the majority of the labouring class bsuch bad calculators—which makes, for instance, their domestic economy so improvident, lax, and irregular—must disqualify them for any but a low grade of intelligent labour, and render their industry far less productive than with equal energy it otherwise might be. The Edition: current; Page: [108] importance, even in this limited aspect, of popular education, is well worthy of the attention of politicians, especially in England; since competent observers, accustomed to employ labourers of various nations, testify that in the workmen of other countries they often find great intelligence wholly apart from instruction, but that if an English labourer is anything but a hewer of wood and cac drawer of water, he is indebted dfor it to education, which in his case is almost always self-education.d Mr. Escher, of Zurich (an engineer and cotton manufacturer employing nearly two thousand working men of many different nations), in his evidence annexed to the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, in 1840, on the training of pauper children, gives a character of English as contrasted with Continental workmen, which all persons of similar experience will, I believe, confirm.

“The Italians’ quickness of perception is shown in rapidly comprehending any new descriptions of labour put into their handse, in a powere of quickly comprehending the meaning of their employer, of adapting themselves to new circumstances, much beyond what any other classes have. The French workmen have the like natural characteristics, only in a somewhat lower degree. The English, Swiss, German, and Dutch workmen, we find, have all much slower natural comprehension. As workmen only, the preference is undoubtedly due to the English; because, as we find them, they are all trained to special branches, on which they have had comparatively superior training, and have concentrated all their thoughts. As men of business or of general usefulness, and as men with whom an employer would best like to be surrounded, I should, however, decidedly prefer the Saxons and the Swiss, but more especially the Saxons, because they have had a very careful general education, which has extended their capacities beyond any special employment, and rendered them fit to take up, after a short preparation, any employment to which they may be called. If I have an English workman engaged in the erection of a steam-engine, he will understand that, and nothing else; and for other circumstances or other branches of mechanics, however closely allied, he will be comparatively helpless to adapt himself to all the circumstances that may arise, to make arrangements for them, and give sound advice or write clear statements and letters on his work in the various related branches of mechanics.”

On the connexion between mental cultivation and moral trustworthiness in the labouring class, the same witness says, “The better educated workmen, Edition: current; Page: [109] we find, are distinguished by superior moral habits in every respect. In the first place, they are entirely sober; they are discreet in their enjoyments, which are of a more rational and refined kind; they have a taste for much better society, which they approach respectfully, and consequently find much readier admittance to it; they cultivate music; they read; they enjoy the pleasures of scenery, and make parties for excursions into the country; they are economical, and their economy extends beyond their own purse to the stock of their master; they are, consequently, honest and trustworthy.” And in answer to a question respecting the English workmen, “Whilst in respect to the work to which they have been specially trained they are the most skilful, they are in conduct the most disorderly, debauched, and unruly, and least respectable and trustworthy of any nation whatsoever whom we have employed; and in saying this, I express the experience of every manufacturer on the Continent to whom I have spoken, and especially of the English manufacturers, who make the loudest complaints. These characteristics of depravity do not apply to the English workmen who have received an education, but attach to the others in the degree in which they are in want of it. When the uneducated English workmen are released from the bonds of iron discipline in which they have been restrained by their employers in England, and are treated with the urbanity and friendly feeling which the more educated workmen on the Continent expect and receive from their employers, they, the English workmen, completely lose their balance: they do not understand their position, and after a certain time become totally unmanageable and useless.”* fThis result of observation is borne out by experience in England itself. As soon as any idea of equality enters the mind of an guneducatedg English working man, his head is turned by it. When he ceases to be servile, he becomes insolent.f

The moral qualities of the labourers are fully as important to the efficiency and worth of their labour, as the intellectual. Independently of the effects of intemperance upon their bodily and mental faculties, and of flighty, unsteady habits upon the energy and continuity of their work (points so easily understood as not to require being insisted upon), it is well worthy of meditation, how much of the aggregate effect of their labour Edition: current; Page: [110] depends on their trustworthiness. All the labour hnowh expended in watching that they fulfil their engagement, or in verifying that they have fulfilled it, is so much withdrawn from the real business of production, ito be devotedi to a subsidiary function rendered needful not by the necessity of things, but by the dishonesty of men. Nor are the greatest outward precautions jmore than very imperfectly efficacious, where, as is now almost invariably the case with hired labourers, the slightest relaxation of vigilance is an opportunity eagerly seized for eluding performance of their contract. The advantage to mankind of beingj able to trust one another, penetrates into every crevice and cranny of human life: the economical is perhaps the smallest part of it, yet even this is incalculable. To consider only the kmost obvious part of thek waste of wealth occasioned to society by human improbity; there is in all rich communities a predatory population, who live lby pillaging or overreaching other people; their numbers cannot be authentically ascertained, but on the lowest estimate, in a country like England, it is mvery largem. The support of these persons is a direct burthen on the national industry. The police, and the whole apparatus of punishment, and of criminal and partly of civil justice, are a second burthen rendered necessary by the first. The nexorbitantly-paidn profession of lawyerso, so far as their work is not created by defects in the law, of their own contriving,o are required and supported principally by the dishonesty of mankind. As the standard of integrity in a community prises higher, all these expenses becomep less. But this positive saving qwould beq far outweighed rby the immense increase in the produce of all kinds of labour, and saving of time and expenditure, which would be obtained if the labourers honestly performed what they undertake; andr by the increased spirit, the feeling of power and confidence, with which works of all sorts swould bes planned and carried on by those who tfeltt that all whose aid uwasu required vwouldv do their part faithfully according to their contracts. Conjoint action is possible just in proportion as human beings can rely on each other. There are countries in Europe, of first-rate industrial capabilities, where the most serious impediment to conducting business concerns on a large scale, is the rarity of persons who are supposed fit to be trusted with the receipt and expenditure of large sums of money. There are nations whose commodities are looked shily upon by merchants, because they cannot depend on finding the quality of the article conformable to that Edition: current; Page: [111] of the sample. Such short-sighted frauds are far from unexampled win English exports. Every one has heard of “devil’s dust:” and among other instances given by Mr. Babbage, is one in which a branch of export trade was for a long time actually stopped by the forgeries and frauds which had occurred in it. On the other hand, the substantial advantage derived in business transactions from proved trustworthiness, is not less remarkably exemplified in the same work. “At one of our largest towns, sales and purchases on a very extensive scale are made daily in the course of business without any of the parties ever exchanging a written document.”[*] Spread over a xyear’s transactions, how great a return, in saving of time, trouble, and expense, is brought in to the producers and dealers of such a town from their own integrity. “The influence of established character in producing confidence operated in a very remarkable manner at the time of the exclusion of British manufactures from the Continent during the last war. One of our largest establishments had been in the habit of doing extensive business with a house in the centre of Germany; but on the closing of the Continental ports against our manufactures, heavy penalties were inflicted on all those who contravened the Berlin and Milan decrees. The English manufacturer continued, nevertheless, to receive orders, with directions how to consign them, and appointments for the time and mode of payment, in letters, the handwriting of which was known to him, but which were never signed except by the Christian name of one of the firm, and even in some instances they were without any signature at all. These orders were executed, and in no instance was there the least irregularity in the payments.”*y

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§ 6. [Causes of superior productiveness. Superior security] Among the secondary causes which determine the productiveness of productive agents, the most important is Security. By security I mean the completeness of the protection which society affords to its members. This consists of protection by the government, and protection against the government. The latter is the more important. Where a person known to possess anything worth taking away, can expect nothing but to have it torn from him, with every circumstance of tyrannical violence, by the agents of a rapacious government, it is not likely that many will exert themselves to produce much more than necessaries. This is the acknowledged explanation of the poverty of many fertile tracts of Asia, which were once prosperous and populous. From this to the degree of security enjoyed in the best governed Edition: current; Page: [113] parts of Europe, there are numerous gradations. In amany provinces ofa France, before the Revolution, a vicious system of taxation on the land, and still more the absence of redress against the arbitrary exactions which were made under colour of the taxes, rendered it the interest of every cultivator to appear poor, and therefore to cultivate badly. The only insecurity which is altogether paralysing to the active energies of producers, is that arising from the government, or from persons invested with its authority. Against all other depredators there is a hope of defending oneself. Greece and the Greek colonies in the ancient world, Flanders and Italy in the Middle Ages, by no means enjoyed what any one with modern ideas would call security: the state of society was most unsettled and turbulent; person and property were exposed to a thousand dangers. But they were free countries; they were bin generalb neither arbitrarily oppressed, nor systematically plundered by their governments. Against other enemies Edition: current; Page: [114] the individual energy which their institutions called forth, enabled them to make successful resistance: their labour, therefore, was eminently productive, and their riches, while they remained free, cwerec constantly on the increase. The Roman despotism, putting an end to wars and internal conflicts throughout the empire, relieved the subject population from much of the former insecurity: but because it left them under the grinding yoke of its own rapacity, they became enervated and impoverished, until they were an easy prey to barbarous but free invaders. They would neither fight nor labour, because they were no longer suffered to enjoy that for which they fought and laboured.

Much of the security dofd person and property in modern nations is the effect of manners and opinion rather than of law. There aree, or lately were,e countries in Europe where the monarch fwasf nominally absolute, but where, from the restraints imposed by established usage, no subject gfeltg practically in the smallest danger of having his possessions arbitrarily seized or a contribution levied on them by the government. There must, however, be in such governments much petty plunder and other tyranny by subordinate agents, for which redress is not obtained, owing to the want of publicity which is the ordinary character of absolute governments. In England the people are tolerably well protected, both by institutions and manners, against the agents of government; but, for the security they enjoy against other evil-doers, they are very little indebted to their institutions. The laws cannot be said to afford protection to property, when they afford it only at such a cost as renders submission to injury in general the better calculation. The security of property in England is owing (except as regards open violence) to opinion, and the fear of exposure, much more than to hthe direct operation ofh the law and the courts of justice.i

Independently of all imperfection in the bulwarks which society purposely throws round what it recognises as property, there are various other modes in which defective institutions impede the employment of the productive resources of a country to the best advantage. We shall have occasion for noticing many of these in the progress of our subject. It is sufficient here to remark, that the efficiency of industry may be expected to be great, in proportion as the fruits of industry are insured to the person exerting it: and that all social arrangements are conducive to useful exertion, according Edition: current; Page: [115] as they provide that the reward of every one for his labour shall be proportioned as much as possible to the benefit which it produces. All laws or usages which favour one class or sort of persons to the disadvantage of others; which chain up the efforts of any part of the community in pursuit of their own good, or stand between those efforts and their natural fruits—are (independently of all other grounds of condemnation) violations of the fundamental principles of economical policy; jtendingj to make the aggregate productive powers of the community productive in a less degree than they would otherwise be.

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CHAPTER VIII: Of Co-operation, or the Combination of Labour

§ 1. [Combination of Labour a principal cause of superior productiveness] In the enumeration of the circumstances which promote the productiveness of labour, we have left one untouched, which, because of its importance, and of the many topics of discussion which it involves, requires to be treated apart. This is, co-operation, or the combined action of numbers. Of this great aid to production, a single department, known by the name of Division of Labour, has engaged a large share of the attention of political economists; most deservedly indeed, but to the exclusion of other cases and exemplifications of the same comprehensive law. Mr. Wakefield was, I believe, the first to point out, that a part of the subject had, with injurious effect, been mistaken for the whole; that a more fundamental principle lies beneath that of the division of labour, and comprehends it.

Co-operation, he observes,* is “of two distinct kinds: first, such co-operation as takes place when several persons help each other in the same employment; secondly, such co-operation as takes place when several persons help each other in different employments. These may be termed Simple Co-operation and Complex Co-operation.

“The advantage of simple co-operation is illustrated by the case of two greyhounds running together, which, it is said, will kill more hares than four greyhounds running separately. In a vast number of simple operations performed by human exertion, it is quite obvious that two men working together will do more than four, or four times four men, each of whom should work alone. In the lifting of heavy weights, for example, in the felling of trees, in the sawing of timber, in the gathering of much hay or corn during a short period of fine weather, in draining a large extent of land during the short season when such a work may be properly conducted, Edition: current; Page: [117] in the pulling of ropes on board ship, in the rowing of large boats, in some mining operations, in the erection of a scaffolding for building, and in the breaking of stones for the repair of a road, so that the whole of the road shall always be kept in good order: in all these simple operations, and thousands more, it is absolutely necessary that many persons should work together, at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way. The savages of New Holland never help each other, even in the most simple operations; and their condition is hardly superior, in some respects it is inferior, to that of the wild animals which they now and then catch. Let any one imagine that the labourers of England should suddenly desist from helping each other in simple employments, and he will see at once the prodigious advantages of simple co-operation. In a countless number of employments, the produce of labour is, up to a certain point, in proportion to such mutual assistance amongst the workmen. This is the first step in social improvement.” The second is, when “one body of men having combined their labour to raise more food than they require, another body of men are induced to combine their labour for the purpose of producing more clothes than they require, and with those surplus clothes buying the surplus food of the other body of labourers; while, if both bodies together have produced more food and clothes than they both require, both bodies obtain, by means of exchange, a proper capital for setting more labourers to work in their respective occupations.” To simple co-operation is thus superadded what Mr. Wakefield terms Complex Co-operation. The one is the combination of several labourers to help each other in the same set of operations; the other is the combination of several labourers to help one another by a division of operations.

There is “an important distinction between simple and complex co-operation. Of the former, one is always conscious at the time of practising it: it is obvious to the most ignorant and vulgar eye. Of the latter, but a very few of the vast numbers who practise it are in any degree conscious. The cause of this distinction is easily seen. When several men are employed in lifting the same weight, or pulling the same rope, at the same time, and in the same place, there can be no sort of doubt that they co-operate with each other; the fact is impressed on the mind by the mere sense of sight; but when several men, or bodies of men, are employed at different times and places, and in different pursuits, their co-operation with each other, though it may be quite as certain, is not so readily perceived as in the other case: in order to perceive it, a complex operation of the mind is required.”[*]

In the present state of society the breeding and feeding of sheep is the occupation of one set of people, dressing the wool to prepare it for Edition: current; Page: [118] the spinner is that of another, spinning it into thread of a third, weaving the thread into broadcloth of a fourth, dyeing the cloth of a fifth, making it into a coat of a sixth, without counting the multitude of carriers, merchants, factors, and retailers, put in requisition at the successive stages of this progress. All these persons, without knowledge of one another or previous understanding, co-operate in the production of the ultimate result, a coat. But these are far from being all who co-operate in it; for each of these persons requires food, and many other articles of consumption, and unless he could have relied that other people would produce these for him, he could not have devoted his whole time to one step in the succession of operations which produces one single commodity, a coat. Every person who took part in producing food or erecting houses for this series of producers, has, however unconsciously on his part, combined his labour with theirs. It is by a real, though unexpressed, concert, “that the body who raise more food than they want, can exchange with the body who raise more clothes than they want; and if the two bodies were separated, either by distance or disinclination—unless the two bodies should virtually form themselves into one, for the common object of raising enough food and clothes for the whole—they could not divide into two distinct parts the whole operation of producing a sufficient quantity of food and clothes.”[*]

§ 2. [Effects of separation of employments analyzed] The influence exercised on production by the separation of employments, is more fundamental than, from the mode in which the subject is usually treated, a reader might be induced to suppose. It is not merely that when the production of different things becomes the sole or principal occupation of different persons, a much greater quantity of each kind of article is produced. The truth is much beyond this. Without some separation of employments, very few things would be produced at all.

Suppose a set of persons, or a number of families, all employed aprecisely ina the same manner; each family settled on a piece of its own land, on which it grows by its labour the food required for its own sustenance, and as there are no persons to buy any surplus produce where all are producers, each family bhas tob produce within itself whatever other articles it consumes. In such circumstances, if the soil was tolerably fertile, and population did not tread too closely on the heels of subsistence, there would be, no doubt, some kind of domestic manufactures; clothing for the family might perhaps be spun and woven within it, by the labour probably of the women (a first step in the separation of employments); and a dwelling of some sort would be erected and kept in repair by their united labour. Edition: current; Page: [119] But beyond simple food (precarious, too, from the variations of the seasons), coarse clothing, and very imperfect lodging, it would be scarcely possible that the family should produce anything more. They would, in general, require their utmost exertions to accomplish so much. Their power even of extracting food from the soil would be kept within narrow limits by the quality of their tools, which would necessarily be of the most wretched description. To do almost anything in the way of producing for themselves articles of convenience or luxury, would require too much time, and, in many cases, their presence in a different place. Very few kinds of industry, therefore, would exist; and that which did exist, namely the production of necessaries, would be extremely inefficient, not solely from imperfect implements, but because, when the ground and the domestic industry fed by it had been made to supply the necessaries of a single family in tolerable abundance, there would be little motive, while the numbers of the family remained the same, to make either the land or the labour produce more.

But suppose an event to occur, which would amount to a revolution in the circumstances of this little settlement. Suppose that a company of artificers, provided with tools, and with food sufficient to maintain them cforc a year, arrive in the country and establish themselves in the midst of the population. These new settlers occupy themselves in producing articles of use or ornament adapted to the taste of a simple people; and before their food is exhausted they have produced these in considerable quantity, and are ready to exchange them for more food. The economical position of the landed population is now most materially altered. They have an opportunity given them of acquiring comforts and luxuries. Things which, while they depended solely on their own labour, they never could have obtained, because they could not hve produced, are now accessible to them if they can succeed in producing an additional quantity of food and necessaries. They are thus incited to increase the productiveness of their industry. Among the conveniences for the first time made accessible to them, better tools are probably one: and apart from this, they have a motive to labour more assiduously, and dtod adopt contrivances for making their labour more effectual. By these means they will generally succeed in compelling their land to produce, not only food for themselves, but a surplus for the new comers, wherewith to buy from them the products of their industry. The new settlers constitute what is called a market for surplus agricultural produce: and their arrival has enriched the settlement not only by the manufactured earticlee which they produce, but by the food which would not have been produced unless they had been there to consume it.

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There is no inconsistency between this doctrine, and the fproposition we before maintainedf, that a market for commodities does not constitute employment for labour.* The labour of the agriculturists was already provided with employment; they are not indebted to the demand of the new comers for being able to maintain themselves. What that demand does for them is, to call their labour into increased vigour and efficiency; to stimulate them, by new motives, to new exertions. Neither do the new comers owe their maintenance and employment to the demand of the agriculturists: with a year’s subsistence in store, they could have settled side by side with the former inhabitants, and produced a similar scanty stock of food and necessaries. Nevertheless we see of what supreme importance to the productiveness of the labour of producers, is the existence of other producers within reach, employed in a different kind of industry. The power of exchanging the products of one kind of labour for those of another, is a condition, but for which, there would almost always be a smaller quantity of labour altogether. When a new market is opened for any product of industry, and a greater quantity of the article is consequently produced, the increased production is not always obtained at the expense of some other product; it is often a new creation, the result of labour which would otherwise have remained unexerted; or of assistance rendered to labour by improvements or by modes of co-operation to which recourse would not have been had if an inducement had not been offered for raising a larger produce.

§ 3. [Combination of labour between town and country] From these considerations it appears that a country will seldom have a productive agriculture, unless it has a large town population, or the only available substitute, a large export trade in agricultural produce to supply a population elsewhere. I use the phrase town population for shortness, to imply a population non-agricultural; which will generally be collected in towns or large villages, for the sake of combination of labour. The application of this truth by Mr. Wakefield to the theory of colonization, has excited much attention, and is doubtless destined to excite much more. It is one of those great practical discoveries, which, once made, appears so obvious that the merit of making them seems less than it is. Mr. Wakefield was the first to point out that the mode of planting new settlements, then commonly practised—setting down a number of families side by side, each on its piece of land, aall employing themselves in exactly the same manner,—though binb favourable circumstances it may assure to those families a rude Edition: current; Page: [121] abundance of mere necessaries, can never be other than unfavourable to great production or rapid growth: and his system consists of arrangements for securing that every colony shall have from the first a town population bearing due proportion to its agricultural, and that the cultivators of the soil shall not be so widely scattered as to be deprived by distance, of the benefit of that town population as a market for their produce. The principle on which the scheme is founded, does not depend on any theory respecting the csuperiorc productiveness of land held in large portions, and cultivated by hired labour. Supposing it true that land yields the greatest produce when divided into small properties and cultivated by peasant proprietors, a town population dwilld be just as necessary to induce those proprietors to raise that larger produce: and if they were too far from the nearest seat of non-agricultural industry to use it as a market for disposing of their surplus, and thereby supplying their other wants, neither that surplus nor any equivalent for it would, generally speaking, be produced.

It is, above all, the deficiency of town population which limits the productiveness of the industry of a country like India. The agriculture of India is conducted entirely on the system of small holdings. There is, however, a considerable amount of combination of labour. The village institutions and customs, which are the real framework of Indian society, make provision for joint action in the cases in which it is seen to be necessary; or where they fail to do so, the government (when tolerably well administered) steps in, and by an outlay from the revenue, executes by combined labour the tanks, embankments, and works of irrigation, which are indispensable. The implements and processes of agriculture are however so wretched, that the produce of the soil, in spite of great natural fertility and a climate highly favourable to vegetation, is miserably small: and the land might be made to yield food in abundance for many more than the present number of inhabitants, without departing from the system of small holdings. But to this the stimulus is wanting, which a large town population, connected with the rural districts by easy and unexpensive means of communication, would afford. That town population, again, does not grow up, because the few wants and unaspiring spirit of the cultivators (joined until lately with great insecurity of property, from military and fiscal rapacity) prevent them from attempting to become consumers of town produce. In these circumstances the best chance of an early development of the productive resources of India, consists in the erapid growth of its export of agricultural produce (cotton, indigo, sugar, coffee, &c.) to the markets of Europe. The producers of these articles are consumers of food Edition: current; Page: [122] supplied by their fellow-agriculturists in India; and the market thus opened for surplus food will, if accompanied by good government, raise up by degrees more extended wants and desires, directed either towards European commodities, or towards things which will require for their production in India a larger manufacturing population.

§ 4. [The higher degrees of the division of labour] Thus far of the separation of employments, a form of the combination of labour without which there cannot be the first rudiments of industrial civilization. But when this separation is thoroughly established; when it has become the general practice for each producer to supply many others with one commodity, and to be supplied by others with most of the things which he consumes; reasons not less real, though less imperative, invite to a further extension of the same principle. It is found that the productive power of labour is increased by carrying the separation further and further; by breaking down more and more every process of industry into parts, so that each labourer shall confine himself to an ever smaller number of simple operations. And thus, in time, arise those remarkable cases of what is called the division of labour, with which all readers on subjects of this nature are familiar. Adam Smith’s illustration from pin-making, though so well known, is so much to the point, that I will venture once more to transcribe it. “The business of making a pin is divided into about eighteen distinct operations. aOne man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper. . . . . I have seen a small manufactory where ten men only were employed, and where some of them, consequently, performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.”[*]

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M. Say furnishes a still stronger example of the effects of division of labour—from a not very important branch of industry certainly, the manufacture of playing cards. “It is said by those engaged in the business, that each card, that is, a piece of pasteboard of the size of the hand, before being ready for sale, does not undergo fewer than seventy boperations,* every one of which might be the occupation of a distinct class of workmen. And if there are not seventy classes of work-people in each card manufactory, it is because the division of labour is not carried so far as it might be; because the same workman is charged with two, three, or four distinct operations. The influence of this distribution of cemploymentc is immense. I have seen a card manufactory where thirty workmen produced daily fifteen thousand five hundred cards, being above five hundred cards for each labourer; and it may be presumed that if each of these workmen were obliged to perform all the operations himself, even supposing him a practised hand, he would not perhaps complete two cards in a day: and the thirty workmen, instead of fifteen thousand five hundred cards, would make only sixty.”[*]

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In watchmaking, as Mr. Babbage observes, “it was stated in evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, that there are a hundred and two distinct branches of this art, to each of which a boy may be put apprentice; and that he only learns his master’s department, and is unable, after his apprenticeship has expired, without subsequent instruction, to work at any other branch. The watch-finisher, whose business ditd is to put together the scattered parts, is the only one, out of the hundred and two persons, who can work in any other department than his own.”*

§ 5. [Analysis of the advantages of the division of labour] The causes of the increased efficiency given to labour by the division of employments are some of them too familiar to require specification; but it is worth while to attempt a complete enumeration of them. By Adam Smith they are reduced to three. “First, the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many.”[*]

Of these, the increase of dexterity of the individual workman is the most obvious and universal. It does not follow that because a thing has been done oftener it will be done better. That depends on the intelligence of the workman, and on the degree in which his mind works along with his hands. But it will be done more easily. The organs themselves acquire greater power: the muscles employed grow stronger by frequent exercise, the sinews more pliant, and the mental powers more efficient, and less sensible of fatigue. What can be done easily has at least a better chance of being done well, and is sure to be done more expeditiously. What was at first done slowly comes to be done quickly; what was at first done slowly with accuracy is at last done quickly with equal accuracy. This is as true of mental operations as of bodily. Even a child, after much practice, sums up a column of figures with a rapidity which resembles intuition. The act of speaking any language, of reading fluently, of playing music at sight, are cases as remarkable as they are familiar. Among bodily acts, dancing, gymnastic exercises, ease and brilliancy of execution on a musical instrument, are examples of the rapidity and facility acquired by repetition. In simpler manual operations the effect is of course still sooner produced. “The rapidity,” Adam Smith observes, “with which some of the operations of certain manufactures are performed, exceeds what the human hand could, by those who had never seen them, be supposed capable of Edition: current; Page: [125] acquiring.”* This skill is, naturally, attained after shorter practice, in proportion as the division of labour is more minute; and will not be attained in the same degree at all, if the workman has a greater variety of operations to execute than allows of a sufficiently frequent repetition of each. The advantage is not confined to the greater efficiency ultimately attained, but includes also the diminished loss of time, and waste of material, in learning the art. “A certain quantity of material,” says Mr. Babbage, “will in all cases be consumed unprofitably, or spoiled, by every person who learns an art; and as he applies himself to each new process, he will waste some of the raw material, or of the partly manufactured commodity. But if each man commit this waste in acquiring successively every process, the quantity of waste will be much greater than if each person confine his attention to one process.” And in general each will be much sooner qualified to execute his one process, if he be not distracted while learning it, by the necessity of alearninga others.

The second advantage enumerated by Adam Smith as arising from the division of labour, is one on which I cannot help thinking that more stress is laid by him and others than it deserves. To do full justice to his opinion, I will quote his own exposition of it. “The advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort of work to another, is much greater than we should at first view be apt to imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from one kind of work to another, that is carried on in a different place, and with quite different tools. A country weaver, who cultivates a small farm, must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is no doubt much less. It is even in this case, however, very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another. When he first begins the new work, he is seldom very Edition: current; Page: [126] keen and hearty; his mind, as they say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to good purpose. The habit of sauntering and of indolent careless application, which is naturally, or rather necessarily acquired by every country workman who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life, renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions.”[*] This is surely a most exaggerated description of the inefficiency of country labour, where it has any adequate motive to exertion. Few workmen change their work and their tools oftener than a gardener; is he usually incapable of vigorous application? Many of the higher description of artisans have to perform a great multiplicity of operations with a variety of tools. They do not execute each of these with the rapidity with which a factory workman performs his single operation; but they are, except in a merely manual sense, more skilful labourers, and in all senses whatever more energetic.

Mr. Babbage, following in the track of Adam Smith, says, “When the human hand, or the human head, has been for some time occupied in any kind of work, it cannot instantly change its employment with full effect. The muscles of the limbs employed have acquired a flexibility during their exertion, and those not in action a stiffness during rest, which renders every change slow and unequal in the commencement. Long habit also produces in the muscles exercised a capacity for enduring fatigue to a much greater degree than they could support under other circumstances. A similar result seems to take place in any change of mental exertion; the attention bestowed on the new subject not being so perfect at first as it becomes after some exercise. The employment of different tools in the successive processes, is another cause of the loss of time in changing from one operation to another. If these tools are simple, and the change is not frequent, the loss of time is not considerable; but in many processes of the arts, the tools are of great delicacy, requiring accurate adjustment every time they are used; and in many cases, the time employed in adjusting bears a large proportion to that employed in using the tool. The sliding-rest, the dividing and the drilling engine are of this kind: and hence, in manufactories of sufficient extent, it is found to be good economy to keep one machine constantly employed in one kind of work: one lathe, for example, having a screw motion to its sliding-rest along the whole length of its bed, is kept constantly making cylinders; another, having a motion for equalizing the velocity of the work at the point at which it passes the tool, is kept for facing surfaces; whilst a third is constantly employed in cutting wheels.”[†]

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I am very far from implying that these different considerations are of no weight; but I think there are counter-considerations which are overlooked. If one kind of muscular or mental labour is different from another, for that very reason it is to some extent a rest from that other; and if the greatest vigour is not at once obtained in the second occupation, neither could the first have been indefinitely prolonged without some relaxation of energy. It is a matter of common experience that a change of occupation will often afford relief where complete repose would otherwise be necessary, and that a person can work many more hours without fatigue at a succession of occupations, than if confined during the whole time to one. Different occupations employ different muscles, or different benergiesb of the mind, some of which rest and are refreshed while others work. Bodily labour itself rests from mental, and conversely. cThec variety itself has an invigorating effect on what, for want of a more philosophical appellation, we must term the animal spirits; so important to the efficiency of all work not mechanical, and not unimportant even to that. The comparative weight due to these considerations is different with different individuals; some are more fitted than others for persistency in one occupation, and less fit for change; they require longer to get the steam up (to use a metaphor now common); the irksomeness of setting to work lasts longer, and it requires more time to bring their faculties into full play, and therefore when this is once done, they do not like to leave off, but go on long without intermission, even to the injury of their health. Temperament has something to do with these differences. There are people whose faculties seem by nature to come slowly into action, and to accomplish little until they have been a long time employed. Others, again, get into action rapidly, but cannot, without exhaustion, continue long. In this, however, as in most other things, though natural differences are something, habit is much more. The habit of passing rapidly from one occupation to another may be acquired, like other habits, by early cultivation; and when it is acquired, there is none of the sauntering which Adam Smith speaks of, after each change; no want of energy and interest, but the workman comes to each part of his occupation with a freshness and a spirit which he does not retain if he persists in any one part (unless in case of unusual excitement) beyond the length of time to which he is accustomed. Women are usually (at least in their present social circumstances) of far greater versatility than men; and the present topic is an instance among multitudes, how little the ideas and experience of women have yet counted for, in forming the opinions of mankind. There are few women who would not reject the idea that work is made vigorous by being protracted, and is inefficient for some time after changing to a new thing. Even in this case, habit, I believe, much more than nature, is Edition: current; Page: [128] the cause of the difference. The occupations of nine out of every ten men are special, those of nine out of every ten women general, embracing a multitude of details, each of which requires very little time. Women are in the constant practice of passing quickly from one manual, and still more from one mental operation to another, which therefore rarely costs them either effort or loss of time, while a man’s occupation generally consists in working steadily for a long time at one thing, or one very limited class of things. But the situations are sometimes reversed, and with them the characters. Women are not found less efficient than men for the uniformity of factory work, or they would not so generally be employed for it; and a man who has cultivated the habit of turning his hand to many things, far from being the slothful and lazy person described by Adam Smith, is usually remarkably lively and active. It is dtrue, however,d that change of occupation may be too frequent even for the most versatile. Incessant variety is even more fatiguing than perpetual sameness.

The third advantage attributed by Adam Smith to the division of labour, is, to a certain extent, real. Inventions tending to save labour in a particular operation, are more likely to occur to any one in proportion as his thoughts are intensely directed to that occupation, and continually employed upon it. A person is not so likely to make practical improvements in one department of things, whose attention is very much diverted to others. But, in this, much more depends on general intelligence and habitual activity of mind, than on exclusiveness of occupation; and if that exclusiveness is carried to a degree unfavourable to the cultivation of intelligence, there will be more lost in this kind of advantage, than gained. We may add, that whatever may be the cause of making inventions, when they are once made, the increased efficiency of labour is owing to the invention itself, and not to the division of labour.

The greatest advantage (next to the edexterity of the workmen) derived from the minute division of labour which takes place in modern manufacturing industry, is fone not mentioned by Adam Smith, but to which attention has been drawn by Mr. Babbage; the more economical distribution of labour, by classing the work-people according to their capacity. Different parts of the same series of operations require unequal degrees of skill and bodily strength; and those who have skill enough for the most difficult, or strength enough for the hardest parts of the labour, are made much more useful by being employed solely in them; the operations gwhich everybody is capable ofg, being left to those who are fit for no others. Edition: current; Page: [129] Production is most efficient when the precise quantity of skill and strength, which is required for each part of the process, is employed in it, and no more. The operation of pin-making requires, it seems, in its different parts, such different degrees of skill, that the wages earned by the persons employed vary from fourpence halfpenny a day to six shillings; and if the workman who is paid at that highest rate had to perform the whole process, he would be working a part of his time with a waste per day equivalent to the difference between six shillings and fourpence halfpenny. Without reference to the loss sustained in quantity of work done, and supposing even that he could make a pound of pins in the same time in which ten workmen combining their labour can make ten pounds, Mr. Babbage computes that they would cost, in making, three times and three-quarters as much as they now do by hmeansh of the division of labour. In needle-making, he adds, the difference would be still greater, for in that, the scale of remuneration for different parts of the process varies from sixpence to twenty shillings a day.

To the advantage which consists in extracting the greatest possible amount of utility from skill, may be added the analogous one, of extracting the utmost possible utility from tools. “If any man,” says an able writer,* “had all the tools which many different occupations require, at least three-fourths of them would constantly be idle and useless. It were clearly then better, were any society to exist where each man had all these tools, and alternately carried on each of these occupations, that the members of it should, if possible, divide them amongst them, each restricting himself to some particular employment. iThe advantages of the change to the whole community, and therefore to every individual in it, are great. In the first place, the various implements being in constant employment, yield a better return for what has been laid out in procuring them. In consequence their owners can afford to have them of better quality and more complete construction. The result of both events is, that a larger provision is made for the future wants of the whole society.”

§ 6. [Limitations of the division of labour] The division of labour, as all writers on the subject have remarked, is limited by the extent of the market. If, by the separation of pin-making into ten distinct employments, forty-eight thousand pins can be made in a day, this separation will only be advisable if the number of accessible consumers is such as to require, Edition: current; Page: [130] every day, something like forty-eight thousand pins. If there is only a demand for twenty-four thousand, the division of labour can only be advantageously carried to the extent which will every day produce that smaller number. This, therefore, is a further mode in which an accession of demand for a commodity tends to increase the efficiency of the labour employed in its production. The extent of the market may be limited by several causes: too small a population; the population too scattered and distant to be easily accessible; deficiency of roads and water carriage; or, finally, the population too poor, that is, their collective labour too little effective, to admit of their being large consumers. Indolence, want of skill, and want of combination of labour, among those who would otherwise be buyers of a commodity, limit, therefore, the apracticala amount of combination of labour among its producers. In an early stage of civilization, when the demand of any particular locality was necessarily small, industry only flourished among those who by their command of the sea-coast or of a navigable river, could have the whole world, or all that part of it which lay on coasts or navigable rivers, as a market for their productions. The increase of the general riches of the world, when accompanied with freedom of commercial intercourse, improvements in navigation, and inland communication by roads, canals, or railways, tends to give increased productiveness to the labour of every nation in particular, by enabling each locality to supply with its special products so much larger a market, that a great extension of the division of labour in their production is an ordinary consequence.

The division of labour is also limited, in many cases, by the nature of the employment. Agriculture, for example, is not susceptible of so great a division of occupations as many branches of manufactures, because its different operations cannot possibly be simultaneous. One man cannot be always ploughing, another sowing, and another reaping. A workman who only practised one agricultural operation would be idle eleven months of the year. The same person may perform them all in succession, and have, in bmost climatesb, a considerable amount of unoccupied time. cTo execute a great agricultural improvement, it is often necessary that many labourers should work together; but in general, except the few whose business is superintendence, they all work in the same manner. A canal or a railway embankment cannot be made without a combination of many labourers; but they are all excavators, except the dengineersd and ea fewe clerks.

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CHAPTER IX: Of Production on a Large, and Production on a Small Scale

§ 1. [Advantages of the large system of production in manufactures] From the importance of combination of labour, it is an obvious conclusion, that there are many cases in which production is made much more effective by being conducted on a large scale. Whenever it is essential to the greatest efficiency of labour that many labourers should combine, even though only in the way of Simple Co-operation, the scale of the enterprise must be such as to bring many labourers together, and the capital must be large enough to maintain them. Still more needful is this when the nature of the employment allows, and the extent of the possible market encourages, a considerable division of labour. The larger the enterprise, the afarthera the division of labour may be carried. This is one of the principal causes of large manufactories. Even when no additional subdivision of the work would follow an enlargement of the operations, there will be good economy in enlarging them to the point at which every person to whom it is convenient to assign a special occupation, will have full employment in that occupation. This point is well illustrated by Mr. Babbage.*

“If machines be kept working through the twenty-four hours,” (which is evidently the only economical mode of employing them,) “it is necessary that some person shall attend to admit the workmen at the time they relieve each other; and whether the porter or other bpersonb so employed admit one person or twenty, his rest will be equally disturbed. It will also be necessary occasionally to adjust or repair the machine; and this can be done much better by a workman accustomed to machine-making, than by the person who uses it. Now, since the good performance and the duration of machines depend, to a very great extent, upon correcting every shake or imperfection in their parts as soon as they appear, the prompt attention of a workman resident on the spot will considerably reduce the expenditure arising from the wear and tear of the machinery. But in the case of a single Edition: current; Page: [132] lace-frame, or a single loom, this would be too expensive a plan. Here then arises another circumstance which tends to enlarge the extent of a factory. It ought to consist of such a number of machines as shall occupy the whole time of one workman in keeping them in order: if extended beyond that number, the same principle of economy would point out the necessity of doubling or tripling the number of machines, in order to employ the whole time of two or three skilful workmen.

cWhenc one portion of the workman’s labour consists in the exertion of mere physical force, as in weaving, and in many similar arts, it will soon occur to the manufacturer, that if that part were executed by a steam-engine, the same man might, in the case of weaving, attend to two or more looms at once: and, since we already suppose that one or more operative engineers have been employed, the number of looms may be so arranged that their time shall be fully occupied in keeping the steam-engine and the looms in order.d

“Pursuing the same principles, the manufactory becomes gradually so enlarged, that the expense of lighting during the night amounts to a considerable sum: and as there are already attached to the establishment persons who are up all night, and can therefore constantly attend to it, and also engineers to make and keep in repair any machinery, the addition of an apparatus for making gas to light the factory leads to a new extension, at the same time that it contributes, by diminishing the expense of lighting, and the risk of accidents from fire, to reduce the cost of manufacturing.

“Long before a factory has reached this extent, it will have been found necessary to establish an accountant’s department, with clerks to pay the workmen, and to see that they arrive at their stated times; and this department must be in communication with the agents who purchase the raw produce, and with those who sell the manufactured article.” It will cost these clerks and accountants little more time and trouble to pay a large number of workmen than a small number; to check the accounts of large transactions, than of small. If the business doubled itself, it would probably be necessary to increase, but certainly not to double, the number either of accountants, or of buying and selling agents. Every increase of business would enable the whole to be carried on with a eproportionatelye smaller amount of labour.

As a general rule, the expenses of a business do not increase by any means proportionally to the quantity of business. Let us take as an example, a set of operations which we are accustomed to see carried on by one great establishment, that of the Post Office. Suppose that the business, let us say Edition: current; Page: [133] only of the London letter-post, instead of being centralized in a single concern, were divided among five or six fcompeting companiesf. Each of these would be obliged to maintain almost as large an establishment as is now sufficient for the whole. Since each must arrange for receiving and delivering letters in all parts of the town, each must send letter-carriers into every street, and almost every alley, and this too as many times in the day as is now done by the Post Office, if the service is to be as well performed. Each must have an office for receiving letters in every neighbourhood, with all subsidiary arrangements for collecting the letters from the different offices and re-distributing them. gTo this must be addedg the much greater number of superior officers who would be required to check and control the subordinates, implying not only a greater cost in salaries for such responsible officers, but the necessity, perhaps, of being satisfied in many instances with an inferior standard of qualification, and so failing in the object.

Whether or not the advantages obtained by operating on a large scale preponderate in any particular case over the more watchful attention, and greater regard to minor gains and losses, usually found in small establishments, can be ascertained, in a state of free competition, by an unfailing test. Wherever there are large and small establishments in the same business, that one of the two which in existing circumstances carries on the production at greatest advantage will be able to undersell the other. The power of permanently underselling can onlyh, generally speaking,h be derived from increased effectiveness of labour; and this, when obtained by a more extended division of employment, or by a classification tending to a better economy of skill, always implies a greater produce from the same labour, and not merely the same produce from less labour: it increases not the surplus only, but the gross produce of industry. If an increased quantity of the particular article is not required, and ipart of the labourers in consequence lose their employment, the capital which maintained and employed them is also set at liberty; and the general produce of the country is increased by some other application of their labour.

Another of the causes of large manufactories, however, is the introduction of processes requiring expensive machinery. Expensive machinery supposes a large capital; and is not resorted to except with the intention of producing, and the hope of selling, as much of the article as comes up to the full powers of the machine. For both these reasons, wherever costly machinery jisj used, the large system of production is inevitable. But the Edition: current; Page: [134] power of underselling is not in this case so unerring a test as in the former, of the beneficial effect on the total production of the community. The power of underselling does not depend on the absolute increase of produce, but on its bearing an increased proportion to the expenses; which, as was shown in a former chapter,* it may do, consistently with even a diminution of the gross annual produce. By the adoption of machinery, a circulating capital, which was perpetually consumed and reproduced, has been converted into a fixed capital, requiring only a small annual expense to keep it up: and a much smaller produce will suffice for merely covering that expense, and replacing the remaining circulating capital of the producer. The machinery therefore kmightk answer perfectly well to the manufacturer, and lenable him to undersell his competitors, though the effect on the production of the country mmightm be not an increase but a diminution. It is true, the article will be sold cheaper, and therefore, of that single article, there will probably be not a smaller, but a greater quantity sold; since the loss to the community collectively has fallen upon the work-people, and they are not the principal customers, if customers at all, of most branches of manufacture. But though that particular branch of industry may extend itself, it will be by replenishing its diminished circulating capital from that of the community generally; and if the labourers employed in that department escape loss of employment, it is because the loss will spread itself over the labouring people at large. If any of them are reduced to the condition of unproductive labourers, supported by voluntary or legal charity, the gross produce of the country is to that extent permanently diminished, until the ordinary progress of accumulation makes it up; but if the condition of the labouring classes enables them to bear a temporary reduction of wages, and the superseded labourers become absorbed in other employments, their labour is still productive, and the breach in the gross produce of the community is repaired, though not the detriment to the labourers. I have restated this exposition, which has already been made in a former place, to impress more strongly the truth, that a mode of production does not of necessity increase the productive effect of the collective labour of a community, because it enables a particular commodity to be sold cheaper. The one consequence generally accompanies the other, but not necessarily. I will not here repeat the reasons I formerly gave, nor anticipate those which will be given more fully hereafter, for deeming the exception to be rather a case abstractedly possible, than one which is frequently realized in fact.

A considerable part of the saving of labour effected by substituting the Edition: current; Page: [135] large system of production for the small, is the saving in the labour of the capitalists themselves. If a hundred producers with small capitals carry on separately the same business, the superintendence of each concern will probably require the whole attention of the person conducting it, sufficiently at least to hinder his time or thoughts from being disposable for anything else: while a single manufacturer possessing a capital equal to the sum of theirs, with ten or a dozen clerks, could conduct the whole of their amount of business, and have leisure too for other occupations. The small capitalist, it is true, generally combines with the business of direction some portion of the details, which the other leaves to his subordinates: the small farmer follows his own plough, the small tradesman serves in his own shop, the small weaver plies his own loom. But in this very union of functions there is, in a great proportion of cases, a want of economy. The principal in the concern is either wasting, in the routine of a business, qualities suitable for the direction of it, or he is only fit for the former, and then the latter will be ill done. I must observe, however, that I do not attach, to this saving of labour, the importance often ascribed to it. There is undoubtedly much more labour expended in the superintendence of many small capitals than in that of one large capital. For this labour however the small producers have generally a full compensation, in the feeling of being their own masters, and not servants of an employer. It may be said, that if they value this independence they will submit to pay a price for it, and to sell at the reduced rates occasioned by the competition of the great dealer or manufacturer. But they cannot always do this and continue to gain a living. They thus gradually disappear from society. After having consumed their little capital in prolonging the unsuccessful struggle, they either sink into the condition of hired labourers, or become dependent on others for support.

§ 2. [Advantages and disadvantages of the joint-stock principle] Production on a large scale is greatly promoted by the practice of forming a large capital by the combination of many small contributions; or, in other words, by the formation of joint stock companies. The aadvantagesa of the joint stock principle are numerous and important.

In the first place, many undertakings require an amount of capital beyond the means of the richest individual or private partnership. No individual could have made a railway from London to Liverpool; it is doubtful if any individual could even work the traffic on it, now when it is made. The government indeed could have done both; and in countries where the practice of co-operation is only in the earlier stages of its growth, the government can alone be looked to for any of btheb works for which a great combination of means is requisite; because it can obtain those means Edition: current; Page: [136] by compulsory taxation, and is already accustomed to the conduct of large operations. For reasons, however, which are tolerably well known, and of which we shall treat fully hereafter, government agency for the conduct of industrial operations is generally one of the least eligible of resources, when any other is available.

Next, there are undertakings which individuals are not absolutely incapable of performing, but which they cannot perform on the scale and with the continuity which carec ever more and more required by the exigencies of a society in an advancing state. Individuals are quite capable of despatching ships from England to any or every part of the world, to carry passengers and letters; the thing was done before joint stock companies dfor the purposed were heard of. But when, from the increase of population and transactions, as well as of means of payment, the public will no longer content themselves with occasional opportunities, but require the certainty that packets shall start regularly, for some places once or even twice a day, for others once a week, for others that a steam ship of egreate size and expensive construction shall depart on fixed days twice in each month, it is evident that to afford an assurance of keeping up with punctuality such a circle of costly operations, requires a much larger capital and a much larger staff of qualified subordinates than can be commanded by an individual capitalist. There are other cases, again, in which though the business might be perfectly well transacted with small or moderate capitals, the guarantee of a great subscribed stock is necessary or desirable as a security to the public for the fulfilment of pecuniary engagements. This is especially the case when the nature of the business requires that numbers of persons should be willing to trust the concern with their money: as in the business of banking, and that of insurance: to both of which the joint stock principle is eminently adapted. It is an instance of the folly and jobbery of the rulers of mankind, that until fa late periodf the joint stock principle, as a general resort, was in this country interdicted by law to these two modes of business; to banking altogether, and to insurance in the department of sea risks; in order to bestow a lucrative monopoly on particular establishments which the government was pleased exceptionally to license, namely the Bank of England, and two insurance companies, the London and the Royal Exchange.

gAnother advantage of joint stock or associated management, is its incident of publicity. This is not an invariable, but it is a natural consequence of the joint stock principle, and might be, as in some important cases it Edition: current; Page: [137] already is, compulsory. In banking, insurance, and other businesses which depend wholly on confidence, publicity is a still more important element of success than a large subscribed capital. A heavy loss occurring in a private bank may be kept secret; even though it were of such magnitude as to cause the ruin of the concern, the banker may still carry it on for years, trying to retrieve its position, only to fall in the end with a greater crash: but this cannot so easily happen in the case of a joint stock company, whose accounts are published periodically. The accounts, even if cooked, still exercise some check; and the suspicions of shareholders, breaking out at the general meetings, put the public on their guard.g

These are some of the advantages of joint stock over individual management. But if we look to the other side of the question, we shall find that individual management has also hvery greath advantages over joint stock. The chief of these is the much keener interest of the managers in the success of the undertaking.

The administration of a joint stock association is, in the main, administration by hired servants. Even the committee, or board of directors, who are supposed to superintend the management, and who do really appoint and remove the managers, have no pecuniary interest in the good working of the concern beyond the shares they individually hold, which are always a very small part of the capital of the association, and in general but a small part of the fortunes of the directors themselves; and the part they take in the management usually divides their time with many other occupations, of as great or greater importance to their own interest; the business being the principal concern of no one except those who are hired to carry it on. But experience shows, and proverbs, the expression of popular experience, attest, how inferior is the quality of hired iservantsi, compared with the ministration of those personally interested in the work, and how indispensable, when hired service must be employed, is “the master’s eye” to watch over it.

The successful conduct of an industrial enterprise requires two quite distinct qualifications: fidelity, and zeal. The fidelity of the hired managers of a concern it is possible to secure. When their work admits of being reduced to a definite set of rules, the violation of these is a matter on which conscience cannot easily blind itself, and on which responsibility may be enforced by the loss of employment. But to carry on a great business successfully, requires a hundred things which, as they cannot be defined beforehand, it is impossible to convert into distinct and positive obligations. First and principally, it requires that the directing mind should be incessantly occupied with the subject; should be continually laying schemes by Edition: current; Page: [138] which greater profit may be obtained, or expense saved. This intensity of interest in the subject it is seldom to be expected that any one should feel, who is conducting a business as the hired servant and for the profit of another. There are experiments in human jaffairs which arej conclusive on the point. Look at the whole class of rulers, and ministers of state. The work they are entrusted with, is among the most interesting and exciting of all occupations; the personal share which they themselves reap of the national benefits or misfortunes which befal the state under their rule, is far from trifling, and the rewards and punishments which they may expect from public estimation are of the plain and palpable kind which are most keenly felt and most widely appreciated. Yet how rare a thing is it to find a statesman in whom mental indolence is not stronger than all these inducements. How infinitesimal is the proportion kwho trouble themselves to form, or even to attend to, plans of public improvement, unless lwhenl it is made still more troublesome to them to remain inactive; or who have any other real desire than that of rubbing on, so as to escape general blame. On a smaller scale, all who have ever employed hired labour have had ample experience of the efforts made to give as little labour in exchange for the wages, as is compatible with not being turned off. The universal neglect by domestic servants of their employer’s interests, wherever these are not protected by some fixed rule, is matter of common remark; unless where long continuance in the same service, and reciprocal good offices, have produced either personal attachment, or some feeling of a common interest.

Another of the disadvantages of joint stock concerns, which is in some degree common to all concerns on a large scale, is disregard of small gains and small savings. In the management of a great capital and great transactions, especially when the managers have not much interest in it of their own, small sums are apt to be counted for next to nothing; they never seem worth the care and trouble which it costs to attend to them, and the credit of liberality and openhandedness is cheaply bought by a disregard of such trifling considerations. But small profits and small expenses often repeated, amount to great gains and losses: and of this a large capitalist is often a sufficiently good calculator to be practically aware; and to arrange his business on a system, which if enforced by a sufficiently vigilant superintendence, precludes the possibility of the habitual waste, otherwise incident to a great business. But the managers of a joint stock concern seldom devote themselves sufficiently to the work, to enforce unremittingly, even if introduced, through every detail of the business, a really economical system.

From considerations of this nature, Adam Smith was led to enunciate as Edition: current; Page: [139] a principle, that joint stock companies could never be expected to maintain themselves without an exclusive privilege, except in branches of business which, like banking, insurance, and some others, admit of being, in a considerable degree, reduced to fixed rules. This, however, is one of those over-statements of a true principle, often met with in Adam Smith. In his days there were few instances of joint stock companies which had been permanently successful without a monopoly, except the class of cases which he referred to; but since his time there have been many; and the regular increase both of the spirit of combination and of the ability to combine, will doubtless produce many more. Adam Smith fixed his observation too exclusively on the superior energy and more unremitting attention brought to a business in which the whole stake and the whole gain belong to the persons conducting it; and he overlooked various countervailing considerations which go a great way towards neutralizing even that great point of superiority.

Of these one of the most important is that which relates to the intellectual and active qualifications of the directing head. The stimulus of individual interest mis some security form exertion, but nexertion is of little avail if the intelligence exerted is of an inferior order, which it must necessarily be in the majority of concerns carried on by the persons chiefly interested in them. Where the concern is large, and can afford a remuneration sufficient to attract a class of candidates superior to the common average, it is possible to select for the general management, and for all the skilled employments of a subordinate kind, persons of a degree of acquirement and cultivated intelligence which more than compensates for their inferior interest in the result. Their greater perspicacity enables them, with even a part of their minds, to see probabilities of advantage which never occur to the ordinary run of men by the continued exertion of the whole of theirs; oand their superior knowledge,o and phabitual rectitude of perception and of judgment, qguardq them against blunders, the rfearr of which would prevent the others from hazarding their interests in any attempt out of the ordinary routine.

It must sbe furthers remarked, that it is not a necessary consequence of joint stock management, that the persons employed, whether in superior or in subordinate offices, should be paid wholly by fixed salaries. There are modes of connecting more or less intimately the interest of the employés with the pecuniary success of the concern. There is a long series of intermediate positions, between working wholly on one’s own account, and Edition: current; Page: [140] working by the day, week, or year for an invariable payment. Even in the case of ordinary unskilled labour, there is such a thing as task-work, or working by the piece: and the superior efficiency of this is so well known, that judicious employers always resort to it when the work admits of being put out in definite portions, without the necessity of too troublesome a surveillance to guard against inferiority in the execution. In the case of the managers of joint stock companies, and of the superintending and controlling officers in many private establishments, it is a common enough practice to connect their pecuniary interest with the interest of their employers, by giving them part of their remuneration in the form of a percentage on the profits. The personal interest thus given to hired servants is not comparable in intensity to that of the owner of the capital; but it is sufficient to be a very material stimulus to zeal and carefulness, and, when added to the advantage of superior intelligence, often raises the quality of the service much above that which the generality of masters are capable of rendering to themselves. The ulterior extensions of which this principle of remuneration is susceptible, being of great social as well as economical importance, will be more particularly adverted to in a subsequent stage of the present inquiry.

As I have already remarked of large establishments generally, when compared with small ones, whenever competition is free its results will show whether individual or joint stock agency is best adapted to the particular case, since that which is most efficient and most economical will always in the end succeed in underselling the other.

§ 3. [Conditions necessary for the large system of production] The possibility of substituting the large system of production for the small, depends, of course, in the first place, on the extent of the market. The large system can only be advantageous when a large amount of business is to be done: it implies, therefore, either a populous and flourishing community, or a great opening for exportation. Again, this as well as every other change in the system of production is greatly favoured by a progressive condition of capital. It is chiefly when the capital of a country is receiving a great annual increase, that there is a large amount of capital seeking for investment: and a new enterprise is much sooner and more easily entered upon by new capital, than by withdrawing capital from existing employments. The change is also much facilitated by the existence of large capitals in few hands. It is true that the same amount of capital can be raised by bringing together many small sums. But this (besides that it is not equally well suited to all branches of industry) supposes a much greater degree of commercial confidence and enterprise diffused through the community, and belongs altogether to a more advanced stage of industrial progress.

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In the countries in which there are the largest markets, the widest diffusion of commercial confidence and enterprise, the greatest annual increase of capital, and the greatest number of large capitals owned by individuals, there is a tendency to substitute more and more, in one branch of industry after another, large establishments for small ones. In England, the achiefa type of all these characteristics, there is ba perpetual growth not onlyb of large manufacturing establishments, but also, wherever a sufficient number of purchasers are assembled, of shops and warehouses for conducting retail business on a large scale. These are almost always able to undersell the smaller tradesmen, partly, it is understood, by means of division of labour, and the economy occasioned by limiting the employment of skilled agency to cases where skill is required; and partly, no doubt, by the saving of labour arising from the great scale of the transactions; as it costs no more time, and not much more exertion of mind, to make a large purchase, for example, than a small one, and very much less than to make a number of small ones.

With a view merely to production, and to the greatest efficiency of labour, this change is wholly beneficial. In some cases it is attended with drawbacks, rather social than economical, the nature of which has been already hinted at. But whatever disadvantages may be supposed to attend on the change from a small to a large system of production, they are not applicable to the change from a large to a still larger. When, in any employment, the régime of independent small producers has either never been possible, or has been superseded, and the system of many cwork-peoplec under one management has become fully established, from that time any further enlargement in the scale of production is generally an unqualified benefit. It is obvious, for example, how great an economy of labour would be obtained if London were supplied by a single gas or water company instead of the existing plurality. While there are even as many as two, this implies double establishments of all sorts, when one only, with a small increase, could probably perform the whole operation equally well; double sets of machinery and works, when the whole of the gas or water required could generally be produced by one set only; even double sets of pipes, if the companies did not prevent this needless expense by agreeing upon a division of the territory. Were there only one establishment, it could make lower charges, consistently with obtaining the rate of profit now realized. But would it do so? Even if it did not, the community in the aggregate would still be a gainer: since the shareholders are dad part of the community, and they Edition: current; Page: [142] would obtain higher profits ewhilee the consumers paid only the same. It is, however, an error to suppose that the prices are fever permanentlyf kept down by the competition of these companies. Where competitors are so few, they always gend by agreeingg not to compete. They may run a race of cheapness to ruin a new candidate, but as soon as he has established his footing they come to terms with him. When, therefore, a business of real public importance can only be carried on advantageously upon so large a scale as to render the liberty of competition almost illusory, it is an unthrifty dispensation of the public resources that several costly sets of arrangements should be kept up for the purpose of rendering to the community this one service. It is much better to treat it at once as a public function; and if it be not such as the government itself could beneficially undertake, it should be made over entire to the company or association which will perform it on the best terms for the public. In the case of railways, for example, no one can desire to see the enormous waste of capital and land (not to speak of increased nuisance) involved in the construction of a second railway to connect the same places already united by an existing one; while the two would not do the work better than it could be done by one, and after a short time hwould probablyh be amalgamated. Only one isuchi line ought to be permitted, but the control over that line never ought to be parted with by the State, unless on a temporary concession, as in France; and the vested right which Parliament has allowed to be acquired by the existing companies, like all other proprietary rights which are opposed to public utility, is morally valid only as a claim to compensation.

§ 4. [Large and small farming compared] The question between the large and the small asystemsa of production as applied to agriculture—between large and small farming, the grande and the petite culture—stands, in many respects, on different grounds from the general question between great and small industrial establishments. In its social aspect, and as an element in the Distribution of Wealth, this question will occupy us hereafter: but even as a question of production, the superiority of the large system in agriculture is by no means so clearly established as in manufactures.

I have already remarked, that the operations of agriculture are little susceptible of benefit from the division of labour. There is but little separation of employments even on the largest farm. The same persons may not in general attend to the live stock, to the marketing, and to the cultivation Edition: current; Page: [143] of the soil; but much beyond that primary and simple classification the subdivision is not carried. The combination of labour of which agriculture is susceptible, is chiefly that which Mr. Wakefield terms Simple Co-operation; several persons helping one another in the same work, at the same time and place. But I confess it seems to me that this able writer attributes more importance to that kind of co-operation, in reference to agriculture properly so called, than it deserves. None of the common farming operations require much of it. There is no particular advantage in setting a bgreatb number of people to work together in ploughing or digging or sowing the same field, or even in mowing or reaping it unless time presses. A single family can generally supply all the combination of labour necessary for these purposes. And in the works in which an union of many efforts is really needed, there is seldom found any impracticability in obtaining it where farms are small.

The waste of productive power by subdivision of the land often amounts to a great evil, but this applies chiefly to a subdivision so minute, that the cultivators have not enough land to occupy their time. Up to that point the same principles which recommend large cmanufactoriesc are applicable to agriculture. For the greatest productive efficiency, it is generally desirable (though even this proposition must be received with qualifications) that no family who have any land, should have less than they could cultivate, or than will fully employ their cattle and tools. These, however, are not the dimensions of large farms, but of what are reckoned in England very small ones. The large farmer has some advantage in the article of buildings. It does not cost so much to house a great number of cattle in one building, as to lodge them equally well in several buildings. There is also some advantage in implements. A small farmer is not so likely to possess expensive instruments. But the principal agricultural implements, even when of the best construction, are not expensive. It may not answer to a small farmer to own a threshing machine, for the small quantity of corn he has to thresh; but there is no reason why such a machine should not in every neighbourhood be owned in common, or provided by some person to whom the others pay a consideration for its used; especially as, when worked by steam, they are so constructed as to be moveabled.* The large farmer can Edition: current; Page: [144] make some saving in cost of carriage. There is nearly as much trouble in carrying a small portion of produce to market, as a much greater produce; in bringing home a small, as a much larger quantity of emanurese, and articles of daily consumption. There is also the greater cheapness of buying things in large quantities. These various advantages must count for something, but it does not seem that they ought to count for very much. In England, for some generations, there has been little experience of small farms; but in Ireland the experience has been ample, not merely under the worst but under the best management; and the highest Irish authorities may be cited in opposition to the opinion which on this subject commonly prevails in England. Mr. Blacker, for example, one of the most experienced agriculturists and successful improvers in the North of Ireland, whose experience fwasf chiefly in the best cultivated, which are also the most minutely divided parts of the country, gwasg of opinion, that tenants holding farms not exceeding from five to eight or ten acres, hcouldh live comfortably and pay as high a rent as any large farmer whatever. “I am firmly persuaded,” (he says,*) “that the small farmer who holds his own plough and digs his own ground, if he follows a proper rotation of crops, and feeds his cattle in the house, can undersell the large farmer, or in other words can pay a rent which the other cannot afford; and in this I am confirmed by the opinion of many practical men who have well considered the subject. . . The English farmer of 700 to 800 acres is a kind of man approaching to what is known by the name of a gentleman farmer. He must have his horse to ride, and his gig, and perhaps an overseer to attend to his labourers; he certainly cannot superintend himself the labour going on in a farm of 800 acres.” After a few other remarks, he adds, “Besides all these drawbacks, which the small farmer knows little about, there is the great expense of carting out the manure from the homestead to such a great distance, and again carting home the crop. A single horse will consume the produce of more land than would feed a small farmer and his wife and two children. And what is more than all, the large farmer says to his labourers, go to your work; but when the small farmer has occasion to hire them, he says, come; the intelligent reader will, I dare say, understand the difference.”

One of the objections most urged against small farms is, that they do not and cannot maintain, proportionally to their extent, so great a number of cattle as large farms, and that this occasions such a deficiency of manure, that a soil much subdivided must always be impoverished. It will be found, Edition: current; Page: [145] however, that subdivision only produces this effect when it throws the land into the hands of cultivators so poor as not to possess the amount of live stock suitable to the size of their farms. A small farm and a badly stocked farm are not synonymous. To make the comparison fairly, we must suppose the same amount of capital which is possessed by the large farmers to be disseminated among the small ones. When this condition, or even any approach to it, exists, and when stall feeding is practised (and stall feeding now begins to be considered good economy even on large farms), experience, far from bearing out the assertion that small farming is unfavourable to the multiplication of cattle, conclusively establishes the very reverse. The abundance of cattle, and copious use of manure, on the small farms of Flanders, are the most striking features in that Flemish agriculture which is the admiration of all competent judges, whether in England or on the Continent.*

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The disadvantage, when disadvantage there is, of small or rather of peasant farming, as compared with capitalist farming, must chiefly consist in inferiority of skill and knowledge; but it is not true, as a general fact, that such inferiority exists. Countries of small farms and peasant farming, Flanders and Italy, had a good agriculture many generations before England, and theirs is still, as a whole, probably the best agriculture in the world. iThe empirical skill, which is the effect of daily and close observation, Edition: current; Page: [147] peasant farmers often possess in an eminent degree. The traditional knowledge, for example, of the culture of the vine, possessed by the peasantry of the countries where the best wines are produced, is extraordinary. There is no doubt an absence of science, or at least of theory; and to some extent a deficiency of the spirit of improvement, so far as relates to the introduction of new processes. There is also a want of means to make experiments, which can seldom be made with advantage except by rich proprietors or capitalists. As for those systematic improvements which operate on a large tract of country at once (such as great works of draining or irrigation) or which for any other jreasonsj do really require large numbers of workmen combining their labour, these are not in general to be expected from small farmers, or even small proprietors, though combination among them for such purposes is by no means unexampled, and will become more common as their intelligence is more developed.

Against these disadvantages is to be placed, where the tenure of land is of the requisite kind, an ardour of industry absolutely unexampled in any other condition of agriculture. This is a subject on which the testimony of competent witnesses is unanimous. The working of the petite culture Edition: current; Page: [148] cannot be fairly judged where the small cultivator is merely a tenant, and not even a tenant on fixed conditions, but (kas until lately ink Ireland) at a nominal rent greater than can be paid, and therefore practically at a varying rent always amounting to the utmost that can be paid. To understand the subject, it must be studied where the cultivator is the proprietor, or at least a métayer with a permanent tenure; where the labour he exerts to increase the produce and value of the land avails wholly, or at least partly, to his own benefit and that of his descendants. In another division of our subject, we shall discuss at some length the important subject of tenures of land, and I defer till then any citation of evidence on the marvellous industry of peasant proprietors. It may suffice here to appeal to the immense amount of gross produce which, even without a permanent tenure, English labourers generally obtain from their little allotments; a produce beyond comparison greater than a large farmer extracts, or would find it his interest to extract, from the same piece of land.

And this I take to be the true reason why large cultivation is generally most advantageous as a mere investment for profit. Land occupied by a large farmer is notl, in one sense of the word,l farmed so highly. There is not nearly so much labour expended on it. This is not on account of any economy arising from combination of labour, but because, by employing less, a greater return is obtained in proportion to the outlay. It does not answer to any one to pay others for exerting all the labour which the peasant, or even the allotment-holder, gladly undergoes when the fruits are to be wholly reaped by himself. This labour, however, is not unproductive: it all adds to the gross produce. With anything like equality of skill and knowledge, the large farmer does not obtain nearly so much from the soil as the small proprietor, or the small farmer with adequate motives to exertion: but though his returns are less, the labour is less in a still greater degree, and as whatever labour he employs must be paid for, it does not suit his purpose to employ more.

But although the gross produce of the land is greatest, cœteris paribus, under small cultivation, and although, therefore, a country is able on that system to support a larger aggregate population, it is generally assumed by English writers that what is termed the net produce, that is, the surplus after feeding the cultivators, mmustm be smaller; that therefore, the population disposable for all other purposes, for manufactures, for commerce and navigation, for national defence, for the promotion of knowledge, for the liberal professions, for the various functions of government, for the arts and literature, all of which are ndependent on this surplus for their existence as occupations, must be less numerous; and that the nation, therefore (waving all question as to the condition of the actual cultivators), must be Edition: current; Page: [149] inferior in the principal elements of national power, and in many of those of general well-being. This, however, has been taken for granted much too readily. Undoubtedly the non-agricultural population will bear a less ratio to the agricultural, under small than under large cultivation. But that it will be less numerous absolutely, is by no means a consequence. If the total population, agricultural and non-agricultural, is greater, the non-agricultural portion may be more numerous in itself, and may yet be a smaller proportion of the whole. If the gross produce is larger, the net produce may be larger, and yet bear a smaller ratio to the gross produce. Yet even Mr. Wakefield sometimes oappears to confoundo these distinct ideas. In France it is computed that two-thirds of the whole population are agricultural. In England, at most, one-third. Hence Mr. Wakefield infers, that “as in France only three people are supported by the labour of two cultivators, while in England the labour of two cultivators supports six people, English agriculture is twice as productive as French agriculture,” owing to the superior efficiency of large farming through combination of labour. But in the first place, the facts themselves are overstated. The labour of two persons in England does not quite support six people, for there is not a little food imported from foreign countries, and from Ireland. In France, too, the labour of two cultivators does much more than supply the food of three persons. It provides the three persons, and occasionally foreigners, with flax, hemp, and to a certain extent with silk, oils, tobacco, and latterly sugar, which in England are wholly obtained from abroad; nearly all the timber used in France is of home growth, nearly all which is used in England is imported; the principal fuel of France is procured and brought to market by persons reckoned among agriculturists, in England by persons not so reckoned. I do not take into calculation hides and wool, these products being common to both countries, nor wine or brandy produced for home consumption, since England has a corresponding production of beer and spirits; but England has no material export of either article, and a great importation of the last, while France supplies wines and spirits to the whole world. I say nothing of fruit, eggs, and such minor particles of agricultural produce, in which the export trade of France is enormousp. But not to lay undue stress on these abatements, we will take the statement as it stands. Suppose that two persons, in England, do bonâ fide produce the food of six, while in France, for the same purpose, the labour of four is requisite. Does it follow that England must have a larger surplus for the support of a non-agricultural population? No; but merely that she can devote two-thirds of her whole produce to the purpose, instead of one-third. Suppose the produce to be twice as great, and the one-third will amount to as much as the two-thirds. The fact might be, that owing Edition: current; Page: [150] to the greater quantity of labour employed on the French system, the same land would produce food for twelve persons which on the English system would only produce it for six: and if this were so, which would be quite consistent with the conditions of the hypothesis, then although the food for twelve was produced by the labour of eight, while the six were fed by the labour of only two, there would be the same number of hands disposable for other employment in the one country as in the other. I am not contending that the fact is so. I know that the gross produce per acre in France qas a whole (though not in its most improved districts)q averages much less than in England, and that, in proportion to the extent and fertility of the two countries, England has, in the sense we are now speaking of, much the largest disposable population. But the disproportion certainly is not rto be measured by Mr. Wakefield’s simple criterionr. As well might it be said that agricultural labour in the United States, where, by sa lates census, four families in every five tappearedt to be engaged in agriculture, must be still more inefficient than in France.

The inferiority of French cultivation (which, taking the country as a whole, must be allowed to be real, though much exaggerated) is probably more owing to the lower general average of industrial skill and energy in that country, than to any special cause; and even if partly the effect of minute subdivision, it does not prove that small farming is disadvantageous, but only (what is undoubtedly the fact) that farms in France are very frequently too small, and, what is worse, broken up into an almost incredible number of patches or parcelles, most inconveniently dispersed and parted from one another.

As a question, not of gross, but of net produce, the comparative merits of the grande and the petite culture, especially when the small farmer is also the proprietor, cannot be looked upon as decided. It is a question on which good judges at present differ. The current of English opinion is in favour of large farms: on the Continent, the weight of authority seems to be on the other side. Professor Rau, of Heidelberg, the author of one of the most comprehensive and elaborate of extant treatises on political economy, and who has that large acquaintance with facts and authorities on his own subject, which generally characterises his countrymen, lays it down as a settled truth, that small or moderate-sized farms yield not only a larger gross but a larger net produce: though, he adds, it is desirable there should be some great proprietors, to lead the way in new improvements.* Edition: current; Page: [151] The most apparently impartial and discriminating judgment that I have met with is that of M. Passy, who (always speaking with reference to net produce) gives his verdict in favour of large farms for grain and forage; but, for the kinds of culture which require much labour and attention, places the advantage wholly on the side of small cultivation; including in this description, not only the vine and the olive, where a considerable amount of care and labour must be bestowed on each individual plant, but also roots, leguminous plants, and those which furnish the materials of manufactures. The small size, and consequent multiplication, of farms, according to all authorities, are extremely favourable to the abundance of many minor products of agriculture.*

It is evident that every labourer who extracts from the land more than his own food, and that of any family he may have, increases the means of supporting a non-agricultural population. Even if his surplus is no more than enough to buy uclothesu, the labourers who make the clothes are a non-agricultural population, enabled to exist by food which he produces. Every agricultural family, therefore, which produces its own necessaries, adds to the net produce of agriculture; and so does every person born on the land, who by employing himself on it, adds more to its gross produce than the mere food which he eats. It is questionable whether, even in the most subdivided districts of Europe which are cultivated by the proprietors, the multiplication of hands on the soil has approached, or tends to approach, within a great distance of this limit. In France, though the subdivision is confessedly too great, there is proof positive that it is far from having reached the point at which it would begin to diminish the power of supporting a non-agricultural population. This is demonstrated by the great increase of the towns; which have of late increased in a much greater ratio than the population generally, showing (unless the condition of the town labourers is becoming rapidly deteriorated, which there is no reason to believe) that even by the unfair and inapplicable test of proportions, the productiveness of agriculture must be on the increase. This, too, concurrently with the amplest evidence that in the more improved districts of France, and in some which, until lately, were among the unimproved, there is a considerably increased consumption of country produce by the country population itself.

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vImpressed with the conviction that, of all faults which can be committed by a scientific writer on political and social subjects, exaggeration, and wassertionw beyond the evidence, most require to be guarded against, I limited myself in the early editions of this work to the foregoing very moderate statements. I little knew how much stronger my language might have been without exceeding the truth, and how much the actual progress of French agriculture surpassed anything which I had at that time sufficient grounds to affirm. The investigations of that eminent authority on agricultural statistics, M. Léonce de Lavergne, undertaken by desire of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the Institute of France, have led to the conclusion that since the Revolution of 1789, the total produce of French agriculture has doubled; profits and wages having both increased in about the same, and rent in a still greater ratio. M. de Lavergne, whose impartiality is one of his greatest merits, is, moreover, so far in this instance from the suspicion of having a case to make out, that he is labouring to show, not how much French agriculture has accomplished, but how much still remains for it to do. “We have required” (he says) “no less than seventy years to bring into cultivation two million hectares” (five million English acres) “of waste land, to suppress half our fallows, double our agricultural products, increase our population by 30 per cent, our wages by 100 per cent, our rent by 150 per cent. At this rate we shall require three quarters of a century more to arrive at the point which England has already attained.”*

After this evidence, we have surely now heard the last of the incompatibility of small properties and small farms with agricultural improvement. The only question which remains open is one of degree; the comparative xrapidityx of agricultural improvement under the two systems; and it is the general opinion of those who are equally well acquainted with both, that improvement is greatest under a due admixture between them.v

In the present chapter, yIy do not enter on the question zbetween greatz and small cultivation in any other respect than as a question of production, and of the efficiency of labour. We shall return to it hereafter as affecting the distribution of the produce, and the physical and social well-being of the cultivators themselves; in which aspects it deserves, and requires, a still more particular examination.

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CHAPTER X: Of the Law of the Increase of Labour

§ 1. [The law of the increase of production depends on those of three elements, Labour, Capital, and Land] We have now successively considered each of the agents or conditions of production, and of the means by which the aefficacya of these various agents is promoted. In order to come to an end of the questions which relate exclusively to production, one more, of primary importance, remains.

Production is not a fixed, but an increasing thing. When not kept back by bad institutions, or a low state of the arts of life, the produce of industry has usually tended to increase; stimulated not only by the desire of the producers to augment their means of consumption, but by the increasing number of the consumers. Nothing in political economy can be of more importance than to ascertain the law of this increase of production; the conditions to which it is subject: whether it has practically any limits, and what these are. There is also no subject in political economy which is popularly less understood, or on which the errors committed are of a character to produce, and do produce, greater mischief.

We have seen that the essential requisites of production are three—labour, capital, and natural agents; the term capital including all external and physical requisites which are products of labour, the term natural agents all those which are not. But among natural agents we need not take into account those which, existing in unlimited quantity, being incapable of appropriation, and never altering in their qualities, are always ready to lend an equal degree of assistance to production, whatever may be its extent; as air, and the light of the sun. Being now about to consider the impediments to production, not the facilities for it, we need advert to no other natural agents than those which are liable to be deficient either in quantity or in productive power. These may be all represented by the term land. Land, in the narrowest acceptation, as the source of agricultural produce, is the chief of them; and if we extend the term to mines and fisheries—to Edition: current; Page: [154] what is found in the earth itself, or in the waters which partly cover it, as well as to what is grown or fed on its surface, it embraces everything with which we need at present concern ourselves.

We may say, then, without a greater stretch of language than under the necessary bexplanationb is permissible, that the requisites of production are Labour, Capital, and Land. The increase of production, therefore, depends on the properties of these elements. It is a result of the increase either of the elements themselves, or of their productiveness. The law of cthec increase of production must be a consequence of the laws of these elements; the limits to the increase of production must be the limits, whatever they are, set by those laws. We proceed to consider the three elements successively, with reference to this effect; or in other words, the law of the increase of production, viewed in respect of its dependence, first on Labour, secondly on Capital, and lastly on Land.

§ 2. [The Law of Population] The increase of labour is the increase of mankind; of population. On this subject the discussions excited by athe Essay of Mr. Malthusa have made the truth, though by no means universally admitted, yet so fully known, that a briefer examination of the question than would otherwise have been necessary will probably on the present occasion suffice.

The power of multiplication inherent in all organic life may be regarded as infinite. There is no one species of vegetable or animal, which, if the earth were entirely abandoned to it, and to the things on which it feeds, would not in a small number of years overspread every region of the globe, of which the climate was compatible with its existence. The degree of possible rapidity is different in different orders of beings; but in all it is sufficient, for the earth to be very speedily filled up. There are bmanyb species of vegetables of which a single plant will produce in one year the germs of a thousand; if only two come to maturity, in fourteen years the two will have multiplied to sixteen thousand and more. cIt is but a moderate case of fecundity in animals to be capablec of quadrupling their numbers in a single year; if they only do as much in half a century, ten thousand will have swelled within two centuries to upwards of two millions and a half. The capacity of increase is necessarily in a geometrical progression: the numerical ratio alone is different.

To this property of organized beings, the human species forms no exception. Its power of increase is indefinite, and the actual multiplication would be extraordinarily rapid, if dthed power were exercised to the utmost. Edition: current; Page: [155] It never is exercised to the utmost, and yet, in the most favourable circumstances known to exist, which are those of a fertile region colonized from an industrious and civilized community, population has continued, for several generations, independently of fresh immigration, to double itself in not much more than twenty years.* That ethe capacity of multiplication in the human species exceedse even this, is evident if we consider how great is the ordinary number of children to a family, where the climate is good and early marriages usual; and how small a proportion of them die before the age of maturity, in the present state of hygienic knowledge, where the locality is healthy, and the family adequately provided with the means of living. It is a very low estimate of the capacity of increase, if we only assume, that in a good sanitary condition of the people, each generation may be double the number of the generation which preceded it.

Twenty or thirty years ago, these propositions might still have required considerable enforcement and illustration; but the evidence of them is so ample and incontestable, that they have made their way against all kinds of opposition, and may now be regarded as axiomatic: though the extreme reluctance felt to admitting them, every now and then gives birth to some ephemeral theory, speedily forgotten, of a different law of increase in different circumstances, through a providential adaptation of the fecundity of the human species to the exigencies of society. The obstacle to a just Edition: current; Page: [156] understanding of the subject does not arise from these theories, but from too confused a notion of the causes which, at most times and places, keep the actual increase of mankind so far behind the capacity.

§ 3. [By what checks the increase of population is practically limited] Those causes, nevertheless, are in no way mysterious. What prevents the population of hares and rabbits from overstocking the earth? Not want of fecundity, but causes very different: many enemies, and insufficient subsistence; not enough to eat, and liability to abea eaten. In the human race, which is not generally subject to the latter inconvenience, the equivalents for it are war and disease. If the multiplication of mankind proceeded bonlyb, like that of the other animals, from a blind instinct, it would be limited in the same manner with theirs; the births would be as numerous as the physical constitution of the species admitted of, and the population would be kept down by deaths.* But the conduct of human creatures is Edition: current; Page: [157] cmore or less influenced by foresight of consequences, and by dimpulses superior to mere animal instincts: and they do not, therefore, propagate like swine, but are capable, though in very unequal degrees, of being withheld by prudence, or by the social affections, from giving existence to beings born only to misery and premature death. In proportion as mankind rise above the condition of ethee beasts, population is restrained by the fear of want rather than by want itself. Even where there is no question of starvation, fmanyf are similarly acted upon by the apprehension of losing what have come to be regarded as the decencies of their situation in life. Hitherto no other motives than these two have been found strong enough, in the generality of mankind, to counteract the tendency to increase. It has been the practice of a great majority of the middle and the poorer classes, whenever free from external control, to marry as early, and in most countries to have as many children, as was consistent with maintaining themselves in the condition of life which they were born to, or were accustomed to consider as theirs. Among the middle classes, in many individual instances, there is an additional restraint exercised from the desire of doing more than maintaining their circumstances—of improving them; but such a desire is rarely found, or rarely has that effect, in the labouring classes. If they can bring up a family as they were themselves brought up, even the prudent among them are usually satisfied. Too often they do not think even of that, but rely on fortune, or on the resources to be found in legal or voluntary charity.

In a very backward state of society, like that of Europe in the Middle Ages, and many parts of Asia at present, population is kept down by actual starvation. The starvation does not take place in ordinary years, but in seasons of scarcity, which in those states of society are much more frequent and more extreme than Europe is now accustomed to. In these seasons actual want, or the maladies consequent on it, carry off numbers of the population, which in a succession of favourable years again expands, to be again cruelly decimated. In a more improved state, few, even among the poorest of the people, are limited to gactualg necessaries, and to a bare sufficiency of those: and the increase is kept within bounds, not by excess of deaths, but by limitation of births. The limitation is brought about in various ways. In some countries, it is the result of prudent or conscientious self-restraint. There is a condition to which the labouring people are habituated; they perceive that by having too numerous families, they must sink below that condition, or fail to transmit it to their children; and this they do not choose to submit to. The countries in which, so far as is known, ha greath degree of voluntary prudence ihas been longesti practised on this Edition: current; Page: [158] subject, are Norway and parts of Switzerland. Concerning both, there happens to be unusually authentic information; many facts were carefully brought together by Mr. Malthus, and much additional evidence has been obtained since his time. In both these countries the increase of population is very slow; and what checks it, is not multitude of deaths, but fewness of births. Both the births and the deaths are remarkably few in proportion to the population; the average duration of life is the longest in Europe; the population contains fewer children, and a greater proportional number of persons in the vigour of life, than is known to be the case in any other part of the world. The paucity of births tends directly to prolong life, by keeping the people in comfortable circumstances; and the same prudence is doubtless exercised in avoiding causes of disease, as in keeping clear of the principal jcausej of poverty. It is worthy of remark that the two countries thus honourably distinguished, are countries of small landed proprietors.

There are other cases in which the prudence and forethought, which perhaps might not be exercised by the people themselves, are exercised by the state for their benefit; marriage not being permitted until the contracting parties can show that they have the prospect of a comfortable support. Under these laws, of which I shall speak more fully hereafter, the condition of the people is reported to be good, and the illegitimate births not so numerous as might be expected. There are places, again, in which the restraining cause seems to be not so much individual prudence, as some general and perhaps even accidental habit of the country. In the rural districts of England, during the last century, the growth of population was very effectually repressed by the difficulty of obtaining a cottage to live in. It was the custom for unmarried labourers to lodge and board with their employers; it was the custom for married labourers to have a cottage: and the rule of the English poor laws by which a parish was charged with the support of its unemployed poor, rendered landowners averse to promote marriage. About the end of the century, the great demand for men in war and manufactures, made it be thought a patriotic thing to encourage population: and about the same time the growing inclination of farmers to live like rich people, favoured as it was by a long period of high prices, made them desirous of keeping inferiors at a greater distance, and, pecuniary motives arising from abuses of the poor laws being superadded, they gradually drove their labourers into cottages, which the landlords now no longer refused permission to build. kIn some countries an old standing custom that a girl should not marry until she had spun and woven for Edition: current; Page: [159] herself an ample trousseau l(destined for the supply of her whole subsequent life,)l is said to have acted as a substantial check to population. In England, at present, the influence of prudence in keeping down multiplication is seen by the diminished number of marriages in the manufacturing districts in years when trade is bad.

But whatever be the causes by which population is anywhere limited to a comparatively slow rate of increase, man acceleration of the rate very speedily follows any diminution of the motives to restraintm. It is but rarely that improvements in the condition of the labouring classes do anything more than give a temporary margin, speedily filled up by an increase of their numbers. The use they commonly choose to make of any advantageous change in their circumstances, is to take it out in the form which, by augmenting the population, deprives the succeeding generation of the benefit. Unlessn, either by their general improvement in intellectual and moral culture, or at least by raising their habitual standard of comfortable living, they can be taught to make a better use of favourable circumstancesn, nothing permanent can be done for them; the most promising schemes end only in having a more numerous, but not a happier people. By their habitual standard, I mean that o(when any such there is)o down to which they will multiply, but not lower. Every advance they make in education, civilization, and social improvement, tends to raise this standard; and there is no doubt that it is gradually, though slowly, rising in the more advanced countries of Western Europe. Subsistence and employment in England have never increased more rapidly than in the last pfortyp years, but qevery census since 1821 showed a smaller proportional increase of population than that of the period precedingq; and the produce of French agriculture and industry is increasing in a progressive ratio, while the population exhibits in every quinquennial census, a smaller proportion of births to the population.

The subject, however, of population, in its connexion with the condition of the labouring classes, will be considered in another place: in the present we have to do with it solely as one of the elements of Production: and in that character we could not dispense with pointing out the unlimited extent of its natural powers of increase, and the causes owing to which so small a portion of that unlimited power is for the most part actually exercised. After this brief indication, we shall proceed to the other elements.

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CHAPTER XI: Of the Law of the Increase of Capital

§ 1. [Means and motives to saving, on what dependent] The requisites of production being labour, capital, and land, it has been seen from the preceding chapter that the impediments to the increase of production do not arise from the first of these elements. On the side of labour there is no obstacle to an increase of production, indefinite in extent and of unslackening rapidity. Population has the power of increasing in an uniform and rapid geometrical ratio. If the only essential condition of production were labour, the produce might, and naturally would, increase in the same ratio; and there would be no limit, until the numbers of mankind were brought to a stand from actual want of space.

But production has other requisites, and of these, the one which we shall next consider is Capital. There cannot be more people in any country, or in the world, than can be supported from the produce of past labour until that of present labour comes in. There will be no greater number of productive labourers in any country, or in the world, than can be supported from that portion of the produce of past labour, which is spared from the enjoyments of its possessor for purposes of reproduction, and is termed Capital. We have next, therefore, to inquire into the conditions of the increase of capital: the causes by which the rapidity of its increase is determined, and the necessary limitations of that increase.

Since all capital is the product of saving, that is, of abstinence from present consumption for the sake of a future good, the increase of capital must depend upon two things—the amount of the fund from which saving can be made, and the strength of the dispositions which prompt to it.

The fund from which saving can be made, is the surplus of the produce of labour, after supplying the necessaries of life to all concerned in the production: (including those employed in replacing the materials, and keeping the fixed capital in repair.) More than this surplus cannot be saved under any circumstances. As much as this, though it never is saved, always might be. This surplus is the fund from which the enjoyments, as distinguished Edition: current; Page: [161] from the necessaries, of the producers are provided; it is the fund from which all are subsisted, who are not themselves engaged in production; and from which all additions are made to capital. It is the real net produce of the country. The phrase, net produce, is often taken in a more limited sense, to denote only the profits of the capitalist and the rent of the landlord, under the idea that nothing can be included in the net produce of capital, but what is returned to the owner of the capital after replacing his expenses. But this is too narrow an acceptation of the term. The capital of the employer forms the revenue of the labourers, and if this exceeds the necessaries of life, it gives them a surplus which they may either expend in enjoyments, or save. For every purpose for which there can be occasion to speak of the net produce of industry, this surplus ought to be included in it. When this is included, and not otherwise, the net produce of the country is the measure of its effective power; of what it can spare for any apurposesa of public utility, or private indulgence; the portion of its produce of which it can dispose at pleasure; which can be drawn upon to attain any ends, or gratify any wishes, either of the government or of individuals; which it can either spend for its satisfaction, or save for future advantage.

The amount of this fund, this net produce, this excess of production above the physical necessaries of the producers, is one of the elements that determine the amount of saving. The greater the produce of labour after supporting the labourers, the more there is which can be saved. The same thing also partly contributes to determine how much will be saved. A part of the motive to saving consists in the prospect of deriving an income from savings; in the fact that capital, employed in production, is capable of not only reproducing itself but yielding an increase. The greater the profit that can be made from capital, the stronger is the motive to its accumulation. That indeed which forms the inducement to save, is not the whole of the fund which supplies the means of saving, not the whole net produce of the land, capital, and labour of the country, but only a part of it, the part which forms the remuneration of the capitalist, and is called profit of stock. It will however be readily enough understood, even previously to the explanations which will be given hereafter, that when the general productiveness of labour and capital is great, the returns to the capitalist are likely to be large, and that some proportion, though not an uniform one, will commonly obtain between the two.

§ 2. [Causes of diversity in the effective strength of the desire of accumulation] But the disposition to save does not wholly depend on the external inducement to it; on the amount of profit to be made from savings. Edition: current; Page: [162] With the same pecuniary inducement, the inclination is very different, in different persons, and in different communities. The aeffective desire of accumulationa is of unequal strength, not only according to the varieties of individual character, but to the general state of society and civilization. Like all other moral attributes, it is one in which the human race exhibits great differences, conformably to the diversity of its circumstances and the stage of its progress.

On topics which if they were to be fully investigated would exceed the bounds that can be allotted to them in this treatise, it is satisfactory to be able to refer to other works in which the necessary developments have been presented more at length. On the subject of Population this valuable service has been rendered by the celebrated Essay of Mr. Malthus; and on the point which now occupies us I can refer with equal confidence to another, though a less known work, “New Principles of Political Economy,” by bDr.b Rae.* In no other book known to me is so much light thrown, both from principle and history, on the causes which determine the accumulation of capitalc.

All accumulation involves the sacrifice of a present, for the sake of a future good. But the expediency of such a sacrifice varies very much in Edition: current; Page: [163] different states of circumstances; and dthed willingness to make it, varies still more.

In weighing the future against the present, the uncertainty of all things future is a leading element; and that uncertainty is of very different degrees. “All circumstances” therefore, “increasing the probability of the provision we make for futurity being enjoyed by ourselves or others, tend” justly and reasonably “to give strength to the effective desire of accumulation. Thus a healthy climate or occupation, by increasing the probability of life, has a tendency to add to this desire. When engaged in safe occupations, and living in healthy countries, men are much more apt to be frugal, than in unhealthy or hazardous occupations, and in climates pernicious to human life. Sailors and soldiers are prodigals. In the West Indies, New Orleans, the East Indies, the expenditure of the inhabitants is profuse. The same people, coming to reside in the healthy parts of Europe, and not getting into the vortex of extravagant fashion, live economically. War and pestilence have always waste and luxury among the other evils that follow in their train. For similar reasons, whatever gives security to the affairs of the community is favourable to the strength of this principle. In this respect the general prevalence of law and order, and the prospect of the continuance of peace and tranquillity, have considerable influence.”* The more perfect the security, the greater will be the effective strength of the desire of accumulation. Where property is less safe, or the vicissitudes ruinous to fortunes are more frequent and severe, fewer persons will save at all, and of those who do, many will require the inducement of a higher rate of profit on capital, to make them prefer a doubtful future to the etemptatione of present enjoyment.

These are considerations which affect the expediency, in the eye of reason, of consulting future interests at the expense of present. But fthef inclination to make gtheg sacrifice does not solely depend upon its expediency. The disposition to save is often far short of what reason would dictate: and at other times is liable to be in excess of it.

hDeficient strength of the desire of accumulation may arise from improvidence, or from want of interest in others. Improvidence may be connected with intellectual as well as moral causes.h Individuals and communities of a very low state of intelligence are always improvident. A Edition: current; Page: [164] certain measure of intellectual development seems necessary to enable absent things, and especially things future, to act with any force on the imagination and will. iThe effect of want of interest in others in diminishing accumulation will be admitted, if we considered how much saving at present takes place, whichi has for its object the interest of others rather than of ourselves; the education of children, their advancement in life, the future interests of other personal connexions, the jpowerj of promoting, by the bestowal of money or time, objects of public or private usefulness. If mankind were generally in the state of mind to which some approach was seen in the declining period of the Roman Empire—caring nothing for their heirs, as well as nothing for friends, the public, or any object which survived them—they would seldom deny themselves any kindulgence for the sake of savingl, beyond what was necessary for their own future years; which they would placel in life annuities, or in some other form which would make its existence and their lives terminate together.

§ 3. [Examples of deficiency in the strength of the desire of accumulation] From athese various causesa, intellectual and moral, there is, in different portions of the human race, a greater diversity than is usually adverted to, in the strength of the effective desire of accumulation. A backward state of general civilization is often more the effect of deficiency in this particular, than in many others which attract more attention. bIn the circumstances, for example, of a hunting tribe, “bman may be said to be necessarily improvident, and regardless of futurity, because, in cthis Edition: current; Page: [165] statec, the future presents nothing which can be with certainty either foreseen or governedd. . . . . .d Besides a want of the motives exciting to provide for the needs of futurity through means of the abilities of the present, there is a want of the habits of perception and action, leading to a constant connexion in the mind of those distant points, and of the series of events serving to unite them. Even, therefore, if motives be awakened capable of producing the exertion necessary to effect this connexion, there remains the task of training the mind to think and act so as to establish it.”

For instance: “Upon the banks of the St. Lawrence there are several little Indian villages. They are surrounded, in general, by a good deal of land, from which the wood seems to have been long extirpated, and have, besides, attached to them, extensive tracts of forest. The cleared land is rarely, I may almost say never, cultivated, nor are any inroads made in the forest for such a purpose. The soil is, nevertheless, fertile, and were it not, manure lies in heaps by their houses. Were every family to inclose half an acre of ground, till it, and plant eit ine potatoes and maize, it would yield a sufficiency to support them one half the year. They suffer, too, every now and then, extreme want, insomuch that, joined to occasional intemperance, it is rapidly reducing their numbers. This, to us, so strange apathy proceeds not, in any great degree, from repugnance to labour; on the contrary, they apply very diligently to it when its reward is immediate. Thus, besides their peculiar occupations of hunting and fishing, in which they are ever ready to engage, they are much employed in the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and may be seen labouring at the oar, or setting with the pole, in the large boats used for the purpose, and always furnish the greater part of the additional hands necessary to conduct rafts through some of the rapids. Nor is the obstacle aversion to agricultural labour. This is no doubt a prejudice of theirs; but mere prejudices always yield, principles of action cannot be created. When the returns from agricultural labour are speedy and great, they are also agriculturists. Thus, some of the little islands on Lake St. Francis, near the Indian village of St. Regis, are favourable to the growth of maize, a plant yielding a return of a hundredfold, and forming, even when half ripe, a pleasant and substantial repast. Patches of the best land on these islands are therefore every year cultivated by them for this purpose. As their situation renders them inaccessible to cattle, no fence is required; were this additional outlay necessary, I suspect they would be neglected, like the commons adjoining their village. These had apparently, at one time, been under crop. The cattle of the neighbouring settlers would now, however, destroy any crop not securely fenced, and this additional necessary outlay consequently bars their culture. It removes them to an order of instruments of slower return than that which corresponds to the strength of the effective desire of accumulation in this little society.

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“It is here deserving of notice, that what instruments of this kind they do form, are completely formed. The small spots of corn they cultivate are thoroughly weeded and hoed. A little neglect in this part would indeed reduce the crop very much; of this experience has made them perfectly aware, and they act accordingly. It is evidently not the necessary labour that is the obstacle to more extended culture, but the distant return from that labour. I am assured, indeed, that among some of the more remote tribes, the labour thus expended much exceeds that given by the whites. The same portions of ground being cropped without remission, and manure not being used, they would scarcely yield any return, were not the soil most carefully broken and pulverized, both with the hoe and the hand. In such a situation a white man would clear a fresh piece of ground. It would perhaps scarce repay his labour the first year, and he would have to look for his reward in succeeding years. On the Indian, succeeding years are too distant to make sufficient impression; though, to obtain what labour may bring about in the course of a few months, he toils even more assiduously than the white man.”*

This view of things is confirmed by the experience of the Jesuits, in their interesting feffortsf to civilize the Indians of Paraguay. They gained the confidence of these savages in a most extraordinary degree. They acquired influence over them sufficient to make them change their whole manner of life. They obtained their absolute submission and obedience. They established peace. They taught them all the operations of European agriculture, and many of the more difficult arts. There were everywhere to be seen, according to Charlevoix, “workshops of gilders, painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, watchmakers, carpenters, joiners, dyers,”[*] &c. These occupations were not practised for the personal gain of the artificers: the produce was at the absolute disposal of the missionaries, who ruled the people by a voluntary despotism. The obstacles arising from aversion to labour were therefore very completely overcome. The real difficulty was the improvidence of the people; their inability to think for the future: and the necessity accordingly of the most unremitting and minute superintendence on the part of their instructors. “Thus at first, if these gave up to them the care of the oxen with which they ploughed, their indolent thoughtlessness would probably leave them at evening still yoked to the implement. Worse than this, instances occurred where they cut them up for supper, thinking, when reprehended, that they sufficiently excused themselves by saying they were hungry. . . . These fathers, says Ulloa, have to visit the houses, to examine what is really wanted: for without this care, the Indians would never look after anything. Edition: current; Page: [167] They must be present, too, when animals are slaughtered, not only that the meat may be equally divided, but that nothing may be lost.” “But notwithstanding all this care and superintendence,” says Charlevoix, “and all the precautions which are taken to prevent any want of the necessaries of life, the missionaries are sometimes much embarrassed. It often happens that they” (the Indians,) “do not reserve to themselves a sufficiency of grain, even for seed. As for their other provisions, were they not well looked after, they would soon be without wherewithal to support life.”*

As an example intermediate, in the strength of the effective desire of accumulation, between the state of things thus depicted and that of modern Europe, gthe case of the Chinese deserves attention. Fromg various circumstances in their personal habits and social hcondition,h it might be anticipated that they would possess a degree of prudence and self-control greater than other Asiatics, but inferior to most European nationsi; and the following evidence is adducedi of the fact.

“Durability is one of the chief qualities, marking a high degree of the effective desire of accumulation. The testimony of travellers ascribes to the instruments formed by the Chinese, ja very inferior durability to similar instruments constructed by Europeans. The houses, we are told, unless of the higher ranks, are in general of unburnt bricks, of clay, or of hurdles plastered with earth; the roofs, of reeds fastened to laths. We can scarcely conceive more unsubstantial or temporary fabrics. Their partitions are of paper, requiring to be renewed every year. A similar observation may be made concerning their implements of husbandry, and other utensils. They are almost entirely of wood, the metals entering but very sparingly into their construction; consequently they soon wear out, and require frequent renewals. A greater degree of strength in the effective desire of accumulation, would cause them to be constructed of materials requiring a greater present expenditure but being far more durable. From the same cause, much land, that in other countries would be cultivated, lies waste. All travellers take notice of large tracts of klandsk, chiefly swamps, which continue in a state of nature. To bring a swamp into tillage is generally a process, to complete which, requires several years. It must be previously drained, the surface long exposed to the sun, and many operations performed, before it can be made capable of bearing a crop. Though yielding, probably, a very Edition: current; Page: [168] considerable return for the labour bestowed on it, that return is not made until a long time has elapsed. The cultivation of such land implies a greater strength of the effective desire of accumulation than exists in the empire.

“The produce of the harvest is, as we have remarked, always an instrument of some order or another; it is a provision for future want, and regulated by the same laws as those to which other means of attaining a similar end conform. It is there chiefly rice, of which there are two harvests, the one in June, the other in October. The period then of eight months between October and June, is that for which provision is made each year, and the different estimate they make of to-day and this day eight months will appear in the self-denial they practise now, in order to guard against want then. The amount of this self-denial would seem to be small. The father Parennin, indeed, (who seems to have been one of the most intelligent of the Jesuits, and spent a long life among the Chinese of all classes,) asserts, that it is their great deficiency in forethought and frugality in this respect, which is the cause of the scarcities and famines that frequently occur.”

That it is defect of providence, not defect of industry, that limits production among the Chinese, is still more obvious than in the case of the semi-agriculturized Indians. “Where the returns are quick, where the instruments formed require but little time to bring the events for which they were formed to an issue,” it is well known that “the great progress which has been made in the knowledge of the arts suited to the nature of the country and the wants of its inhabitants” makes industry energetic and effective. “The warmth of the climate, the natural fertility of the country, the knowledge which the inhabitants have acquired of the arts of agriculture, and the discovery and gradual adaptation to every soil of the most useful vegetable productions, enable them very speedily to draw from almost any part of the surface, what is there esteemed an equivalent to much more than the labour bestowed in tilling and cropping it. They have commonly double, sometimes treble harvests. These, when they consist of a grain so productive as rice, the usual crop, can scarce fail to yield to their skill, from almost any portion of soil that can be at once brought into culture, very ample returns. Accordingly there is no spot that labour can immediately bring under cultivation that is not made to yield to it. Hills, even mountains, are ascended and formed into terraces; and water, in that country the great productive agent, is led to every part by drains, or carried up to it by the ingenious and simple hydraulic machines which have been in use from time immemorial among this singular people. They effect this the more easily, from the soil, even in these situations, being very deep and covered with much vegetable mould. But what yet more than this marks the readiness with which labour is forced to form the most difficult materials into instruments, Edition: current; Page: [169] where these instruments soon bring to an issue the events for which they are formed, is the frequent occurrence on many of their lakes and rivers, of structures resembling the floating gardens of the Peruvians, rafts covered with vegetable soil and cultivated. Labour in this way draws from the materials on which it acts very speedy returns. Nothing can exceed the luxuriance of vegetation when the quickening powers of a genial sun are ministered to by a rich soil and abundant moisture. It is otherwise, as we have seen, in cases where the lreturnl, though copious, is distant. European travellers are surprised at meeting these little floating farms by the side of swamps which only require draining to render them tillable. It seems to them strange that labour should not rather be bestowed on the solid earth, where its fruits might endure, than on structures that must decay and perish in a few years. The people they are among think not so much of future years as of the present time. The effective desire of accumulation is of very different strength in the one, from what it is in the other. The views of the European extend to a distant futurity, and he is surprised at the Chinese, condemned through improvidence, and want of sufficient prospective care, to incessant toil, and as he thinks, insufferable wretchedness. The views of the Chinese are confined to narrower bounds; he is content mto live from day to day, and has learnt to conceive even a life of toil a blessing.”*

When a country has carried production as far as in the existing state of knowledge it can be carried with an amount of return corresponding to the average strength of the effective desire of accumulation in that country, it has reached what is called the stationary state; the state in which no further addition will be made to capital, unless there takes place either some improvement in the arts of production, or an increase in the strength of the desire to accumulate. In the stationary state, though capital does not on the whole increase, some persons grow richer and others poorer. Those whose degree of providence is below the usual standard, become impoverished, their capital perishes, and makes room for the savings of those whose effective desire of accumulation exceeds the average. These become the natural purchasers of the lands, manufactories, and other instruments of production owned by their less provident countrymen.

What the causes are which make the return to capital greater in one country than in another, and which, in certain circumstances, make it impossible for any additional capital to find investment unless at diminished returns, will appear clearly hereafter. In China, if that country has really attained, as it is supposed to have done, the stationary state, accumulation has stopped when the returns to capital are still as high as is indicated by a rate of interest legally twelve per cent, and practically varying (it is said) Edition: current; Page: [170] between eighteen and thirty-six. It is to be presumed therefore that no greater amount of capital than the country already possesses, can find employment at this high rate of profit, and that any lower rate does not hold out to a Chinese sufficient temptation to induce him to abstain from present enjoyment. What a contrast with Holland, where, during the most flourishing period of its history, the government was able habitually to borrow at two per cent, and private individuals, on good security, at three. Since China is not a country like Burmah or the native states of India, where an enormous interest is but an indispensable compensation for the risk incurred from the bad faith or poverty of the state, and of almost all private borrowers; the fact, if fact it be, that the increase of capital has come to a stand while the returns to it are still so large, denotes a much less degree of the effective desire of accumulation, in other words a much lower estimate of the future relatively to the present, than that of most European nations.

§ 4. [Exemplification of excess in the strength of the desire of accumulation] We have hitherto spoken of countries in which the average strength of the desire to accumulate is short of that which, aina circumstances of any tolerable security, reason and sober calculation would approve. We have now to speak of others in which it decidedly surpasses that standard. In the more prosperous countries of Europe, bthere are to be found abundance of prodigals;b in some of them (and in none more than cEngland) the ordinary degree of economy and providence among those who live by manual labour cannot be considered high: still, in a very numerous portion of the community, the professional, manufacturing, and trading classes, being those who, generally speaking, unite more of the means with more of the motives for saving than any other class, the spirit of accumulation is so strong, that the signs of rapidly increasing wealth meet every eye: and the great amount of capital seeking investment excites astonishment, whenever peculiar circumstances turning much of it into some one channel, such as railway construction or foreign speculative adventure, dbringd the largeness of the total amount into evidence.

There are many circumstances, which, in England, give a peculiar force to the accumulating propensity. The long exemption of the country from the ravages of war, and the far earlier period than elsewhere at which property was secure from military violence or arbitrary spoliation, have produced a long-standing and hereditary confidence in the safety of funds when trusted out of the owner’s hands, which in most other countries is of much more Edition: current; Page: [171] recent origin, and less firmly established. The geographical causes which have made industry rather than war the natural source of power and importance to Great Britain, have turned an unusual proportion of the most enterprising and energetic characters into the direction of manufactures and commerce; into supplying their wants and gratifying their ambition by producing and saving, rather than by appropriating what has been produced and saved. Much also depended on the better political institutions of this country, which by the scope they have allowed to individual freedom of action, have encouraged personal activity and self-reliance, while by the liberty they confer of association and combination, they facilitate industrial enterprise on a large scale. The same institutions in another of their aspects, give a most direct and potent stimulus to the desire of acquiring wealth. The earlier decline of feudalism having removed or much weakened einvidious distinctions between the originally trading classes and those who had been accustomed to despise them; and a polity having grown up which made wealth the real source of political influence; its acquisition was invested with a ffactitiousf value, independent of its intrinsic utility. It became synonymous with power; and since power with the common herd of mankind gives power, wealth became the chief source of personal consideration, and the measure and stamp of success in life. To get out of goneg rank in society into the next above it, is the great aim of English hmiddle-classh life, and the acquisition of wealth the means. And inasmuch as to be rich without industry, ihas always hitherto constitutedi a step in the social scale above those who are rich by means of industry, it becomes the object of ambition to save not merely as much as will afford a large income while in business, but enough to retire from business and live in affluence on realized gains. These causes fhave, in England, beenf greatly aided by that extreme kincapacity of the people fork personal enjoyment, which is a characteristic of lcountries over which puritanism has passed. But if accumulation is, on one hand, rendered easier by the absence of a taste for pleasure, it is, on the other, made more difficult by the presence of a very real taste for expense. So strong is the association between personal consequence and the signs of wealth, that the silly desire for the appearance of a large expenditure mhas the force ofm a passion, among large classes of a nation which derives less pleasure than perhaps any other in the world from what it Edition: current; Page: [172] spends. Owing to this circumstance, the effective desire of accumulation has never reached so high a pitch in England as it did in Holland, where, there being no rich idle class to set the example of a reckless expenditure, and the mercantile classes, who possessed the substantial power on which social influence always waits, being left to establish their own scale of living and standard of propriety, their habits remained frugal and unostentatious.

In England and Holland, then, for a long time past, and now in most other countries ninn Europe (which are rapidly following England in the same race), the desire of accumulation does not require, to make it effective, the copious returns which it requires in Asia, but is sufficiently called into action by a rate of profit so low, that instead of slackening, accumulation seems now to proceed more rapidly than ever; and the second requisite of increased production, increase of capital, shows no tendency to become deficient. So far as that element is concerned, production is susceptible of an increase without any assignable bounds.

oThe progress of accumulation would no doubt be considerably checked, if the returns to capital were to be reduced still lower than at present. But why should any possible increase of capital have that effect? This question carries the mind forward to the remaining one of the three requisites of production. The limitation to production, not consisting in any necessary limit to the increase of the other two elements, labour and capital, must turn upon the properties of the only element which is inherently, and in itself, limited in quantity. It must depend on the properties of land.

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CHAPTER XII: Of the Law of the Increase of Production from Land

§ 1. [The limited quantity and limited productiveness of land are the real limits to production] Land differs from the other elements of production, labour and capital, in not being susceptible of indefinite increase. Its extent is limited, and the extent of the more productive kinds of it more limited still. It is also evident that the quantity of produce capable of being raised on any given piece of land is not indefinite. This limited quantity of land, and limited productiveness of it, are the real limits to the increase of production.

That they are the ultimate limits, must always have been clearly seen. But since the final barrier has never in any instance been reached; since there is no country in which all the land, capable of yielding food, is so highly cultivated that a larger produce could not (even without supposing any fresh advance in agricultural knowledge) be obtained from it, and since a large portion of the earth’s surface still remains entirely uncultivated; it is commonly thought, and is very natural at first to suppose, that for the present all limitation of production or population from this source is at an indefinite distance, and that ages must elapse before any practical necessity arises for taking the limiting principle into serious consideration.

I apprehend this to be not only an error, but the most serious one, to be found in the whole field of political economy. The question is more important and fundamental than any other; it involves the whole subject of the causes of poverty, in a rich and industrious community: and unless this one matter be thoroughly understood, it is to no purpose proceeding any further in our inquiry.

§ 2. [The law of production from the soil is a law of diminishing return in proportion to the increased application of labour and capital] The limitation to production from the properties of the soil, is not like the obstacle opposed by a wall, which stands immovable in one particular spot, and offers no hindrance to motion short of stopping it entirely. We may rather compare it to a highly elastic and extensible band, which is Edition: current; Page: [174] hardly ever so violently stretched that it could not possibly be stretched any more, yet the pressure of which is felt long before the final limit is reached, and felt more severely the nearer that limit is approached.

After a certain, and not very advanced, stage in the progress of aagriculture, ita is the law of production from the land, that in any given state of agricultural skill and knowledge, by increasing the labour, the produce is not increased in an equal degree; doubling the labour does not double the produce; or, to express the same thing in other words, every increase of produce is obtained by a more than proportional increase in the application of labour to the land.

This general law of agricultural industry is the most important proposition in political economy. Were the law different, nearly all the phenomena of the production and distribution of wealth would be other than they are. The most fundamental errors which still prevail on our subject, result from not perceiving this law at work underneath the more superficial agencies on which attention fixes itself; but mistaking those agencies for the ultimate causes of effects of which they may influence the form and mode, but of which it alone determines the essence.

When, for the purpose of raising an increase of produce, recourse is had to inferior land, it is evident that, so far, the produce does not increase in the same proportion with the labour. The very meaning of inferior land, is land which with equal labour returns a smaller amount of produce. Land may be inferior either in fertility or in situation. The one requires a greater proportional amount of labour for growing the produce, the other for carrying it to market. If the land A yields a thousand quarters of wheat, to a given outlay in wages, manure, &c., and in order to raise another thousand recourse must be had to the land B, which is either less fertile or more distant from the market, the two thousand quarters will cost more than twice as much labour as the original thousand, and the produce of agriculture will be increased in a less ratio than the labour employed in procuring it.

Instead of cultivating the land B, it would be possible, by higher cultivation, to make the land A produce more. It might be ploughed or harrowed twice instead of once, or three times instead of twice; it might be dug instead of being ploughed; after ploughing, it might be gone over with a hoe instead of a harrow, and the soil more completely pulverized; it might be oftener or more thoroughly weeded; bthe implements used might be of higher finish, corc more elaborate construction; a greater quantity or more Edition: current; Page: [175] expensive kinds of manure might be applied, or when applied, they might be more carefully mixed and incorporated with the soil. These are some of the modes by which the same land may be made to yield a greater produce; and when a greater produce must be had, some of these are among the means usually employed for obtaining it. But, that it is obtained at a more than proportional increase of expense, is evident from the fact that inferior lands are cultivated. Inferior lands, or lands at a greater distance from the market, of course yield an inferior return, and an increasing demand cannot be supplied from them unless at an augmentation of cost, and therefore of price. If the additional demand could continue to be supplied from the superior lands, by applying additional labour and capital, at no greater proportional cost than that at which they yield the quantity first demanded of them, the owners or farmers of those lands could undersell all others, and engross the whole market. Lands of a lower degree of fertility or in a more remote situation, might indeed be cultivated by their proprietors, for the sake of subsistence or independence; but it never could be the interest of any one to farm them for profit. That a profit can be made from them, sufficient to attract capital to such an investment, is a proof that cultivation on the more eligible lands has reached a point, beyond which any greater application of labour and capital would yield, at the best, no greater return than can be obtained at the same expense from less fertile or less favourably situated lands.

The careful cultivation of a well-farmed district of England or Scotland is a symptom and an effect of the more unfavourable terms which the land has begun to exact for any increase of its fruits. Such elaborate cultivation costs much more in proportion, and requires a higher price to render it profitable, than farming on a more superficial system; and would not be adopted if access could be had to land of equal fertility, previously unoccupied. Where there is the choice of raising the increasing supply which society requires, from fresh land of as good quality as that already cultivated, no attempt is made to extract from land anything approaching to what it will yield on what are esteemed the best European modes of dcultivatingd. The land is tasked up to the point at which the greatest return is obtained in proportion to the labour employed, but no further: any additional labour is carried elsewhere. “It is long,” says ean intelligent travellere in the United States,* “before an English eye becomes reconciled Edition: current; Page: [176] to the lightness of the crops and the careless farming (as we should call it) which is apparent. One forgets that where land is so plentiful and labour so dear as it is here, a totally different principle must be pursued to that which prevails in populous countries, and that the consequence will of course be a want of tidiness, as it were, and finish, about everything which requires labour.” fOf the two causes mentioned, the plentifulness of land seems to me the true explanation, rather than the dearness of labourf; for, however dear labour may be, when food is wanted, labour will always be applied to producing it in preference to anything else. But this labour is more effective for its end by being applied to fresh soil, than if it were employed in bringing the soil already occupied into higher cultivation. Only when no soils remain to be broken up but such as either from distance or inferior quality require a considerable rise of price to render their cultivation profitable, can it become advantageous to apply the high farming of Europe to any American lands; except, perhaps, in the immediate vicinity of towns, where saving in cost of carriage may compensate for great inferiority in the return from the soil itself. As American farming is to English, so is the gordinaryg English to that of Flanders, Tuscany, or the Terra di Lavoro; where by the application of a far greater quantity of labour there is obtained a considerably larger gross produce, but on such terms as would never be advantageous to a mere speculator for profit, unless made so by much higher hprices of agricultural produce.

The principle which has now been stated must be received, no doubt, with certain explanations and limitations. Even after the land is so highly cultivated that the mere application of additional labour, or iofi an additional amount of ordinary dressing, would yield no return proportioned to the expense, it may still happen that the application of a much greater additional labour and capital to improving the soil itself, by draining or permanent manures, would be as liberally remunerated by the produce, as any portion of the labour and capital already employed. It would sometimes be much more amply remunerated. This could not be, if capital always sought and found the most advantageous employment; but if the most advantageous employment has to wait longest for its remuneration, it is only in a rather advanced stage of industrial development that the preference will be given to it; and even in that advanced stage, the laws or usages connected with property in land and the tenure of farms, are often such as to prevent the disposable capital of the country from flowing freely into the channel of agricultural improvement: and hence the increased Edition: current; Page: [177] supply, required by increasing population, is sometimes raised at an augmenting cost by higher cultivation, when the means of producing it without increase of cost are known and accessible. There can be no doubt, that if capital were forthcoming to execute, within the next year, all known and recognised improvements in the land foff the United Kingdom which would pay kat the existing prices, that is, which would increase the produce in as great or a greater ratio than the expense; the result would be such (especially if we include Ireland in the supposition) that inferior land would not for a long time require to be brought under tillage: probably a considerable part of the less productive lands now cultivated, which are not particularly favoured by situation, would go out of culture; or (as the improvements in question are not so much applicable to good land, but operate rather by converting bad land into good) the contraction of cultivation might principally take place by a less high dressing and less elaborate tilling of land generally; a falling back to something nearer the character of American farming; such only of the poor lands being altogether abandoned as were not found susceptible of improvement. And thus the aggregate produce of the whole cultivated land would bear a larger proportion than before to the labour expended on it; and the general law of diminishing return from land would have undergone, to that extent, a temporary supersession. No one, however, can suppose that even in these circumstances, the whole produce required for the country could be raised exclusively from the best lands, together with those possessing advantages of situation to place them on a par with the best. Much would undoubtedly continue to be produced under less advantageous conditions, and with a smaller proportional return, than that obtained from the best soils and situations. And lin proportion as the further increase of population requiredl a still greater addition to the supply, the general law would resume its course, and the further augmentation would be obtained at a more than proportionate expense of labour and capital.

§ 3. [Antagonist principle to the law of diminishing return; the progress of improvements in production] That the produce of land increases, cæteris paribus, in a diminishing ratio to the increase in the labour employed, is aa truth more often ignored or disregarded than actually Edition: current; Page: [178] denied. It has, however, met with a direct impugner in the well-known American political economist, Mr. H. C. Carey, who maintains that the real law of agricultural industry is the very reverse; the produce increasing in a greater ratio than the labour, or in other words affording to labour a perpetually increasing return. To substantiate this assertion, he argues that cultivation does not begin with the better soils, and extend from them, as the demand increases, to the poorer, but begins with the poorer, and does not, till long after, extend itself to the more fertile. Settlers in a new country invariably commence on the high and thin lands; the rich but swampy soils of the river bottoms cannot at first be brought into cultivation, by reason of their unhealthiness, and of the great and prolonged labour required for clearing and draining them. As population and wealth increase, cultivation travels down the hill sides, clearing them as it goes, and the most fertile soils, those of the low grounds, are generally (he even says universally) the latest cultivated. These propositions, with the inferences which Mr. Carey draws from them, are set forth at much length in his latest and most elaborate treatise, “Principles of Social Science;” and he considers them as subverting the very foundation of what he calls the English political economy, with all its practical consequences, especially the doctrine of free trade.

As far as words go, Mr. Carey has a good case against several of the highest authorities in political economy, who certainly did enunciate in too universal a manner the law which they laid down, not remarking that it is not true of the first cultivation in a newly settled country. Where population is thin and capital scanty, land which requires a large outlay to render it fit for tillage must remain untilled; though such lands, when their time has come, often yield a greater produce than those earlier cultivated, not only absolutely, but proportionally to the labour employed, even if we include that which had been expended in originally fitting them for culture. But it is not pretended that the law of diminishing return was operative from the very beginning of society: and though some political economists may have believed it to come into operation earlier than it does, it begins quite early enough to support the conclusions they founded on it. Mr. Carey will hardly assert that in any old country—in England or France, for example—the lands left waste are, or have for centuries been, more naturally fertile than Edition: current; Page: [179] those under tillage. Judging even by his own imperfect test, that of local situation—how imperfect I need not stop to point out—is it true that in England or France at the present day the uncultivated part of the soil consists of the plains and valleys, and the cultivated, of the hills? Every one knows, on the contrary, that it is the high lands and thin soils which are left to nature, and when the progress of population demands an increase of cultivation, the extension is from the plains to the hills. Once in a century, perhaps, a Bedford Level may be drained, or a Lake of Harlem pumped out: but these are slight and transient exceptions to the normal progress of things; and in old countries which are at all advanced in civilization, little of this sort remains to be done.*

Mr. Carey himself unconsciously bears the strongest testimony to the reality of the law he contends against: for one of the propositions most strenuously maintained by him is, that the raw products of the soil, in an advancing community, steadily tend to rise in price. Now, the most elementary truths of political economy show that this could not happen, unless the cost of production, measured in labour, of those products, tended to rise. If the application of additional labour to the land was, as a general rule, attended with an increase in the proportional return, the price of produce, instead of rising, must necessarily fall as society advances, unless the cost of production of gold and silver fell still more: a case so rare, that there are only two periods in all history when it is known to have taken place; the one, that which followed the opening of the Mexican and Peruvian mines; the other, that in which we now live. At all known periods, except these two, the cost of production of the precious metals has been either stationary or rising. If, therefore, it be true that the tendency of agricultural produce is to rise in money price as wealth and population increase, there needs no other evidence that the labour required for raising it from the soil tends to augment when a greater quantity is demanded.

I do not go so far as Mr. Carey: I do not assert that the cost of production, and consequently the price, of agricultural produce, always and necessarily rises as population increases. It tends to do so; but the tendency may be, and sometimes is, even during long periods, held in check. The effect does not depend on a single principle, but on two antagonizing principles. There is another agencya, in habitual antagonism to the law of diminishing return from land; and to the consideration of this we shall now proceed. It is no other than the progress of civilization. I use this general Edition: current; Page: [180] and somewhat vague expression, because the things to be included are so various, that hardly any term of a more restricted signification would comprehend them all.

Of these, the most obvious is the progress of agricultural knowledge, skill, and invention. Improved processes of agriculture are of two kinds: some enable the land to yield a greater absolute produce, without an equivalent increase of labour; others have not the power of increasing the produce, but have that of diminishing the labour and expense by which it is obtained. Among the first are to be reckoned the disuse of fallows, by means of the rotation of crops; and the introduction of new articles of cultivation capable of entering advantageously into the rotation. The change made in British agriculture towards the close of the last century, by the introduction of turnip husbandry, is spoken of as amounting to a revolution. These improvements operate not only by enabling the land to produce a crop every year, instead of remaining idle one year in every two or three to renovate its powers, but also by direct increase of its productiveness; since the great addition made to the number of cattle by the increase of their food, affords more abundant manure to fertilize the corn lands. Next in order comes the introduction of new articles of food, containing a greater amount of sustenance, like the potato, or more productive species or varieties of the same plant, such as the Swedish turnip. In the same class of improvements must be placed a better knowledge of the properties of manures, and of the most effectual bmodesb of applying them; the introduction of new and more powerful fertilizing agents, such as guano, and the conversion to the same purpose, of substances previously wasted; inventions like subsoil-ploughing or tile-drainingc; improvements in the breed or feeding of labouring cattle; augmented stock of the animals which consume and convert into human food what would otherwise be wasted; and the like. The other sort of improvements, those which diminish labour, but without increasing the capacity of the land to produce, are such as the improved construction of tools; the introduction of new instruments which spare manual labour, as the winnowing and threshing machines; a more skilful and economical application of muscular exertion, such as the introduction, so slowly accomplished in England, of Scotch ploughing, with two horses abreast and one man, instead of three or four horses in a team and two men, &c. These improvements do not add to the productiveness of the land, but they are equally calculated with the former to counteract the tendency in the cost of production of agricultural produce, to rise with the progress of population and demand.

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Analogous in effect to this second class of agricultural improvements, are improved means of communication. Good roads are equivalent to good tools. It is of no consequence whether the economy of labour takes place in extracting the produce from the soil, or in conveying it to the place where it is to be consumed. Not to say in addition, that the labour of cultivation itself is diminished by whatever lessens the cost of bringing manure from a distance, or facilitates the many operations of transport from place to place which occur within the bounds of the farm. Railways and canals are virtually a diminution of the cost of production of all things sent to market by them; and literally so of all those, the appliances and aids for producing which, they serve to transmit. By their means land can be cultivated, which dcouldd not otherwise have remunerated the cultivators without a rise of price. Improvements in navigation have, with respect to food or materials brought from beyond sea, a corresponding effect.

From similar considerations, it appears that many purely mechanical improvements, which ehave, apparently at least,e no peculiar connexion with agriculture, nevertheless enable a given amount of food to be obtained with a smaller expenditure of labour. A great improvement in the process of smelting iron, would tend to cheapen agricultural implements, diminish the cost of railroads, of waggons and carts, ships, and perhaps buildings, and many other things to which iron is not at present applied, because it is too costly; and would thence diminish the cost of production of ffood. The same effect would follow from gang improvement in those processes of what may be termed manufacture, to which the material of food is subjected after it is separated from the ground. The first application of wind or water power to grind corn, tended to cheapen bread as much as a very important discovery in agriculture would have done; and any great improvement in the construction of corn-mills, would have, in proportion, a similar influence. The effects of cheapening locomotion have been already considered. There are also engineering inventions which facilitate all great operations on the earth’s surface. An improvement in the art of taking levels is of importance to draining, not to mention canal and railway making. The fens of Holland, and of some parts of England, are drained by pumps worked by the wind or by steam. Where hcanalsh of irrigation, or where tanks or embankments are necessary, mechanical skill is a great resource for cheapening production.

Those manufacturing improvements which cannot be made instrumental to facilitate, in any of its stages, the actual production of food, and therefore do not help to counteract or retard the diminution of the proportional return Edition: current; Page: [182] to labour from the soil, have, however, another effect, which is practically equivalent. What they do not prevent, they yet, in some degree, compensate for.

The materials of imanufacturei being all drawn from the land, and many of them from agriculture, which supplies in particular the entire material of clothing; the general law of production from the land, the law of diminishing return, must in the last resort be applicable to manufacturing as well as to agricultural jhistoryj. As population increases, and the power of the land to yield increased produce is strained harder and harder, any additional supply of material, as well as of food, must be obtained by a more than proportionally increasing expenditure of labour. But the cost of the material kforming generally a very small portion of the entire cost of the manufacture,k the agricultural labour concerned in the production of manufactured goods is but a small fraction of the whole labour worked up in the commodity. All the rest of the labour tends constantly and strongly towards diminution, as the amount of production increases. Manufactures are vastly more susceptible than agriculture, of mechanical improvements, and contrivances for saving labour; and it has already been seen how greatly the division of labour, and its skilful and economical distribution, depend on the extent of the market, and on the possibility of production in large masses. In manufactures, accordingly, the causes tending to increase the productiveness of industry, preponderate greatly over the one cause which tends to diminish it: and the increase of production, called forth by the progress of society, takes place, not at an increasing, but latl a continually diminishing proportional cost. This fact has manifested itself in the progressive fall of the prices and values of almost every kind of manufactured goods during two centuries past; a fall accelerated by the mechanical inventions of the last mseventy or eightym years, and susceptible of being prolonged and extended beyond any limit which it would be safe to specify.

Now it is quite conceivable that the efficiency of agricultural labour might be undergoing, with the increase of produce, a gradual diminution; that the price of food, in consequence, might be progressively rising, and an ever growing proportion of the population might be needed to raise food for the whole; while yet the productive power of labour in all other branches of industry might be so rapidly augmenting, that the required amount of labour could be spared from manufactures, and nevertheless a greater produce be obtained, and the aggregate wants of the community be on the whole better supplied, than before. The benefit might even extend to the Edition: current; Page: [183] poorest class. The increased cheapness of clothing and lodging might make up to them for the augmented cost of their food.

There is, thus, no possible improvement in the arts of production which does not in one or another mode exercise an antagonist influence to the law of diminishing return to agricultural labour. Nor is it only industrial improvements which have this effect. Improvements in government, and almost every kind of moral and social nadvancementn, operate in the same omannero. Suppose a country in the condition of France before the Revolution: taxation imposed palmostp exclusively on the qindustrialq classes, and on such a principle as to be an actual penalty on production; and no redress obtainable for any injury to property or person, when inflicted by people of rank, or court influence. Was not the hurricane which swept away this system of things, even if we look no further than to its effect in augmenting the productiveness of labour, equivalent to many industrial inventions? The removal of a fiscal burthen on agriculture, such as rtithe, has the same effect as if the labour necessary for obtaining the existing produce were suddenly reduced one-tenth. The abolition of corn laws, or of any other restrictions which prevent commodities from being produced where sthe cost of theirs production is lowest, amounts to a vast improvement in production. When fertile land, previously reserved as hunting ground, or for any other purpose of amusement, is set free for culture, the aggregate productiveness of agricultural industry is increased. It is well known what has been the effect in England of badly administered poor laws, and the still worse effect in Ireland of a bad system of tenancy, in rendering agricultural labour slack and ineffective. No improvements toperatet more directly upon the productiveness of labour, than those in the tenure of farms, and in the laws relating to landed property. The breaking up of entails, the cheapening of the transfer of property, and whatever else promotes the natural tendency of land in a system of freedom, to pass out of hands which can make little of it into those which can make more; the substitution of long leases for tenancy at will, and of any tolerable system of tenancy whatever for the wretched cottier system; above all, the acquisition of a upermanentu interest in the soil by the cultivators of it; all these things are as real, and some of them as great, improvements in production, as the invention of the spinning-jenny or the steam-engine.

We may say the same of improvements in education. The intelligence of the workman is a most important element in the productiveness of labour. So low, in some of the most civilized countries, is the present standard Edition: current; Page: [184] of vintelligence, that there is hardly any source from which a more indefinite amount of improvement may be looked for in productive power, than by endowing with brains those who now have only hands. The carefulness, economy, and general trustworthiness of labourers are as important as their intelligence. Friendly relations, and a community of interest and feeling between labourers and employers, are eminently so: I should rather say, would be: for I know not where any such sentiment of friendly alliance now exists. Nor is it only in the labouring class that improvement of mind and character operates with beneficial effect even on industry. In the rich and idle classes, increased mental energy, more solid instruction, and stronger feelings of wconscience, public spiritw, or philanthropy, would qualify them to originate and promote the most valuable improvements, both in the economical resources of their country, and in its institutions and customs. To look no further than the most obvious phenomena; the backwardness of French agriculture in the precise points in which benefit might be expected from the influence of an educated class, is partly accounted for by the exclusive devotion of the richer landed proprietors to town interests and town pleasures. There is scarcely any possible amelioration of human affairs which would not, among its other benefits, have a favourable operation, direct or indirect, upon the productiveness of industry. The intensity of devotion to industrial occupations would indeed in many cases be moderated by a more liberal and genial mental culture, but the labour actually bestowed on those occupations would almost always be rendered more effective.

xBefore pointing out the principal inferences to be drawnx from the nature of the two antagonist forces by which the productiveness of agricultural industry is determined, we must observe that what we have said of agriculture, is true with little variation, of the other occupations which it represents; of all the arts which extract materials from the globe. Mining industry, for example, usually yields an increase of produce at a more than proportional increase of expense. It does worse, for even its customary annual produce requires to be extracted by a greater and greater expenditure of labour and capital. As a mine does not reproduce the coal or yore taken from it, not only are all mines at last exhausted, but even when they as yet show no signs of exhaustion, they must be worked at za continuallyz increasing cost; shafts must be sunk deeper, galleries driven farther, greater power applied to keep them clear of water; the produce must be lifted from a greater depth, or conveyed a greater distance. The law of diminishing return applies therefore to mining, in a still more unqualified sense than to Edition: current; Page: [185] agriculture: but the antagonizing agency, that of improvements in production, also applies in a still greater degree. Mining operations are more susceptible of mechanical improvements than agricultural: the first great application of the steam-engine was to mining; and there are unlimited possibilities of improvement in the chemical processes by which the metals are extracted. There is another contingency, of no unfrequent occurrence, which avails to counterbalance the progress of all existing mines towards exhaustion: this is, the discovery of new ones, equal or superior in richness.

To resume; all natural agents which are limited in quantity, are not only limited in their ultimate productive power, but, long before that power is stretched to the utmost, they yield to any additional demands on progressively harder terms. This law may however be suspended, or temporarily controlled, by whatever adds to the general power of mankind over nature; and especially by any extension of their knowledge, and their consequent command, of the properties and powers of natural agents.

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CHAPTER XIII: Consequences of the Foregoing Laws

§ 1. [Remedies when the limit to production is the weakness of the principle of accumulation] From the preceding exposition it appears that the limit to the increase of production is two-fold; from deficiency of capital, or of land. Production comes to a pause, either because the effective desire of accumulation is not sufficient to give rise to any further increase of capital, or because, however disposed the possessors of surplus income may be to save a portion of it, the limited land at the disposal of the community does not permit additional capital to be employed with such a return, as would be an equivalent to them for their abstinence.

In countries where the principle of accumulation is as weak as it is in the various nations of Asia; where people will neither save, nor work to obtain the means of saving, unless under the inducement of enormously high profits, nor even then if it is necessary to wait aa considerable time for them; where either productions remain scanty, or drudgery great, because there is neither capital forthcoming nor forethought sufficient for the adoption of the contrivances by which natural agents are made to do the work of human labour; the desideratum for such a country, economically considered, is an increase of industry, and of the effective desire of accumulation. The means are, first, a better government: more complete security of property; moderate taxes, and freedom from arbitrary exaction under the name of taxes; a more permanent and more advantageous tenure of land, securing to the cultivator as far as possible the undivided benefits of the industry, skill, and economy he may exert. Secondly, improvement of the public intelligence: the decay of usages or superstitions which interfere with the effective employment of industry; and the growth of bmental activity, making the people alive to new objects of desire. Thirdly, the introduction of foreign arts, which raise the returns derivable from additional capital, to a rate corresponding to the low strength of the desire of accumulation: and the importation of foreign capital, which renders the increase of production Edition: current; Page: [187] no longer exclusively dependent on the thrift or providence of the inhabitants themselves, while it places before them a stimulating example, and by instilling new ideas and breaking the chains of habit, if not by improving the actual condition of the population, tends to create in them new wants, increased ambition, and greater thought for the future. These considerations apply more or less to all the Asiatic populations, and to the less civilized and industrious parts of Europe, as Russia, cTurkeyc, Spain, and Ireland.

§ 2. [Necessity of restraining population not confined to a state of inequality of property] But there are other countries, and England is at the head of them, in which neither the spirit of industry nor the effective desire of accumulation need any encouragement; where the people will toil hard for a small remuneration, and save much for a small profit; where, though the general thriftiness of the labouring class is much below what is desirable, the spirit of accumulation in the more prosperous part of the community requires abatement rather than increase. In these countries there would never be any deficiency of capital, if its increase were never checked or brought to a stand by too great a diminution of its returns. It is the tendency of the returns to a progressive diminution, which causes the increase of production to be aoften attended with a deterioration in the condition of the producers; and this tendency, which would in time put an end to increase of production altogether, is a result of the necessary and inherent conditions of production from the land.

In all countries which have passed bbeyond a ratherb early stage in the progress of agriculture, every increase in the demand for food, occasioned by increased population, will always, unless there is a simultaneous improvement in production, diminish the share which on a fair division would fall to each individual. An increased production, in cdefaultc of unoccupied tracts of fertile land, dor of fresh improvements tending tod cheapen commodities, can never be obtained but by increasing the labour in more than the same proportion. The population must either work harder, or eat less, or obtain their usual food by sacrificing ea parte of their other fcustomaryf comforts. Whenever this necessity is postponed, gnotwithstanding an increase of population,g it is because the improvements which facilitate production hcontinue progressiveh; because the contrivances of mankind for Edition: current; Page: [188] making their labour more effective, keep up an equal struggle with nature, and extort fresh resources from her reluctant powers as fast as human necessities occupy and engross the old.

From this, results the important corollary, that the necessity of restraining population is not, as many persons believe, peculiar to a condition of great inequality of property. A greater number of people cannot, in any given state of civilization, be collectively so well provided for as a smaller. The niggardliness of nature, not the injustice of society, iisi the cause of the penalty attached to over-population. An unjust distribution of wealth does not even aggravate the evil, but, at most, causes it to be somewhat earlier felt. It is in vain to say, that all mouths which the increase of mankind calls into existence, bring jwith themj hands. The new mouths require as much food as the old ones, and the hands do not produce as much. If all instruments of production were held in joint property by the whole people, and the produce divided with perfect equality among them, and if, in a society thus constituted, industry were as energetic and the produce as ample as at present, there would be enough to make all the existing population extremely comfortable; but when that population had doubled itself, as, with the existing habits of the people, under such an encouragement, it undoubtedly would in little more than twenty years, what would then be their condition? Unless the arts of production were in the same time improved in kan almost unexampled degree,k the inferior soils which must be resorted to, and the more laborious and scantily remunerative cultivation which must be employed on the superior lsoilsl, to procure food for so much larger a population, would, by an insuperable necessity, render every individual in the community poorer than before. If the population continued to increase at the same rate, a time would soon arrive when no one would have more than mere necessaries, and, soon after, a time when no one would have a sufficiency of those, and the further increase of population would be arrested by death.

Whether, at the present or any other time, the produce of industry proportionally to the labour employed, is increasing or diminishing, and the average condition of the people improving or deteriorating, depends upon whether population is advancing faster than improvement, or improvement than population. After a degree of density has been attained, sufficient to allow the principal benefits of combination of labour, all further increase tends in itself to mischief, so far as regards the average condition of the people; but the progress of improvement has a counteracting operation, and Edition: current; Page: [189] allows of increased numbers without any deterioration, and even consistently with a higher average of comfort. Improvement must here be understood in a wide sense, including not only new industrial inventions, or an extended use of those already known, but improvements in institutions, education, opinions, and human affairs generally, provided they tend, as almost all improvements do, to give new motives or new facilities to production. If the productive powers of the country increase as rapidly as advancing numbers call for an augmentation of produce, it mis not necessary to obtain that augmentation by nthe cultivation ofn soils more sterile than the worst already under culture, ooro by applying additional labour to the old soils at a diminished advantage; or at all events this loss of power is compensated by the increased efficiency with which, in the progress of improvement, labour is employed in manufactures. In one way or the other, the increased population is provided for, and all are as well off as before. But if the growth of human power over nature is suspended or slackened, and population does not slacken its increase; if, with only the existing command over natural agencies, those agencies are called upon for an increased produce; pthisp greater produce will not be afforded to the increased population, without either demanding on the average a greater effort from each, or on the average reducing each to a smaller ration out of the aggregate produce.

As a matter of fact, at some periods the progress of population has been the qmoreq rapid of the two, at others that of improvement. In England during a long interval preceding the French Revolution, population increased slowly; but the progress of improvement, at least in agriculture, would seem to have been still slower, since though nothing occurred to lower the value of the precious metals, the price of corn rose considerably, and England, from an exporting, became an importing country. This evidence, however, is rshort ofr conclusive, inasmuch as the extraordinary number of abundant seasons during the first half of the centurys, not continuings during the last, was a cause of increased price in the tlatert period, uextrinsic to the ordinary progress of society. Whether during the same period improvements in manufactures, or diminished cost of imported commodities, made amends for the diminished productiveness of labour on the land, is uncertain. But ever since the great mechanical inventions of Watt, Arkwright, and their vcotemporariesv, the return to labour has probably increased as fast as the population; and would whave outstripped Edition: current; Page: [190] it, if that very augmentation of return had not called forth an additional portion of the xinherentx power of multiplication in the human species. During the ytwenty or thirtyy years last elapsed, so rapid has been the extension of improved processes of agriculture, that even the land yields a greater produce in proportion to the labour employed; the average price of corn zhad becomez decidedly lower, aeven before the repeal of the corn laws had so materially lightened, for the time being, the pressure of population upon productiona. But though improvement may during bab certain space of time keep up with, or even surpass, the actual increase of population, it assuredly never comes up to the rate of increase of which population is capable; and nothing could have prevented a general deterioration in the condition of the human race, were it not that population has in fact been restrained. Had it been restrained still more, and the same improvements taken place, there would have been a larger dividend than there now is, for the nation or the species at large. The new ground wrung from nature by the cimprovementsc would not have been all used up in the support of mere numbers. Though the gross produce would not have been so great, there would have been a greater produce per head of the population.

§ 3. [Necessity of restraining population not superseded by free trade in food] When the growth of numbers outstrips the progress of improvement, and a country is driven to obtain the means of subsistence on terms more and more unfavourable, by the inability of its land to meet additional demands except on more onerous conditions; there are two expedients by which it may hope to mitigate that disagreeable necessity, even though no change should take place in the habits of the people with respect to their rate of increase. One of these expedients is the importation of food from abroad. The other is emigration.

The admission of cheaper food from a foreign country, is equivalent to an agricultural invention by which food could be raised at a similarly diminished cost at home. It equally increases the productive power of labour. The return was before, so much food for so much labour employed in the growth of food: the return is now, a greater quantity of food, for the same labour employed in producing cottons or hardware or some other Edition: current; Page: [191] commodity, to be given in exchange for afooda. The one improvement, like the other, throws back the decline of the productive power of labour by a certain distance: but in the one case as in the other, it immediately resumes its course; the tide which has receded, instantly begins to re-advance. It might seem, indeed, that when a country draws its supply of food from so wide a surface as the whole habitable globe, so little bimpressionb can be produced on that great expanse by any increase of mouths in one small corner of it, that the inhabitants of the country may double and treble their numbers, without feeling the ceffectc in any increased tension of the springs of production, or any enhancement of the price of food throughout the world. But in this calculation several things are overlooked.

In the first place, the foreign regions from which corn can be imported do not comprise the whole globe, but those parts of it dprincipallyd which are in the immediate neighbourhood of coasts or navigable rivers. The coast is the part of most countries which is earliest and most thickly peopled, and has seldom any food to spare. The chief source of supply, therefore, is the strip of country along the banks of some navigable river, as the Nile, the Vistula, or the Mississippi; and of such there is not, in the productive regions of the earth, so great a multitude as to suffice during an indefinite time for a rapidly growing demand, without an increasing strain on the productive powers of the soil. To obtain auxiliary supplies of corn from the interior in any abundance, eise, in the existing state of the communications, fin most cases impracticablef. By improved roads, and gby canals and railways, the obstacle will eventuallyg be so reduced as not to be insuperable: but this is a slow progress; in all the food-exporting countries except America, a very slow progress; and one which cannot keep pace with population, unless the increase of the last is very effectually restrained.

In the next place, even if the supply were drawn from the whole instead of a small part of the surface of the exporting countries, the quantity of food would still be limited, which could be obtained from them without an increase of the proportional cost. The countries which export food may be divided into two classes; those in which the effective desire of accumulation is strong, and those in which it is weak. In Australia and the United States of America, the effective desire of accumulation is strong; capital increases fast, and the production of food might be very rapidly extended. Edition: current; Page: [192] But in such countries population also increases with extraordinary rapidity. Their agriculture has to provide for their own expanding numbers, as well as for those of the importing countries. They must, therefore, from the nature of the case, be rapidly driven, if not to less fertile, at least what is equivalent, to remoter and less accessible lands, and to modes of cultivation like those of old countries, less productive in proportion to the labour and expense.

But the countries which have at the same time cheap food and great industrial prosperity are few, being only those in which the arts of civilized life have been transferred full-grown to a rich and uncultivated soil. Among old countries, those which are able to export food, are able only because their industry is in a very backward state; because capital, and hence population, have never increased sufficiently to make food rise to a higher price. Such countries are Russia, Poland, and hthe plains of the Danubeh. In those regions the effective desire of accumulation is weak, the arts of production most imperfect, capital scanty, and its increase, especially from domestic sources, slow. When an increased demand arose for food to be exported to iother countriesi, it would only be very gradually that food could be produced to meet it. The capital needed could not be obtained by transfer from other employments, for such do not exist. The jcottonsj or hardware which would be received from England in exchange for corn, the Russians and Poles do not now produce in the country: they go without them. Something might in time be expected from the increased exertions to which producers would be stimulated by the market opened for their produce; but to such increase of exertion, the khabitsk of countries whose agricultural population consists of serfs, lor of peasants mwho have but just emerged from am servile condition,l are the reverse of favourable, and even in this age of movement these nhabitsn do not rapidly change. If a greater outlay of capital is relied on as the source from which the produce is to be increased, the means must either be obtained by the slow process of saving, under the impulse given by new commodities oando more extended intercourse (and in that case the population would most likely increase as fast), or must be brought in from foreign countries. If England is to obtain a rapidly increasing supply of corn from Russia or Poland, English capital must go there to produce it. This, however, is attended with so many difficulties, as are equivalent to great positive disadvantages. It is opposed by pdifferencesp of language, differences of manners, and a thousand obstacles arising from the institutions and social relations of the country; and after Edition: current; Page: [193] all it would inevitably so stimulate population on the spot, that nearly all the increase of food produced by its means would qprobablyq be consumed without leaving the country: so that, if it were not the almost only mode of introducing foreign arts and ideas, and giving an effectual spur to the backward civilization of those countries, little reliance could be placed on it for increasing the exports, and supplying other countries with a progressive and indefinite increase of food. But to improve the civilization of a country is a slow process, and gives time for so great an increase of population both in the country itself, and in those supplied from it, that its effect in keeping down the price of food against the increase of demand, is not likely to be more decisive on the scale of all Europe, than on the smaller one of a particular nation.

The law, therefore, of diminishing return to industry, whenever population makes a more rapid progress than improvement, is not solely applicable to countries which are fed from their own soil, but in substance applies quite as much to those which are willing to draw their food from any accessible quarter that can afford it cheapest. rA sudden and great cheapening of food, indeed, in whatever manner produced, would, like any other sudden improvement in the arts of life,r throw the natural tendency of affairs a stage or two further back, sthough withouts altering its course. tThere is one contingencyt connected with freedom of importation, which may uyetu produce temporary effects vgreaterv than were ever contemplated either by the bitterest enemies or the most ardent adherents of free-trade in food. Maize, or Indian corn, is a product capable of being supplied in quantity sufficient to feed the whole country, at a cost, allowing for difference of nutritive quality, cheaper even than the potato. If maize should ever substitute itself for wheat as the staple food of the poor, the productive power of labour in obtaining food would be so enormously increased, and the expense of maintaining a family so diminished, that it Edition: current; Page: [194] would require perhaps some generations for population, even if it started forward at an American pace, to overtake this great accession to the facilities of its support.

§ 4. [Necessity of restraining population not ain generala superseded by emigration] Besides the importation of corn, there is another resource which can be invoked by a nation whose increasing numbers press hard, not against their capital, but against the productive capacity of their land: I mean Emigration, especially in the form of Colonization. Of this remedy the efficacy as far as it goes is real, since it consists in seeking elsewhere those unoccupied tracts of fertile land, which if they existed at home would enable the demand of an increasing population to be met without any falling off in the productiveness of labour. Accordingly, when the region to be colonized is near at hand, and the habits and tastes of the people sufficiently migratory, this remedy is completely effectual. The migration from the older parts of the American Confederation to the new territories, which is to all intents and purposes colonization, is what enables population to go on unchecked throughout the Union without having yet diminished the return to industry, or increased the difficulty of earning a subsistence. If Australia or the interior of Canada were as near to Great Britain as Wisconsin and Iowa to New York; if the superfluous people could remove to it without bcrossing the seab, and were of as adventurous and restless a character, and as little addicted to staying at home, as their kinsfolk of New England, those unpeopled continents would render the same service to the United Kingdom which the old states of America derive from the new. But, these things being as they are—though a judiciously conducted emigration is a most important resource for suddenly lightening the pressure of population by a single effort—cand though in such an extraordinary case as that of Ireland under the threefold operation of the potato failure, the poor law, and the general turning out of tenantry throughout the country, spontaneous emigration may at a particular crisis remove greater multitudes than it was ever proposed to remove at once by any national scheme;c dit still remains to be shown by experience whether a permanent stream of emigration cand be kept up, sufficient to take off, as in America, all that portion of the annual increase (when proceeding at its greatest rapidity) which being in excess of the progress made during the same short period in the arts of life, tends to render living more difficult for every averagely-situated individual in the community. And unless this Edition: current; Page: [195] can be done, emigration cannote, even in an economical point of view,e dispense with the necessity of checks to population. Further than this we have not to speak of it in this place. The general subject of colonization as a practical question, its importance to fold countriesf, and the principles on which it should be conducted, will be gdiscussed at some length in a subsequent portion of this Treatiseg.

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CHAPTER I: Of Property

§ 1. [Introductory remarks] The principles which have been set forth in the first part of this Treatise, are, in certain respects, strongly distinguished from those, on the consideration of which we are now about to enter. The laws and conditions of the production of wealth partake of the character of physical truths. There is nothing optional or arbitrary in them. Whatever mankind produce, must be produced in the modes, and under the conditions, imposed by the constitution of external things, and by the inherent properties of their own bodily and mental structure. Whether they like it or not, their aproductionsa will be limited by the amount of their previous accumulation, and, that being given, it will be proportional to their energy, their skill, the perfection of their machinery, and their judicious use of the advantages of combined labour. Whether they like it or not, a double quantity of labour will not raise, on the same land, a double quantity of food, unless some improvement takes place in the processes of cultivation. Whether they like it or not, the unproductive expenditure of individuals will pro tanto tend to impoverish the community, and only their productive expenditure will enrich it. The opinions, or the wishes, which may exist on these different matters, do not control the things themselves. We cannot, indeed, foresee to what extent the modes of production may be altered, or the productiveness of labour increased, by future extensions of our knowledge of the laws of nature, suggesting new processes of industry of which we have at present no conception. But howsoever we may succeed in making for ourselves more space within the limits set by the constitution of things, bwe know that there must be limits. We cannot alter the ultimate properties either of matter or mind, but can only employ those properties more or less successfully, to bring about the events in which we are interestedb.

It is not so with the Distribution of Wealth. That is a matter of human institution solely. The things once there, mankind, individually or collectively, can do with them as they like. They can place them at the disposal Edition: current; Page: [200] of whomsoever they please, and on whatever terms. Further, in the social state, in every state except total solitude, any disposal whatever of them can only take place by the cconsent of societyd, or rather of those who dispose of its active forced. Even what a person has produced by his individual toil, unaided by any one, he cannot keep, unless eby the permission of societye. Not only can society take it from him, but individuals could and would take it from him, if society only remained passive; if it did not either interfere en masse, or employ and pay people for the purpose of fpreventingf him from being disturbed in the possession. The distribution of wealth, therefore, depends on the laws and customs of society. The rules by which it is determined, are what the opinions and feelings gof the ruling portiong of the community make them, and are very different in different ages and countries; and might be still more different, if mankind so chose.

The opinions and feelings of mankind, doubtless, are not a matter of chance. They are consequences of the fundamental laws of human nature, hcombined with the existing state of knowledge and experience, and the existing condition of social institutions and intellectual and moral cultureh. But the laws of the generation of human opinions are not within our present subject. They are part of the general theory of human progress, a far larger and more difficult subject of inquiry than political economy. We have here to consider, not the causes, but the consequences, of the rules according to which wealth may be distributed. Those, at least, are as little arbitrary, and have as much the character of physical laws, as the laws of production. Human beings can control their own acts, but not the consequences of their acts ieither to themselves or to othersi. Society can subject the distribution of wealth to whatever rules it thinks best: but what practical results jwillj flow from the operation of those rules, kmust be discovered, like any other physical or mental truths, by observation and reasoningk.

We proceed, then, to the consideration of the different modes of distributing the produce of land and labour, which have been adopted in practice, or may be conceived in theory. Among these, our attention is first claimed by that primary and fundamental institution, on which, unless in some exceptional and very limited cases, the economical arrangements of society have always rested, though in its secondary features it has varied, Edition: current; Page: [201] and is liable to vary. I mean, of course, the institution of individual property.

§ 2. [Statement of the question concerning Property] Private property, as an institution, did not owe its origin to any of those considerations of utility, which plead afor the maintenance of it when established. Enough is known of rude ages, both from history and from analogous states of society in our own time, to show, that tribunals (which always precede laws) were originally established, not to determine rights, but to repress violence and terminate quarrels. With this object chiefly in view, they naturally enough gave legal effect to first occupancy, by treating as the aggressor the person who first commenced violence, by turning, or attempting to turn, another out of possession. The preservation of the peace, which was the original object of civil government, was thus attained; while by confirming, to those who already possessed it, even what was not the fruit of personal exertion, a guarantee was incidentally given to them and others that they would be protected in what was so.

In considering the institution of property as a question in social philosophy, we must leave out of consideration its actual origin in any of the existing nations of Europeb. Web may suppose a community unhampered by any previous possession; a body of colonists, occupying for the first time an uninhabited country; bringing nothing with them but what belonged to them in common, and having a clear field for the adoption of the institutions and polity which they judged most expedient; crequiredc, therefore, to choose whether they would conduct the work of production on the principle of individual property, or on some system of common ownership and collective agency.

If private property were adopted, we must presume that it would be accompanied by none of the initial inequalities and injustices which obstruct the beneficial operation of the principle in old societies. Every full grown man or woman, we must suppose, would be secured in the unfettered use and disposal of his or her bodily and mental faculties; and the instruments of production, the land and tools, would be divided fairly among them, so that all might start, in respect to outward appliances, on equal terms. It is dpossible alsod to conceive that in this original apportionment, compensation might be made for the injuries of nature, and the balance redressed by assigning to the less robust members of the community advantages in the distribution, sufficient to put them on a par with the rest. But the division, once made, would not again be interfered with; individuals would be left to their own exertions and to the ordinary chances, for making Edition: current; Page: [202] an advantageous use of what was assigned to them. If individual property, on the contrary, were excluded, the plan which must be adopted would be to hold the land and all instruments of production as the joint property of the community, and to carry on the operations of industry on the common account. The direction of the labour of the community would devolve upon a magistrate or magistrates, whom we may suppose elected by the suffrages of the community, and whom we must assume to be voluntarily obeyed by them. The division of the produce would in like manner be a public act. The principle might either be that of complete equality, or of apportionment to the necessities or deserts of individuals, in whatever manner might be conformable to the ideas of justice or policy prevailing in the community.

Examples of such associations, on a small scale, are the monastic orders, the Moravians, the followers of Rapp, and others: and from the ehopes which they hold out of relief frome the miseries and iniquities of a state of much inequality of wealth, schemes for a larger application of the same idea have reappeared and become popular at all periods of active speculation on the first principles of society. In an age like the present, when a general reconsideration of all first principles is felt to be inevitable, and when fmore than at any former period of history thef suffering portions of the community have a voice in the discussion, it was impossible but that ideas of this nature should spread far and wide. gThe late revolutions in Europe have thrown up a great amount of speculation of this character, and an unusual share of attention has consequently been drawn to the various forms which these ideas have assumedh: nor is this attention likely to diminish, but on the contrary, to increase more and moreh.

The assailants of the principle of individual property may be divided into Edition: current; Page: [203] two classes: those whose scheme implies absolute equality in the distribution of the physical means of life and enjoyment, and those who admit inequality, but grounded on some principle, or supposed principle, of justice or general expediency, and not, like so many of the existing social inequalities, dependent on accident alone. At the head of the first class, as the earliest iof those belonging to the present generation, must be placed Mr. Owen and his followers. M. Louis Blanc and M. Cabet have more recently become conspicuous as apostles of similar doctrines (though the former advocates equality of distribution only as a transition to a still higher standard of jjustice, that all should work according to their capacity, and receive according to their wants). The characteristic name for this economical system is Communism, a word of continental origin, only of late introduced into this country. The word Socialism, which originated among the English Communists, and was assumed by them as a name to designate their own doctrine, is now, on the Continent, employed in a larger sense; not necessarily implying Communism, or the entire abolition of private property, but applied to any system which requires that the land and the instruments of production should be the property, not of individuals, but of communities or associations, or of the government. Among such systems, the two of highest intellectual pretension are those which, from the names of their real or kreputedk authors, have been called St. Simonism and Fourierism; the former defunct as a system, but which during the few years of its public promulgation, sowed the seeds of nearly all the Socialist tendencies which have since spread so widely in France: the second, lstilll flourishing in the number, talent, and zeal of its adherents.g

a§ 3. [Examination of Communism] Whatever may be the merits or defects of these various schemes, they cannot be truly said to be impracticable. No reasonable person can doubt that a village community, composed of a few thousand inhabitants cultivating in joint ownership the same extent of land which at present feeds that number of people, and producing by combined labour and the most improved processes the manufactured articles which they required, could raise an amount of productions sufficient to maintain them in comfort; and would find the means of obtaining, and if need be, exacting, the quantity of labour necessary for this purpose, from every member of the association who was capable of work.

The objection ordinarily made to a system of community of property Edition: current; Page: [204] and equal distribution of the produce, that each person would be incessantly occupied in evading his fair share of the work, points, undoubtedly, to a real difficulty. But those who urge this objection, forget to how bgreatb an extent the same difficulty exists under the system on which nine-tenths of the business of society is now conducted. The objection supposes, that honest and efficient labour is only to be had from those who are themselves individually to reap the benefit of their own exertions. But how small a part of all the labour performed in England, from the lowest-paid to the highest, is done by persons working for their own cbenefit.c From the Irish reaper or hodman to the chief justice or the minister of state, nearly all the work of society is remunerated by day wages or fixed salaries. A factory operative has less personal interest in his work than a member of a Communist association, since he is not, like him, working for a partnership of which he is himself a member. It will no doubt be dsaidd, that though the labourers themselves have not, in most cases, a personal interest in their work, they are watched and superintended, and their labour directed, and the mental part of the labour performed, by persons who have. Even this, however, is far from being universally the fact. In all public, and many of the largest and most successful private undertakings, not only the labours of detail but the control and superintendence are entrusted to salaried officers. And though the “master’s eye,” when the master is vigilant and intelligent, is of proverbial value, it must be remembered that in a Socialist farm or manufactory, each labourer would be under the eye not of one master, but of the whole community. In the extreme case of obstinate perseverance in not performing the due share of work, the community would have the same resources which society now has for compelling conformity to the necessary conditions of the association. Dismissal, the only remedy at present, is no remedy when any other labourer who may be engaged does no better than his predecessor: the power of dismissal only enables an employer to obtain efrom his workmene the customary amount of labour, but that customary labour may be of any degree of inefficiency. Even the labourer who loses his employment by idleness or negligence, has nothing worse to suffer, in the most unfavourable case, than the discipline of a workhouse, and if the desire to avoid this be a sufficient motive in the one system, it would be sufficient in the other. I am not undervaluing the strength of the incitement given to labour when the whole or a large share of the benefit of extra exertion belongs to the labourer. But under the present system of industry this incitement, in the great majority of cases, does not exist. If Communistic labour might be less vigorous than that of a peasant proprietor, or a workman labouring on his own account, it would Edition: current; Page: [205] probably be more energetic than that of a labourer for hire, who has no personal interest in the matter at all. The neglect by the uneducated classes of labourers for hire, of the duties which they engage to perform, is in the present state of society most flagrant. Now it is an admitted condition of the Communist scheme that all shall be educated: and this being supposed, the duties of the members of the association would doubtless be as diligently performed as those of the generality of salaried officers in the middle or higher classes; who are not supposed to be necessarily unfaithful to their trust, because so long as they are not dismissed, their pay is the same in however lax a manner their duty is fulfilled. Undoubtedly, as a general rule, remuneration by fixed salaries does not in any class of functionaries produce the maximum of zeal: and this is as much as can be reasonably alleged against Communistic labour.

That even this finferiority would necessarily existf, is by no means so certain as is assumed by those who are little used to carry their minds beyond the state of things with which they are familiar. Mankind are capable of a far greater amount of public spirit than the present age is accustomed to suppose possible. History bears witness to the success with which large bodies of human beings may be trained to feel the public interest their own. And no soil could be more favourable to the growth of such a feeling, than a Communist association, since all the ambition, and the bodily and mental activity, which are now exerted in the pursuit of separate and self-regarding interests, would require another gsphereg of employment, and would naturally find it in the pursuit of the general benefit of the community. The same cause, so often assigned in explanation of the devotion of the Catholic priest or monk to the interest of his order—that he has no interest apart from it—would, under Communism, attach the citizen to the community. And independently of the public motive, every member of the association would be amenable to the most universal, and one of the strongest, of personal motives, that of public opinion. The force of this motive in deterring from any act or omission positively reproved by the community, no one is likely to deny; but the power also of emulation, in exciting to the most strenuous exertions for the sake of the approbation and admiration of others, is borne witness to by experience in every situation in which human beings publicly compete with one another, even if it be in things frivolous, or from which the public derive no benefit. A contest, who can do most for the common good, is not the kind of competition which Socialists repudiate. To what extent, therefore, the energy of labour would be diminished by Communism, or whether in the long run it would be diminished at all, must be considered for the present an undecided question.

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Another of the objections to Communism is similar to that, so often urged against poor-laws: that if every member of the community were assured of subsistence for himself and any number of children, on the sole condition of willingness to work, prudential restraint on the multiplication of mankind would be at an end, and population would start forward at a rate which would reduce the community, through successive stages of increasing discomfort, to actual starvation. There would certainly be much ground for this apprehension if Communism provided no motives to restraint, equivalent to those which it would take away. But Communism is precisely the state of things in which opinion might be expected to declare itself with greatest intensity against this kind of selfish intemperance. Any augmentation of numbers which diminished the comfort or increased the toil of the mass, would then cause (which now it does not) immediate and unmistakeable inconvenience to every individual in the association; inconvenience which could not then be imputed to the avarice of employers, or the unjust privileges of the rich. In such altered circumstances opinion could not fail to reprobate, and if reprobation did not suffice, to repress by penalties of some description, this or any other culpable self-indulgence at the expense of the community. The Communistic scheme, instead of being peculiarly open to the objection drawn from danger of over-population, has the recommendation of tending in an especial degree to the prevention of that evil.

A more real difficulty is that of fairly apportioning the labour of the community among its members. There are many kinds of work, and by what standard are they to be measured one against another? Who is to judge how much cotton spinning, or distributing goods from the stores, or bricklaying, or chimney sweeping, is equivalent to so much ploughing? The difficulty of making the adjustment between different qualities of labour is so strongly felt by Communist writers, that they have usually thought it necessary to provide that all should work by turns at every description of useful labour: an arrangement which, by putting an end to the division of employments, would sacrifice so much of the advantage of co-operative production as greatly to diminish the productiveness of labour. Besides, even in the same kind of work, nominal equality of labour would be so great a real inequality, that hthe feeling ofh justice would revolt against its being enforced. All persons are not equally fit for all labour; and the same quantity of labour is an unequal burthen on the weak and the strong, the hardy and the delicate, the quick and ithei slow, the dull and the intelligent.

But these difficulties, though real, are not jnecessarilyj insuperable. The apportionment of work to the strength and capacities of individuals, the mitigation of a general rule to provide for cases in which it would operate Edition: current; Page: [207] harshly, are not problems to which human intelligence, guided by a sense of justice, would be inadequate. And the worst and most unjust arrangement which could be made of these points, under a system aiming at equality, would be so far short of the inequality and injustice with which labour (not to speak of remuneration) is now apportioned, as to be scarcely worth counting in the comparison. We must remember too, that Communism, as a system of society, exists only in idea; that its difficulties, at present, are much better understood than its resources; and that the intellect of mankind is only beginning to contrive the means of organizing it in detail, so as to overcome the one and derive the greatest advantage from the other.k

Ifl, therefore,l the choice were to be made between Communism with all its chances, and the present state of society with all its sufferings and injustices; if the institution of private property necessarily carried with it as a consequence, that the produce of labour should be apportioned as we now see it, almost in an inverse ratio to the labour—the largest portions to those who have never worked at all, the next largest to those whose work is almost nominal, and so in a descending scale, the remuneration dwindling as the work grows harder and more disagreeable, until the most fatiguing and exhausting bodily labour cannot count with certainty on being able to earn even the necessaries of life; if this or Communism were the alternative, all the difficulties, great or small, of Communism would be but as dust in the balance. But to make the comparison applicable, we must compare Communism at its best, with the régime of individual property, not as it is, but as it might be made. The principle of private property has never yet had a fair trial in any country; and less so, perhaps, in this country than in some others. The social arrangements of modern Europe commenced from a distribution of property which was the result, not of just partition, or acquisition by industry, but of conquest and violence: and notwithstanding what industry has been doing for many centuries to modify the work of force, the system still retains many and large traces of its origin. The laws of property have never yet conformed to the principles on which the justification of private property rests. They have made property of things which never ought to be property, and absolute property where only a qualified property ought to exist. They have not held the balance fairly between human beings, but have heaped impediments upon some, to give advantage to others; they have purposely fostered inequalities, and prevented all from starting fair in the race. That all should indeed start on perfectly equal terms, is inconsistent with any law of private property: but Edition: current; Page: [208] if as much pains as has been taken to aggravate the inequality of chances arising from the natural working of the principle, had been taken to temper that inequality by every means not subversive of the principle itself; if the tendency of legislation had been to favour the diffusion, instead of the concentration of wealth—to encourage the subdivision of the large masses, instead of striving to keep them together; the principle of individual property would have been found to have no necessary connexion with the physical and social evils which almost all Socialist writers assume to be inseparable from it.

Private property, in every defence made of it, is supposed to mean, the guarantee to individuals of the fruits of their own labour and abstinence. The guarantee to them of the fruits of the labour and abstinence of others, transmitted to them without any merit or exertion of their own, is not of the essence of the institution, but a mere incidental consequence, which, when it reaches a certain height, does not promote, but conflicts with, the ends which render private property legitimate. To judge of the final destination of the institution of property, we must suppose everything rectified, which causes the institution to work in a manner opposed to that equitable principle, of proportion between remuneration and exertion, on which in every vindication of it that will bear the light, it is assumed to be grounded. We must also suppose two conditions realized, without which neither Communism nor any other laws or institutions could make the condition of the mass of mankind other than degraded and miserable. One of these conditions is, universal education; the other, a due limitation of the numbers of the community. With these, there could be no poverty, even under the present social institutions: and these being supposed, the question of Socialism is not, as generally stated by Socialists, a question of flying to the sole refuge against the evils which now bear down humanity; but a mere question of comparative advantages, which futurity must determine. We are too ignorant either of what individual agency in its best form, or Socialism in its best form, can accomplish, to be qualified to decide which of the two will be the ultimate form of human society.

If a conjecture may be hazarded, the decision will probably depend mainly on one consideration, viz. which of the two systems is consistent with the greatest amount of human liberty and spontaneity. After the means of subsistence are assured, the next in strength of the personal wants of human beings is liberty; and (unlike the physical wants, which as civilization advances become more moderate and more amenable to control) it increases instead of diminishing in intensity, as the intelligence and the moral faculties are more developed. The perfection both of social arrangements and of practical morality would be, to secure to all persons complete independence and freedom of action, subject to no restriction but that of not Edition: current; Page: [209] doing injury to others: and the education which taught or the social institutions which required them to exchange the control of their own actions for any amount of comfort or affluence, or to renounce liberty for the sake of equality, would deprive them of one of the most elevated characteristics of human nature. It remains to be discovered how far the preservation of this characteristic would be found compatible with the Communistic organization of society. No doubt, this, like all the other objections to the Socialist schemes, is vastly exaggerated. The members of the association need not be required to live together more than they do now, nor need they be controlled in the disposal of their individual share of the produce, and of the probably large amount of leisure which, if they limited their production to things really worth producing, they would possess. Individuals need not be chained to an occupation, or to a particular locality. The restraints of Communism would be freedom in comparison with the present condition of the majority of the human race. The generality of labourers in this and most other countries, have as little choice of occupation or freedom of locomotion, are practically as dependent on fixed rules and on the will of others, as they could be on any system short of actual slavery; to say nothing of the entire domestic subjection of one half the species, to which it is the signal honour of Owenism and most other forms of Socialism that they assign equal rights, in all respects, with those of the hitherto dominant sex. But it is not by comparison with the present bad state of society that the claims of Communism can be estimated; nor is it sufficient that it should promise greater personal and mental freedom than is now enjoyed by those who have not enough of either to deserve the name. The question is, whether there would be any asylum left for individuality of character; whether public opinion would not be a tyrannical yoke; whether the absolute dependence of each on all, and surveillance of each by all, would not grind all down into a tame uniformity of thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is already one of the glaring evils of the existing state of society, notwithstanding a much greater diversity of education and pursuits, and a much less absolute dependence of the individual on the mass, than would exist in the Communistic régime. No society in which eccentricity is a matter of reproach, can be in a wholesome state. It is yet to be ascertained whether the Communistic scheme would be mconsistent withm that multiform development of human nature, those manifold unlikenesses, that diversity of tastes and talents, and variety of intellectual points of view, which not only form a great part of the interest of human life, but by bringing intellects into stimulating collision, and by presenting to each innumerable notions that he would not have conceived of himself, are the mainspring of mental and moral progression.

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§ 4. [Examination of St. Simonism and Fourierism] I have thus far confined my observations to the Communistic doctrine, which forms the extreme limit of Socialism; according to which not only the instruments of production, the land and capital, are the joint property of the community, but the produce is divided and the labour apportioned, as far as possible, equally. The objections, whether well or ill grounded, to which Socialism is liable, apply to this form of it in their greatest force. The other varieties of Socialism mainly differ from Communism, in not relying solely on what M. Louis Blanc calls the point of honour of industry, but retaining more or less of the incentives to labour derived from private pecuniary interest. Thus it is already a modification of the strict theory of Communism, when the principle is professed of proportioning remuneration to labour. The attempts which have been made ain Francea to carry Socialism into practical effect, by associations of workmen manufacturing on their own account, bmostly began by sharing the remuneration equally, without regard to the quantity of work done by the individual: but in almost every case this plan was after a short time abandoned, and recourse was had to working by the piece. The original principle appeals to a higher standard of justice, and is adapted to a much higher moral condition of human nature. The proportioning of remuneration to work done, is really just, only in so far as the more or less of the work is a matter of choice: when it depends on natural difference of strength or capacity, this principle of remuneration is in itself an injustice: it is giving to those who have; assigning most to those who are already most favoured by nature. Considered, however, as a compromise with the selfish type of character formed by the present standard of morality, and fostered by the existing social institutions, it is highly expedient; and until education shall have been entirely regenerated, is far more likely to prove immediately successful, than an attempt at a higher ideal.

The two elaborate forms of non-communistic Socialism known as St. Simonism and Fourierism, are totally free from the objections usually urged against Communism; and though they are open to others of their own, yet by the great intellectual power which in many respects distinguishes them, and by their large and philosophic treatment of some of the fundamental problems of society and morality, they may justly be counted among the most remarkable productions of the past and present age.

The St. Simonian scheme does not contemplate an equal, but an unequal division of the produce; it does not propose that all should be occupied alike, but differently, according to their vocation or capacity; the function of each being assigned, like grades in a regiment, by the choice of the Edition: current; Page: [211] directing authority, and the remuneration being by salary, proportioned to the importance, in the eyes of that authority, of the function itself, and the merits of the person who fulfils it. For the constitution of the ruling body, different plans might be adopted, consistently with the essentials of the system. It might be appointed by popular suffrage. In the idea of the original authors, the rulers were supposed to be persons of genius and virtue, who obtained the voluntary adhesion of the rest by the force of mental superiority. That the scheme might in some peculiar states of society work with advantage, is not improbable. There is indeed a successful experiment, of a somewhat similar kind, on record, to which I have once alluded; that of the Jesuits in Paraguay. A race of savages, belonging to a portion of mankind more averse to consecutive exertion for a distant object than any other authentically known to us, was brought under the mental dominion of civilized and instructed men who were united among themselves by a system of community of goods. To the absolute authority of these men they reverentially submitted themselves, and were induced by them to learn the arts of civilized life, and to practise labours for the community, which no inducement that could have been offered would have prevailed on them to practise for themselves. This social system was of short duration, being prematurely destroyed by diplomatic arrangements and foreign force. That it could be brought into action at all was probably owing to the immense distance in point of knowledge and intellect which separated the few rulers from the whole body of the ruled, without any intermediate orders, either social or intellectual. In any other circumstances it would probably have been a complete failure. It supposes an absolute despotism in the heads of the association; which would probably not be much improved if the depositaries of the despotism (contrary to the views of the authors of the system) were varied from time to time according to the result of a popular canvass. But to suppose that one or a few human beings, howsoever selected, could, by whatever machinery of subordinate agency, be qualified to adapt each person’s work to his capacity, and proportion each person’s remuneration to his merits—to be, in fact, the dispensers of distributive justice to every member of a community; or that any use which they could make of this power would give general satisfaction, or would be submitted to without the aid of force—is a supposition almost too chimerical to be reasoned against. A fixed rule, like that of equality, might be acquiesced in, and so might chance, or an external necessity; but that a handful of human beings should weigh everybody in the balance, and give more to one and less to another at their sole pleasure and judgment would not be borne, unless from persons believed to be more than men, and backed by supernatural terrors.

The most skilfully combined, and with the greatest foresight of objections, Edition: current; Page: [212] of all the forms of Socialism, is that commonly known as Fourierism. This system does not contemplate the abolition of private property, nor even of inheritance; on the contrary, it avowedly takes into consideration, as an element in the distribution of the produce, capital as well as labour. It proposes that the operations of industry should be carried on by associations of about two thousand members, combining their labour on a district of about a square league in extent, under the guidance of chiefs selected by themselves. In the distribution, a certain minimum is first assigned for the subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable or not of labour. The remainder of the produce is shared in certain proportions, to be determined beforehand, among the three elements, Labour, Capital, and Talent. The capital of the community may be owned in unequal shares by different members, who would in that case receive, as in any other joint-stock company, proportional dividends. The claim of each person on the share of the produce apportioned to talent, is estimated by the grade or rank which the individual occupies in the several groups of labourers to which he or she belongs; these grades being in all cases conferred by the choice of his or her companions. The remuneration, when received, would not of necessity be expended or enjoyed in common; there would be separate ménages for all who preferred them, and no other community of living is contemplated, than that all the members of the association should reside in the same pile of buildings; for saving of labour and expense, not only in building, but in every branch of domestic economy; and in order that, the whole cof thec buying and selling operations of the community being performed by a single agent, the enormous portion of the produce of industry now carried off by the profits of mere distributors might be reduced to the smallest amount possible.

This system, unlike Communism, does not, in theory at least, withdraw any of the motives to exertion which exist in the present state of society. On the contrary, if the arrangement worked according to the intentions of its contrivers, it would even strengthen those motives; since each person would have much more certainty of reaping individually the fruits of increased skill or energy, bodily or mental, than under the present social arrangements can be felt by any but those who are in the most advantageous positions, or to whom the chapter of accidents is more than ordinarily favourable. The Fourierists, however, have still another resource. They believe that they have solved the great and fundamental problem of rendering labour attractive. That this is not impracticable, they contend by very strong arguments; in particular by one which they have in common with the Owenites, viz., that scarcely any labour, however severe, undergone by human beings for the sake of subsistence, exceeds in intensity that which Edition: current; Page: [213] other human beings, whose subsistence is already provided for, are found ready and even eager to undergo for pleasure. This certainly is a most significant fact, and one from which the student in social philosophy may draw important instruction. But the argument founded on it may easily be stretched too far. If occupations full of discomfort and fatigue are freely pursued by many persons as amusements, who does not see that they are amusements exactly because they are pursued freely, and may be discontinued at pleasure? The liberty of quitting a position often makes the whole difference between its being painful and pleasurable. Many a person remains in the same town, street, or house from January to December, without a wish or a thought tending towards removal, who, if confined to that same place by the mandate of authority, would find the imprisonment absolutely intolerable.

According to the Fourierists, scarcely any kind of useful labour is naturally and necessarily disagreeable, unless it is either regarded as dishonourable, or is immoderate in degree, or destitute of the stimulus of sympathy and emulation. Excessive toil needs not, they