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Nature and Progress of Rent

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Nature and Progress of Rent, by Thomas Malthus This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Nature and Progress of Rent Author: Thomas Malthus Release Date: January 12, 2010 [EBook #4336] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK NATURE AND PROGRESS OF RENT *** Produced by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo, and David Widger AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND PROGRESS OF RENT AND THE PRINCIPLES BY WHICH IT IS REGULATED. By The Rev. T. R. Malthus Professor of History and Political Economy In the East India College, Hertfordshire LONDON: PRINTED FOR JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET. 1815. Advertisement RENT &c. FOOTNOTES Advertisement The following tract contains the substance of some notes on rent, which, with others on different subjects relating to political economy, I have collected in the course of my professional duties at the East India College. It has been my intention, at some time or other, to put them in a form for publication; and the very near connection of the subject of the present inquiry, with the topics immediately under discussion, has induced me to hasten its appearance at the present moment.
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Nature and Progress of Rent, by Thomas MalthusThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.orgTitle: Nature and Progress of RentAuthor: Thomas MalthusRelease Date: January 12, 2010 [EBook #4336]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ASCII*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK NATURE AND PROGRESS OF RENT ***Produced by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo, and David WidgerAN INQUIRY INTO THENATURE AND PROGRESS OFTNERAND THE PRINCIPLES BY WHICH IT ISREGULATED.By The Rev. T. R. MalthusProfessor of History and Political Economy In the East India College, HertfordshireLONDON:PRINTED FOR JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET..5181
AdvertisementRENT &c.FOOTNOTESAdvertisementThe following tract contains the substance of some notes on rent,which, with others on different subjects relating to political economy,I have collected in the course of my professional duties at the EastIndia College. It has been my intention, at some time or other, to putthem in a form for publication; and the very near connection of thesubject of the present inquiry, with the topics immediately underdiscussion, has induced me to hasten its appearance at the presentmoment. It is the duty of those who have any means of contributingto the public stock of knowledge, not only to do so, but to do it at thetime when it is most likely to be useful. If the nature of thepdiasmqupihslietito, nm sy haopuolldo gayp pmeuasr t tbo et,h teh arte iat dwear sh narodt loyr itgoi nsaulilt yt ihnet efonrdme do ff oarso ephemeral a shape.RENT &c.The rent of land is a portion of the national revenue, which hasalways been considered as of very high importance.According to Adam Smith, it is one of the three original sources ofwealth, on which the three great divisions of society are supported.By the Economists it is so pre-eminently distinguished, that it isconsidered as exclusively entitled to the name of riches, and thesole fund which is capable of supporting the taxes of the state, andon which they ultimately fall.And it has, perhaps, a particular claim to our attention at the presentmoment, on account of the discussions which are going onrespecting the corn laws, and the effects of rent on the price of rawproduce, and the progress of agricultural improvement.The rent of land may be defined to be that portion of the value of thewhole produce which remains to the owner of the land, after all the
outgoings belonging to its cultivation, of whatever kind, have beenpaid, including the profits of the capital employed, estimatedaccording to the usual and ordinary rate of the profits of agriculturalstock at the time being.It sometimes happens, that from accidental and temporarycircumstances, the farmer pays more, or less, than this; but this isthe point towards which the actual rents paid are constantlygravitating, and which is therefore always referred to when the termis used in a general sense.The immediate cause of rent is obviously the excess of price abovethe cost of production at which raw produce sells in the market.The first object therefore which presents itself for inquiry, is thecause or causes of the high price of raw produce.After very careful and repeated revisions of the subject, I do not findmyself able to agree entirely in the view taken of it, either by AdamSmith, or the Economists; and still less, by some more modernwriters.Almost all these writers appear to me to consider rent as too nearlyresembling in its nature, and the laws by which it is governed, theexcess of price above the cost of production, which is thecharacteristic of a monopoly.Adam Smith, though in some parts of the eleventh chapter of his firstbook he contemplates rent quite in its true light, 1 and hasinterspersed through his work more just observations on the subjectthan any other writer, has not explained the most essential cause ofthe high price of raw produce with sufficient distinctness, though heoften touches on it; and by applying occasionally the term monopolyto the rent of land, without stopping to mark its more radicalpeculiarities, he leaves the reader without a definite impression ofthe real difference between the cause of the high price of thenecessaries of life, and of monopolized commodities.Some of the views which the Economists have taken of the nature ofrent appear to me, in like manner, to be quite just; but they havemixed them with so much error, and have drawn such preposterousand contradictory conclusions from them, that what is true in theirdoctrines, has been obscured and lost in the mass ofsuperincumbent error, and has in consequence produced littleeffect. Their great practical conclusion, namely, the propriety oftaxing exclusively the net rents of the landlords, evidently dependsupon their considering these rents as completely disposable, likethat excess of price above the cost of production whichdistinguishes a common monopoly.M. Say, in his valuable treatise on political economy, in which hehas explained with great clearness many points which have notbeen sufficiently developed by Adam Smith, has not treated thesubject of rent in a manner entirely satisfactory. In speaking of thedifferent natural agents which, as well as the land, co-operate withthe labours of man, he observes, 'Heureusement personne n'a pudire le vent et le soleil m'appartiennent, et le service qu'ils rendentdoit m'etre paye.' 2 And, though he acknowledges that, for obviousreasons, property in land is necessary, yet he evidently considersrent as almost exclusively owing to such appropriation, and toexternal demand.In the excellent work of M. de Sismondi, De la richessecommerciale, he says in a note on the subject of rent, 'Cette partiede la rente fonciere est celle que les Economistes ont decoree dunom du produit net comme etant le seul fruit du travail qui aj outatquelquechose a la richesse nationale. On pourrait au contrairesoutenir contre eux, que c'est la seule partie du produit du travail,dont la valeur soit purement nominale, et n'ait rien de reelle: c'est eneffet le resultat de l'augmentation de prix qu'obtient un vendeur en
vertu de son privilege, sans que la chose vendue en vaillereellement d'avantage.' 3 The prevailing opinions among the moremodern writers in our own country, have appeared to me to inclinetowards a similar view of the subject; and, not to multiply citations, Ishall only add, that in a very respectable edition of the Wealth ofnations, lately published by Mr Buchanan, of Edinburgh, the idea ofmonopoly is pushed still further. And while former writers, thoughthey considered rent as governed by the laws of monopoly, werestill of opinion that this monopoly in the case of land was necessaryand useful, Mr Buchanan sometimes speaks of it even asprejudicial, and as depriving the consumer of what it gives to thelandlord.In treating of productive and unproductive labour in the last volume,he observes, 4 that, 'The net surplus by which the Economistsestimate the utility of agriculture, plainly arises from the high price ofits produce, which, however advantageous to the landlord whoreceives it, is surely no advantage to the consumer who pays it.Were the produce of agriculture to be sold for a lower price, thesame net surplus would not remain, after defraying the expenses ofcultivation; but agriculture would be still equally productive to thegeneral stock; and the only difference would be, that as the landlordwas formerly enriched by the high price, at the expense of thecommunity, the community would now profit by the low price at theexpense of the landlord. The high price in which the rent or netsurplus originates, while it enriches the landlord who has theproduce of agriculture to sell, diminishes in the same proportion thewealth of those who are its purchasers; and on this account it isquite inaccurate to consider the landlord's rent as a clear addition tothe national wealth.' In other parts of his work he uses the same, oreven stronger language, and in a note on the subject of taxes, hespeaks of the high price of the produce of land as advantageous tothose who receive it, it but proportionably injurious to those who payit. 'In this view,' he adds, 'it can form no general addition to the stockof the community, as the net surplus in question is nothing morethan a revenue transferred from one class to another, and from themere circumstance of its thus changing hands, it is clear that nofund can arise out of which to pay taxes. The revenue which paysfor the produce of land exists already in the hands of those whopurchase that produce; and, if the price of subsistence were lower, itwould still remain in their hands, where it would be just as availablefor taxation, as when by a higher price it is transferred to the landedproprietor.' 5That there are some circumstances connected with rent, which havean affinity to a natural monopoly, will be readily allowed. The extentof the earth itself is limited, and cannot be enlarged by humandemand. And the inequality of soils occasions, even at an earlyperiod of society a comparative scarcity of the best lands; and so faris undoubtedly one of the causes of rent properly so called. On thisaccount, perhaps, the term partial monopoly might be fairlyapplicable. But the scarcity of land, thus implied, is by no meansalone sufficient to produce the effects observed. And a moreaccurate investigation of the subject will show us how essentiallydifferent the high price of raw produce is, both in its nature andorigin, and the laws by which it is governed, from the high price of acommon monopoly.The causes of the high price of raw produce may be stated to bethree.First, and mainly, that quality of the earth, by which it can be madeto yield a greater portion of the necessaries of life than is requiredfor the maintenance of the persons employed on the land.Secondly, that quality peculiar to the necessaries of life of beingable to create their own demand, or to raise up a number ofdemanders in proportion to the quantity of necessaries produced.
And, thirdly, the comparative scarcity of the most fertile land.The qualities of the soil and of its products, here noticed as theprimary causes of the high price of raw produce, are the gifts ofnature to man. They are quite unconnected with monopoly, and yetare so absolutely essential to the existence of rent, that withoutthem, no degree of scarcity or monopoly could have occasioned thatexcess of the price of raw produce, above the cost of production,which shows itself in this form.If, for instance, the soil of the earth had been such, that, howeverwell directed might have been the industry of man, he could nothave produced from it more than was barely sufficient to maintainthose, whose labour and attention were necessary to its products;though, in this case, food and raw materials would have beenevidently scarcer than at present, and the land might have been, inthe same manner, monopolized by particular owners; vet it is quiteclear, that neither rent, nor any essential surplus produce of the landin the form of high profits, could have existed.It is equally clear, that if the necessaries of life the most importantproducts of land—had not the property of creating an increase ofdemand proportioned to their increased quantity, such increasedquantity would occasion a fall in their exchangeable value.However abundant might be the produce of a country, its populationmight remain stationary And this abundance, without aproportionate demand, and with a very high corn price of labour,which would naturally take place under these circumstances, mightreduce the price of raw produce, like the price of manufactures, tothe cost of production.It has been sometimes argued, that it is mistaking the principle ofpopulation, to imagine, that the increase of food, or of raw producealone, can occasion a proportionate increase of population. This isno doubt true; but it must be allowed, as has been justly observedby Adam Smith, that 'when food is provided, it is comparatively easyto find the necessary clothing and lodging. And it should always berecollected, that land does not produce one commodity alone, but inaddition to that most indispensable of all commodities—food—itproduces also the materials for the other necessaries of life; and thelabour required to work up these materials is of course neverexcluded from the consideration. 6It is, therefore, strictly true, that land produces the necessaries of life,produces food, materials, and labour, produces the means bywhich, and by which alone, an increase of people may be broughtinto being, and supported. In this respect it is fundamentally differentfrom every other kind of machine known to man; and it is natural tosuppose, that it should be attended with some peculiar effects.If the cotton machinery, in this country, were to go on increasing atits present rate, or even much faster; but instead of producing oneparticular sort of substance which may be used for some parts ofdress and furniture, etc. had the qualities of land, and could yieldwhat, with the assistance of a little labour, economy, and skill, couldfurnish food, clothing, and lodging, in such proportions as to createan increase of population equal to the increased supply of thesenecessaries; the demand for the products of such improvedmachinery would continue in excess above the cost of production,and this excess would no longer exclusively belong to themachinery of the land. 7There is a radical difference in the cause of a demand for thoseobjects which are strictly necessary to the support of human life, anda demand for all other commodities. In all other commodities thedemand is exterior to, and independent of, the production itself; andin the case of a monopoly, whether natural or artificial, the excess ofprice is in proportion to the smallness of the supply compared withthe demand, while this demand is comparatively unlimited. In thecase of strict necessaries, the existence and increase of the
demand, or of the number of demanders, must depend upon theexistence and increase of these necessaries themselves; and theexcess of their price above the cost of their production must dependupon, and is permanently limited by, the excess of their quantityabove the quantity necessary to maintain the labour required toproduce them; without which excess of quantity no demand couldhave existed, according to the laws of nature, for more than wasnecessary to support the producers.It has been stated, in the new edition of the Wealth of nations, thatthe cause of the high price of raw produce is, that such price isrequired to proportion the consumption to the supply. 8 This is alsotrue, but it affords no solution of the point in question. We still wantto know why the consumption and supply are such as to make theprice so greatly exceed the cost of production, and the main causeis evidently the fertility of the earth in producing the necessaries oflife. Diminish this plenty, diminish the fertility of the soil, and theexcess will diminish; diminish it still further, and it will disappear.The cause of the high price of the necessaries of life above the costof production, is to be found in their abundance, rather than theirscarcity; and is not only essentially different from the high priceoccasioned by artificial monopolies, but from the high price of thosepeculiar products of the earth, not connected with food, which maybe called natural and necessary monopolies.The produce of certain vineyards in France, which, from thepeculiarity of their soil and situation, exclusively yield wine of acertain flavour, is sold of course at a price very far exceeding thecost of production. And this is owing to the greatness of thecompetition for such wine, compared with the scantiness of itssupply; which confines the use of it to so small a number of persons,that they are able, and rather than go without it, willing, to give anexcessively high price. But if the fertility of these lands wereincreased, so as very considerably to increase the produce, thisproduce might so fall in value as to diminish most essentially theexcess of its price above the cost of production. While, on the otherhand, if the vineyards were to become less productive, this excessmight increase to almost any extent.The obvious cause of these effects is, that in all monopolies,properly so called, whether natural or artificial, the demand isexterior to, and independent of, the production itself. The number ofpersons who might have a taste for scarce wines, and would bedesirous of entering into a competition for the purchase of them,might increase almost indefinitely, while the produce itself wasdecreasing; and its price, therefore, would have no other limit thanthe numbers, powers, and caprices, of the competitors for it.In the production of the necessaries of life, on the contrary, thedemand is dependent upon the produce itself; and the effects are, inconsequence, widely different. In this case, it is physicallyimpossible that the number of demanders should increase, whilethe quantity of produce diminishes, as the demanders only exist bymeans of this produce. The fertility of soil, and consequentabundance of produce from a certain quantity of land, which, in theformer case, diminished the excess of price above the cost ofproduction, is, in the present case, the specific cause of suchexcess; and the diminished fertility, which in the former case mightincrease the price to almost any excess above the cost ofproduction, may be safely asserted to be the sole cause whichcould permanently maintain the necessaries of life at a price notexceeding the cost of production.Is it, then, possible to consider the price of the necessaries of life asregulated upon the principle of a common monopoly? Is it possible,with M. de Sismondi, to regard rent as the sole produce of labour,which has a value purely nominal, and the mere result of thataugmentation of price which a seller obtains in consequence of apeculiar privilege; or, with Mr Buchanan, to consider it as no
addition to the national wealth, but merely as a transfer of value,advantageous only to the landlords, and proportionately injurious tothe consumers?Is it not, on the contrary, a clear indication of a most inestimablequality in the soil, which God has bestowed on man—the quality ofbeing able to maintain more persons than are necessary to work it?Is it not a part, and we shall see further on that it is an absolutelynecessary part, of that surplus produce from the land, 9 which hasbeen justly stated to be the source of all power and enjoyment; andwithout which, in fact, there would be no cities, no military or navalforce, no arts, no learning, none of the finer manufactures, none ofthe conveniences and luxuries of foreign countries, and none of thatcultivated and polished society, which not only elevates anddignifies individuals, but which extends its beneficial influencethrough the whole mass of the people?In the early periods of society, or more remarkably perhaps, whenthe knowledge and capital of an old society are employed uponfresh and fertile land, this surplus produce, this bountiful gift ofprovidence, shows itself chiefly in extraordinary high profits, andextraordinary high wages, and appears but little in the shape of rent.While fertile land is in abundance, and may be had by whoeverasks for it, nobody of course will pay a rent to a landlord. But it is notconsistent with the laws of nature, and the limits and quality of theearth, that this state of things should continue. Diversities of soil andsituation must necessarily exist in all countries. All land cannot bethe most fertile: all situations cannot be the nearest to navigablerivers and markets. But the accumulation of capital beyond themeans of employing it on land of the greatest natural fertility, and thegreatest advantage of situation, must necessarily lower profits; whilethe tendency of population to increase beyond the means ofsubsistence must, after a certain time, lower the wages of labour.The expense of production will thus be diminished, but the value ofthe produce, that is, the quantity of labour, and of the other productsof labour besides corn, which it can command, instead ofdiminishing, will be increased. There will be an increasing numberof people demanding subsistence, and ready to offer their servicesin any way in which they can be useful. The exchangeable value offood will, therefore, be in excess above the cost of production,including in this cost the full profits of the stock employed upon theland, according to the actual rate of profits, at the time being. Andthis excess is rent.Nor is it possible that these rents should permanently remain asparts of the profits of stock, or of the wages of labour. If such anaccumulation were to take place, as decidedly to lower the generalprofits of stock, and, consequently, the expenses of cultivation, soas to make it answer to cultivate poorer land; the cultivators of thericher land, if they paid no rent, would cease to be mere farmers, orpersons living upon the profits of agricultural stock. They wouldunite the characters of farmers and landlords—a union by no meansuncommon; but which does not alter, in any degree, the nature ofrent, or its essential separation from profits. If the general profits ofstock were 20 per cent and particular portions of land would yield 30per cent on the capital employed, 10 per cent of the 30 wouldobviously be rent, by whomsoever received.It happens, indeed, sometimes, that from bad government,extravagant habits, and a faulty constitution of society, theaccumulation of capital is stopped, while fertile land is inconsiderable plenty, in which case profits may continuepermanently very high; but even in this case wages mustnecessarily fall, which by reducing the expenses of cultivation mustoccasion rents. There is nothing so absolutely unavoidable in theprogress of society as the fall of wages, that is such a fall as,combined with the habits of the labouring classes, will regulate theprogress of population according to the means of subsistence. And
when, from the want of an increase of capital, the increase ofproduce is checked, and the means of subsistence come to a stand,the wages of labour must necessarily fall so low, as only just tomaintain the existing population, and to prevent any increase.We observe in consequence, that in all those countries, such asPoland, where, from the want of accumulation, the profits of stockremain very high, and the progress of cultivation either proceedsvery slowly, or is entirely stopped, the wages of labour areextremely low. And this cheapness of labour, by diminishing theexpenses of cultivation, as far as labour is concerned, counteractsthe effects of the high profits of stock, and generally leaves a largerrent to the landlord than in those countries, such as America, where,by a rapid accumulation of stock, which can still find advantageousemployment, and a great demand for labour, which is accompaniedby an adequate increase of produce and population, profits cannotbe low, and labour for some considerable time remains very high.It may be laid down, therefore, as an incontrovertible truth, that as anation reaches any considerable degree of wealth, and anyconsiderable fullness of population, which of course cannot takeplace without a great fall both in the profits of stock and the wages oflabour, the separation of rents, as a kind of fixture upon lands of acertain quality, is a law as invariable as the action of the principle ofgravity. And that rents are neither a mere nominal value, nor a valueunnecessarily and injuriously transferred from one set of people toanother; but a most real and essential part of the whole value of thenational property, and placed by the laws of nature where they are,on the land, by whomsoever possessed, whether the landlord, thecrown, or the actual cultivator.Rent then has been traced to the same common nature with thatgeneral surplus from the land, which is the result of certain qualitiesof the soil and its products; and it has been found to commence itsseparation from profits, as soon as profits and wages fall, owing tothe comparative scarcity of fertile land in the natural progress of acountry towards wealth and population.Having examined the nature and origin of rent, it remains for us toconsider the laws by which it is governed, and by which its increaseor decrease is regulated.When capital has accumulated, and labour fallen on the mosteligible lands of a country, other lands less favourablycircumstanced with respect to fertility or situation, may be occupiedwith advantage. The expenses of cultivation, including profits,having fallen, poorer land, or land more distant from markets, thoughyielding at first no rent, may fully repay these expenses, and fullyanswer to the cultivator. And again, when either the profits of stockor the wages of labour, or both, have still further fallen, land stillpoorer, or still less favourably situated, may be taken into cultivation.And, at every step, it is clear, that if the price of produce does notfall, the rents of land will rise. And the price of produce will not fall,as long as the industry and ingenuity of the labouring classes,assisted by the capitals of those not employed upon the land, canfind something to give in exchange to the cultivators and landlords,which will stimulate them to continue undiminished their agriculturalexertions, and maintain their increasing excess of produce.In tracing more particularly the laws which govern the rise and fall ofrents, the main causes which diminish the expenses of cultivation,or reduce the cost of the instruments of production, compared withthe price of produce, require to be more specifically enumerated.The principal of these seem to be four: first, such an accumulation ofcapital as will lower the profits of stock; secondly, such an increaseof population as will lower the wages of labour; thirdly, suchagricultural improvements, or such increase of exertions, as willdiminish the number of labourers necessary to produce a giveneffect; and fourthly, such an increase in the price of agricultural
produce, from increased demand, as without nominally lowering theexpense of production, will increase the difference between thisexpense and the price of produce.The operation of the three first causes in lowering the expenses ofcultivation, compared with the price of produce, are quite obvious;the fourth requires a few further observations.If a great and continued demand should arise among surroundingnations for the raw produce of a particular country, the price of thisproduce would of course rise considerably; and the expenses ofcultivation, rising only slowly and gradually to the same proportion,the price of produce might for a long time keep so much ahead, asto give a prodigious stimulus to improvement, and encourage theemployment of much capital in bringing fresh land under cultivation,and rendering the old much more productive.Nor would the effect be essentially different in a country whichcontinued to feed its own people, if instead of a demand for its rawproduce, there was the same increasing demand for itsmanufactures. These manufactures, if from such a demand thevalue of their amount in foreign countries was greatly to increase,would bring back a great increase of value in return, which increaseof value could not fail to increase the value of the raw produce. Thedemand for agricultural as well as manufactured produce would beaugmented; and a considerable stimulus, though not perhaps to thesame extent as in the last case, would be given to every kind ofimprovement on the land.A similar effect would be produced by the introduction of newmachinery, and a more judicious division of labour in manufactures.It almost always happens in this case, not only that the quantity ofmanufactures is very greatly increased, but that the value of thewhole mass is augmented, from the great extension of the demandfor them, occasioned by their cheapness. We see, in consequence,that in all rich manufacturing and commercial countries, the value ofmanufactured and commercial products bears a very highproportion to the raw products; 10 whereas, in comparatively poorcountries, without much internal trade and foreign commerce, thevalue of their raw produce constitutes almost the whole of theirwealth. If we suppose the wages of labour so to rise with the rise ofproduce, as to give the labourer the same command of the means ofsubsistence as before, yet if he is able to purchase a greaterquantity of other necessaries and conveniencies, both foreign anddomestic, with the price of a given quantity of corn, he may beequally well fed, clothed, and lodged, and population may beequally encouraged, although the wages of labour may not rise sohigh in proportion as the price of produce.And even when the price of labour does really rise in proportion tothe price of produce, which is a very rare case, and can only happenwhen the demand for labour precedes, or is at least quitecontemporary with the demand for produce; it is so impossible thatall the other outgoings in which capital is expended, should riseprecisely in the same proportion, and at the same time, such ascompositions for tithes, parish rates, taxes, manure, and the fixedcapital accumulated under the former low prices, that a period ofsome continuance can scarcely fail to occur, when the differencebetween the price of produce and the cost of production isincreased.In some of these cases, the increase in the price of agriculturalproduce, compared with the cost of the instruments of production,appears from what has been said to be only temporary; and in theseinstances it will often give a considerable stimulus to cultivation, byan increase of agricultural profits, without showing itself much in theshape of rent. It hardly ever fails, however, to increase rentultimately. The increased capital, which is employed inconsequence of the opportunity of making great temporary profits,
can seldom if ever be entirely removed from the land, at theexpiration of the current leases; and, on the renewal of these leases,the landlord feels the benefit of it in the increase of his rents.Whenever then, by the operation of the four causes abovementioned, the difference between the price of produce and the costof the instruments of production increases, the rents of land will rise.It is, however, not necessary that all these four causes shouldoperate at the same time; it is only necessary that the differencehere mentioned should increase. If, for instance, the price ofproduce were to rise, while the wages of labour, and the price of theother branches of capital did not rise in proportion, and at the sametime improved modes of agriculture were coming into general use, itis evident that this difference might be increased, although theprofits of agricultural stock were not only undiminished, but were torise decidedly higher.Of the great additional quantity of capital employed upon the land inthis country, during the last twenty years, by far the greater part issupposed to have been generated on the soil, and not to have beenbrought from commerce or manufactures. And it was unquestionablythe high profits of agricultural stock, occasioned by improvements inthe modes of agriculture, and by the constant rise of prices, followedonly slowly by a proportionate rise in the different branches ofcapital, that afforded the means of so rapid and so advantageous anaccumulation.In this case cultivation has been extended, and rents have risen,although one of the instruments of production, capital, has beendearer.In the same manner a fall of profits and improvements in agriculture,or even one of them separately, might raise rents, notwithstanding arise of wages.It may be laid down then as a general truth, that rents naturally riseas the difference between the price of produce and the cost of theinstruments of production increases.It is further evident, that no fresh land can be taken into cultivation tillrents have risen, or would allow of a rise upon what is alreadycultivated.Land of an inferior quality requires a great quantity of capital tomake it yield a given produce; and, if the actual price of this producebe not such as fully to compensate the cost of production, includingthe existing rate of profits, the land must remain uncultivated. Itmatters not whether this compensation is effected by an increase inthe money price of raw produce, without a proportionate increase inthe money price of the instruments of production, or by a decreasein the price of the instruments of production, without a proportionatedecrease in the price of produce. What is absolutely necessary, is agreater relative cheapness of the instruments of production, to makeup for the quantity of them required to obtain a given produce frompoor land.But whenever, by the operation of one or more of the causes beforementioned, the instruments of production become cheaper, and thedifference between the price of produce and the expenses ofcultivation increases, rents naturally rise. It follows therefore as adirect and necessary consequence, that it can never answer to takefresh land of a poorer quality into cultivation, till rents have risen orwould allow of a rise, on what is already cultivated.It is equally true, that without the same tendency to a rise of rents,occasioned by the operation of the same causes, it cannot answerto lay out fresh capital in the improvement of old land—at least uponthe supposition, that each farm is already furnished with as muchcapital as can be laid out to advantage, according to the actual rateof profits.
It is only necessary to state this proposition to make its truth appear.It certainly may happen, and I fear it happens frequently, thatfarmers are not provided with all the capital which could beemployed upon their farms, at the actual rate of agricultural profits.But supposing they are so provided, it implies distinctly, that morecould not be applied without loss, till, by the operation of one ormore of the causes above enumerated, rents had tended to rise.It appears then, that the power of extending cultivation andincreasing produce, both by the cultivation of fresh land and theimprovement of the old, depends entirely upon the existence of suchprices, compared with the expense of production, as would raiserents in the actual state of cultivation.But though cultivation cannot be extended, and the produce of thecountry increased, but in such a state of things as would allow of arise of rents, yet it is of importance to remark, that this rise of rentswill be by no means in proportion to the extension of cultivation, orthe increase of produce. Every relative fall in the price of theinstruments of production, may allow of the employment of aconsiderable quantity of additional capital; and when either newland is taken into cultivation, or the old improved, the increase ofproduce may be considerable, though the increase of rents betrifling. We see, in consequence, that in the progress of a countrytowards a high state of cultivation, the quantity of capital employedupon the land, and the quantity of produce yielded by it, bears aconstantly increasing proportion to the amount of rents, unlesscounterbalanced by extraordinary improvements in the modes ofcultivation. 11According to the returns lately made to the Board of Agriculture, theaverage proportion which rent bears to the value of the wholeproduce, seems not to exceed one fifth; 12 whereas formerly, whenthere was less capital employed, and less value produced, theproportion amounted to one fourth, one third, or even two fifths. Still,however, the numerical difference between the price of produce andthe expenses of cultivation, increases with the progress ofimprovement; and though the landlord has a less share of the wholeproduce, yet this less share, from the very great increase of theproduce, yields a larger quantity, and gives him a greater commandof corn and labour. If the produce of land be represented by thenumber six, and the landlord has one fourth of it, his share will berepresented by one and a half. If the produce of land be as ten, andthe landlord has one fifth of it, his share will be represented by two.In the latter case, therefore, though the proportion of the landlord'sshare to the whole produce is greatly diminished, his real rent,independently of nominal price, will be increased in the proportionof from three to four. And in general, in all cases of increasingproduce, if the landlord's share of this produce do not diminish in thesame proportion, which though it often happens during the currencyof leases, rarely or never happens on the renewal of them, the realrents of land must rise.We see then, that a progressive rise of rents seems to benecessarily connected with the progressive cultivation of new land,and the progressive improvement of the old: and that this rise is thenatural and necessary consequence of the operation of four causes,which are the most certain indications of increasing prosperity andwealth—namely, the accumulation of capital, the increase ofpopulation, improvements in agriculture, and the high price of rawproduce, occasioned by the extension of our manufactures andcommerce.On the other hand, it will appear, that a fall of rents is as necessarilyconnected with the throwing of inferior land out of cultivation, andthe continued deterioration of the land of a superior quality; and thatit is the natural and necessary consequence of causes, which arethe certain indications of poverty and decline, namely, diminished
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