« НазадПродовжити »
sumed in Jamaica is grown in the United States, on fields where labor costs more than four times as much, and where every kind of provision but fruit is less expensive." The ease with which life is supported fosters indolence, feebleness, gayety, and insouciance; and even when the people pretend to labor, their work is scarcely worth paying for. "In the sugarmills," we are told, "from twenty to thirty men and women are employed to do what five American operatives would do much better in the same time, with the aid of such labor-saving agencies as would suggest themselves at once to an intelligent mind "; and "this is but one of the thousand ways in which labor is squandered on this island." The people might supply themselves with all the luxuries of the earth; but they are content to live in a swinish abundance of the grossest necessaries, — to be fat and shining, and to sing, chatter, and bask in the sun.
Again, accumulation is rapid when the rate of profits is large. If this rate is so high, that the savings of a few years may be made to produce as much as the original income from which those savings were made, then the prospect of being released altogether from the necessity of labor will stimulate the habit of frugality to the utmost. The average rate of profits in this country is at least twice as large as in Great Britain; for the interest of money here averages over six per cent, while the English government funds yield but three per cent, and the ordinary rate for short loans often falls below that point. But the rate of profits on capital considerably exceeds the rate of interest on money; for he who borrows capital undertakes the risk and care of employing it to advantage; and, of course, he who lends his capital, because unwilling to take that risk and care on himself, will not expect so high a rate for it as he might obtain by using it himself. When a great deal can be made by the use of money, a great deal will be given for the use of it; but still not so much, but that something shall remain to compensate one for the skill and industry that are required to use it to advantage. The average rate of profits in this country may be estimated at twelve per cent a year, while the corresponding rate in England is but six per cent. I speak of the annual rate, because, if the dealer turns over his capital twice in a year, he can afford to sell at a profit of only six per cent, though the annual rate for borrowed money is six per cent.
Assuming, then, the annual rate of profits in the United States to be twelve per cent, and that the laborer or dealer uses his savings as his own capital, it is certain that, by postponing the period of consumption or enjoyment for a little over six years, the amount of that enjoyment may be doubled. In England, in order to double the enjoyment, he must practise abstinence for twelve years. It is obvious, then, that where there is the most need of capital, the temptation to accumulate it is strongest, the rate of profits being high, and its growth is most rapid.
In Holland, nearly two centuries ago, after a period of almost unequalled commercial prosperity, the rate of interest fell to about two per cent, the rate of profits suffered a corresponding reduction, and, as a necessary consequence, the growth of capital almost wholly ceased. Holland, in point of commercial and manufacturing enterprise, has been in a stationary, if not a declining state, for about two centuries. The springs of industry are not relaxed, for the people are still sober and laborious; but they lack the energy and the thirst for gain, which caused them, in the seventeenth century, to dot the surface of the globe all over with Dutch colonies. Few will practise abstinence and try to amass wealth, when the rate of profit is but little over four per cent.
The rate of interest in England, in Henry VIII.'s time, was limited to ten per cent, which implies that it had been higher. Under James I. it was reduced to eight, and after the Kestoration of the Stuarts, to six per cent. Forty years afterwards, it was again reduced to five, and a continuance of the same causes, as we have seen, has now brought it down to three per cent. But for the enlarged intercourse with foreign lands, which has tempted English capitalists of late years to embark their funds in enterprises abroad, in Mexican mines, in Continental and American railroads, in Austrian and Russian funds, and in United States stocks, it is probable that the interest of money and the profits of stock would, ere now, have sunk to that low point at which the desire to accumulate ceases altogether.
True, "there would be adequate motives for a certain amount of saying," as Mr. Mill remarks, "even if capital yielded no profit. There would be an inducement to lay by in good times a provision for bad; to reserve something for sickness and infirmity, or as a means of leisure and independence in the latter part of life, or a help to children in the outset of it. Savings, however, which have only these ends in view, have not much tendency to increase the amount of capital already in existence. These motives only prompt each person to save at one period of life what he purposes to consume at another, or what will be consumed by his children before they can completely provide for themselves." "There are always some persons in whom the effective desire of accumulation is above the average, and to whom less than the ordinary minimum rate of profit is a sufficient inducement to save; but these merely step into the place of others whose taste for expense and indulgence is beyond the average, and who, instead of saving, perhaps even dissipate what they have received."
The hope of elevating one's condition in the world tends more effectually to increase the national wealth in proportion as it affects a larger class of the people. In most civilized countries, the bulk of the population are poor, their daily wages hardly sufficing to buy their daily bread. Their savings, if it is possible for them to make any, must be in very small sums; and the inducement for them to be frugal must depend on the possibility of immediately investing such small sums to advantage. One of the great improvements of modern civilization consists in the means afforded, the machinery contrived, for collecting these driblets of wealth, and bringing them together into large reservoirs, whence they issue in abundant streams, giving efficiency and fertility to labor throughout the land. The water which falls in drops upon the desert, sinks through the sand, and leaves the ground arid and barren as before; but when collected in great tanks and cisterns, it turns a given portion of that desert into a garden. A century or two ago, if the laboring part of the population made any savings, they were in the form of little hoards of silver or gold, hid in an old stocking, or buried in the garden. But because the money thus stored was unproductive, and yielded no interest, and because it was always at hand when the owner was for a moment tempted to some indulgence and consequent expense, the number and amount of such hoards were always small. Now, through the multiplication of the branches of retail trade, and the lesser mechanic arts, and through jointstock corporations and savings' banks, the first half-eagle which the laboring man or woman saves from the month's wages is profitably invested, and, by the end of the year, is increased by the twentieth part of itself. When this saving has reached a very moderate amount, it can be made to accumulate at compound interest, and thus to double itself in twelve years. In many cases, it soon comes to be used by the owner himself as capital; that is, it is invested in the purchase of tools or machinery, or a small stock in trade; and it may then accumulate at the rate of ten or twelve per cent a year, — that is, it may double itself every six or seven years. The result is, that he who began life as a common laborer, often drives about in his own carriage before its close.
In almost any other part of the world than New England, I should be afraid to give this sketch as an illustration of the manner in which the wealth or available capital of a nation is increased. But I presume it is a safe assertion, that at least one half of those who are usually called wealthy men, in Boston and its neighborhood, have obtained their wealth very nearly in the manner, or through the process, just described. This leads us to perceive that the aggregate of the small savings made by the bulk of the population, who have very small means, may constitute, and in this country actually does constitute, a larger annual addition to the whole amount of national capital, than the sum of the much larger savings made by the few who are usually considered as capitalists.
Mr. Farr stated, in 1852, in his evidence before a commission of Parliament, that, according to an estimate based upon the returns under the Income Tax, there are not more than 236,000 persons in Great Britain whose clear annual incomes exceed £ 200 each. This is the number, therefore, of those who may be considered as persons of wealth. Their aggregate income amounts to £ 174,810,000, being an average of about £ 740 to each. If we suppose that one half of these persons make savings to the extent of one tenth of their income, — a supposition which is a very liberal one, — the accumulations of the rich will amount to £ 8,740,500, or about $43,700,000. That this may not appear an under-estimate, it should be remembered, that the customs of society in England require the style and expensiveness of living to come much nearer to the individual's whole income than is usual in this country, so that most of the nobility and the landed gentry, who have the largest incomes, do not make any savings at all, and many even run in debt, or encroach upon their capital. A nobleman who inherits an estate of £ 20,000 a year, inherits also a style of living which is costly enough to consume it. In the United States, on the other hand, a man usually begins poor, and therefore with frugal habits, and consequently hardly knows what to do with the income of a large property when he has acquired it. He has no ancestral castle to maintain in due state, and no county to contest at each succeeding election. Nay, the custom of the country, the force of public opinion, is such, that he cannot make his personal expenditure equal to his income, even if he wished. He must not keep a carriage and four, nor have a footman to stand behind his more modest equipage, nor clothe his servants in livery, nor adopt many other of the badges by which some persons try to convince the world that they are people of consequence. We are accused of being fond of titles, it is true; but the epithets of Major, Colonel, and Honorable cost nothing' but civility, and so do not help a man to spend his fortune. We do not tolerate gold lace, nor cocked hats, nor tall footmen with goldheaded canes.
How great is the possible addition to the national capital from the savings of the comparatively poor, — of persons who live either upon wages, or upon incomes so small that they do not exceed the average wages of expert artisans? Great Britain and the United States are nearly equal in point of population; and the census (1841) of the former country shows that two and a half millions of male adults, or one half of the whole nation, are laborers or operatives who subsist entirely upon wages. We will suppose that only one half of these make any savings, and that the savings of each frugal and industrious laborer might amount to forty dollars a year, — a sum which the generality of English laborers certainly are not able to save, but which most prudent and laborious male adults in New England might save, since many family domes