« НазадПродовжити »
the worst land in cultivation, which yields no rent. A farther accession of three individuals would oblige the community to till the third acre, which yields but twenty bushels; and one might have his choice between having this land without rent, or paying ten bushels a year for land of the next best quality, or twenty bushels a year for the most fertile spot. The result in either case would be the same to him. Always the worst land in cultivation pays no rent; and all other land pays rent in proportion to the degree of its superiority over this poorest land.
Natural fertility is but one of the circumstances that give value to land, or cause it to pay rent; nearness to market, or any other natural quality, operates in precisely the same way. If all the land produces the same quantity to the acre, and if the produce of one acre can be sold on the spot, while it costs the value of ten bushels of grain to carry the produce of the second acre to market, and of twenty bushels to transport that of the third acre, then the first acre will bear a rent of twenty bushels, the second a rent of ten bushels, and the third no rent at all, because it produces but twenty bushels, and the value of this product is all consumed in transporting it to market. The increased demand of towns, occasioned by the increase of their population, not only tempts the cultivators in their vicinity to improve their lands more highly, but frequently causes large portions of their supplies to be brought from a great distance. Hence it sometimes happens, that the advantage of vicinity more than counterbalances the disadvantage of comparative barrenness, so that lands of inferior fertility, in the immediate environs of a large town, yield a considerable rent, while much richer land, at a distance from good markets, yields little or perhaps no rent. As vicinity to a town is a cause of rent, so vicinity to a road, navigable river, or canal, by diminishing the expense of carriage to some great market, may have a similar effect.
Observe, also, that the theory still holds good, whether the increase of population constrains us to take poorer land, hitherto neglected, into cultivation, or to expend more capital and labor upon the land already in tillage, with a view of increasing its product. For the additional capital thus invested will not yield a return proportionally great with that capital which was first employed. If, for instance, a thousand dollars of capital spent upon a farm will cause it to yield at the rate of thirty bushels to the acre, the expenditure of a second thousand dollars upon it may raise the crop, perhaps, to forty bushels per acre; but it certainly will not double the crop, or make the yield to be sixty bushels, as it ought to do, if the second application of capital were equally remunerative with the first. Then the second application of capital will not be made till the increase of population has caused the price of grain to rise so high, that this second thousand dollars will produce as large profits as capital applied in other ways. And when this second thousand dollars will yield ordinary profits, it is obvious that the first thousand dollars, applied under circumstances much more advantageous, will yield much more than the ordinary profits. The difference between these two rates of profit is the rent of the land. Thus, always, just as there are more mouths calling for more food, either poorer land must be taken into cultivation, or more capital must be applied with perpetually diminishing returns, or at rates of profit growing successively less and less.
It is true, as the theory admits, that the necessity of having recourse to inferior lands, or of applying more capital with constantly diminishing returns, is postponed by the improvements that are made, from time to time, in the tools and processes of agriculture, which enable us to obtain more food from the same quantity of land without a proportionate increase of capital or industry. But the evil day is thus only postponed, not entirely removed. It is impossible that agricultural improvements should keep pace for any long time with the increase of the population; for they are limited in their nature and extent, while the prolific power of the human race is unbounded. These improvements also stimulate the increase of numbers, and thus, in one way, tend to increase the evil, •which they do but partially check in another. ■" Improvements in the construction of farming implements," says McCulloch, "the discovery of more efficient manures, the introduction of more prolific crops, and of improved systems of management, increase, in a high degree, the productiveness of the soil, and proportionally reduce the price of raw produce; but a fall of price, though permanent in manufactures, is only temporary in agriculture. When the price of corn is reduced, all classes obtain greater quantities than before in exchange for their products or their labor; hence the rate of profit, and consequently the accumulation of capital, are both increased; and this increase, by causing a greater demand for labor and higher wages, leads, in the end, to an increase of population, and, consequently, to a further demand for raw produce, and an extended cultivation. Agricultural improvements obviate, sometimes for a lengthened period, the necessity of having recourse to inferior soils; still, however, their influence in this respect cannot be permanent. The stimulus which they at the same time give to population, and the natural tendency of mankind to increase up to the means of subsistence, are sure, in the long run, to raise prices, and, by forcing recourse to poor lands, rents also."
Mr. Malthus has ingeniously illustrated this theory of rent. "The earth," he says, "has been sometimes compared to a vast machine, presented by nature to man for the production of food and raw materials; but to make the resemblance more just, as far as they admit of comparison, we should consider the soil as a present to man of a great number of machines, all susceptible of continued improvement by the application of capital to them, but yet of very different original qualities and powers. This great inequality in the powers of the machinery employed in procuring raw produce, forms one of the most remarkable features which distinguish the machinery of the land from the machinery employed in manufactures.
"When a machine in manufactures is invented which will produce more finished work with less labor and capital than before, if there be no patent, or as soon as the patent is over, a sufficient number of such machines may be made to supply the whole demand, and to supersede entirely the use of all the old machinery. The natural consequence is, that the price is reduced to the price of production from the best machinery; and if the price were to be depressed lower, the whole of the commodity would be withdrawn from the market.
"The machines which produce corn and raw materials, on the contrary, are the gifts of nature, not the works of man; and we find by experience that these machines have very different qualities and powers. The most fertile lands of a country, those which, like the best machinery in manufactures, yield the greatest products with the least labor and capital, are never found sufficient to supply the effective demand of an increasing population. The price of raw produce, therefore, naturally rises, till it becomes sufficiently high to pay the cost of raising it with inferior machines, and by a more expensive process; and as there cannot be two prices for corn of the same quality, all the other machines, the working of which requires less capital compared with the produce, must yield rents in proportion to their goodness. Every extensive country may thus be considered as possessing a gradation of machines for the production of corn and raw materials, including in this gradation not only all the various qualities of poor land, of which every large territory has generally an abundance, but the inferior machinery which may be said to be employed when good land is further and further forced for additional produce. As the price of raw produce continues to rise, these inferior machines are successively called into action; and as the price of raw produce continues to fall, they are successively thrown out of action. The illustration here used serves to show at once the necessity of the actual price of corn to the actual produce, and the different effect which would attend a great reduction in the price of any particular manufacture, and a great reduction in the price of raw produce."
This is a brief, but, I hope, sufficiently clear and fair exposition of Eicardo's celebrated theory of rent. I call it Bicardo's theory, though aware that it was first promulgated by Dr. Anderson, of Scotland, as early as 1777. It then attracted hardly any notice, and was subsequently forgotten. It was afterwards rediscovered, almost simultaneously, by Sir Edward West and Mr. Malthus, while Mr. Eicardo has most successfully developed it, applying it to the theory of profits, and to the solution of many other problems in economical science. Malthus was certainly put upon the track of it by his own theory of population, of which it is an obvious complement. As it might be objected to the Malthusian doctrine, that the danger which it contemplated was prospective and distant, the world certainly not being over-populated as yet in all its parts, this theory of rent comes in to fill up the deficiency in our heritage of woe, and to prove that the increase of population, to which the human race is always tending, is always an evil, — that, for every new life which is created, some new restraint, privation, or loss is imposed upon those already in being. "Granted," these prophets of evil may exclaim, "that there is not as yet any absolute deficiency of food; yet every birth tends to raise the price of the stock of sustenance which we have, because it obliges us to cultivate still poorer land, and to apply labor and capital with constantly diminishing returns, — or to work at smaller wages, and apply capital at smaller profits." * Mr. Mill states the legitimate inference from these two theories of population and rent clearly and strongly, when
* Dr. Chalmers actually argues in this manner, and with characteristic earnestness. <c It is thus," he says, "that, for the continued pressure of the world's population on its food, it is far from necessary that the food should have reached that stationary maximum beyond which it cannot be carried. It is enough for this purpose, that the limit of the world's abundance, though it does recede, should recede more slowly than would the limit of the world's population, A pressure, and that a very severe one, may be felt for many ages together, from a difference in the mere tendencies of their increase. The man who so runs as to break his head against a wall might receive a severe contusion, even to the breaking of his head, if, instead of a wall, it had been a slowly retiring barrier. And therefore we do not antedate matters by taking up now the consideration of Malthus's preventive and positive checks to population. There is scarcely a period, even in the bygone history of the world, when the former checks have not been called for, and the latter have not been in actual operation. To postpone either the argument or its application till the agriculture of the world shall be perfected, is a most unpractical, as well as a most intelligent view of the question; — for long ere this distant consummation can be realized, and even now, may the obstacle of a slowly retiring limit begin to be felt. The tendency of a progressive population to outstrip the progressive culture of the earth, may put mankind into a condition of straitness and difficulty, — and that for many generations before the earth shall be wholly cultivated Let the population increase to the extent'of its own inherent power of increase, and it would force the existing limit of cultivation; or, in other words, flow over upon a soil inferior to that which had last been entered upon, or inferior to that which., at the then rate of enjoyment, could do no more than feed the laboring cultivators and their secondaries [the manufacturers who supply them with tools and wrought goods]. The consequence of such a descent is inevitable. The rate of enjoyment must fall. The agricultural workmen must either submit to be worse fed than before, or, parting with so many of their secondaries, they must submit to be worse clothed, or lodged, or furnished than before. The likelihood is, that they would so proportion their sacrifices as to suffer in both these ways; — and so there behoved to be a general degradation of comfort in the working classes of society. There is, to be sure, another way in which they might possibly extract from the more ungrateful soil, on which they had just entered, the same plenty as before. They may submit to harder labor, by putting forth a more strenuous husbandry on the inferior land; but this too is degradation. Whether by an increase of drudgery, or an increase of destitution, there may, in either way, be a sore aggravation to the misery of laborers." — Chalmers's Political Economy, Vol. I. pp. 35 - 37.