Зображення сторінки

such case, the new families would have to emigrate, as they are now actually obliged to do; but they would find abundance of unoccupied land in America, Australia, and elsewhere. It has already been demonstrated, that the earth does not contain a hundredth part of the population it is capable of feeding. "Malte-Brun has said, that the soil of Europe alone could afford ample food for a thousand millions of inhabitants; being nearly five times its present number, and more by one fifth than the whole actual population of the globe." Considering that the facilities for emigration are rapidly multiplying, and that already over 400,000 human beings annually cross the Atlantic to seek a new home, it is obvious that there is no practical difficulty in dividing the increase of population among the most distant regions of the earth, or wherever food can be most easily obtained.

But if the population of one country, or of the whole globe, were thus distributed with perfect evenness, each family residing upon the spot that furnished it with food, though there would be no rent, it is obvious that there would be little or no division of labor, and, consequently, no progress in civilization and the arts, and no advancement in opulence. Mankind would begin to retrograde to a condition as low as that in which any portion of them have yet been found. The labor of far the larger portion of each, family would have to be devoted to agriculture, in order to obtain the necessary sustenance from the ground; and as the labor of the remaining part would not suffice to renew and keep in repair the stock of tools, domestic utensils, and household comforts, these would soon be expended or worn out. As tools become imperfect and deficient, more labor must be given to tillage. The processes of agriculture would thus rapidly degenerate, till at last the incessant toil of the whole family would produce only a scanty supply of the coarsest sustenance, and from the want of leisure, knowledge and civilization would die out.

But experience even of the commencement of these evils would teach mankind their appropriate and easy remedy. Several families would unite, in order to obtain the benefits of a division of labor. Some would devote themselves exclusively to the manufacture of agricultural implements and household articles, while the labor of the others would supply them with food. As manufacturing operatives must work near each other, the ground originally allotted to a single family would come to be tenanted by many, and would form the nucleus of a town. But a town is necessarily a market for the sale of agricultural produce and the purchase of manufactured commodities. From the advantages which the town would thus afford, the land in its immediate vicinity, being limited in quantity, would assume a value, or, in other words, would begin to yield a rent. Upon any hypothesis that can be framed, even upon Ricardo's doctrine, the origin of rent must be traced to monopoly, — to a necessarily limited supply met by an unlimited demand. Only a small number of farms of the original size, from six to twenty acres, can have the advantage of immediate proximity to the newly formed manufacturing village; the occupants of these farms would be better furnished with tools, and more able to exchange their products for manufactured goods. The occupants of farms at a distance would be willing to purchase these advantages of them, — to offer two or three acres remote from market, in exchange for one acre adjoining a town. Thus rent would .begin, not at all as a consequence of the absolute increase of the population, for the total population might be stationary or even retrograding while these changes were going on, but as a consequence of the altered distribution of the people over the face of the country.

Malthus and EAcardo, with their followers, perceived that the origin of rent must be attributed to monopoly; for the value of land, so far as it consists iii the natural and inherent qualities of the soil, is an instance of the existence of value without labor, and therefore, according to the first principles of Political Economy, it can be explained only by a limited supply and exclusive appropriation. But they failed to perceive the causes and nature of the monopoly, or to trace the consequences of the application of their own doctrine. They imagined that the high rent of land in a given county or district is only a particular case of the over-populousness of the whole country or kingdom, — of the fact that the whole extent of territory is insufficient to meet the wants of the whole population. They supposed, therefore, that the rise of rent properly so called must be uniform throughout the whole country, and must also be exactly proportioned, after deducting the effects of agricultural improvements, to the increase of the total population,— two suppositions which are contrary to the facts. The notorious fact, that not even England is yet over-peopled, but is capable of supporting, from her own soil, a population thrice as dense as her present one, as is proved by the example of the most densely inhabited portions of Belgium, or a hundred times as dense, if we consider the supplies of food which she might obtain from abroad, — this fact, I say, they endeavored to explain away by the unfounded assumptions that the most fertile land is always the first occupied, and that the people are compelled, by every increase of their numbers, to have recourse to inferior soils, or to apply additional capital to the ground with constantly diminishing returns. Not the more fertile lands, however, but those which are nearer to cities and to populous manufacturing districts, yield the higher rent; and the highest rents of all are obtained from land that is not used at all for purposes of agriculture, but only for habitation or manufacturing purposes, within the limits of the cities themselves, — a phenomenon of which the theory of RAcardo furnishes no explanation whatever. His theory is applicable only to what may be called agricultural rents; civic rents, the groundrents of houses and shops in crowded cities, afford the best of all instances of rent properly so called, as they are free from the effects of the great disturbing cause, — agricultural improvements. These ground-rents do not depend upon the magnitude of the population of the city, or upon its rate of increase; they rise and fall in different streets, under the varying demand produced by the changes of business and the mutations of fashion. In London, they have risen enormously high in Belgravia, and fallen proportionally in what was the fashionable part of the metropolis a century ago; in the most crowded portions of the city proper, they are probably no higher than they were in the time of George III., and do not certainly equal some in "Washington Street, Boston, the population of which city is not one twelfth part as great as that of London. In the English metropolis, the population, as it increases in number, necessarily spreads itself over more space; and therefore it may be doubted whether the aggregate ground-rent of those portions of the city which were densely inhabited at the beginning of this century is any greater now than it was in 1800, though the population of all England meanwhile has doubled.

In the United States, the want of local attachments and the restless and migratory character of the population have drawn attention to the fact, that rents begin, or the land acquires value, as fast as the vicinity is peopled. The favorite form of speculation here, the easiest and most common mode of moneygetting, is the acquisition of a tract of land in some neighborhood where the circumstances indicate that a new town or city must soon spring up. A fortune is thus easily acquired, as the land acquires value before any labor is expended upon it, and long before the necessities of an increasing population would require it to be inhabited, or even cultivated. In England, the more stationary habits of the population have concealed this fact, and as the land slowly rose in value with the advancement of opulence and the gradual increase in the number of the whole people, Anderson's or Ricardo's theory of rent seemed plausible enough. Their doctrine seemed to illustrate the phenomenon, otherwise apparently inexplicable, of the steady growth of the fortunes of the aristocracy and the landed gentry, who neither labor nor spin, proportionally with the increase of the wealth of the commercial and manufacturing classes, whose prosperity is attributable to their own industry and enterprise. Yet even in England, there has been a regular movement of the population, a steady drain from the agriculturar counties, and a filling up of the manufacturing districts. The increase of the population during the last fifty years, in the agricultural counties of Hereford, the North Riding of York, and Wilts, has been respectively but 31, 35, and 38 per cent; while in Stafford, for the same period, it has been 151, in Durham, 160, and in Lancaster, 201 per cent. And the consequence has been the unprecedented rise of rents, already mentioned, in the counties last named, while in Wilts, Hereford, and the North Riding, it may be doubted whether the average annual value of the land, excluding the improvements effected by capital, is any greater than it was half a century ago.

The rise of rents, as thus explained, is no hardship for those who are not landholders, and does not tend to depress the laboring part of the population. Those who pay these higher rents, or the higher prices of corn which produce them, are compensated by the advantages they obtain through their vicinity to a market. In fact, the enhancement of price for the burghers or citizens is merely nominal; they obtain more, and have a readier sale, for the manufactured goods which they produce, and pay more for the corn which they consume, the one result counterbalancing the other. What matters it to the laborer, if he pays more rent for his dwelling, and a higher price for his corn and potatoes, provided that the additional wages which he receives are more than enough to meet these additional expenses? The positive gain to the community consists in the saving of transportation both ways. If the population were not concentrated, it would be necessary to transport the agricultural produce a long distance to the town where it is consumed, and to carry the manufactured goods an equal distance to the farmers who need them. Even the English economists admit, that a great saving is effected in this respect through canals, railways, and other contrivances which lessen the cost of transportation. Is it not still a greater saving to do away with the necessity of these improved means of transport, and with the cost of constructing them, by bringing the agriculturists and the manufacturers nearer to each other? While reasoning in favor of the abolition of the corn-laws, McCulloch himself presents this point with much clearness. He argues that the repeal of these laws will not leave the English farmer destitute of protection, for he will still have an advantage over the foreign grower, consisting in the cost of importing the grain from the Baltic, the Black Sea, or America. The charges of transportation and the profits of the importer must still be added to the price of the grain at the place where it is raised, and as the risk is great in dealing in corn, this enhancement of price must be considerable. To take the nearest source of supply, for instance, he computes the cost of transporting grain from the upper provinces on the Bug to Dantzic to be from Is. to 9s. a quarter; and thence to London, including insurance and profit, 5s. or 6s. more. If the Polish grower, therefore, receives 43s. a quarter for his wheat, "it could not, in ordinary years, be offered for sale in this country for less than from 55s. to 58s. a quarter, a price more than sufficient to insure the continued progress of British agri

« НазадПродовжити »