Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

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 }. itself called forth. This tendency of improvements in roduction to cause increased accumuation, 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 roduce which will, or even which can, i. 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 benefit to labourers of mechanical inventions even in the existing state of society, 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 o 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 mainte* Infra, book iv, chap. v.

nance 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 al. ways 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 relenish his stock of the materials of is 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 consumed 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 # capital now expended in wages were diverted to the providing of materials, the effect on the labourers would be as

[ocr errors]

prejudicial as if it were converted into fixed capital. This, however, is a kind of change which never 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.

CHAPTER VII.

ON WHAT DEPENDS THE DEGREE OF PRODUCTIVENESS OF PRODUCTIVE AGENTS,

§ 1. 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 #. 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 b sustaining in existence the labour whic 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 Af. rica, or Syria at present, with the same countries at 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.

§ 2. 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 south, or, in the European temperate region, towards the east, some new branch of agriculture becomes first possible, then advantageous; the vine, maize, figs, olives, silk, 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 alternate exposure to 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 absolute necessary of life in cold climates, they can almost dispense with, except for industrial uses. They also require less aliment; as experience had proved, long before 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 resource 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 the 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 roduction 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 use of a convenient maritime situation; as Athens, Tyre, Marseilles, Venice, the free cities on the Baltic, and the like.

§ 3. So much for natural advantages; the value of which, casteris 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 do for an individual, anything like what it lies in their nature, or in their capacity, to do. Neither now nor in former ages have He 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 '. seldom concern themselves enoug 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 ualities 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. From the time when the circumstances of modern society permitted 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.

P.E.

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 occa§ional, but regular and habitual energy. No one undergoes, without murmur. ing, a greater amount of occasional fatigue and hardship, or has his bodily ow. and such faculties of mind as e possesses, kept longer at their utmost stretch, than the North Ame. rican Indian; yet his indolence is proverbial, whenever he has a brief respite from the pressure of present wants. Individuals, or nations, 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 their application to work on ordinary occasions. Some amount of these qualities is a necessary condition of any great improvement among mankind. To 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 steady and regular 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 abundance of the richest land, is sufficient to support existence, they would have sunk into a condition more barbarous, though less unhappy, 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 worthy of being cultivated, and in most societies its indulgence tends to impoverish rather than to enrich; but in the state of mind of the negroes it might have been the only incentive that could make them voluntarily undergo systematic labour, and so acquire or maintain habits of voluntary industry which may be converted to more valuable ends. In Boy", 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 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. There is no need, however, that it should diminish the strenuous and business-like application to the matter in hand, which is found in the best English workmen, and is their most valuable quality.

The desirable medium 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.

§ 4. 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 of the properties of objects, which is turned to the purposes of industry. That the produc. tiveness of the labour of a people is simited 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 in

crease 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 well-known “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 hoe, 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 man. kind; and subsequent inventions have chiefly served to enable the work to be performed in greater perfection, and, above all, with a greatly diminished quantity of labour: the labour thus saved becoming disposable for other employment. 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 is only now beginning to show that it can do anything 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 }. land itself, and to the plants growing on it: such as rotation of crops, to avoid the necessity of leaving the land uncultivated for one season in every two or three; improved manures, to renovate its fertility when exhausted by cropping; ploughing and

« НазадПродовжити »