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ploughing or tile draining, by which the produce of some kinds of land is so greatly multiplied; improvements in the breed or feeding of laboring cattle ; augmented stock of the animals which consume and convert into human food what would otherwise be wasted; and the like. The other sort of improvements, those which diminish labor, but without increasing the capacity of the land to produce, are such as the improved construction of tools; the introduction of new instruments which spare manual labor, as the winnowing and threshing machines; a more skilful and economical application of muscular exertion, such as the introduction, so slowly accomplished in England, of Scotch ploughing with two horses abreast and one man, instead of three or four horses in a team, and two men, &c. These improvements do not add to the productiveness of the land ; but they are equally calculated with the former to counteract the tendency in the cost of production of agricultural produce, to rise with the progress of population and demand.
Analogous in effect to this second class of agricultural improvements, are improved means of communication. Good roads are equivalent to good tools. It is of no consequence whether the economy of labor takes place in extracting the produce from the soil, or in conveying it to the place where it is to be consumed. Not to'say in addition, that the labor of cultivation itself is diminished by whatever lessens the cost of bringing manure froin a distance, or facilitates the many operations of transport from place to place which occur within the bounds of the farm. Railways and canals are virtually a diminution of the cost of production of all things sent to market by them; and literally so of all those, the appliances and aids for producing which, they serve to transmit. By their means land can be cultivated, which would not otherwise have remunerated the cultivators without a rise of price. Improvements in navigation have, with VOL. I.
respect to food or materials brought beyond sea, a corresponding effect.
From similar considerations it appears that many purely mechanical improvements, which have (apparently at least) no peculiar connection with agriculture, nevertheless enable a given amount of food to be obtained with a smaller expenditure of labor. A great improvement in the process of smelting iron would tend to cheapen agricultural implements, diminish the cost of railroads, of wagons and carts, ships, and perhaps buildings and many other things to which iron is not at present applied, because it is too costly; and would thence diminish the cost of production of food. The same effect would follow from any improvement in those processes of what may be termed manufacture, to which the material of food is subjected after it is separated from the ground. The first application of wind or waterpower to grind corn, tended to cheapen bread as much as a very important discovery in agriculture would have done ; and any great improvement in the construction of cornmills would have, in proportion, a similar influence. The effects of cheapening locomotion have been already considered. There are also engineering inventions which facilitate all great operations on the earth's surface. An improvetnent in the art of taking levels is of importance to draining, not to mention canal and railway making. The fens of Holland and of some parts of England are drained by pumps worked by the wind or by steam. Where works of irrigation, or where tanks or embankments are necessary, mechanical skill is a great resource for cheapening production.
Those manufacturing improvements which cannot be made instrumental to facilitate, in any of its stages, the actual production of food, and therefore do not help to counteract or retard the diminution of the proportional return to labor from the soil, have, however, another effect which
is practically equivalent. What they do not prevent, they yet, in some degree, compensate for.
The materials of manufactures being all drawn from the land, and many of them from agriculture, which supplies in particular the entire material of clothing; the general law of production from the land, the law of diminishing return, must in the last resort be applicable to manufacturing as well as to agricultural industry. As population increases, and the power of the land to yield increased produce is strained harder and harder, any additional supply of material, as well as of food, must be obtained by a more than proportionally increasing expenditure of labor. But the cost of the material forming generally a very small portion of the entire cost of the manufacture, the agricultural labor concerned in the production of manufactured goods is but a small fraction of the whole labor worked up in the commodity. All the rest of the labor tends constantly and strongly towards diminution, as the amount of production increases. Manufactures are vastly more susceptible than agriculture of mechanical improvements, and contrivances for saving labor; and it has already been seen how greatly the division of labor, and its skilful and economical distribution, depend upon the extent of the market, and upon the possibility of production in large masses. In manufactures, accordingly, the causes tending to increase the productiveness of industry, preponderate greatly over the one cause which tends to diminish it; and the increase of production, called forth by the progress of society, takes place not at an increasing, but at a continually diminishing proportional cost. This fact has manifested itself in the progressive fall of the prices and values of almost every kind of manufactured goods during two centuries past; a fall accelerated by the mechanical inventions of the last sixty or seventy years, and susceptible of being prolonged and extended beyond any limit which it would be safe to specify.
Now it is quite conceivable that the efficiency of agricultural labor might be undergoing, with the increase of produce, a gradual diminution; that the price of food, in consequence, might be progressively rising, and an evergrowing proportion of the population might be needed to raise food for the whole; while yet the productive power of labor in all other branches of industry might be so rapidly augmenting, that the required amount of labor could be spared from manufactures, and nevertheless a greater produce be obtained, and the aggregate wants of the community be on the whole better supplied than before. The benefit might even extend to the poorest class. The increased cheapness of clothing and lodging might make up to them for the augmented cost of their food.
There is, thus, no possible improvement in the arts of production which does not in one or another mode exercise an antagonist influence to the law of diminishing return to agricultural labor. Nor is it only industrial improvements which have this effect. Improvements in government, and almost every kind of moral and social advancement, operate in the same manner. Suppose a country in the condition of France before the Revolution; taxation imposed exclusively on the industrious classes, and on such a principle as to be an actual penalty on production ; and no redress obtainable for any injury to property or person, when inflicted by people of rank or court influence. Was not the hurricane which swept away this system of things, even if we look no further than to its effect in augmenting the productiveness of labor, equivalent to many industrial inventions ? The removal of a fiscal burthen on agriculture, such as the tithe, has the same effect as if the labor necessary for obtaining the existing produce were suddenly reduced one tenth. The abolition of corn laws, or of any other restrictions which prevent commodities from being produced where their cost of production is lowest, amounts to a vast improvement in production. When fertile land previously reserved as hunting-ground, or for any other purpose of amusement, is set free for culture, the aggregate productiveness of agricultural industry is increased. It is well known what has been the effect in England of badly administered poor laws, and the still worse effect in Ireland of a bad system of tenancy, in rendering agricultural labor slack and ineffective. No improvements operate more directly upon the productiveness of labor than those in the tenure of farms, and in the laws relating to landed property. The breaking up of entails, the cheapening of the transfer of property, and whatever else promotes the natural tendency of land in a system of freedom, to pass out of hands which can make little of it into those which can make more ; the substitution of long leases for tenancy at will, and of any tolerable system of tenancy whatever for the wretched cottier system ; above all, the acquisition of a fixed interest in the soil by the cultivators of it; all these things are as real, and some of them as great, improvements in production, as the invention of the spinning-jenny or the steamengine.
We may say the same of improvements in education. The intelligence of the workman is a most important element in the productiveness of labor. So low, in some of the most civilized countries, is the present standard of that intelligence, that there is hardly any source from which a more indefinite amount of improvement may be looked for in productive power, than by endowing with brains those who now have only hands. The carefulness, economy, and general trustworthiness of laborers are as important as their intelligence. Friendly relations, and a community of interest and feeling between laborers and employers, are eminently so; I should rather say, would be; for I know not where any such sentiment of friendly alliance now exists. Nor is it only in the laboring class that improve