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Dorsetshire laborer. But if, from inferior skill and industry, two days' labor of an Irishman accomplish no more work than an English laborer performs in one, the Irishman's labor costs as much as the Englishman's, though it brings in so much less to himself. The capitalist's profit is determined by the former of these two things, not the latter. That a difference, to this extent, really exists in the efficiency of the labor, is proved not only by abundant testimony, but by the fact, that notwithstanding the lowness of wages, profits of capital are not higher in Ireland than in England.
The other cause which renders wages, and the cost of labor, no real criteria of one another, is the varying costliness of the articles which the labor consumes. If these are cheap, wages, in the sense which is of importance to the laborer, may be high, and yet the cost of labor may be low; if dear, the laborer may be wretchedly off, although his labor may cost much to the capitalist. This last is the condition of a country over-peopled in relation to its land; in which food being dear, the poorness of the laborer's real reward does not prevent labor from costing much to the purchaser, and low wages and low profits coëxist. The opposite case is exemplified in the United States of America. The laborer there enjoys a greater abundance of comforts than in any other country in the world, except some of our newest colonies; but, owing to the cheap price at which these comforts can be obtained, (combined with the great efficiency of the labor,) the cost of labor to the capitalist is considerably lower than in Europe. It must be so, since the rate of profit is higher; as indicated by the rate of interest, which is six per cent. at New York, when it is three or three and a quarter per cent. in London.
The cost of labor, then, is, in the language of mathe-on vel Inatics, a function of three variables; the efficiency of labor; the wages of labor, (meaning thereby the real reward of the laborer ;) and the greater or less cost at which the articles
composing that real reward can be produced or purchased. It is plain that the cost of labor to the capitalist must be influenced by each of these three circumstances, and cannot be affected by any others. These, therefore, are also the circumstances which determine the rate of profit ; and it cannot be in any way affected except through one or other of them. If labor generally became more efficient, without being more highly rewarded ; if, without its becoming less efficient, its remuneration fell, no increase taking place in the cost of the articles composing that remuneration; or if those articles became less costly, without the laborer's obtaining more of them; in any one of these three cases profits would rise. If, on the contrary, labor became less efficient (as it might do from diminished bodily vigor in the people, or from deteriorated education); or if the laborer obtained a higher remuneration, without any increased cheapness in the things composing it; or if, without his obtaining more, that which he did obtain became more costly; profits, in all these cases, would suffer a diminution. And there is no other combination of circumstances, in which the general rate of profit of a country, in all employments indifferently, can either fall or rise.
The evidence of these propositions can only be stated generally, though, it is hoped, conclusively, in this stage of our subject. It will come forth in greater fullness and force when, having taken into consideration the theory of Value and Price, we shall be enabled to exhibit the law of profits in the concrete-in the complex entanglement of circumstances in which it actually works. This can only be done in the ensuing Book. One topic still remains to be discussed in the present one, so far as it admits of being treated independently of considerations of Value—the subject of Rent; to which we now proceed.
1. The requisites of production being labor, capital, and natural agents; the only person, besides the laborer and the capitalist, whose consent is necessary to production, and who can claim a share of the produce as the price of that consent, is the person who, by the arrangements of society, possesses exclusive power over some natural agent. The land is the principal of the natural agents which are capable of being appropriated, and the consideration paid for its use is called rent. Landed proprietors are the only coming to ind class, of any numbers or importance, who have a claim to sam a share in the distribution of the produce, through their ownership of something which neither they nor any one else have produced. If there be any other cases of a similar nature, they will be easily understood, when the nature and laws of rent are comprehended.
It is at once evident, that rent is the effect of a monopoly'; vart hos though the monopoly is a natural one, which may be regulated, which may even be held as a trust for the community generally, but which cannot be prevented from existing.. The reason why land-owners are able to require rent for their land, is that it is a commodity which many want, and which no one can obtain but from them. If all the land of the country belonged to one person, he could fix the fent at his pleasure. The whole people would be dependent on his will for the necessaries of life, and he might make what conditions he chose. This is the actual state of things in those Oriental kingdoms in which the land is considered the property of the state. Rent is then confounded with taxation, and the despot may exact the
utmost which the unfortunate cultivators have to give. Indeed, the exclusive possessor of the land of a country could not well be other than despot of it. The effect would be much the same if the land belonged to so few people that they could, and did, concert together as one man, and fix the rent by agreement among themselves.
This case, however, is nowhere known to exist; and the only remaining supposition is that of free competition; the land-owners being supposed to be, as in fact they are, too numerous to combine.
§ 2. A thing which is limited in quantity, even though its possessors do not act in concert, is still a monopolized article. But even when monopolized, a thing which is the gift of nature, and requires no labor or outlay as the condition of its existence, will, if there be competition among the holders of it, command a price, only if it exists in less quantity than the demand. If the whole land of a country were required for cultivation, all of it might yield a rent. But in no country, of any extent, do the wants of the population require that all the land, which is capable of cultivation, should be cultivated. The food and other agricultural produce which the people need, and which they are willing and able to pay for at a price which remunerates the grower, may always be obtained without cultivating all the land; sometimes without cultivating more than a small part of it; the most fertile lands, or those in the most convenient situations, being of course preferred. There is always, therefore, some land which cannot, in existing circumstances, pay any rent; and no land ever pays rent, unless, in point of fertility or situation, it belongs to those superior kinds which exist in less quantity than the demand—which cannot be made to yield all the produce required for the community, unless on terms still less advantageous than the resort to less favored soils.
There is land, such as the deserts of Arabia, which will yield nothing to any amount of labor ; and there is land, like some of our hard sandy heaths, which would produce something, but, in the present state of the soil, not enough to defray the expenses of production. Such lands, unless by some application of chemistry to agriculture still remaining to be invented, cannot be cultivated for profit, unless some one actually creates a soil, by spreading new ingredients over the surface, or mixing them with the existing materials. If ingredients fitted for this purpose exist in the subsoil, or close at hand, the improvement even of the most unpromising spots may answer as a speculation ; but if those ingredients are costly, and must be brought from a distance, it will seldom answer to do this for the sake of profit, though the “magic of property” will sometimes effect it. Land which cannot possibly yield a profit, is sometimes cultivated at a loss, the cultivators having their wants partially supplied from other sources; as in the case of paupers, and some monasteries or charitable institutions, among which may be reckoned the Poor Colonies of Belgium. The worst land which can be cultivated as a means of subsistence, is that which will just replace the seed, and the food of the laborers employed on it, together with what Dr. Chalmers calls their secondaries; that is, the laborers who supply them with tools, and with the remaining necessaries of life. Whether any given land is capable of doing more than this, is not a question of political economy, but of physical fact. The supposition leaves nothing for profits, nor anything for the laborers except necessaries; the land, therefore, can only be cultivated by the laborers themselves, or else at a pecuniary loss; and a fortiori, cannot in any contingency afford a rent. The worst land which can be cultivated as an investment for capital, is that which, after replacing the seed, not only feeds the agricultural laborers and their secondaries, but