Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

beings. This is the common case, and requires no illustration.

Secondly, utilities fixed and embodied in human beings; the labor being in this case employed in conferring on human beings, qualities which render them serviceable to themselves and others. To this class belongs the labor of all concerned in education; not only schoolmasters, tutors, and professors, but governments, so far as they aim successfully at the improvement of the people; moralists, and clergymen, as far as productive of benefit; the labor of physicians, as far as instrumental in preserving life and physical or mental efficiency; of the teachers of bodily exercises and of the various trades, sciences, and arts, together with the labor of the learners in acquiring them; and all labor bestowed by any persons, throughout life, in improving the knowledge or cultivating the bodily or mental faculties of themselves or others.

Thirdly, and lastly, utilities not fixed or embodied in any object, but consisting in a mere service rendered; a pleasure given, an inconvenience or a pain averted, during a longer or a shorter time, but without leaving a permanent acquisition in the improved qualities of any person or thing; the labor being employed in producing a utility directly, not (as in the two former cases) in fitting some other thing to afford a utility. Such, for example, is the labor of the musical performer, the actor, the public declaimer or reciter, and the showman. Some good may no doubt be produced, beyond the moment, upon the feelings and disposition, or general state of enjoyment of the spectators; or instead of good there may be harm ; but neither the one nor the other is the effect intended, is the result for which the exhibitor works and the spectator pays; nothing but the immediate pleasure. Such, again, is the labor of the army and navy: they, at the best, prevent a country from being conquered, or from being injured and insulted, which is a service, but in all other respects leave the country neither improved nor deteriorated. Such, too, is the labor of the legislator, the judge, the officer of justice, and all other agents of government in their ordinary functions, apart from any influence they may exert on the improvement of the national mind. The service which they render, is to maintain peace and security; these compose the utility which they produce. It may appear to some, that carriers, and merchants or dealers, should be placed in this same class, since their labor does not add any properties to objects: but I reply that it does : it adds the property of being in the place where they are wanted, instead of being in some other place; which is a very useful property, and the utility it confers is embodied in the things themselves, which now actually are in the place where they are required for use, and in consequence of that increased utility could be sold at an increased price, proportioned to the labor expended in conferring it. This labor, therefore, does not belong to the third class, but to the first.

3. We have now to consider which of these three classes of labor should be accounted productive of wealth, since that is what the term productive, when used by itself, must be understood to import. Utilities of the third class, consisting in pleasures which only exist while being enjoyed, and services which only exist while being performed, cannot be spoken of as wealth, except by an acknowledged metaphor. It is essential to the idea of wealth to be susceptible of accumulation : things which cannot, after being produced, be kept for some time before being used, are never, I think, regarded as wealth, since however much of them may be produced and enjoyed, the person benefitted by them is no richer, is nowise improved in circumstances. But there is not so distinct and positive a violation of usage in considering as wealth any product which is both useful and susceptible of accumulation. The skill, and the energy and perseverance, of the artisans of a country, are reckoned part of its wealth, no less than their tools and machinery. According to this definition, we should regard all labor as productive which is employed in creating permanent utilities, whether embodied in human beings, or in any other animate or inanimate objects. And this nomenclature I have, in a former publication,* recommended, as the most conformable to the ends of classification, though not strictly conformable to the customs of language.

But in applying the term wealth to the industrial capacities of human beings, there seems always, in popular apprehension, to be a tacit reference to material products. The skill of an artisan is accounted wealth, only as being the means of acquiring wealth in a material sense; and any qualities not tending visibly to that object are scarcely so regarded at all. A country would hardly be said to be richer, except by a metaphor, however precious a possession it might have in the genius, the virtues, or the accomplishments of its inhabitants; unless indeed these were looked upon as marketable articles, by which it could attract the material wealth of other countries, as the Greeks of old, and several modern nations have done. While, therefore, I should prefer, were I constructing a new technical language, to make the distinction turn upon the permanence rather than upon the materiality of the product, yet when employing terms which common usage has taken complete possession of, it seems advisable so to employ them as to do the least possible violence to that usage ; since any improvement in terminology obtained by straining the received meaning of a popular phrase, is generally purchased beyond

Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy. On the words Productive and Unproductive.

Essay III.

its value, by the obscurity arising from the conflict between new and old associations.

I shall therefore, in this treatise, when speaking of wealth, understand by it only what is called material wealth, and by productive labor only those kinds of exertion which produce utilities embodied in material objects. But in limiting myself to this sense of the word, I mean to avail myself of the full extent of that restricted acceptation, and I shall not refuse the appellation productive, to labor which yields no material product as its direct result, provided that an increase of material products is its ultimate consequence. Thus, labor expended in the acquisition of manufacturing skill, I class as productive, not in virtue of the skill itself, but of the manufactured products created by the skill, and to the creation of which the labor of learning the trade is essentially conducive. The labor of officers of government in affording the protection which, afforded in some manner or other, is indispensable to the prosperity of industry, must be classed as productive even of material wealth, because without it, material wealth, in anything like its present abundance, could not exist. Such labor may be said to be productive indirectly or mediately, in opposition to the labor of the ploughman and the cottonspinner, which are productive immediately. They are all alike in this, that they leave the community richer in material products than they found it; they increase, or tend to increase, material wealth.

$ 4. By Unproductive Labor, on the contrary, will be understood labor which does not terminate in the creation of material wealth ; which, however largely or successfully practiced, does not render the community, and the world at large, richer in material products, but poorer by all that is consumed by the laborers while so employed. VOL. I.

6

All labor is, in the language of political economy, unproductive, which ends in immediate enjoyment, without any increase of the accumulated stock of permanent means of enjoyment. And all labor, according to our present definition, must be classed as unproductive, which terminates in a permanent benefit, however important, provided that an increase of material products forms no part of that benefit. The labor of saving a friend's life is not productive, unless the friend is a productive laborer, and produces more than , he consumes. To a religious person the saving of a soul must appear a far more important service than the saving of a life; but he will not therefore call a missionary or a clergyman productive laborers, unless they teach, as the South Sea missionaries have in some cases done, the arts of civilization in addition to the doctrines of religion. It is, on the contrary, evident that the greater number of missionaries or clergymen a nation maintains, the less it has to expend on other things; while the more it expends judiciously in keeping agriculturists and manufacturers at work, the more it will have for every other purpose. By the former it diminishes, ceteris paribus, its stock of material products; by the latter, it increases them.

Unproductive may be as useful as productive labor; it may be more useful, even in point of permanent advantage; or its use may consist only in pleasurable sensation, which when gone leaves no trace; or it may not afford even this, but may be absolute waste. In any case, society or mankind grow no richer by it, but poorer. All material products consumed by any one while he produces nothing, are so much subtracted, for the time, from the material products which society would otherwise have possessed. But though society grows no richer by unproductive labor, the individual may. An unproductive laborer may receive for his labor, from those who derive pleasure or benefit from it, a remuneration which may be to him a considerable source

« НазадПродовжити »