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Mr. Carey's objection, however, has somewhat more of ingenuity than the arguments commonly met with against the theory of rent; a theorem which may be called the pons asinorum of political economy, for there are, I am inclined to think, few persons who have refused their assent to it except from not having thoroughly understood it. The loose and inaccurate way in which it is often apprehended by those who affect to refute it, is very remarkable. Many, for instance, have imputed absurdity to Mr. Ricardo's theory, because it is absurd to say that the cultivation of inferior land is the cause of rent on the superior. Mr. Ricardo does not say that it is the cultivation of inferior land, but the necessity of cultivating it, from the insufficiency of the superior land to feed a growing population; between which and the proposition imputed to him there is no less a difference than that between demand and supply. Others again allege as an objection against Ricardo, that if all land were of equal fertility, it might still yield a rent. But Ricardo says precisely the same. He says that if all lands were equally fertile, those which are nearer to their market than others, and are therefore less burthened with cost of carriage, would yield a rent equivalent to the advantage; and that the land yielding no rent would then be, not the least fertile, but the least advantageously situated, which the wants of the community required to be brought into cultivation. It is also distinctly a portion of Ricardo's doctrine, that even apart from differences of situation, the land of a country supposed to be of uniform fertility would, all of it, on a certain supposition, pay rent, namely, if the demand of the community required that it should all be cultivated, and cultivated beyond the point at which a further application of capital begins to be attended with a smaller proportional return. It would be impossible to show that, except by forcible exaction, the whole land of a country can yield a rent on any other supposition.
turn, he would overthrow a principle much more fundamental than any law of rent. But in this he has wholly failed. It is not pretended that this natural law applies to a very early stage in the clearing and settlement of a country; and in this stage only have Mr. Carey's objections any shadow of foundation in the real order of the facts.
§ 6. After this view of the nature and causes of rent, let us turn back to the subject of profits, and bring up for reconsideration one of the propositions laid down in the last chapter. We there stated, that the advances of the capitalist, or in other words, the expenses of production, consist solely in wages of labour; that whatever portion of the outlay is not wages, is previous profit, and whatever is not previous profit, is wages. Rent, however, being an element which it is impossible to resolve into either profits or wages, we were obliged, for the moment, to assume that the capitalist is not required to pay rent—to give an equivalent for the use of an appropriated natural agent: and I undertook to show in the proper place that this is an allowable supposition, and that rent does not really form any part of the expenses of production, or of the advances of the capitalist. The grounds on which this assertion was made are now apparent. It is true that all tenant farmers, and many other classes of producers, pay rent. But we have now seen, that whoever cultivates land, paying a rent for it, gets in return for his rent an instrument of superior power to other instruments of the same kind for which no rent is paid. The superiority of the instrument is in exact proportion to the rent paid for it. If a few persons had steam-engines of superior power to all others in existence, but limited by physical laws to a number short of the demand, the rent which a manufacturer would be willing to pay for one of these steam-engines could not be looked upon as an addition to his outlay, because by the use of it he would save in his other expenses the equivalent of what it cost him: without it he could not do the same quantity of work, unless at an additional expense equal to the rent. The same thing is true of land. The real expenses of production are those incurred on the worst land, or by the capital employed in the least favourable circumstances. This land or capital pays, as we have seen, no rent: but the expenses to which it is subject, cause all other land or agricultural capital to be subjected to an equivalent expense in the form of rent. Whoever does pay rent, gets back its full value in extra advantages, and the rent which he pays does not place him in a worse position than, but only in the same position as, his fellowproducer who pays no rent, but whose instrument is one of inferior efficiency.
We have now completed the exposition of the laws which regulate the distribution of the produce of land, labour, and capital, as far as it is possible to discuss those laws independently of the instrumentality by which in a civilized society the distribution is effected ; the machinery of Exchange and Price. The more complete elucidation and final confirmation of the laws which we have laid down, and the deduction of their most important consequences, must be preceded by an explanation of the nature and working of that machinery -a subject so extensive and complicated as to require a separate Book.