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population — less labor being required to be given in exchange for similar quantities thereof. Thenceforward, the antagonism which it has been sought to establish between the effects produced in manufactures, and those produced in agriculture, must disappear—the fertility of agricultural industry, and not that of land, considered apart from labor and capital, becoming then the paramount facts in economical science, and opening to progress, on that side, as on every other, a career to which no limit can at present be assigned." *
* BAUDRILLART: Manual d'Economie Politique, p. 391.
The antagonism above referred to, exhibits itself in various forms, one of which may be here examined. The prices of cloths, houses, ships, and engines, tend to fall, with every improvement in the modes of production being determined by the cost of reproduction, with the aid of the latest and best machines. Mr. Ricardo says, that rents rise, because of a rise of prices resulting from a growing necessity for resorting to less productive soils — the price of food being determined by the cost at which it can be obtained from the latest and worst machines. It being admitted, that man's course, in reference to land, is the same that we know it to be in reference to houses, ships, and engines, from the poorer to the better, the supposed antagonism ceases - one great principle governing in every case, and the universality of natural law being thus established. That such has been his course, is proved by the fact, that the lands first occupied in England, Scotland, Sweden, France, and the United States, are now abandoned — having proved as much unable to contend with the later ones, as are the early engines to compete with those of the present day. Nevertheless, the price of food does tend to rise, but it is for the reasons given in Chapter XXIX., and not for those asserted by Mr. Ricardo.
Mr. J. S. Mill denies the existence of any “invariable law," but admits that the lands which require the greatest amount of clearing and drainage are seldom the first cultivated.” Having found no case of exception to be produced, it would, perhaps, have been better had he frankly admitted, that they are never so. Let the order of cultivation, however, be what it may, the law of price, as he thinks, remains undisturbed —"! those [lands) which when cultivated will yield the least return, in proportion to the labor required for their culture,” always regulating “the price of agricultural produce; and all other lands” paying "a rent simply equivalent to the excess of the produce over this minimum.” “If, indeed,” he continues, “Mr. Carey could show that the return to labor from the land, agriculturul skill and science remaining the same, is not a diminishing one, he would then overthrow a principle much more important than any law of rent. But, in this, he has wholly failed.”
Here, as every where in the teachings of the Ricardo school, the essential difficulty consists in determining what is the exact idea meant to be conveyed by the words that are used. So far as we comprehend this, it is desired that we should show what would be the state of things, if the powers of man remained stationary, while numbers increased — a state of things that is of impossible occurrence - the powers of man growing always with the growth of population, and consequent increase in the power of association. With great respect for the writer of this, we would suggest that the real subject of social science is man, as nature made him -- i. e., man, with the capacity and tendency for improvement, and not the being, human in form, § 12. That the facts of history are generally opposed to Mr. Ricardo, is admitted by Mr. Mill, who, nevertheless, adheres to the idea, that his theory of rent is “the most important proposition in political economy"- giving it to his readers in the following words :
“After a certain and not very advanced stage in the progress of agriculture; as soon, in fact, as men have applied themselves to cultivation with any energy, and have brought to it any toler. able tools; from that time it is the law of production from the land, that, in any given state of agricultural skill and knowledge, by increasing the labor, the produce is not increased in an equal degree; doubling the labor does not double the produce; or, to express the same thing in other words, every increase of produce is obtained by a more than proportional increase in the application of labor to the land."*
Before that stage, the reverse of this must have been the case -increase of produce having been obtained by a less "proportional increase in the application of labor to the land." Two laws are thus exhibited to us — working in opposite directions, , and leaving us to select that one which suits our purposes, when desiring to explain particular facts. Such not being the case, in any other department of science, it would seem to be little likely to occur in that one which treats of the laws that govern man.
That the law of decrease has not yet exhibited itself in operation, “does not,” in Mr. Mill's opinion, “prove that the law of which we have been speaking does not exist, but only that there is some antagonising principle at work, capable for a time of making head against the law. Such an agency,” he continues, brute in all else, treated of in Ricardo-Malthusian books.— The passage quoted above is from Mr. Mill's third edition, and has met our eye only at the moment when this sheet is passing through the press.
In it, we find, also, that we are asked to show that in any old country, the uncultivated lands are generally those which would pay best for cultivation”Dartmoor and Shap Fells being thereby proved to be really the most fertile lands in England." The Swiss economist, in like manner, finding that we have asserted the passage of man from the poorer to the richer soils, will probably require us to show that Alpine peaks are richer than Lombardian plains. The most conclusive proof of confidence in our own aocuracy, is to be found in accurately exhibiting the arguments of our opponents. That evidence, Mr Mill has, as we think, “wholly failed" to furnish.
* J. S. Mill: Principles of Political Economy, book 1, chap. xii., 82.
"there is, in habitual antagonism to the law of diminishing return from land; and to the consideration of this we shall now proceed. It is no other than the progress of civilization. I use,” he adds, “this general and somewhat vague expression, because the things to be included are so various, that hardly any term of a more restricted signification would comprehend them all.” *
The answer to this, would seem to be found in the same author's own words, elsewhere used, to wit: “In order to prove that our science, and our knowledge of the particular case, render us competent to predict the future, we must show that they would have enabled us to predict the present and the past.”
Such is the great object of science; but of what advantage can that science be, which finds itself compelled to explain the past, by means of imaginary suspensions of great natural laws ? Is it not clear from this, that social science, as taught by Mr. Ricardo and his successors, is only in that stage which is designated by M. Comte as the metaphysical one? Could it be otherwise, with a system which takes no note of the qualities by which man is distinguished from the beasts of the field ?
$ 13. The law of distribution above presented for the reader's consideration, was first announced, twenty years since, by the author of the present work. I Re-appearing since, in the work of a distinguished French economist, $ its harmony and beauty are recognised by him, in the following words, whose truth will be acknowledged, by all who study it with the care and attention it so well deserves :
"Such is the great, admirable, consoling, necessary, and in flexible law of capital. To demonstrate it is, as it appears to me, to strike with discredit the declamation, with which our ears have so long been dinned, against the avarice and the tyranny of the most powerful instrument of civilization and of equalization, that results from the exercise of human powers. Thus, the great law of capital and labor, as regards the distribution of the products of their joint labors, is settled. The absolute quantity of each is greater, but the proportional part of capital constantly diminishes, as compared with that of labor.
* J. S. Mill: Principles of Political Economy, book 1, chap. xii. & 3. + J. S. Mill: System of Logic.
Principles of Political Economy, Part I: Phila. 1837. 0 BASTIAT; Harmonies Economiques : Paris, 1850.
* * *
“Cease, then, capitalists and laborers, to look upon each other with eyes of suspicion, and of envy. Close your ears to those absurd declaimers, of whom nothing equals their pride, if it be not their ignorance, who, under the promise of future harmony, begin by exciting present discord. Recollect that, say what they may, your interests are one and the same - that they cannot be separated — that they tend together towards the realization of the general good — that the labors of the present generation combine themselves with those of generations that have passed that it is right, that each who has united in the work should have a portion of the remuneration — and, that the most ingenious as well as the most equitable division, takes place among you by virtue of providential laws, and by means of free and voluntary arrangements, without requiring the aid of a parasitic sentimentalism to impose upon you its decrees, at the expense of your well-being, your liberty, your security, and your dignity."*
Widely different from this, are the tendencies of the doctrine which teaches, that "the landlord is doubly benefited by difficulty of production "- obtaining "a greater share," and being paid “in a commodity of higher value."'+ Had such, really, been the case, Mr. Ricardo would have been fully warranted in asserting, as he did, that the interests of owners of land were constantly opposed to those of all other classes of society — all the gain in their transactions with the public, accruing to them, and all the loss falling to those with whom they dealt. The system being, thus, one of universal discord, it tends, necessarily, to disturbance of the right to property in land, as is shown by the following passage from the work of one of its most distinguished advocates :
* Recognising the entire identity of the laws governing the profits of capital and the rent of land, Professor Ferrara, speaking of this law of distribution, says that it is, “to those who feel an interest in the condition of the poorer classes of society, a most consoling one.” “Further,” he adds, “we have shown that Providence, in thus providing by the increase of capital for an ultimate limit of its importance, has, by the same process, provided for its extension. The compensation of the capitalist finds itself, it is true, diminished in its ratio to the total product; but the smaller proportion of a larger product, in place of diminishing the reward of those possessing the accumulations of the past, causes its increase. In other words, proprietors, capitalists, and laborers, have one common interest that of increasing the productiveness of labor.”—Biblioteca dell' Economista, vol. xiii. p. lxx.
| RICARDO: Chapter on Rent.
“When the sacredness of property' is talked of, it should always be remembered, that this sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property. No man made the land. It is the original inheritance of the whole species. * * * If the State is at liberty to treat the possessors of land as public functionaries, it is only going one step farther to say, it is at liberty to discard them. The claim of the land owners is altogether subordinate to the general policy of the State. The principle of property gives them no right to the land, but only a right to compensation, for whatever portion of their interest in the land it may be the policy of the State to deprive them of."'*
Following up the idea thus presented, another distinguished teacher in the same school, has since assured his readers, that a repetition of the recent confiscation of Irish landed property, will soon be required for England. †
We have here the natural result of a doctrine from the study of which we learn, that the rent of land is compensation for “no sacrifice whatever-being received by those who neither labor nor put by, but merely hold out their hands to accept the offerings of the community.” It is, as we are further told by the author of this sentence, the “reward” of the landlord “for having permitted the gifts of nature to be accepted."| Any policy tending to consolidation of the land is revolutionary in its tendencies — the necessary result of its pursuance being an arrest of the societary circulation, causing an accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, accompanied by a vast extension of the class having nothing, and likely to seek in revolution the means of improvement in their fortunes. That consolidation is the tendency in England, and in all the countries that follow in her lead, the reader has already seen. Its effects are visible in the total failure of respect for the rights of property, in Ireland, Scotland, and the Eastern and Western Indies — the landholder having been despoiled in the first — the tenant, in the
* J. S. Mill: Principles, book 11, chap. ii. f Economist, 1852, p. 635. See ante, p. 91, note.
SENIOR: Outlines of Political Economy, p. 166.