Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

§ 3. At: the risk of being tedious, I must add a few more illustrations, to bring out into a still clearer and stronger light the idea of Capital. As M. Say truly remarks, it is on the very elements of our subject that illustration is most usefully bestowed, since the greatest errors which prevail in it may be traced to the want of a thorough mastery over the elementary ideas. Nor is this surprising: a branch may be diseased and all the rest healthy, but unsoundness at the root diffuses unhealthiness through the whole tree.

Let us therefore consider whether, and in what cases, the property of those who live on the interest of what they possess, without being personally engaged in production, can be regarded as capital. It is so called in common language, and, with reference to the individual, not improperly. All funds from which the possessor derives an income, which income he can use without sinking and dissipating the fund itself, are to him equivalent to capital. But to transfer hastily and inconsiderately to the general point of view propositions which are true of the individual has been a source of innumerable errors in political economy. In the present instance, that which is virtually capital to the individual, is or is not capital to the nation, according as the fund which by the supposition he has not dissipated, has or has not been dissipated by somebody else.

For example, let property of the value of ten thousand pounds belonging to A, be lent to B, a farmer or manufacturer, and employed profitably in B's occupation. It is as much capital as if it belonged to B. A is really a farmer or manufacturer, not personally, but in respect of his property. Capital worth ten thousand pounds is employed in production—in maintaining labourers and providing tools and materials; which capital belongs to A, while B takes the trouble of employing it, and receives for his remuneration the difference between the profit which it yields and the interest he pays to A. This is the simplest case.

Suppose next that A's ten thousand pounds, instead of being lent to B, are lent on mortgage to C, a landed proprietor, by whom they are employed in improving the productive powers of his estate, by fencing, draining, road-making, or permanent manures. This is productive employment. The ten thousand pounds are sunk, but not dissipated. They yield a permanent return; the land now affords an increase of produce, sufficient, in a few years, if the outlay has been judicious, to replace the amount, and in time to multiply it manifold. Here, then, is the value of ten thousand pounds, employed in increasing the produce of the country. This constitutes a capital, for which C, if he lets his land, receives the returns in the nominal form of increased rent; and the mortgage entitles A to receive from these returns, in the shape of interest, such annual sum as has been agreed on. We will now vary the circumstances, and suppose that C does not employ the loan in improving his land, but in paying off a former mortgage, or in making a provision for children. Whether the ten thousand pounds thus employed are capital or not, will depend on what is done with the amount by the ultimate receiver. If the children invest their fortunes in a productive employment, or the mortgagee on being paid off lends the amount to another landholder to improve his land, or to a manufacturer to extend his business, it is still capital, because productively employed.

Suppose, however, that C, the borrowing landlord, is a spendthrift, who burdens his land not to increase his fortune but to squander it, expending the amount in equipages and entertainments. In a year or two it is dissipated, and without return. A is as rich as before; he has no longer his ten thousand pounds, but he has a lien on the land, which he could still sell for that amount. C, however, is 10,0002. poorer than formerly; and nobody is richer. It may be said that those are richer who have made profit out of the money while it was being spent. No doubt if C lost it by gaming, or was cheated of it by his servants, that is a mere transfer, not a destruction, and those who have gained the amount may employ it productively. But if C has received the fair value for his expenditure in articles of subsistence or luxury, which he has consumed on himself, or by means of his servants or guests, these articles have ceased to exist, and nothing has been produced to replace them: while if the same sum had been employed in farming or manufacturing, the consumption which would have taken place would have been more than balanced at the end of the year by new products, created by the labour of those who would in that case have been the consumers. By C's prodigality, that which would have been consumed with a return, is consumed without return. C's tradesmen may have made a profit during the process; but if the capital had been expended productively, an equivalent profit would have been made by builders, fencers, tool-makers, and the tradespeople who supply the consumption of the labouring classes; while at the expiration of the time (to say nothing of any increase), C would have had the ten thousand pounds or its value replaced to him, which now he has not. There is, therefore, on the general result, a difference to the disadvantage of the community, of at least ten thousand pounds, being the amount of C's unproductive expenditure. To A, the difference is not material, since his income is secured to him, and while the security is good, and the market rate of interest the same, he can always sell the mortgage at its original value. To A, therefore, the lien of ten thousand pounds on Cs estate, is virtually a capital of that amount; but is it so in reference to the community? It is not. A had a capital of ten thousand pounds, but this has been extinguished—dissipated and destroyed by C's prodigality. A now receives his income, not from the produce of his capital, but from some other source of income belonging to C, probably from the rent of his land, that is, from payments made to him by farmers out of the produce of their capital. The national capital is diminished by ten thousand pounds, and the national income by all which those ten thousand pounds, employed as capital, would have produced. The loss does not fall on the owner of the destroyed capital, since the destroyer has agreed to indemnify him for it. But his loss is only a small portion of that sustained by the community, since what was devoted to the use and consumption of the proprietor was only the interest; the capital itself was, or would have been, employed in the perpetual maintenance of an equivalent number of labourers, regularly reproducing what they consumed: and of this maintenance they are deprived without compensation.

Let us now vary the hypothesis still further, and suppose that the money is borrowed, not by a landlord, but by the State. A lends his capital to Government to carry on a war: he buys from the State what are called government securities; that is, obligations on the government to pay a certain annual income. If the government employed the money in making a railroad, this might be a productive employment, and A's property would still be used as capital; but since it is employed in war, that is, in the pay of officers and soldiers who produce nothing, and in destroying a quantity of gunpowder and bullets without return, the government is in the situation of C, the spendthrift landlord, and A's ten thousand pounds are so much national capital which once existed, but exists no longer: virtually thrown into the sea, as far as wealth or production is concerned; though for other reasons the employment of it may have been justifiable. A's subsequent income is derived, not from the produce of his own capital, but from taxes drawn from the produce of the remaining capital of the community ; to whom his capital is not yielding any return, to indemnify them for the payment; it is lost and gone, and what he now possesses is a claim on the returns to other people's capital and industry. This claim he can sell, and get back the equivalent of his capital, which he may afterwards employ productively. True; but he does not get back his own capital, or anything which it has produced; that, and all its possible returns, are extinguished: what he gets is the capital of some other person, which that person is willing to exchange for his lien on the taxes. Another capitalist substitutes himself for A as a mortgagee of the public, and A substitutes himself for the other capitalist as the possessor of a fund employed in production, or available for it. By this exchange the productive powers of the community are neither increased nor diminished. The breach in the capital of the country was made when the government spent A's money: whereby a value of ten thousand pounds was withdrawn or withheld from productive employment, placed in the fund for unproductive consumption, and destroyed without equivalent.1

1 [See Appendix E. The Definition of Capital..}

CHAPTER V

FUNDAMENTAL PROPOSITIONS RESPECTING CAPITAL

§ 1. If the preceding explanations have answered their purpose, they have given not only^lmfficiently complete possession of the idea of Capital according-io its definition, but a sufficient familiarity with it in the concrete, and amidst the obscurity with which the complication of individual circumstances surrounds it, to have prepared even the unpractised reader for certain elementary propositions or theorems respecting capital, the full comprehension of which is already a considerable step out of darkness into light.

The first of these propositions is, That industry is limited by capital. This is so obvious as to be taken for granted in many common forms of speech; but to see a truth occasionally is one thing, to recognise;it habitually, and admit no propositions inconsistent with it, is another. The axiom was until lately almost universally disregarded by/legislators and political writers; and doctrines irreconcileable/faith it are still very commonly professed and inculcated.

The following are common expressions implying its truth. The act/of directing industry to a particular employment is described by the phrase " applying capital" to the employment. To employ industry on the land is to apply capital to the land. To employ labour in a manufacture is to invest capital in the manufacture. This implies that industry cannot be employed to any greater extent than there is capital to invest. The proposition, indeed, must be assented to as soon as it is distinctly apprehended. The expres•'".sion " applying capital "is of course metaphorical: what is really applied is labour; capital being an indispensable condition. Again, we often speak of the "productive powers of capital." This expression is not literally correct. The only productive powers are those of labour and natural agents; or if any portion of capital can by a stretch of language be said to have a productive power of its own, it is only tools and machinery, which, like wind or water,

« НазадПродовжити »