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But though a demand for velvet does nothing more in regard to the employment for labour and capital, than to determine so much of the employment which already existed, into that particular channel instead of any other; still, to the producers already engaged in the velvet manufacture, and not intending to quit it, this is of the utmost importance. To them, a falling off in the demand is a real loss, and one which, even if none of their goods finally perish unsold, may mount to any height, up to that which would make them choose, as the smaller evil, to retire from the business. On the contrary, an increased demand enables them to extend their transactions—to make a profit on a larger capital, if they have it, or can borrow it; and, turning over their capital more rapidly, they will employ their labourers more constantly, or employ a greater number than before. So that an increased demand for a commodity does really, in the particular department, often cause a greater employment to be given to labour by the same capital. The mistake lies in not perceiving that in the cases supposed, this advantage is given to labour and capital in one department, only by being withdrawn from another; and that when the change has produced its natural effect of attracting into the employment additional capital proportional to the increased demand, the advantage itself ceases. The demand for commodities is a consideration of importance rather in the theory of exchange, than in that of production. Looking at things in the aggregate, and permanently, the remuneration of the producer is derived from the productive power of his own capital. The sale of the produce for money, and the subsequent expenditure of the money in buying other commodities, are a mere exchange of equivalent values, for mutual accommodation. It is true that, the division of employments being one of the principal means of increasing the productive power of labour, the power of exchanging gives rise to a great increase of the produce; but even then it is production, not exchange, which remunerates labour and capital. We cannot too strictly represent to ourselves the operation of exchange, whether conducted by barter or through the medium of money, as the mere mechanism by which each person transforms the remuneration of his labour or of his capital into the particular shape in which it is most convenient to him to possess it; but in no wise the source of the remuneration itself.
§ 10. The preceding principles demonstrate the fallacy of many popular arguments and doctrines, which are continually reproducing themselves in new forms. For example, it has been contended, and by some from whom better things might have been expected, that the argument for the incometax, grounded on its falling on the higher and middle classes only, and sparing the poor, is an error; some have gone so far as to say, an imposture; because in taking from the rich what they would have expended among the poor, the tax injures the poor as much as if it had been directly levied from them. Of this doctrine we now know what to think. So far, indeed, as what is taken from the rich in taxes, would, if not so taken, have been saved and converted into capital, or even expended in the maintenance and wages of servants or of any class of unproductive labourers, to that extent the demand for labour is no doubt diminished, and the poor injuriously affected, by the tax on the rich; and as these effects are almost always produced in a greater or less degree, it is impossible so to tax the rich as that no portion whatever of the tax can fall on the poor. But even here the question arises, whether the government, after receiving the amount, will not lay out as great a portion of it in the direct purchase of labour, as the tax-payers would have done. In regard to all that portion of the tax, which, if not paid to the government, would have been consumed in the form of commodities (or even expended in services if the payment has been advanced by a capitalist), this, according to the principles we have investigated, falls definitively on the rich, and not at all on the poor. There is exactly the same demand for labour, so far as this portion is concerned, after the tax, as before it. The capital which hitherto employed the labourers of the country, remains, and is still capable of employing the same number. There is the same amount of produce paid in wages, or allotted to defray the feeding and clothing of labourers. If those against whom I am now contending were in the right, it would be impossible to tax anybody except the poor. If it is taxing the labourers, to tax what is laid out in the produce of labour, the labouring classes pay all the taxes. The same argument, however, equally proves, that it is impossible to tax the labourers at all ; since the tax, being laid out either in labour or in commodities, comes all back to them; so that taxation has the singular property of falling on nobody. On the same showing, it would do the labourers no harm to take from them all they have, and distribute it among the other members of the community. It would all be “spent among them,” which on this theory comes to the same thing. The error is produced by not looking directly at the realities of the phenomena, but attending only to the outward mechanism of paying and spending. If we look at the effects produced not on the money, which merely changes hands, but on the commodities which are used and consumed, we see that, in consequence of the income-tax, the classes who pay it do really diminish their consumption. Exactly so far as they do this, they are the persons on whom the tax falls. It is defrayed out of what they would otherwise have used and enjoyed. So far, on the other hand, as the burthen falls, not on what they would have consumed, but on what they would have saved to maintain production, or spent in maintaining or paying unproductive labourers, to that extent the tax forms a deduction from what would have been used and enjoyed by the labouring classes. But if the government, as is probably the fact, expends fully as much of the amount as the tax-payers would have done in the direct employment of labour, as in hiring sailors, soldiers, and policemen, or in paying off debt, by which last operation it even increases capital; the labouring classes not only do not lose any employment by the tax, but may possibly gain some, and the whole of the tax falls exclusively where it was intended.
All that portion of the produce of the country which any one, not a labourer, actually and literally consumes for his own use, does not contribute in the smallest degree to the maintenance of labour. No one is benefited by mere consumption, except the person who consumes. And a person cannot both consume his income himself, and make it over to be consumed by others. Taking away a certain portion by taxation cannot deprive both him and them of it, but only him or them. To know which is the sufferer, we must understand whose consumption will have to be retrenched in consequence: this, whoever it be, is the person on whom the tax really falls.
ON CIRCULATING AND FIXED CAPITAL.
§ 1. To complete our explanations on the subject of capital, it is necessary to say something of the two species into which it is usually divided. The distinction is very obvious, and though not named, has been often adverted to, in the two preceding chapters: but it is now proper to define it accurately, and to point out a few of its consequences.
Of the capital engaged in the production of any commodity, there is a part which, after being once used, exists no longer as capital; is no longer capable of rendering service to production, or at least not the same service, nor to the same sort of production. Such, for example, is the portion of capital which consists of materials. The tallow and alkali of which soap is made, once used in the manufacture, are destroyed as alkali and tallow; and cannot be employed any further in the soap manufacture, though in their altered condition, as soap, they are capable of being used as a material or an instrument in other branches of manufacture. In the same division must be placed the portion of capital which is paid as the wages, or consumed as the subsistence, of labourers. That part of the capital of a cotton-spinner which he pays away to his work-people, once so paid, exists no longer as his capital, or as a cotton-spinner's capital: such portion of it as the workmen consume, no longer exists as capital at all: even if they save any part, it may now be more properly regarded as a fresh capital, the result of a second act of accumulation. Capital which in this manner fulfils the whole of its office in the production in which it is engaged, by a single use, is called Circulating Capital. The term,