Зображення сторінки

sent expenditures, promises to be remunerative in the final result. The incentive thus arising from the possession of capital joining, as it chances, with the arrival of four new laborers who desire to cast in their fortunes with the young community, leads to the resolution to thoroughly underdrain the rich, deep soils which have been lying so long cold and wet, on the further side of a sharp, rocky ridge, while the thinner but dryer and warmer parts have been cultivated for the sake of their quick returns. Another harvest is foregone and the year given up to the improvement, which again brings the stock of provisions and clothing very low, and reduces the tools and livestock of the community to the smallest dimensions consistent with working efficiency; but the thing is done, and done once for all : soils richer and stronger have been opened to tillage, and the community, now consisting of 20 laborers, is able to withdraw, in the main, from the lighter, sandy soils, and concentrate their energies principally on the site of the former swamp, and on the parts last brought under cultivation; and now the product per man is notably increased, while the capabilities of the soil are so liberal that the land responds to every increase of capital with constantlyincreasing returns.

It will not be necessary to recite the cutting down of the timber, the clearing up of the ground, and the opening of what is, after all, the best land of the whole tract. Suffice it to say that the poorer lands are now given up entirely, and the community, increased by accessions from abroad to 24 laborers, working on none but those soils which are really in the broad view the most productive, obtains a larger percapita crop than ever before.

So far certainly we have not reached a condition of “ diminishing returns.” On the contrary, returns have increased with and through the increase of population. But we will now suppose that 24 laborers are as many as can be employed to the best advantage on the good lands of the tract which we have been considering, and that if 25 laborers were to be engaged the product would be more than with 24-for that is a matter of course—but not as much more, 60 that, with community of labor and of wealth, each of the 25 must fain be content with a little less than each of the 24 had received; and, in the same way, were still another laborer to appear, the 26 would produce more than the 25 had done, to be sure, but not more, so that each of the 26 would receive less even than each of the 25 had done. This would be a condition of " diminishing returns ;” and this condition is liable to be reached in the course of the settlement of any region.

We will suppose our community to become aware of this condition, and thereon to resolve that no further accessions from abroad shall be received; but in the very act of 80 resolving, one of the number discovers the principle of the rotation of crops. Heretofore they had been accustomed to leave every year a portion of their choicest lands unsown, having learned that this was essential to keeping the soil in its highest productive power. Thus they not only lost the advantage of cultivating these choicest portions of their domain, but, as they found it necessary to plough the fallow in order to keep down the weeds, they had to lay out a part of their laboring-power each year without any result in the crop of the year. But the discovery of the principle of rotation changed all this. The discovery, in a word, was that the soil, like a man or a horse, may rest from one kind of work while doing another; that to the soil the raising of two different crops is the doing of two different kinds of work: that crop A draws from the soil properties a; crop B, properties b; crop C, properties c; and that consequently the soil may be recuperating as to properties a and b, while bearing crop C quite, or nearly, as well as if it were doing nothing.

* Prof. Cairnes's answer to those who deny the diminishing productiveness of land is absolutely conclusive. “If any one denies the fact, it is open to him to refute it by making the experiment. Let him show that he can obtain from a limited area of soil any required quantity of produce by simply increasing the outlay-that is to say, that by quadrupling or decupling the outlay, he can obtain a quadruple or decuple return. If it be asked why those who maintain the affirmative of the doctrine do not establish their views by actual experiment, the answer is that the experiment is performed for them by every practical farmer; and that the fact of the diminishing productiveness of the soil is proved by their conduct in preferring to resort to inferior soils rather than force unprofitably soils of better quality."-Logical Method, etc., p. 85.

Now, this discovery of the principle occurred, we will suppose, just in time to prevent the disappointment of 12 worthy laborers who had come a great distance, hoping to join themselves with our community, but were on the point of being turned away on the ground that with 36 laborers, under the existing system of fallows, the community would be obliged to return to some of the less productive lands which had been abandoned. With rotation, however, this objection no longer exists. The 12 newcomers are received, and inasmuch as the laborers in the fields are now relatively more concentrated, not having to go out to work, or to haul the produce over fallow spaces, and inasmuch, too, as the increase in numbers allows a much higher degree of co-operation and a minuter subdivision of industry (always a prolific source of mechanical advantage), while yet all are working on the better lands, the product is found to be not one half larger only, but even more, so that each of the 36 receives more than each of the 24 had done.

It will not be necessary to take our reader's time to relate how the simple suggestion that muck might be taken from the bed of the old swamp and spread on other portions, led to the employment of four additional laborers from abroad ; or how the invention of a new plough which turned up the earth from 18 inches depth instead of 8, as by the ploughs previously in use, allowed the number of laborers

* Be it remembered that in our community there are neither rents nor royalties.

to rise, one by one, to 48, not only with no diminution of the average product, but with its positive increase.

Now, the above illustrations have not exhausted the number or exaggerated the scope and effect of advantages in the resort from inferior to better soils, in the accomplishment of permanent improvements, in the invention of tools and implements, in the discovery of new resources, and in the utilization of waste, which may enable the number of laborers in any given country to increase from year to year without the part of each being diminished.'

But without trying further my reader's patience, I will assume that, in the case taken, all known means of increasing the product proportionally, or more than proportionally, to the increase of the number of laborers, have been tried and exhausted, and that with 48 laborers to the squaremile tract the condition of " diminishing returns” has been reached, so that any increase of laborers beyond that point will result in a diminished per-capita product. In such a condition the remark of Mr. J.S. Mill applies : “ It is in vain to say that all mouths which the increase of mankind calls into existence bring with them hands. The new mouths require as much food as the old ones, and the hands do not produce as much.” Let it be borne in mind, however, that the aggregate product may still, and may even

1 " The soil of England produces eight times as much food as it produced 500 years ago."-Rogers, Pol. Econ., p. 181. Of the agriculture of the former period, Prof. Rogers says: “In those days half the arable land lay in fallow. The amount produced was, to take wheat as an example, about eight bushels the acre in ordinary years, i.e., little more than a third of an average crop at the present time. There were no artificial grasses. Clover was not known, nor any of the familiar roots. As a consequence, there was little or no winter feed except such coarse hay as could be made and spared. Cattle were small and stunted by the privations and hard fare of winter. The average weight of a good ox was under four cwt. Sheep, too, were small, poor, and came very slowly to maturity. The average weight of a fleece was not more than two pounds. With ill-fed cattle there was little or no strong manure."-Pol. Econ., pp. 157, 158.

: Pol. Econ, i. 230.

indefinitely, be increased by additional labor. England, densely populated and highly cultivated as that country is, has not begun to approach the state where additional labor will produce no appreciable increase of crops. “ There are,” says Prof. Senior, “ about 37,000,000 acres in England and Wales. Of these it has been calculated that not 85,000—less, in fact, than one four-hundredth partare in a state of high cultivation, as hop-grounds, nurserygrounds, and fruit and kitchen gardens, and that 5,000,000 are waste.” Prof. Senior proceeds with this striking exposition of the capabilities of production:

“ If the utmost use were made of lime and marl and other mineral manures; if, by a perfect system of drainage and irrigation, water were nowhere allowed to be excessive or deficient; if all our wastes were protected by enclosures and planting ; if all the land in tillage, instead of being scratched by the plough, were deeply and repeatedly trenched by manual labor; if minute care were employed in the selecting and planting of every seed and root, and watchfulness sufficient to prevent the appearance of a weed; if all livestock, instead of being pastured, had their food cut and brought to them ; in short, if the whole country were subjected to the labor which a rich citizen lavishes on his patch of suburban garden ; if it were possible that all this should be effected, the agricultural produce of the country might be raised to ten times, or indeed to much more than ten times, its present amount. ... But although the land in England is capable of producing ten times, or more than ten times, as much as it now produces, it is probable that its present produce will never be quadrupled, and almost certain that it will never be decupled.”

It will not have failed to be observed that the law of

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »