« НазадПродовжити »
two persons, in England, do bona fide produce the food of six, while in France, for the same purpose, the labour of four is requisite. Does it follow that England must have a larger surplus for the support of a non-agricultural population? No; but merely that she can devote two-thirds of her whole produce to the purpose, instead of one-third. Suppose the produce to be twice as great, and the one-third will amount to as much as the two-thirds. The fact might be, that owing to the greater quantity of labour employed on the French system, the same land would produce food for twelve persons which on the English system would only produce it for six: and if this were so, which would be quite consistent with the conditions of the hypothesis, then although the food for twelve was produced by the labour of eight, while the six were fed by the labour of only two, there would be the same number of hands disposable for other employment in the one country as in the other. I am not contending that the fact is so. I know that the gross produce per acre in France as a whole (though not in its most improved districts) averages much less than in England, and that, in proportion to the extent and fertility of the two countries, England has, in the sense we are now speaking of, much the largest disposable population. But the disproportion certainly is not to be measured by Mr. Wakefield's simple criterion. As well might it be said that agricultural labour in the United States, where, by a late census, four families in every five appeared to be engaged in agriculture, must be still more inefficient than in France.
The inferiority of French cultivation (which, taking the country as a whole, must be allowed to be real, though much exaggerated,) is probably more owing to the lower general average of industrial skill and energy in that country, than to any special cause: and even if partly the effect of minute subdivision, it does not prove that small farming is disadvantageous, but only (what is undoubtedly the fact) that farms in France are very fre
quently too small, and, what is worse, broken up into an almost incredible number of patches or parodies, most inconveniently dispersed and parted from one another.
As a question, not of gross, but of net produce, the comparative merits of the grande and the petite culture, especially when the small farmer is also the proprietor, cannot be looked upon as decided. It is a question on which good judges at present differ. The current of English opinion is in favour of large farms: on the Continent, the weight of authority seems to be on the other side. Professor Bau, of Heidelberg, the author of one of the most comprehensive and elaborate of extant treatises on political economy, and who has that large acquaintance with facts and authorities on his own subject, which generally characterises his countrymen, lays it down as a settled truth, that small or moderate-sized farms yield not only a larger gross but a larger net produce: though, he adds, it is desirable there should be some great proprietors, to lead the way in new improvements.* The most apparently impartial and discriminating judgment that I have met with is that of M. Passy, who (always speaking with reference to net produce) gives his verdict in favour of large farms for grain and forage: but, for the kinds of culture winch require much labour and attention, places the advantage wholly on the side of small cultivation; including in this description, not only the vine and the olive, where a considerable amount of care and labour must be bestowed on each individual plant, but also roots, leguminous plants, and those which furnish the materials of manufactures. The small size, and consequent multiplication, of farms, according to all authorities, are extremely favourable to t he abundance of many minor products of agriculture .f
* See pp. 352 and 353 of a French translation pnbhshed at Brussels in 1839, by M. Fred, de Kemmeter, of Ghent.
t " In the department of the Nord," says M. Passy, "a farm of 20 hectares (50 acres) produces in calves, dairy produce, poultry, and eggs, a value of sometimes 1000 franca
It is evident that every labourer who extracts from the land more than his own food, and that of any family he may have, increases the means of supporting a non-agricultural population. Even if his surplus is no more than enough to buy clothes, the labourers who make the clothes are a nonagricultural population, enabled to exist by food which he produces. Every agricultural family, therefore, which produces its own necessaries, adds to the net produce of agriculture; and so does every person born on the land, who by employing himself on it, adds more to its gross produce than the mere food which he eats. It is questionable whether, even in the most subdivided districts of Europe which are cultivated by the proprietors, the multiplication of hands on the soil has approached, or tends to approach, within a great distance of this limit. In France, though the subdivision is confessedly too great, there is proof positive that it is far from having reached the point at which it would begin to diminish the power of supporting a non-agricultural population. This is demonstrated by the great increase of the towns; which have of late increased in a much greater ratio than the population generally,* showing (unless the condition of the town labourers is becoming rapidly deteriorated, which there is no reason to believe) that even by the unfair and inapplicable test of proportions, the productiveness of agriculture must be on the increase. This, too, concurrently with the amplest evidence that in the more improved districts of France, and in some which, until lately, were among the unimproved, there is a considerably increased consumption of country produce by the country population itself.
(£10) a year: which, deducting expenses, is an addition to the net produce of 15 to 20 francs per hectare."—On Syttenu qf Cultivation, p. 114.
* During the interval between the census of Idol and that of 1856, the increase of the population of Paris alone, exceeded the aggregate increase of all France: while nearly all the other large towns likewise showed an
Impressed with the conviction that, of all faults which can be committed by a scientific writer on political and social subjects, exaggeration, and assertions beyond the evidence, most require to be guarded against, I limited myself in the early editions of this work to the foregoing very moderate statements. I little knew how much stronger my language might have been without exceeding the truth, and how much the actual progress of French agriculture surpassed anything which I had at that time sufficient grounds to affirm. The investigations of that eminent authority on agricultural statistics, M. Leonce de Lavergne, undertaken by desire of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the Institute of France, have led to the conclusion that since the Revolution of 1789, the total produce of French agriculture has doubled; profits and wages having both increased in about the same, and rent in a still greater ratio. M. de Lavergne, whose impartiality is one of his greatest merits, is, moreover, so far in this instance from the suspicion of having a case to make out, that he is labouring to show, not how much French agriculture has accomplished, but how much still remains for it to do. "We have required" (he says) "no less than seventy years to bring into cultivation two million hectares" (five million English acres) "of waste land, to suppress half our fallows, double our agricultural products, increase our population by 30 per cent, our wages by 100 per cent, our rent by 150 per cent. At this rate we shall require three quarters of a century more to arrive at the point which England has already attained."*
After this evidence, we have surely now heard the last of the incompatibility of small properties and small farms with agricultural improvement. The only question which remains open is one of degree; the comparative rapidity of agricultural improvement under the two systems; and it is the
* Economie Iturale de la France depuis 1789. Par M. Leonce de Lavergne, Membre de I'lnstitut et de la Societe Centrale d'Agriculture de France. 2me ed p. 59.
general opinion of those who are equally well acquainted with both, that improvement is greatest under a due admixture between them.
In the present chapter, I do not enter on the question between great and small cultivation in any other respect than as a question of production, and
of the efficiency of labour. We shall return to it hereafter as affecting the distribution of the produce, and the physical and social well-being of the cultivators themselves; in which aspects it deserves, and requires, a still more particular examination.
OF THE LAW OP THE
§ 1. We have now successively considered each of the agents or conditions of production, and of the means by which the efficacy of these various agents is promoted. In order to come to an end of the questions which relate exclusively to production, one more, of primary importance, remains.
Production is not a fixed, but an increasing thing. When not kept back by bad institutions, or a low state of the arts of life, the produce of industry has usually tended to increase; stimulated not only by the desire of the producers to augment their means of consumption, but by the increasing number of the consumers. Nothing in political economy can be of more importance than to ascertain the law of this increase of production; the conditions to which it is subject; whether it has practically any limits, and what these are. There is also no subject in political economy which is popularly less understood, or on which the errors committed are of a character to produce, and do produce, greater mischief.
We have seen that the essential requisites of production are three—labour, capital, and natural agents; the term capital including all external and physical requisites which are products of labour, the term natural agents all those which are not. But among natural agents we need not take into account those which, existing in unlimited .
INCREASE OF LABOUH.
quantity, being incapable of appropriation, and never altering in their qualities, are always ready to lend an equal degree of assistance to production, whatever may be its extent; as air, and the light of the sun. Being now about to consider the impediments to production, not the facilities for it, we need advert to no other natural agents than those which are liable to be deficient, either in quantity or in productive power. These may be. all represented by the term land. Land, in the narrowest acceptation, as the source of agricultural produce, is the chief of them; and if we extend the term to mines and fisheries—to what is found in the earth itself, or in the waters which partly cover it, as well as to what is grown or fed on its surface, it embraces everything with which we need at present concern ourselves.
We may say, then, without a greater stretch of language than under the necessary explanations is permissible, that the requisites of production are Labour, Capital, and Land. The increase of production, therefore, depends on the properties of these elements. It is a result of the increase either of the elements themselves, or of their productiveness. The law of the increase of production must be a consequence of the laws of these elements; the limits to the increase of production must be the limits, whatever they are, set by those laws. We proceed to consider the three elements successively, with reference to this effect; or in other words, the law of the increase of production, viewed in respect of its dependence, first on Labour, secondly on Capital, and lastly on Land.
§ 2. The increase of labour is the increase of mankind; of population. Un this subject the discussions excited by the Essay of Mr. Malthus have made the truth, though by no means universally admitted, yet so fully known, that a briefer examination of the question than would otherwise have been necessary will probably on the present occasion suffice.
Tie power of multiplication inherent in all organic life may be regarded as infinite. There is no one species of vegetable or animal, which, if the earth were entirely abandoned to it, and to the things on which it feeds, would not in a small number of years overspread every region of the globe, of which the climate was compatible with its existence. The degree of possible rapidity is different in different orders of beings; bat in all it is sufficient, for the earth to be very speedily filled up. There are many species of vegetables of which a single plant will produce in one year the germs of a thousand; if only two come to maturity, in fourteen years the two will have multiplied to sixteen thousand and more. It is but a moderate case of fecundity in animals to be capable of quadrupling their numbers in a single year; if they only do as much in half a century, ten thousand will have swelled within two centuries to upwards of two millions and a half. The capacity of increase is necessarily in a geometrical progression: the numerical ratio alone is different.
To this property of organized beings, the human species forms no exception. Its power of increase is indefinite, and the actual multiplication would be extraordinarily rapid, if the power were exercised to the utmost. It never is exercised to the utmost, and yet, in the most favourable circumstances known to exist, which are those of a fertile region colonized from an industrious and civilized community, population has continued, for several
generations, independently of fresh immigration, to double itself in not much more than twenty years.* That the capacity of multiplication in the human species exceeds even this, is evident if we consider how great is the ordinary number of children to a family, where the climate is good and early marriages usual; and how small a proportion of them die before the age of maturity, in the present state of hygienic knowledge, where the locality is healthy, and the family adequately provided with the means of living. It is a very low estimate of the capacity of increase, if we only assume, that in a good sanitary condition of the people, each generation may be double the number of the generation which preceded it.
Twenty or thirty years ago, these propositions might still have required considerable enforcement and illustration; but the evidence of them is so ample and incontestable, that they have made their way against all kinds of opposition, and may now be regarded as axiomatic: though the extreme reluctance felt to admitting them, every now and then gives birth to some ephemeral theory, speedily forgotten, of a different law of increase in different circumstances, through a providential adaptation of the fecundity of the human species to the exigencies of society.f The obstacle to a just
* This has been disputed; but the highest estimate I have seen of the term which population requires for doubling itself in the United States, independently of immigrant* and of their progeny—that of Mr. Carey— does not exceed thirty years.
f One of these theories, that of Mr. Double* day, may be thought to require a passing notice, because it has of late obtained some followers, and because it derives a semblance of support from the general analogies of organic life. This theory maintains that the fecundity of the human animal, and of all other living beings, is in inverse proportion to the quantity of nutriment: that an underfed population multiplies rapidly, but that all classes in comfortable circumstances are, by a physiological law, so unprolific, as seldom to keep up their numbers without being recruited from a poorer class. There is no doubt that a positive excess of nutriment, in animals as well a3 in fruit trees, is unfavourable to reproduction; and it is quite possible, though by no means proved, that the physiological conditions of fecundity may understanding of the subject does not arise from these theories, but from too confused a notion of the causes which, at most times and places, keep the actual increase of mankind so far behind the capacity.
§ 3. Those causes, nevertheless, are in no way mysterious. What prevents the population of hares and rabbits from overstocking the earth? Not want of fecundity, but causes very different: many enemies, and insufficient subsistence; not enough to eat, and liability to being eaten. In the human race, which is not generally subject to the latter inconvenience, the equivalents for it are war and disease. If the multiplication of mankind proceeded only, like that of the other animals, from a blind instinct, it would be limited in the same manner with theirs; the births would be as numerous as the physical constitution of the species admitted of, and the population would be kept down by
exist in the greatest degree when the supply of food is somewhat stinted. But any one who might be inclined to draw from this, even if admitted, conclusions at variance with the principle of Mr. Malthus, needs only be invited to look through a volume of the Peerage, and observe the enormous families almost universal in that class; or call to mind the large families of the English clergy, and generally of the middle classes of England. It is, besides, well remarked by Mr. Carey, that, to be consistent with Mr. Doubleday's theory, the increase of the population of the United States, apart from immigration, ought to be one of the slowest on record.
Mr. Carey has a theory of his own, also grounded on a physiological truth, that the total sum of nutriment received by an organized body directs itself, in largest proportion, to the parts of the system which are most used; from which he anticipates a diminution in the fecundity of human beings, not through more abundant ieeding, but through the greater use of their brains incident to an advanced civilization. There is considerable plausibility in this speculation, and experience may hereafter confirm it. But the change in the human constitution which it supposes, if ever realized, will conduce to the expected effect rather by rendering physical self-restraint easier, than by dispensing with its necessity; since the most rapid known rate of multiplication is quite compatible with a very sparing employment of the multiplying power.
deaths.* But the conduct of human creatures is more or less influenced by foresight of consequences, and by impulses superior to mere animal instincts: and they do not, therefore, propagate like swine, but are capable, though in very unequal degrees, of being withheld by prudence, or by the social affections, from giving existence to beings born only to misery and premature death. In proportion as mankind rise above the condition of the beasts, population is restrained by the fear of want, rather than by want itself. Even where there is no question of starvation, many are similarly acted upon by the apprehension of losing what have come to be regarded as the decencies of their situation in life. Hitherto no other motives than these two have been found strong enough, in the generality of mankind, to counteract the tendency to increase. It has been the practice of a great majority of the middle and the poorer classes, whenever free from external control, to marry as early, and in most countries to have as many children, as was consistent with maintaining themselves in the condition of life which they were born to, or were accustomed to consider as theirs. Among the middle classes, in many individual instances, there is an additional restraint exercised from the desire of doing more than main
* Mr. Carey expatiates on the absurdity ot supposing that matter tends to assume the highest form of organization, the human, at a more rapid rate than it assumes the lower forms which compose human food; that human beings multiply faster than turnips and cabbages. But the limit to the increase of mankind, according to the doctrine of Mr. Malthus, does not depend on the power of increase of turnips and cabbages, but on the limited quantity of the land on which thej can be grown. So long as the quantity of land is practically unlimited, which it is in the United States, and food, consequently, can be increased at the highest rate which is natural to it, mankind also may, without augmented difficulty in obtaining subsistence, increase at their highest rate. When Mr. Carey can show, not that turnips and cabbages but that the soil itself, or the nutritive elements contained in it, tend naturally to multiply, and that, too, at a rate exceeding the most rapid possible increase of mankind, he will have said something to the purpose. Till then, this part, at least, of his argument may be considered as non-existent.