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“ beneficial that he should abridge a portion of his
immediate consumption for the sake of increasing his capital; that is, that he should allot a part of the live-stock and grain he otherwise would immediately consume and enjoy, to purchase what would enable him, at a future period, to produce and consume more with greater ease and satisfaction to himself.
“ If, however, on the other hand, he is already in
possession of as much capital, as, in the existing
state of his knowledge, he can use for the purpose of saving labour in cultivating the quantity of land he possesses, it can neither be advantageous for himself nor for the public, that he should abridge his consumption of food, clothing, and the other objects of his desire, for the purpose of accumulating a much greater quantity of capital than can by possibility be employed in abridging labour. The extension of his lands or the invention of new means of supplanting labour would justify a desire for increasing his capital : but, otherwise, accumulation by deprivation of expenditure must be detrimental to himself as well as to the public. “To the farmer it must be disadvantageous, because he deprives himself and his family of what they naturally desire, and would otherwise enjoy, for the purpose of acquiring either a larger quantity of labouring cattle than he could usefully employ, or of accumulating a hoard of spades, ploughs, and other utensils of husbandry, infinitely greater than he could use. “To the public it is still more disadvantageous.
because it diverts the channel of its industry from a path in which it must be useful, to a path in which, unless there is either an acquisition of territory, or a discovery of new means of supplanting or performing labour by capital, it is useless to mankind. “ But further, to display the full extent of the evil that must arise from indulging this baneful passion for accumulation, that has been falsely denominated a virtue, it is necessary here to explain the singular effect which the demand it creates must have on individual riches. “ It has already been made evident, that a sudden demand for any consumable commodity, by increasing its value, encourages an augmented production, and tends therefore to increase wealth, though its effect is always counteracted by the more important diminution of the value of other commodities, (from which the sudden rise of the value of any one commodity abstracts a portion of demand;) because the check given to production, by the abstraction of demand, has a more powerful effect in diminishing wealth, than the encouragement arising from an extention of demand has in augmenting it. “Thus a diminution of value must be produced not only in the articles for which parsimony occasions an abstraction of demand, but even in the article for which it creates a demand; and public wealth must severely feel the effects of the discouragement by this means given to the production of both.
“ The public must therefore suffer by this love of “ accumulation if pushed beyonds its due bounds; “ first, by the creation of a quantity of capital more “ than is requisite; and, secondly, by abstracting a
portion of encouragement to future reproduction.” Is this criticism of the doctrine of the best writers on the formation of capital sufficiently luminous and well founded ? Are not the noble Earl's notions of wealth, capital, and economy, incorrect? and is not the doctrine which he wishes to preach the offspring of his misconceptions on these subjects If, as cannot reasonably be disputed, and as has been, I hope, sufficiently shewn, wealth results from the accumulation of the surplus of the produce of labour over consumption; it is evident that wealth may be increased by other means than those by which it has actually been produced. Suppose, for instance, that a nation accumulates every year ten millions of produce, it is perfectly indifferent whether these ten millions are derived from the usual produce or from the savings in the consumption of that produce : in both cases, there are ten millions of commodities accumulated and kept in store for unforeseen accidents, for the improvement of the soil, for the extension of labour and increase of population; consequently public and private wealth is ten millions larger than it was before. But will not these ten millions saved be detrimental to reproduction ? Whenever consumption can do with ten millions less of annual produce, will not production be annually ten millions less : And does not the nation in that case lose in production what it i has gained by economy in consumption ? Were this argument founded, it would as well apply to an increased annual produce of ten millions as to a saving of ten millions. There would be in both cases a surplus of ten millions, which, as it exceeds the ; real wants of consumption, would diminish reproduction by as much. Yet no person ever thought of regarding an augmentation of produce as a sign of poverty and decline, or as a diminution of wealth; on the contrary, it is justly regarded as an infallible symptom of prosperity, wealth, and grandeur: why then should an increase bf ten millions saved have a different effect 2 The ten millions arising from an increased produce, or from saving, are capable of the same application, produce the same effect, and accomplish the same end. They either are distributed to individuals whose situation is rendered more comfortable, and who pay for them with more or better labour ; in this case they act as an encouragement to labour and industry, and multiply the means of public and private wealth. Or they are given to individuals taken from the labouring and industrious classes, to be employed in the service of the idle and rich : in that case they increase population by all the individuals they maintain. s Such is the natural effect of economy and of an increased produce ; both contribute equally and in the
* The Earl of Lauderdale’s Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth. Filimb. 1804. c. iv. p. 207, and following. * N
same proportion to the progress of population and wealth. There are no limits to this progress but in the utmost extension and improvement of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, population, and civilization, all over the world. As long as civilized countries have not reached the highest possible perfection of civil society; as long as barbarous nations have not attained the highest degree of civilization; as long as there is in any part of the globe a spot of land to be cleared, cultivated, and improved; as long as mankind have not arrived at the developement and improvement of which they are susceptible, economy in consumption and an increased produce Twill both be means equally proper to accomplish that desirable end. Mankind therefore ought never to be tired of increasing their produce and being economical in their consumption. The maxim of political economy, that consumption is the measure of production, is an incontestable truth : it is certain that a produce which finds no consumer, is not long reproduced. But the real meaning of this principle must not be mistaken, nor must it be inferred that an abundant and even over-abundant produce is not consumed. The abundance of productions is always an incitement to a greater consumpsion ; and as abundance is wealth, wealth in its turn affords the greatest possible means of consumption. When then does it happen that production is limited by consumption It is when the consumer does not like the commodities produced, or when he is unable to pay their price. The producer is every-where obliged to consult the taste and faculties of the con