« ForrigeFortsett »
Is Productiveness peculiar to some or common to all
kinds of Labour ?
THE impression made by a paradox is not always effaced by its being refuted : it subsists some time after its refutation, and may yet mislead the best understandings. Adam Smith, who triumphantly refuted the paradox of the exclusive productiveness of agricultural labour, completely revived it by accusing of unproductiveness any labour which, after it is over, does not fix and realize itself in some permanent object. By denying the productive faculty to any labour which does not terminate in a material and permanent produce, and by supposing that wealth depends on the numerical proportion between the individuals employed in useful labour* and those who are not usefully employed, he propagated the fallacy which he had so victoriously overthrown.
But I have already shewn, in the preceding chapter, that it is not by the greater or smaller quantity of the produce of divers labours that their relative and absolute productiveness can be judged of, but by the facility with which their respective productions can be exchanged and by the estimation in which they
* Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Eleventh edition, 1805 ;
vol. i. p. 2.
are held. The facility of being exchanged has no regard either to the quantity, materiality, or permanence of productions ; it is determined by other principles, obeys other laws, and follows other rules, which we shall fix hereafter.
At present, it will be sufficient to observe that a labour, which, after it iş over, does not fix and realize itself in any permanent object, may be exchanged for the material productions of other foreign and national labours, just as well as these productions are exchanged for each other.
A foreigner, who consults either an English physician about the state of his health, an English lawyer about his affairs, or an English architect about the plan of a mansion, and remits five guineas for their opinion, confers upon these divers labours a productiveness equal to any labour whose material produce, on being exchanged with a foreigner, would have brought five guineas, or a commodity worth five guineas, to England. There is in this respect no difference between these various labours; they are all equally productive of the five pieces of gold coin for which they have been exchanged.
Now, whatever happens with a foreigner in the exchange of any labour that gives no material
produce, occurs in the exchange of that labour at home. There is no difference between the labour of the joiner who makes a table which he exchanges for a quarter of wheat, or a sum of money that will purchase a quarter of wheat, and the labour of a fiddler which gains him a quarter of wheat, or a sum of money that will purchase a quarter of wheat. In both cases a quarter of wheat is produced to pay for a table, and a quarter of wheat is produced to pay for the pleasures giv, en by the fiddler.
It is true, that after the quarter of wheat has been consumed by the joiner, there still remains a table; and after the wheat has been consumed by the fiddler, there remains nothing : but the case is the same with many labours that are reputed productive. Those productions of agricultural labour which only serye to gratify sensuality, and which, far from contributing to the subsistence of man, often impair his health, are justly considered as the result of productive labour, although there be nothing permanent left after they are consumed. Consequently, it is not by what remains after consumption that we may judge whether a labour is productive or barren; it is simply by the production obtained in exchange which it causes to be produced. As the labour of the fiddler is as much the cause of a quarter of wheat being produced, as the labour of the joiner; both labours are equally productive of a quarter of wheat, although one, when it is over, does not fix and realize itself in any permanent object, and the other is fixed and realized in a permanent object.
It is pretty generally supposed, that exchanging productions against labours which give no material produce is an injury done to the productive classes of the community, and impairs by as much their reproductive faculties; in consequence of which supposition, the Frencheconomists wish to increase the number of husbandmen, and to reduce that of the other labouring classes. Adam Smith also wishes to reduce
the number of labourers who are not usefully occupied, to increase that of those who are usefully employed. But it should be considered, that if this wish vere realized, the formation of wealth would be impossible, because consumers would be wanting for the commodities produced, and the non-consumed 'surplus would not be reproduced.
The productive classes do not give the produce of their labour gratis to the classes 'whose labours produce no material commodities; they give it in ex. change for the convenience, pleasure, or gratification they receive of them, and to hand them their productions they are obliged to produce them. If the material produce of labour were not applied to pay for the labour which produces no material commodities, it would not find consumers, and its reproduction would cease. The labours productive of enjoyment contribute therefore as efficaciously to production as the labour which is reputed most productive. In this respect the labours exclusively devoted to luxury, pomp, and the most frivolous expences, are productive; they co-operate to increase the population and wealth, and contribute to the splendour and power of states.
Care must be had, however, not to stretch this principle beyond its true linits; nor would it be wise to infer thence, that by multiplying the labours destined to gratify the passions of men, productive labours are multiplied in the same proportions.
As long as productive labours pay freely and spontaneously for such frivolous labours, we need not fear that they will exceed the bounds within which they ought to be confined for the good of private and public
wealth. Whatever propensity nations may feel for pleasure, luxury, and pomp, they do not sacrifice their means of subsistence, comforts, and fortune to this disposition ; they do not impoverish themselves for the sake of being amused, nor ruin themselves to lead a more agreeable life. The conveniences, pleasures, or gratifications, which they require, generally, follow and rarely precede the produce which is to pay for them; and the reason of this almost universal conduct is, that every individual has the consciousness of his faculties and of the extent of his fortune.
The case is different when the labours devoted to pleasure, luxury, and pomp, are not required by the productive classes, and these are nevertheless forced to pay for them, and to pinch themselves in order to provide for their cost. It may then happen that such a forced disbursement does not occasion any surplus of producticns, that it is an absolute burden to the productive classes, and diminishes wealth by whatever is not reproduced. But this never occurs, except through the fault of sovereigns or rulers of states ; and since they never can be sure that the labours of luxury and pomp with which they incumber productive labours, do not outrun the produce of the latter, they may unintentionally encourage labours that are not only barren and unproductive, but even oppressive and destructive of productive labours.
Except this case, which deserves the attention of all who are entrusted with the interests of nations and concerned for their prosperity and happiness, every kind of labour is necessarily productive, and contri