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that land, so far from paying from its produce, as society advances, a continually increasing substantial surplus above the whole cost of production, including the capital originally laid out, (although it may not perhaps pay a continually decreasing actual profit,) does certainly return a profit, bearing a continually decreasing proportion to the profits of other stock and labour. For, in the first place, it may be observed, that when the first proprietor originally cleared the ground in the early stage of society, and during the whole continuance of the agricultural state, the produce of land being the only profitable employment of capital and of labour, the owner of any quantity of it, although his money income might be small, could of course command a larger comparative portion of labour and capital, than when other profitable employments compete with him for the possession of them. And again, when the commercial and manufacturing career is entered upon, and the capital created by them is sometimes vested in land, although the sum in money paid for the price of an estate may be much less in nominal amount than the land would sell for in the following century, when the society has made further progress, and other modes of investing capital become more numerous ; yet the actual or real value of that smaller sum of money, or the comparison it bears to the general value of labour and commodities, may, and in truth certainly will, be greater than that of the larger sum subsequently paid as the price of the estate, because the competition for capital, from other sources of employment, would of course bring down the actual value of income derived from land as compared with other profits. It appears indeed that the pleasure
and consequence derived from the possession of land will make the capitalist content with a smaller return from it than from other sources of profit.
Again, although an estate, which originally cost 10,0001. in money, when the produce of the estate only sold in the market at such a price as afforded a rent of 3501., money being scarce and taxes low, may now pay a nominal rent of 10001. a year, yet the landlord, from the high price of labour and commodities, arising from the commercial competitors and the pressure of taxation, may now be a poorer man, notwithstanding the nominal increase of his income ; and if the country, during the interval in which this increase of rent has been accumulating, has been making a rapid career in commercial wealth, he certainly will be at least comparatively a poorer man, because the competition against him will have been continually increasing. Nor are these conclusions shaken by the obvious consideration that rents must sustain a real rise upon the old lands which have been actually cultivated, before due encouragement can be given to the clearing and cultivation of unreclaimed soil of an inferior staple. For if the profits of other sources of industry have sustained, from the same causes, a still greater real elevation; that is, if they will exchange for a still larger proportion of labour and commodities than this partial increase in the rent of land will purchase, which in a raa pidly improving country would probably be the case, it is obvious that the rise in this last, though real as far as it goes, does not give the landed proprietor any substantial elevation in the scale of society. On the contrary, his condition is comparatively depressed, because he becomes entitled to a smaller proportion of the general wealth of the country. With respect to the
general mass of landholders, there cannot be a doubt that they possess greater advantages with low rents and few burthens, than with increased rents and high taxes. In England, for the last 20 years, rents in general have borne a far less proportion to the gross produce of the land, than they did before that period; a fact perfectly conclusive of the present argument.
Surely, when we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is impossible to conceive any epithet less justly applicable to the rent of land than a monopoly price, since it is open to fair competition, and is only a reasonable, and frequently a very low, remuneration for capital expended, and consequently is not caused by the excess of price above the whole cost of production, but is only a portion of that cost.
Neither does Mr. Malthus's exposition of the nature of the rent of land appear much more satisfactory. Admitting it to be caused by the excess of price above the cost of production, he ascribes this fact to the fertility of the earth, affording a surplus produce of the necessaries of life beyond the wants of the cultivator;* and as this surplus produce is of a nature (according to his theory) to create a certain demanå for itself by raising up a population to feed upon it, the market consequently cannot be over stocked it so that the very abundance of the produce, by raising up competitors for it, tends to keep up the price, and consequently to afford an excess of profit above the cost of production, which is said to constitute rent. With respect to the fact upon which this theory rests, viz. that a surplus produce of the neces
* Inquiry, &c. p. 13.
+ The present state of the English corn-market affords a practical answer to this supposition.
saries of life will always raise up consumers, and will therefore pay a price beyond the cost of production higher than the other products of industry, I shall be satisfied with referring the reader to a former chapter, on the order of precedence between population and production ; only observing, in addition, that the fact, if it were consistent with experience, must necessarily be too slow in operation to produce the effect required; sinee the population supposed to be called into existence by the surplus produce cannot make an effective demand in the market till some years after they are supposed by the theory to have kept up the price by such demand. And, in the next place, it is only by a previous reduction in the price of the necessaries of life, annihilating the excess of price, upon which the whole argument turns, that the supposed population with their demand could be called into existence. I cannot therefore see the force of the distinction made by Mr. Malthus between the surplus profits of land employed in raising the necessaries of life, and those arising from any other species of productive industry. Nor can I think that the amount or the nature of rent is affected by any quality inherent in the raw produce such as he has assumed; but which to be effectual in the manner supposed, even at a distant period, must first have annihilated beyond recall the effect which is supposed to be produced.
But, in truth, are any of these fine-drawn speculations at all necessary to give a rational, intelligible, and consistent account of the nature and origin of rent, as well as of every other revenue derived from capital and industry? It is clear that no product will be originally brought to market unless the de
mand for it is sufficient to remunerate, first, the capitalist who erects the machinery, the warehouses, and provides other dead or inactive stock, and keeps them in repair; and next, the person who purchases the raw material, and employs his own and his servants' labour on the manufacture, and who conveys the article to market.
The produce of land therefore will not be originally carried to market, unless the demand for it shall afford a price sufficient to remunerate the purchaser or clearer of the land for his capital, as well as the farmer for his capital and industry; for land will be suffered to lie waste if such encouragement be not given, upon the same principle that will prevent a manufactory from being erected at a considerable expense, unless the material intended to be manufac tured will repay the interest of the capital employed in the buildings, repairs, and machinery, as well as in the raw material and labour more immediately connected with the product. It is true that, after the first mentioned capital has been expended, the land cleared or purchased, or the manufactory and machinery set up, and the product brought to market, the price of that product may be so reduced as to annihilate the value of the capital originally expended, and merely to leave a profit upon the ordinary or routine expenses of the manufacture or of cultivation. Cultivation or the manufacture however might still be carried on for a time, and until they required to be renewed by a fresh application of capital, although the capitalists who first set them going would be ruined. But it is evident that all further investment of capital in the same pursuits would be at an end; and if the reduction of price arose from