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labour thus created will not come into the market for 16 or 17 years at the soonest. And in the mean time what will be the necessary consequence of the high wages? That from the decreasing exertion of some of the labourers, the capitalist will have a diminished command over the supply of labour at the very moment that his interest and that of the State require that it should be considerably augmented. But the want of this supply, by enhancing the price of wages still further, must of course check the progress of industry which originally created the demand, and this soon after the first start is given to the population. By the time, therefore, that the children begin to make an effective demand upon the food of the country, the means of their parents for affording them that food will be proportionally dimi. nished, by the decreasing demand for their labour and by diminished wages; and it will then remain to be seen by what means the redundant supply of labour actually in the market, or rising up for its supply, will by its reduction accommodate itself to the reduced demand. It is clear that this can only be done by the extinction of the superfluous population, in consequence of the misery and distress introduced among them by want of employment. I think myself, therefore, upon the whole justified in denying that, in the natural course of things, the supply of labour in the market will accommodate itself either to an increasing or decreasing demand, with sufficient rapidity and ease to secure the anticipated advantage to the capitalist in the first case; or to prevent the most extensive misery to the labouring classes in the last case. The whole result of a reliance on such an hypothesis would be nothing else than great fluctuations of profit to the employer of labour; great fluctuations of price to the consumers of all the products of labour; and still greater fluctuations of condition to the labouring classes themselves, who are “unquestionably” (as Mr. Malthus observes with equal justice and liberality) “ of the greatest weight in any estimate of national happiness.” I know, in short, but one method by which the supply of labour can be made immediately to accommodate itself to the demand in the market; and that is, by anticipating the production of the materials, which may be called into action when the demand is increasing; and providing for their due preservation against a more convenient season, when the demand is decreasing. I have shown that this anticipation and provision can be made without any expense to the whole society, by the means pointed out in the first chapter of this second book. But this is not the case with respect to all the particular portions of the community; for where the process is to be applied to a highly manufacturing state, the reasoning in the same chapter and in various other parts of this treatise, concerning the spontaneous distribution of the people, will show that the anticipation must be made chiefly at the expense of the agricultural part of the society; because the reproductive part of the people, from which the in creased supply of manufacturing as well as of all other labourers must come, exclusively resides in the agricultural districts. The provision also for their due preservation, when unemployed and in unfavourable seasons, necessarily, although not so exclusively, falls upon the produce of the land. If the whole society, therefore, wish to preserve the advantage, and to secure the ultimate saving accruing from it, in the constant supply and regular and uniform price of labour, under all the varying circumstances of demand, and in the wellbeing thus diffused throughout the great mass of the people, both employers and employed, it must be content to pay for them by an immediate enhancement of the price of the produce of land, upon which the principal expense of the process exclusively falls. , I have thought it right to place this subject in the chapter on the wages of labour, rather than in that on taxes or any other out-goings; because in fact it is much more nearly connected with wages than with any other subject. It is of little importance what denomination is given to the sum paid by the occupier of land for the support of his labourers and their families. It constitutes substantially, and as to all its political effects, the wages of their labour. * In estimating the extent of the sacrifice necessary to be made by the general consumer to enable the agriculturist to support this among his other burthens, it is customary to have recourse to the average prices of corn. But in a country which in ordinary years supports its own, population, but is exposed to the risk of high prices in years of scarcity, averages are usually deceitful, and indicate a price higher than that which may be considered as sufficient for all the purposes of remunerating labour. But “as a people” (as Sir James Steuart observes) “does not live by averages, but every year's plenty or scarcity must affect them relatively to itself alone;” the corn grower in such a country will always require protection in scarce seasons; because then with diminished means he continues to support more than his fair proportion of the labouring part of the community. Although the price of his produce in plentiful years will always be below the average, its increased quantity will remunerate him for the dimimished price; and a high protecting duty against the import of foreign corn will probably be a dead letter. But in scarce years the agriculturist, for the abovementioned reasons, will require the protection of a high price against the competition of foreign corn in the home market, if it were only upon the consideration of the enhanced sum he is obliged to disburse in wages; and as it is then only that protecting duties will really operate, it is chiefly to ignorance of the true principles of political economy, or to a selfish forgetfulness of them, that the violent prejudices against the establishment of such a protection in a highly commercial and manufacturing country of extensive territory are to be attributed. Upon the whole, I think that the contents of this chapter have fairly established that a free and commercial country of extensive territory, wishing to preserve its prosperity in full vigour, and provide for the happiness of all classes of its people, should endeavour to secure such a remuneration to the agriculturist in the price of his produce as will enable him, besides his other expenses, to pay such wages to his labourers as shall afford them and their families a reasonable participation in the general improvement of the commonwealth.
This may be the proper place for stating that, in an advanced state of society where not more than the fifth of the gross produce of a mixed arable and pasture farm is paid in rent to the landlord, the expense in wages of labour, (as nearly as can be estimated from the average of returns made to the board of agriculture respecting the expense of cultivating 100 acres of arable land) will amount to a sum somewhat less than the rent.