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The Production of Wealth.
It was stated in the Introduction that Political Economy investigated the laws which regulate the Production, the Exchange, and the Distribution of Wealth.
The three requisites of Production. It is proposed in this section to dwell solely upon the Production of Wealth. There are three requisites of production, by the combined agency of which wealth is produced. These are Land, Labour, and Capital. In order that the various functions of these three requisites may be clearly explained, and that the peculiar office which each performs in the production of wealth may be accurately defined, this section will be divided into three chapters, under the heads of Land, Labour, and Capital.
CHAPTER I. On Land. Land as an agent of Production. A few moments' reflection will reveal the indispensable nature of the service which land renders to the production of wealth. There is no article of commerce, the origin of which cannot be either directly or indirectly traced to land. Look round the room in which you sit, or look at the clothes you wear, and you will notice that you can see nothing that
has not been derived from the land. A piece of woollen cloth, for instänce, is derived from the land. The wool
of which it is made has been originally taken from the back of a sheep; whirbi-rived on the grass, turnips, etc.,
grown on the land. Calico can be traced even more directly to the land. The cotton plant, from the fibres of which calico is made, is the production of the land. All manufactured articles are made either of animal, vegetable, or mineral productions, all of which are derived from the land.
In fact the importance of land as an agent of production is so great that the French economists, in the time of Adam Smith, asserted that land was the sole source of wealth. It will however be shewn that Labour and Capital are also indispensable to the production of wealth.
Circumstances which increase the productive power of land. There are many circumstances that increase the productive power of land. The beneficial effects of the artificial manures which chemistry has brought within the reach of the farmer are so apparent, that it is unnecessary to dwell at length upon them. Nor need we do more than allude to the modern inventions of the numerous machines, such as the reaping and thrashing machines, which do so much to increase the productive power of land, labour and capital. Many large tracts of country, such as the fens of Cambridgeshire which were once useless swamps, have been turned into rich corn land by means of drainage. It is evident that the productiveness of such land is mainly dependent on artificial causes.
Large and small farming. Much controversy has been carried on as to the relative advantages and disadvantages of large and small farming. One of the principal advantages of large farming is that it makes the use of improved machinery much more available. A farmer who rents 800 acres will find it pay him to use the steam plough and steam thrashing-machine ; and he will be able to avail himself of all the latest improvements in the manufacture of agricultural implements. A flock of 1000 sheep does not require twice as many shepherds as a flock of 500. The housing of a large number of cattle does not cost so much per head as the housing of a smaller number.
The principal advantage of small farming is that the farmer being himself a labourer, and being continually working with and among his assistants, there is no probability of the work being neglected; the strongest motives of self-interest prompting the farmer to the most strenuous exertions.
A distinction between peasant proprietors and peasant tenants. While dwelling on the influence of small farming in stimulating the industry of the farmer, it should be stated that the remarks just made apply much more powerfully in the case of peasant proprietors than in the case of peasant tenants. Nothing can be more depressing to the industry of the peasant tenant than to know that the more he exerts himself the more certain he is to have his rent raised. The peasant proprietor reaps all the fruit of his hard work himself ; whereas the peasant tenant often knows that increased exertions would benefit not himself but his landlord. Ireland is often instanced as exhibiting all the disadvantages of small farming. But not only must it be remembered that in Ireland the small farmers are tenants, but that they hold their land from year to year, and they are therefore constantly liable to an increase in their rents. Small tenant farming must always be disadvantageous except in those cases in which the tenant holds a long lease of his farm; or in those cases where, as under the Irish Land Act of 1870, he has a legal claim to compensation for improvements and for arbitrary eviction. On the continent the small farms are almost invariably tilled by peasant proprietors, and the most advantageous results ensue. This probably accounts for the fact that while many English economists approve of large farms, nearly all continental economists are of opinion that small farming is more productive of wealth.
There are some agricultural products which are never successfully cultivated in those countries where small farming is unknown. Amongst these are the vine and the olive. The cultivation of these requires such watchful and constant care that they are peculiarly adapted to those countries where small farming prevails. A similar remark applies to dairy farming and the rearing of fowls. Who has not heard in the country the continual complaints of the difficulty of getting good milk and butter? People say “the farmers' wives are such fine ladies now, that they are too grand to do what their mothers and grandmothers did before them, that is, get up at five o'clock and do the dairy work themselves.” This remark points out the difference between large and small farming ; the fact being that in modern times the size of farms has very greatly increased; the farmer and his wife are therefore removed from the social position they formerly occupied, and they will no longer work like their own labourers. When everything has been said on both sides respecting the advantages of large and small farming, the question still remains an open one. In a future chapter it will be pointed out that there is a way of combining the advantages of both systems, by giving labourers a direct pecuniary interest in the soil which they cultivate.
QUESTIONS ON CHAPTER I. Oir Land. 1. What are the three requisites of the Production of Wealth ?
Shew that Land is an indispensable agent of Production.
3. Mention some of the most obvious means of increasing the Productiveness of the Land.
4. Enumerate some of the advantages and disadvantages of large and small farming.
5. Why should a distinction be made between peasant proprietors and peasant tenants?
If the Irish Land Act has the effect of consolidating the small farms into a smaller number of much larger farms, would this probably cause any change in the production of butter in Ireland?
2. Milton exchanged the copyright of Paradise Lost for £15. It had an exchange value and was consequently wealth. What had Land and Capital to do with the production of this wealth 1 ?
CHAPTER II. On Labour.
Labour a requisite of Production. In the Introduction, when the nature of wealth was explained, an example was given of a commodity which in some circumstances cannot be regarded as wealth, and yet in other circumstances certainly constitutes wealth. It was shewn that
1 The French socialist Fourier, in the scheme which he elaborated for the reconstruction of society, placed “Talent' among the requisites of Production, and assigned to it a certain definite share (one-fourth) of the wealth resulting from the combined efforts of the members of the society.