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capital spent in making it. When it is worn out, he ought to have all the capital it cost paid back, with some increase or interest. Capital invested in railway wagons should pay itself back during the ten years that the wagons last on an average.
The capital invested in any work may always be said to consist of wages or what is bought with wages. Thus the capital invested in railways really consisted of the food, clothes, and other commodities consumed by the labourers who made the railways. It is true that tools also were needed as well as the iron rails, sleepers, bricks, and other materials required for the work. But as these things had previously been made by labour, we may consider that the capital really invested in them was the wages of the labourers who had already made them. Thus, when we go far enough back, we always find that the capital invested consisted of the maintenance of labourers.
36. Investment of Capital. We have two things to consider with regard to the investment of capital, firstly, the quantity of the capital, and secondly, the length of time for which it is invested. The same quantity of capital will keep more or less men at work, according as it is invested for shorter or longer periods. A man in growing potatoes only needs to wait for the result of his labour during one year on an average.
If his food and clothing during one year cost thirty pounds, then capital worth thirty pounds is sufficient to keep him at work in this way. Three men cultivating potatoes will of course require three times as much capital, or ninety pounds worth; ten men will need three hundred pounds worth, and so on in proportion. But in growing vines it is necessary to wait several years after the vines are planted before they begin to bear. Suppose it to require five years waiting, then the labourer will want 5 x 30, or one hundred and fifty pounds worth of capital before he can grow vines. Three vine-growers
will want 3 * 5 * 30, or four hundred and fifty pounds worth of capital; ten men, 10 x 5 x 30, or fifteen hundred pounds worth, and so on in proportion. Thus we see clearly that the capital required in any kind of industry is proportional to the number of men employed, and also to the length of time for which the capital remains locked up, or invested on the average. But there is no fixed proportion whatever between the number of labourers and the capital they require—it entirely depends upon the length of time in which the capital is turned over, that is, invested, and got back again. A poor savage manages to live on a few days' capital in hand; a potato grower on one year's capital. On a modern farm in which many durable improvements are made, the quantity of capital required is very much greater. To employ men upon a railway requires immense capital, because so much of it is sunk in a very fixed and durable form in the embankments, tunnels, stations, rails, and engines.
37. Labour cannot be Capital. It is not uncommon to hear it said that labour is the poor man's capital; and then it is argued that the poor man has just as much right to live upon his capital as the rich man upon his. And so he has, if he can do it. If a labourer can go and produce any kind of wealth, and exchange it for food and necessaries, of course he may do so. But, as a general rule, he cannot do this without working for a length of time, waiting till the produce is finished and sold. In order to do this he wants something more than his labour, namely, his food in the meantime, besides materials and tools. These form the required capital, and there is no good in calling labour capital when it is really quite a different thing. At other times I have heard it said that land is capital, intelligence is capital, and so forth. These are all misleading expressions. The intended meaning seems to be that some people live upon what they get from land, or from intelligence, as other people live upon what they
get as interest upon capital. Nevertheless, land is not capital, nor is intelligence capital. Production requires, as we have seen, three distinct things, namely, land, labour, and capital ; and there is much harm in confusing things together by giving them the same name when they are not the same thing.
DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH. 38. How Wealth is Shared. We have learned what wealth is, how it is to be used, and how it may be produced in the greatest quantities, with the least possible labour, but we have yet to enter on the more difficult parts of our subject. We must now try to make out how wealth is shared among those who have a hand in producing it. The requisites of production, as we have seen, are land, labour, and capital; if these were all supplied by the same person, no doubt the produce ought all to belong to him, with the exception of what is taken by the government as taxes. But, in a state of society such as exists at present, the labourer seldom owns all the land and capital he uses; he goes to work on another man's farm, or in another man's factory; he lives in another man's house, and often eats another man's food; he derives benefits from other men’s inventions, and discoveries; and he uses roads, railways, public buildings, &c., furnished at the cost of the community.
The production of wealth, therefore, depends not on the will and exertions of a single man, but on the proper bringing together of land, labour, and capital, by different persons and classes of persons. These different persons must have their several shares of the wealth produced ; if they furnish something requisite for producing, they can make a bargain and ask for more or less of the produce. But it is not mere chance or caprice which governs the sharing
of wealth, and we have to learn the natural laws according to which the distribution takes place. We must ascertain how it is that many of the population get so little, and some so much. Men work very hard on a farm and raise crops; the landlord comes and takes away a large part as rent, so that the labourers have barely enough to live upon. When we are able to understand why the labourer gets so little at present, we shall see, perhaps, how he might manage to get more, but in any case we shall see that it is due in great part to the laws of nature.
The part of our subject which we are now going to consider is called the distribution of wealth, because it teaches us how the wealth produced is distributed (Latin, dis, apart, and tribuere, to allot) between the labourers, the owners of land, the owners of capital, and the government. The part which the labourer gets is called wages; the share of the land owner is called rent; that of the capitalist is interest; and the government take taxes. say that, as a general rule, the produce of work is divided into four shares, which may be thus shown: produce wages + rent + interest + taxes.
39. The Labourer's Share — Wages. It ought to be carefully remembered that the names wages, rent, and interest, as here used, do not exactly agree in meaning with the names as we employ them in common life. The wages paid to workmen are sometimes more than wages, being partly interest; the rent almost always consists partly of interest; and what is called interest may in some degree be really wages or rent.
By wages we mean, in political economy, nothing but what goes to pay for the trouble of labour. But many workmen own their own tools; masons have a boxful of chisels, mallets, rules, &c..; carpenters often require twenty or thirty pounds' worth of planes and other implements; a pianoforte maker sometimes owns seventy pounds' worth of tools; even gardeners re
quire spades, rakes, a barrow, scythe, or perhaps a mowing machine and a roller. Now, all such tools represent so much invested capital, and a certain amount of interest must be paid for this capital. A pianoforte maker might expect five pounds a year as interest upon the cost of his tools.
But true wages, are what remains after allowance has been made for such interest, and it would be proper to subtract also what is paid to the government as taxes.
40. The Land Owner's Share—Rent, the second part of the produce, means, in political economy, what is paid for the use of a natural agent, whether land, or beds of minerals, or rivers, or lakes. The rent of a house or factory is, therefore, not all rent in our meaning of the word. Capital has been spent in building the house or factory, and interest must be paid on this capital; we must then deduct this interest from what is commonly called the rent, before we can find out what is really rent. The ground rent of a house is the rent paid for the ground on which it stands, and this will be more nearly the true rent,
apart from interest. Similarly, the ordinary rent of a į farm will usually include interest upon the capital
spent on the farm buildings, roads, gates, fences, drains, and other improvements. We shall afterwards learn exactly how true rent arises.
41. The Capitalist's Share. share of the capitalist is interest; but this is usually a good deal less than what actually remains in the hands of the capitalist. Business is generally carried on by some capitalist who rents a piece of land, builds a factory, purchases machinery, and then employs men to work the machinery, paying them wages. The capitalist himself often acts as manager, and works every day almost as long as the workmen. When the goods are finished and sold, he keeps the whole of the money he gets for them; but then he has already paid out a large sum as wages, while the goods were being made; another part goes to pay the