« ZurückWeiter »
extended over the whole country. Mr. Gladstone's Irish Land Act has already established a somewhat similar system throughout Ireland. If the land is to be used for its proper purposes, and not merely for the amusement and pride of a few landlords, every owner of land who lets it should be obliged either to give a long lease, say of thirty or fifty years, or else to pay the compensation fixed by a jury after taking evidence from those skilled in valuing farms. It should be made illegal to let land on any other terms.
69. The Cause of Rent. It is very important to understand exactly how rent arises, for without knowing this it is impossible to see why a landlord should be allowed to come and take away a considerable part of what is produced, without taking any other trouble in the matter. But the fact is that we cannot do away with rents : they must go to some one or other, and the only real question which can arise is whether there shall be many landlords receiving small rents or few landlords with great rent-rolls.
Rent arises from the fact that different pieces of land are not equally fertile, that is, they do not yield the same quantities of produce for the same quantities of labour. This may arise from the soil being different, or from one piece of land getting more sun and moisture than another. If the earth had a perfectly smooth surface the same everywhere, and if it were all tilled and cultivated in exactly the same way, there would be no such thing as rent. But the earth's surface, as we know, has hills and valleys: there are flats of rich soil in one place, and wastes of dry sand and stones in other places. Now, where the soil is good and favourably situated for growing corn, or other produce, the owner of such land must get more, in return for his labour, than if he possessed a bad piece of land. Even then, if everybody owned the farm which he cultivates, those who owned the better pieces would get rent, because they would get more produce. Thus,
after allowing the same wages to all, there would remain something in addition to the lucky owners of the better land. If, instead of working on this good land themselves, they let it to other workmen, they will be able to get a rent depending on the richness and the other advantages of the land.
Now there can be little difficulty in seeing how the amount of rent of land is governed. That land will pay no rent at all which only gives produce enough to pay the wages of the labourers who work upon it, together with the interest of any capital which they require. The rent of better land will then consist of the surplus of its produce over that of the poorest cultivated land, after allowance has been made for the greater or less amount of labour and capital expended on it. Or we may look at the matter in this way: The price of corn is decided by the cost of producing it on land which just pays the expenses of cultivation, because when more corn is needed, it is from such land we must procure it, the better land having been long since occupied. But corn of the same quality sells at the same price whatever be its cost of production; hence the rent of more fertile land will be the excess of the price of its produce over that of land which only just pays the cultivator and leaves no rent.
70. How Exchange Arises. One of the most important ways in which we can increase wealth consists in exchange—in giving what we do not want in return for what we do want. Wealth, as we have seen, is anything which is actually useful to us, because we have not enough already, and which can be transferred to another person. But when our want of any kind of commodity is satisfied, we want no more of that, but we do want other kinds
of commodity. The result is that exchange constantly produces a gain of utility. Some people have objected that there can be no good in exchange, because that which is given equals in value that which is received. Others have said that, if one party gains, it must evidently be by robbing the other party. According to this view, trade would consist in trying to beggar your neighbour. That which is given does really equal in value that which is received, but it does not equal it in utility, and to increase utility is the purpose of all production and all commerce. We do not pay for things in proportion to their usefulness, or else air and water would be the most costly of all things. A good-sized loaf may be bought for fourpence or sixpence, although bread is the staff of life. Before attempting to understand this apparent paradox, we must settle exactly what we mean by value.
71. What is Value? In exchanging some goods for other goods, there arises the question, How much of one kind shall be given for so much of the other? Some things are said to be valuable, as in the case of a gold watch or a diamond ring, because in exchange for them we can get a great quantity of other articles. Ashes are of little or no value, because we cannot get anything in exchange for them. Now this word value is a very difficult one, and is employed to mean different things. We may say that quinine is valuable for curing fevers, that iron is valuable for improving the blood, or that water is valuable for putting out fires. Here we do not mean valuable in exchange, for quinine would cure fevers just as well if it cost a penny an ounce instead of some ten shillings. Water, if we can get it at the right time, puts out a fire whether it costs much or little or nothing. It is clear, then, that by valuable we often mean valuable in use.
The words value and valuable are in fact ambiguous. (See Logic Primer, pp. 22-26, on The Correct Use of Words.) There is value in use and value in exchange, and many things
which would be commonly said to have little value in exchange have much value in use. But of these meanings, “value in use” is nothing but the utility of a thing to us, that is, the utility of all such portions of it as we can actually employ. Thus, the value in use of water means the utility of the water that we drink, or wash in, or cook with, or water the roads with, and this utility is very great. But of course it cannot mean the utility of water which is not useful to us, but on the contrary hurtful, as in the case of floods, damp houses, wet mines, and so forth.
We may now see how true was the remark of Genovesi, the Italian economist, that “Exchange consists in giving the superfluous for the necessary,” or, as I should prefer to say, the comparatively superfluous for the comparatively necessary. He who has more than enough of one article has already enjoyed all the good which that article can do to him, but he probably needs supplies of other articles. The exchange, like an act of mercy, blesses both him who gives and him who receives, because what each receives in exchange is much wanted and has high utility. In England, for instance, we possess a great deal of coal, and France produces plenty of good wine. We could have little or no wine in England unless we got it from France or some foreign country, and France also is much in want of coal. It is obvious that there is a great gain of utility if we give some of our comparatively superfluous coal in exchange for some of the abundant wine of France.
It has been objected to commerce that it is sterile and produces nó new goods. There exist neither more nor less coal and wine after they are exchanged than before. But in political economy we treat of utility and wealth; the question is whether things are usefully consumed or not. Now that which is not wealth if it were consumed by one person, becomes wealth when handed over to another person for consumption. Though exchange cannot create the material of wealth, it creates wealth because it gives utility to the material.
72. Value means Proportion in Exchange. When we speak of the value of a thing in exchange, we mean how much of some other thing we can get for it. This of course will depend upon the nature of that other thing. Obviously, I can get for a shilling much more potatoes than bread, and bread than beef, and beef than essence of beef. Therefore, when we speak of the value of a thing, we ought always to say what it is to be valued by. The word value only means that so much of one thing is given for so much of the other, and it is the proportion of these quantities (Latin proportio, from pro, in comparison with, and portio, share), which measures the values of the thing. A ton of pig-iron can usually be got for a quarter of corn; here the proportion is one to one. To get a ton of copper, we should probably have to give thirty quarters of corn; here the proportion is that of one to thirty. There cannot be such a thing as value in exchange, unless there be proportion -so much of one commodity for so much of another.
Usually, indeed, we measure the values of things by their prices. The price is the quantity of money which we give for a thing; in this case the proportion is between the quantity of money and the quantity of goods we get for it, as when we give sixty shillings for ten yards of carpet. We shall learn later on that money is a kind of commodity, which has utility and value like other commodities. But there is great convenience in always thinking and speaking of values in money, because we can then readily compare the value of one thing with that of
If a pound of potatoes costs one penny, a pound of bread threepence, and a pound of beef ninepence, we can see at once that a pound of beef is of the same value as three pounds of bread and nine pounds of potatoes, and we can judge how much of each to use.