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kinds of crops.
turn the materials into wealth. Whatever thus furnishes us with the first requisite of production is called a natural agent, that is, something which acts for us and assists us (Latin, agens, acting). Among natural agents land is by far the most important, because, when supplied with abundant sunlight and moisture, it may be cultivated and made to yield all
Accordingly, economists often speak of land, when their remarks would really apply as well to rocks and rivers. Three-quarters of the whole surface of the globe is covered with seas; but this vast extent of salt water furnishes little wealth, except whales, seals, sea-weed, and a few other kinds of animals and plants. Hence, when we speak of land, we really mean any source of materials—any natural agent, and we may say that land – source of materials = natural agent.
18. Labour. Nothing is more plain, however, than that natural agents alone do not make wealth. A man would perish in the most fertile spot if he did not take some trouble in appropriating the things around him. Fruit growing wild on the trees must be plucked before it becomes wealth, and wild game must be caught before it can be cooked and eaten. We must spend a great deal of labour if we wish to have comfortable clothes and houses and regular supplies of food; the proper sorts of materials must be gradually got together, and shaped and manufactured. Thus the amount of wealth which people can obtain depends far more upon their activity and skill in labouring than upon the abundance of materials around them.
As already remarked, North America is a very rich land, containing plenty of fine soil, seams of coal, veins of metal, rivers full of fish, and forests of fine timber, everything, in short, needed in the way of materials; yet the American Indians lived in this land for thousands of years in great poverty, because they had not the knowledge and perseverance to enable
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them to labour properly and produce wealth out of natural agents. Thus we see clearly that skilful and intelligent and regular labour is requisite to the production of wealth.
19. Capital. In order that we may produce much wealth, we require something further, namely, the capital, which supports labourers while they are engaged in their work. Men must have food once a day, not to say two or three times; if then they have no stock of food on hand, they must go at once and get it in the best way they can, for fear of starving. They must grub up roots, or gather grass seeds, or catch wild animals—if they can. When working in this way, they usually spend a great deal of labour for very little result; Australian natives sometimes have to cut down a large tree with stone axes, which is very hard work, in order to catch an opossum or two. Men who live in this way from hand to mouth have no time nor strength to make arrangements so as to get food and clothes in the easiest way. It requires much labour to plough the ground, to harrow it, and sow it with corn, besides fencing it in ; when all this is done it is requisite to wait six months before the crop can be gathered. Certainly, the amount of food thus obtained is large compared with the labour : but wild Indians and other ignorant tribes of men cannot wait while the corn is growing; the poor Australian natives have to gather grass seeds or find worms and opossums every day.
There is a good Japanese maxim which says, “ Dig a well before you are thirsty," and it is evidently very desirable to do so. But you must have capital to live upon while you are digging the well. In the same way, almost every mode of getting wealth without extreme labour requires that we shall have a stock of food to subsist upon while we are working and waiting, and this stock is called capital. In the absence of capital people find themselves continually in difficulties, and in danger of starvation. In the
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first of her tales on political economy, called “Life in the Wilds," Miss Martineau has beautifully described the position of settlers at the Cape of Good Hope, who are imagined to have been attacked by Bushmen and robbed of their stock of capital. She shows us how difficult it is to get any food or to do any useful work, because something else is wanted beforehandsome tool, or material, or at any rate time to make it. But there is no time to make anything, because all attention has to be given to finding shelter for the night, and something for supper. Everybody who wishes to understand the necessity for capital, and the way capital serves us, should read this tale of Miss Martineau, and then go on to her other tales about Political Economy
We can hardly say that capital is as requisite to production as land and labour, for the reason that capital must have been the produce of land and ·labour. There must always, indeed, be a little capital in possession, even though it be only the last meal in the stomach, before we can produce more. But there is no good attempting to say exactly how capital began to be collected, because it began in the childhood of the world, when men and women lived more like wild animals than as we live now. Certain it is that we cannot have loaves of bread, and knives and forks, and keep ourselves warm with clothes and brick houses, unless we have a stock of capital to live upon while we are making all these things. Capital is requisite, then, not so much that we shall labour, but that we shall labour economically and with great success. We may call it a secondary requisite, and it would be best to state the requisites of production in this way
natural agent. Primary requisites......
labour. Secondary requisite.......capital.
20. How to make Labour most Productive. The great object must be to make labour as productive
as possible, that is, to get as much wealth as we can
(1) At the best time;
(3) In the best manner.
22. Work at the Best Place. Again, we
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should carry on every kind of work at the place best suited for it, that we can get possession of. In many cases this is so obvious that the remark seems absurd. Does any one plant fruit trees on the sea sands, or sow corn among rocks? Of course not, because there would be no result. No one is so foolish as to spend his labour in a place where it would be wasted altogether. In other cases it is a question of degree; there may be some produce here, but there would be more produce there. In the south of England vines can be made to grow in the open air, and, in former days, wine used to be made from grapes grown in England. But vines grow much better on the sunny hills of France, Spain, and Germany, and the wine which can there be made with the same labour is far more plentiful and immensely better in quality. Those, then, who want to make wine had much better remove to the continent, or, still better, let the French, Spaniards, and Germans produce wine for us. In England we have good soil and a moist climate fitted for growing grass, and the best thing which our farmers can do is to raise cattle and produce plenty of milk, butter, and cheese.
In order that the world may grow as rich as possible, each country should give its attention to producing what it can produce most easily in its present circumstances, getting other things in exchange by foreign trade. The United States can raise endless quantities of cotton, corn, bacon, meat, fruit, petroleum, besides plenty of gold, silver, copper, iron, &c. Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa will furnish much wool, hides, sugar, preserved meats, besides gold, copper, and diamonds.
Tropical Africa has palm oil, ivory, teak wood, gum, &c. South America abounds in cattle from which we get tallow, hides, bones, horns, essence of beef, &c. China supplies us with vast quantities of tea, in addition to silk, ginger, and many minor commodities. India sends cotton, indigo, jute, rice, seeds, sugar, spices, and all kinds of