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accounts, buying and selling, &c. The labourer, generally speaking, is nothing but a labourer; he lives in a cottage hired probably from the farmer or proprietor, and he has little motive for working harder than he is made to do, because the advantage goes to his employer.
In this arrangement there are great advantages, and also great disadvantages. The farmer, being an intelligent man, acquainted with agricultural science, and furnished with plenty of capital, can adopt all the latest inventions, and raise the largest possible produce from the land and labour. It is also advantageous that the farmer does not own the land and fixed capital, because this leaves all his own capital free to provide more expensive implements and manures, and finer kinds of cattle. It is also
It is also a good thing that farms will, on this system, be large, so that there will be considerable division of labour, almost as in a factory; thus there, will arise some of the advantages which were described as belonging to the Division of Labour (Sections 25–29).
The disadvantages of the English mode of farming are also great, especially as regards the labourers, the most numerous class. They have none of the independence of peasant proprietors, and, when dismissed, or too old to work, have probably to go to the workhouse. Their wages have hitherto been very low, and saving was not possible. But this state of things is partly due to the bad Poor Laws which used to exist in England, and to the excessive numbers of poor, ignorant labourers. After a time, when the poor laws are improved, when labourers become more educated, and are employed, like factory hands, to work machines, there is no reason why they should not get good wages, and become independent, like artisans.
In the English system, a great deal depends upon the nature of the agreement between the land-owner and the capitalist farmer. Many large land-owners in England refuse to let their land for long periods
They like to have farmers who are tenants at will, and can be turned off their farms at a year's notice, and deprived of the value of all the improvements they have made, if they offend the great land-owner. It is easy to understand this ; the land owners wish to be lords, and to rule affairs in their own neighbourhood, as if they were little kings. This sort of thing is called territorial influence, and men who have become rich by making iron or cotton goods, often buy estates at a high price, in order to enjoy the pleasure of feeling like lords. The rural parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland are still, in fact, under the feudal system.
In a Primer like this we have to look at the matter as regards political economy only, and in this respect the arrangement described is bad. Tenants at will have no inducement to improve their farms, because this would tempt the land-owner to turn them out, or to raise the rent. It is generally understood, indeed, that a land-owner will not use his power, so that many farmers act as if they were sure of holding their farms; if turned out after all, they are practically robbed of their capital ; and, in any case, they cannot possibly feel the independence which every man ought to enjoy. We must always remember that the laws should be made not for the benefit of any one class, but for the benefit of the whole country. The laws concerning landlord and tenant have, however, been made by landlords, and are more fitted to promote their enjoyment than to improve agriculture.
There are two modes of remedying the unfortunate state of land tenure in this country, namely :
(1) By a system of long leases.
(2) By tenant right. 67. Leasehold Tenure. A lease is a formal agreement to let land or houses to a tenant for a certain number of years at a fixed rent, and with various conditions, which are carefully stated, to prevent misunderstanding When land is taken by a farmer
under a lease for thirty years or more, it becomes almost like his own property, because, in the earlier part of his term, he can make great improvements with the aid of his capital, and yet be sure of getting the value back before the lease comes to an end. In the eastern parts of England and Scotland, where the farms are largest and best managed, these long leases are the usual mode of letting land. It is certainly one of the best arrangements for promoting good farming, and it has few disadvantages, except that the farmer will not make improvements towards the end of his lease.
68. Tenant Right. Another good arrangement is tenant right, which consists in giving the tenant a right to claim the value of any unexhausted improvements, which he may have made in his farm, if he be turned out of it. A farmer can prove without difficulty how much he has spent in building barns, stables, piggeries, &c., in draining the lands, making roads and fences, or in putting lime and costly manures into the soil. Those who are experienced in farming can form a good judgment how long each improvement will continue profitable, so as to calculate how much the tenant loses if he be turned away. Thus a good estimate may be formed as to the sum which the tenant should receive as compensation, and the landlord, if he chooses to dismiss the tenant, should be obliged to pay this compensation. He will get it back by charging a higher rent to the next tenant.
Tenant right, though unknown in most parts of England, is not at all a new system; it has existed for a long time in the north of Ireland, where it is called the Ulster tenant right. A new tenant there pays the old tenant a considerable sum of money for the privilege of getting a good farm with various improvements, and the land owner is practically prevented from turning out a good tenant at his mere will. In Yorkshire also it has been the custom to compensate an outgoing tenant, and there is no good reason why the custom should not be made into a legal right, and
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