« 前へ次へ »
Of increasing wealth as it affects
With regard to the command over the necessaries of life they would be in the same or rather worse state than before ; and a great part of them would have exchanged the healthy labors of agriculture for the unhealthy occupations of manufacturing mdustry.
The argument perhaps appears clearer when applied to China, because it is generally allowed that its wealth has long been stationary, and its soil cultivated nearly to the utmost.
With regard to any other country it might always be a matter of dispute, at which of the two periods compared, wealth was increasing the fastest, as it is upon
the rapidity of the increase of wealth at any particular period, that Dr. Smith says, the condition of the poor depends. It is evident however, that two nations might increase exactly with the same rapidity in the exchangeable value of the annual produce of their land and labor; yet, if one had applied itself chiefly to agriculture, and the other chiefly to commerce, the funds for the maintenance of labor, and consequently the effect of the increase of wealth in each nation, would be extremely different. In that which had applied itself chiefly to agriculture the poor would live in greater plenty, and population would rapidly increase.
the condition of the Poor.
In that which had applied itself chiefly to commerce the poor would be comparatively but little benefited, and consequently population would either be stationary or increase very slowly.'
1 The condition of the laboring poor, supposing their habits to remain the same, cannot be very essentially improved but by giving them a greater command over the means of subsistence. But any advantage of this kind must from its nature be temporary, and is therefore really of less value to them than any permanent change in their habits. But manufactures by inspiring a taste for comforts, tend to promote a favorable change in these habits, and in this way perhaps counterbalance all their disadvantages. The laboring classes of society in nations merely agricultural are generally on the whole poorer than in manufacturing nations, though less subject to those occasional variations which among manufacturers often produce the most severe distress. But the considerations which relate to a change of habits in the poor Kelong more properly to a subsequent part of this work.
of the Definitions of Wealth. Agricultural and
THERE are none of the definitions of the wealth of a state that are not liable to some objections. If we take the gross produce of the land it is evident, that the funds for the maintenance of labor, the population, and the wealth may increase very rapidly, while the nation is apparently poor, and has very little disposeable revenue. take Dr. Smith's definition, wealth may increase, as has before been shown, without tending to increase the funds for the maintenance of labor and the population. If we take the clear surplus produce of the land, according to the Economists, in this case the funds for the maintenance of labor and the population may increase, without an increase of wealth, as in the instance of the cultivation of new lands, which will pay a profit but not a rent; and vice versa, wealth may increase without increasing the funds for the maintenance of
Of the definitions of wealth. &c.
labor, and the population, as in the instance of improvements in agricultural instruments, and in the mode of agriculture, which may make the land yield the same produce, with fewer persons employed upon it; and consequently the disposeable wealth or revenue would be increased without a power of supporting a greater number of people.
The objections however to the two last definitions do not prove that they are incorrect; but merely that an increase of wealth, though generally, is not necessarily and invariably accompanied by an increase of the funds for the maintenance of labor, and consequently by the power of supporting a greater number of people, or of enabling the former number to live in greater plenty and happiness.
Whichever of these two definitions is adopted as the best criterion of the wealth, power, and prosperity of a state, the position of the Economists will always remain true, that the surplus produce of the cultivators is the great fund which ultimately pays all those who are not employed upon the land. Throughout the whole world the number of manufacturers, of proprietors, and of persons engaged in the various civil and military professions, must be exactly proportioned to this surplus produce,
Of the definitions of wealth.
and cannot in the nature of things increase beyond it. If the earth had been so niggardly of her produce as to oblige all her inhabitants to labor for it, no manufacturers or idle persons could ever have existed. But her first intercourse with man was a voluntary present, not very large indeed, but sufficient as a fund for his subsistence, till by the
proper exercise of his faculties he could procure a greater. In proportion as the labor and ingenuity of man exercised upon the land, have increased this surplus produce, leisure has been given to a greater number of persons to employ themselves in all the inventions which embellish civilized life. And though, in its turn, the desire to profit by these inventions has greatly contributed to stimulate the cultivators to increase their surplus produce; yet the order of precedence is clearly the surplus produce; because the funds for the subsistence of the manufacturer must be advanced to him before he can complete his work: and if we were to imagine, that we could command this surplus produce, whenever we willed it, by forcing manufactures, we should be quickly admonished of our gross error, by the inadequate support which the workman would receive, in spite of any rise that might take place in his no