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Agricultural and commercial systems.
tion which has taken place, in spite of considerable discouragements, creates yearly a surplus produce, which enables the country, with but little assistance, to support so vast a body of people engaged in pursuits unconnected with the land.
in improvements is scarcely ever accompanied with a proportional increase of his clear gains, it is a very differ. ent thing, and must necessarily impede, in a great degree, the progress of cultivation. I am astonished, that so obvious and easy a commutation for tithes as a land tax on improved rents has not been adopted. Such a tax would be paid by the same persons as before, only in a better form; and the change would not be felt, except in the advantage that would accrue to all the parties concerned, the landlord, the tenant, and the clergyman. Tithes undoubtedly operate as a high bounty on pasture, and a great discouragement to tillage, which in the present peculiar circumstances of the country is a very great disadvantage.
Different Effects of the Agricultural and Commer
ABOUT the middle of the last century we were genuinely, and in the strict sense of the Economists, an agricultural nation. Our commerce and manufactures were however then in a very respectable and thriving state ; and if they nad continued to bear the same relative proportion to our agriculture, they would evidently have gone on increasing considerably, with the improving cultivation of the country. There is no apparent limit to the quantity of manufactures which might in time be supported in this way. The increasing wealth of a country in such a state seems to be out of the reach of all common accidents. There is no discoverable germ of decay in the system; and in theory there is no reason to say that it might not go on increasing in wealth and prosperity for thousands of years.
We have now however stepped out of the agri
Different effects of the, &c.
cultural system, into a state in which the commercial system clearly predominates ; and there is but too much reason to fear that even our commerce and manufactures will ultimately feel the disadvantage of the change. It has been already observed that we are exactly in the situation in which a country feels most fully the effect of those common years of deficient crops, which in the natural course of things are to be expected. The competition of increasing commercial wealth, operating upon a supply of corn not increasing in the same proportion, must at all times tend to raise the nominal price of labor; but when scarce years are taken into the consideration, its effect in this way must ultimately be very great. During the late scarcities the price of labor has been continually rising, and it will not readily fall again. In every country there will be many causes, which, in practice, operating like friction in mechanics, prevent the price of labor from rising and falling exactly in proportion to the price of its component parts. But besides these causes, there is one very powerful cause in theory, which operates to prevent the price of labor from falling when once it has been raised. Supposing it to be raise ed by a temporary cause, such as a scarcity of pro
Different effects of the
visions, it is evident that it will not fall again, unless some kind of stagnation take place in the competition among the purchasers of labor; but the power which the increase of the real price of labor, on the return of plenty, gives to the laborer of purchasing a greater quantity both of rude and manufactured produce, tends to prevent this stagnation, and strongly to counteract that fall in the price which would otherwise take place.
Labor is a commodity the price of which will not be so readily affected by the price of its component parts as any other. The reason why the consumer pays a tax on any commodity, or an advance in the price of any of its component parts, is, because if he cannot or will not pay this advance of price, the commodity will not be produced in the same quantity, and the next year there will be only such a proportion in the market as is accommodated to the number of persons that will consent to pay the advance. But in the case of labor, the operation of withdrawing the commodity is much slower and more painful. Although the purchasers refuse to pay the advan. ced price, the same supply will necessarily remain in the market, not only the next year, but for some years to come. Consequently, if no increase take
agricultural and commercial systems.
place in the demand, and the tax or advance in the price of provisions be not so great as to make it immediately obvious that the laborer cannot support his family, it is probable, that he will continue to pay this advance, till a relaxation in the rate of the increase of population causes the market to be under supplied with labor, and then of course the competition among the purchasers will raise the price above the proportion of the advance, in order to restore the necessary supply. In the same manner, if an advance in the price of labor take place during two or three city, it is probable that on the return of plenty, the real recompense of labor will continue higher than the usual average, till a too rapid increase of population causes a competition among the laborers, and a consequent diminution of the price of labor below the usual rate.
When a country in average years grows more corn than it consumes, and is in the habit of exporting a part of it, those great variations of price which from the competition of commercial wealth often produce lasting effects, cannot occur to the same extent. The wages of labor can never rise very much above the common price in other