Hodgskin Serial, continued

In one of his more constructive recent interventions at the Virtual Stoa, David Duff interrupted his characteristically repellent and trollish behaviour (see comments threads below in the DSW) in order to ask about definitions of key concepts. As it happens, Hodgskin was just coming around to that…

Labour Defended, &c., Episode Five

[Episode One was posted here, Two here, Three here and Four immediately below.]

“The produce of the earth,” says Mr. Ricardo, — “ALL that is derived from its surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital is divided among three classes of the community; namely, the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the labourers by whose industry it is cultivated.”

“It is self-evident,” says Mr M’Culloch, “that only three classes, the labourers, the possessors of capital, and the proprietors of land, are ever directly concerned in the production of commodities. It is to them, therefore, that all which is derived from the surface of the earth, or from its bowels, by the united application of immediate labour, and of capital, or accumulated labour, must primarily belong. The other classes of society have no revenue except what they derive either voluntarily or by compulsion from these three classes.”

The proportions in which the WHOLE produce is divided among these three classes is said to be as follows: — “Land is of different degrees of fertility.” “When, in the progress of society, land of the second quality (or an inferior degree of fertility to land before cultivated,) is taken into cultivation, rent immediately commences on that of the first quality, and the amount of that rent will depend on the difference in the quality of these two portions or land.” [More here – Ed.] Rent, therefore, or that quantity of the whole produce of the country which goes to the landlords, is, in every stage of society, that portion of this produce which is obtained from every district belonging to a politically organized nation, more than is obtained from the least fertile land cultivated by, or belonging to, that nation. It is the greater produce of all the land which is more fertile than the least fertile land cultivated. To produce this surplus would not break the back, and to give it up would not break the heart of the labourer. The landlord’s share therefore, does not keep the labourer poor.

The labourer’s share of the produce of a country, according to this theory, is the “necessaries and conveniences required for the support of the labourer and his family; or that quantity which is necessary to enable the labourers, one with another, to subsist and to perpetuate their race, without either increase or diminution.” [More here – Ed.] Whatever may be the truth of the theory in other respects, there is no doubt of its correctness in this particular. The labourers do only receive, and ever have only received, as much as will subsist them, the landlords receive the surplus produce of the more fertile soils, and all the rest of the whole produce of labour in this and in every country, goes to the capitalist under the name of profit for the use of his capital.

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