Hodgskin Serial, continued

Here’s some more.

Labour Defended, &c., Episode Five Six

[Previous Episodes: One, Two, Three, Four and Five.]

Capital which thus engrosses the whole produce of a country, except the bare subsistence of the labourer, and the surplus produce of fertile land, is, “the produce of labour,” “is commodities,” “is the food the labourer eats, and the machines he uses;” so that we are obliged to give that enormous portion of the whole produce of the country which remains, after we have been supplied with subsistence, and the rent of the landlord has been paid, for the privilege of eating the food we have ourselves produced, and of using our own skill in producing more. Capital, the reader will suppose, must have some wonderful properties, when the labourer pays so exorbitantly for it. In fact, its claims are founded on its wonderful properties, and to them, therefore, I mean especially to direct his attention.

Several good and great men, whom we must all respect and esteem, seeing that capital did obtain all the large share I have mentioned, and being more willing, apparently, to defend and to explain the present order of society than to ascertain whether it could be improved; have endeavoured to point out the method in which capital aids production. From their writings I shall extract some passages explanatory of its effects. I must, however, beg not to be understood as doing this invidiously. The only motive I have for selecting these authors, as the representatives of the political economists, is, that they are by far the more efficient and eloquent supporters of the doctrine I do not assent to.

Mr M’Culloch says, “The accumulation and employment of both fixed and circulating capital is indispensably necessary to elevate any nation in the scale of civilization. And it is only by THEIR CONJOINED AND POWERFUL OPERATION that wealth can be largely produced and universally diffused.” [This is taken from the Article “Political Economy”, in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica — Ed.]

“The quantity of industry,” he further says, “therefore, not only increases in every country with the increase of the stock or capital which sets it in motion; but, in consequence of this increase, the division of labour becomes extended, new and more powerful implements and machines are invented, and the same quantity of labour is thus made to produce an infinitely greater quantity of commodities.

“Besides its effect in enabling labour to be divided, capital contributes to facilitate labour, and produce wealth in the three following ways:

First. — It enables us to execute work that could not be executed, or to produce commodities that could not be produced without it.

Second. — It saves labour in the production of almost every species of commodities,

Third. — It enables us to execute work better, as well as more expeditiously.”

Mr Mill’s account of these effects, though not so precise, is still more astounding. “The labourer,” he says (page 40) “has neither raw materials nor tools. These are provided for him by the capitalist. For making this provision, the capitalist of course expects a reward.” According to this statement, the capitalist provides for the labourer and only, therefore expects a profit. In other parts of his book it is not the capitalist who provides but the capital which works. He speaks of capital as an instrument of production co-operating with labour, as an active agent combining with labour to produce commodities, and thus he satisfies himself, and endeavours to prove to the reader that capital is entitled to all that large share of the produce it actually receives. He also attributes to capital power of accumation. This power or tendency to accumulate, he adds, is not so great as the tendency of population to augment — and on the difference between these two tendencies he and other authors have erected a theory of society which places poor mother-nature in no favorable light.

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