An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress of Rent

Thomas Robert Malthus

[1815 / Part 2 of 2]

The earth has been sometimes compared to a vast machine, presented by nature to man for the production of food and raw materials; but, to make the resemblance more just, as far as they admit of comparison, we should consider the soil as a present to man of a great number of machines, all susceptible of continued improvement by the application of capital to them, but yet of very different original qualities and powers.

This great inequality in the powers of the machinery employed in procuring raw produce, forms one of the most remarkable features which distinguishes the machinery of the land from the machinery employed in manufactures.

When a machine in manufactures is invented, which will produce more finished work with less labour and capital than before, if there be no patent, or as soon as the patent is over, a sufficient number of such machines may be made to supply the whole demand, and to supersede entirely the use of all the old machinery. The natural consequence is, that the price is reduced to the price of production from the best machinery, and if the price were to be depressed lower, the whole of the commodity would be withdrawn from the market.

The machines which produce corn and raw materials on the contrary, are the gifts of nature, not the works of man; and we find, by experience, that these gifts have very different qualities and powers. The most fertile lands of a country, those which, like the best machinery in manufactures, yield the greatest products with the least labour and capital, are never found sufficient to supply the effective demand of an increasing population. The price of raw produce, therefore, naturally rises till it becomes sufficiently high to pay the cost of raising it with inferior machines, and by a more expensive process; and, as there cannot be two prices for corn of the same quality, all the other machines, the working of which requires less capital compared with the produce, must yield rents in proportion to their goodness.

Every extensive country may thus be considered as possessing a gradation of machines for the production of corn and raw materials, including in this gradation not only all the various qualities of poor land, of which every large territory has generally an abundance, but the inferior machinery which may be said to be employed when good land is further and further forced for additional produce. As the price of raw produce continues to rise, these inferior machines are successively called into action; and, as the price of raw produce continues to fall, they are successively thrown out of action. The illustration here used serves to show at once the necessity of the actual price of corn to the actual produce, and the different effect which would attend a great reduction in the price of any particular manufacture, and a great reduction in the price of raw produce.

I hope to be excused for dwelling a little, and presenting to the reader in various forms the doctrine, that corn in reference to the quantity actually produced is sold at its necessary price like manufactures, because I consider it as a truth of the highest importance, which has been entirely overlooked by the Economists, by Adam Smith, and all those writers who have represented raw produce as selling always at a monopoly price.

Adam Smith has very clearly explained in what manner the progress of wealth and improvement tends to raise the price of cattle, poultry, the materials of clothing and lodging, the most useful minerals, etc., etc. compared with corn; but he has not entered into the explanation of the natural causes which tend to determine the price of corn. He has left the reader, indeed, to conclude, that he considers the price of corn as determined only by the state of the mines which at the time supply the circulating medium of the commercial world. But this is a cause obviously inadequate to account for the actual differences in the price of grain, observable in countries at no great distance from each other, and at nearly the same distance from the mines.

I entirely agree with him, that it is of great use to inquire into the causes of high price; as, from the result of such inquiry, it may turn out, that the very circumstance of which we complain, may be the necessary consequence and the most certain sign of increasing wealth and prosperity. But, of all inquiries of this kind, none surely can be so important, or so generally interesting, as an inquiry into the causes which affect the price of corn, and which occasion the differences in this price, so observable in different countries.

I have no hesitation in stating that, independently of irregularities in the currency of a country,(13*) and other temporary and accidental circumstances, the cause of the high comparative money price of corn is its high comparative real price, or the greater quantity of capital and labour which must be employed to produce it: and that the reason why the real price of corn is higher and continually rising in countries which are already rich, and still advancing in prosperity and population, is to be found in the necessity of resorting constantly to poorer land - to machines which require a greater expenditure to work them - and which consequently occasion each fresh addition to the raw produce of the country to be purchased at a greater cost - in short, it is to be found in the important truth that corn, in a progressive country, is sold at the price necessary to yield the actual supply; and that, as this supply becomes more and more difficult, the price rises in proportion.(14*)

The price of corn, as determined by these causes, will of course be greatly modified by other circumstances; by direct and indirect taxation; by improvements in the modes of cultivation; by the saving of labour on the land; and particularly by the importations of foreign corn. The latter cause, indeed, may do away, in a considerable degree, the usual effects of great wealth on the price of corn; and this wealth will then show itself in a different form.

Let us suppose seven or eight large countries not very distant from each other, and not very differently situated with regard to the mines. Let us suppose further, that neither their soils nor their skill in agriculture are essentially unlike; that their currencies are in a natural state; their taxes nothing; and that every trade is free, except the trade in corn. Let us now suppose one of them very greatly to increase in capital and manufacturing skill above the rest, and to become in consequence much more rich and populous. I should say, that this great comparative increase of riches could not possibly take place, without a great comparative advance in the price of raw produce; and that such advance of price would, under the circumstances supposed, be the natural sign and absolutely necessary consequence, of the increased wealth and population of the country in question.

Let us now suppose the same countries to have the most perfect freedom of intercourse in corn, and the expenses of freight, etc. to be quite inconsiderable. And let us still suppose one of them to increase very greatly above the rest, in manufacturing capital and skill, in wealth and population. I should then say, that as the importation of corn would prevent any great difference in the price of raw produce, it would prevent any great difference in the quantity of capital laid out upon the land, and the quantity of corn obtained from it; that, consequently, the great increase of wealth could not take place without a great dependence on the other nations for corn; and that this dependence, under the circumstances supposed, would be the natural sign, and absolutely necessary consequence of the increased wealth and population of the country in question.

These I consider as the two alternatives necessarily belonging to a great comparative increase of wealth; and the supposition here made will, with proper restrictions, apply to the state of Europe.

In Europe, the expenses attending the carriage of corn are often considerable. They form a natural barrier to importation; and even the country which habitually depends upon foreign corn, must have the price of its raw produce considerably higher than the general level. Practically, also, the prices of raw produce, in the different countries of Europe, will be variously modified by very different soils, very different degrees of taxation, and very different degrees of improvement in the science of agriculture. Heavy taxation, and a poor soil, may occasion a high comparative price of raw produce, or a considerable dependence on other countries, without great wealth and population; while great improvements in agriculture and a good soil may keep the price of produce low, and the country independent of foreign corn, in spite of considerable wealth. But the principles laid down are the general principles on the subject; and in applying them to any particular case, the particular circumstances of such case must always be taken into consideration.

With regard to improvements in agriculture, which in similar soils is the great cause which retards the advance of price compared with the advance of produce; although they are sometimes very powerful, they are rarely found sufficient to balance the necessity of applying to poorer land, or inferior machines. In this respect, raw produce is essentially different from manufactures.

The real price of manufactures, the quantity of labour and capital necessary to produce a given quantity of them, is almost constantly diminishing; while the quantity of labour and capital, necessary to procure the last addition that has been made to the raw produce of a rich and advancing country, is almost constantly increasing. We see in consequence, that in spite of continued improvements in agriculture, the money price of corn is ceteris paribus the highest in the richest countries, while in spite of this high price of corn, and consequent high price of labour, the money price of manufactures still continues lower than in poorer countries.

I cannot then agree with Adam Smith, in thinking that the low value of gold and silver is no proof of the wealth and flourishing state of the country, where it takes place. Nothing of course can be inferred from it, taken absolutely, except the abundance of the mines; but taken relatively, or in comparison with the state of other countries, much may be inferred from it. If we are to measure the value of the precious metals in different countries, and at different periods in the same country, by the price of corn and labour, which appears to me to be the nearest practical approximation that can be adopted (and in fact corn is the measure used by Adam Smith himself), it appears to me to follow, that in countries which have a frequent commercial intercourse with each other, which are nearly at the same distance from the mines, and are not essentially different in soil; there is no more certain sign, or more necessary consequence of superiority of wealth, than the low value of the precious metals, or the high price of raw produce.(15*)

It is of importance to ascertain this point; that we may not complain of one of the most certain proofs of the prosperous condition of a country.

It is not of course meant to be asserted, that the high price of raw produce is, separately taken, advantageous to the consumer; but that it is the necessary concomitant of superior and increasing wealth, and that one of them cannot be had without the other.(16*)

With regard to the labouring classes of society, whose interests as consumers may be supposed to be most nearly concerned, it is a very short-sighted view of the subject, which contemplates, with alarm, the high price of corn as certainly injurious to them. The essentials to their well being are their own prudential habits, and the increasing demand for labour. And I do not scruple distinctly to affirm, that under similar habits, and a similar demand for labour, the high price of corn, when it has had time to produce its natural effects, so far from being a disadvantage to them, is a positive and unquestionable advantage. To supply the same demand for labour, the necessary price of production must be paid, and they must be able to command the same quantities of the necessaries of life, whether they are high or low in price.(17*) But if they are able to command the same quantity of necessaries, and receive a money price for their labour, proportioned to their advanced price, there is no doubt that, with regard to all the objects of convenience and comfort, which do not rise in proportion to corn (and there are many such consumed by the poor), their condition will be most decidedly improved.

The reader will observe in what manner I have guarded the proposition. I am well aware, and indeed have myself stated in another place, that the price of provisions often rises, without a proportionate rise of labour: but this cannot possibly happen for any length of time, if the demand for labour continues increasing at the same rate, and the habits of the labourer are not altered, either with regard to prudence, or the quantity of work which he is disposed to perform.

The peculiar evil to be apprehended is, that the high money price of labour may diminish the demand for it; and that it has this tendency will be readily allowed, particularly as it tends to increase the prices of exportable commodities. But repeated experience has shown us that such tendencies are continually counterbalanced, and more than counterbalanced by other circumstances. And we have witnessed, in our own country, a greater and more rapid extension of foreign commerce, than perhaps was ever known, under the apparent disadvantage of a very great increase in the price of corn and labour, compared with the prices of surrounding countries.

On the other hand, instances everywhere abound of a very low money price of labour, totally failing to produce an increasing demand for it. And among the labouring classes of different countries, none certainly are so wretched as those, where the demand for labour, and the population are stationary, and yet the prices of provisions extremely low, compared with manufactures and foreign commodities. However low they may be, it is certain, that under such circumstances, no more will fall to the share of the labourer than is necessary just to maintain the actual population; and his condition will be depressed, not only by the stationary demand for labour, but by the additional evil of being able to command but a small portion of manufactures or foreign commodities, with the little surplus which he may possess. If, for instance, under a stationary population, we suppose, that in average families two thirds of the wages estimated in corn are spent in necessary provisions, it will make a great difference in the condition of the poor, whether the remaining one third will command few or many conveniencies and comforts; and almost invariably, the higher is the price of corn, the more indulgences will a given surplus purchase.

The high or low price of provisions, therefore, in any country is evidently a most uncertain criterion of the state of the poor in that country. Their condition obviously depends upon other more powerful causes; and it is probably true, that it is as frequently good. or perhaps more frequently so, in countries where corn is high, than where it is low.

At the same time it should be observed, that the high price of corn, occasioned by the difficulty of procuring it, may be considered as the ultimate check to the indefinite progress of a country in wealth and population. And, although the actual progress of countries be subject to great variations in their rate of movement, both from external and internal causes, and it would be rash to say that a state which is well peopled and proceeding rather slowly at present, may not proceed rapidly forty years hence; yet it must be owned, that the chances of a future rapid progress are diminished by the high prices of corn and labour, compared with other countries.

It is, therefore, of great importance, that these prices should be increased as little as possible artificially, that is, by taxation. But every tax which falls upon agricultural capital tends to check the application of such capital, to the bringing of fresh land under cultivation, and the improvement of the old. It was shown, in a former part of this inquiry, that before such application of capital could take place, the price of produce, compared with the instruments of production, must rise sufficiently to pay the farmer. But, if the increasing difficulties to be overcome are aggravated by taxation, it is necessary, that before the proposed improvements are undertaken, the price should rise sufficiently, not only to pay the farmer, but also the government. And every tax, which falls on agricultural capital, either prevents a proposed improvement, or causes it to be purchased at a higher price.

When new leases are let, these taxes are generally thrown off upon the landlord. The farmer so makes his bargain, or ought so to make it, as to leave himself, after every expense has been paid, the average profits of agricultural stock in the actual circumstances of the country, whatever they may be, and in whatever manner they may have been affected by taxes, particularly by so general a one as the property tax. The farmer, therefore, by paying a less rent to his landlord on the renewal of his lease, is relieved from any peculiar pressure, and may go on in the common routine of cultivation with the common profits. But his encouragement to lay out fresh capital in improvements is by no means restored by his new bargain. This encouragement must depend, both with regard to the farmer and the landlord himself, exclusively on the price of produce, compared with the price of the instruments of production; and, if the price of these instruments have been raised by taxation, no diminution of rent can give relief. It is, in fact, a question, in which rent is not concerned. And, with a view to progressive improvements, it may be safely asserted, that the total abolition of rents would be less effectual than the removal of taxes which fall upon agricultural capital.

I believe it to be the prevailing opinion, that the greatest expense of growing corn in this country is almost exclusively owing to the weight of taxation. Of the tendency of many of our taxes to increase the expenses of cultivation and the price of corn, I feel no doubt; but the reader will see from the course of argument pursued in this inquiry, that I think a part of this price, and perhaps no inconsiderable part, arises from a cause which lies deeper, and is in fact the necessary result of the great superiority of our wealth and population, compared with the quality of our natural soil and the extent of our territory.

This is a cause which can only be essentially mitigated by the habitual importation of foreign corn, and a diminished cultivation of it at home. The policy of such a system has been discussed in another place; but, of course, every relief from taxation must tend, under any system, to make the price of corn less high, and importation less necessary.

In the progress of a country towards a high state of improvement, the positive wealth of the landlord ought, upon the principles which have been laid down, gradually to increase; although his relative condition and influence in society will probably rather diminish, owing to the increasing number and wealth of those who live upon a still more important surplus(18*) - the profits of stock.

The progressive fall, with few exceptions, in the value of the precious metals throughout Europe; the still greater fall, which has occurred in the richest countries, together with the increase of produce which has been obtained from the soil, must all conduce to make the landlord expect an increase of rents on the renewal of his leases. But, in reletting his farms, he is liable to fall into two errors, which are almost equally prejudicial to his own interests, and to those of his country.

In the first place, he may be induced, by the immediate prospect of an exorbitant rent, offered by farmers bidding against each other, to let his land to a tenant without sufficient capital to cultivate it in the best way, and make the necessary improvements upon it. This is undoubtedly a most short-sighted policy, the bad effects of which have been strongly noticed by the most intelligent land surveyors in the evidence lately brought before Parliament; and have been particularly remarkable in Ireland, where the imprudence of the landlords in this respect, combined, perhaps, with some real difficulty of finding substantial tenants, has aggravated the discontents of the country, and thrown the most serious obstacles in the way of an improved system of cultivation. The consequence of this error is the certain loss of all that future source of rent to the landlord, and wealth to the country, which arises from increase of produce.

The second error to which the landlord is liable, is that of mistaking a mere temporary rise of prices, for a rise of sufficient duration to warrant an increase of rents. It frequently happens, that a scarcity of one or two years, or an unusual demand arising from any other cause, may raise the price of raw produce to a height, at which it cannot be maintained. And the farmers, who take land under the influence of such prices, will, in the return of a more natural state of things, probably break, and leave their farms in a ruined and exhausted state. These short periods of high price are of great importance in generating capital upon the land, if the farmers are allowed to have the advantage of them; but, if they are grasped at prematurely by the landlord, capital is destroyed, instead of being accumulated; and both the landlord and the country incur a loss, instead of gaining a benefit.

A similar caution is necessary in raising rents, even when the rise of prices seems as if it would be permanent. In the progress of prices and rents, rent ought always to be a little behind; not only to afford the means of ascertaining whether the rise be temporary or permanent, but even in the latter case, to give a little time for the accumulation of capital on the land, of which the landholder is sure to feel the full benefit in the end.

There is no just reason to believe, that if the lands were to give the whole of their rents to their tenants, corn would be more plentiful and cheaper. If the view of the subject, taken in the preceding inquiry, be correct, the last additions made to our home produce are sold at the cost of production, and the same quantity could not be produced from our own soil at a less price, even without rent. The effect of transferring all rents to tenants, would be merely the turning them into gentlemen, and tempting them to cultivate their farms under the superintendence of careless and uninterested bailiffs, instead of the vigilant eye of a master, who is deterred from carelessness by the fear of ruin, and stimulated to exertion by the hope of a competence. The most numerous instances of successful industry, and well-directed knowledge, have been found among those who have paid a fair rent for their lands; who have embarked the whole of their capital in their undertaking; and who feel it their duty to watch over it with unceasing care, and add to it whenever it is possible. But when this laudable spirit prevails among a tenantry, it is of the very utmost importance to the progress of riches, and the permanent increase of rents, that it should have the power as well as the will to accumulate; and an interval of advancing prices, not immediately followed by a proportionate rise of rents, furnishes the most effective powers of this kind. These intervals of advancing prices, when not succeeded by retrograde movements, most powerfully contribute to the progress of national wealth. And practically I should say, that when once a character of industry and economy has been established, temporary high profits are a more frequent and powerful source of accumulation, than either an increased spirit of saving, or any other cause that can be named.(19*) It is the only cause which seems capable of accounting for the prodigious accumulation among individuals, which must have taken place in this country during the last twenty years, and which has left us with a greatly increased capital, notwithstanding our vast annual destruction of stock, for so long a period.

Among the temporary causes of high price, which may sometimes mislead the landlord, it is necessary to notice irregularities in the currency. When they are likely to be of short duration, they must be treated by the landlord in the same manner as years of unusual demand. But when they continue so long as they have done in this country, it is impossible for the landlord to do otherwise than proportion his rent accordingly, and take the chance of being obliged to lessen it again, on the return of the currency to its natural state.

The present fall in the price of bullion, and the improved state of our exchanges, proves, in my opinion, that a much greater part of the difference between gold and paper was owing to commercial causes, and a peculiar demand for bullion than was supposed by many persons; but they by no means prove that the issue of paper did not allow of a higher rise of prices than could be permanently maintained. Already a retrograde movement, not exclusively occasioned by the importations of corn, has been sensibly felt; and it must go somewhat further before we can return to payments in specie. Those who let their lands during the period of the greatest difference between notes and bullion, must probably lower them, whichever system may be adopted with regard to the trade in corn. These retrograde movements are always unfortunate; and high rents, partly occasioned by causes of this kind, greatly embarrass the regular march of prices, and confound the calculations both of the farmer and landlord.

With the cautions here noticed in letting farms, the landlord may fairly look forward to a gradual and permanent increase of rents; and, in general, not only to an increase proportioned to the rise in the price of produce, but to a still further increase, arising from an increase in the quantity of produce.

If in taking rents, which are equally fair for the landlord and tenant, it is found that in successive lettings they do not rise rather more than in proportion to the price of produce, it will generally be owing to heavy taxation.

Though it is by no means true, as stated by the Economists, that all taxes fall on the net rents of the landlords, yet it is certainly true that they are more frequently taxed both indirectly as well as directly, and have less power of relieving themselves, than any other order of the state. And as they pay, as they certainly do, many of the taxes which fall on the capital of the farmer and the wages of the labourer, as well as those directly imposed on themselves; they must necessarily feel it in the diminution of that portion of the whole produce, which under other circumstances would have fallen to their share. But the degree in which the different classes of society are affected by taxes, is in itself a copious subject, belonging to the general principles of taxation, and deserves a separate inquiry.


1. I cannot, however, agree with him in thinking that all land which yields food must necessarily yield rent. The land which is successively taken into cultivation in improving countries, may only pay profits and labour. A fair profit on the stock employed, including, of course, the payment of labour, will always be a sufficient inducement to cultivate.

2. J.B. Say, Traite d'economie politique, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Paris, 1814) ii, p. 124. Of this work a new and much improved edition has lately been published, which is highly worthy the attention of all those who take an interest in these subjects.

3. J.C.L.S. de Sismondi, De la richesse commerciale, 2 vols. (Geneva, 1803), i, p. 49.

4. Adam Smith, An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, ed. D. Buchanan, 4 vols. (Edinburgh, 1814) iv, p. 134.

> 5. Smith, Wealth of nations, iii, p. 212.

6. It is, however, certain, that if either these materials be wanting, or the skill and capital necessary to work them up be prevented from forming, owing to the insecurity of property, to any other cause, the cultivators will soon slacken in their exertions, and the motives to accumulate and to increase their produce, will greatly diminish. But in this case there will be a very slack demand for labour; and, whatever may be the nominal cheapness of provisions, the labourer will not really be able to command such a portion of the necessaries of life, including, of course, clothing, lodging, etc. as will occasion an increase of population.

7. I have supposed some check to the supply of the cotton machinery in this case. If there was no check whatever, the effects wold show themselves in excessive profits and excessive wages, without an excess above the cost of production.

8. Smith, Wealth of nations, iv, p. 35.

9. The more general surplus here alluded to is meant to include the profits of the farmer, as well as the rents of the landlord; and, therefore, includes the whole fund for the support of those who are not directly employed upon the land. Profits are, in reality, a surplus, as they are in no respect proportioned (as intimated by the Economists) to the wants and necessities of the owners of capital. But they take a different course in the progress of society from rents, and it is necessary, in general, to keep them quite separate.

10. According to the calculations of Mr Colquhoun, the value of our trade, foreign and domestic,and of our manufactures, exclusive of raw materials, is nearly equal to the gross value derived from the land. In no other large country probably is this the case. P. Colquhoun, Treatise on the wealth, power, and resources of the British Empire, 2nd ed. (1815), p. 96. The whole annual produce is estimated at about 430 millions, and the products of agriculture at about 216 millions.

11. To the honour of Scotch cultivators, it should be observed, that they have applied their capitals so very skilfully and economically, that at the same time that they have prodigiously increased the produce, they have increase the landlord's proportion ot it. The difference between the landlord's share of the produce in Scotland and in England is quite extraordinary -- much greater than can be accounted for, either by the natural soil or the absence of tithes and poor's rates. See Sir John Sinclair's valuable An account of husbandry in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1812) and General Report, 4 vols. (Edinburgh, 1814) not long since published -- works replete with the most useful and interesting information on agricultural subjects.

12. See BPP, 1814-5, V, p. 66, evidence before the House of Lords, given by Arthur Young.

13. In all our discussions we should endeavour, as well as we can, to separate that part of high price, which arises from excess of currency, from that part, which is natural, and arises from permanent causes. In the whole course of this argument, it is particularly necessary to do this.

14. It will be observed, that l have said in a progressive country; that is, in a country which requires yearly the employment of a greater capital on the land, to support an increasing population. If there were no question about fresh capital, or an increase of people, and all the land were good, it would not then be true that corn must be sold at its necessary price. The actual price might be diminished; and if the rents of land were diminished in proportion. the cultivation might go on as before, and the same quantity be produced lt very rarely happens, however, that all the lands of a country actually occupied are good, and yield a good net rent. And in all cases, a fall of prices must destroy agricultural capital during the currency of leases; and on their renewal there would not be the same power of production.

15. This conclusion may appear to contradict the doctrine of the level of the precious metals. And so it does, if by level be meant level of value estimated in the usual way. I consider the doctrine, indeed, as quite unsupported by facts, and the comparison of the precious metals to water perfectly inaccurate. The precious metals are always tending to a state of rest, or such a state of things as to make their movement unnecessary. But when this state of rest has been nearly attained, and the exchanges of all countries are nearly at par, the value of the precious metals in different countries, estimated in corn and labour, or the mass of commodities, is very far indeed from being the same. To be convinced of this, it is only necessary to look at England, France, Poland, Russia, and India, when the exchanges are at par. That Adam Smith. who proposes labour as the true measure of value at all times and in all places, could look around him, and vet say that the precious metals were always the highest in value in the richest countries, has always appeared to me most unlike his usual attention to found his theories on facts.

16. Even upon the system of importation, in the actual state and situation of the countries of Europe, higher prices must accompany superior and increasing wealth.

17. We must not be so far deceived by the evidence before Parliament, relating to the want of connection between the prices of corn and of labour, as to suppose that they are really independent of each other. The price of the necessaries of life is, in fact, the cost of producing labour. The supply cannot proceed, if it be not paid; and though there will always be a little latitude, owing to some variations of industry and habits, and the distance of time between the encouragement to population and the period of the results appearing in the markets: yet it is a still greater error, to suppose the price of labour unconnected with the price of corn, than to suppose that the price of corn immediately and completely regulates it. Corn and labour rarely march quite abreast; but there is an obvious limit, beyond which they cannot be separated. With regard to the unusual exertions made by the labouring classes in periods of dearness, which produce the fall of wages noticed in the evidence, they are most meritorious in the individuals, and certainly favour the growth of capital. But no man of humanity could wish to see them constant and unremitted. They are most admirable as a temporary relief; but if they were constantly in action, effects of a similar kind would result from them, as from the population of a country being pushed to the very extreme limits of its food. There would be no resources in a scarcity. I own I do not see, with pleasure, the great extension of the practice of task work. To work really hard during twelve or fourteen hours in the day, for any length of time, is too much for a human being. Some intervals of ease are necessary to health and happiness: and the occasional abuse of such intervals is no valid argument against their use.

18. I have hinted before, in a note, that profits may, without impropriety, be called a surplus. But, whether surplus or not, they are the most important source of wealth, as they are, beyond all question, the main source of accumulation.

19. Adam Smith notices the bad effects of high profits on the habits of the capitalist. They may perhaps sometimes occasion extravagance; but generally, I should say, that extravagant habits were a more frequent cause of a scarcity of capital and high profits, than high profits of extravagant habits.

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