The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

By David Ricardo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII

MR. MALTHUS'S OPINIONS ON RENT

ALTHOUGH the nature of rent has in the former pages of this work been treated on at some length, yet I consider myself bound to notice some opinions on the subject which appear to me erroneous, and which are the more important as they are found in the writings of one to whom, of all men of the present day, some branches of economical science are the most indebted. Of Mr. Malthus's Essay on Population I am happy in the opportunity here afforded me of expressing my admiration. The assaults of the opponents of this great work have only served to prove its strength; and I am persuaded that its just reputation will spread with the cultivation of that science of which it is so eminent an ornament. Mr. Malthus, too, has satisfactorily explained the principles of rent, and showed that it rises or falls in proportion to the relative advantages, either of fertility or situation, of the different lands in cultivation, and has thereby thrown much light on many difficult points connected with the subject of rent, which were before either unknown or very imperfectly understood; yet he appears to me to have fallen into some errors which his authority makes it the more necessary, whilst his characteristic candour renders it less unpleasing, to notice. One of these errors lies in supposing rent to be a clear gain and a new creation of riches.

I do not assent to all the opinions of Mr. Buchanan concerning rent; but with those expressed in the following passage, quoted from his work by Mr. Malthus, I fully agree, and therefore I must dissent from Mr. Malthus's comment on them.

" In this view it (rent) can form no general addition to the stock of the community, as the neat surplus in question is nothing more than a revenue transferred from one class to another; and from the mere circumstance of its thus changing hands, it is clear that no fund can arise out of which to pay taxes. The revenue which pays for the produce of the land exists already in the hands of those who purchase that produce; and if the price of subsistence were lower, it would still remain in their hands, where it would be just as available for taxation

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