A Treatise on Political Economy, Or, the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth

By Jean-Baptiste Say; Clement C. Biddle et al. | Go to book overview

tail, we shall examine in this, and some following chapters, in what cases the profits of industry bear a greater or a less proportion to those of capital and of land, and vice versâ; together with the reasons why certain ways of employing industry, capital, or land, are more profitable than others.

To begin then, with the comparison of the relative profits of industry, to those of capital and land, we shall find these bear the highest ratio, where abundance of capital creates a demand for a great mass of industrious agency; as it did in Holland before the revolution. Industrious agency was very dearly paid there; as it still is in countries like the United States of America, where population, and consequently, the human agents of production, spite of their rapid increase, bear no proportion to the demands of an unlimited extent of land, and of the daily accumulation of capital by the prevalence of frugal habits.

In countries thus circumstanced, the condition of man is generally the most comfortable; because those, who live in idleness upon the profits of their capital and land, are better able to live on moderate profits, than those who live upon the profits of their own industry only; the former, besides the resource of living on their capital, can, when they please, add the profits of industry to their other revenue; but the mere mechanic or labourer can not add at pleasure to the profits of his industry those of capital and land, of which he possesses none.

Proceeding next to compare the profits of different branches of industrious agency one with another, we shall find them greater or less ia proportion, 1st, to the degree of danger, trouble, or fatigue, attending them, or to their being more or less agreeable; 2dly, to the regularity or irregularity of the occupation; 3dly, to the degree of skill or talent that may be requisite.

Every one of these causes tends to diminish the quantity of labour in circulation in each department, and consequently to vary its natural rate of profit. It is scarcely necessary to cite examples in support of propositions so very evident.

Among the agreeable or disagreeable circumstances attending an occupation, must be reckoned the consideration or contempt which it entails. Some professions are partly paid in honour. Of any given price, the more is paid in this coin, the less may be paid in any other, without deducing the ratio of price. Smith remarks, that the scholar, the poet, and the philosopher, are almost wholly paid in personal consideration.--Whether with reason or from prejudice, this is not entirely the case with the professions of a comic actor, a dancer, and innumerable others; they must, therefore, be paid in money what they are denied in estimation. "It seems absurd at first sight," says Smith, "that we should despise their persons, and yet reward their talents with the most profuse liberality. Whilst we do the one, however, we must of necessity do the other. Should the public opi

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