« PreviousContinue »
coexistent facts; it strikingly shews the defect in method which the disavowal of deduction in political economical inquiries involves; and we use the term disavowal purposely, since induction and deduction must, in practice, combine their forces in every branch of knowledge; for every branch of knowledge must have its abstract as well as its concrete portion—that part which is devoted to its science, and that part which is devoted to its practice.
The essential errors of those who deny deduction to political economy, is in forgetting that a principle may remain operative, though its action may become invisible;-invisible from the temporary interference of other and more potent agencies in practice. And our knowledge of the allowances on this score which at any time have to be made, must depend on our knowledge, not only of the temporary and varying circumstances of each case, but also of those more constant, though more latent conditions, which, though invisible in the unit, are potent in the mass. In the observation of the particulars, induction may well hold its own; but in the sifting them, and shewing upon an average of many cases how their mutual perturbations tend to correct each other, deduction, which, if not a more potent weapon, is at least one of finer edge, is our real resource. That part of a problem which, though latent in the unit, becomes at once discoverable in the mass, is more really a part of it than that which is the fluctuating result of circumstance. Take, for instance, the various tenancies of which, in detail, Mr. Jones has given an account, equally rich in learning and in style. Take the serf, the metayer, the ryot, and the cottier. If the relations of each of these to other forms of rent are to be ascertained, some general rule, some centre, to which our comparisons are to be referred, must be instituted. Just so, if we wish to compare the European with the Australian, and to obtain their true points of difference, we must deductively establish a certain standard of humanity common to both; in other words, we must study the idea of humanity, rather than of any given specimen; we must abstract the central idea of
humanity, if we are to escape the danger of confounding the Australian with the ape.
Along with this deductive analysis, however, inductive observations may well proceed side by side, to verify or negative its results, and to suggest new topics to the energies of deduction. This method, too, must be applied if we are to appreciate the real variation of the metayer, serf, or cottierrents from the farmer-rents, wbich come so strictly within the law of Ricardo, (that the rent of land consists of the excess of its return above the return of the worst land in cultivation;) for the worst land yields the ordinary profits to stock. Any land, therefore, yields just as much more than the ordinary profits of stock, as it yields more than what is returned by the worst land in cultivation. We must examine, then, whether these metayer, serf, and cottier rents possess the intrinsic qualities of those farmer-rents of which Ricardo speaks, and should only attempt to apply the definition so far as we find some analogy in them to the farmer-rents.
For where rents are fixed, not by competition and a reference to their value in the land-market, but by custom, by tradition, or other forms of superior influence, the rent of land can only approximate to that standard of market value which is thus fixed by Ricardo. In the same proportion as rent is regarded as dissociated from commercial dealing, and a fixed tenure rather than a tenancy (not transferrable or relinquishable by the parties or their descendants), so far the sums given for the use of land amount to a perpetual quit-rent, rather than a commercial rent, fluctuating, like other things, under variety of circumstances; the sums given for the use of land often tending, as in the case of the ryot, to that maximum in favour of the owner of the soil which is barely consistent with the sustenance of the labourer. Though argumentatively bound to his inductive method, Mr. Jones, fortunately for his well-founded reputation, was not in practice consistent in his devotion. His practice was better than his theory. Men of great power often believe they are thinking inductively when in reality they are thinking deductively—and
conversely; and this because, though masters of their own subjects, they have not also mastered the laws of thought. Moreover, induction and deduction are apt to blend into each other with as much transient delicacy and finesse as do the colours of the rainbow.
Dr. Whewell's prefatory notice teems with such instances; for it never takes into account that no one general principle can suffice to explain all the facts which are mixed up with it in the concrete. A general principle, if true, is doubtless applicable to all details; but its application must constantly vary with the various circumstances with which it comes in contact. Take a bit of gold, spread it over a piece of tinfoil, or melt it up with a mass of copper, and how varied is the result-each differs from the other, and both from the piece of gold. So, again, while the definition of the Abstract Circle is always the same, the dimensions of Circles in the Concrete vary without limit.
Thus, in the concrete, rent is always mixed up with other matters, and is usually disfigured, if we may so say, by profit. If, a hundred years ago, a fence was put up or manure thrown in, the profit upon that expenditure was called rent. But rent, in
is the measure of the difference between the patural capacity of the land paying that rent, and the natural capacity of the worst land which the exciting prices make it worth while to bring into cultivation. Many things may in practice intervene to interrupt the action of this law. The farmer may be willing to pay a higher rent for a farm in a locality where his forefathers were bred; or, when he has cast his lot in a farm, he will often be willing to spend surplus capital on it in any way which will repay him a surplus profit, however small, beyond the value of risk, or the interest which he must pay for the capital, if borrowed. Irregularities like these we must expect; for no theories can embrace all the complications of casual circumstance.
As regards the objection to Ricardo, that his principle involves an opposition between the landlord and other classes; in one point of view, looking at the phenomena proximately there is an opposition, but in the higher generalization the opposition disappears; for, largely considered, it is the interest of the landlord to obtain
the greatest profit out of the best land, as much as out of those -worst lands which are a measure of the point at which cultivation is possible. It is clear, as Mill shows, that rent does not form part of the expenses of production. Good land is a superior instrument as compared with bad. Supposing, says Mill, a manufacturer to rent a steam-engine of superior power, the rent would not be properly an addition to his outlay, inasmuch as in its use he would save the equivalent of what it cost him in his other expenses.
The principle applicable to rent is only a case of a more general principle, that all commodities which are susceptible of indefinite multiplication, but not without increase of cost, receive a value proportioned to the cost of production in the most unfavourable existing circumstances. In the price given for a potato, however temporarily affected by the law of demand and supply, the average and constant value is proportioned to the value of a potato grown with the minimum of profit. On the whole, then, that "the payment which the cultivator makes for the use of land, cannot be described by any single definition from which its amount can be deduced” (to use Dr. Whewell's own words—Preface, p. x.), is no more an objection to definition, than the circumstance that arithmetic does not constitute wealth, or that an accountant is not a merchant is an objection to using arithmetic and accountants. Surely the tribute of respect to Ude or Chevet is not the less because the material basis of the feast is supplied by the wealth of the host; so generalizations cannot indeed furnish us with concrete facts, yet are they ticketed shelves on which, as in a museum, we place them. Thus, a man with a copious range of generalizations is so much the more likely to outshine the man who has them not (and this, too, even in the knowledge of concrete details), as the man who has a large storehouse is more likely to seek for things to put in it than he who has none.
Thus, men are not even invited to the accumulation of details, unless they have pegs whereon to hang them when obtained ; so that, were a man's memory full of the concrete facts of rent, his
knowledge will be but inert-it will only oppress him unless he can by sheer thought distil their essential spirit. But, as close thought and close observation are seldom united in one man, he had better resort to the generalizations of the master-spirits who are the glory of our race. Men like Ricardo or Mill afford the leverage by which one concrete fact may be welded into another. Facts, as such, are barren ; it is not till we break their husk and find the kernel that we discover their hidden energies.
With these views of economical science the analogies of physical science coincide. Dr. Whewell (p. xvi., Preface) urges, indeed, that as the force of gravitation is constantly counteracted by such facts as those evinced by the cohesion of rocks, tenacity of ice, and so on; so also the tenure of cultivation is determined by many other circumstances than those connected with mobility of capital. True, the action of gravitation is counteracted, yet the law remains. True, the action of Ricardo's theory is interrupted, but its force survives intact; for, remove the opposite tendencies, which are the casual perturbations of a great law, and it is then seen in its majesty, with a constancy and universality within the area of its rule, as marked as that with which the dome of St. Paul's at a little distance towers over the roofs which obscure a nearer view.
Lastly, all the forces and attractions which perturb for a while our evidence of the action of such great principles as Newton's gravitation, or Ricardo's theory of rent, also counteract each other, and this with an increasing tendency, as the observations from which we obtain our averages are extended, till at length they practically neutralize each other. And it will be found that each varying system of actual rent (as distinguished from mere tenures and joint-proprietorships), however much they differ among themselves, pay some tribute to the theory of Ricardo.
Indeed, on the theory of rent propounded by Mr. Jones and Dr. Whewell, the political economist would become a mere landsurveyor; since, in the concrete, not only all the peculiarities of the metayer, the serf, cottier, and the ryot, become important, but also the terms of each separate man's personal holding.