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that which is required to raise it on the poorest ;-that is, on the least fertile lands which it is necessary to cultivate, in order to obtain a sufficient supply of raw produce. But it has been shown, that this last quality of land pays no rent; and, consequently, that the produce obtained from it is sold at its natural price, or the price which is necessary to cover the cost of its production, including therein the profit of the capital employed in its culture. However, as this principle is obviously of fundamental importance in tracing the effect of tithes or taxes on raw produce, we shall briefly recapitulate the reasoning by which it has been established, and endeavour to obviate one or two objections which have been stated against it.
On the first settling of any country abounding in fertile and unappropriated land, no rent is ever paid ; and for this plain reason, that no person will pay a rent for what may be procured in unlimited quantities for nothing. It is only after the most productive lands have all been brought under cultivation, and when recourse is had to those of an inferior quality, that rent begins to be paid by the farmers of those which are superior. Suppose, for example, that, in a stationary state of society, none but the best soils are under cultivation, it is obvious they could afford no surplus in the shape of rent to their proprietors : For, if they did afford any such surplus, it would be advantageous for the proprietors of the soils of the very next degree of fertility, and which, in point of productive power, must differ extremely little from the first, to commence cultivation; and as, by the hypothesis, there could be no increased demand, the increased supply could not fail to sink prices until they yielded only the ordinary rate of profit to the proprietors of the best soils. But, supposing the country to be rapidly advancing in wealth and population, and that, to attain sufficient supplies of raw produce, it had become necessary to cultivate soils which, in return for the same expenditure as would have produced 100 quarters on the most fertile, yield only 90 quarters, a rent of 10 quarters would be paid by the occupiers of the former; for it is evidently the same thing to a farmer, whether he pays a rent of 10 quarters for a piece of land, which, with a certain outlay of capital and labour, yields 100 quarters; -or farms, without paying any rent, a piece of land which, with the same outlay, only yields 90 quarters. This extension of cultivation might be indefinitely continued ; and when recourse had been had to lands which would only yield so, or 70 quarters, the rent of the first quality would plainly be em qual to the difference between its produce and that of the last, that is, to 100—70, or 30 quarters; the rent of the second to
the difference between 90 and 70, or 20 quarters, and so on. An increase of rent is not, therefore, as is very generally supposed, occasioned by improvements in agriculture, or by an increase in the fertility of the soil. Were none but the most fertile soils cultivated, no such thing as rent would ever be heard of. It results entirely from the necessity of resorting, as population increases, to soils of a decreasing degree of fertility; and therefore varies in its amount inversely as the profit of the capi. tal employed in cultivation ;--that is, it increases when the profits of agricultural stock diminish, and diminishes when they increase. Profits are at their maximum in colonies possessed of extensive tracts of fertile and uncultivated land, and generally in all situations in which no rents are paid; but it cannot be said that rents have attained their maximum, so long as capital yields any surplus in the shape of profit. But whatever may be the rent of the superior soils, the least fertile soils under cultivation never pay any rent. The price of raw produce must be such as will yield the cultivators the common and average rate of profit, and indemnify them for their expenses; and it cannot, for any considerable period, be either higher or lower. If it were higher, there would be an obvious inducement to apply fresh capital to the bringing of new land under tillage, or to the improvement of the old land; and, on the other hand, if it were lower, there would be an equally powerful inducement to withdraw capital from agriculture. In every case, therefore, - whether tillage be extending or diminishing, the price of that portion of produce which is raised in the least favourable circumstances, and which regulates the price of all the rest, is its necessary price. It is the price at which it would be sold if rents were altogether unknown; and is not in the least affected by them.
It has been objected to this account of the nature and causes of rent, that it takes for granted that landlords would permit farmers to occupy their lands without paying any rent. But, in point of fact, it does no such thing. The price of raw produce is not kept down to its necessary price by the competition of farmers, but by that of the landlords themselves. Though there must necessarily be a very wide difference between the best and the worst soils in any country of considerable extent, the gradation from the one extreme to the other is regular, and nearly imperceptible. The best differ but little from those which are immediately inferior to them, and the worst from those immediately above them. And hence, whatever may be the state of cultivation at any given period, it would be impossible for any combination among the proprietors of the cultivated lands, (and none else could have any motive for entering into such a combination), factitiously to increase the price of their produce. Supposing such an attempt to be attended with a temporary success, soils of the next degree of fertility would instantly be brought under cultivation, and the redundant supply would infallibly depress prices. It is clear, therefore, that the appropriation of land does not make any change on the nature or quantum of rent;-that it does not enable the owners of the soil to obtain a monopoly price for their products;-and that it is equally true in England or France, as in Kentucky or New Holland, that the produce raised by the capital last applied to the cultivation of the soil, pays no rent.
Now this reasoning is conclusive as to the effect of tithes and other taxes on raw produce. If tithes were only levied from soils of a certain degree of fertility, they would not, after soils whose productive power was one-tenth less had been cultivated, occasion any rise of price, but would fall entirely on the rent of the landlord. But this is not the case with tithes. They affect every quality of land indiscriminately: and being exacted equally from the produce raised in the least favourable, as from that which is raised in the most favourable circumstances, occasion only an increase of prices. Suppose no tithes are levied, and that the wheat raised on the poorest lands, and which determines the price of the whole crop, yields a sufficient profit to the cultivator, and no more, when it sells for 72s. 9d. a quarter,—the price must rise to 80s. before the same profit can be obtained after tithes are imposed. In this case the tithe cannot possibly occasion any diminution of rent; for the poorest land under cultivation pays no rent; so that if it were not compensated to the cultivators by an increase of prices, they would be driven from their employment, and the necessary supplies would no longer be obtained. In every stage of society, therefore, from the rudest to the most improved, tithes operate exactly as an equivalent addition to the price of raw produce, and, like all other taxes, must be paid by the consumers—that is, by the country in general.
This account of tithes is nowise inconsistent with the admitted fact, that farms which are free from this burden bring a proportionably higher rent. The expenses attending their cultivation are not increased by the levying a tithe from the produce of other farms; but, as there cannot be two prices, their occupiers obtain the same increased price for their produce which is necessary to indemnify the cultivators of the tithed lands. There must, however, be an equality of profits, as well as of prices;
VOL. XXXIV. NO. 67.
and hence, whatever advantage the occupier of a tithe-free farm may gain by being relieved from a burden to which his neighbours are subjected, is compensated by a corresponding increase of rent.
Thus it appears, that, if tithes were abolished, the rent of such farms as pay tithe would not rise to a level with the rent of those which are tithe-free, but the rents of the latter would fall to the level of the former. As raw produce is uniformly sold at its necessary price, or the price necessary to afford the customary rate of profit to the cultivators of the worst land, it would fall the moment they had been relieved from this heavy charge. And the advantage previously enjoyed by the proprietors of tithe-free lands, and which was the only cause of their obtaining a higher rent, being done away, their rents would decline to the level of those around them.
If rents were uniformly paid in kind, the imposition of tithes would' undoubtedly diminish the share of the produce paid to the landlords; but as its value would be increased in the precise proportion that its quantity had been diminished, this reduced share would still exchange for the same quantity of all other commodities. Thus, if lands of the qualities Nos. 1, 2, 3, &c., respectively produced, in return for the same expenditure, 100, 90, 80, &c. quarters, the rent of No. 1. would be twenty quarters, of No. 2. ten, and so on. But they would no longer preserve that proportion after the imposition of tithes; for, suppose a tenth to be deducted from their gross produce, the remaining quantities would be 90, 81, 72, &c.; and, therefore, the corn rent of No. 1. would be reduced to 18, and of No. 2. to 9 quarters. It is clear, however, that their money rents, or their rents estimated in any other commodity except corn, would not be at all affected. If corn sold at 4l. before the imposition of the tithe, it would afterwards sell at 4l. 8s. 10 d.; for, unless 90 quarters now brought as much as 100 quarters previously brought, the cultivators of those soils which paid no rent would not be able to realize the common and average rate of profit. Money rents would, therefore, continue unaltered; on the land No. 1. they would still be 80l., and on No. 2. 401.
It appears, therefore, that in every state of society, whether rents are high or low, and whether they are paid in kind or in moncy, the charge of tithes is defrayed entirely by the consumers of raw produce. They do not consist of a portion of the rent of land belonging to the clergy, or the lay impropriator; but they are a burden which falls equally on every individual in the kingdom-on the poorest beggar as well as the richest lordin proportion to their respective consumption of the articles.
f 8., andr.corn is really the the medium
from which a tithe is levied. Tithes are, therefore, liable to all the objections which have been urged against taxes on necesa saries. They must either directly reduce the wages of the labourer, and depress his condition in society, or they must indirectly produce this effect by lowering the rate of profit, and stimulating the transfer of capital to countries relieved from so heavy a burden.
The average price of corn in Great Britain during the last four or five years, has been very near 80s. the quarter; and the agriculturists contend, that this is the lowest price at which it can be raised on inferior lands. It is plain, however, that if 80s. be a remunerating price when tithes are levied, 72s. would be an equally high remunerating price if they were remitted. When wheat sells at 80s., tithes, supposing them to be rigorously exacted, are really equivalent to a tax of ts. a bushel, or of 8s. a quarter. But, as the average annual consumption of the. different kinds of grain by each individual, when reduced to the standard of wheat, has been estimated, apparently on good grounds, at one quarter, it follows that, when the medium price of wheat is 80s., a tithe on corn is really the same thing as a capitation tax of 8s., and consequently constitutes an item of 40s. in the expenditure of every family of five persons !
But, tithes are objectionable on other grounds. They are not a permanent and fixed tax, but they increase according as the difficulty of raising raw produce increases; and are infia nitely more burdensome and oppressive in a year of scarcity, than in a year of plenty. If the price necessary to afford a sufficient supply of corn were 60s. a quarter, the tithe would be equal to a direct tax of 6s, a quarter; but if, in consequence of being forced to resort to inferior lands, the increased difficulties of production had raised the price to 80s., the tithe would be 8s.; when prices rose to 100s., the tithe would be 10s., and so on. Nor is this all.--The tithe is not only increased in value, but it is also increased in amount, according as cultivation is extended. When land of the first quality, and which we have supposed would yield 100 quarters, was cultivated, the tithe would be 10 quarters : But after land of the second quality, and which only yields 90 quarters, had been cultivated, the tithe would be levied on 190 quarters : When land of the third quality had been cultivated, it would be levied on 100 + 90 + 80, or 270 quarters, and would go on progressively increasing, both in value and quantity, as fresh soils were brought under tillage.
'Not only,' says Mr Ricardo, who was the first to explain the real nature of tithes, is the amount of the tax increased from 100,000 quarters to 200,000 quarters, when the produce is increased