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THE DIFFERENT STATES OF SOCIETY IN EUROPE AND AMERICA
The three fundamental Elements of European Economists.-Adam Smith's and Ricardo's Statement of them.-These Elements do not exist in the United States as a Rule, but only as Exceptions.-The Ancient System of European Society gives Character to the Modern.-The economical Position of the Laborer there, the same as that of the Ox or the Slave. This Position assigned to Labor by European Economists, as proved by their own Statements.-The Theory of Malthus justifies this Position.-This Doctrine pervades the European, and has been transferred into American Systems of Economy. -The prevalent Principle of Land Tenures in Europe fundamentally different from that which prevails in the United States.-"Rent" the lord of all in Europe -The Principle of Serfdom and Villanage, under other names, still prevails in that quarter of the World.-Labor doomed there.-American Society fundamentally different.-The same System of Public Economy can not apply to each.-Reform in America, slow, but sure. -Can only be effected by Public Economy.-Free-Trade Economy hostile to Popular Rights.
HAVING disclosed, in Chapter II., the contingent basis on which a system of public economy must rest, and the contingent ground on which alone its propositions can be established, to wit, the application of experience to a given state of things, it may be useful, in this stage of the inquiry, to exhibit some of the points of difference in the states of European and American society, to both of which, it is preposterously claimed by the advocates of Free Trade, that a common system of economy is equally applicable.
The British economists of the Free-Trade school, have agreed on the fundamental elements of public economy, which, they aver, comprehend the entire basis of the superstructure, on which, and on the ramifications growing out of them, are based all the propositions of their system. The importance of the position of these fundamental elements in their system, arises from the fact that all their reasonings are, directly or indirectly, founded upon them. We propose to show that two of these three distinct supports of their system, are wanting in American society, and consequently, that any superstructure built upon them, for application in the United States, must fall to the ground. Set up a house on three abutments, and take away two, what will be the result? It is down, a heap of ruins. It will be sufficient to cite Adam Smith's and Ricardo's description and adjustment of these three fundamental
elements, to indicate what they are. Smith says: "The whole annual produce of the land and labor of every country naturally divides itself into three parts-the rent of land, the wages of labor, and the profits of stock; and constitutes a revenue to three different sorts of people—to those who live by rent, to those who live by wages, and to those who live by profit. These are the three great, original, and constituent orders of every civilized society, from whose revenue that of every other order is ultimately derived."
Ricardo represents them thus: "The produce of the earth, all that is derived from its surface by the united application of labor, machinery, and capital, is divided among three classes of the community, viz., the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the laborers by whose industry it is cultivated. . . The proportions of the whole produce of the earth which will be allotted to each of these classes, under the names of rent, profit, and wages, will be essentially different. . . To determine the laws which regulate this distribution, is the principal problem in political economy."
It will be observed, first, that these views are limited-not profound-taking their own programme as a rule. "The principal problem in public economy," is here announced, as growing out of agriculture, as if the arts in all their branches, as if commerce and trade, as if the fisheries, &c., had nothing to do with it; or as if the subject had nothing to do with them. The leading topics of Ricardo's work, as enumerated in his table of contents, will show that he surveyed but a limited field; and it will also be seen that most of those topics grew out of a state of society which, if not entirely unknown in the United States, exists only in small fragments, coming down from what is here regarded as a vicious state of society, and which is alike repugnant to the genius of the American people and of American institutions. Take for example the topics of "Rent;" "Taxes on Rent;" "Tithes;” “Land Tax;""Taxes on Gold;" "Taxes on Houses;" "Taxes on Wages and Profits;" "Poor Rates;" "Taxes on Producers;" &c. These, making more than a third of the chapters of this work, are great practical subjects in Europe. They enter into all the forms of society there, and pervade its entire structure. But not so in the United States. They are, for the most part, contrary to the genius of the American people, and too obnoxious to be introduced among them to any considerable extent. The ambition of every American citizen is to be an independent proprietor of a free
hold estate, or to acquire an independence of some kind that is tantamount; and the American people have the greatest repugnance to direct taxation. Perhaps not more than a moiety of the subjects of legislation in Europe, are subjects of legislation in the United States, and the other moiety present themselves in forms so diverse in each quarter, that it is not possible to treat them in the same way for both hemispheres. How, then, is it possible that a system of public economy which is adapted to the former sphere, and which grows out of it, should be adapted to the latter, when the very design of such a system is to give advice on the subjects of legislation, and to suggest forms?
But it will be found, on an examination of these three capital elements, "rent, profit, and wages," as presented in the above extracts, when their meaning is considered, that the British FreeTrade economists occupy a field entirely different from that of the United States, and that not one of these three comprehensive elements can be found among us, to any considerable extent, in the forms in which they stood up before them, as an actual state of society for them to treat of, and write for. They divide society into "three classes, the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary to its cultivation, and the laborers by whose industry it is cultivated ;" and in correspondence with this classification, they appropriate to the first class "rent," to the second "profit," and to the third "wages." Ricardo's programme concludes by saying: "To determine the laws which regulate this distribution, is the principal problem in political economy.'
This, no doubt, is a fair description of the fundamental elements of their theory, as regards both the premises and the conclusion. Such was and is still the state of society there. The exceptions they did not deem worthy of consideration, and must take care of themselves, or be left to the discretion of legislators. Now, it happens, that the things which constitute the rule in that state of society, are the exception in the United States; and, vice versa, the things which constitute the rule in the United States, or which ought to do so, are the exception in Great Britain and in Europe. For the most part, American citizens are independent proprietors of the soil, or of some equivalent; they all aim at this; and there is not a man among them who will submit to the abject and dependent condition of the third class of European economists. American society does not exist in such forms.
Mr. Mill, the logician, before cited, remarks very pertinently on
this point: "It has been greatly the custom of English political economists to discuss the natural laws of the distribution of the produce of industry, on a supposition which is scarcely realized anywhere out of England and Scotland, viz., that the produce is shared among three classes, altogether distinct from one another, laborers, capitalists, and landlords; and that all these are free agents, permitted in law and in fact to set upon their labor, their capital, and their land, whatever price they are able to get for it. The conclusions of the science, being all adapted to a state of society thus constituted, require to be revised when they are applied to any other. They are inapplicable where the only capitalists are the landlords, and the laborers are their property, as in slave countries. They are inapplicable where the universal landlord is the state, as in India. They are inapplicable where the agricultural laborer is generally the owner both of the land itself and of the capital, as in France [also in the United States], or of the capital only, as in Ireland. It may be objected to the existing race of economists, that they attempt to construct a permanent fabric out of transitory materials; that they take for granted the immutability of arrangements of society, many of which are in their nature fluctuating and progressive, and enunciate with as little qualification as if they were universal and absolute truths, propositions which are perhaps applicable to no state of society except the particular one in which the writer happened to live."
Adam Smith saw and recognised the difference of land tenures in Europe and America; but still attempted to force his principles on these different states of things. He says: "A gentleman who farms his own estate, after paying the expense of cultivation, should gain both the rent of the landlord and the profit of the farmer. He is apt, however, to denominate his whole gain profit, and thus confounds rent with profit. The greater part of our North American and West India planters are in this situation. They farm their own estates, and accordingly we seldom hear of the rent of a plantation, but frequently of its profit." Adam Smith, like all of his school, insists that everything in civilization originates in and is based upon "rent, profit, and wages ;" and where he can not find rent, he says it must be there notwithstanding. The rent of a farmer, who owns the land he cultivates, he says, is that part of his profit which would answer to the interest of the cost or present value of his plantation. But why insist on calling this rent? In the United States, where people, for the most part, work their own plantations and farms, it