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Absentee

country, foreign, landlord, industry, wine, hardware, cotton, native, trade and exchange

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ABSENTEE. This is a term applied, generally by way of reproach, to that class of capitalists who derive their in come from one country, and reside in another country, in which they expend their income. We here propose to state some of the more material points in the controverted question, whether the con sumption of absentees is an evil to the particular country from which they de rive their revenues. There is a decided tendency in the progress of social inter course to loosen the ties which formerly bound an individual or a family to one particular spot. From the improvement of roads, and the rapidity and certainty of steam navigation, Dublin is now as near, in point of time, to London, as Bath was half a century ago ; and the distance between England and every part of the Continent is in the same way dal!) dimi • nishing. The inducements to absentee ism, whether from Ireland to England, or from England to the Continent, are constantly increasing ; and it is worth while considering whether the evils of absenteeism are so great as some suppose, or whether, according to a theory that was much in vogue some years ago, ab senteeism is an evil at all.

The expenditure of a landed proprietor resident upon his estate calls into action the industry of a number of labourers, domestics, artisans, and tradesmen. If the landlord remove to another part of the same country, the labourers remain ; the domestic servants probably remove with him ; but the artisans and tradesmen whom he formerly employed lose that profit which they once derived by the exchange of their skill or commodities for a portion of the landlord's capital. It never occurs to those who observe and perhaps deplore these changes, that the landlord ought to be prevented from spending his money in what part of his own country he pleases. They conclude that there is only a fresh distribution of the landlord's revenues, and that new tradesmen and mechanics have obtained the custom which the old ones have lost, But if the same landlord go to reside in a foreign country—if the Englishman go to France or Italy, or the Irishman to England—it is sometimes asserted that the amount of revenue which he spends in the foreign country is so much clear loss to the country from which he derives his property, and so much encouragement withdrawn from its industry ; and that he ought, therefore, to be compelled to stay at home, instead of draining his native land for the support of foreign rivals. Some economists maintain that this is a popular delusion, and that, in point of fact, the revenue spent by the landlord in a foreign country has precisely the same effect upon the industry of his own coun try as if his consumption took place at home, for that, in either case, it is un productive consumption. We will en d -amour to state their arguments as briefly as we can.

We will suppose a landowner to derive an income of 10001. a year from an estate in one of our agricultural counties. We leave out of the consideration whether he resides or not upon his estate, and en deavours. by his moral influence, to im prove the condition of his poorer neigh hours, or lets his land to a tenant. The

landowner may reside in London, or Brighton, or Cheltenham. With his rents he probably purchases many ar ticles of foreign production, which have been exchanged for the productions of our own country. There are few people now who do not understand that if we did not take from foreigners the goods which they can produce cheaper and better than we can, we should not send to foreigners the goods which we can produce cheaper and better than they can. If we did not take wines from the continental nations, for instance, we should not send to the continental nations our cottons and hardware ; and the same principle applies to all the countries of the earth with which we have commer cial intercourse. The landlord, there fore, by consuming the foreign wines encourages our own manufactures of cotton and hardware, as much as i4 drinking no foreign wine at all, he ap plied the money so saved to the direct purchases of cotton and hardware at home. But he even bestows a greater encouragement upon native industry, by consuming wine which has been ex changed for cotton and hardware, than if he abstained from drinking the wine; for he uses as much cotton and hardware as he wants, as well as the wine ; and by using the wine he enables other people in Europe to use the cotton and hard ware, who would otherwise have gone without it. For all that he consumes of foreign produce, some English produce has been sent in exchange. Whatever may be the difference between the go vernment accounts of exports and imports (than which nothing can be more falla cious), there is a real balance between the goods we send away and the goods we receive ; and thus the intrinsic value of all foreign trade is this,—that it opens a larger store of commodities to the con sumers, whilst it develops a wider field of industry for the producers. There used to be a notion, which for many years affected our legislation, that unless we sent away to foreigners a great many more goods than we received from them, or, in other words, unless our exports were much greater in value than our im balance of trade was against us. ALANCE OF TRADE.) This notion was founded upon the belief that if we sent away a greater amount of goods than those we received in exchange, we should be paid the difference in bullion ; and that the nation would be rich, not in the proportion in which it was industrious at home, and in which its industry obtained foreign products in exchange for native products, but as it got a surplus of gold, year by year, through its foreign trade. Now, in point of fact, no such surplus ever did accrue, or ever could have accrued ; for the commercial transactions between one country and another are in fact a series of exchanges or barter, and gold is only the standard by which those exchanges are regulated. We shall see how these considerations bear upon the relations of the English landlord to his native country when he becomes an absentee.

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