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Rent

land, quality, ricardo, theory, capital, principles and malthus

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RENT is defined by Mr. Ricardo to be " that portion of the produce of the earth which is paid to the landlord for the use of the indestructible powers of the soil. It is often, however (he remarks), con founded with the interest and profit of capital, and in popular language the term is applied to whatever is annually paid by a farmer to his landlord." Mr. Mal thus (Prin. of Pol. Econ.) defines rent to be " that portion of the value of the whole produce which remains to the owner of the land, after all the outgoings belonging to its cultivation, of whatever kind, have been paid, including the profits of the capital employed, estimated according to the usual and ordinary rate of the profits of agricultural capital, at the time being." The chapter on rent, in the Wealth of Nations,' though abounding in important facts, contains no distinct enunciation of the nature and causes of rent. Dr. James Anderson in the Recreations in Agri culture' (vol. v. p. 401), published in 1801, is acknowledged to have propounded the theory of the origin and progressive increase of rent which is now generally recognised; but his theory excited little attention at the time; and it was not until 1815 that it was more fully and elabo rately treated in two works published simultaneously : one of them was an Essay on the Application of Capital to Land,' by a Fellow of University College, Oxford (Mr. West, a barrister, afterwards chief-justice of Bombay); the other work was by the late Mr. Malthus, and was entitled An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress of Rent.' The late Mr. Ricardo had adopted the principles of these two works several years before they were published, but it was not until 1817 that a pamphlet by him appeared which con tained his views on the subject. The publication of his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation' followed in the same year. Mr. Mill and Mr. MacCulloch have more fully adopted the Ricardo theory than any other writers ; but Mr. Malthus has dissented from some of its principles, although his views in the main coincide with that theory ; and Professor Tucker, of the university of Virginia, dissents from it still more widely than Mr. Malthus. Mr. Senior, while con

demning some of Mr. Ricardo's reason ings, appears to have again propounded them under a different form.

The causes of the ordinary excess of the price of raw produce above the cost of production, as enumerated by Mr. Malthus, are :-1, That quality of the soil, by which it can be made to yield a greater quantity of the necessaries of life than is required for the maintenance of the persons employed on the land. This is the foundation of rent, and the limit to its possible increase. 2, The second qual ity consists in that property peculiar to the necessaries of life, by which, if pro perly distributed, they create demanders m proportion to the quantity of necessaries produced. Thus, the effect is to give a value to the surplus of necessaries, and also to create a demand for more food than can be raised on the richest lands. 3, The comparative scarcity of fertile land ; a circumstance which is necessary to separate a portion of the general sur plus into the specific form of rent to a landlord. As most modern economists have adopted the main principles of the Ricardo theory, we here give an outline of it, in the words of Mr. Ricardo.

Mr. Ricardo says If all land had the same properties, if it were boundless in quantity and uniform in quality, uo charge could be made for its use, unless where it possessed peculiar advantages of situation. It is then because land is of different qualities with respect to its pro ductive powers, and because, in the pro gress of population, land of an inferior quality, or less advantageously situated, is called into cultivation, that rent is ever paid for the use of it. When, in the progress of society, land of the second degree of fertility is taken into cultivation, rent immediately commences on that of the first quality, and the amount of that rent will depend on the difference in the quality of these two portions of land. . With every step in the progress of popu lation which shall oblige a country to have recourse to land of a worse quality to enable it to raise its supply of food, rent on all the more fertile land will rise.

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