Chapter 16: The Causes of the slow Progress of Opulence

It is somewhat surprising that every nation should continue to be poor for so long when we consider the immediate effects of the division of labour in improving the arts.

A barbarous people are ignorant of the effects of the division of labour.

The other cause was the nature of civil government.

  • When people find themselves in danger of being robbed of everything, they have no motive to be industrious.
  • When the government's power becomes so great as to defend the produce of industry, another obstacle arises from a different quarter.
  • In this way, it is nearly impossible for any accumulation of stock.
  • There are always more violent convulsions among savage nations than among advanced ones.
  • We shall next consider the effect of oppressive measures on agriculture and commerce.

    Of all the arts, agriculture is the most beneficent to society.

  • The produce of agriculture is much greater than that of any other manufacture.
  • This is much more than the produce of the linen or woollen manufactures.
  • Whatever measures that discourage the improvement of this art are extremely prejudicial to the progress of opulence.
  • One great hindrance to the progress of agriculture is the throwing great tracts of land into the hands of single persons.

  • When a nation of savages conquers a country, the great and powerful divide the whole lands among them.
  • In this way, the Celts and the Saxons took possession of our own island.
  • When land is divided in big portions among the powerful, it is cultivated by slaves.
  • A cultivation of the same kind is that by villains.
  • This objection lies equally against all cultivation by slaves.
  • The planters could not have supported the expense of slaves if the sugar profits weren't  very great.
  • In the northern colonies, they employ few slaves.
  • A tenant of the best kind always:
  • When a country sends out a colony, it may hinder a large tract of land from being occupied by a single person.
  • After villains went out, tenants by steel bow succeeded.

  • But the tenant had:
  • This method always was unfavourable to agriculture for the same reason that tithes hinder improvement by depriving the farmer of 10% of his produce.
  • A great part of France is still cultivated by steel bow tenants.
  • The next kind of cultivation was that by our present tenants.

  • If the landlord sold his land, the new proprietor was not bound to the terms of agreement.
  • Besides these there were several other impediments to the progress of agriculture.

  • A reduction of produce seldom hurts the tenant who pays his rent in money, because corn prices rise in proportion to its scarcity.
  • Another embarrassment was that the feudal lords sometimes allowed the king to levy subsidies from their tenants.

  • Under the tyranny of the feudal aristocracy, the landlords could:
  • England is better secured in this respect than any country.
  • Several circumstances concurred to continue land engrossment.

  • Commodities can be bought or sold in an instant.
  • If all the forms in buying lands were abolished, every person who had some money would be ready to lay it out on land.
  • There is no natural reason why a thousand acres should not be as easily bought as a thousand yards of cloth.
  • The keeping land out of the market always hinders its improvement.
  • A merchant who buys a little piece of land wants to:
  • Great and ancient families have seldom either stock or inclination to improve their estates, except a small piece of pleasure-ground around their house.
  • There are many errors in the policy of almost every country which can stop the progress of agriculture.

  • Spain is the most fertile country in the world.
  • The cause of this is not the indolence of the people, as is commonly imagined.
  • Corn exportation was banned by severe penalties.
  • In the latter times of the Republic, the Emperors tried several ways to promote the country's cultivation.
  • Foreign corn was always sold cheaper than their own could be raised.
  • The Kings of Spain have also done all in their power to promote land improvement.
  • Every man in a town must be fed by a man in the countryside.
  • The best inhabited and cultivated lands are those near populous cities.
  • All these causes have hindered, and still hinder, the improvement of agriculture.

  • The more manufacturers there are in any country, the more improved agriculture is.
  • It is easy to show that the free export and import of corn is favourable to agriculture.
  • The slow progress of arts and commerce is owing to similar causes.

  • It is impossible that they can be so well carried on by slaves as by freemen, because they:
  • Freemen who have a stock of their own, can get anything accomplished which they think may be expedient for carrying on labour.
  • Presently, the Turks and Hungarians work mines of the same kind, situated on opposite sides of the same range of mountains.
  • In the ancient world, the arts were all carried on by slaves.
  • In a rude society, only war is honourable.

  • Those principles of the human mind which are most beneficial to society, are not marked by nature as the most honourable.
  • In the same way, that principle in the mind which prompts to truck, barter, and exchange is not marked with anything amiable.
  • To perform anything, or to give anything without a reward, is always generous and noble.
  • In rude ages, this contempt rises to the highest pitch.
  • Even when emancipated slaves began to practice these trades, it was impossible for them to accumulate much stock because:
  • In Doomsday-book we have an account of all the different traders in every county:
  • Their mean and despicable idea of merchants greatly obstructed the progress of commerce.

  • But merchants could never amass that stock necessary for making the division of labour and improving manufactures when they were:
  • The only persons then who made any money by trade were the Jews.
  • Another thing which greatly retarded commerce was the imperfection of the law with regard to contracts.

  • Presently, all considerable commerce is carried on by commissions.
  • The first action on contracts extended only to the moveable goods of the contractor.
  • Another obstacle to the improvement of commerce was the difficulty of transportation one place to another.

  • The lack of navigable rivers was also an inconvenience.
  • In our own country, a man made his testament before he set out from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.
  • The laws of every country to aliens and strangers are far from being favourable.
  • After this was a little remedied, conveyance by sea remained difficult.
  • The price of all these risks was laid on the goods.
  • Another policy which had the same effect was the fairs and markets all over Europe.

  • The following fairs were much talked of in antiquity:
  • These were the most central places best for carrying on business.
  • Easy conveyance and other conveniences of trafficking will be of more advantageous than bringing them to a fixed market.
  • All fairs, however necessary they then were, are now real nuisances.
  • Another obstacle to commerce was staple towns.

  • Staple towns had all the disadvantages of fairs and markets.
  • All taxes on export and imported goods also hinder commerce.

    All monopolies and exclusive privileges of corporations, for whatever good ends they were at first instituted, have the same bad effect.

  • Similarly, the statute of apprenticeship has a bad tendency.
  • Above all other causes, the giving bounties for one commodity, and the discouraging another, reduces the concurrence of opulence and hurts the natural state of commerce.
  • Before we treat of the effects of police on the manners of a people, we should consider taxes or revenue.

     
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