Chapter 11

The Mode in Which the Quantity of the Product Affects Population Icon

September 30, 2015

Trade and barter adapt the products to the general nature of the demand.

The objects most in demand are food and habitation. The wants of each family or individual, are more or less fully satisfied, in proportion to the ability to purchase these objects. which ability depends upon the productive means and exertion of each respectively; in plain terms, upon the revenue of each respectively.

Thus, in the end, if we sift this matter to the bottom, we shall find, that families, and nations, which are but aggregations of families, subsist wholly on their own products; and that the amount of product in each case necessarily limits the numbers of those who can subsist upon it.

Section 1: Population, as connected with Political Economy

Book 1 investigated the production of the articles necessary to the satisfaction of human wants. Book 3 traced their distribution among the different members of the community, let us now further extend our observations to the influence those products exercise upon the number of individuals, of which the community is composed; that is to say, upon population.

In her treatment of all organic bodies, nature seems to neglect the individual, and afford protection only to the species.

Natural history presents very curious examples of her extraordinary care to perpetuate the species; but the most powerful means she adopts for that purpose, is the multiplication of germs in such vast profusion, that not- withstanding the immense variety of accidents occurring to prevent their early development, or destroy them in the progress too maturity, there are always left more than sufficient to perpetuate the species. Did not accident, destruction, or failure of the means of development, check the multiplication of organic existence, there is no animal or plant that might not cover the face of the globe in a very few years.

Such animals as are incapable of providing for future exigencies, after they are engendered, if they do not fall a prey to man, or some of their fellow brutes, perish the moment they experience an imperative want, which they have not the means of gratifying. But man has so many future wants to provide for, that he could not answer the end of his creation, without a certain degree of providence and forethought; and this provident turn can alone preserve the human species from part of the evils it would necessarily endure, if its numbers were to be perpetually reduced by the process of destructive violence. 88

Yet notwithstanding the forethought ascribed to man, and the restraints imposed on him by reason, legislation, and social habits, the increase of population is always evidently co-extensive, and even something more than co-extensive, with the means of subsistence. It is a melancholy but an undoubted fact, that, even in the most thriving countries, part of the population annually dies of mere want.

Not that all who perish from want absolutely die of hunger; though this calamity is of more frequent occurrence than is generally supposed. 89 I mean only that they have not at command all the necessaries of life, and die for want of some part of those articles of necessity.

A sick or disabled person may, perhaps, require nothing more than a little rest, or medical advice, together with, perhaps, some simple remedy, to set him up again; but the requisite rest, or advice, or remedy, is denied, or not afforded. A child may require the attentions of the mother, but the mother may perhaps be taken away to labour, by the imperious calls of necessity; and the child perish through accident, neglect, or disease. It is a fact well established by the researches of all who have turned their attention to statistics, that out of an equal number of children of wealthy and of indigent parents, at least twice as many of the latter die in infancy as of the former.

In short, scanty or unwholesome diet, the insufficient change of linen, the want of warm and dry clothing, or of fuel, ruin the health, undermine the constitution, and sooner or later bring multitudes of human beings to an untimely end; This faculty of infinite increase is common to man, with all other organic bodies; and although his superior intelligence continually enlarges his own means of existence, he must sooner or later arrive at the ultimum.

Animal existence depends upon the gratification of one sole and immediate want, that of food and sustenance; but man is enabled, by the faculty of communication with his species, to barter one product for another, and to regard the value, rather than the nature, of the product. The producer and owner of a piece of furniture of twenty dollars value, may consider him- self as possessing as much human food, as may be procurable for that price. And with respect to the relative price of products, it is in all cases determined by the intensity of the desire, the degree of utility in each product for the time be- ing. We may safely take it for granted, that mankind in general will not barter an object of more, for one of less urgent necessity In a season of agricultural scarcity, a larger quantity of furniture will be given for a smaller quantity of human aliment; but it is invariably true, that whenever barter takes place, the object given on one side is worth that given on the other, and that the one is procurable for the other. 87

and all, that perish in consequence of want beyond their means to supply, may be said to die of want. ishing. In the United States of America, population has been doubling in the course of twenty years.

Thus, to man, particularly in a forward state of civilization, a variety of products, some of them in the class of what have been denominated immaterial products, are necessaries of existence; these are multiplied in a degree proportionate to the desire for them, respectively, because its intensity causes a proportionate elevation of their price= and it may be laid down as a general maxim, that the population of a state is always proportionate to the sum of its production in every kind. 90 This is a truth acknowledged by most writers on political economy, however various and discordant their opinions on most other points. 91 For the same reasons, although temporary calamities may sweep off multitudes, yet, if they leave untainted the source of reproduction, they are sure to prove more afflicting to humanity, than fatal to population. It soon trenches again upon the limit, assigned by the aggregate of annual production.

Messance has given some very curious calculations, whereby it appears, that after the ravages occasioned by the famous plague of Marseilles in 1720, marriages throughout Provence were more fruitful than before.

The Abbe d’Expilly comes to the same conclusion.

The same effect was observable in Prussia, after the plague of 1710. Although it had swept off a third of the population, the tables of Sussmilch 94 show the number of births, which, before the plague, amounted annually to about 26,000, to have advanced in the year following, 1711, to no less than 32,000, It might have been supposed, that the number of marriages, after so terrible a mortality, would have been at least considerably reduced, on the contrary, it actually doubled; a strong indication of the tendency of population to keep always on a level with the national resources.

A very natural consequence of this maxim, has escaped their observation; which is, that nothing can permanently increase population, except the encouragement and advance of production; and that nothing can occasion its permanent diminution, but such circumstances as attack production in its sources.

The Romans were forever making regulations to repair the loss of population, occasioned by their state of perpetual external warfare. Their censors preached up matrimony; their laws offered premiums and honours to plurality of children; but these measures were fruitless. There is no difficulty in getting children; the difficulty lies in maintaining them. They should have enlarged their internal production, instead of spreading devastation amongst their neighbours. All their boasted regulations did not prevent the effectual depopulation of Italy and Greece, even long before the inroads of the barbarous northern hordes. 92

The loss of population is not the greatest calamity resulting from such temporary visitations; the first and greatest is, the misery they occasion to the human race. Great multitudes can not be swept from the land of the living by pestilence, famine or war, without the endurance of a vast deal of suffering and agony, by numbers of sentient beings; besides the pain, dis- tress, and misery of the survivors; the destitution of widows, orphans, brothers, sisters, and parents. It is a subject of additional regret, if among the rest, there happen to fall one or two of those superior and enlightened men, whose single tal- ents and virtues have more effect upon the happiness and wealth of nations, than the grovelling industry of a million of ordinary mortals.

The edict of Louis XVI in favour of marriage, awarding pensions to those parents who should have ten, and larger ones to those who should have twelve children, was attended with no better success. The premiums that monarch held out in a thousand ways to indolence and uselessness, were much more adverse, than such poor encouragements could be conducive, to the increase of population.

Moreover, a great loss of human beings, arrived at maturity, is certainly a loss of so much acquired wealth or capital; for every grown person is an accumulated capital, representing all the advances expended during a course of many years, in training and making him what he is. A bantling a day old by no means replaces a man of twenty; and the well-known expression of the Prince de Condé, on the victorious field of Senef, was equally absurd and unfeeling. 95

It is the fashion to assert, that the discovery of the new world has tended to depopulate old Spain; whereas her depopulation has resulted from the vicious institutions of her government, and the small amount of her internal product, in proportion to her territorial extent. 93 The most effectual encouragement to population is, the activity of industry, and the consequent multiplication of the national products. It abounds in all industrious districts, and, when a virgin soil happens to co-operate with the exertions of a community, whence idleness is altogether discarded, its rapid increase is truly astonThe destructive scourges of the human species, therefore, if not injurious to population, are at least an outrage on humanity; on which account alone, their authors are highly criminal. 96

But though such temporary calamities are more afflicting to humanity than hurtful to the population of nations, far other is the effect of a vicious government, acting upon a bad sys- tem of political economy. This latter attacks the very prin- ciple of population, by drying up the sources of production; and since the numbers of mankind, as before seen, always approach nearly to the utmost limits the annual revenue of the nation will admit of, if the government reduce that rev- enue by the pressure of intolerable taxation, forcing the sub- ject to sacrifice part of his capital, and consequently dimin- ishing the aggregate means of subsistence and reproduction possessed by the community, such a government not only imposes a preventive check on further procreation, but may be fairly said to commit downright murder; for nothing so effectually thins the effective ranks of mankind, as privation of the means of subsistence.

saries, and some of the superfluities of life amongst all classes of the population. Some parts of India and of China are op- pressed with population, and with misery also; but their con- dition would be nowise improved by thinning its numbers, at least if it were brought about by a diminution of the aggre- gate product. Instead of reducing the numbers of the popula- tion, it were far more desirable to augment the gross product; which may always be effected by superior individual activity, industry, and frugality, and the better administration, that is to say, the less frequent interference of public authority. But it will naturally be asked, if the population of a country regularly keeps pace with its means of subsistence, what will become of it in years of scarcity and famine? Hear what Stewart 99 says on the subject= “There is a very great deception as to the difference between crops; a good year for one soil is bad for another.” “It is far from being true,” he continues, “that the same number of people consume always the same quantity of food. In years of plenty, every one is well fed; — food is not so frugally managed; a quantity of animals are fatted for use; — and people drink more largely, because all is cheap. A year of scarcity comes; the people are ill fed; and when the lower classes come to divide with their children, the portions are brought to be very small;” instead of saving, they consume their previous hoard; and after all, it is unhappily too true, that part of that class must suffer and perish.

The evil effects of monastic establishments upon population, have been severely and justly inveighed against; but the mode, in which they operate, has been misunderstood; it is the idle- ness, not the celibacy, of the monastic orders, that ought to be censured. They put their lands into cultivation, it is true, but where is the merit of that? Would the lands remain untilled, if the monastic system were abolished? So far from that evil resulting from the abolition, wherever these establishments have been converted into manufactories, of which the French revolution has offered many examples, equal agricultural pro- duce has continued to be raised, and the produce of the manu- facturing industry has been all clear gain; while the increased total product, thus created, has been followed by an increase of population also.

This calamity is most common in countries overflowing with population, like Hindostan, or China, where there is little external or maritime commerce, and where the poorer classes have always been strictly limited to the mere necessaries of life. There, the produce of ordinary years is barely sufficient to allow this miserable pittance; consequently, the slightest failure of the crop leaves multitudes wholly destitute of com- mon necessaries, to rot and perish by wholesale. All accounts agree in representing that famines are, for this reason, very frequent and destructive in China and many parts of Hindostan.

From these premises, may likewise be drawn this further con- clusion; that the inhabitants of a country are not more scant- ily supplied with the necessaries of life, because their num- ber is on the increase; nor more plentifully, because it is on the decline. Their relative condition depends on the relative quantity of products they have at their disposal; and it is easy to conceive these products to be considerable, though the population be dense; and scanty, though the population be thinly spread. Famine was of more frequent occurrence in Europe during the middle ages, than it has been of late years, although Europe is evidently more thickly peopled at present. The product of England, during the reign of queen Elizabeth, was not nearly so abundant as it is now, although her popula- tion was then less by half; and the population of Spain, re- duced to but eight millions, enjoys not nearly so much afflu- ence, as when it amounted to twenty-four. 97 Commerce in general, and maritime commerce in particular facilitates the interchange of products, even with the most remote countries, and thus renders it practicable to import articles of subsistence, in return for several other kinds of produce; but too great a dependence on this resource, leaves the nation at the mercy of every natural or political occur- rence, which may happen to intercept or derange the inter- course with foreign countries. The intercourse must then be preserved at all events, no matter whether by force or fraud, competition must be got rid of by every means, however un- justifiable; a separate province, or weak ally, perhaps, is obliged to purchase the national products, under restrictions Some writers 98 have considered a dense population as an in- dex of national prosperity; and, doubtless, it is a certain sign of enlarged national production. But general prosperity im- plies the general diffusion and abundance of all the neces- 197Jean-Baptise Say, A Treatise on Political Economy capital, particularly in enclosures, live stock, and ameliora- tion= 103 2. The indolence of the cultivators, and the too gen- eral neglect of weeding, trimming the hedges, clearing the trees of moss, destroying insects, &c. &c. 3. The neglect of a proper alternation of crops, and of the most approved meth- ods of cultivation.

equally galling, as the exaction of actual tribute; and a com- mercial monopoly enforced, even at the hazard of a war; all which evils make the state of the nation extremely precarious indeed.

The produce of England, in articles of human subsistence. had undoubtedly increased largely towards the end of the 18th century; but its produce in articles of apparel and household furniture had probably increased still more rapidly. The con- sequence has been, that immensity of production, which en- ables her to multiply her population beyond what the pro- duce of her soil can support, 100 and to bear up under the pres- sure of public burthens, to which there is no parallel nor even approximation. But England has suffered severely, whenever foreign markets have been shut against her produce; and she has sometimes been obliged to resort to violent means to pre- serve her external intercourse. She would act wisely, perhaps, in discontinuing those encouragements, that impel fresh capital into the channels of manufacture and external commerce, and directing it rather towards that of agricultural industry. It is probable, that in that case, several districts, which have not yet received the utmost cultivation of which they are suscep- tible, particularly many parts of Scotland and Ireland, would raise agricultural produce enough to purchase most part, if not the whole, of the surplus product of her manufactures and commerce beyond her present consumption. 101 Great Britain would thereby create for herself a domestic consumption, which is always the surest and the nost advantageous. Her neighbours, no longer offended by the necessarily jealous and exclusive nature of her policy, would probably lay aside their hostile feelings, and become willing customers. But, after all, if her, manufactured should still be disproportioned to her agricultural produce, what is there to prevent her from adopt- ing a system of judicious colonization, and thus creating for herself fresh markets for the produce of her domestic indus- try in every part of the globe, whence she might derive, in return, a supply of food fol her superfluous population? 102 In the second place, the consumption is unthrifty and unprof- itable; for a great part of it is mere waste, and yields no hu- man gratification whatever. To speak of one article alone, that is, of firing, which is an object of great value in districts, where coal and wood are scarce; the waste of it is enormous in the huts of the peasantry lighted as they often are by the door-way only, and admitting the rain down the chimney while the fire is burning. Unwholesome beverage or food, and the indulgence of the alehouse, are like injurious modes of con- sumption.

In fine, towns and villages would be more thickly spread, and would besides present an appearance of greater affluence, were the generality of the inhabitants more active and indus- trious, and actuated by the laudable emulation, tinctured per- haps with some little vanity, rather of possessing every object of real utility, and exhibiting in their domestic arrangements the utmost order and neatness, than of living in indolence upon the rent of a trifling patrimony, or the scanty salary of some useless public employ. The small proprietor, with an income of 3 or 400 dollars per annum, just sufficient to veg- etate upon, might double or triple it perhaps by adding the revenue derivable from personal industry; and even those engaged in useful occupations do not push them to the full extent of their activity and intelligence. Moreover, the spirit of inquiry and improvement has probably been disheartened by the example of frequent ill success; although the failure has commonly been occasioned by the want of judgment, perseverance, and frugality. National population is uniformly proportionate to the quan- tum of national production; but it may vary locally within the limits of each state, according to the favourable or unfavourable operation of local circumstances. A particular district will be rich, because Its soil is fertile, its inhabitants industrious, and possessed of capital accumulated by their frugality; in like manner as a family will surpass its neighbours in wealth, because of its superior intelligence and activity. The boundaries and political constitutions of states affect population only, inasmuch as they affect the national produc- tion. The influence of religion and national habits upon popu- lation is precisely analogous. All travellers agree, that prot- estant are both richer and more populous than catholic coun- tries; and the reason is, because the habits of the former are more conducive to production. In this particular, the position of France appears to be pre- cisely opposite to that of Great Britain. It would seem, that her agricultural product is equal to the maintenance of a much larger manufacturing and commercial population. The face of the country presents the picture of high and general culti- vation; but the villages and country towns are, for the most part, surprisingly small, poor, ill-built, and ill-paved, the few shops scantily supplied, and the public houses neither neat nor comfortable. It is plain, the agricultural product must ei- ther be less than the appearance would indicate, or it must be consumed in a thriftless and unprofitable manner; probably both these causes are in operation. In the first place, the production is far less than it might be; and that is chiefly owing to three causes= — 1. The want of sufficient to afford subsistence to one of the suburbs of their capital.

Section II. The influence of the Quality of a national product upon the local distribution of the Population

Again, the cultivation of pasture land, requiring much less human labour than that of arable, it follows, that, in grazing countries, a greater proportion of the inhabitants can apply themselves to the arts of industry; which are therefore more attended to in pasture than in corn countries. Witness Flanders, Holland, and Normandy that was. 105

For the earth to be cultivated, it is necessary that population should be spread over its surface; for industry and commerce to flourish, it is desirable to collect together in those spots, where the arts may be exercised with the most advantage; that is to say, where there can be the greatest subdivision of labour. The dyer naturally establishes himself near the clothier; the druggist near the dyer; the agent, or owner, of a vessel employed in the transport of drugs will approximate in locality to the druggist; and so of other producers in general. From the period of the irruption of the barbarians into the Roman empire, down to the 17th century, that is to say, to a date almost within living memory, the towns made but little figure in the larger states of Europe. That portion of the popu- lation, which was thought to live upon the cultivators of the land, was not then, as now, composed principally of merchants and manufacturers, but consisted of a nobility, surrounded by numerous retainers, of churchmen and other idlers, the ten- ants of the chateau, the abbey, or the convent, with their sev- eral dependencies; very few of them living within the towns.

The products of manufacture and commerce were very limited indeed; the manufacturers were the poor cottagers, and the merchants mere pedlars; a few rude implements of husbandry, and some very clumsy utensils and articles of furniture, answered all the purposes of cultivation and ordinary life.

The fairs, held three or four times in the year, furnished commodities of a superior quality, which we should now look upon with contempt; and what rare household articles, stuffs, or jewels, of price, were from time to time imported from the commercial cities of Italy, or from the Greeks of Constantinople, were regarded as objects of uncommon luxury and magnificence, far too costly for any but the richest princes and nobles.

At the same time, all such as live without labour on the interest of capital, or the rent of landed property, are attracted to the towns, where they find brought to a focus, every luxury to feed their appetites, as well as a choice of society, and a variety of pleasure and amusement. The charms of a town life attract foreign visitors, and all such as live by their labour, but are free to exercise it wherever they like.

Thus, towns become the abode of literary men and artizans, and likewise the seats of government, of courts of justice, and most other public establishments; and their population is enlarged by the addition of all the persons attached to such establishments, and all who are accidentally brought thither by business.

Not but what there is always a number of country residents, that are employed in manufacturing industry, exclusive of such as make it their abode in preference. Local convenience, running water, the contiguity of a forest or a mine, will draw a good deal of machinery, and a number of labourers, in manufacture, out of the precincts of towns. There are, likewise, some kinds of work. which must be performed in the neighbourhood of the consumers, that of the tailor, the shoe- maker, or the farrier; but these are trifling compared with the manufacturing industry of all kinds executed in towns.

In this state of things, the towns of course made but a poor figure. Whatever magnificence they may possess in our time is of very modern date. In all the towns of France together, it would be impossible to point out a single handsome range of buildings, or fine street, of two hundred years’ antiquity.

There is nothing of anterior date, with the exception of a few Gothic churches, but clumsy tenements huddled together in dirty and crooked streets, utterly impassable to the swarm of carriages, cattle, and foot-passengers, that indicates the present popula- tion and opulence. Writers on political economy have calculated, that a thriving country is capable of supporting in its towns, a population equal to that of the country. Some examples lead to an opinion, that it could support a still greater proportion, were its industry directed with greater skill and its agriculture conducted with more intelligence and less waste, even supposing its soil to be of very moderate fertility. 104 Thus much at least is certain, that, when the towns raise a product for foreign consumption, they are then enabled to draw from abroad provisions in return, and may sustain a population much larger in proportion to that of the country. Of this we have instances in the numerous petty states, whose territory alone is barely No country can yield the utmost agricultural produce it is equal to, until every part of its surface be studded with towns and cities. Few manufactures could arrive at perfection, with- out the conveniences they afford; and, without manufactures, what is there to give in exchange for agricultural products? A district whose agricultural products can find no market, feeds not half the number of inhabitants it is capable of supporting; and the condition, even of those it does support, is rude

The local position of Washington, it should seem, is adverse to its progress in size and opulence= for it has been outstripped by most of the other cities of the Union; 107 whereas, Palmyra, in ancient times, grew both wealthy and populous, though in the midst of a sandy desert, solely because it had become the entrepot of commerce between Europe and eastern Asia. The same advantage gave importance and splendour to Alexandria, and, at a still more remote period, to Egyptian Thebes.

The mere will of a despot could never have made it a city of a hundred gates, and of the magnitude and populousness recorded by Herodotus. Its grandeur must have been owing to its vicinity to the Red Sea and the channel of the Nile, and to its central position between India and Europe. 108

enough, and destitute both of comfort and refinement; they are in the lowest stage of civilization. But, if an industrious colony comes to establish itself in the district, and gradually forms a town, whose inhabitants increase till they equal the numbers of the original cultivators, the town will find subsistence on the agricultural product of the district, and the cultivators be enriched by the product of the industry of the town.

Moreover, towns offer indirect channels for the export of the agricultural values of the district to a distant market.

The raw products of agriculture are not easy of transport, because the expense soon swallows up the total price of the commodity transported. Manufactured produce has greatly the advantage in this respect; for industry will frequently attach very considerable value to a substance of little bulk and weight.

By the means of manufacture, the raw products of national agriculture are converted into manufactured goods of much more condensed value, which will defray the charge of a more distant transport, and bring a return of produce adapted to the wants of the exporting country.

If a city cannot be raised, neither does it seem, that its further aggrandizement can be arrested by the mere fiat of the mon- arch. Paris continued to increase, in defiance of abundance of regulations issued by the government of the day to limit its extension. The only effectual barrier is that opposed by natural causes, which it would be very difficult to define with precision, for it consists rather of an aggregate of little inconveniences, than of any grand or positive obstruction. In overgrown cities, the municipal administration is never well attended to; a vast deal of valuable time is lost in going from one quarter to another= the crossing and jostling is immense in the central parts= and the narrow streets and passages, having been calculated for a much smaller population, are unequal to the vast increase of horses, carriages, passengers, and traffic of all sorts. This evil is felt most seriously at Paris, and accidents are growing more frequent every day; yet new streets are now building on the same defective plan, with a certain prospect of a like inconvenience in a very few years hence.

There are many of the provinces of France, that are miserable enough at present, yet want nothing but towns to bring them into high cultivation. Their situation would, indeed, be hopeless, were we to adopt the system of that class of economists, which recommends the purchase of manufactures from foreign’ countries, with the raw produce of domestic agriculture. 106

However, if towns owe their origin and increase to the concentration of a variety of manufactures, great and small, manu- factures, again, are to be set in activity by nothing but productive capital; and productive capital is only to be accumu- lated by frugality of consumption. Wherefore, it is not enough to trace the plan of a town, and give it a name; before it can have real existence, it must be gradually supplied with industrious hands, mechanical skill, implements of trade, raw ma- terials and the necessary subsistence of those engaged in industry, until the completion and sale of their products. Other- wise, instead of founding a city, a mere scaffolding is run up, which must soon fall to the ground, because it rests upon no solid foundation. This was the case with regard to Ecatherinos law, in the Crimea; and was, indeed, foreseen by the emperor Joseph II, who assisted at the ceremony of its foundation, and laid the second stone in due form= “The em- press of Russia and myself,” said he to his suite, “have completed a great work in a single day= she has laid the first stone of a city, and I have laid the finishing one.”


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