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lowness of price in consequence of the bounty is therefore merely imaginary.
This view of the question is entirely confirmed by the information we derive from Mr Comber's work. Owing to a course of unfavourable seasons, exportation had been so often prohibited, and importation allowed, that, in the five years following the year 1764, the average quantity imported exceeded what was exported by 114,000 quarters, and in the five following years by 52,000. This state of things led to an alteration of the law; and by the act of 1773, the price at which bounty was allowed, was reduced from 48s. to 41s.; and importation, which had been formerly subjected to duties which amounted to a prohibition, was permitted, when the price exceeded 48s., at the low duty of 6d. per quarter.
Our author commends this law for fixing the price at which exportation should be permitted, and for not leaving it, as formerly, to the discretion of government; but, by the gradual rise which afterwards took place in the price of corn, this law virtually prohibited exportation. It seems also to have been thought too favourable to importation; for, in 1791, a new law was made, raising the price at which importation was allowed at the low duty of 6d. to 54s. Under 54s. and above 50s., 2s. 6d. per quarter was paid; and under 50s., 24s. 3d., which amounted to a direct prohibition. Such indeed must have been the intention of the authors, or the law involved a gross absurdity. It is plain, that corn could not be imported into Britain at 50s. and pay a duty of 24s. 3d., unless the price was such as to repay to the importer the whole amount of the duty; in which case, importation would have been permitted by the same law, on paying the low duty of 6d. Foreign wheat was at the same time allowed to be landed, and stored under the King's locks, without paying any duty. It was subject, however, when it was sold, to a warehouse-duty of 2s. 6d., besides the other duties to which it was liable at the time of sale..
Our author finds fault with this law, as adverse to importation; and he blames also that clause by which the price is fixed for three months certain. It is of little consequence, however, to attend very particularly to the theory of the corn laws, when it has so little to do with the practice.. The gradual rise of the money-price of corn, joined to the effect of bad crops, soon rendered it necessary not only to permit importation, but to encourage it by a very high bounty. In 1795, a bounty of 16s. to 20s. was granted, according to the quality of the wheat, from the south of Europe, till the quantity imported should amount to 400,000 quarters, and from America, till it should amount to 500,000 quarters; from 12s. to 15s. from any other part of Europe, till it should amount to the same quantity; and from 8s. to
VOL. XIII. No. 25.
10s. after it exceeded that quantity. In 1795, the average price of wheat was 74s. ; and in 1796, 77s. In 1797, however, it fell to 53s., at which price the importations of wheat alone exceeded 400,000 quarters: which shows, that the act of 1791, whatever might have been the intention of its authors, had not opposed any serious obstacles to importation.
Our author rather blames the offering of such high bounties, and seems to imagine, that the whole of what was imported might have been procured at a cheaper rate. Almost the whole of the corn which was exported from the north of Europe, he informs us, was sent to England; from which he infers, that there was no competition, and that, if we had prudently delayed for some time, we might have had the corn cheaper. In making this supposition, he does not advert to the nature of the corn trade. When there is a short supply of corn, the price must be such as to make it last until the produce of the next harvest can be brought into the market. This is the mode which nature has adopted for dispensing the weekly or monthly supply of corn in exact proportion to the produce of the year. The price is fixed for the purpose of regulating the consumption; and as long as this is regulated exactly, it is of no consequence for how much, or for how little, imported corn is bought, any more than at what expense that which is raised at home has been brought to the market: the price must remain invariable, until it begins to be felt that the consumption is either too slow or too quick for the supply of the year. The expedient of offering very high bounties, appears to us to be the best, and indeed the only measure which can be adopted for mitigating the severity of scarcity. The evil is a want of subsistence; and a very high bounty, by giving a great profit to the importer or to the foreign merchant, makes him eager to supply this want. Although foreign corn could have been bought cheaper by the merchant, it would not, on that account, have found its way cheaper to the consumer. Various writers have fallen into errors on this subject, from supposing that, because it cost less to bring corn to the market, it would therefore be sold for less; and there are even some slight inadvertencies of the same kind in the writings of Dr Smith, from whose masterly reasonings, however, we derive that clear knowledge of the corn trade which we now possess.
Mr Comber has committed another mistake, which a more attentive examination of Dr Smith's work would have enabled him to correct. He is apprehensive that, if foreign corn were allowed a free competition with the produce of this country, the value of the latter would fall, the cultivation of corn would be discouraged, and the farmers would employ the greater part of their capital in grazing. It is evident, however, that the profits of cultivating corn
must regulate the profit of every other species of cultivation. If the profits of pasture were greater than the profits of cultivating corn, more land would be turned to pasture, and the profits would be reduced. There is a general level of profit to which all trades perpetually tend; so that there is no way of employing capital, for any length of time, with any decided superiority of profit. Mr Comber has indulged in various other strange specu lations on the balance of trade, exchange, &c.-which we do not think it worth while particularly to notice. He has also confounded capital with money; and supposes, that an increase of money has a tendency to diminish the rate of interest,-an error adopted by Montesquieu, and refuted both by Hume and Dr Smith.
Our author next proceeds to the consideration of the act of 1804. By this act, the price at which importation was allowed on the low duty of 6d., was raised from 54s. to 66s. Under this price, and above 63s., the middle duty of 2s. 6d. was payable; and under 63s., the high duty of 24s. 3d. The price on which bounty was allowed on exportation, was extended from 44s. to 48s.; and exportation without bounty from 46s. to 54s. There were four periods in the year at which the price was fixed, which determined whether the ports should be opened or shut for the ensuing three months. Mr Comber's reasonings on the effects of this act appear to us to be confused and contradictory. He is afraid for the consequences of allowing the foreigner an unlimited competition with those who grow for home consumption; and yet he is desirous of encouraging importation. He wishes that a surplus produce of corn should always be at his call when he wants it; but that foreigners should be interdicted from taking advantage of our market, unless when the prices are very high. Although he is in general friendly to importation, and wishes to preserve a regular intercourse with the corn countries, yet he is always haunted with the apprehension lest the importation of foreign corn should reduce the prices so low as to discourage cultivation. There is no doubt that low prices tend to prevent the further extension of cultivation, and that high prices have a contrary effect. A constant scarcity would therefore give the most effectual encouragement to agricultural improvement. But is a whole community to be pinched and distres sed in order to forward the improvement of land? When corn is in great abundance, this shows that there is no necessity for enclosing fresh land. If it is so abundant that it cannot be used, we know that this state of things can only be temporary; that
* 15th February, 15th May, 15th August, and 15th November.
that population will soon increase; and that prices consequently will rise. The anxiety, therefore, lest the farmer should not find a market for his produce, and the constant readiness of the legislature to tax the community in order to secure his profit and the landlord's rent, appears to us to be wholly without reason.
It is needless to examine more particularly the rest of our author's plans for the regulation of the corn trade. He seems to think, that the storing of wheat into granaries, so save part of the produce of an abundant year to compensate the deficiency of a more scanty supply, would produce very beneficial effects. The notion is plausible, and is therefore well received among superficial inquirers. But, unfortunately, the plan could not be executed without the direct interference of government; than which nothing could be more impolitic or pernicious. By rashly tampering with the corn trade, government would make themselves responsible, in the eyes of the people, for all their distresses; and any sort of fraud or mismanagement, which could not fail to occur in the superintendance of such an extensive trust, would be liable to excite the general discontent, or even insurrection. The folly of this project is so amply exposed in Mr Burke's Thoughts on Scarcity, that we cannot help recommending to the reader a perusal of that masterly performance.
With respect to the principle of the measure, which grants a bounty on the exportation of corn; as we, as long as the bounty amounts to no more than 5s. on the quarter of wheat, consider it rather as a matter of speculative curiosity than of any great practical importance, we shall not occupy the attention of our readers for any length of time with its discussion. There are two ways in which this question may be considered: first, Whether the bounty has any tendency to effect a real rise in the value of corn, and thus to give a real encouragement to agriculture; and, 2dly, Whether, supposing this to be its effect, it is wise or expedient to tax the community for the encouragement of agriculture. It may be said, indeed, by the advocates for the bounty, that the community is not taxed, inasmuch as the bounty ultimately tends to render the price lower than it otherwise would be. How then, it may be asked, does this encourage agriculture? It is admitted by those who argue in favour of the bounty, that it produces its effects by a real rise in the price of corn. But, if it afterwards sinks its price lower than it otherwise would have fallen, those two opposite effects must balance each other: So that, without laying the community under contribution by a higher price of corn, we are at a loss where to look for the boasted encouragement of agriculture.
Those, however, who argue against the bounty, contend, that the price of labour, while the demand continues the same, depends on the price of corn; that a rise in the price of corn has a tendency to occasion a rise in the price of labour; and therefore the farmer, though he receives a higher price for his corn, yet, as he pays dearer for labour, and for whatever is the produce of labour, is not really benefited. Mr Malthus, admitting this principle, argues against it, in our apprehension, not very perspicuously nor very conclusively. Even conceding, however, to the advocates of the bounty, that it gives the farmer a real rise in the price of his corn, we do not think that the price of labour is in the slightest degree affected by the variations in the price of provisions;-and that for the following reason.
The share which every labourer has out of the supply of the year, is fixed by the abundance or scantiness of that supply; and the general wages of labour must always be such as to enable him to procure the portion allotted to him. When corn is scarce, he cannot have the same share as when it is abundant. But by what means is he prevented from procuring the same quantity of provisions as formerly? By the operation, undoubtedly, of a higher price, which prevents him from purchasing the same quantity. If it be necessary, then, for the well-being of society, that the daily or monthly consumption of corn should be suited to the supply of the year, if, in a time of scarcity, the labourer must be put upon short allowance, and if the price must rise to accomplish this necessary end;-How can we suppose that another opposite principle should be instantly set in motion, to counteract those provident regulations of nature,-that when the price of corn was rising, in order to prevent the labourer from having the same command over the necessaries of life as before, his wages should be also rising for the very opposite purpose? We know, that his allotted stock of provisions for the year, depends entirely on the nature of the annual supply,-that while that supply remains the same, no general rise of wages can alter his share of it; we know also, that nature does nothing in vain. But nothing certainly can be more vain than, when provisions become scarce, and the price rises, to mock the labourer with an increase of wages, which must be merely nominal. The absurdity of attempting to relieve the miseries of a scarcity, by giving donations of money to those who are in want of food, has been very clearly exposed, and is now generally condemned. But do we not charge nature with the same absurdity, when we suppose that a scarcity of corn, and a consequent high price, necessarily draws after it a rise in the pecuniary wages of labour? The principle in both cases is exactly the same, As it appears to us,