TWoN Chapter 11 Part 4

Page 216: “Every improvement in the circumstances of society tends either directly or indirectly to raise the real rent of the land, to increase the real wealth of the landlord, his power of purchasing labor, or the produce of the labor of other people.”

“All those improvements in the productive powers of labor, which tend directly to reduce the real price of manufactures, tend indirectly to raise the real rent of land.”

Page 217: Every increase in the real wealth of the society, every increase in the quantity of useful labor employed within it, tends indirectly to raise the real rent of land.”

“The whole annual produce of the land and labor of every country, or what comes to the samee thing, the whole price of that annual kproduce, naturally divides itself, it has already been observed, into three parts; the rent of land, the wages of labor, and the profits of stock; and constitutes a revenue to three different orders of people; to those who live by rent, to those who live by wages, and to those who live by profit.  There are the three great, original, and constituent orders of every civilized society, from whose revenue that of every other order is ultimately derived.”

He then discusses each of them, describing their characteristics: Of landlords, on page 218: “They are the only one of the three orders whose revenue costs them neither labor nor care, but comes to them, as it were, of its own accord, and independent of any plan or project of their own.  That indolence, wich is the natural effect of the easy and security of their situation, renders them too often, not only ignorant, but incapable of that application of mind which is necessary in order to foresee and understand the consequences of any public regulation.”

So, the spokesman of capital doesn’t think much of the holdovers from fuedalism.  No surprise there.  What does he think of workers?

“When this real wealth of the society becomes stationary, his wages are soon reduced to what is barely enough to enable him to bring up a family, or to continue the race of laborors [[Hey, Will, interesting use of “race,” no?]].  When the society declines, they fall even below this.  The order of proprietors may, j,perhaps, gain more by the prosperity of the society, than that of laborers; but ther eis no order that suffers so cruelly from its decline.  But though the interest of the laborer is strictly connected with that of the society, he is incapable either of comprehending that interest, or of understanding its connection with his own.  His condition leaves him no time to receive the necessary information, and his education and habits are commonly such as to render him unfit to judge even though he was fully informed.  In public deliberations, therefore, his voice is little heard and less regarded, except upon some particular occasions when his clamour is animated, set on, and supported by his employers, not for his, but their own particular purposes.”

I might note in passing that the Paris Commune marked the end of the time when the laborers voice would not be heard; but basically Smith makes a good case here.  What, then of the capitalists?  Is he about to explain how they are the ones we should all listen to?  I thought so.

Page 219: “Their superiority over the country gentleman is, not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his . . . to widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers.  To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it

Page 220: “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.  It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deeive and even to oppress the public, and hwo accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

What is interesting here is: Just who is the public, anyway?  He’s divided society into those who own land, those who own stock, and those who labor.  So, then, the public is…who?  If the overwhelming majority are those who labor, then that would seem to be the answer.

As for rent itself, he never showed a case where rent could be pulled from a place where there was no labor.  If there is labor, there is surplus value created by it; hence I think we can conclude that rent, like profit, is simply a way surplus value is divided.

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0 thoughts on “TWoN Chapter 11 Part 4”

  1. Huh. He does seem to be saying the workers are the public. I love the way he describes the capitalists as James Bond villains. And the way he states what many capitalists will try to hide: of course capitalists collude for their benefit with no regard for the rest of us.

    As for “race,” yeah. I’m going to remember that one.

  2. Steven,

    OFF TOPIC, but given that you recently wrote that you needed money; have you thought of selling the rights to turn your works into an RPG setting?

  3. Smith’s p. 220 and your question: “Who’s the public?”

    From context in the discussion of all 3 orders, I’d say “the public” should be read as synonymous with “the society,” also noted by Smith as the “general interest” to which the other two orders are inseparably linked. The alternative would seem to be everyone *but* the laborers–and women. Smith’s discussion of landowners refers to “when the public deliberates concerning any regulation….” Then under the laborers,”[i]n the public deliberations, therefore, [the laborer’s] voice is little heard and less regarded.” Ain’t that the truth. What I find most enlightening, though, is the text right above your quote about superiority over the country gentleman and knowledge of the public interest: “As [the merchants’] thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candor (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended on with regard to the former of those two objects, than with regard to the latter.” Puts “the society” cheek by jowl with “the public interest.”

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