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Essentials of Economic Theory - As Applied to Modern Problems of Industry and Public Policy
by John Bates Clark
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The Consumers' Surplus.—In every such case there are men who would give much more for the article rather than be without it, and we have supposed that some one would pay a hundred dollars for this commodity if he could not otherwise obtain it. Ninety dollars, then, measures what we may call his consumers' surplus, or the clear benefit he gets from buying at its market price an article that is worth to him so much more. This comes about by the fact that the makers of article A, in order to sell the amount of goods that competition has impelled them to make, must accept the offers of persons who can consistently give only ten dollars for it. These are relatively poor persons, and as the sum of ten dollars expended on other articles would benefit them as much as ten dollars spent on this one, it is a "final" purchase, or a final increment of their consumers' wealth. In order to get it they sacrifice, in some other form, a benefit as great as the one they get from acquiring this commodity and receive, therefore, no consumers' surplus from it. These are the men whose demand helps to fix the price of the article A, and the willingness of other persons to give more does not make it bring any more. The rich men, who stand ready to pay a hundred dollars, if necessary, are gainers by letting poorer men fix this price. It is by catching the patronage of these poorer men that the makers can dispose of their large output, and in doing this they have to bring the price down to ten dollars.

The Function of a Special Class of Marginal Purchasers of Each Article.—In like manner there is a class of "marginal purchasers" of the article B, or the persons who pay for it so much that they get no net benefit or consumers' surplus from the purchase. If they did not buy this article, they could get something else that would do them as much good for the same outlay. It costs, let us say, only ten dollars in the making, and enough of these articles are made and offered for sale at that price to supply all customers who are attracted by the offer. The men who would pay more for it do not count. Each of the other articles in the bundle, when it is offered separately and at the cost price which competition establishes, represents a final utility to some one class of purchasers. Competition has made the whole supply so large that, in order to dispose of it, venders must attract the particular class who will take it at the ten-dollar rate. This class is in the strategic position of market-price makers for this one thing. They are the last class to whom the producers can afford to cater. If each of the five articles in the bundle costs the makers ten dollars, and if so many of each are made that they just supply the needs of the classes that will buy them at ten dollars apiece, the price of all five, when sold separately, will be fifty dollars. Most of the purchasers of each article would give more than ten for it if they had to, but some would not do so, and the producers cater to the needs of these marginal persons.

How the Prices of the Goods are fixed when they are sold in Various Combinations.—How do these articles get their valuation when they are tied in bundles containing all five of them and the bundles are sold unbroken? In essentially the same way as when sold separately. Article A, we will suppose, is one of the necessaries of life and is to be had by itself in the market. Article B represents a comfort, and C and D are luxuries. The bundles are so made that A and B are often sold together; as are also A, B, and C; and A, B, C, and D. A purchaser may have at his option the first only, the first and the second combined, the first three, or all four. Article A, when it stands alone, can be had at the natural or cost price and in quantity sufficient to supply the wants of all classes of buyers from the highest down to the class which will take it at ten dollars—the cost of making it—but at no higher price. Any one can have the A either alone or tied to other articles at this price. One who buys A and B in combination will pay for article A only the same price that it commands when sold separately; and since he buys B, the utility of which is less than that of A, at ten dollars, it is clear that he gets A for less than it is worth to him, but the ten dollars may be all he would give for the B. This man is not the marginal purchaser of A, for in buying it he realizes a consumers' surplus; but for the article B, which is tied to it, he may pay all that it is worth to him. For that he is a marginal purchaser, and as such he gets no consumers' surplus out of it. What he pays for B will just suffice to buy something else which is equally important to him. The price of this bundle of two articles is ultimately determined by the cost of the two components, which is twenty dollars, and enough of each component is made and offered in the market to supply the wants of a class of persons who will barely decide to take it at the cost rate. The class that hesitates at taking A will not consider B, but the class that hesitates at taking B gets a clear benefit from buying A at the price that expresses the utility of A to a poorer class of persons.

How Different Classes of Purchasers cooeperate in this Price Making.—The rule of one price for one article of course holds, and the man who would have a clear and decisive motive for buying the A for more than ten dollars, if he had to do so, gets the benefit of two facts: first, that it costs only that amount in the producing, and secondly, that competition makes the supply of it so large that it is brought within the reach of those persons who value it at only ten dollars. It takes two different classes of purchasers to fix the price of this package of two articles, and their ratings fix it at twenty dollars. Exactly the same influences regulate the price of the bundle which includes A, B, and C. Men who buy C can afford to have a luxury, and therefore, if they had had to do so, would have given more than they do give for the articles of necessity and comfort. If the price of A and B were higher than it is, they would still buy these two things, but they would not raise their bids for C, since for this they are marginal purchasers. This commodity is therefore sold at the price that will just induce this class of persons to add it to their list of consumers' goods. There is a further class in whose list of purchases D is marginal, while A, B, and C yield a consumers' surplus in the form of an uncompensated personal benefit.

Different Utilities in an Article appraised as are Different Goods in a Package.—It is an actual fact that most commodities are like these packages of unlike articles. They are bundles of unlike utilities, and the market actually finds a way to analyze composite things and put a separate price on each utility. It may seem very theoretical to say that a concrete thing, like a watch, a coat, a dining table, or a roast fowl, is made up of such abstract things as utilities and that each of these has its separate price; yet such is actually the fact, and if goods were not valued in the market in this way, the prices of all articles of comfort and luxury would be very much higher than they are.

A man pays seventy-five dollars for an overcoat, but if he could not get the service that the coat as a whole renders without paying five hundred dollars for it, he would pay it; for otherwise he could hardly get through a winter. No man who buys an overcoat worth seventy-five dollars would refuse to pay more if that were the necessary condition of having an overcoat at all. The garment as a whole is far from being a "marginal utility" to any one; and yet there is something in it that is so. This element is like the article D in the fourth bundle referred to in our illustration. There is a particular utility in the composite good for which the man pays all that it is worth to him; and he would go without that utility if the seller charged more than he does. The most important service that the coat renders is that of keeping the man warm; but a very cheap garment would render that service, and six dollars will buy such a garment. The man does not need to pay more than six dollars for that one service. The supply of cheap coats is such that the final one must be offered for six dollars in order to induce certain poor purchasers to buy it, and that, moreover, is all that it costs to make it. No one, therefore, is obliged to pay more than six dollars for something that will keep him warm, however much such a service may be worth to him. Coats of another grade have a second utility combined with this one, since they are made of better cloth and are more comely in appearance. Utilities of an aesthetic kind are combined with the crude qualities represented by the cheapest coats. The supply of coats of this grade is such that they must be offered for twenty dollars in order to induce some one to take the final or marginal one. What does this mean? It means that this purchaser will pay fourteen dollars and no more in order to have the second utility, consisting in comeliness, added to the first utility, capacity to keep him warm. This man would give more than twenty dollars rather than go uncloaked; for it is plain that, if he will pay fourteen dollars for comeliness, he will give more than six for warmth. Probably he would pay one hundred dollars for the article if he had to, and in getting it for twenty he gets a large consumers' surplus. This is because he secures the first utility (1) for less than it is worth to him, (2) for just what it costs in the making, and (3) for just what it is worth to the poorer purchasers. He is willing to pay only fourteen dollars for the comeliness, which is the second utility that the garment contains, and he is therefore a marginal purchaser of this second utility. It costs only the sum of fourteen dollars to add the second utility to the first, and enough coats of the second grade are made to catch the patronage of the class of buyers who will give so much and no more for it. They are the persons whose demand figures in adjusting the market price of this second utility. Competing producers of coats cause the supply of those of the second grade to be so large that they could not all be sold unless the second utility were offered for fourteen dollars. This makes the price of the entire coat twenty dollars as the result of catering in a detailed way to the demand of two different classes of buyers.

In exactly the same way the price of the third grade is fixed at forty dollars and that of the still higher grade at seventy-five. In the third grade there is a utility which it costs twenty dollars to add to those possessed by garments of the second grade, and this is added to enough of them to supply all persons who will pay twenty dollars or more for it. These coats are made of more highly finished goods and have better linings, and this gives them the third utility which the market appraises at its cost, which is twenty dollars. The men who buy the forty dollar coats get a surplus of benefit in securing the first two of the utilities that are embodied in them, since for these they pay less than they would pay if they had to; but they get no surplus over the cost of the third utility. It is to secure their custom that the vender must sell it for twenty dollars. In a like manner a coat of the next grade, which is a more fashionable garment, sells for seventy-five dollars because it has a fourth utility which costs another sum of thirty-five dollars and, to the marginal buyers, is worth that amount. These men get a surplus from buying the first three utilities at what they cost their producers and what they are worth to poorer purchasers. It appears, then, that a seventy-five dollar coat is a bundle of distinct elements, or utilities, each of which has its separate cost and is sold at that cost price to a particular marginal class of purchasers. Each element is valued exactly as if it were in itself a complete article tied in this case to others, but also offered separately in the market. Persons of one class are final purchasers of the first utility when it is offered at its cost, six dollars. Another class, in a like manner, helps to set the price of the second utility at fourteen, and still other classes figure in the adjustment of the prices of the third and fourth utilities. These cost the manufacturers twenty dollars and thirty-five dollars respectively, and competition insures the making of enough of them to catch the patronage of those who will pay just these amounts. Members of one class act as marginal purchasers in price making in the case of one utility only. The concurrent action of all of them results in setting the price of the best coat at eighty dollars. It is a very practical fact that the rates at which all fine articles sell in the market are fixed in this way. Such articles contain utilities unlike each other. They have power to render services of varying degrees of importance, and each of the several services gets its normal valuation when producers make enough to supply the want of a particular group of persons to whom it is a marginal service and who are willing to pay only what it costs. They would go without that one service if they had to pay more for it.

This Method of Valuation Applicable to All Commodities of High Grade.—Illustrations of this principle might be multiplied indefinitely. A fine watch tells the time of day, but something that would do that could be had for a dollar, and that is all that this fundamental element in the fine watch sells for. It takes a series of purchasers bidding on the higher utilities of the fine watch to make it sell for five hundred dollars. The man who buys such a watch would give, perhaps, ten thousand for it rather than be without a watch altogether, but he is saved from the necessity of doing so by the fact that poorer customers have done the appraising in the case of all the more fundamental qualities which the watch possesses. So long as an Ingersoll "dollar watch" will tell the time of day, no one will pay more than a dollar for exactly that same service rendered by any watch whatever; and the same thing is true of other services. Social in a very concrete and literal sense is the operation of fixing prices. Only the simplest and cheapest things that are sold in the market at all bring just what they are worth to the buyers, and all articles of higher grade offer to all who buy them a surplus of service not offset by what is paid for them. If we rule out the cheapest and poorest grades of articles, we find all others affording a "consumers' surplus."[2]

[2] It will be seen that to a man who buys the seventy-five dollar coat that article in its entirety is the final one of its kind which he will buy. He does not want a second coat exactly like the first. The same thing is true of the man who buys the five hundred dollar watch, since he does not think of buying more than one. In each case the first unit of the article bought is the last one, and it contains utilities which are worth more than they cost. It contains one utility only which is marginal in the true sense of affording no surplus of gain above cost. This utility stands on the boundary line where consumers' surpluses stop.



CHAPTER VII

NORMAL VALUE

Natural Supply.—We have attained a law of market value, which determines the price at which a given amount of any commodity will sell, and have taken a quick glance at the influence which fixes the amount that is offered and thus furnishes a natural standard to which the market value tends to conform. At any one moment the amount which is supplied is an exact quantity, and if it all has to be sold, it will bring a price which is fixed by the final utility of that amount of the commodity. If the quantity offered for sale should become greater or less, the final utility and the price would change. Final utility controls the immediate selling price, and if that is above the cost of production, a margin of gain is afforded which appeals to producers, sets competition working, and brings the quantity made up to the full amount which can be sold at cost. The amount of the supply itself is therefore not a matter of chance or caprice. It is natural that a certain quantity of each article should be supplied, and that the price should hover about the level which the final utility of that quantity of the good fixes. "Natural" or "normal" price is, in this view, the market price of a natural quantity.

Cost as a Standard of Normal Price.—It is commonly and correctly stated that the normal price of anything is that which just covers the cost of producing it. Cost in this case is the total amount of money that the entrepreneur pays out in order to bring the commodity into existence. He buys raw materials and pays for all the labor and capital that transform them into a new and saleable shape. If he can make a net profit, he does so; but competition tends to adjust the quantity produced and the consequent price in such a way that he can make no net profit. What he gets for the article will then reimburse him for his total outlay, but it will do no more. Since the quantity produced is normal when it brings the market price to this level of cost, it appears that the cost is the ultimate standard in the case. The quantity supplied varies till it causes the market price just to cover the cost; and so long as the quantity supplied is thus natural, other influences remaining the same, the price is so. This states the cost of production in terms of money paid by an entrepreneur and the returns from the operation as money received by him; but there is a more philosophical way of conceiving the law of cost, and to this we shall soon recur.

Elements of Cost.—Whatever the entrepreneur has to pay for in the production of an article is of course an element in its monetary cost to him. If he does not begin the making of it by drawing his raw materials from what nature freely furnishes, he must pay some one for the raw material. He must also pay for the labor, and this is equivalent to buying the fraction of the article that is produced by labor; for the laborer, as we have seen, is the producer of a certain fractional share of the article and the natural owner of that share, and when he agrees to let his labor for hire, what he really does is to sell out his individual interest in the forthcoming product of the industry in which he is about to engage. When a workman in a shoe factory agrees to work for two dollars and a half a day, he really contracts to sell every day for that amount a certain quantity of shoes. The leather is one element which enters into the finished shoes, and therefore the entire shoe is not really made in the factory; but of the part which is there made, namely, the utility that results from transforming the leather into shoes, one part is made by labor and another by capital. The entrepreneur has to buy both of these if he is to acquire a valid title to the product and have a right to sell it. These costs are therefore "purchase money" paid for undivided shares of goods.

Labor of Management.—It usually happens that an entrepreneur, or employer of labor and capital, performs some labor himself; and we have already noted the reason for this in the fact that the kind of labor that he performs is so important that the fate of the business often depends on it. He may manage the business so well as to make it succeed or so ill as to make it fail. He pays himself for this labor when he draws a salary for his services. As an entrepreneur he treats his own labor as he does that of any one else and buys the fraction of the product of his business that his own labor of management has created. In this he illustrates the general law that all payments of wages are payments of the purchase of a certain quantity of product. Though the owner's own contribution to the product is not always mentioned in terms in the accounting, that is what his salary is paid for, though it is spoken of as a payment for his "time," or his labor.

The Capitalist as the Vender of a Share in a Product.—Capital, as we have seen, also contributes a definite share toward the total amount of every product in the making of which it cooeperates. Labor does not do all the transforming of leather into shoes which is done in the factory, since machines, fuel, etc., help; and we shall later find that there is a way of determining how much of the product the help so given creates. It adds a certain amount to what labor can claim as its own special product, and the man who owns the capital becomes the lawful claimant for this additional share. When he agrees to let his capital work for an employer, he virtually sells to the employer the undivided share of the product—shoes or what not—that the capital really creates. The furnisher of productive instruments, like the furnisher of labor, is a vender, and the entrepreneur is a buyer.

Entrepreneur and Capitalist.—As was stated in an earlier chapter, an actual employer nearly always furnishes some of the capital that he uses. If he did not do so, he would have difficulty in borrowing more, since banks or other lenders do not loan to empty-handed men. It is clear that what the employer gets in return for such capital as he may put into the business is in reality a payment for a contribution which that particular part of the capital makes to the product. Since each bit of capital in an establishment contributes something toward the creating of the product, the employer's own capital has the same right to the value of its contributary share as has the capital of any one else. What the employer-capitalist gets for capital the employer, pure and simple, pays. As the furnisher of instruments the man is a vender of the product of these instruments, while as an entrepreneur proper he is the buyer. He must purchase the product of his own capital just as he purchased the product of his own labor. In paying, therefore, wages for all labor, including what he performs himself, interest on all capital, including his own, and the price of raw materials, he gets something which, if competition does a perfect work, he has to sell for what he gives for it. The shoes, when he sells them, tend, under active competition, to yield only what has been paid for them in the making and, in a perfectly static state, would actually yield no net profit. All the entrepreneur's costs, therefore, resolve themselves into purchase money paid, his receipts are money accruing from sales; and under ideally free competition the two sums total are equal.

The Entrepreneur's Proper Function not Labor of Management.—In some theoretical discussions the management of a business figures as the principal function of the entrepreneur, and all or nearly all of the reward that comes to him is represented as coming in the shape of a reward for a responsible kind of labor that calls great abilities into requisition. But it is very clear that, whether he personally performs any labor or not, the employer has a distinctly mercantile function to perform; and this in itself is totally unlike the work of overseeing the mill, the shop, or the salesroom. He acquires a title to the whole product by paying for the contributions which labor and producers of raw material separately make toward it, and then parts with the product; and if he gets any more than he has paid out, he makes a profit. When industry is in what we have termed a dynamic state, such a difference between the value of the product and the cost of the elements that go into it is continually appearing, and that, too, largely in consequence of causes over which, as a mere manager, the employer has no control. A profit so gained cannot be wages of management. It is a purely commercial gain, or a difference between what is paid for something and what is received for it.

Mercantile Profit.—It is best, therefore, to distinguish in some perfectly clear way between that function of the entrepreneur, which consists in buying and selling, and any work that he may find it best to do in the way of superintending the business. At the cost of using the term entrepreneur in a stricter sense than the one customarily attached to it, we will make this word describe the purely mercantile functionary who pays for the elements of a product and then sells the product. The reason for the very division between gains from this source and gains from management we shall soon appreciate, for we shall see that competition tends to reduce one of these incomes to nothing, but tends to perpetuate the other and to make the amount of it conform to a positive standard. The entrepreneur, as we shall use the term, is neither the manager nor the capitalist, and when we have occasion to speak of either of these functionaries, we shall call him by his own distinctive name; though we know perfectly well that, in actual business, it is desirable and often quite essential that the same one who acts as an entrepreneur should also put into the business some labor as well as some capital. A man who performs two unlike functions, buying and selling, on the one hand, and managing the business, on the other, serves in two capacities that are clearly distinguished from each other; while if he furnishes any of the capital, he adds to these a third capacity entitling him to the value of the product of his capital. As a manager he directly aids in producing goods, and he gets pay for so doing from his other self, the entrepreneur, who acquires the title to the goods; as a capitalist he has another legitimate claim upon himself as entrepreneur.

These Distinctions recognized in Practical Accounting.—That this is no bit of mere theoretical subtlety is proved by the fact that the bookkeeping of nearly all establishments distinguishes between these two incomes by actually putting an appraisal on the work the employer does and paying a salary for it. A man may be a large owner of stock in a corporation and yet receive a salary that is fixed by an estimate of what an equally useful man could be hired for. If personal influence secures more for him than this, the excess is taken from the pockets of the stockholders, and the amount of it is accounted for in a way that does not fall within the scope of pure economic law.

How "Natural" Prices exclude Entrepreneur's Profits.—The old and correct view is that the tendency of competition is to make things sell for enough to cover all costs, as we have defined them, and no more. Under a different phraseology this is what Ricardo and others have rightly claimed. They were unconsciously explaining what would happen in a static state, for if society were actually in this state, the goods that come out of the factory would be worth just enough to reimburse the owner for all the outlays that can be called costs. If they sell for more than this, there is to be had from the business an income that costs nothing. It is a net profit above all claims based on personal labor or on the aid furnished by capital, and it furnishes an incentive for enlarging the business, and labor and capital are therefore drawn into it. Entrepreneurs bring them and for a time make a profit by this means; but as their presence increases the output of goods that are here made, it brings down the price till there is no inducement to move any more labor and capital in this direction.

The Significance of a Natural Adjustment of Different Industries.—The "natural" state of general industry is that in which each particular branch of it is in the no-profit state. It is as though laborers and capitalists in a shoe factory took all the shoes that it turns out, sold them in a market, paid for the raw material out of the proceeds, and kept the remainder, dividing it between themselves in proportions which corresponded with the amounts they had severally contributed toward the making of this product; and as though the laborers in cotton mills and iron foundries received the goods there made and dealt with them in a like manner. It is as though in every branch of business the whole product were turned over in kind to the furnishers of labor and capital.

The Entrepreneur a Passive Functionary under Static Conditions.—Purely passive is the function of the entrepreneur under static conditions. In so far as any effect on his income is concerned he might as well reside in a foreign land as in the one where his business is located, provided always that the management were unaffected. When the same man is both entrepreneur and manager, the absence of the first of these functionaries would mean the absence also of the second, and that would cause trouble; but the purely mercantile operation of getting a title to a product and then surrendering it can be carried on as well in one place as in another. The entrepreneur in his capacity of buyer and seller does not even do the work which purchases and sales involve. That is commonly done by agents. Some of it, of course, may be done by the responsible manager himself, and if that person is also the entrepreneur, it follows that he does a part of the commercial labor of his business. In this, however, he goes beyond his function as entrepreneur. In that capacity he does, as we have said, no labor of any kind. Sales and purchases are made in his name, but he does none of the work that leads up to them.[1]

[1] The holders of common stock in a corporation are always entrepreneurs, and they are also capitalists if the stock represents any real capital actually paid in. If the bonds and the preferred stock represent all the real capital that there is, any dividends that may be paid on the common stock are a pure entrepreneur's profit. If, on the other hand, the stock all represents money actually put into the business, the dividends on it contain an element of net profit if they exceed simple interest on the capital and insurance against the risks that are not guarded against by actual insurance policies. If the rate of simple interest is four per cent, and the value of the unavoidable risk is one per cent, then a dividend of six per cent contains a pure entrepreneur's profit of one per cent. In dynamic conditions such a return is often to be expected, and we shall soon study the conditions that afford it.

In the present study we do not need to consider risks, inasmuch as the greater part of them arise from dynamic causes; that is, from the changes and disturbances to which the business world is subject. An invention promises greatly to cheapen the production of some article and, for a time, to insure large returns for the men who first utilize it. A capitalist may be willing to take a risk for the sake of sharing this gain; but in time both the risk and the gain will vanish. The capacity of the new appliances will have to be tested, a market for their output found, etc. A small remainder of risk is still entailed upon the capitalist if he leaves his money in this business. The death of the managing partner, the defaulting of payments for goods sold, the chances of unwise or dishonest conduct on the part of clerks or overseers, always impend over a business, but these dangers are at a minimum when the man who is at the head of the force of managers has capital of his own in the business. Risks are at a static level only when they are thus reduced; and for our present purpose it is best to consider that competition has eliminated the establishments where any recklessness has been shown in the management, and that the unavoidable remainder of risk resolves itself, nearly enough for practical purposes, into a deduction from the product which the surviving establishments turn out in a long period of time. A small percentage of their annual gains, set aside for meeting unavoidable losses, will make good these losses as they occur and leave the businesses in a condition in which they can yield as a steady return to owners of stock, to lenders of further capital, and to laborers all of their real product.

How the Entrepreneur contributes to Production under Dynamic Conditions.—In a dynamic state the entrepreneur emerges from this passive position. He makes the supreme decisions which now and again lead to changes in the business. "Shall we adopt this new machine?" "Shall we make this new product?" "Shall we enter this new market?" are questions which are referred to him, and on the decisions he reaches depends the prospects of profit for the business. This activity is not ordinary labor, but in a true sense it is a productive activity, since it results in placing labor and capital where they can produce more than they have done and more than they could do were it not for the enabling act of the entrepreneur which places them on a vantage ground of superiority. This subject will be discussed in a later chapter and in connection with other phases of economic dynamics.

Values at a Static Level only when Entrepreneurs' Gains are Nil.—Any net profit on an entrepreneur's part means that his product is selling for more than the elements of it have cost him. But this is a condition which, if labor and capital are as mobile as the static hypothesis requires that they should be, will cause this entrepreneur and others to move labor and capital into his industry, thus increasing its output and lowering the selling price of its product. If there is no such action going on, it shows that the entrepreneurs have no incentive for taking it.

Values at a Static Level only when the Gains of Labor in the Different Industries are Equalized.—If labor is creating more in one subgroup than in others, as it often is in a dynamic condition, that fact means that some entrepreneurs are making a profit, and, according to the principle stated in the preceding paragraph, this means that values are not at their static or "natural" level. If, owing to new methods or to some other cause, a given amount of labor[2] in the subgroup that produced the A''' of our table creates an amount of that product which sells for more than the B''' or the C''' which labor of like quantity makes, then the manufacturers of A''' would obviously get a margin of profit. They would not be obliged to pay for labor any more than the market rate, and that, as we shall see, cannot exceed what labor produces in the groups B''' and C'''. In A''' the labor creates more and the employer pockets the difference. In saying this we assume one fact which we undertake later to prove; namely, that there is a definite amount of each product which can be attributed to labor alone as its producer. Capital and labor work together, but each is, in effect, the creator of a certain fraction of their joint product.

[2] In measuring labor we, of course, take account of the quality of the men who perform it, and the work of a skillful man is counted as more units of labor than that of an unskillful one.

Values Static only when the Gains of Capital in Different Industries are Equalized.—If capital is creating more in one industry than in another, there is a margin of profit for the entrepreneurs in the exceptionally productive industry. They pay as interest on the capital they use only the market rate, which is what equal amounts of capital can produce and get elsewhere. If they produce more in the one group, the entrepreneurs there can pocket the excess as they did in the case of the product of labor. We assume that there is everywhere a definite product that can be attributed to capital alone.

Values Normal when Moneys paid out by Entrepreneurs equal Moneys Received.—In the preceding paragraphs we have spoken of exchange values as being static under certain conditions, but we might have expressed the essential fact by saying that prices are static under these conditions since the money a product brings is a true expression of its value. If A''' sells for as many dollars as does B''', the two things exchange for each other. In like manner the product of labor and that of capital may be expressed in terms of money, since the quantities of goods which they respectively make sell for certain sums. Wages and interest are nearly always conceived in terms of money. The commercial mode of computing costs of production and returns from production is to translate them into moneys paid by entrepreneurs and moneys received.

Costs of Production as related to Static Incomes.—What to an entrepreneur are costs are to workmen and capitalists incomes. The one pays out wages and interest, and the others get them; and these two sums are normal when together they equal the prices received for goods produced. The entrepreneur is the universal paymaster, and in a static condition all incomes come from his hand.



CHAPTER VIII

WAGES

The Equilibrium of Industrial Groups.—The different industrial groups are in equilibrium when they attract labor and capital equally, and that occurs when these agents produce as much per unit employed in one group as in another. Such equalized productivity is the bottom fact of a static condition, and equalized pay follows from it. Wages and interest tend to be uniform in all the groups. Efficient labor, of course, gets in any employment more than inefficient; but labor of a given grade gets in all the groups that make up industrial society a uniform rate of pay, and nothing is to be gained by any capitalist or by any laborer by moving from one employment to another. They all therefore stay where they are, not because they cannot move freely if they wish to do so, but because no inducement to move is offered to them. This is a condition of perfect mobility without motion—of atoms ready to move at a touch without the touch that would move them. The paradox indeed holds that it is the ideally perfect mobility which has existed in the past which positively excludes motion in the present. At some time in the past labor and capital have gone from group to group till they have brought about an adjustment in which they have no incentive for moving farther. The surface of a pool of water is kept tranquil, not because the water is not perfectly fluid, but because, in spite of the fact that it can flow with entire freedom in any direction if it is impelled more in that direction than in any other, each particle of it is impelled equally in all directions. It is the perfect equilibrium that keeps the particles from changing their places, and fluidity has caused the equilibrium. In like manner when labor and capital can create and get just as much in one place as in another, they are attracted as strongly in one direction as in another and therefore do not move. A young man of average capacity, who is deliberating upon the choice of an occupation, will find that he can do as well in a cotton mill as he can in a shoe factory, a machine shop, a lumber mill, a flouring mill, or any other industrial establishment requiring his particular grade of capacity. This is the picture of a perfectly static industrial condition. Economic science has to account for values, wages, and interest as they would be in such a condition, however impossible it is that society should ever reach exactly such a state. The values, wages, and interest in a real market are forever tending toward the rates that would be established if the static condition were realized.

The Sign of a Static State.—The sign of the existence of a static condition is, therefore, that labor and capital, though they are perfectly free to move from one employment to another and would actually do so on the slightest inducement, still do not move. They stay where they are because they cannot find places where they can produce the slightest amount in excess of what they now produce, and no employer will anywhere offer any excess above the prevailing rate of pay.

Profits and the Movements they induce the Sign of a Dynamic State.Entrepreneur's profits, when they exist, mean that this equilibrium is disturbed, and when it is so, mobility of labor and capital affords the guaranty that a new equilibrium will be established if no further disturbances follow. As we have said, profits attract labor and capital, increase the output of those goods which yield the profit, and reduce the prices of them to the no-profit level. Workmen and capitalists then get from the entrepreneur as wages and interest all that he gets from the public as the price of his goods, except what he pays for raw materials.[1] In other words, the employer sells his goods at cost.

[1] The entrepreneur of A' of our table must buy the A in order to impart to it that utility which is his own particular contribution. He pays as wages and interest all that he gets for this contribution. The true product of the entrepreneur is not the entire price of the A', but is the difference between that and the price of the A. The entire amount received for the A' resolves itself into wages, interest, and cost of A; but as a rule the price of A resolves itself practically into wages and interest only, and when it does so, all that is paid for the A' ultimately takes these forms. The same is then true of the finished product A'''. The entire price of it is ultimately resolvable into wages and interest; and in speaking of the product of an entire group we do not need to make any reservation for raw materials.

The case in which this statement requires qualification is that in which the material in its rawest state still has value, as is the case with ore and mineral oil contained in the earth but not a true part of land in the economic sense, since they are exhausted in the using. The price of a product into which these elements enter includes something that represents the value which they have in situ and before any labor has been expended on them. It is true even in these cases that the value of the product is measured in terms of wages and interest, provided that the exhaustible elements such as ore, oil, etc., are capable of being replenished, or provided that an effective substitute for them is in process of production by means of labor and capital. The natural raw material is then worth what the artificial substitute costs in terms of capital and labor, and the finished product which contains some of the natural material sells for the amount which the finished product costs, which is made altogether by labor and capital applied to valueless elements in nature.

How Costs are Determined.—The early studies of "natural" values, or values which conform to costs of production, were unconscious and imperfect attempts to attain the laws of value in a static state. In such a state costs resolve themselves into wages and interest, and the conception of such a static state is therefore not complete unless we know how wages and interest themselves are determined. What we have already said implies that they fluctuate about certain standards, just as do the prices of goods, and that they would remain at these standards if society were reduced to a static condition.

Significance of Static Law in a Dynamic State.—An actual society is undergoing constant disturbances. It is very far from being static; and yet values of goods, on the one hand, and the earnings of labor and capital, on the other, hover within a certain distance of the standards which would be realized if the society became static. In spite of active dynamic movements the general returns of labor and capital can never range so far from these theoretical amounts that the distance from them cannot in some way be measured and accounted for. The sea, when gales are blowing and tides are rising and falling, is anything but a static object, and yet it keeps a general level in spite of storms and tides, and the surface of it as a whole is surprisingly near to the ideal mathematical surface that would be presented if all disturbances were to cease. In like manner there are certain influences that are disturbing the economic equilibrium just as storms and tidal waves disturb the equilibrium of the sea. We cannot actually stop these influences any more than we can stay the winds and the lunar attraction; but we can create an imaginary static state for scientific purposes, just as a physicist by a process of calculation can create a hypothetical static condition of the sea and discover the level from which heights and depths should be measured. No more than the economist can he actually bring the subject he is dealing with to a motionless condition. The economic ocean will defy any modern Canute who may try to stop its movements; but it is necessary to know what shape and level it would take if this were done.

Influences that disturb the Static Equilibrium.—The influences that disturb the economic equilibrium are, in general, five. The population of the world increases, and this is one influence which prevents values, wages, and interest from subsiding to perfectly "natural" standards. Capital is increasing, and this influence also acts as a disturbing factor. The methods of producing things change, and the changes have a very powerful effect in preventing the attainment of a static equilibrium. New modes of organizing different industries are coming into vogue, and this causes a further disturbance of the economic adjustment. The wants of men are by no means fixed; they change, multiply, and act on the economic condition of society in a way that affects the static adjustment. Even physical nature undergoes change, and the perishable part of the earth does so in a disquieting way. We are using up much of our natural inheritance. As the effect of this appears chiefly in forcing us to change our processes of production, we shall, for convenience, limit our study to the five changes here enumerated.

Movement Inevitable in the Dynamic State.—These influences reveal their presence by making labor and capital more productive in some places than they are in others, and by causing them ever and anon to move from places of less productiveness to places where gains are greater. As we have said, this moving of labor and capital to and fro is, like currents in the sea, a sign of a dynamic condition. As in the static state these agents would not thus move, however fluid and mobile they might be, so in a dynamic state they are bound to move, because their earning powers do not remain long exactly equal in any two employments, and they go now hither and now yon, as, in the changeful system, openings for increased gains present themselves. If commodities were everywhere selling at cost prices and if wages and interest were everywhere normal and uniform, labor and capital would not move to and fro, and this would be a proof that dynamic influences were absent.

How an Imaginary Static Society is Created.—If we wish to discover to what standard the values of goods, on the one hand, and the rewards of labor and capital, on the other, continually tend to conform, we must create an imaginary society in which population neither increases nor diminishes, in which capital is fixed in amount, in which the method of making goods does not change, in which the mode of organizing industry continues without alteration, and in which the wants of consumers never vary in number, in kind, or in intensity.

Costs of Production in a Static State.—We have said that in such a static state the prices of different products are just high enough to cover the wages and interest which are generally paid. There are uniform or all-around rates of pay for labor and for capital, and every man who hires workmen or gets loans from a bank has to pay them. In the real world, full as it is of disturbances, and given over as it is to forces of change and progress, we find that values, wages, and interest are in general surprisingly near to these standards. In a particular business products may for a time sell for enough to afford a large surplus above prevailing wages and interest, and business as a whole may, for a time, yield some such surplus; but in the absence of monopolistic privileges no one business yields a large surplus for a long time, and still less does business as a whole do so, though profits may always be found somewhere within the system.

The Final Productivity of Labor.—If we assume that the capital of society is a fixed amount, we may perform an imaginary experiment which will show how much labor really produces. We may set men at work, a few at a time, until they are all employed, and we may measure the product of each of the detachments. We should make the different sections of the working force as similar to each other as it is possible to make them and call each section a unit of labor. If there were ten such divisions and if the quantity of capital were sufficient to equip them all on the scale on which laborers are at present actually equipped, it is clear that this amount of capital, when it was lavished on one single section, must have supplied it with instruments of production in nearly inconceivable profusion. What we should to-day regard as a fair complement of capital for a thousand men would nearly glut the wants of a hundred, and yet it is thinkable that it should take such forms that they would be able to use it.

Productivity of the First Unit of Labor.—We will set at work one section which we have called one unit of labor and will put into the hands of its members the whole capital which is designed ultimately to equip the ten sections. It is very clear that the forms that this capital will take cannot be the same that it will have to take when the entire working force is using it. Indeed, we shall have to tax our ingenuity to devise ways in which one unit of labor can utilize the capital that will ultimately be used by ten. The tools and machines will have to be few in number but very costly and perfect. We shall have to resort to every device that will make a machine nearly automatic and cause it to exact very little attention from the person who tends it. The buildings will have to be of the most substantial and durable kind. We shall have to spend money without stint wherever the spending of it will make labor more productive than it would otherwise be. If we do this, however, the product of the labor and its equipment will be a very large one. The industry will succeed in turning out indefinitely more goods than a modern industry actually does, and the reason for it will be that the workmen have capital placed in their hands in unparalleled profusion.

The Product of the Second Unit of Labor.—We will now introduce a second unit of labor, by doubling the number of workers, without changing the amount of the capital. We must, of course, change the forms of the capital, or it cannot be advantageously used by the larger working force. The buildings will have to be larger, and if they are to be erected with about the same amount of capital as was formerly used, they must be built in a cheaper way. Tools of every sort must be more numerous, and this larger number of tools, if it is to represent the same investment of capital that the former number embodied, must also be simpler and cheaper. The whole equipment of capital goods will have to undergo a complete transmutation; but the essential thing is that the amount of the capital should not be changed.

A Provisional Mode of Measuring Capital.—In measuring the amount of the capital we are obliged to use a unit of cost, and in the illustration we have assumed that the cost can be measured in dollars. The productive fund consisted at the outset of a certain number of dollars invested in productive operations. This is only a provisional mode of measuring it. The money spent really represents sacrifice incurred, and we shall find that the only kind of sacrifice that is available for measuring the cost of goods of any kind is that which is incurred by labor. Ultimate measurements of wealth in all its forms have to be made in terms of labor. Such measurements have presented difficulties, and the attempt to make them has led to serious fallacies. We shall see, in due time, how these fallacies can be avoided.

The Law of Diminishing Productivity.—Under these conditions the second unit of labor will add something to the amount that was produced by the first unit, but it will not cause the product to become double what it was. It could not do that unless the capital also were doubled. Each unit of labor is now cooeperating with one half of the original capital, and the total product is less than it would have been if the new labor, on entering the field, had brought with it as full an equipment of productive instruments as was possessed by the labor that preceded it. Adding to the industry a second unit of labor without adding anything to the capital makes the total product somewhat larger, but falls short of doubling it. If we credit to this second unit of labor what it adds to the product that was created before it came into the field, we shall find that it is a certain positive amount, but obviously less than the total product which was realized by the first unit and all the capital. It is even less than a half of the product of the two units using all the capital. Perhaps the first unit of labor, when it used all the capital, created ten units of product; while the two units of labor, using this same original amount of capital, produce sixteen units of product. The clear addition to the original product which is caused by the added labor of the second squad of workmen is only six units, while a half of the total product after the addition to the labor has been made is eight. This figure represents the amount we may attribute to one unit of labor and a half of the total capital, while six represent what is causally due to one unit of bare labor only. With all the capital and one unit of labor we get ten units of product, while the addition of one unit of bare labor brings the total amount up to sixteen. Six units find the cause of their existence in the presence of the second unit of labor, and the second unit therefore shows, as compared with the first, a diminished productivity.

Product of the Third Unit of Labor.—We will now introduce a third unit of labor, leaving the amount of capital still unchanged, but again altering the forms of it so as to adapt them to the needs of a still larger working force. We will make the buildings larger and therefore, of necessity, cheaper in their forms and materials. We will make the tools and machines more numerous and simple, and will do everything that is necessary in order to make the fixed amount of capital—the fund amounting to a given number of "dollars"—embody itself in the number and the kinds of capital goods that are requisite in order to supply three times the original number of workmen. The third unit of labor now adds something to the product realized by the first two, but the addition is smaller than it was in the case of the second unit.

Products of a Series of Units of Labor.—If we continue this process till we have ten units of labor, employing the same amount of capital as was formerly used by one, we shall find that each unit as it begins to work adds less to the previous product than did the unit which preceded it, and that the tenth unit adds the least of all.

Care must be taken not to confound the addition that is made to the product in consequence of the additional working force with the amount which, after the enlargement of the force, is created by the last unit of labor and its pro rata share of the capital. When the tenth unit of labor is working, it is using a tenth of the capital and the two together create a tenth of the product. This is more than the amount which is added to the product by the advent of the tenth unit of labor. That addition is merely the difference between the product of all the capital and nine units of labor and that of all the capital and ten units of labor. This extra product can be attributed entirely to the increment of labor.

It is also carefully to be noted that when the units are all working together, their products are equal and the particular one which happened to arrive last is not less productive than the others. Each one of them is now less productive than each one of the force of nine was under the earlier conditions. In like manner each unit of the nine is less productive than was, in the still earlier period, each unit of the force of eight. At any one period, all units produce the same amount. At any one period, then, what any one unit of labor produces by the aid of its pro rata share of the capital is a larger amount than what each can be regarded as producing by itself. Though one of ten units creates, with the aid of a tenth of the capital, a tenth of the product, of itself it creates less; for we can only regard as its own product what it adds to the product that was creating before it arrived on the scene. It is the bare product of a unit of labor alone that we are seeking to distinguish from other elements in the general output of the industry, and that consists in the difference between what nine units of labor and all the capital can produce, and what ten units of labor and all the capital can produce.

We will consider the amount of capital fixed and let the amount of labor increase along the line AE, and we will let the product of successive units of labor be measured by the vertical distance from the points on the line AE to the descending curve CD. AC is the product of the first unit of labor. The product of later units is measured by lines to the right of AC and parallel with it, which grow shorter as the number of units increases. ED is the product of the last unit. In each case we impute to an increment of labor whatever amount of product its presence adds to that which was created before.

Summary of Essential Facts.—The facts that are to be remembered then are: first, that the capital remains fixed in amount, though the forms of it change as the number of units of labor increases; secondly, that that which we call the product of a unit of labor is what that unit, coming into the field without any capital, can add to the product of the labor and capital that were there before; and thirdly, that this specific product of labor grows smaller as the amount of labor grows larger, rendering the product of the last unit the smallest of all. When the tenth and last unit is working, each one of the nine earlier units is, of itself, producing no more than does the final one, though it formerly produced more because of the larger quota of capital with which it was formerly supplied.



The Test of Final Productivity.—There are now at work ten units of capital and ten of labor, and we cannot go through the process of building up the working force from the beginning. How, then, do we measure the true product of a single unit of labor? By withdrawing that unit, letting the industry go on by the aid of all the capital and one unit of labor the less. Whatever one of the ten units of labor we take away we leave only nine working. If the forms of the capital change so as to allow the nine units to use it advantageously, the product will not be reduced to nine tenths of its former size, but it will still be reduced; and the amount of the diminution measures the amount of product that can be attributed to one unit of bare labor. Or we may add a certain number of workmen to a social force already at work, making no change in the amount of the capital,—though changing its forms,—and see how much additional product we get. That also is a test of final productivity. It gives the same measurement as does the experiment of taking away the little detachment of men and seeing how much the product shrinks. By either process we measure an amount that is attributable altogether to bare labor and not to capital.

The whole area BCD in the diagram is an amount of product that is attributable to capital and not to labor. It represents the total surplus produced by labor and capital over the amount that can be traced to the labor alone. The product of all the capital and all the labor minus ten times the product of a single unit of labor is the amount that is attributable to the productive fund only.

The area ABDE represents this amount. The last unit of labor creates the amount DE and the number of units is represented by the amount AE. All of them are now equally productive and what all create, as apart from what capital creates, is the amount ABDE.

Only the Final Part of this Mode of gathering a Working Force practically resorted To.—The process of building up the working force from a single unit is imaginary. In practical life we see the process only in its final stage. Entrepreneurs do continually have to test the effect of making their working forces a little larger or a little smaller, and in so doing they test the final productivity of labor; and this is all that is necessary. Tracing the process of building up the force of labor unit by unit reveals a law which is important, namely, that of the diminishing productivity of single units of labor as the number of units increases. If we crowd the world full of people but do not proportionately multiply working appliances of every kind, we shall make labor poorer.

Why a Detachment of Laborers rather than One Man is treated as a Unit of Labor.—In making up the force of workers we might have treated each individual as a unit; but we have preferred to call a detachment a unit in order that the symmetry of the force might be preserved. Even though we were studying only a single mill it would have its departments, and it would be desirable that, when we enlarge the force of men, we should be able without difficulty to give to each part of the mill its fair share of the new laborers. If it were a shoe factory, we should need to add lasters, welters, sewers of uppers, etc., in a certain proportionate way, in order that one part of the mill might not get ahead of another and pile up unfinished products faster than they could be taken and completed.

In the last analysis the law applies to the industry of all society. The final unit in the case consists of shoemakers, cotton spinners, builders, foundrymen, miners, cultivators, etc., and of men of all subtrades included in the general callings. As the composite detachments come into the field, they apportion themselves among all the occupations that are represented, and that too in nicely adjusted proportions. We shall see in due time how this adjustment of the several shares of the social force of laborers is practically made.

The Law of Final Productivity Applicable to the Labor of Society.—The law of final productivity applies to every mill, shop, or mine separately considered. If its capital remains fixed in amount, units of labor produce less and less as they become more numerous. The product of any unit at any one time may be measured by taking it away and seeing how much the output of the establishment is reduced. The law, however, applies to all the mills, shops, mines, etc., considered as a social complex of working establishments. As the working society grows larger without growing richer in the aggregate, the power of labor to produce goods of all kinds grows less. At any one time this producing power is measured by taking away from every working establishment a number of its operatives and ascertaining how much less is produced after the withdrawal. Such a test on the social scale is never made consciously. Each employer can test in an approximate way the effect of reducing his own force, and the effect of gradually enlarging it, and there are influences at work which result in enlarging one industry when others are enlarged and in causing the final productivity of labor to be uniform in all. A shoe manufacturer can tell, in a general way, how much an extra man or two will be worth to him. It is possible to ascertain by experience about what number of shoes that additional labor will, in a year, add to the output of the shoe factory or the number of tons of steel it will add to the present annual output of a furnace. When these products vary in the case of different shops, the men are called to the points where the apparent additions are largest, and the constant tendency is toward a level of productive power. The building up of an imaginary force from the beginning presents, in a clear and emphatic way, the fact that the specific productivity of labor grows less as, other things remaining the same, workers become more numerous. We should know on a priori grounds that this must be the fact; but we can verify it by observation and statistical inquiry. Where men are numerous and land and tools are scarce, labor is comparatively unproductive; and it is highly productive where land and tools are plentiful. There is no doubt that crowding the world full of people, without providing the world with capital in a proportionate way, would impoverish everybody whose income depends on labor.

The Law of Wages.—Even though labor creates the amount ABDE, it is not yet perfectly clear that it will be able to get that amount. For aught we now know the entrepreneur may keep some of it, and for aught we know he may keep some of the quantity BCD which is distinctly the product of capital. Let us see whether he can in reality withhold any part of ABDE, which is the product of labor.



Wages under Perfect Competition.—In the static state that we have assumed, competition works without let or hindrance. It does not work thus in the actual world, and we shall in due time take account of the obstacles it encounters; but what we are now studying is the standards to which such competition as there is—and it is in reality very active—is tending to make wages conform. We want to know what would happen in case this competition encountered no hindrance at all. This would require that a workman should be able to set employers bidding against each other for his services just as actively as an employer can make laborers bid against each other in selling their services. If this were the case, every unit of labor could get what it produces, no more and no less. Even a single man, offering himself to one employer after another, would virtually carry in his hands a potential product for sale. His coming to any man's mill would mean more goods turned out in a year by the mill; and if one employer would not pay him for them at their market value, another one would. The final unit of social labor can get, under perfectly free competition, the value of whatever things that labor, considered apart from capital, brings into existence. Moreover, each unit of labor by itself alone now produces, as we have seen, the same amount of commodity as the final unit, and can get the price of it. Now that they are all working together each one of them can place itself in the position of the final unit by leaving its present employment and offering its services elsewhere.

Wages regarded as Prices of Fractional Products adjusted by Perfect Competition.—Under the hypothesis of perfect competition, as the term has been used in our discussion, the venders of goods can get their market values. These values are fixed by the final utility law. Free competition means, then, not only that any average laborer who offers himself for hire virtually carries in his hands a potential but definite product for sale, but that he may confidently offer it at the price that is fixed by its final utility. Like other venders, the laborer can get the true value of his product and he can get no more. In an ideally perfect society organized on the competitive plan a man would be as dependent on his own productive power as he would be if he were alone in a wilderness. His pay would be his product; but that would be indefinitely larger than it could be in a wilderness or in any primitive state. The capital of other men and the organization that they maintain enable a worker to create and get far more than he could if he lived alone, even though, like Crusoe, he were monarch of his whole environment. It would be a losing bargain for the worker to surrender the product of mere labor in a state of civilization in exchange for what both labor and capital create in a state of savagery.



CHAPTER IX

THE LAW OF INTEREST

The product of the final unit of labor—an amount which in practice is measured without any tracing of the previous growth of the working force—sets the standard of the rate of wages. We have now to see that the rate of interest has a similar basis; and yet it is worth while to build up, wholly in imagination, a fund of capital, just as we have made up the force of laborers, increment by increment. This will have the incidental effect of illustrating another way in which wages may be determined.

Interest as a Residual Amount.—The area BCD in our former figure represents the difference between the total product of an industry and the wages paid to laborers. If there is no net profit accruing to the entrepreneur, this area must represent interest. It is what is left for the capitalist on the supposition that he and the laborer together get all that there is. If the goods sell for what they cost, this must be the fact, and the amount represented by BCD has thus to go to capital, since, by a rule of exclusion, it cannot go to the entrepreneur nor to the laborer. The mill and its contents earn for their operator nothing but simple interest on the money they have cost. Paying the laborers discharges the first claim on the product, and there then remains only enough of the product to pay the remaining claim, that of capital.

The question still remains to be answered, how the capitalist, if he is a different person from the entrepreneur, or operator of the mill, can make this functionary pay over to him all that he has in his hands after paying the wages of labor.

The Importance of the Residuum.—The above reasoning does not satisfactorily show what influence the capitalist can use to make the entrepreneur pay over to him the entire amount of the residuum. It shows that after paying wages the entrepreneur will have a certain amount left, but it is not thus far clear how the capitalist can get it from him. The fact that the laborers get only the amount represented by ABDE and that the whole amount is ACDE does, however, at least show that the entrepreneur has the amount BCD left in his hands, and that he is able to pay this amount to the capitalist if by any appeal to competition the capitalist is able to make him do it.

Interest not determined Residually.—The fact is that the interest on capital is fixed exactly as are the wages of labor.

We will let another figure represent the entire product of the same amount of labor and the same amount of capital that were represented in the former case. We will assume that there is at the outset a complete force of laborers, and that no men are added to it or taken from it; but we will gradually introduce units of capital instead of units of labor as in the former case. The amount of capital is now represented by the line A'E' and the product of the first unit of it by the line A'C'. The product of the successive units declines along the curve C'D'. The final unit of capital then brings into existence the amount of wealth represented by E'D'. As every other unit now produces the same amount, the capital as a whole creates the quantity represented by A'B'D'E' and every unit of it makes its own separate contribution to that amount. In this we have simply applied to capital and its earnings the principle we formerly applied to labor and its earnings.



General Form of the Law of Final Productivity.—This principle is the law of final productivity, one of those universal principles which govern economic life in all its stages of evolution. Either one of the two agents of industry, used in increasing quantities in connection with a fixed amount of the other agent, is subject to a law of diminishing returns. The final unit of the increasing agent produces less than did the earlier units in the series. This does not mean that at any one time one unit produces less than another, for at any one time all are equally productive. It means that the tenth unit produces less than the ninth did when there were only nine in use, and that the ninth unit formerly produced less than the eighth did in that still earlier stage of the process in which there were only eight in use, etc. If the productive wealth of the United States were only five hundred dollars per capita instead of more than twice that amount, interest would be higher than it is, because the productive power of every dollar's worth of capital would be more than the productive power of each dollar's worth is now; and, on the other hand, if we continue to pile up fortunes, great and small, till there are in the country two thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child of the population, interest will fall, because the productive power of a dollar's worth will become less than it now is.

How Competition fixes Interest.—We can now see how it is that the capitalist can make the entrepreneur pay over to him the amount left in his hands after paying wages. Every unit of capital that any one offers for hire has a productive power. It can call into existence a certain amount of goods. The offer of it to any entrepreneur is virtually an offer of a fresh supply of the kinds of goods which he is making for sale. Loaning ten thousand dollars to a woolen manufacturer is really selling him the amount of cloth that ten thousand dollars put into his equipment will bring into existence. Loaning a hundred thousand dollars to the manufacturer of steel, so as to enable him in some way to perfect his equipment, is virtually selling him the number of additional tons of steel, ingots, or rails that he can make by virtue of this accession to his plant.

The Significance of Free Competition.—Now, the tender of capital may be made to any entrepreneur in a particular industry, and the existence of free competition between these entrepreneurs implies that a lender of capital can get from one or another of them the whole value of the product that this capital is able to create. A unit of capital in the steel business can produce n tons of steel in a year, and if one employer will not pay the price of n tons for the loan of it, another will. This, indeed, implies an absolutely free competition; but that is the condition of the problem we have first to solve. When we know what ideally active competition will do, we can measure the effects of the obstructions that, in practice, competition actually encounters.

Competition for Capital among Different Industries.—The capitalist can invoke the aid of competition outside of the limits of one particular business. He may offer his loan to steel makers, to woolen manufacturers, cotton spinners, silk weavers, shoemakers, etc. Within each one of these industries perfect competition between the different employers will give him the value of the product which, in that business, his capital is able to create. If, however, what in this way he offers to men in one occupation is worth more than what he offers to men in another line,—if capital is worth more to steel makers than it is to cotton spinners,—he will find a market for his capital in the former industry; and this process of seeking out the employment in which capital is the more productive and there bestowing the loans of capital, will go on until every such local excess of productive power is removed and capital can produce as much wealth in one business as it can in another. Everywhere capital will then be both producing and receiving the same amount, and general interest will everywhere be determined by the final productivity principle acting all through the business world.

When Interest as Directly Determined equals Interest as Residually Measured.—The area BCD of the first figure measures what the entrepreneur has left after paying wages. This amount and no more he can pay as interest, and he will pay it if he has to. The area A'B'D'E' of the second figure represents what he must pay as interest; and we can now see that, if competition is perfectly free, this amount equals the amount BCD of the first figure. If, after paying wages, there is any more left in the entrepreneur's hands than competition compels him to pay out as interest, he is realizing a net profit; he is selling his goods for more than they cost him, and this, as we saw at the outset, is a condition that under perfect competition cannot continue. The natural price of goods is the cost price. If the market price of anything is in excess of cost, entrepreneurs receive a profit, and in order to do more business and make a larger aggregate of such profit they bring new labor and capital into their industry. The increased output lowers prices, and the excess of gain is thus taken from the entrepreneur. If BCD is smaller than A'B'D'E', the entrepreneur incurs a loss and will curtail his business and let some labor and capital go where they can produce more.

Taking this remainder of income from the entrepreneur by means of an addition to the output of goods and a reduction of the price of them does not annihilate the income, but bestows it on other recipients; for the reduction in price which destroys an employer's profit can come only in a way that benefits consumers. It means that enlarged production of which we have just spoken, which scatters more goods throughout the community and insures an addition to the real incomes of both laborers and permanent investors.

Effect of Perfect Mobility of Labor and Capital.—Perfect mobility of labor and capital insures that the residuum in the entrepreneur's hands after wages are paid shall all be made over to the capitalist. We encounter here again the static law that, with competition working without let or hindrance, the entrepreneur as such can keep nothing for himself; though if he is also a worker he will get wages, and if he is also a capitalist he will get interest. His business will pay wages on all kinds of labor, including that of management, and interest on all capital, including his own. A net gain above all this it will not afford, and whatever the entrepreneur has left after paying wages he will have to use in paying interest, and vice versa. Laborers and owners of capital have, as it were, to take each others' leavings. Such is the situation in an ideally static condition, though we shall see how it is changed in actual and progressive society.

The area BCD of the first figure is, under static conditions, exactly equal to the area A'B'D'E' of the second figure, because ACDE represents the whole product, BCD in the first figure represents all that is left of it after wages, measured by ABDE, are paid; and we know by evidence both theoretical and practical that the capitalist, whose share is directly expressed by A'B'D'E' of the second figure, can claim and get the whole of this amount.

Wages as a Residuum.—It is clear that the same reasoning applies to wages. In the second figure they are represented as a residuum. The area B'C'D' represents what the entrepreneur has left after paying interest, and nobody can get this amount but the wage earner. The reason, however, why the wage earner can get it is that free competition will give him the amount ABDE of the first figure, and this, under perfectly static conditions, must equal B'C'D' of the second. Under perfect competition the entrepreneur cannot have any of the amount B'C'D' left in his hands after meeting the claims that the wage earner makes on him. On the other hand, he must have enough left to pay interest, since otherwise he would be incurring a loss, and that could not fail to force him and others who are in the same situation to contract their operations or go out of business. If the output of goods is reduced, either by the retirement of some employers or the curtailment of product by all, the price of what continues to be sold will be raised to the point at which wages and interest can be paid.

Wages and Interest both adjusted at Social Margins of Production.—It is to be noted that wages and interest are fixed at the social margin of production, which means that they equal what labor and capital respectively can produce by adding themselves to the forces already at work in the general field of employment. In making the supposition that, owing to some disturbing fact, a particular entrepreneur has not enough after paying wages to pay interest, we assume that the rate of interest is fixed, in this way, in the general field and not merely in his establishment.

If B'C'D' were larger than ABDE, the entrepreneur would be selling goods for more than cost and realizing a net profit, which he cannot do in a static state; but a pure profit is not only possible but actual in a dynamic state.

In actual business total returns represented by ACDE amount to more than the sum represented by ABDE (wages) plus A'B'D'E' (interest). There are conditions that in practical life are continually bringing this to pass in different lines of business, though not in all of them at once. The real world is dynamic and therefore the true net profit, or the share of the entrepreneur in the strict sense of the term, is a positive quantity. This income is always determined residually. It is a remainder and nothing else. It is what is left when wages and interest are paid out of the general product. To the entrepreneur comes the price of the products that an industry creates. Out of this he pays wages and interest, and very often he has something remaining. There is no way of determining this profit except as a remainder. The return from the sale of the product is a positive amount fixed by the final utility principle. Wages and interest are positive amounts, and each of them is fixed by the final productivity principle. The difference between the first amount and the sum of the two others is profit, and it is never determined in any other way than by subtracting outgoes from a gross income. It is the only share in distribution that is so determined. Entrepreneur's profits and residual income are synonymous terms. In the static state no such residual income exists, but from a dynamic society it is never absent. Every entrepreneur makes some profits or losses, and in society as a whole the profits greatly predominate.

Summary of Facts concerning a Static Adjustment of Wages.—We know then that in any industry wages and interest absorb the whole product, because any deviation from that rule in a particular group is corrected in the way above mentioned. Moreover, general wages and interest, as determined by the law of final productivity, must equal those incomes when they are determined residually. The area of the rectangular portion of one of the foregoing figures must equal the area of the three-sided part of the other. The question arises why all entrepreneurs might not get a uniform profit at once. This would not lure any labor or capital from one group or subgroup to another. If, after paying wages and interest at market rates, the entrepreneurs in each industry have anything left, the entire labor and capital are producing more than they get and there is an inducement to managers and capitalists to withdraw from their present employers and become entrepreneurs on their own account. Such an entrepreneur entering the field, drawing marginal labor and capital away from the entrepreneurs who are already there and combining them in a new establishment, can make them produce more than he will have to pay them and pocket the difference. If such a condition were realized, there would be a gain in starting new enterprises, since luring away marginal agents and combining them in new establishments would always be profitable. When we introduce into the problem dynamic elements we shall see that centralization, which makes shops larger instead of smaller, makes industries more productive, and that what happens when net profits appear is more often the enlarging of one establishment than the creation of new ones. Entrepreneurs in the large establishments can afford to resist the effort made by others to lure away any of the labor or capital which they are employing, and they will do this for the sake of retaining their profits. They can do it by bidding against each other, in case any of them are making additions to their mills or shops, and also by bidding against any new employers who may appear. Perfect competition requires that this bidding for labor and capital shall continue up to the profit-annihilating point. Here, as elsewhere in the purely static part of the discussion, we have to make assumptions that are rigorously theoretical and put out of view in a remorseless way disturbing elements which appear in real life. The static state requires that all entrepreneurs who survive the sharp tests of competition should have equally productive establishments, which means that they should all be able to get the same amount of product from a given amount of labor and capital. The actual fact is that differences of productive power still survive. There are some small establishments which, within the little spheres in which they act, are as productive as large ones; but there are also some which are struggling hopelessly against large rivals in the general market and are destined erelong to give up the contest. In other words, the centralizing and leveling effects of competition are approximated but never completely realized in actual life.

A fact that it is well to note is that the test of final productivity is inaccurately made when unduly large amounts of labor and capital are made the basis of the measurement. Take away, for instance, a quarter of the working force, estimate the reduction of the product which this withdrawal occasions, and attribute this loss entirely to the labor which has been taken away, and you estimate it too highly. With so large a section of the labor withdrawn the capital would work at a disadvantage, and a part of the reduction of the product would be due to this fact. If we should take away all the labor, the capital would be completely paralyzed, and the product would become nil. It would obviously be inaccurate to say that the whole product is attributable to the labor, on the ground that withdrawing the labor annihilates it all. With any large part of the labor treated as a single unit, the loss of product occasioned by a withdrawal of such a unit is more than can be accurately imputed to it as its specific product. The smaller the increments or units are made, the less important is this element of inaccuracy, and it becomes a wholly negligible quantity when they become very small. A study of the forms of the productivity curves will show that if we take as the increment of labor used in making the test only a tenth of the whole force, we exaggerate the product imputable to it by a very minute fraction, say by less than a one-hundredth part; and if we take a hundredth of the labor as a final unit, we exaggerate the product that is solely attributable to it by an amount so minute that it is of no consequence in practice or in any theory that tries to be applicable to practice.

A question may be raised as to whether we are correct in saying that the entrepreneur's profit is residual, in view of the fact that the entire product of a business is at the mercy of the management, so that a bad manager may reduce it or a good one may increase it. It may be further claimed that that part of the management of a business which consists in making the most far-reaching decisions cannot safely be intrusted to a salaried superintendent or other paid official and must get its returns, if at all, in the form of profits. Even in this case the gains are secured by making the gross return, which is the minuend in the case, large, leaving the two subtrahends, wages and interest, unchanged, and thus creating a remainder or residuum. We shall later see to what extent entrepreneurs do in fact create the profits that come to them.

The complete static conception of society requires that no entrepreneur should be left in the field who cannot continue indefinitely to hold his own against the competition of his rivals, and this requires essential equality of productive power on the part of all of them. It is not necessary, however, that all should operate upon an equal scale of magnitude, for an interesting feature of modern life is the need of many small productive establishments that cater to local demands and to wants which, without being local, call for only a few articles of a kind. Repairs, small orders, and peculiar orders are executed more cheaply in small establishments, and they survive under the very rule of essential equality of productive power which static conditions require. For catering to the general market and producing staple goods the large establishment has a decisive advantage, and this insures the centralization which is the marked feature of recent industrial life.



CHAPTER X

RENT

The Term "Rent" as Historically Used.—The word rent has a striking history. The science of political economy first took shape in a country in which direct employers of labor were not, as a rule, the owners of much land. Farmers, merchants, and many manufacturers hired land and furnished only the auxiliary capital which was necessary in order to utilize it. In a practical way the earnings of land were thus separated from those of capital in other forms, since they went to a different class of persons; and in the thought of the people the charges made for the use of mere ground came to constitute a unique kind of income. If, during the last century, the land in England had been a highly mercantile commodity, and if it had been the common practice of entrepreneurs not to hire it but to buy and own it, as they bought and owned all other industrial instruments, there is little probability that land would have been considered, either in practical thought or in science, as a thing to be as broadly distinguished as it has been from all other capital goods. A business man would have measured his permanent fund of capital in pounds sterling and would have included in the amount whatever he had invested in land. As in America any representation of the capital of a corporation includes the sums invested in every productive way, and this includes the value of all land that the company holds, so in England, under a similar system of conducting business, any statement of the amount of a particular business capital would have included the whole of the productive wealth embarked in the enterprise; and in any statement of the forms of it there would have appeared, besides a list of all tools, buildings, unfinished goods, and the like, a schedule of the prices of land that the company owned and used. In "putting capital into his business" a man might buy land, in "withdrawing his capital" he might sell it; and the land in the interim would be the obvious embodiment of this part of his fund. The fact, then, that land was owned by one class of persons and let to another for hire, and that the lessees were the entrepreneurs or users of it, caused practical thought and speech to put land in a class by itself.

The Origin of the Theory of Rent.—Scientific thought powerfully strengthened this tendency. At a very early date a formula was attained for measuring the rent of land, while no satisfactory formula was, then or for a long time afterward, discovered for measuring the amount of interest. Men contented themselves with saying that the rate of interest depends on demand and supply. In the case of the rent of land the same thing might have been said, but here such a statement was not mentally satisfying, and investigators tried to ascertain why demand and supply so act as to fix the income that land yields at a certain definable amount.

The Traditional Formula for Rent.—The formula which has long been accepted as measuring the rent of a piece of land, though it bears the name of Ricardo, grew into shape under the hands of several earlier writers. In its best form of statement this principle asserts that "the rent of a piece of land is the product that can be realized by applying labor and capital to it, minus the product that can be realized by applying the same amount of labor and capital to land of the poorest grade that is in cultivation at all." The quantity of the poorest land must be left indefinite, and all that the given amount of labor and capital can economically utilize must be left at their disposal. It would not do to say that the rent of an acre of good land equals its product less that of an acre of the poorest land in cultivation tilled with the same expenditure of labor and capital. If we should select a bit of wheat land in England tilled at a large outlay in the way of work, fertilizers, drains, etc., and try the experiment of putting the same amount of labor and capital on a piece of equal size in the remotest part of Canada, we should find that, so far from securing wheat enough to pay the bills that we should incur in the way of wages and interest, we should not have enough to help us greatly in the defraying of these costs, and the cultivation of this piece of land would be a losing venture. Instead of being no-rent land, yielding merely wages and interest for the labor and capital used in connection with it, it would be minus-rent land, deducting something from the earnings which the agents combined with it might elsewhere secure. In order to utilize such land at all, one must till it in what is termed an extensive rather than an intensive way, putting a small amount rather than a large amount of work and expenditure on it. By tilling ten acres of a remote and sterile farm with as much labor and other outlay as a very good acre of land in England receives, one can perhaps get enough to pay the required wages and interest. In general no-rent land is commonly utilized in an extensive way and very good land in an intensive way; and in stating the old formula for rent we need to be careful to make it mean that the rent of the good piece is its total product less the product that can be had by taking from the good piece the labor and capital it now absorbs and setting them at work on a piece of the poorest land which is enough larger than the good one to enable us to secure a crop which will be worth just the amount of wages and interest we must pay. The larger size of the poor piece of land is an essential condition.

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