NATURE AND PROGRESS OF RENT
NATURE AND PROGRESS OF RENT
Edited by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo @yahoo.com
THE NATURE AND PROGRESS
PRINCIPLES BY WHICH IT IS REGULATED.
THE REV. T. R. MALTHUS
_Professor of History and Political Economy In the East India College
PRINTED FOR JOHN MURRAY ALBEMARLE STREET.
The following tract contains the substance of some notes on
rent which with others on different subjects relating to
political economy I have collected in the course of my
professional duties at the East India College. It has been my
intention at some time or other to put them in a form for
publication; and the very near connection of the subject of the
present inquiry with the topics immediately under discussion
has induced me to hasten its appearance at the present moment. It
is the duty of those who have any means of contributing to the
public stock of knowledge not only to do so but to do it at the
time when it is most likely to be useful. If the nature of the
disquisition should appear to the reader hardly to suit the form
of a pamphlet my apology must be that it was not originally
intended for so ephemeral a shape.
The rent of land is a portion of the national revenue which
has always been considered as of very high importance.
According to Adam Smith it is one of the three original
sources of wealth on which the three great divisions of society
By the Economists it is so pre-eminently distinguished that
it is considered as exclusively entitled to the name of riches
and the sole fund which is capable of supporting the taxes of the
state and on which they ultimately fall.
And it has perhaps a particular claim to our attention at
the present moment on account of the discussions which are going
on respecting the corn laws and the effects of rent on the price
of raw produce and the progress of agricultural improvement.
The rent of land may be defined to be that portion of the
value of the whole produce which remains to the owner of the
land after all the outgoings belonging to its cultivation of
whatever kind have been paid including the profits of the
capital employed estimated according to the usual and ordinary
rate of the profits of agricultural stock at the time being.
It sometimes happens that from accidental and temporary
circumstances the farmer pays more or less than this; but this
is the point towards which the actual rents paid are constantly
gravitating and which is therefore always referred to when the
term is used in a general sense.
The immediate cause of rent is obviously the excess of price
above the cost of production at which raw produce sells in the
The first object therefore which presents itself for inquiry
is the cause or causes of the high price of raw produce.
After very careful and repeated revisions of the subject I
do not find myself able to agree entirely in the view taken of
it either by Adam Smith or the Economists; and still less by
some more modern writers.
Almost all these writers appear to me to consider rent as too
nearly resembling in its nature and the laws by which it is
governed the excess of price above the cost of production which
is the characteristic of a monopoly.
Adam Smith though in some parts of the eleventh chapter of
his first book he contemplates rent quite in its true light(1)
and has interspersed through his work more just observations on
the subject than any other writer has not explained the most
essential cause of the high price of raw produce with sufficient
distinctness though he often touches on it; and by applying
occasionally the term monopoly to the rent of land without
stopping to mark its more radical peculiarities he leaves the
reader without a definite impression of the real difference
between the cause of the high price of the necessaries of life
and of monopolized commodities.
Some of the views which the Economists have taken of the
nature of rent appear to me in like manner to be quite just;
but they have mixed them with so much error and have drawn such
preposterous and contradictory conclusions from them that what
is true in their doctrines has been obscured and lost in the
mass of superincumbent error and has in consequence produced
little effect. Their great practical conclusion namely the
propriety of taxing exclusively the net rents of the landlords
evidently depends upon their considering these rents as
completely disposable like that excess of price above the cost
of production which distinguishes a common monopoly.
M. Say in his valuable treatise on political economy in
which he has explained with great clearness many points which
have not been sufficiently developed by Adam Smith has not
treated the subject of rent in a manner entirely satisfactory. In
speaking of the different natural agents which as well as the
land co-operate with the labours of man he observes
'Heureusement personne n'a pu dire le vent et le soleil
m'appartiennent et le service qu'ils rendent doit m'etre
paye.'(2) And though he acknowledges that for obvious reasons