Ruskin, John, 1819-1900 . Unto this last : four essays on the first principles of political economy
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NOTES



14. Book I. chap. iv. s. 1. To save space, my future references to Mr Mill's work will be by numerals only, as in this instance, I. iv. I. Ed. in 2 vols. 8vo. Parker, 1848.

15. If Mr Mill had wished to show the difference in result between consumption and sale, he should have represented the hardware merchant as consuming his own goods instead of selling them; similarly, the silver merchant as consuming his own goods instead of welling them. Had he done this, he would have made his position clearer, though less tenable; and perhaps this was the position he really intended to take, tacitly involving his theory, elsewhere stated, and shown in the sequel of this paper to be false, that demand for commodities is not demand for labour. But by the most diligent scrutiny of the paragraph now under examination, I cannot determine whether it is a fallacy pure and simple, or the half of one fallacy supported by the whole of a greater one; so that I treat it here on the kinder assumption that it is one fallacy only.

16. I take Mr Helps' estimate in his essay on War.

17. Also when the wrought silver vases of Spain were dashed to fragments by our custom-house officers, because bullion might be imported free of duty, but not brains, was the axe that broke them productive? -- the artist who wrought them unproductive? Or again. If the woodman's axe is productive, is the executioner's? as also, if the hemp of a cable be productive, does not the productiveness of hemp in a halter depend on its moral more than on its material application?

18. Filigree: that is to say, generally, ornament dependent on complexity, not on art.

19. These statements sound crude in their brevity; but will be found of the utmost importance when they are developed. Thus, in the above instance, economists have never perceived that disposition to buy is a wholly moral element in demand: that is to say, when you give a man half-a-crown, it depends on his disposition whether he is rich or poor with it -- whether he will buy disease, ruin, and hatred, or buy health, advancement, and domestic love. And thus the agreeableness or exchange value of every offered commodity depends on production, not merely of the commodity, but of buyers of it; therefore on the education of buyers, and on all the moral elements by which their disposition to buy this, or that, is formed. I will illustrate and expand into final consequences every one of these definitions in its place: at present they can only be given with extremest brevity; for in order to put the subject at once in a connected form before the reader, I have thrown into one, the opening definitions of four chapters; namely, of that on Value ("Ad Valorem"); on Price ("Thirty Pieces"); on Production ("Demeter"); and on Economy ("The Law of the House").

20. Perhaps it may be said, in farther support of Mr Ricardo, that he meant, "when the utility is constant or given, the price varies as the quantity of labour." If he meant this, he should have said it; but, had he meant it, he could have hardly missed the necessary result, that utility would be one measure of price (which he expressly denies it to be); and that, to prove saleableness, he had to prove a given quantity of utility, as well as a given quantity of labour: to wit, in his own instance, that the deer and fish would each feed the same number of men, for the same number of days, with equal pleasure to their palates. The fact is, he did not know what he meant himself. The general idea which he had derived from commercial experience, without being able to analyze it, was, that when the demand is constant, the price varies as the quantity of labour required for production; or, -- using the formula I gave in last paper -- when y is constant, x y varies as x. But demand never is, nor can be, ultimately constant, if x varies distinctly; for, as price rises, consumers fall away; and as soon as there is a monopoly (and all scarcity is a form of monopoly; so that every commodity is affected occasionally by some colour of monopoly), y becomes the most influential condition of the price. Thus the price of a painting depends less on its merits than on the interest taken in it by the public; the price of singing less on the labour of the singer than the number of persons who desire to hear him; and the price of gold less on the scarcity which affects it in common with cerium or iridium, than on the sunlight colour and unalterable purity by which it attracts the admiration and answers the trust of mankind.

   It must be kept in mind, however, that I use the word "demand" in a somewhat different sense from economists usually. They mean by it "the quantity of a thing sold." I mean by it "the force of the buyer's capable intention to buy." In good English, a person's "demand" signifies, not what he gets, but what he asks for.

   Economists also do not notice that objects are not valued by absolute bulk or weight, but by such bulk and weight as is necessary to bring them into use. They say, for instance, that water bears no price in the market. It is true that a cupful does not, but a lake does; just as a handful of dust does not, but an acre does. And were it possible to make even the possession of the cupful or handful permanent, (i.e. to find a place for them,) the earth and sea would be bought up for handfuls and cupfuls.



21. Compare George Herbert, The Church Porch, Staza 28.

22. "ὁ Ζεύς δήπου πἑνεται." -- Arist. Plut. 582. It would but weaken the grad words to lean on the preceding ones: -- " ὅτι του̑ Πλούτου παρέχω βελτίονας ἄνδραϛ, καὶ τήν γνώμης, καὶ τήν ἱδέαν."

23. Zech. v. ii.

24. Labour which is entirely good of its kind, that is to say, effective, or efficient, the Greeks called "weighable," or ἄξιοϛ, translated usually "worthy," and because thus substantial and true, they called its price τιμή, the "honourable estimate" of it (honorarium): this word being founded on their conception of true labour as a divine thing, to be honoured with the kind of honour given to the gods; whereas the price of false labour, or of that which led away from life, was to be, not honour, but vengeance; for which they reserved another word, attributing the exaction of such price to a peculiar goddess, called Tisiphone, the "requiter (or quittance-taker) of death"; a person versed in the highest branches of arithmetic, and punctual in her habits; with whom accounts current have been opened also in modern days.

25. The most accurately nugatory labour is, perhaps, that of which not enough is given to answer a purpose effectually, and which, therefore, has all to be done over again. Also, labour which fails of effect through non-co-operation. The cure of a little village near Bellinzona, to whom I had expressed wonder that the peasants allowed the Ticino to flood their fields, told me that they would not join to build an effectual embankment high up the valley, because everybody said "that would help his neighbours as much as himself." So every proprietor built a bit of low embankment about his own field; and the Ticino, as soon as it had a mind, swept away and swallowed all up together.

26. Observe, I say, rearing," not "begetting." The praise is in the seventh season, not in σπορητός, nor in φυταλία, but in ὀπώρα. It is strange that men always praise enthusiastically any person who, by a momentary exertion, saves a life; but praise very hesitatingly a person who, by exertion and self-denial prolonged through years, creates one. We give the crown "ob civem servatum"; -- why not "ob civem natum?" Born, I mean, to the full, in soul as well as body. England has oak enough, I think, for both chaplets.

27. When Mr Mill speaks of productive consumption, he only means consumption which results in increase of capital, or material wealth. See I. iii. 4, and I. iii. 5.

28. So also in the vision of the women bearing the ephah, before quoted, "the wind was in their wings," not wings "of a stork," as in our version; but "milvi," of a kite, in the Vulgate, or perhaps more accurately still in the Septuagint, "hoopoe," a bird connected typically with the power of riches by many traditions, of which that of its petition for a crest of gold is perhaps the most interesting. The "Birds" of Aristophanes, in which its part is principal, are full of them; note especially the "fortification of the air with baked bricks, like Babylon," I. 550; and, again, compare the Plutus of Dante, who (to show the influence of riches in destroying the reason) is the only one of the powers of the Inferno who cannot speak intelligibly and also the cowardliest; he is not merely quelled or restrained, but literally "collapses" at a word; the sudden and helpless operation of mercantile panic being all told in the brief metaphor, "as the sails, swollen with the wind, fall, when the mast breaks."

29. The value of raw material, which has, indeed, to be deducted from the price of the labour, is not contemplated in the passages referred to, Mr. Mill having fallen into the mistake solely by pursuing the collateral results of the payment of wages to middlemen. He says" The consumer does not, with his own funds, pay the weaver for his day's work. "Pardon me; the consumer of the velvet pays the weaver with his own funds as much as he pays the gardener. He pays, probably, an intermediate ship-owner, velvet merchant, and shopman; pays carriage money, shop rent, damage money, time money, and care money; all these are above and beside the velvet price, (just as the wages of a head gardener would be above the grass price). but the velvet is as much produced by the consumer's capital, though he does not pay for it till six months after production, as the grass is produced by his capital, though he does not pay the man who mowed and rolled it on Monday, till Saturday afternoon. I do not know if Mr. Mill's conclusion, -- "the capital cannot be dispensed with, the purchasers can " (p. 98), has yet been reduced to practice in the City on any large scale.

30. Which, observe, is the precise opposite of the one under examination. The hardware theory required us to discharge our gardeners and engage manufacturers; the velvet theory requires us to discharge our manufacturers and engage gardeners.

31. It is one very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe that it is entirely capitalists' wealth which supports unjust wars. Just wars do not need so much money to support them; for most of the men who wage such, wage them gratis; but for an unjust war, men's bodies and souls have both to be bought; and the best tools of war for them besides; which makes such war costly to the maximum; not to speak of the cost of base fear, and angry suspicion, between nations which have not grace nor honesty enough in all their multitudes to buy an hour's peace of mind with: as, at present, France and England, purchasing of each other ten millions sterling worth of consternation annually, (a remarkably light crop, half thorns and half aspen leaves, -- sown, reaped, and granaried by the "science" of the modern political economist, teaching covetousness instead of truth.) And all unjust war being supportable, if not by pillage of the enemy, only by loans from capitalists, these loans are repaid by subsequent taxation of the people, who appear to have no will in the matter, the capitalists' will being the primary root of the war; but its real root is the covetousness of the whole nation, rendering it incapable of faith, frankness, or justice, and bringing about, therefore, in due time, his own separate loss and punishment to each person.

32. "In all reasoning about prices, the proviso must be understood, 'supposing all parties to take care of their own interest.'" -- Mill, III. i. 5.

33. James v. 4. Observe, in these statements I am not talking up, nor countenancing one whit, the common socialist idea of division of property; division of property is its destruction; and with it the destruction of all hope, all industry, and all justice: it is simply chaos a chaos towards which the believers in modern political economy are fast tending, and from which I am striving to save them. The rich man does not keep back meat from the poor by retaining his riches; but by basely using them. Riches are a form of strength; and a strong man does not injure others by keeping his strength, but by using it injuriously. The socialist, seeing a strong man oppress a weak one, cries out. -- "Break the strong man's arms." but I say, "Teach him to use them to better purpose." The fortitude and intelligence which acquire riches are intended, by the Giver of both, not to scatter, nor to give away, but to employ those riches in the service of mankind; in other words, in the redemption of the erring and aid of the weak -- that is to say, there is first to be the work to gain money; then the Sabbath of use for it -- the Sabbath, whose law is, not to lose life, but to save. It is continually the fault or the folly of the poor that they are poor, as it is usually a child's fault if it falls into a pond, and a cripple's weakness that slips at a crossing; nevertheless, most passers -- by would pull the child out, or help up the cripple. Put it at the worst, that all the poor of the world are but disobedient children, or careless cripples, and that all rich people are wise and strong, and you will see at once that neither is the socialist right in desiring to make everybody poor, powerless, and foolish as he is himself, nor the rich man right in leaving the children in the mire.

34. The quantity of life is the same in both cases; but it is differently allotted.

35. The proper offices of middle-men, namely, overseers (or authoritative workmen), conveyancers (merchants, sailors, retail dealers, &c.), and order-takers (persons employed to receive directions from the consumer), must, of course, be examined before I can enter farther into the question of just payment of the first producer. But I have not spoken of them in these introductory papers, because the evils attendant on the abuse of such intermediate functions result not from any alleged principle of modern political economy, but from private carelessness or iniquity.