Mr. Tucker says that the "liquidation of this value, whether immediate or gradual, is a sale, and brings a right of ownership, which it is not in the nature of rent to do. To call this rent is inaccurate." Now, this is a question of the use of language. Accuracy here, as I maintain, consists in the use of words in their usual sense. I protest against neologies, or arbitrary definitions, in economics that make words squint, as a perfidy of Socialism which engenders vain logomachies and retards the triumph of justice. The liquidation of the value precited, the result of preparatory works, may be effected either by sale or by rentals. Sale is often impossible or unfeasible; it would be so at present for my own farm. Now, comes in the idea that each payment of rent shall constitute an instalment of purchase-money. This is Proudhon's theory of liquidation with a view to the independent proprietorship of the soil by its farmers. It is viable for rentals during a term of successive years, but is inapplicable to many cases like the following. By expenditure of unpaid labor during several years I have prepared a field for cotton culture. An immigrant, needing to realize the results of labor more promptly than would be possible if he began by performing upon forest land the kind of work I have already done, offers me a fourth of the crop for the use of my field. This is rent. The crop from which it is paid leaves the soil poorer in proportion, and the fences, etc., will need repair at an earlier period. Thus each crop may be estimated as lessening the original value of productivity by about one-tenth, sometimes as much as one-fourth. Now, the tenant profits three times as much as I do at the cost of my preparatory labors. The loss by cropping, of this value, is the just basis of rent, which leaves no proportion of purchase title to the tenant during one or a few seasons who does not manure or repair fences. The tenant who does this, and thus reproduces the original value, justly enters into proprietorship, and his rentals ought to be regarded as instalments of purchase-money. There lies the practical difference.
It is necessary to face the facts, and to avoid confusion by abstract terminology. There is just rent, and there is unjust rent, or the legal abuse of the rental system. Abate the public nuisance of legislation, and these matters are naturally arranged by contract between farmers.
The equitable relations between actual labor and the previous labors that constitute capital in the soil, or immovable upon it, vary with time, place, and circumstance. Rulings concerning them, reduced to the procrustean measures of law, if just for some cases, must be unjust for others. Private contracts only can approximate to justice; and hownearly they do it is the affair of the contracting parties, defying all prescriptive formulas.
The two works which I recommended to Edgeworth are among Proudhon's best; but they are very far from all that he has written, and it is very natural for the reader of a very small portion of his writings to draw inferences which he will find unwarranted when he reads more. This is due principally to Proudhon's habit of using words in different senses at different times, which I regard as unfortunate. Now, in the article which gave rise to this discussion, Edgeworth inferred (or seemed to infer), from the fact that some of Proudhon's transitional proposals allowed a share to capital for a time,
that he contemplated as a permanent arrangement a division