Open main menu

Page:Principles of Political Economy Vol 1.djvu/101

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


 

CHAPTER V.

 
FUNDAMENTAL PROPOSITIONS RESPECTING CAPITAL.
 

§ 1.If the preceding explanations have answered their purpose, they have given not only a sufficiently complete possession of the idea of Capital according to its definition, but a sufficient familiarity with it in the concrete, and amidst the obscurity with which the complication of individual circumstances surrounds it, to have prepared even the unpractised reader for certain elementary propositions or theorems respecting capital, the full comprehension of which is already a considerable step out of darkness into light.

The first of these propositions is, That industry is limited by capital. This is so obvious as to be taken for granted in many common forms of speech; but to see a truth occasionally is one thing, to recognise it habitually, and admit no propositions inconsistent with it, is another. The axiom was until lately almost universally disregarded by legislators and political writers; and doctrines irreconcileable with it are still very commonly professed and inculcated.

The following are common expressions, implying its truth. The act of directing industry to a particular employment is described by the phrase "applying capital" to the employment. To employ industry on the land is to apply capital to the land. To employ labour in a manufacture is to invest capital in the manufacture. This implies that industry cannot be employed to any greater extent than there is capital to invest. The proposition, indeed, must be assented to as soon as it is distinctly apprehended. The expression "applying capital" is of course metaphorical: what is really applied is labour; capital being an indispen-