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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14767/how-the-land-can-sustain-population/

How the Land Can Sustain Population

November 26, 2010 by

The number of inhabitants in a state depends on their means of subsistence. The means of subsistence depend on the method of cultivating the soil, and this method depends chiefly on the taste, desires, and manner of living of the property owners. FULL ARTICLE by Richard Cantillon

{ 20 comments }

billwald November 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm

True . . . but the Irish famine was not caused by the blight but by the English land owners shipping the available food out of Ireland. They considered the Irish to be animals and the starvation was at least partly intentional.

Dickens described the effect of pure capitalism on a population. His society of those days began when the English lords stole the common grazing land to to raise sheep for wool to feed the newly invented capitalist owned mills. This forced the people to leave their farms and seek work in the city. producing a wage race to the bottom.

Joe November 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm

What does English lords stealing have to do with Capitalism? Dickens was nothing but a political hack. Let’s look at some startling figures that tell the true story of England and Capitalism.
In 1750, Englands population was six million, it was nine million in 1800 and twelve million in 1820, a rate of increase without precedent in any era. The age distribution of the population shifted enormously, the proportion of children and youths increased sharply. The proportion of those born in London dying before five years of age fell from 74.5 percent in 1730-49 to 31.8 percent in 1810-29. Children who before would have died in infancy now had a chance of survival.
Now why did this great population increase take place? It definately wasn’t because of the Guild System, or the English lords, or even Dicken’s distorted view. It was because of the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism brought forth this great improvement over the preceding age.
Professor T.S. Ashton wrote this 60 years ago: “There are today on the plains of India and China men and women, plague ridden and hungry, living lives little better, to outward appearance, than those of the cattle that toil with them by day and share their places of sleep by night. Such Asiatic standards, and such unmechanized horrors, are the lot of those who increase their numbers without passing through an industrial revolution.”
Those words are just as pertinent today as then. When people understand that the Industrial Revolution and its consequent prosperity were the achievement of Capitalism and CANNOT be achieved under any other politico-economic system.
Before you speak of Capitalism at least understand what it is and is not. The snide remarks made only show your ignorance or you just want to stir some dodo.

Inquisitor November 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Billwald is a stupid troll. ;)

mr taco November 26, 2010 at 10:49 pm

youtube needs some of this

P.M.Lawrence November 28, 2010 at 1:09 am

In 1750, Englands population was six million, it was nine million in 1800 and twelve million in 1820, a rate of increase without precedent in any era.

Actually, the American colonies had done better even before that – it was remarked on at the time (I think Adam Smith mentioned it, if I recall correctly).

Now why did this great population increase take place? It definately wasn’t because of the Guild System, or the English lords, or even Dicken’s distorted view. It was because of the Industrial Revolution.

Now that simply isn’t true – because it had absolutely no effect on any of the food or sanitation constraints until late in the 19th century (when the chemical industry began supplying artificial fertilisers etc.). Improved sanitation allowed city populations to survive better; imports of sugar and the prior Agricultural Revolution provided more food through new crops and new methods of working the land. But no amount of industrialisation could increase what the land could produce, before fertilisers (or how many the city could kill, before clean water and air); it could only free up people from working the land to do other things, not feed them more for leaving the land. Even mechanised farming in the American Midwest didn’t grow more than was possible with older methods, it simply allowed more to be grown without first moving peasants into the new lands to do it.

Joe November 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

@P.M. Lawrence,
My comments about the Industrial Revolution are not directed at food or sanitation. My comments were made to show how the “Factory System” improved the lives of poor and starving families. Prior to the Industrial Revolution the mortality rate for children was staggering. This was due to almost no jobs or wages. Irregular agriculture labor was the norm and more prevelant was the infestation of the country as vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers and prostitutes. Although food and sanitation is needed the first imperative was to survive. And that meant food and clothing. The factory system led to a rise in the general standard of living, to rapidly falling urban death rates and decreasing infant mortality and produced the unprecendented population explosion. I guess the best way to describe what happened was, you have to learn how to walk before you can run. Walking was surviving.
Here is what Mises reminds us:
The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these paupers could earn in any other field open to them. It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchen and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation. Mises, Human Action.
So the truth is what Mises is saying that the factory system of the Industrial Revolution saved the children from starving. Conditions were not ideal but they afforded a person a better life and the ability to stay alive. For this reason I cringe whenever “do gooders” want to condemn a wage given to a poor person in a poor country and compare it to a wage in the U.S.. Is it better to starve or to not have a wage because it is not high enough? Let the people vote with their feet.

P.M.Lawrence November 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

My comments about the Industrial Revolution are not directed at food or sanitation. My comments were made to show how the “Factory System” improved the lives of poor and starving families.

I know you weren’t directing your attention to food or sanitation. That is why you missed the key features – in particular, just how it was that the Factory System did not improve the lives of poor and starving families. Yes, it did indeed improve the lives of those who got work, but those were not the poor and starving families, they were the next rung up. The very fact that, under the circumstances of that time and place (like protectionist restrictions on food imports, as well as the lack of improvement of food production), food or sanitation were zero sum meant that it was only ever a matter of moving food from mouth to mouth and made no overall difference. The ones who suffered were the others. And, for the same reason, and because of the race to the bottom for wages, even being better off than those who were worse off didn’t mean an improvement over the conditions of their grandparents – though landowners, mine owners and factory owners did get better off. You and Mises have both fallen into the error of only accounting for the seen (the conditions of those who got that work) and leaving out the unseen (the conditions of those who didn’t get that work, and helped drive wages down in a race to the bottom over time for so long as their numbers kept being renewed by more people being forced off the land).

And that is why “[t]he factory system led to a rise in the general standard of living, to rapidly falling urban death rates and decreasing infant mortality and produced the unprecendented [sic] population explosion” is plain wrong. It did not lead to a rise in the general standard of living, because that was constrained to be zero sum; it only made those who got the work better off than those who didn’t. It did not lead to rapidly falling urban death rates and decreasing infant mortality because those did not happen then, but later (if anything, at the time things got worse on average because of increased urban living – which had worse conditions for that). And, there was indeed something of a population explosion (though, as I noted, it did have precedents) – but that preceded the factory system, coming in during the middle part of the 18th century as a consequence of agricultural improvements (and, to some extent, sugar imports); since it came before the factory system, the factory system cannot have led to it. I am ignoring the even bigger population growth that came even later, in Victorian times, which matches up with improved sanitation and the opening up of food imports – because that was too late to fit. Even the opening up of food imports only moved the membership of the hungry group away from Britain towards continental European countries until the wave of development brought new lands with spare capacity on stream.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution the mortality rate for children was staggering. This was due to almost no jobs or wages. Irregular agriculture labor was the norm and more prevelant [sic] was the infestation of the country as [sic] vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers and prostitutes.

No, it was not because of that – partly because “almost no jobs or wages” was not the case throughout that period (people were thrust into that when they were pushed off the land), and partly because it remained just as bad as it had been in towns, and just as bad as it had been in the country, until sanitation improved – which was considerably later. Comparing before and after shows that there is no correlation with jobs and wages. It is simply not the case that “[i]rregular agriculture labor was the norm”; that was only so for the very lowest classes (the rest having connections to tenant families and/or resources on common lands), and even those had the safety net of the still adequate Elizabethan Poor Laws after the Tudor period. “[T]he infestation of the country [with] vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers and prostitutes” is an accurate description of how things were during that early, Tudor phase of the Enclosure of the Commons (though they often descended on towns in gangs, as remembered in rhymes like “Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark! The beggars are coming to town!”). However, various measures had put an end to that until the later, 18th century phase of the Enclosure of the Commons.

As for Mises’s own remarks you quote or paraphrase…

The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these paupers could earn in any other field open to them.

All true and all irrelevant – because it was other factors that made that the condition of the poor, factors that were actually fed indirectly by factory and mine work. Mises is omitting that unseen side and only describing the seen, direct effects.

It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchen and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation.

But it is not a distortion of facts to say that landowners drove them off to cut costs by working the same land with fewer people to produce the same crops (higher labour productivity but only the same land productivity – after the improvements just before – giving the same production since land was the constraint). And it is not a distortion of facts to say that, without industrial production giving rise to more people in towns and mines, markets for the crops would soon have choked off unless they went for export (which was the driver for what had happened in Tudor times). So, indirectly, factory and mine work kept it profitable for landowners to drive off peasants (I have heard that, sometimes, evicted Scottish tenants were indeed directed towards particular factories by landowners acting in collusion with factory owners – but the effect does not require this).

So the truth is what Mises is saying that the factory system of the Industrial Revolution saved the children from starving. Conditions were not ideal but they afforded a person a better life and the ability to stay alive.

Mises was indeed saying that; and, Mises was indeed wrong – because it did not save those who did not get to that refuge, which as I have shown from the zero sum discussion included some people.

For this reason I cringe whenever “do gooders” want to condemn a wage given to a poor person in a poor country and compare it to a wage in the U.S.. Is it better to starve or to not have a wage because it is not high enough? Let the people vote with their feet.

If it were only that, and there were definitely no dynamic creating inadequate alternatives, that would be correct. But not only are there kleptocracies who drive peasants off the land even now, so that they get returns from sweat shop activity, those poor people are by definition in developing countries which by definition lack good property institutions – just as was the case in the English Enclosures of the Commons, the Highland (and Lowland) Clearances, and Irish evictions to raise cattle for English markets rather than tenants to pay rents. And, just as those made market imperfections with dynamics that fed that flight to factory work whenever factory or mine work was on offer, so also there are the same dynamics now, e.g. whenever Kenyan “big men” divert water resources from subsistence farmers to growing flowers for the export market. Nassau Senior’s 19th century insights show that sweat shops are actually better – meaning less bad – than export driven cash crops, since sweat shops are only zero sum for food but cash crops actually reduce food production, and the poor cannot afford food imports. Either way, if factories and/or export cash crops didn’t pay peasants wouldn’t be dispossessed of land and/or water resources, and their alternatives wouldn’t have ended up that inadequate in the first place. But they are suffering from the export dynamics of Tudor England and the urban market dynamics of 18th century England at the same time, with no safety nets; it might be even worse than either alone.

Joe November 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm

@P.M. Lawrence,
It seems that you want to put a value judgement on history. Something is right or wrong. I quote Mises and you say he is wrong but never really give any evidence. This subject has been discussed on this site before and if you search for “Popular Interpretation of the Industrial Revolution” you will see the article and the responses. I would strongly suggest that you read “Human Action” pages 617 thru 623 and specifically cite what is not historically correct and offer credible sources that refute what Mises is saying.
I sorry I don’t have the time to go back and forth with this as it gets tiring. I guess the best I can do is say lets agree to disagree.

billwald November 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

>For this reason I cringe whenever “do gooders” want to condemn a wage given to a poor person in a poor country and compare it to a wage in the U.S..

AGREE! But England was maybe the richest major country in the world at that time. A comparison might be Boeing moving production to North Carolina because NC is a scab state. But say that there was no federal minimum wage. How low might production wages then go?

China is planning on buying thousands of new aircraft in the next 20 years. China says they expect for western manufacturers to build manufacturing facilities in China. If a Boeing facility can build planes in China to Boeing standards then why should Boeing pay more than Chinese equivalent wages in South Carolina or in Everett, WA?

I mentioned “closure” in England because . . . It has always irritated me to see country employees mowing lawns in public housing projects. They welfare recipients should be growing veggies in the same space. But say our current depression continues and the county lays off the lawn mowers. The welfare residents just might start to plant veggies.

But then county decides to claim the crops and sell them for the county treasury. That is what happened when the land owners in England enclosed the serf’s commons and ran sheep for themselves. The farmer’s children were forced to go into the cities and fight their way to the bottom of the food chain – working for the lowest possible wage.

In our New England states the manufacturers tried to use slaves in the cotton mills. The slaves worked fine but slaves were an asset that had to be fed and housed in the harsh New England winters even if the mills had no contracts for their product. The mill owners learned it was cheaper to hire free whites and let them starve when there was no contract. They never ran out of free whites who would fight their way to the bottom of the food chain.

I predict US jobs will continue to be sent off shore until there is a world wide commodity market for human labor.

bill wald, your foolish troll

Joe November 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Bill Wald,
I don’t call people foolish trolls. It is a common insult on this site. I will discuss hopefully in a civil manner.
I notice that you lean towards the socialist, union, big government persuasion. I am just the opposite.
The only thing I was trying to convey about the Industrial Revolution was it saved a lot of starving children. It did increase the standard of living for the masses. The mortality rates alone shows evidence of that. I was not trying to explain why England got in the situation they were in prior to the Industrial Revolution. The point being is that they went through a Industrial Revolutlion and the children who would have normally died of starvation were now able to subsist. It was not perfect in the beginning but if I had a choice of starving to death and being able to stay alive and improve my conditions I would take the later.

P.M.Lawrence November 28, 2010 at 12:58 am

…the Irish famine was not caused by the blight but by the English land owners shipping the available food out of Ireland. They considered the Irish to be animals and the starvation was at least partly intentional.

Wrong, actually. The blight caused it and the exports worsened it; had the food not been exported, the starving would have found it easier to buy – but there would still have been many starving from lack of sufficient income anyway. Even cash payments to them wouldn’t have changed that, since there wasn’t enough to go around; cash payments would have forced the price up instead, just as food issues would have switched the land use to livestock (tenants were evicted for that all through that century anyway).

… society of those days began when the English lords stole the common grazing land to to raise sheep for wool to feed the newly invented capitalist owned mills. This forced the people to leave their farms and seek work in the city. producing a wage race to the bottom.

This is confusing two separate things:-

- The Scottish Highland Clearances were like that, only it wasn’t common grazing land but clan land, and it wasn’t the beginning of that society, just its spread to Scotland.

- The English Enclosures of the Commons were somewhat like that, only they occurred in two main phases, neither of which had all those features and which didn’t even do all that between them. The Tudor phase was when “the English lords [and Abbots etc. - it began before the Dissolution of the Monasteries] stole the common grazing land to raise sheep for wool to feed the newly invented” export markets, which “forced the people to leave their farms and seek work in the city”, right enough, but not “producing a wage race to the bottom”; they mostly ended up vagrants and starved, or turned thieves and were killed sooner or later. The 18th century phase was when “the English lords stole the common grazing land” to raise cash crops for urban markets, which “forced the people to leave their farms and seek work in the city”, “producing a wage race to the bottom”; but “the newly invented capitalist owned mills”, i.e. the Industrial Revolution, came along after that was well under way (and not all at once, either) – the city work did exist by then, though often not enough.

King George November 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Although the Indians “consumed” more land, they also kept it in a state closer to nature. Recent research into paleolithic nutrition suggests that many modern health problems are linked to modern agriculture.

BioTube November 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm

And the upcoming hydroponic revolution will more than take care of any issues.

mr taco November 26, 2010 at 10:49 pm

hopefully the government will not impede the advancement of hydroponics

Ball November 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

On Nov 29th (monday) the Senate will be voting on the food safety bill which will pretty much “impede” any such independent farm to death.

http://www.healthfreedomusa.org/

Dave Albin November 27, 2010 at 8:33 am

The way that you keep land closer to “nature”, whatever that means exactly, is to produce as much from it, per unit, as you can (increase efficiency). This involves all of the technology that goes along with modern agriculture, as well as new technology, such as hydroponics. Modern agricultural technology are the most “green” practices we have – get as much out of the land already in production as you can, and you don’t have to put more land into production. This is typically missed by organic farmers, who, after all, wouldn’t be around without capitalism bringing food costs down for everyone.

About modern health problems and food abundance – nobody is forcing anyone to stay on the couch all day and drink a six-pack of Coke……….

King George November 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm

It goes much further than Coke. CAFO Beef, chicken, refined sugars & grains, etc…. ultimately yes, people are responsible for their own health, but the system is also rigged against them, and yes I know that the government is no friend of this. The article however could almost read as an excuse and apology for what Monsanto does and other related practices, and I’m sure that this was not intended.

Dave Albin November 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

You are not entirely correctly to demonize companies like Monsanto – yes, they are IP-fueled giants who attempt to control all levels of production. However, there is nothing wrong with RoundUp technology in terms of its use in the field. New technology in agriculture improves all of our lives because we are better off with more food produced with less input cost. You agreed with me, and I’ll say it again – what you put in your mouth, and how much you move your body, are completely up to you. Don’t blame Monsanto, CAFO’s, refined sugars, etc., on the products of laziness.

gene November 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

“The northern people, where the land produces little, have been known to live on so little production that they have sent out colonists and swarms of men to invade the lands of the south, destroy the inhabitants, and appropriate their land.[12]”

bluntly put, but seems to explain quite a bit about our world!

guard November 29, 2010 at 5:42 am

The one who dies last wins.

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