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See also VI. VI. It may however be observed here that the dependence of the growth of capital on the high estimation of "future goods" appears to have been over-estimated by earlier writers; not under-estimated, as is argued by Prof. Böhm-Bawerk.
It is shown in Böhm-Bawerk's excellent Grundzüge der Theorie des wirtschaftlichen Güterwerts ( Jahrbuch für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, vol. XIII. p. 59) that if all but one of the factors of production of a commodity have available substitutes in unlimited supply, by which their own price is rigidly fixed, the derived demand price for the remaining factor will be the excess of the demand price for the finished product over the sum of the supply prices thus fixed for the remaining factors. This is an interesting special case of the law given in the text.
Recent discussions on the eight hours day have often turned very little on the fatigue of labour; for indeed there is much work in which there is so little exertion, either physical or mental, that what exertion there is counts rather as a relief from ennui than as fatigue. A man is on duty, bound to be ready when wanted, but perhaps not doing an hour's actual work in the day; and yet he will object to very long hours of duty because they deprive his life of variety, of opportunities for domestic and social pleasures, and perhaps of comfortable meals and rest.If a man is free to cease his work when he likes, he does so when the advantages to be reaped by continuing seem no longer to over-balance the disadvantages. If he has to work with others, the length of his day's work is often fixed for him; and in some trades the number of days' work which he does in the year is practically fixed for him. But there are scarcely any trades, in which the amount of exertion which he puts into his work is rigidly fixed. If he be not able or willing to work up to the minimum standard that prevails where he is, he can generally find employment in another locality where the standard is lower; while the standard in each place is set by the general balancing of the advantages and disadvantages of various intensities of work by the industrial populations settled there. The cases therefore in which a man's individual volition has no part in determining the amount of work he does in a year, are as exceptional as the cases in which a man has to live in a house of a size widely different from that which he prefers, because there is none other available. It is true that a man who would rather work eight hours a day than nine at the same rate of ten pence an hour, but is compelled to work nine hours or none, suffers a loss from the ninth hour: but such cases are rare; and, when they occur, one must take the day as the unit. But the general law of costs is not disturbed by this fact, any more than the general law of utility is disturbed by the fact that a concert or a cup of tea has to be taken as a unit: and that a person who would rather pay five shillings for half a concert than ten for a whole, or twopence for half a cup of tea than four pence for a whole cup, may incur a loss on the second half. There seems therefore to be no good foundation for the suggestion made by v. Böhm-Bawerk ( The Ultimate Standard of Value, § IV. published in the Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft, vol. II.) that value must be determined generally by demand, without direct reference to cost, because the effective supply of labour is a fixed quantity: for even if the number of hours of work in the year were rigidly fixed, which it is not, the intensity of work would remain elastic.
The reiteration in this section has seemed to be unavoidable in consequence of the misunderstandings of the main argument of the present Book by various critics; among whom must be included even the acute Prof. v. Böhm-Bawerk. For in the article recently quoted (see especially Section 5), he seems to hold that a self-contradiction is necessarily involved in the belief that wages correspond both to the net product of labour and also to the cost of rearing and training labour and sustaining its efficiency (or, more shortly, though less appropriately, the cost of production of labour). On the other hand the mutual interactions of the chief economic forces are set forth in an able article by Prof. Carver in the Quarterly Journal of Economics for July 1894; see, also his Distribution of Wealth, ch. IV.
Prof. v. Böhm-Bawerk appears to have underrated the acumen of his predecessors in their writings on capital and interest. What he regards as mere naïve fragments of theories appear rather to be the utterances of men well acquainted with the practical workings of business; and who, partly for some special purpose, and partly through want of system in exposition, gave such disproportionate stress to some elements of the problem as to throw others into the background. Perhaps part of the air of paradox with which he invests his own theory of capital may be the result of a similar disproportionate emphasis, and an unwillingness to recognize that the various elements of the problem mutually govern one another. Attention has already been called to the fact that, though he excludes houses and hotels, and indeed everything that is not strictly speaking an intermediate good, from his definition of capital, yet the demand for the use of goods, that are not intermediate, acts as directly on the rate of interest, as does that for capital as defined by him. Connected with this use of the term capital is a doctrine on which he lays great stress, viz. that "methods of production which take time are more productive" ( Positive Capital, Book V. ch. IV. p. 261), or again that "every lengthening of a roundabout process is accompanied by a further increase in the technical result" ( Ib. Book II. ch. II. p. 84). There are however innumerable processes which take a long time and are roundabout; but are not productive and therefore are not used; and in fact he seems to have inverted cause and effect. The true doctrine appears to be that, because interest has to be paid for, and can be gained by the use of capital; therefore those long and roundabout methods, which involve much locking up of capital, are avoided unless they are more productive than others. The fact that many roundabout methods are in various degrees productive is one of the causes that affect the rate of interest; and the rate of interest and the extent to which roundabout methods are employed are two of the elements of the central problem of distribution and exchange that mutually determine one another. See Appendix I, 3.
See II. IV. 1, 5. The connection of the productiveness of capital with the demand for it, and of its prospectiveness with the supply of it has long been latent in men's minds; though it has been much overlaid by other considerations, many of which appear now to be based on misconceptions. Some writers have laid more stress on the supply side and others on the demand side: but the difference between them has often been little more than a difference of emphasis. Those who have laid stress on the productivity of capital, have not been ignorant of man's unwillingness to save and sacrifice the present for the future. And on the other hand, those who have given their thought mainly to the nature and extent of the sacrifice involved in this postponement, have regarded as obvious such facts as that a store of the implements of production gives mankind a largely increased power of satisfying their wants. In short there is no reason to believe that the accounts which Prof. Böhm-Bawerk has given of the "naive productivity theories," the "use theories" etc. of capital and interest would have been accepted by the older writers themselves as well-balanced and complete presentations of their several positions. Nor does he seem to have succeeded in finding a definition that is clear and consistent. He says that "Social capital is a group of products destined to serve towards further production; or briefly a group of Intermediate products." He formally excludes (Book I. ch. VI.) "dwelling houses and other kinds of buildings such as serve immediately for any purpose of enjoyment or education or culture." To be consistent, he must exclude hotels, tramways, passenger ships and trains, etc.; and perhaps even plant for supplying the electric light for private dwellings; but that would seem to deprive the notion of capital of all practical interest. There seems no good ground for excluding the public theatre while including the tramcar, which would not justify the inclusion of mills engaged in making home-spun and the exclusion of those engaged in making lace. In answer to this objection he urges, with perfect reason, that every economic classification must allow for the existence of border lines between any two classes, to contain things which belong in part to each of the two. But the objections submitted to his definition are that its border lines are too broad relatively to the area which they inclose; that it conflicts violently with the uses of the market-place; and that yet it does not embody, as the French definition does, a perfectly consistent and coherent abstract idea.
It seemed right to select Jevons' attack for reply, because, in England at all events, it has attracted more attention than any other. But somewhat similar attacks on Ricardo's theory of value had been made by many other writers. Among them may specially be mentioned Mr Macleod, whose writings before 1870 anticipated much both of the form and substance of recent criticisms on the classical doctrines of value in relation to cost, by Profs. Walras and Carl Menger, who were contemporary with Jevons, and Profs. v. Böhm-Bawerk and Wieser, who were later.