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vantage on the other) to the persons exchanging; and just
payment for his time, intelligence, and labour, to any inter-
mediate person effecting the transaction (commonly called
a merchant): and whatever advantage there is on either
side, and whatever pay is given to the intermediate person,
should be thoroughly known to all concerned. All attempt
at concealment implies some practice of the opposite, or
undivine science, founded on nescience. Whence another
saying of the Jew merchant's " As a nail between the
stone joints, so doth sin stick fast between buying and
selling." Which peculiar riveting of stone and timber, in
men's dealings with each ot.her, is again set forth in the
house which was to be destroyed timber and stones together
when Zecharialrs roll (more probably "curved sword")


fle\v over it : " the curse that goeth forth over all the earth
upon every one that stealeth and holdeth himself guiltless,"
instantly followed by the vision of the Great Measure ; the
measure " of the injustice of them in all the earth" (aUrvj -Jj
dSma. aurojv sv ifdtfy rrj yrj), with the weight of lead for its lid,
and the woman, the spirit of wickedness, within it; that
is to say, Wickedness hidden by Dulness, and formalized,
outwardly, into ponderously established cruelty. "It shall
be set upon its own base in the land of Babel." *

I have thitherto carefully restricted myself, in speaking
of exchange, to the use of the term " advantage ; " but that
term includes two ideas ; the advantage, namely, of getting
what we need, and that of getting what we wish for.
Three-fourths of the demands existing in the world are
romantic ; founded on visions, idealisms, hopes, and affec-
tions; and the regulation of the purse is, in its essence,
regulation of the imagination and the heart. Hence, the
rigi it discussion of the nature of price is a very high
metaphysical and physical problem; sometimes to be solved
only in a passionate manner, as by David in his counting
the price of the water of the well by the gate of Bethlehem ;
but its first conditions are the following : The price of
anything is the quantity of labour given by the person
desiring it, in order to obtain possession of it. This price
* Zech. v. 11. See note on the passage, at page 120.


depends on four variable quantities. A., The quantity of
wish the purchaser has for the thing ; opposed to , the
quantity of wish the seller has to keep it. B. The quan-
tity of labour the purchaser can afford, to obtain the thing ;
opposed to /3, the quantity of labour the seller can afford,
to keep it. These quantities are operative only in excess ;
i. e. the quantity of wish (A) means the quantity of wish
for this thing, above wish for other things; and the quan-
tity of work (13} means the quantity which can be spared
to get this thing from the quantity needed toget other

Phenomena of price, therefore, are intensely complex,
curious, and interesting too complex, however, to be
examined yet ; every one of them, when traced far enough,
showing itself at last as a part of the bargain of the Poor
of the Flock (or " flock of slaughter "), " If ye think good
give ME my price, and if not, forbear" Zech. xi. 12; but
as the price of everything is to be calculated finally
in labour, it is necessary to define the nature of that stand-

Labour is the contest of the life of man with an opposite ;
the term " life " including his intellect, soul, and physical
power, contending with question, difficulty, trial, or material

Labour is of a higher or lower order, as it include?


more or fewer of the elements of life : and labour of good
quality, in any kind, includes always as much intellect and
feeling as will fully and harmoniously regulate the physical

In speaking of the value and price of labour, it is neces-
sary always to understand labour of a given rank and
quality, as we should speak of gold or silver of a given
standard. Bad (that is, heartless, inexperienced, or sense-
less) labour cannot be valued; it is like gold of uncertain
alloy, or flawed iron.*

The quality and kind of labour being given, its value,
like that of all other valuable things, is invariable. But the
quantity of it "which must be given for other things is
variable ; and in estimating this variation, the price of other

* Labour which is entirely good of its kind, that is to say, effective.
or efficient, the Greeks called "weighable," or u|i$, translated usually
" \vortliy," and because thus substantial and true, they called its price
Ti/jr, the "honourable estimate" of it (honorarium): this word being
founded on their conception of true labour as a divine thing, to be hon-
oured 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 " rcquit-
er (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.


tilings must always be counted by the quantity of labour ;
not the price of labour by the quantity of other things.

Thus, if we want "to plant an appk sapling in rock}
ground, it may take two hours' work; in soft ground, per-
haps only half an hour. Grant the soil equally good for
the tree in each case. Then the value of the sapling plant-
ed by two hours' work is nowise greater than that of thy
sapling planted in half an hour. One will bear no more
fruit than the other. Also, one half-hour of work is as
valuable as another half-hour ; nevertheless the one sapling
has cost four such pieces of work, the other only one.
Now the proper statement of this fact is, not that the
labour on the hard ground is cheaper than on the soft ;
but that the tree is dearer. The exchange value may, or
may not, afterwards depend on this fact. If other people
have plenty of soft ground to plant in, they will take no
cognizance of our two hours' labour, in the pries they will
offer for the plant on the rock. And if, through want of
sufficient botanical science, we have planted an upas-tree
instead of an apple, the exchange-value will be a negative
quantity ; still less proportionate to the labour expended.

What is commonly called cheapness of labour, signifies,
therefore, in reality, that many obstacles have to be over-
come by it ; so that much labour is required to produce a
small result. But this should never be spoken of as cheap


ness of labour, but as clearness of the object wrought for.
It would be just as rational to say that walking was
cheap, because we had ten miles to walk home to our din-
ner, as that labour was cheap, because we had to work
ten hours to earn it.

The last word which we have to define is "Pro-

I have hitherto spoken of all labour as profitable;
because it is impossible to consider under one head the
quality or value of labour, and its aim. But labour of the
best quality may be various in aim. It may be either con-
structive ("gathering," from, con and struo), as agriculture ;
nugatory, as jewel-cutting; or destructive ("scattering,"
from de and struo), as war. It is not, however, always
easy to prove labour, apparently nugatory, to be actually
s j ; * generally, the formula holds good : " he that gather-

* 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 embank-
ment high up the valley, because everybody said "that would help liia
neighbours as much as himself." So every proprietor built a bit of low
embankment about his own field; and the Tioino, as soon as it 3iad a
mind, swept away and swallowed all up together.


eth not, scatteretb ; " thus, the jeweller's art is probably
very harmful in its ministering to a clumsy and inelegant
pride. So that, finally, I believe nearly all labour may be
shortly divided into positive and negative labour: positive,
that which produces life; negative, that which produces
death ; the most directly negative labour being murder, and
the most directly positive, the bearing and rearing of chil-
dren ; so that in the precise degree which murder is hateful,
on the negative side of idleness, in that exact degree child-
rearing is admirable, on the positive side of idleness. For
which reason, and because of the honour that there is in
rearing * children, while the wife is said to be as the vine
(for cheering), the children are as the olive-branch, for
praise; nor for praise only, but for peace (because large
families can only be reared in times of peace): though
since, in their spreading and voyaging in various directions,
they distribute strength, they are, to the home strength,

* Observe, I say, "rearing," not "begetting." The praise is in the
seventh season, not in (nropi/ro'j, nor in <uraXi, but in oTrwpa. 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 exer-

tion and self-denial prolonged through years, creates one. "We give the

crown " ob civem servatuni ; " why not " ob civem natum ? " Born. I
mean, to the full, in soul as well as body. England has oak enough, ]
think, for both chaplete.


as arrows in the hand of a giant striking here and there,


far away.

Labour being thus various in its result, the prosperity
of any nation is in exact proportion to the quantity of
labour which it spends in obtaining and employing means
of life. Observe, I say, obtaining and employing; that
is to say, not merely wisely producing, but wisely dis-
tributing and consuming. Economists usually speak as if
there were no good in consumption absolute.* So far from
this being so, consumption absolute is the end, crown, and
perfection of production ; and wise consumption is afar more
difficult art than wise production. Twenty people can gain
money for one who can use it ; and the vital question, for
individual and for nation, is, never "how much do they
make ?" but " to what purpose do they spend ?"

The reader may, perhaps, have been surprised at the slight
reference I have hitherto made " to capital," and its func-
tions. It is here the place to define them.

Capital signifies "head, or source, or root material"
it is material by which some derivative or secondary
good, is produced. It is only capital proper (caput vivum,
not caput mortnum) when it is thus producing something

* "When Mr. Mill speaks of productive consumption, he only meana
sonsumption which results in increase of capital, or material wealth. Sea
T. iii. 4, and I. iiL 6.


different from itself. It is a root, which does not enter
into vital function till it produces something else than a
root; namely, fruit. That fruit will in time again produce
roots; and so all living capital issues in reproduction of
capital ; but capital which produces nothing but capital
is only root producing root ; bulb issuing in bulb, never
in tulip; seed issuing in seed, never in bread. The Political
Economy of Europe has hitherto devoted itself wholly to
the multiplication, or (less even) the aggregation, of bulbs.
It never saw nor conceived such a thing as a tulip. Nay,
boiled bulbs they might have been glass bulbs Prince
Rupert's drops, consummated in powder (well, if it were
glass-powder and not gunpowder), for any end or meaning
the economists had in defining the laws of aggregation. ~\Ye
will try and get a clearer notion of them.

The best and simplest general type of capital is a well-made
ploughshare. Now, if that ploughshare did nothing but
beget other ploughshares, in a polypous manner, however
the great cluster of polypous plough might glitter in the
sun, it would have lost its function of capital. It becomes
true capital only by another kind of splendour, when it is
seen " splendescere sulco," to grow bright in the furrow ;
rather with diminution of its substance, than addition, by
the noble friction. And the true home question, to every
capitalist and to every nation, is not, " how many ploM^hs


have you ?" but, " where are your furrows ?" not " how
quickly will this capital reproduce itself ?" but, " what will it
do during reproduction ?" What substance will it furnish,
good for life ? what work construct, protective of life ? if none,
its own reproduction is useless if worse than none, (for capi-
tal may destroy life as well as support it), its own reproduc-
tion is worse than useless ; it is merely an advance from
Tisiphone, on mortgage not a profit by any means.

Not a profit, as the ancients truly saw, and showed in the
type of Ixion; for capital is the bead, or fountain head,
of wealth the " well-head " of wealth, as the clouds are
the well-heads of rain : but when clouds are without water,
and only beget clouds, they issue in wrath at last, instead
of rain, and in lightning instead of harvest; whence Ixion
is said first to have invited his guests to a banquet, and
then made them fall into a pit filled with fire ; which is
the type of the temptation of riches issuing in imprisoned
torment; torment in a pit, (as also Deinas' silver mine,)
after which, to show the rage of riches passing from lust
of pleasure to lust of power, yet power not truly understood,
Ixion is said to have desired Juno, and instead, embracing a
cloud (or phantasm), to have begotten the Centaurs; the
power of mere wealth being, in itself, as the embrace of
a shadow, comfortless, (so also {: Ephraim feedeth on wind
and followeth after the east wind; or "that Avhich is not"


Prov. xxiii. 5 ; and again Dante's Geryon, the typo of
nvaiicious fraud, as he flies, gathers the air up with retractile
claws, " 1'aer a se raccolse,"*) but in its offspring, a mingling
of the brutal with the human nature: human in sagacity
using both intellect and arrow ; but brutal in its body and
hoof, for consuming and trampling down. For which sin
Ixion is at last bound upon a wheel fiery and toothed, and
rolling perpetually in the air ; the type of human labour
when selfish and fruitless (kept far into the middle ages in
their wheel of fortune) ; the wheel which has in it no breath
or spirit, but is whirled by chance only ; whereas of all true
work the Ezekiel vision is true, that the spirit of the living

* 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 "mttvi" 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 " fortifi-
cation of the air Tvith baked bricks, like Babylon," 1. 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 hi the brief metaphor,
" as the sails, swollen with the wind, fall, when the mast breaks. 1 '


creature is in the wheels, and where the angels go, the wheels
go by them ; but move no otherwise.

This being the real nature of capital, it follows that there
are two kinds of true production, always going on in an active
State ; one of seed, and one of food or production for the
Ground, and for the Mouth ; both of which are by covetous
persons thought to be production only for the granary ;
whereas the function of the granary is but intermediate and
conservative, fulfilled in distribution ; else it ends in nothing
but mildew, and nourishment of rats and worms. And
since production for the Ground is only useful with future hope
of harvest, all essential production is for the Mouth ; and is
finally measured by the mouth ; hence, as I said above,
consumption is the crown of production ; and the wealth of
a nation is only to be estimated by what it consumes.

The want of any clear sight of this fact is the capital
error, issuing in rich interest and revenue of error, among
the political economists. Their minds are continually set on
money-gain, not on mouth gain ; and they fall into every sort
of net and snare, dazzled by the coin-glitter as birds by the
fowler's glass ; or rather (for there is not much else like birds
in them) they are like children trying to jump on the
neads of their own shadows; the money-gain being only the
shadow of the true gain, which is humanity.

The final object of political economy, therefore, is to get



good method of consumption, and great quantity of consump
tion : in other words, to use everything, and to use it nobly;
whether it be substance, service, or service perfecting
substance. The most curious error in Mr. Mill's entire work
(provided for him originally by Ricardo), is his endeavour
to distinguish between direct and indirect service, and
consequent assertion that a demand for commodities is not


demand for labour (I. v. 9, et seq.) lie distinguishes be-
tween labourers employed to lay ont pleasure grounds, and
to manufacture velvet; declaring that it makes material dif-
ference to the labouring classes in which of these two ways a
capitalist spends his money; because the employment of the
gardeners is a demand for labour, but the purchase of velvet
is not.* Error colossal as well as strange. It will, indeed,

* 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, ilr. 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


make a difference to the labourer whether he bid him swing his
scythe in the spring winds, or drive the loom in pestilential
air ; but, so far as his pocket is concerned, it makes to him
absolutely no difference whether we order him to make
green velvet, with seed and a scythe, or red velvet, with silk
and scissors. Neither does it anywise concern him whether,
when the velvet is made, AVC consume it by walking on it, or
weaiing it, so long as our consumption of it is wholly selfish.
But if our consumption is to be in anywise unselfish, not only
our mode of consuming the articles we require interests him,
but also the kind of article we require with a view to
consumption. As thus (returning for a moment to Mr. Mill's
great hardware theory*) : it matters, so far as the labourer's
immediate profit is concerned, not an iron filing whether I
employ him in growing a peach, or forging a bombshell ; but
my probable mode of consumption of those articles matters
seriously. Admit that it is to be in both cases " unselfish,"

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

* 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 manufac
turers and engage gardeners.


nncl the difference, to him, is final, whether when his child, ia
ill, I w;slk it into his cottage and give it the peach, or drop
tlie shell down his chimney, and blow his roof off.

The worst of it, for the peasant, is, that the capitalist's
consumption of the peach is apt to be selfish, and of the
shell, distributive ; * but, in all cases, this is the broad and
general fact, that on due catallactic commercial principles,

* It is one very awful form of the operation of wealth in Europe that
.t 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 ton millions sterling worth of consternation annually, (a remarkably
light crop, half thorns and half aspen leaves, sown, reaped, and grana-
ried by the "science" of the modern political economist, teaching covct-
ousness instead of trutli.) 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 uo will
5n 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, ir
due time, his o\\n separate loss and punishment to each person.

AD VALOliEM. 125

somebody's roof must go off in fulfilment of the bomb's
destiny. You may grow for your neighbour, at your liking,
grapes or grapeshot ; he will also, catallactically, gro\\
grapes or grapeshot for yea, and you will each reap what
you have sown.

It is, therefore, the manner and issue of consumption
which are the real tests of production. Production does
not consist in things laboriously made, but iu things service-
ably consumable ; and the question for the nation is not
how much labour it employs, but ho\v much life it pro-
duces. For as consumption is the end and aim. of produc-
tion, so life is the end and aim of consumption.

I left this question to the reader's thought two months
ago, choosing rather that he should work it out for him-
self than have it sharply stated to him. But now, the
ground being sufficiently broken (and the details into which
the several questions, here opened, must lead us, being too
complex for discussion in the pages of a periodical, so that
I must pursue them elsewhere), I desire, in closing the
series of introductory papers, to leave this one great fact
clearly stated. THEHE is NO WEALTH BUT LIFE. Life,
including all its powars of love, of joy, and of admiration.
That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest
number of noble and happy human beings; that man is
richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life


to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both
personal, aud by means of his possessions, over the lives of

A strange political economy; the only one, nevertheless,
that ever was or can be: all political economy founded on
self-interest* being but the fulfilment of that which once
brought schism into the Policy of angels, and ruin into the
Economy of Heaven.

" The greatest number of human beings noble and
happy." But is the nobleness consistent with the number ?
Yes, not only consistent with it, but essential to it. The
maximum of life can only be reached by the maximum of
virtue. In this respect the law of human population differs
wholly from that of animal life. The multiplication of

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Online LibraryJohn RuskinUnto this last : four essays on the first principles of political economy → online text (page 7 of 20)