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The question of Absentee Expenditure considered. — It is shown to involve an infraction of that social law by which property is constituted. — Its injurious effects on neighbourhoods and nations described and maintained.
The truth contained in the question shown to explode and destroy the prevailing principle and system of Political Economy.
By keeping the mind steadily directed to an observation of that course of labour and of commerce which flows from the principle I have laid down, we discern the manner in which the rise and gradual growth of that state of general exchange or trade take place, by which the material interests or capital of a society of people, and of any number of societies, are constituted. Commencing with the production and exchange of things that are indispensable for satisfying the more pressing necessities of the body, such as food, clothing, fuel, and habitation; and then branching out into other things which are required for imparting comfort and convenience; we arrive at length at a still higher range of commodities, comprehending things tasteful, ornamental, and luxurious, for the fabrication of which the most persevering labour, aided by all that ingenuity and skill which the admirable faculties of man command, is called into action.
By this course it is that a people, commencing their career in a simple state of pastoral or agricultural industry, have emerged from this simple state, and attained a condition greatly complicated by reason of the multiplicity of commodities which are produced and exchanged; for, whilst some labourers on the soil have been engaged in cultivating
those productions which are required for the food of man, or, for the same purpose, have been pursuing a dangerous occupation on the surface of the rivers and the sea; others, having descended into the bowels of the earth, and having employed themselves in searching out its deeply-hidden treasures, and presenting for use the valuable mineral and metallic substances with which the interior structure of the earth abounds, have contributed largely to the conveniences and comforts of their fellow-countrymen and fellowworkmen.
By continuing to direct attention to that gradually developed course and series of things of which the growth of national wealth and power is constituted, the motive element of the whole being labour, we discern further that when some men have acquired property by pursuing various courses of trade or profession, they have retired from the employment on which they have been engaged, and, by so doing, have afforded opportunities for other men to occupy the places vacated by them, and so to partake of that social benefit of which they have acquired a sufficiency. We next discern how the expenditure of the incomes of these persons affects beneficially the interests of others, and indeed of all; for, retiring, probably, to a spot not far distant from the locality they have generally inhabited, they make a daily demand for commodities upon those whose calling it is to keep stock for supplying, with a profit to themselves, whatever may be required for the general domestic consumption of families; and then the ramifications of this course of supply and demand are extended to labourers of various denominations, as carpenters, bricklayers, painters, shoemakers, tailors, bakers, butchers, workers in upholstery and cabinet ware, to domestic servants, to servants employed upon gardens and farms, and to many other denominations of labourers; the
expenditure of income, which is the distribution of the proceeds of capital, constituting the cause of maintenance being awarded to all the labourers engaged in producing the commodities demanded; this cause conducing also to the realisation of the profits of trade by the acquisition of which those persons who may be engaged in trade, are, in their turn, empowered to retire, and having so retired, then to commence themselves the process just described. It is by this course of combined and continued action, that the wealth and prosperity of nations are alone induced, established, and conserved.
I will now enter upon the consideration and decision of a very important branch of national Social Economy, to which reference has been made in a preceding part of this volume. I mean the effects accruing to a nation by reason of wealthy members absenting themselves from the particular spheres where their property is acquired, and where its expenditure or distribution has prevailed. The desire of self-indulgence, or the pursuit of self-aggrandisement, from which the practice of absenteeism has sprung, is, it will be evident, diametrically opposed to that principle of exchange, of general commerce, or of mutual and general support, which I have advanced and maintained as the principle inherent in the just acquisition of property, and as involving that elementary process by which the creation of value or property is effected.
The constitution of property being derived from, and residing in, the permanency of that bond of union which a demand for the productions of labour establishes, it will be apparent, even to casual and superficial observers, how extensively the prosperity of nations must be affected, and how deeply the public interests must be injured, by the prevalence of a custom which involves such a cessation of demand for commodities, and, hence, for labour by which commodities
are produced, as the habit of absenteeism involves; for there is no course of action by which an injurious cessation of demand is so largely visited on a nation in proportion to its action, as that of the practice now under consideration. As it is generally acknowledged that Ireland presents the unhappy instance where this bad unsocial custom has been adopted in the greatest extent, so a reference to the case of the people of Ireland will serve to place the subject in the clearest point of view.
In this part of the united empire where the comparative proportions of labour and capital have been so lamentably deranged as to induce a state of poverty and wretchedness, unequalled in any other part of the world where civilisation has been introduced, we find that a very considerable proportion of the income accruing from the industrial working of property has been, for ages, withdrawn from the country where it was raised, and has been exchanged or expended in another sphere. By the constant abstraction of these proceeds from capital, the fund for the employment of labour, or the maintenance of labourers, has not been permitted to increase in that ratio in which it ought to have increased, so that the number of the people, or the supply of labour increasing, whilst, at the same time, the amount of capital, or the fund for maintaining labour, has been abstracted, the result constantly prevailing has been a most awful state of want and destitution abundance of life, but the abstraction of that which is required for sustaining life the people being deprived of that support which, by the law of nature, by the constitution of the national compact, and by the ordinances of the Creator, they were and are entitled to receive.
For, let any man direct his attention to the course of social action so often referred to in this volume, by which communities of men are enabled to advance into a state of
wealth and civilisation. He will find that as some members acquire possessions, become wealthy, and expend the proceeds of their wealth amongst their immediate neighbours, commerce, in its various branches, is encouraged and flourishes; that villages, towns, and cities, having been commenced in small beginnings, rise into greatness, opulence, and grandeur; that arts and manufactures are encouraged; and that, as profit is derived from the varied pursuits of trade, and by this means capital is accumulated, the gradations of classes become established in a country; labourers, emerging from their low primitive condition, rise into the condition of shopkeepers; the keepers of shops, by increasing their capital, advance, either themselves or their children, into the condition of manufacturers, merchants, and members of various professions; and that manufacturers, merchants, and others, of this order of society, raise themselves into a position still higher; and thus it is that the extended and noble structure of a commonwealth is reared, presenting a well-compacted body of interests, the operating instrumentality of all being labour, and following upon the exercise of labour, the just demand for the productions of labour: thus we have action and coaction, or a union of interests.
But, how different from this state of things is that state of things which has prevailed, and which now prevails, in Ireland. There the annual proceeds of wealth, which should have been kept in the country, and distributed amongst the people, in exchange for those commodities which could not have failed to have been wanted, have been drained off for ages, so that the required increase of capital has been prevented, and that large and important part of the united empire has presented no semblance of that varied and wellcompacted body of interests which every nation ought to present, and which every nation might present if the elements