Page:The Economic Journal Volume 1.djvu/115

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THE LIVING CAPITAL OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

Almost all systematic writers on Political Economy have discussed the question whether or not the skill of the artisan, credit institutions, the national organisation of industry, and other intangible elements in the social fabric should be included in the wealth of the individual or the nation. Adam Smith boldly places under 'fixed capital' the acquired and useful abilities of all the inhabitants or members of the society on the grounds: first, that the acquisition of such talents 'by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study, or apprenticeship always costs a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realised as it were in his person'; and, secondly, because the improved dexterity of a workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade 'which facilitates and abridges labour, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit.' J. S. Mill, on the other hand, insists at the outset that 'in propriety of classification the people of a country are not to be counted in its wealth. They are that for the sake of which its wealth exists. The term 'wealth' is wanted to denote the desirable objects which they possess, not inclusive of, but in contradistinction to, their own persons.' It is true that at a later stage in his work Mill attempts to distinguish between the skill and the personality of the artisan, and to include the former under wealth and not the latter, but in doing so he destroys the value of his first position. For just as there are close analogies between the living instrument and the dead, as clearly expressed by Adam Smith, there are also differences of vital importance. To take but one example: the interest derived from dead capital must for many purposes be contrasted with the wages obtained for skilled labour.

Without entering further into this very thorny subject of