This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
To all industry there is an entrance fee. Not only must the child be supported through years of helplessness until he becomes an able-bodied laborer; but even then every day's work requires a previous supply of food, clothing, and shelter. These form, at the least, no inconsiderable share of capital, though varying greatly with climates and habits.
A country which turns its crops three or four times a year will not need so large a stock of provisions for the maintenance of its labor as one that has a short season, and is locked up in frost and ice the rest of the time. The same diversity exists in respect to shelter and clothing. All degrees of difference will be found among the countries of the world.
Here, then, is the first duty of capital. It must support labor. Out of its products enough must be regularly laid by to subsist the laborers and those dependent on them till the next yield. The necessity is so plain and absolute as to be generally recognized. Few, indeed, are the peoples or persons who have not forethought enough to prepare for their bodily maintenance from year to year; while, yet, there are found individuals in every community, and even large communities are found in the world, which make so scanty provision, that, at the least accident or delay of the coming crop, they are caught in great physical distress, and are often reduced to suffering and beggary. What a light Alkman throws on early economy when he calls spring "the season of short fare"!
2d, Capital must provide for the increase of population. This is not because capital wants population to increase, but because population decides so. It is elsewhere shown what causes operate in limitation. But, so far as this increase takes place, capital evidently must furnish support either in pauperism or in labor. It is needless to say that the latter is the cheapest and best, under any condition, for capital. And this may be continued until the limits of capital are filled. If subsistence can be had, propagation will naturally go forward. This, of course, increasing the industrial power, tends, in a healthy state, to augment capital; and so, by mutual interaction, an advancing condition of society is secured. It is only by false and vicious laws that misery and crime are multiplied in this way, rather than power and happiness.
3d, Capital must supply its own waste.
Nothing else will. Labor only wears out capital. Whatever is wanted to renew and keep up the present stock of machinery and material, must be got out of wealth.
4th, Capital must keep up with economic improvements. Individuals and communities are affected in this respect just as they are by the introduction of new implements of war. All were on a level before; but, if new and deadlier arts are introduced into one, all others are at once forced to adopt them, or be at a disadvantage. So while a people might be getting along very well, and feel no need of any discovery to shorten or supplement its labor, yet, if such a discovery is made, it must use it, or be thrown out in the competitions of commerce. The operations of this cause may sometimes soon reduce the amount of capital required for a specific purpose; but, generally, its effect is, while multiplying prodigiously the results of labor, to increase the actual amount of tools and materials which labor employs. Irrespective of this, a great deal is also wasted by falling out of fashion and use, in the change of business, or of location.
5th, Capital must support government.
This is not the place to show the economical merits of government, or to dwell on its necessity. It does and will exist, and capital will be charged with its maintenance. At the last resort, and after all the complaints capital may make of the burden, it would never consent to be deprived of the protection of the public force. Capital can only live under law, and for law it must pay, — no matter what the price.
II. What amount of reproductive consumption is desirable?
We have been able to develop with precision those absolute necessities which take wealth off to capital. - Wealth must support population, provide for its increase, furnish labor with tools and material, and meet the demands of government. In this it has no liberty. It must do so, or cease to be. But when these first gross demands have been met, shall wealth go further in the direction of reproduction. Shall the energies of the people still be bent on acquisition? shall greater wealth be set always in front, as the goal of universal effort? Shall the products of the past be scrupulously employed as the seed of still more abounding harvests? or shall the energies relax, when nature is satisfied in her simplest wants? Shall leisure or culture or pleasure now become the objects of life? Shall the fruit of to-day be enjoyed in itself, and the passing hour be spent in its own duties and amusements?