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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Wealth, Mulhall's Estimate In Millions of £

Wealth, Mulhall's Estimate In Millions of £.

Lands. Houses. Total Wealth. £ per inhabitant.
United Kingdom 1,544 2,424 9,400 247
France 2,688 1,704 8,598 224
Germany 1,815 1,323 6,437 140
Russia 1,507 701 5,089 55
Denmark 217 40 404 230
United States 2,560 2,850 12,824 210
Canada 282 127 980 196
Australasia 533 239 1,373 370

These two tables present the position of Australasia, as regards wealth m the most flattering manner, Mulhall, it will be seen, Hakes a higher estimate than Coghlan, which arises from the bet that he includes Crown lands in his valuation. It is from these and similar tables that the popular statements about Australasian wealth are taken. To be able to say that the wealth per head of these colonies is far and away in excess of that in every other country, the United Kingdom not excepted, is very pleasant, but alas ! each of the two statisticians we have quoted accompany their tables with certain remarks which are invariably ignored, Mulhall (p. 589) says:—" As regards the amount of wealth per inhabitant the United Kingdom stands second only to Australia; and when we consider that most of Australia is mortgaged to British capitalists, we may say that in reality the United Kingdom has most wealth per head." As far as we know this important qualification is never referred to. Coghlan ("Seven Colonies," p. 817) says:—" The figures relating to the wealth of the provinces are irrespective of the money owing to persons outside Australasia. That this is considerable is certain from the value of some of the known items. Thus the banks trading in Australasia have British deposits to the extent of some forty-two millions, of which at least twenty-six are used in their Australasian business." Mr. Coghlan's statistics of wealth are often quoted, but the accompanying qualification is generally page 34 forgotten. The fact is that statistics of wealth are simply a statement of the wealth in a country, and not of the actual wealth belonging to the population—the wealth in and not of a country, But invariably Australian public men speak of the wealth inAustralia as being the wealth of Australia. This is a striking illustration of the way in which Australian statistics lend themselves to the creation of erroneous views. Mulhall's remark that "most of Australia is mortgaged" may, however, be set down as an exaggeration in the opposite direction to that usually taken.

If we would ascertain the true net wealth of Australasia we must deduct 400 millions from the ordinary estimates of wealth, this being the sum at which we approximately fixed the Australasian wealth owned by persons resident in Great Britain. Mr. Coghlan has estimated the gross wealth, private and public, at 1829 millions, Mr. Mulhall has estimated it at 1373 million Making tire allowance of 400 millions, we find these estimates reduced to 929 millions and 973 millions respectively, equal to £232 per head on the lower and £243 per head on the higher estimate when divided amongst four million people, a marked reduction on the per head figure representing the gross wealth, In taking extracts from Mulhall's table representing the aggregate wealth of each community, we also took the figures shoeing the proportions represented by lands and houses. In Great Britain these cover 42 per cent. of the total wealth; in France, 51 per cent.; in the United States, 42 per cent.; in Canada, 42 per cent. In Australasia, however, the proportion in very much greater, being no less than 61 per cent, without any inclusion of Crown lands. Indeed, it comes to 70 per cent. on the figures given by Mr. Coghlan, 821 out of 1169 millions, but the inclusion of public works makes the percentage 61. Adding public works, we have, as we have seen, an aggregate estimate of 1329 millions, of which 821 millions represent land and houses, and 508 millions all other forms of wealth. The estimates of the value of lands and houses in Australasia have been carefully made by the Statistician; they are not at all based on guess work, they are based on the municipal valuations, and on declarations taken in connection with the census; they are trustworthy as far as they go. But when we talk of Australasian wealth, we must remember that the vast proportion of it is represented by real estate, which is liable to most rapid and violent changes in value, and that the valuations now before us—1890-91—are those taken after a time, page 35 in some colonies at least, of inflation; after the full influence of an unprecedented rush of new capital had made itself felt. According to Mulhall, Australasian wealth rose from 320 millions in 1870 to 1378 millions in 1888. The great bulk of this increase was in real estate, and the very advance is so enormous is to suggestdoubt3 as to its having been permanently established. In passing, it is not without interest to refer to the extraordinary fall in the value of land in the United Kingdom, In 1843, the value was 1677 millions; in 1850, it had risen to 1704 millions; in 1850, to 1748 millions; the advance continued at an accelerated speed till in 1868 it stood at 1925 millions, and in 1877 it 2077 millions. The culminating point was reached in 1877, since which year there has been a continuous and very heavy fall, until in 1888 the total value only stood at 1544 millions, a lower due than known for fifty years. The great fall in the value of land in Great Britain has been accompanied by a marked rise in the value of land in distant countries. The two changes, so diametrically opposite, are probably mainly due to the same cause—the cheapening of the cost of moving produce from country to country. It is probably true to say that the value of wheat land in Great Britain to-day only exceeds the value of similar land in Australia and in America, quality being equal, by a sum representing the capitalised equivalent of the cost of taking wheat from Australia or America to Great Britain. This tendency towards a closer approximation in the value of the agricultural and pastoral lands of the world may be relied on to continue, and it forms an element of strength in the value of such lands in Australasia. It will be understood that this fall in value in Great Britain is purely in agricultural and pastoral lands, as real estate in the towns and cities of Great Britain has continued to rise in value.

The most important points affecting the wealth statistics of Australasia have been dealt with in the foregoing remarks, and although it is clear that there has been a substantial, quite a wonderful, increase during recent years in the wealth of these communities, it is equally clear that there requires to be a very considerable modification in the popular estimate, both as regards the aggregate amount and as regards the comparison with the wealth of other countries. The "per head "estimate of wealth in Australasia is, in comparison with that of Great Britain, made to appear to greater advantage by the very much larger proportion of workers in Australasia. Indeed, the way in which nearly page 36 all the statistics we have referred to tend, to the creation of exaggerated views of the financial strength of Australasia is quite remarkable.