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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 86

Tribute v. Earnings

Tribute v. Earnings.

Whoever wishes to get a clear idea of the industrial problem must begin by realising thoroughly the fundamental difference between Tribute and Earnings. This is the key to the whole question.

Society consists of two classes :

1. The class that lives by producing goods, or rendering active service of some sort; that is by work, the reward for which, called fees in the case of professional men, profit in the case of employers, salary or wages in the case of subordinate workers, may be summed page 4 up in the word earnings. And 2. The class which neither produce goods nor actively earns anything, but lives on the earnings of others, having acquired possession of something, land or money which it has no present intention of using itself, but which is necessary to other people and which it charges them for the mere permission to use. These two charges, Rent and Interest, we express together by the term Tribute.

No doubt there are persons who, while doing nothing to earn their income, yet do other work, often very valuable work, gratuitously; of such are scientific men like Darwin, statesmen, like scores who could be named, and so on. And there are others who enjoy two distinct incomes, one from Tribute, which they do not earn, and one from useful work, which they do earn, so that the two classes appear superficially to merge into each other.

For all that, the two kinds of income remain perfectly distinct Tribute (Rent and Interest) accrues all the same, whether the claimant works or plays; whether he is well or ill; even whether he is alive or dead; for the claim once established is immortal, and continues (unless the landlord is bought out, or the creditor paid off) from heir to heir, from generation to generation.

Once land is let, or money lent, the day of tribute comes round with unfailing regularity. The tenant's crop may fail, the borrower's enterprise may break down, but the tribute comes due all the same.

The system may be just or unjust, beneficial or injurious; we are not here concerned with the ethics of the matter, but with the facts only.

Grasp well before proceeding further this fundamental difference between Tribute and Earnings, and realise that everybody's income is resolvable into one or the other.

We shall express the class that lives on tribute by the letter T, and the class that lives by work by the letter W.