Silvio Gesell: The Natural Economic Order
Part 1: Distribution


Scientific discoveries were an even more powerful factor than machinery in trebling the yield of German land within the last decades. I shall only mention briefly the use of potash salts, basic slag, and nitrogen-collecting plants as manure; the artificial production of nitrogenous fertilisers, (calcium cyanamide), the prevention and cure of contagious diseases in plants and animals. (*By electrifying the soil the physicist Lodge obtained an increase of produce of 30-40%.)

These discoveries have not, however, fertilised all soils equally. By far the greatest gain from them so far has accrued to the peaty, marshy and sandy soils previously considered barren. Here the development meant more than trebling the produce; it meant the creation of new soil, for the sand and moor had not been previously cultivated at all. In Germany a small fraction of these waste-lands was formerly cultivated as burnt moor and yielded a scanty crop every fifteen years to those who were willing to undertake this arduous labour.

(*As lately as 30 years ago, more than half the province of Hanover was covered with heather. Every 15 years the heather was cut, piled and burnt, the ashes being spread on the land which was then ploughed and yielded a scanty crop of rye or buckwheat. The smoke from these fires was often observed at 500 miles distance from Hanover.)

These lands now yield rich harvests every year. Land which was always naturally fertile cannot, of course, treble its already rich yield. Such land provides the manure necessary for its own perennial rejuvenation if, as is the general rule, tillage is combined with cattle-breeding. That is why artificial fertilisers are much less important in such cases than when applied to lands naturally barren. And the influence of artificial fertilisers on the produce of freeland of the first and second class is still slighter. These virgin lands as a rule require no manuring at all. The cost of transporting artificial fertilisers to such land is, moreover, prohibitive.

Thus the effect of scientific discoveries on wages and rent varies according to the nature of the land to which they are applied. As in the case of machinery, it is impossible to state generally whether they raise or depress rent or wages.


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