Xenophon, Ways and Means (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Vect.].
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4.6Mining, in fact, is quite different from other industries. An increase in the number of coppersmiths, for example, produces a fall in the price of copper work, and the coppersmiths retire from business. The same thing happens in the iron trade. Again, when corn and wine are abundant, the crops are cheap, and the profit derived from growing them disappears, so that many give up farming and set up as merchants or shopkeepers or moneylenders. But an increase in the amount of the silver ore discovered and of the metal won is accompanied by an increase in the number of persons who take up this industry. 4.7Neither is silver like furniture, of which a man never buys more when once he has got enough for his house. No one ever yet possessed so much silver as to want no more; if a man finds himself with a huge amount of it, he takes as much pleasure in burying the surplus as in using it.

4.8Mark too that, whenever states are prosperous, silver is in strong demand. The men will spend money on fine arms and good horses and magnificent houses and establishments, and the women go in for expensive clothes and gold jewelry. 4.9If, on the other hand, the body politic is diseased owing to failure of the harvest or to war, the land goes out of cultivation and there is a much more insistent demand for cash to pay for food and mercenaries.

4.10If anyone says that gold is quite as useful as silver, I am not going to contradict him; but I know this, that when gold is plentiful, silver rises and gold falls in value.

4.11With these facts before us, we need not hesitate to bring as much labour as we can get into the mines and carry on work in them, feeling confident that the ore will never give out and that silver will never lose its value. 4.12I think, indeed, that the state has anticipated me in this discovery; at any rate she throws open the mining industry to foreigners on the same terms as are granted to citizens.

4.13To make myself clearer on the subject of alimony, I will now explain how the mines may be worked with the greatest advantage to the state. Not that I expect to surprise you by what I am going to say, as if I had found the solution of a difficult problem. For some things that I shall mention are still to be seen by anyone at the present day, and as for conditions in the past, our fathers have told us that they were similar. 4.14But what may well excite surprise is that the state, being aware that many private individuals are making money out of her, does not imitate them. Those of us who have given thought to the matter have heard long ago, I imagine, that Nicias son of Niceratus, once owned a thousand men in the mines, and let them out to Socias the Thracian, on condition that Sosias paid him an obol a day per man net and filled all vacancies as they occurred. 4.15Hipponicus, again, had six hundred slaves let out on the same terms and received a rent of a mina a day net. Philemonides had three hundred, and received half a mina. There were others too, owning numbers in proportion, I presume, to their capital. 4.16But why dwell on the past? At this day there are many men in the mines let out in this way. 4.17Were my proposals adopted, the only innovation would be, that just as private individuals have built up a permanent income by becoming slave owners, so the state would become possessed of public slaves, until there were three for every citizen. 4.18Whether my plan is workable, let anyone who chooses judge for himself by examining it in detail.

So let us take first the cost of the men. Clearly the treasury is in a better position to provide the money than private individuals. Moreover the Council can easily issue a notice inviting all and sundry to bring slaves, and can buy those that are brought to it. 4.19When once they are purchased, why should there be more hesitation about hiring from the treasury than from a private person, the terms offered being the same? At any rate men hire consecrated lands [Note] and houses, and farm taxes under the state.

4.20The treasury can insure the slaves purchased by requiring some of the lessees to become guarantors, as it does in the case of the tax-farmers. In fact a tax-farmer can swindle the state more easily than a lessee of slaves. 4.21For how are you to detect the export of public money? Money looks the same whether it is private property or belongs to the state. But how is a man to steal slaves when they are branded with the public mark and it is a penal offence to sell or export them?

So far, then, it appears to be possible for the state to acquire and to keep men. 4.22But, one may ask, when labour is abundant, how will a sufficient number of persons be found to hire it? Well, if anyone feels doubtful about that, let him comfort himself with the thought that many men in the business will hire the state slaves as additional hands, since they have abundance of capital, and that among those now working in the mines many are growing old. Moreover there are many others, both Athenians and foreigners, who have neither will nor strength to work with their own hands, but would be glad to to make a living by becoming managers.



Xenophon, Ways and Means (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Vect.].
<<Xen. Vect. 3.9 Xen. Vect. 4.12 (Greek) >>Xen. Vect. 4.29

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