Capital forms the third requisite of production and is almost on a level with the other two —in fact, practically on a level with them except that, as Bentham remarked, labour must have preceded capital.1 From land and labour everything proceeds, but in the actual state of things in the present day we always use some capital in production; so that it now takes its place as one of the three requisites. Until quite recently I was never able to ascertain the origin of the name capital. Of course it comes from the Latin Caput, but then in what way was that connected with the idea of head. I always thought of the number* as the head, etc., but now it is made quite plain — in the early History of Institutions by Henry Maine2 — that it is derived from the name of cattle [ancient way of trading] = hence chattel, local term for movable goods. French cheptel. English cattle. So we inherited the word capital. You can’t imagine a better instance of capital than a stock of oxen, because they form the most valuable source of sustenance and food and are useful as draft animals.


Political Economy Draft Animal Historical Accident Good Meat Dwelling House 
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© R. D. Collison Black and Rosamond Könekamp 1977

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  • R. D. Collison Black

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