Capital, the stock of resources at a particular date available to help satisfy future wants. In this main sense capital may refer to (1)a community's stock of material wealth (plus its claims against and minus debts owing to people in other countries); (2) that part of the stock intended for use in further production (plus net claims against people in other countries); or (3) an individual's private assets (which include claims against his countrymen and government as well as material objects and claims against people in other countries).
In the past capital has also been used to refer not to a stock but to a flow of savings in such terms as 'the supply of capital' and 'the amount of free or floating capital'. The act of postponing or foregoing consumption, a necessary but not sufficient condition for capital formation, would now be called saving rather than supplying capital; and free or floating capital, that is, money intended by its owner to build up material wealth or to lend to others, would be called loanable or investible funds.
Society's stock of man-made material wealth, plus net claims on people in other countries, is the most inclusive concept. It is used for comparisons of the power of different societies to satisfy wants. The average worker in the U.S.A. or Britain enjoys a higher standard of living than the avenge worker in an under-developed country largely because he works with much more capital. It consists of houses and other buildings, durable producers' goods such as machinery and equipment, stocks of raw materials, semi-finished goods and products held by manufacturers and distributors, net claims against other countries and stocks of goods held by householders. Household stocks range in durability from foodstuffs consumed in a short time, through semi-durables such as clothing, to 'consumer' durables such as furniture, cooking stoves, refrigerators and motor-cars.
It is usual to exclude household stocks from capital, partly because their purchase calls for a separate explanation from that for capital goods intended for further production and partly because household stocks are difficult to value. The exclusion is arbitrary, since there is no difference in principle between the real income in the form of amenities that a house yields to its owner and that which is yielded by his furniture; moreover it leads to anomalies; e.g. motor-cars are counted as capital when owned by firms and used for business but not when owned privately for pleasure.
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