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proceeds of that sale will of right belong to him,
because he has helped to produce it. And as there
is no labor commodity to be sold, so there is no
labor market in which to sell it. A free market
assumes a variety of sellers with different commodi-

^ *' What is fair wajjes ? " The reply is. that " any wages are
fair which are as \\v^\\ as that sort of work t-oniniaiuls in the open
market." " Labor, like flour or cotton cloth, should always be
bouf^ht in the cheapest nuirket and sold in the dearest." W. A.
Croffiit. Th- Forum. M:iv. ISStJ.


ties and a variety of buyers with different needs,
the seller at perfect liberty to sell or not to sell, the
buyer at perfect liberty to buy or not to buy.
There is no such market for labor. The laborers
are in a great majority of cases as firmly attached
to their town by prejudice, by ignorance of the out-
side world and its needs, by home considerations, by
their little possessions, — their house and lot, — and
by religious ties, as if they were rooted in the soil.
They have no variety of skill to offer : as a rule, the
laborer knows how to do well only one thing, uses
well only one tool, and must find an o\\Tier of that
tool who wishes a laborer to use it, or must be idle.^
'' A merchant," says Frederic Harrison, '' sits in his
counting-house, and, by a few letters or forms,
transports and distributes the subsistence of a
whole city from continent to continent. In other
cases, as the shopkeeper, the ebb and flow of pass-
ing multitudes supplies the want of locomotion in
his wares. His customers supply the locomotion
for him. This is a true market. Here competi-
tion acts rapidly, fully, simply, fairly. It is totally
otherwise with a day-laborer, who has no commodity
to sell. He must himself be present at every mar-
ket, which means costly, personal locomotion. He
cannot correspond with his employer: he cannot
send a sample of his strength ; nor do employers
knock at his cottage door." There is neither a
labor commodity to sell nor a labor market in which

^ See F. A. Walker, The Wages Question, ch. ii. The quotation
from F. Harrison is also from this chapter.


to sell it. Both are fictions of political economy.
The actual facts are as follows : —

Most commodities in our time — even agricul-
tural commodities are gradually coming under these
conditions — are produced by an organized body of
workingmen, carrying on their work under the super-
intendence of a " captain of industry," and by the
use of costly tools. This requires the cooperation
of three classes, — the tool-owner or capitalist, the
superintendent or manager, and the tool-user or
laborer. The result is the joint product of their
industry, — for the tool itself is only a reservoired
product of industry, — and therefore belongs to
them jointly. It is the business of political economy
to ascertain how values can be equitably divided
between these partners in a common enterprise.
This is the labor question in a sentence. It is not
true that the laborer is entitled to the whole, nor
does he demand it, whatever some of the wild advo-
cates of his cause may have claimed for him. The
superintendent is entitled to a share, and a large
share. To direct such an industry, to know what
products are needed in the world, to find a pur-
chaser for them at a price which will give a fair
return for the labor of producing them, requires
itself labor of a high quality, and one which de-
serves a generous compensation. The tool-owner
is entitled to remuneration. Presumptively he, or
some one from whom he has received the tool, has
saved the money which his companions spent either
in present comfort or in doubtful pleasures, and he


is entitled to a reward for his economy and thrift,
though it may be a question whether our modern
industrial system does not sometimes give a re-
ward too great for the virtue of acquisition, and so
transform the virtue into a vice. The laborer is
entitled to compensation. Since the abolition of
slavery, no one in theory denies this right. The
determination how the division of the product of
this joint industry shall be made is a difficult one.
But it is certain that it is not to be made by a
system which bids the capitalist pay as little wages
as possible for the service rendered, and the laborer
render as little service as possible for the wages
received. Whatever may be the right way, this is
the wrong way.

Ethically, it is the duty of the employer to pay,
not the lowest, but the highest possible wages ; as
it is the duty of the employed to render, not the
least, but the largest possible service. Selfishness
will not solve the labor problem. Selfishness and
shrewdness in employer and employed, perpetually
struggling against one another, will not promote
peace nor produce welfare. Economically, it is
wise for the employer to pay the largest possible
wages ; for the larger wages produce better men,
and better men produce better work. The Ameri-
can worker, because he is paid better wages and
lives a better life, operates more spindles and
more looms in textile working, turns out more tons
of coal and iron, works more steadily and more
intelligently in every hour of the working day,


utilizes more effectively every moment, and pro-
duces not only more but better product than his
European competitor. So, also, in spite of short-
ened hours and higher wages, the labor cost of
the English cotton industry is lower than that
of the Continental factories. The country where
labor is the cheapest is the country where wages
are the highest and the hours are the shortest.
The country where the employer gets the best
returns for his investments is also the country
where the workingmen receive the best recompense.
The labor paid ten dollars and seventy-one cents
in the Massachusetts clock factories proves more
profitable to the employer than the labor paid ten
to twelve shillings in the Black Forest. ^

The laborer and the capitalist are partners in
a common enterprise. An injury to one is an
injury to both. A benefit to one is a benefit to
both. Their interests are common interests, and
the experience of the world justifies the declara-
tion that the industry which promotes the noblest
manhood in the worker produces the best result in
the goods. No industrial system is in its essence
a Christian system which does not practically re-
cognize the truth that it is ruinous to grind up
men, women, and children, in order to make cheap
goods. No industrial system is righteous which
does not make such a division of the profits as to

1 L. J. Brentano, Hours and Wages in Relation to Production,
Soc. !Sc. Ser., pp. 16, 45, 53, 74 ; John Rae, Eight Hours for Work,
pp. 153, 154.


give to all who are engaged in it a living wage.
What is a living wage I will not here undertake
to discuss. It must at least provide for food,
shelter, and clothing. It ought to provide books,
pictures, education. And it ought to enable the
man to earn the livelihood for his wife and his
younger children.

A living wage is not, however, in itself the
consummation of justice: it is only one means
toward that consummation. Justice demands that
all those engaged in a common enterprise should
share its profits and its losses. Commercially
speaking, it should be so conducted that every
one engaged in it will have as the result, if he is
temperate and industrious, enough to maintain
life, — physical, intellectual, and spiritual ; but he
may be entitled to more.

The famous aphorism of Louis Blanc, "From
every man according to his ability, to every man
according to his needs," is the law of benevolence,
not of justice. Benevolence calls on every man
to render such service as he is able to the com-
munity, and to draw out of it for himself no more
than he needs. The highest self-love concurs with
public spirit in this law. If he contribute less
than he is able, his ability shrinks and shrivels
till it adjusts itself to his actual contribution. For
no man retains an ability which he does not em-
ploy. If he takes for himself more than he needs,
he either hoards it — in which case it is of no
use to him — or he spends it in vitiating luxuries


which minister to his sensual and lower nature,
in which case it is an injury to him. But though
this famous aphorism is the law of benevolence,
and even of spiritual prudence, it is not the law
of justice. That law is expressed in the Golden
Rule : Whatsoever ye would that men should do
unto you, do ye even so to them. We would
have others give us what belongs to us. What
we have produced by our own skill and industry
does belong to us. We may, and in many cases
ought to, give to another who needs it more than
belongs to him ; in many cases the highest spirit-
ual prudence directs us so to do. But it does not
follow that he has a right to take it from us.
To do this is an act of pali3able injustice. An
anonymous writer in the " Outlook " has recently
stated this in a concrete illustration with such
clearness that I transfer his statement to these
pages : —

" Two carpenters are laying shingles upon a village
hall. One lays a thousand shingles in a day. The
other is quicker of eye and hand, and lays fifteen hun-
dred. The one gives as much to the community in two
days as the other gives in three. If the community
renders to him again as much in two days as in three
days to the other, each man receives his own. If the
more efficient says to the community, ' It is true that I
have produced more than my brother. But he also has
worked faithfully, according to his ability. He also has
a wife and children. He and I will share alike,' that
is love and it is beautiful. But if the community, with-


out his will, returns to the more efficient only half the
fair equivalent of the whole product of the two, it does
not render his own to him, but robs him."

When three men, a tool-owner, a superinten-
dent, and a tool-user, unite to create a certain pro-
duct of their combined endeavor, this product
clearly belongs to the three jointly. It does not
belong to the tool-user, leaving him to pay for the
tool the lowest possible rental ; nor to the tool-
owner, leaving him to pay to the tool-user the
lowest possible wage. It belongs to the three
jointly, and justice requires that it be shared be-
tween them in proportion to their respective con-
tributions. If the industry has been successful, it
will be of sufficient value to pay the cost of the
tool which has been worn out in the operation, —
in other words, the cost of wear and tear, — and the
cost of subsistence of the tool-user and the super-
intendent. All over and above that is profit,
and should be shared between them in some just
and equable proportion. Let a simple illustra-
tion make this clear : —

To make a pair of shoes three things are neces-
sary, — materials, tools, and a workman. The
workman must live, or he cannot make the
shoes. His subsistence, while he is making them,
is therefore a necessary part of the cost of the
shoes. He must have materials and tools ; but
one pair of shoes need not pay the cost of making
the tools, any more than it need pay the cost of
making the workman. The cost of the tools is


properly divided among all the shoes which one set
of tools will make. The cost of making a pair of
shoes, then, is sufficient money to enable the shoe-
maker to live, to purchase the materials for the
shoes, and to pay the proportionate cost of the
tools and their repair. If the pair of shoes is
worth more than these sums, there is a profit. If
it is worth less, there is a loss. Under the present
system, the capitalist, or tool-owner, buys the ma-
terials, pays the cost of the tools and the re23air
of the tools, and whatever he is compelled to pay
in order to induce the workman to work with the
tools ; he pockets all the profit and bears all the
loss. Is there not reason why the profit and the
loss should be shared between the two? If so,
what is the reason ? Why should the man who
furnishes the tools take all the profits, or bear all
the losses, any more than the man who furnishes
all the labor ?

The author is a laborer ; the j^ublisher is a capi-
talist. It is very rarely the case that the publisher
furnishes the literary labor, or the author the
necessary capital. In the last century the author
was a wage-worker. He wrote his book, and
carried it to the capitalist to be printed. The
price was determined by the literary labor market.
The publisher bought his labor wherever he covild
get it most cheaply. As a result, the author lived
in an attic on oatmeal or bread-and-water, and
wlien he could not find a capitalist to take his
labor he went to the debtor's prison. Thackeray


gives a dismal picture of the condition of the lit-
erary laborer in that epoch. By what process of
peaceful revolution I know not, the relation be-
tween author and publisher, literary laborer and
literary capitalist, has been converted into one of
profit-sharing. The novelist writes his story ; the
publisher prints and puts it on the market, and
pays the author a certain percentage of the profits.
If the book has a large sale, the author gets a
large return; if a small sale, he gets a small
return. This remuneration automatically increases
and diminishes with the market value of the pro-
duct of his industry. This is profit-sharing. It is
worthy of note that the relations between author
and publisher afford a curious illustration of the
effect of profit-sharing in producing a spirit of
honor and of absolute confidence. The author is
wholly dependent on the publisher's statement of
the number of copies sold for his knowledge of his
rights. He has no access to the publisher's books,
and probably could not understand them if he had.
But in all my experience of publishing and ac-
quaintance with authors, extending now through
many years, I have known of but one case of an
attempt to deprive an author of his just share of
the profits of the common venture. Is there any
reason why a shoe factory should not apply the
same principle, and give the factory laborer a per-
centage of the profits derived from the sale of the
products of the factory, except that the capital-
ist naturally prefers to keep all the profits, and, it


must be added, the laborer is often unwilling to
run the risk of the losses ?

The profit and loss sharing — for if one is
shared, the other must be also — may be accom-
plished in any one of several ways : by a mutual
agreement to raise or lower wages, as the industry
is profitable or otherwise ; by a " sliding scale," in
which wages are adjusted according to the market
price of the product of the industry ; by setting
aside a certain proportion of the stock, if the
capitalist is a corporation, and paying the divi-
dends upon it to the workingmen ; or by making
it easy for them to buy the stock, and so become
sharers in the enterprise. The method is a matter
of expediency and convenience. What is matter
of justice is the recognition of the fact that labor
is not a commodity ; that laborer, superintendent,
and capitalist are partners in a common enter-
prise ; and that the wages of the first, the salaries
of the second, and the dividends of the third are
to be adjusted in such a ratio that, as nearly as
possible, they may represent the resj^ective con-
tributions of these three classes in producing the
result of their combined endeavor.

III. An industrial system adjusted to Christ's
standard, so as to produce by its operation the best
men and women, will either be in itself educative
or will allow adequate leisure for educative pro-
cesses. The eight-hour day is a somewhat crude
and mechanical method of securing for the hand-
laborer such leisure, but he who criticises this


method because it is crude and mechanical should
point out some better way to secure the same de-
sirable end. It is true that many brain-workers
work more than eight hours a day. The minister,
the lawyer, the doctor, the merchant, the superin-
tendent, does not desire for himself any such cast-
iron limitation of labor hours. But the work
which these men are doing is itself educative.
They are developing their minds by the very pro-
cess of their service. This is not equally true of
the day-laborer, the farm hand, or the factory
worker. The latter soon acquires the requisite
skill for the one specific piece of work intrusted
to him ; the education furnished, as we have seen,
by the machinery soon comes to an end, and " the
hand " thereafter finds in his monotonous toil
nothing to enlarge or enrich his mental and moral
nature. If that nature is to be enlarged or en-
riched, if he is to be more than a bit of animated
machinery, his hours of mechanical toil must be so
limited as to furnish him leisure and opportunity
for development of manly qualities outside his
workshop. I have already recognized the benefi-
cent effects on manhood produced by the intro-
duction of machinery, but the candid student of
life must recognize also some other effects. One
of these is a certain narrowing: influence on the
workingman. It is iui plied in the common phrase
used to designate him, — "a hand." He is a
skilled but not necessarily an intelligent laborer.
He can do one thing excellently well, other things


not at all. The old-time carpenter could build a
house from foundation to roof ; the mechanic in the
planing-mill possesses no such varied ability.
Specialization in making him " skilled" limits his
skill. Says Ruskin ^ : —

" We have much studied and much perfected of late
the great civilized invention of the division of labor,
only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking,
the labor that is divided, but the men, — divided into
the mere segments of men, — broken into small frag-
ments and crumbs of life ; so that all the little piece of
intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make
a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point
of a pin or the head of a nail. Now it is a good and
desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day ; but
if we could only see with what crystal sand their points
were polished, — sand of human soul, much to be mag-
nified before it can be discerned for what it is,. — we
should think there might be some loss in it also. And
the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing
cities, louder than their furnace-blast, is all in very deed
for this : that we manufacture everything there except
men ; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine
sugar, and shape pottery ; but to brighten, to strengthen,
to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters
into our estimate of advantages."

It cannot be denied that there is truth in this
caustic indictment. The remedy is not by going
back to hand-work. That would be, as we have-
already seen, going back morally as well as eco-

1 John Ivuskin, Stones of Venice, vol. ii. cli. vi. § 16. p. 105.


nomically. It is by practically recognizing the
fact that the introduction of machinery has made
it possible for the workingman to produce in an
hour what before it required him days to pro-
duce, and by giving him a j^art of the benefit of
this fact in shortened hours of labor and length-
ened hours for rest, recreation, home, and educa-
tion. What chance for either has the iron-worker
in the furnaces of Pennsylvania, whose exhausting
toil employs him for twelve hours a day, three
hundred and sixty-five days in the year ? Or the
bakers of New York, who " work fourteen, sixteen,
and even eighteen hours a day, in many cases
sleeping in the bake-shop on the bread-troughs " ? ^
Or the horse-car conductors, who until very re-
cently worked twelve and thirteen hours out of the
twenty-four, sometimes rarely seeing their own chil-
dren, except in bed asleep ? Or that shopgirl, who
goes to work at eight o'clock in the morning and
leaves no earlier than nine o'clock at night; who
on Saturday remains until eleven or twelve o'clock ;
who even on Sunday works from eight to twelve ? ^
The first effect of the introduction of machinery
was to lengthen, not to shorten, the hours of labor.
The capitalist thought that he could not afford to
let his expensive machinery stand idle. Competi-
tion with other capitalists coerced him to keep it

1 Annual Report of the New York State Factories and Inspec-
tors, 1895.

- See Report of the Rheiiiliard Committee, quoted in the Out-
look, Nov. 2;], 181)'), officially giving- these as the liours of the
girls in all mercantile establishments in New York city.


busy. Competition among workingmen coerced
them to accept longer and still longer hours in
the vain hope of earning larger wages. Factory
hours were lengthened from ten to twelve, then
to fourteen and even sixteen hours a day. When
at length Parliament interfered, the mills in Man-
chester were running from five in the morning till
nine at night, and the hands took their breakfast,
as best they could, while attending the machin-
ery. Analogous lengthening of hours took place
in other vocations. Workingmen had little or
no enjqyment of even such simple and universal
gifts of God as sunshine and fresh air. "The
miners spent their days in a strained lying posi-
tion in the hot and foul air of a mine, or in a
strained standing position in the equally hot and
equally foul air of a mill; they lost their old
energy of habit, and contracted various disfigure-
ments, even of form ; and, as Mr. K. Guest re-
marks in his 'History of the Cotton Manufac-
ture,' in less than a single lifetime the very tastes
of the English workmen changed. Instead of
their old manly sports of wrestling, quoits, foot-
ball, and the longbow, they betook themselves
to pigeon-fancying, canary-breeding, or tulip-grow-
ing. They had neither time nor spirit left for any-
thing better, though under an eight-hours system
the old English tastes would probably revive again,
as they are now reviving in such a remarkable way
among the workpeople of Victoria." ^ The over-

^ John Rae, Eight Hours for ]Vork\ p. 11.


worked laborer lost his power of concentration and
his spirit of enterprise. Working under evil con-
ditions, with an exhausted body and a discontented
mind, his ambition was to do, not as much, but as
little as possible. There was no real material
gain ; there was great moral loss. The very foun-
dations of England's free institutions were in much
danger of being undermined by this process, which
was undermining English character.^ The first
movement for reform did not come from the mas-
ters, nor from the writers on political economy.
The writers insisted that the higher the wages and
the longer the hours, the better and the larger
would be the product of labor.^ The employers

^ " Sir John Forteseue, Chief Justice of the King's Bench under
Henry the Sixth, attributes even the existence of some of our
free institutions to the fact that the common people of Eng-land
enjoyed a greater measure of leisure than the common people of
other countries. He was living- in exile in France at the time
he wrote the book in which he makes this remarkable observa-
tion, and he says it would be impossible to establish such a thing
as trial by jury in that country, because the French people were
so fatigued with hard labor that 'twelve honest men of the
neighborhood' could not be found who had sufficient energy
left in them to discuss the rights and wrongs of an intricate
case. The English owed their leisure very largely, he said, to
their pastoral or mixed farming, which enabled them to lead a
life more spiritual and refined, as did the patriarchs of old ; but,
however it came, it brought men better possession of their f acid-
ties and capacity for the arts of freedom." — John Rae, Eight
Hours for Work, p. S.

- " Houghton, Betty, Temple, Child, and. in their earlier writ-
ings, Josiah Tucker and Arthur Young, emphatically uphold the
view that high wages are equivalent to low production. In order

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Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 14 of 25)