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three times as much as any other member of the tribe. The property is still recognized as his, for this simple reason, if for no other, — that he would not put forth his force and ingenuity, if others should deprive him of their fruits. Again, if he chooses to hold these articles in reserve, instead of immediately consuming them, if he prefers a wigwam well stocked with implements of war and the chase, and a store of food for future use, to present indolence or the immediate gratification of his appetites, still his rights of ownership are respected. His prudence and economy, as much as his strength and skill, are allowed to redound exclusively to his own advantage. There is even a stronger reason for respecting his property in this case than in the former one; for the whole community profit by his savings; they operate to some extent as an insurance to them all against famine. There is now a stock of food or implements in the tribe, which, though not common property, may still operate for the benefit of all at some future day, when the chase happens to be unproductive, because the owner will sell them to others for their services, or as a debt, or for honors which it may be in their power to bestow.

In this simple instance, we can easily see how injurious it would be to the common welfare if the rights of property were not respected, and how surely such respect tends to an unequal distribution of the goods, I will not say, of fortune, but of industry and frugality. As men are differently endowed by nature with faculties of mind and body, with indolence or energy, with improvidence or thrift, So their situations in life must differ. And it is the true policy of society to encourage the more valuable qualities; — not to dishearten frugality by depriving it of its savings, nor to foster idleness by feeding it with the fruits obtained by the persevering toil of others. In civilized society, the same principles hold. The case becomes a little more complicated, because, by the transmutations of capital that have already been explained, the property of an individual is constantly assuming various shapes. But so long as it continues productive property, so long, in one form or another, it must further and assist the operations of labor; and so far it must benefit others as well as the owner. The general law, that industry is limited by capital, is borne out by the obvious consideration, that without implements, machinery, raw material, and a previously accumulated stock of food and clothing, the workman cannot bestow his labor to advantage, — cannot, in fact, work at all.

Even if it were granted, that all the wealth of a nation could be distributed equally among all the people, and that the stock of it, by obliging all to labor alike, would for ever remain equal to all their wants, — and no more improbable supposition could be framed, — it is certain that this would be no real improvement of their condition. "Those who have never known freedom from anxiety as to the means of subsistence," says J. S. Mill, "are apt to overrate what is gained for positive enjoyment by the mere absence of that uncertainty. The necessaries of life, when they have always been secure for the Avhole of life, are scarcely more a subject of consciousness, or a source of happiness, than the elements. There is little attractive in a monotonous routine, without vicissitudes, but without excitement,— a life spent in the enforced observance of an external rule, and performance of a prescribed task; in which labor would be devoid of its chief sweetener, the thought that every effort tells perceptibly on the laborer's own interests or on those of some one with whom he identifies himself; in which no one could by his own exertions improve his condition, or that of the objects of his private affections; in which no one's way of life, occupations, or movements would depend on choice, but each would be the slave of all; — a social system in which identity of education and pursuits would impress on all the same unvarying type of character, to the destruction of that multiform development of human nature, those manifold unlikenesses, that diversity of tastes and talents, and variety of intellectual points of view, which, by presenting to each innumerable notions that he could not have conceived of himself, are the great stimulus to intellect and the main-spring of mental and moral progression. The perfection of social arrangements would be, to secure to all persons complete independence and freedom of action, subject to no restriction but that of not doing injury to others; but the scheme which we are considering — (that of an equal partition of wealth and of labor) — abrogates this freedom entirely, and places every action of every member of the community under command."

The rate of wages in any country is determined by the competition of the laborers with the capitalists. Which shall have the advantage in the competition will depend on the relative numbers of the two parties, and will be in an inverse ratio to these numbers. In England, certainly, the capitalists have the advantage; their immense accumulations, and the fewness of those who can compete with them when compared with the vast number of those who subsist entirely upon wages, enable them generally to dictate their own terms, and to keep wages at the lowest point which will supply the workmen with the necessaries of life. In this country, it is quite as certain that the laborers have the advantage; most of them have a little capital of their own, on which they could subsist for a time, or, owing to the great demand for labor, they can find work in other establishments, perhaps in other trades. Here, frequently, it is not the employer who discharges the workman or the domestic, but the workman or the domestic who discharges the employer.

Many kinds of production can be successfully kept up only upon a large scale; for the larger the enterprise, the further the division of labor may be carried. In order to keep such enterprises in motion, capital must be aggregated in large masses. In England, the great inequality of the distribution of wealth allows such enterprises to be managed by individuals; in most cases, a large manufacturing establishment is owned either by one person, or by a firm which embraces but a few partners. In the United States, from the comparative paucity of large private fortunes, such an establishment is generally formed and conducted by a joimVstock company, — which is comparatively a modern invention, but one that, from its democratic character, is peculiarly suited to this country, and to the wants of the age. Many small capitalists, by clubbing their means, can successfully compete with men of vast fortune, — an undertaking which would otherwise be a hopeless one, as the great capitalist can live through reverses of trade, commercial crises, and casualties, which would ruin one who had little or nothing in reserve. So consonant are these joint-stock companies to the genius of our institutions and to the circumstances of the country, that they have multiplied with astonishing rapidity. They have survived even the necessity which called them forth; for as large private fortunes have sprung up with the growth of national opulence, the owners of them have preferred to distribute their capital by taldng stock in many of these associations, rather than to concentrate it upon one undertaking. The risk of a sweeping calamity is thus materially diminished. I know of nothing more irrational than the common prejudice against such corporations. They are true savings' banks, in which the common laborer not infrequently invests his modest savings, and shares the gains of his wealthy employer, instead of being crushed by competition with him. It is not unusual, I believe, for operatives to hold stock in the very manufactories in which they work for wages. At any rate, the savings5 bank, to which they first confide the fruits of their economy, often invests them in such stock. These corporations allow persons of very moderate means to participate in enterprises which, in other countries, are conducted exclusively by the rich. The occasional failure of one of them does not bankrupt many of the stockholders, whose property, invested in other ways, is left untouched; and as this seems a hardship to the creditor who has lost a portion of his debt, he is apt to declaim against those who are rich, and still do not pay what they owe. But his accusation is unjust; he who allows such an institution to become indebted to him, trusts it on account of the largeness of its capital, and its supposed solvency. It is the same thing for him, whether he trusts an individual or a corporation, the ground of his confidence, in either case, being his knowledge of the fact that the person or the corporation began business, perhaps, with half a million of capital, and he knows not that this capital has been wasted or lost. If he prefers, he may trust an individual who is supposed to be worth only $ 50,000, instead of a corporation reckoned at ten times that sum. If he chooses the latter course, he trusts the corporation, not the stockholders; he deliberately prefers the joint-stock security to the security offered by individuals; and, consequently, has no reason to complain if the latter do not pay him.




The laws of Political Economy, for the most part, it has been remarked, are inferences from the general fact, that individuals compete with each other in the pursuit of wealth. Rents, profits, wages, prices, are determined by competition; and as we are able to foresee what the effects of competition will be, we can show how these things will vary under given circumstances. Thus, profits tend to an equality in all employments, because capitalists compete with each other, and will withdraw their capital from a business which is less profitable, to invest it in one which is more so; this influx of capital into the more lucrative employment soon reduces the rate of profit in it to a level with the profits in other employments. The price of an article, of which there is a given quantity in the market, is determined by the demand for it, — that is, by the competition of the buyers. And this demand, again, regulates the future supply of that article; for as the competition of the buyers becomes warm, the price is enhanced, the profits of those who produce the article are increased, more capital is attracted into the employment, the supply is enlarged, and the price falls again.

These principles are sufficiently obvious, and if there were not exceptional cases, if their application was not modified and restricted by a crowd of circumstances, political economy might be called a demonstrative, or even an intuitive, science. Its maxims might all be taken for granted, and men would act upon them without giving themselves the trouble of enunciating them in an abstract form. But there are numerous exceptions and modifying circumstances, which need to be carefully considered; and in this chapter I propose to examine the most important of them.

There are two things the supply of which is not regulated by the demand; and they are two very important things, —

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