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others, in the character of causes exposing a country to be undersold. According to the preceding doctrine, a country cannot be undersold in any commodity, unless the rival count has a stronger inducement than itse for devoting its labour and capital to the roduction of the commodity; arising rom the fact that by doing so it occasions a greater saving of labour and capital, to be shared between itself and its customers—a greater increase of the aggregate produce of the world. The underselling, therefore, though a loss to the undersold country, is an advantage to the world at large; the substituted commerce being one which economizes more of the labour and capital of mankind, and adds more to their collective wealth, than the commerce superseded by it. The advantage, of course, consists in being able to produce the commodity of better quality, or with less labour (compared with other things); or perhaps not with less labour, but in less time; with a less prolonged detention of the capital employed. This may arise from greater natural advantages (such as soil, climate, richness of mines); superior capability, either natural or acquired, in the labourers; better division of labour, and better tools, or machinery. But there is no place left in this theory for the case of lower wages. This, however, in the theories commonly current, is a favourite cause of underselling. We continually hear of the disadvantage under which the British producer labours, both in foreign markets and even in his own, through the lower wages paid by his foreign rivals. These lower wages, we are told, enable, or are always on the point of enabling them to sell at lower prices, and to dislodge the English manufacturer from all markets in which he is not artificially protected. Before examining this opinion on grounds of principle, it is worth while to bestow a moment's consideration upon it as a question of fact. Is it true that the wages of manufacturing labour are lower in foreign countries than in England, in any sense in which low wages are an advantage to the
capitalist? The artisan of Ghent or Lyons may earn less wages in a day, but does he not do less work? Degrees of efficiency considered, does his labour cost less to his employer? Though wages may be lower on the Continent, is not the Cost of Labour, which is the real element in the competition, very nearly the same? That it is so seems the opinion of competent judges, and is confirmed by the very little difference in the rate of profit between England and the Continental countries. But if so, the opinion is absurd that English producers can be undersold by their Continental rivals from this cause. It is only in America that the supposition is primâ facie admissible. In America, wages are much higher than in England, if we mean by wages the daily earnings of a labourer: but the productive power of American labour is so great—its efficiency, combined with the favourable circumstances in which it is exerted, makes it worth so much to the purchaser, that the Cost of Labour is lower in America than in England; as is indicated by the fact that the general rate of profits and of interest is higher.
§ 3. But is it true that low wages, even in the sense of low Cost of Labour, enable a country to sell cheaper in the foreign market? I mean, of course, low wages which are common to the whole productive industry of the country.
If wages, in any of the departments of industry which supply exports, are kept, artificially, or by some accidental cause, below the general rate of wages in the country, this is a real advantage in the foreign market. It lessens, the comparative cost of production of those articles, in relation to others; and has the same effect as if their production required so much less labour. Take, for instance, the case of the United States in respect to certain commodities. In that country, tobacco and cotton, two great articles of export, are produced by slave labour, while food and manufactures generally are produced by free labourers, who either work on their own account or are paid by wages. . In spite of the inferior efficiency of slave labour, there can be no reasonable doubt that in a country where the wages of free labour are so high, the work executed by slaves is a better bargain to the capitalist. To whatever extent it is so, this smaller cost of labour, being not general, but limited to those employments, is just as much a cause of cheapness in the products, both in the home and in the foreign market, as if they had been made by a less quantity of labour. If the slaves in the Southern States were all emancipated, and their wages rose to the general level of the earnings of free labour in America, that country might be obliged to erase some of the slave-grown articles from the catalogue of its exports, and would certainly be unable to sell any of them in the foreign market at the accustomed price. Their cheapness is partly an artificial cheapness, which may be compared to that produced by a bounty on production or on exportation: or, considering the means by which it is obtained, an apter comparison would be with the cheapness of stolen goods. An advantage of a similar economical, though of a very different moral character, is that possessed by domestic manufactures; fabrics produced in the leisure hours of families partially occupied in other pursuits, who, not depending for subsistence on the produce of the manufacture, can afford to sell it at any price, however low, for which they think it worth while to take the trouble of producing. In an account of the Canton of Zurich, to which I have had occasion to refer on another subject, it is observed,” “The workman of Zurich is to-day a manufacturer, to-morrow again an agriculturist, and changes his occupations with the seasons, in a continual round. Manufacturing industry and tillage advance h and in hand, in inseparable alliance, and in this union of the two occupations the secret may be found, why the simple and unlearned Swiss manufacturer can always go on competing, and increasing in prosperity, in the face of * Historical, Geographical, and Statistical Picture of Switzerland, vol. i. p. 105 (1834).
those extensive establishments fitted out with great economic, and (what is still more important) intellectual, re. sources. Even in those parts of the Canton where manufactures have extended themselves the most widely, only one-seventh of all the families belong to manufactures alone; foursevenths , combine that employment with agriculture. The advantage of this domestic or family manufacture consists chiefly in the fact, that it is compatible with all other avocations, or rather that it may in part be regarded as only a supplementary employment. In winter, in the dwellings of the operatives, the whole family employ themselves in it: but as soon as spring appears, those on whom the early field labours devolve, abandon the in-door work; many a shuttle stands still; by degrees, as the field-work increases, one member of the family follows another, till at last, at the harvest, and during the so-called ‘great works,’ all hands seize the implements of husbandry; but in unfavourable weather, and in all otherwise vacant hours, the work in the cottage is resumed, and when the ungenial season again recurs, the people return in the same gradual order to their home occupation, until they have all resumed it.” In the case of these domestic manufactures, the comparative cost of production, on which the interchange between countries depends, is much lower than in proportion to the quantity of labour o The work. eople, looking to the earnings of their }. for a part only, if for any part, ch their actual maintenance, can afford to work for a less remuneration, than the lowest rate of wages which can permanently exist in the employments by which the labourer has to support the whole expense of a family. Working, as they do, not for an employer but for themselves, they may be said to carr on the manufacture at no cost at s except the small expense of a loom and of the material; and the limit of possible cheapness is not the necessity of living by their trade, but that of earning enough by the work to make that social employment of their leisure hours not disagreeable.
§ 4. These two cases, of slave labour and of domestic manufactures, exemplify the conditions under which low wages enable a country to sell its commodities cheaper in foreign markets, and consequently to undersell its rivals, or to avoid being undersold by them. But no such advantage is conferred by low wages when common to all branches of industry. General low wages never caused any country to undersell its rivals, nor did general high wages ever hinder it from doing so.
To demonstrate this, we must return to an elementary principle which was discussed in a former chapter.” General low wages do not cause low prices, nor high wages high prices, within the country itself. General prices are not raised by a rise of wages, any more than they would be raised by an increase of the quantity of labour required in all production. Expenses which affect all commodities equally, have no influence on prices. If the maker of broadcloth or cutlery, and nobody else, had to pay higher wages, the price of his commodity would rise, just as it would if he had to employ more labour; because otherwise he would gain less profit than other producers, and nobody would engage in the employment. But if everybody has to pay higher wages, or everybody to employ more labour, the loss must be submitted to ; as it affects everybody alike, no one can hope to get rid of it by a change of employment, each therefore resigns himself to a diminution of profits, and prices remain as they were. In like manner, general low wages, or a general increase in the productiveness of labour, does Irot make prices low, but profits high. If wages fall (meaning here by wages the cost of labour), why, on that account, should the producer lower his price? He will be forced, it may be said, by the comyetition of other capitalists who will 3rowd into his employment. But other capitalists are also paying lower wages, and by entering into competition with him they would gain nothing but what
* Supra, book iii, ch. iv.
they are gaining already. The rate then at which labour is paid, as well as the quantity of it which is employed, affects neither the value nor the price of the commodity produced, except in so far as it is peculiar to that commodity, and not common to commodities generally. Since low wages are not a cause of low prices in the country itself, so neither do they cause it to offer its commodities in foreign markets at a lower price. It is quite true that if the cost of labour is lower in America than in England, America could sell her cottons to Cuba at a lower price than England, and still gain as high a profit as the English manufacturer. But it is not with the profit of the English manufacturer that the American cotton spinner will make his comparison; it is with the profits of other American capitalists. These enjoy, in common with himself, the benefit of a low cost of labour, and have accordingly a high rate of profit. This high profit the cotton spinner must also have : he will not content himself with the English profit. It is true he may go on for a time at that lower rate, rather than change his employment; and a trade may be carried on, sometimes for a long period, at a much lower profit than that for which it would have been originally engaged in. Countries which have a low cost of labour, and high profits, do not for that reason undersell others, but they do oppose a more obstinate resistance to being undersold, because the producers can often submit to a diminution of profit without being unable to live, and even to thrive, by their business. But this is all which their advantage does for them : and in this resistance they will not long persevere, when a change of times, which may give them equal profits with the rest of their countrymen, has become manifestly hopeless.
§ 5. There is a class of trading and exporting communities, on which a few words of explanation seem to be required. These are hardly to be looked upon as countries, carrying on an exchange of commodities with other countries, but more properly as outŻying agricultural or manufacturing establishments belonging to a larger community. Our West India colonies, for example, cannot be regarded as countries, with a productive capital of their own. If Manchester, instead of being where it is, were on a rock in the North Sea (its present industry nevertheless continuing), it would still be but a town of England, not a country trading with England; it would be merely, as now, a place where England finds it convenient to carry on her cotton manufacture. The West Indies, in like manner, are the place where England finds it convenient to carry on the production of sugar, coffee, and a few other tropical commodities. All the capital employed is English capital; almost all the industry is carried on for English uses; there is little production of o except the staple commodities, an these are sent to England, not to be exchanged for things exported to the colony and consumed by its inhabitants, but to be sold in England for the benefit of the proprietors there. The trade with the West Indies is therefore hardly to be considered as external trade, but more resembles the traffic between town and country, and is amenable to the principles of the home trade. The rate of profit in the colonies will be regulated by English profits: the expectation of profit must be about the same as in England, with the addition of compensation for the disadvantages attending the more distant and hazardous employment: and after allowance is made for those disadvantages, the value and price of West India produce in the English market must be regulated (or rather must have been regulated formerly), like that of any English commodity, by the cost y roduction. For the last twelve or fifteen years this principle has been in abeyance: the price was first kept up beyond the ratio of the cost of production by deficient sup§ which could not, owing to the eficiency of labour, be increased; and more recently the admission of foreign competition has introduced another
element, and some of the West India Islands are undersold, not so much because wages are higher than in Cuba and Brazil, as because they are higher than in England: for were they not so, Jamaica could sell her sugars at Cuban prices, and still obtain, though not a Cuban, an English rate of profit. It is worth while also to notice another class of small, but in this case mostly independent communities, which have supported and enriched themselves almost without any productions of their own, (except ships and marine equipments,) by a mere carrying trade, and commerce of entrepôt ; by buying the produce of one country, to sell it at a profit in another. Such were Venice and the Hanse Towns. The case of these communities is very simple. They made themselves and their capital the instruments, not of production, but sof accomplishing exchanges between the productions of other countries. These exchanges are attended with an advantage to those countries—an increase of the aggregate returns to industry—part of which went to indemnify the agents, for the necessary expense of transport, and another part to remunerate the use of their capital and mercantile skill. The countries themselves had not capital disposable for the operation. When the Venetians became the agents of the general commerce of Southern Europe, they had scarcely any competitors: the thing would not have been done at all without them, and there was really no limit to their profits except the limit to what the ignorant feudal nobility could and would give for the unknown luxuries then first presented to their sight. At a later period competition arose, and the profit of this operation, like that of others, became amenable to natural laws. The carrying trade was taken up by Holland, a country with productions of its own and a large accumulated capital. The other nations of Europe also had now capital to spare, and were capable of conducting their foreign trade for themselves: but Holland, having, from a variety of circumstances, a lower rate of profit at home, could afford to carry for other countries at a smaller advance on the original cost of the goods, than would have been required by their own capitalists; and Holland, therefore, engrossed the
greatest part of the carrying trade cf all those countries which did not keep it to themselves by Navigation Laws, constructed, like those of England, for that express purpose.
or DISTRIBUTION, AS AFFECTED BY EXCHANGE,
§ 1. WE have now completed, as far as is compatible with our purposes and limits, the exposition of the machinery through which the produce of a country is apportioned among the different classes of its inhabitants; which is no other than the machinery of Exchange, and has for the exponents of its operation, the laws of Value and of Price. We shall now avail ourselves of the light thus acquired, to cast a retrospective glance at the subject of Distribution. The division of the produce among the three classes, Labourers, Capitalists, and Landlords, when considered without any reference to Exchange, appeared to depend on certain general laws. It is fit that we should now consider whether these same laws still operate, when the distribution takes place through the complex mechanism of exchange and money; or whether the properties of the mechanism interfere with and modify the presiding principles.
The primary division of the produce of human oxertion and frugality is, as we have seen, into three shares, wages, profits, and rent; and these shares are portioned out to the persons entitled to them, in the form of money, and by a process of exchange; or rather, the capitalist, with whom in the usual arrangements of society the produce remains, pays in money, to the other two sharers, the market value of their labour and land. If we examine, on what the pecuniary value of labour, and the pecuniary value of the use of land, depend, we shall find that it is on the very same causes by which we found that wages and rent would be
regulated if there were no money and no exchange of commodities. It is evident, in the first place, that the law of Wages is not affected by the existence or non-existence of Exchange or Money. Wages, depend on the ratio between population and caital; and would do so if all the capital in the world were the property of one association, or if the capitalists among whom it is shared maintained each an establishment for the production of every article consumed in the community, exchange of commodities having no existence. As the ratio between capital and population, in all old countries, depends on the strength of the checks by which the too rapid increase of population is restrained, it may be said, popularly speaking, that wages depend on the checks to population; that when the check is not death, by starvation or disease wages depend on the prudence of the labouring people; and that wages in any country are habitually at the lowest rate, to which in that country the labourer will suffer them to be depressed rather than put a restraint upon multiplication. What is here meant, however, by wages, is the labourer's real scale of comfort; the quantity he obtains of the things which nature or habit has made necessary or agreeable to him: wages in the sense in which they are of importance to the receiver. In the sense in which they are of importance to the payer, they do not depend exclusively on such simple principles. Wages in the first sense, the wages on which the labourer's comfort depends,