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intrusted. We trust our health to the physician, our fortune and sometimes our life and reputation to the lawyer and attorney. Such confidence could not safely be reposed in people of a very mean or low condition. Their reward must be such, therefore, as may give them that rank in society which so important a trust requires."
The superiority of reward is not here the consequence of competition, but of its absence; not a compensation for disadvantages inherent in the employment, but an extra advantage ; a kind of monopoly price, the effect not of a legal, but of what has been termed a natural monopoly. If all laborers were trustworthy, it would not be necessary to give extra pay to working goldsmiths on account of the trust. The degree of integrity required being supposed to be uncommon, those who can make it appear that they possess it are able to take advantage of the peculiarity, and obtain higher pay in proportion to its rarity. This opens a class of considerations which Adam Smith, and most other political economists, have taken into far too little account, and from inattention to which, he has given a most imperfect exposition of the wide difference between the remuneration of common labor and that of skilled employments.
Some employments require a much longer time to learn, and a much more expensive course of instruction than others; and to this extent there is, as explained by Adam Smith, an inherent reason for their being more highly remunerated. If an artisan must work several years at learning his trade before he can earn anything, and several years more before becoming sufficiently skilful for its finer operations, he must have a prospect of at least earning enough to pay the wages of all this past labor, with compensation for the delay of payment, and an indemnity for the expenses of his education. His wages, consequently, must yield, over and above the ordinary amount, an annuity sufficient to repay these sums, with the common rate of profit, within the number of years he can expect to live and be in working condition. This, which is necessary to place the skilled employments, all circumstances taken together, on the same level of advantage with the unskilled, is the smallest difference which can exist for any length of time between the two remunerations, since otherwise no one would learn the skilled employments. And this amount of difference is all which Adam Smith's principles account for. When the disparity is greater, he seems to think that it must be explained by apprentice laws, and the rules of corporations which restrict admission into many of the skilled employments. But, independently of these or any other artificial monopolies, there is a natural monopoly in favor of skilled laborers against the unskilled, which makes the difference of reward exceed, sometimes in a manifold proportion, what is sufficient merely to equalize their advantages. If unskilled laborers had it in their power to compete with skilled, by merely taking the trouble of learning the trade, the difference of wages could not exceed what would compensate them for that trouble, at the ordinary rate at which labor is remunerated. But the fact that a course of instruction is required, of even a low degree of costliness, or that the laborer must be maintained for a considerable time from other sources, suffices everywhere to exclude the great body of the laboring people from the possibility of any such competition. Until lately all employments which required even the humble education of reading and writing, could be recruited only from a select class, the majority having no opportunity of acquiring those attainments. All such employments, accordingly, were immensely overpaid, as measured by the ordinary remuneration of labor. Since reading and writing have been brought within the reach of the multitude, the monopoly price of the lower gradle of educated employments has greatly fallen, the competition for them having increased in an almost incredible degree. There is still, however, a much greater disparity than can be accounted for on the principle of competition. A clerk from whom nothing is required but the mechanical labor of copying, gains more than an equivalent for his mere exertion if he receives the wages of a bricklayer's laborer. His work is not a tenth part as hard, it is quite as easy to learn, and his condition is less precarious, a clerk's place being generally a place for life. The higher rate of his remuneration, therefore, must be partly ascribed to monopoly, the small degree of education required being not even yet so generally diffused as to call forth the natural number of competitors; and partly to the remaining influence of an ancient custom, which requires that clerks should maintain the dress and appearance of a more highly paid class. In some manual employments, requiring a nicety of hand which can only be acquired by long practice, it is difficult to obtain at any cost workmen in sufficient numbers, who are capable of the most delicate kind of work; and the wages paid to them are only limited by the price which purchasers are willing to give for the commodity they produce. This is the case with some working watchmakers, and with the makers of astronomical and optical instruments. If workmen competent to such employments were ten times as numerous as they are, there would be purchasers for all which they could make, not indeed at the present prices, but at those lower prices which would be the natural consequence of lower wages. Similar considerations apply in a still greater degree to employments which it is attempted to confine to persons of a certain social rank, such as what are called the liberal professions ; into which a person of what is considered too low a class of society, is not easily admitted, and if admitted, does not easily succeed.
So complete, indeed, has hitherto been the separation, so strongly marked the line of demarkation, between the different grades of laborers, as to be almost equivalent to an hereditary distinction of caste ; each employment being
chiefly recruited from the children of those already employed in it, or in employments of the same rank with it in social estimation, or from the children of persons who, if originally of a lower rank, have succeeded in raising themselves by their exertions. The liberal professions are mostly supplied by the sons of either the professional, or the idle classes; the more highly skilled manual employments are filled up from the sons of skilled artisans, or of the class of tradesmen who rank with them; the lower classes of skilled employments are in a similar case; and unskilled laborers, with occasional exceptions, remain from father to son in their pristine condition. Consequently the wages of each class have hitherto been regulated by the increase of its own population, rather than of the general population of the country. If the professions are overstocked, it is because the class of society from which they have always mainly been supplied, has greatly increased in number, and because most of that class have numerous families, and bring up some at least of their sons to professions. If the wages of artisans remain so much higher than those of common laborers, it is because artisans are a more prudent class, and do not marry so early or so inconsiderately. The changes, however, now so rapidly taking place in usages and ideas, are undermining all these distinctions; the habits or disabilities which chained people to their hereditary condition are fast wearing away, and every class is exposed to increased and increasing competition from at least the class immediately below it. The general relaxation of conventional barriers, and the increased facilities of education which already are, and will be in a much greater degree, brought within the reach of all, tend to produce, among many excellent effects, one which is the reverse; they tend to bring down the wages of skilled labor. The inequality of remuneration between the skilled and the unskilled is, without doubt, much greater than is VOL. I.
justifiable, but it is desirable that this should be remedied by raising the unskilled, not by lowering the skilled. If, however, the other changes taking place in society, are not accompanied by a strengthening of the check to population on the part of laborers generally, there will be a tendency to bring the lower grades of skilled laborers under the influence of a rate of increase regulated by a lower standard of living than their own, and thus to deteriorate. their condition, without raising that of the general mass; the stimulus given to the multiplication of the lowest class being sufficient to fill up without difficulty the additional space gained by them from those immediately above.
§ 3. A modifying circumstance still remains to be noticed, which interferes to some extent with the operation of the principles thus far brought to view. While it is true, as a general rule, that the earnings of skilled labor, and especially of any labor which requires school education, are at a monopoly rate, from the impossibility, to the mass of the people, of obtaining that education; it is also true that the policy of nations has almost everywhere done much to counteract the effect of this limitation of competition, by offering eleemosynary instruction to a much larger class of persons than could have obtained the same advantages by paying their price. Adam Smith has pointed out the operation of this cause in keeping down the remuneration of scholarly or bookish occupations generally, and in particular of clergymen, literary men, and schoolmasters or other teachers of youth. I cannot better set forth this part of the subject that in his words :
" It has been considered as of so much importance that a proper number of young people should be educated for certain professions, that sometimes the public, and sometimes the piety of private founders, have established many pensions, scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries, &c., for this