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should say he reached in succession three results: first, the power of population to increase faster than subsistence; secondly, the tendency of population so to increase—that is, he proved that the mere fact of passing into the stage of " diminishing returns" in production has of itself no necessary effect whatever to check propagation; thirdly, the determination^ the strong and urgent disposition, of population so to increase, due to the power and persistence of the sexual instincts, under the force of which human reproduction will go forward in spite of the plain warnings of prudence, in spite of increasing discomfort, squalor, and hunger. "Moral restraint" might, Mr. Malthus admitted, intervene to stay the fatal progress; but this required too much virtue to be reasonably expected of large masses of people. Hence the limit to population must be looked for mainly in " vice" (a preventive check to population) or in "misery" (a positive check). Prostitution might enter in disparagement of marriage; foeticide and abortion might enter to diminish the average number of children to a marriage; such were the methods of vice in limiting population by diminishing births. On the other hand, misery— that is, privation and excessive exertion—by aggravating infant mortality and shortening the duration of mature life, has been found, and is likely through an indefinite future to be found, the chief agency in keeping down the numbers of mankind.
Of this last result it may be said that it was a not very extravagant generalization of the experiences of most of the countries of Europe to which Mr. Malthus, writing before the French Revolution had fully wrought its mighty work, could look to ascertain the comparative strength of the principle of increase and the restraints of prudence. He might—indeed he did—look away to a country beyond the ocean, where a popular tenure of the soil, popular education, and a popular control of government might be expected to bring out the virtues of self-respect and self-restraint; but here it chanced that the political and the industrial interests of the people coincided in encouraging the most rapid development of population.
Such being the three successive but distinct results which make up Mr. Malthus's body of doctrine, it should be noted that they are not all of the same validity. The first result comes directly out of facts in the physical conditions of the earth and of man, which cannot be impugned. The second, for all that is known of human physiology, would seem to be equally indisputable. Prof. Senior has, indeed, in terms, while admitting the power, denied the tendency; but I must think that his denial should be taken as extending not to the tendency, but to what I have called the determination, of population to increase unduly. It seems incredible that Prof. Senior should have intended to question that population tends to increase faster than subsistence, so long, at least, as subsistence remains adequate to physical well-being, for it must be remembered that the condition of diminishing returns may begin when the per-cajpita product is still ample to afford a liberal support to all. Now, a country may proceed a long time with diminishing returns, diminishing, it may be, very slowly, before squalor and hunger become the necessary concomitants of an increase of population. So that, considering a people on the verge of that condition, it is certainly safe to say that subsistence can not thereafter increase as fast as before, because the constitution of the soil forbids; while yet population may, for a longer or a shorter time, continue to increase as fast as before, since the reproductive capability1 is undiminished and the sexual instinct remains as active and strong as ever. Hence, I believe Prof. Senior must have meant to deny this tendency only in the degree of force and persistency which Mr. Malthus attributed to it.
1 Indeed, the reproductive capability might even be increased during the first stages of diminishing returns. This would doubtless be so if the previous returns to labor had been so liberal as to encourage luxuriousness and some degree of effeminacy. In this case the first effects of diminished returns might be to induce a greater physical and nervous vigor.
It is then against Mr. Malthus's last result, namely, the determination, the strong and urgent disposition, of population to increase in spite of reason and prudence, and in spite of privation and squalor, that all valid criticism must be directed. Many of Mr. Malthus's opponents have considered that they have demolished Malthusianism when they have shown to their own satisfaction that the impulse to propagation is somewhat less strong, or that the motives and physiological tendencies which work against increase of population are somewhat stronger, than he represented them to. be. Malthusianism, however, stands complete and inexpugnable on the demonstration of the power and the tendency of population to increase faster than subsistence. The gloomy forebodings of the amiable clergyman who promulgated the doctrine are not at all of its essence. Malthusianism w^ould survive a demonstration, on the largest scale, of the power of prudence and social ambition to hold the impulses to propagation firmly in check.
The phrase "necessary wages" makes a considerable figure in economical literature. By it is intended a mininum below which, it is assumed, wages can not fall without reducing the supply of labor and thus inducing an opposite tendency, namely, to a rise in wages.1
It is not meant that the employer is bound, by either equitable or economical considerations, to pay the laborer, in the immediate instance, enough to support life in himself and family. The employer will, in general, pay only such wages as the anticipated value of the product will allow him to get back from the purchaser, with his own proper profits thereon. If, in a peculiar condition of industry, he consents for a time to give up his own profits, or even to produce at a sacrifice, it is with reference to his own interest in keeping his laboring force, or his customers, together, in the expectation that a turn in affairs will enable him to make himself good for the temporary loss. If he pays more than is consistent with this object, or if he pays any thing from any other view than his own interest, wliat he thus pays is not wages, but alms disguised as wages.
1 " The cost of purchasing labor, like that of every thing else, must be paid by the purchasers. The race of laborers would become altogether extinct unless they were supplied with quantities of food and other articles sufficient for their support and that of their families. This is the lowest limit to which the rate of wages can be permanently reduced, and for this reason it has been called the natural or necessary rate of wages."—J. E. McCulloch, Pol. Econ., p. 385,
Such instances of temporary sacrifice are, however, exceptional. In the vast majority of cases the wages which employers pay their workmen are governed by the price at which they may fairly expect to sell the product; and this, whether the workmen and their families can live thereon or not. If now, in any country, at any time, laborers, from any cause, become in excess of the demand, necessary wTages in that instance will not include a sufficiency of food and clothing for all these laborers, but only for those who are wranted.
Nor by necessary wages is it meant that workmen will not accept wages which are below the standard of subsistence. It is when men are receiving wages which give them a margin for the comforts of life, and perhaps something for luxury, that they say, sometimes in very wantonness, "If we can not have such and such wages, we w^ill not work," and perchance refuse offers which are as liberal as their employers can make. But when wages approach the dread line where they cease to furnish a sufficiency of the coarsest food, laboring men do not talk so. In countries where there is no poor law, and where the claim to support is not admitted by the state, it is a thing unknown that a workman refuses wages because they will not keep himself and family alive. He takes them for what they are worth, applies them as far as they will go, and works on, perhaps with failing strength, eager to secure the perhaps failing employment. If it is in the city, and the sight of luxury maddens the crowd of laborers giddy with fasting, the dreadful cry of "Bread or blood" may be raised, and the last effort of strength be given to pillage and destruction. But the single laborer, acting out his own im