Зображення сторінки
PDF

in the creation of hopefulness, self-respect, and social ambition among the laboring class, so the chief possibilities of loss lie in the discouragement or the destruction of these qualities. We have seen through what a scale the laborer may rise in his progress to productive power; by looking back we may see through what spaces it is always possible he may fall under the force of purely industrial disasters. "The wages of labor," says Adam Smith, "are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives." If this be true, every reduction of wages must, in some degree, diminish the efficiency of labor. But it is when the reduction begins to affect the power of the workman to maintain himself according to the standard of decency which he has set for himself that the decline in industrial quality goes on most rapidly. The fact that he is driven to squalid conditions does not merely lower his physical tone: almost inevitably it impairs his sense of self-respect and social ambition, that sense which it is so difficult to awaken, so fatally easy to destroy. Especially as the pinching of want forces his family into quarters where cleanliness and a decent privacy become impossible does the degradation of labor proceed with fearful rapidity.1 Ambition soon fails the laborer utterly; self-respect disappears amid the beastly surroundings of his life; the spring of effort is broken ; it may be he becomes dissipated and irregular, and his employer can not afford his beggarly pittance now so well as formerly the wages of his hopeful labor.

1 "Modesty must be an unknown virtue; decency, an unimaginable tiling, where in one small chamber, with the beds lying as thickly as they can be packed, father, mother, young men, lads, grown and growing-up girls are herded promiscuously ; where every operation of the toilet and of nature—dressings, undressings, births, deaths—is performed within the sight and hearing of all; where children of both sexes to as high an age as 12 or 14, or even more, occupy the same bed; where the whole atmosphere is sensual, and human nature is degraded into something below the level of the swine. It is a hideous picture; and the picture is drawn from life."—Appendix to the First Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, p. 34.

All such effects tend to remain and perpetuate themselves. "When people are down, economical forces solely are more likely to keep them down, or push them lower down, than to raise them up. It is only on the assumption that labor will resent industrial injuries, either by seeking a better market or by abstaining from reproduction, that it can be asserted that economical laws have a tendency to protect the laboring class and secure their interests. Just so far as laborers abide in their lot, and bring forth after their kind, while suffering industrial hardship, no matter how in the first place incurred, the whole effect and tendency of purely economical forces is to perpetuate, and not to remove, that hardship, either in the next year or in the next generation. Moral and intellectual causes only can repair any portion of the loss and waste occasioned.

If such are the unfortunate liabilities of a violent reduction of wages, it will of course appear, without any extended illustration, that the effects of a protracted failure of employment must be even more injurious to the efficiency of labor where the margin of life is at the best narrow and no accumulation of savings has been effected. All the hardships of the conditions described are here aggravated to an intolerable degree, and it is more than is to be expected of human nature if despondency and despair do not drive the unhappy laborer to the dram-shop1 to drown his sorrows and his fears in indulgences which will leave him worse in character and wreaker in nerve and sinew. However industry may revive, the shattered industrial manhood can never be fully restored.

But perhaps even more than in the miserable resort to the dram-shop, the fatal effects of a cessation of employment upon the industrial quality are seen in the readiness with which, when once he has had experience of public support, the laborer takes refuge in charity. Barely is character found robust enough to throw off this taint. Let a man once be brought to that painful and most humiliating necessity, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that ever after he must be counted as industrially dead. Where first he was driven, as to the bitterness of death, only by extremity of suffering, only after desperate efforts and long endurance, he now resorts with a fatal facility on the first suggestion of want. Known to his comrades as having received relief, his children bearing the pauper-brand among their playmates, all ingenuous sensibility soon disappears. "We can not," says Mr. McCullagh Torrens, in his work "The Lancashire Lesson," dealing with the experiences of England during the Cotton Famine incident to our war— "we can not help marking the readiness with which, on the first cessation of adequate wages, large numbers of persons now resort to rates and subscription funds, many of whom three years ago would have shrunk instinctively from such public avowal of indigence." This is the despair of industry. The pauper lies below the slave in the industrial scale. No lower depth opens downward from this,

1" C'est surtout pendant les epoques de chomages que l'ouvrier, ne sachant comment employer ses lieures, hante le cabaret."—Rapport (M. Ducarre) Salaires et rapports entre ouvriers et patrons, p. 289.

My object, I repeat, in treating here this topic of " the degradation of labor" is to point out the constantly imminent danger that bodies of laborers will not soon enough or amply enough resent industrial injuries which may be wrought by the concerted action of employers, or by slow and gradual changes in production, or by catastrophes in business, such as commercial panics; and upon this, and in immediate connection with the discussion of the causes which contribute to the efficiency of labor, to show the selfperpetuating nature of such industrial injuries under the operation of the very economical principles which, with alert and mobile labor intelligently seeking its interests, would secure relief and restoration.

CHAPTER V,

THE LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURNS.

"we have now reached a point where we must consider the principles which govern the relations of population to subsistence.

Why should not population multiply indefinitely and still find, at each stage of increase, food ample for all? Nay, with the power there is in mutual help, and with the wonderful mechanical advantages which result from the subdivision of industry and the multiplication of occupations, why should not the share of each be continually augmenting as the number of laborers capable of rendering such mutual services and uniting in industrial enterprises, increases?

The answer to these questions is found in the Law of Diminishing Returns in Agriculture. Up to a certain point, the increase of laborers increases the product not only absolutely but relatively; that is, not only is more produced in the aggregate, but the product/ is larger for each laborer. Two men working over a square mile of arable land will not only merely produce twice as much .as one man: they will produce more than twice, perhaps three times as much. This is because the two can take hold together of work to which the strength of either alone would be inadequate, or which requires that one person shall be in one place, and another at the same time in another place, in order that the two may act simultaneously, as, for example, one driving oxen and the other holding the plough. Moreover, where the two are not working together, in the usual acceptation of that term, they may yet help each other greatly by agreeing to divide their tasks. Each, confining himself to a certain part, will become, for that reason, more apt and dexterous, will learn to avoid mistakes and save waste, and will acquire a facility in production which would be impossible were he to undertake a wider and more varied line of duties.

For a similar reason, three men will not merely produce three times as much as one: they will probably produce four times, perhaps five times, as much. A minuter subdivision of industry will become possible, and a more effective assistance in those parts of the work which require the actual co-operation of the different members.

Much in the same way is it with the application of capital to land. Let four men be working upon a square mile of arable land, having the use of a capital to the value of $25, comprising rude spades, axes, and hoes. Now, double that capital, allowing an improvement in the quality of the tools or an increase in the quantity as may be desired. There will be, if that additional capital have been judiciously used, an increase of product over the product of the same men when employing the smaller capital, which increase we will call A. If we place in the hands of these men another $25 of capital, in forms appropriate to their wants, making $75 capital in all, we shall have another increment of product; but it will not be A only, but A plus something. And if, again, we give them an additional capital of $75, making $150 in all, including now a horse, a plough, and a cart, the addition made thereby to their product will not be 3A merely: it may be 5A; it may be 10A; it may be 20A.

This process of increasing the labor and capital to be applied to a square mile of arable land might, as we need not take space to show, be continued to a very considerable extent; and all the while it would remain true that the product was increased more than proportionally, so

« НазадПродовжити »