« НазадПродовжити »
of force and persistency which Mr. Malthus attributed to it.
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 would 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.'
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, what 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. R. 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 wages in that instance will not include a sufficiency of food and clothing for all these laborers, but only for those who are wanted.
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 will 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 impulses, takes the wages that are offered him never so surely as when those wages are close down upon the famine line.
If the least sum on which a man with a wife and five children can subsist, be seven shillings a week, and yet in hard times he is offered but six shillings for his labor, this does not mean that one victim is to be selected from the seven and set apart to starve, while the rest are fed. It means that all will try to live on the scantier supply. The famine line is not a line which it is easy to trace. Laboring men and women can live for single days on what they could not live upon during an entire week; they can live for a single week on what they could not live upon every week of the month; they can even live for months on what they could not live upon an entire year. They can live along for years on a half of what would be necessary to keep them in robust health and with strength to labor efficiently. With the aged and the young the capacity of enduring privation is almost indefinitely less. Yet even when each succumbs in his turn, the nursing child and the young man in his strength, the chances are that it is to some distinct form of disease, for which privation has prepared the way. Thus in Ireland, when the annual number of deaths rose from 77,754, the average of the three preceding years, to 122,889 in 1846, and 249,335 in 1847, it was from fever, and not from literal starvation, that the great mass of victims died.' So in India, in the famine of 1873–4, the number of deaths from starvation reported from districts embracing millions of inhabitants was in some instances but three, five, or ten, while yet the population had been greatly reduced by an extraordinary mortality from the recognized forms of ordinary disease. Dr. Hunter, in his Famine
1 The number of deaths actually attributed, on inquest, to starvation, and so reported in the famous Irish census of 1851, was 2041 in 1846, 6058 in 1847, and 9395 during the two years following. (Report, Part V., vol. i., p. 253.)
Aspects of India, has strikingly drawn the lamentable picture of a people entering the famine state.
“At the outset of a famine the people fall back upon roots and various sorts of inferior green food. The children and the weaker members of the family die, and those who survive eke out a very insufficient quantity of rice by roots and wild plants. The wages which would not suffice to feed an average family of four are sufficient for the two or three members who survive. The rural population enters a famine as a frigate goes into battle, cleared of all useless gear and inefficient members."
We have seen that by“necessary wages” is not meant that masters will not offer, or workmen receive, in the immediate instance, wages which are greatly and increasingly inadequate to the support of life. But more than this, it is not even meant that any wages at all are necessary unconditionally. The employing class may, from causes affecting the industry of a community or a country, itself slowly disappear. Many regions once most fair and flourishing have, as we know, been stricken with a paralysis of industry, leaving no small part of their inhabitants occupationless. In such a case not only can no particular scale of wages be said to be necessary, but no wages at all will be necessary; the population thus rendered surplus must remove if it can to new seats, or remaining, as is most likely, must pass rapidly away by the excess of deaths over births, induced by hardship and privation. Hence, if we will say that wages must be high enough to maintain the laboring class in condition to labor, and to keep their numbers good, we should bear in mind the condition on which this alone is true, namely, that the employing class is itself kept good.
The whole significance of the term necessary wages is that, in order to the supply of labor being maintained, wages must be paid which will not only enable the laboring class to subsist according to the standard of comfort and decency, or discomfort and indecency it may be, which