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clude all who produce on shares, and all who are paid or subsisted out of the revenues of their employers. We have left the wages class proper, including all persons who are employed in production with a view to the profit of their employers, and are paid at stipulated rates. This is the class whose economical position and interests it is proposed here to discuss. With such limitations as have been imposed, the wages question is not of that wide interest which is given to it when pretty much the whole human race is brought within its scope; but it may be that by this limitation our inquiries will become more fruitful. 1
But though the wage class includes but a fraction of humanity, it is perhaps as large as can be comfortably treated in a work of a single volume. Of the eighty millions of English-speaking people, three-fourths probably, two-thirds certainly, snbsist on wages.
It may be well here to anticipate a hostile criticism. It may be said that we have made our analysis of the laboring population an essential part of our theory of wages, while yet, in fact, no inconsiderable number of persons sustain economical relations which refuse to submit to such a classification. Thus there are persons belonging alternately to the wages and to the stipend class, now employed for profit, now paid out of revenue. In like manner there are persons in every community who are employed as hired laborers during portions of the year, while at other seasons they are engaged in production on their own account in their own shops or on their own small holdings of land.
To this it may be replied that while the recognition of
" The (third) class of hired laborers, paid from capital, has so ex. clusively met the eyes and occupied the thoughts of English writers on wages, that it has led them into some serious and very unfor. tupate mistakes as to the nature, extent, and formation of the funds out of which the laboring population of the globe is fed, and, as usual, They have misled foreign writers." —R. Jones, Pol. Econ., p. 15
vast bodies of undistributed wealth which are yet subject to exchange, is here asserted to be necessary to a right understanding of some of the phenomena of wages, the validity of this position does not depend on the possibility of an exact enumeration of the several classes defined. On this point I cannot do better than quote from the admirable chapter on Economic Definition, which Prof. Cairnes, just before his lamented death, added to his treat ise on the Logical Method of Political Economy.
“In controversies about definitions, nothing is more common than to meet objections founded on the assumption that the attribute on which a definition turns, ought to be one which does not admit of degrees. This being assumed, the objector goes on to show that the facts or objects placed within the boundary line of some definition to which objection is taken, cannot, in their extreme instances be clearly discriminated from those which lie without. Some equivocal example is then taken, and the framer of the definition is challenged to say in which category it is to be placed. Now it seems to me that an objection of this kind ignores the inevitable conditions under which a scientific nomenclature is constructed, alike in political economy and in all the positive sciences. In such sciences, nomenclature, and therefore definition, is based on classification, and to admit of degrees is the character of all natural facts. As has been said, there are no hard lines in nature. Between the animal and vegetable kingdoms, for example, where is the line to be drawn?... It is, therefore, no valid objection to a classification, nor consequently, to the definition founded upon it, that instances may be found which fall, or seem to fall, on our lines of demarcation. This is inevitable in the nature of things. But this notwithstanding, the classification, and therefore the definition, is a good one, if, in those instances which do not fall on the line, the distinctions marked by the definition are such as it is important to mark, such
that the recognition of them will help the inquirer for ward toward the desiderated goal.” 1
THE EXCHANGE OF DISTRIBUTED FOR UNDISTRIBUTED'
WEALTH. But it may be asked, what avails it to show that the wages classes, instead of being co-extensive with the labor class, as is assumed in the current theories respecting wages, is only a small fraction of it, communicating with those other great masses of labor, only in the exchange of its completed and marketed prodncts? How can this fact bear on the question, whether wages may be increased actually and permanently? Are not wages governed by exactly the same principles as if the wages class constituted the whole of the labor class, instead of one-fifth, one-sixth, or one-seventh ?
I answer, in the first place, that if the wages class is only a fraction of the labor class, that fact should be clearly set forth in discussions of the wages question, and the extent of the interests involved should be, as nearly as possible, indicated. The reader has a right to know whether the principles laid down govern the fortunes of substantially the whole human race, or of only one-fifth or one-seventh of it. The confusion of the labor question with the wages question, is as unnecessary as it is unscientific.
But secondly, I answer that the fact of the production of a vast body of undistributed wealth, portions of which are subject to exchange with distributed wealth, may, and does, powerfully affect the condition of the wages class.
Let us discriminate. So far as undistributed wealth, that is, wealth which is produced entire by one person,
Log. Meth. Pol. Econ. p. 139–141. • p. 4.
• With the assistance, it may be, of his wife and minor children whose labor is, in the eye of the law, his own.
since the Revolution, it has been largely superseded by peasant proprietorship; and in Italy, since the unification of the kingdom, the same process has been going on, though more slowly. A large portion of the soil of these three countries is, however, still cultivated under this tenure.
The ryot system of Asia and Turkey in Europe is held by some economists to be substantially equivalent to personal proprietorship; by others to be the Oriental equivalent of the metayer system, the taxes, varying from fifty upwards to perhaps seventy per cent., which the govern. ment levies on the produce, being regarded as virtually the rent of the land. The question need not be discussed here, for it is evident that, whichever way it might be decided, the ryot is not a wage laborer.
In a very different economical position is the cottar tenant, who is liable, on the expiry of his longer or shorter lease, or at the will of the landlord in the absence of a lease, to have his rent raised ; and on his inability to resist or to satisfy such a demand, or even from the personal prejudices or preferences of the landlord, to be ejected from his occupancy; yet we cannot designate his share of the product of the soil, after deducting rent, by the term wages. The condition of the cottar may be better than that of the wage laborer, or it may easily be worse ; but worse or better, it is certainly different, and results from wholly different economical relations. As we go forward the unfitness of such a designation, if, indeed, there should be any question concerning it, will be made to appear more clearly than could be done at present without an extensive excursion from the path of our discussion; but it will perhaps be sufficient at this point, waiving objections from etymology and popular use, to say that it is of the essence of wages that they are at stipulated rates, and therefore certain in amount, while the produce of the cottar tenant is never certain, since nature declines to make any stipulation, and the quantity and quality of the crop must always remain, up to the moment of har vesting, a matter of conjecture.
into England after the great plague of 1348, and prevailed for about sixty years, when it was "superseded by the growth of a hardy and prosperous yeomanry, who either purchased the land in parcels, or bargained to work it with their own capital, and at a money rent." Pol. Econ., 168, 170. The fate of these yeomen in England has been noticed.
The cottar tenancy is still very general in Ireland. The soil is held in small quantities,' by the great body of the agricultural laboring population.'
We have thus far insisted that only the employed shall be included in the wages class. Applying this test of dependence on others for the opportunity to labor, we have successively excluded several large bodies of laborers, constituting in the aggregate the vast majority of the hnman race. In respect to the production of most of these, the principles of distribution do not apply. In contemplating their condition and prospects, we have only to consider the law of production taken in connection with the law of population. Masters of their own fate, economically, whether they shall be happy or miserable will depend (assuming their own industry, frugality and sobriety), first, upon their habits in respect to procreation ;
i Of the 682,237 holdings in Ireland, 512,080 are of less value than 15l. a year each, 527,000 are tenancies at will.–Statistical Journal, Xxxiii, 152.
· Day-laborers in agriculture were, until recently, almost unknown in Ireland. They are now appearing in considerable numbers.-Leslie's Land Systems, etc. p. 44.
3 « The unbired laborers who are peasant cultivators,” according to Prof. Jones, comprised in his day “probably two-thirds of the la boring population of the globe."-Pol. Econ., p. 14.