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trained to business, respect his own limitations ; quite as little is he disposed to venture for himself.
We have a striking exemplification of this impotence of the capitalist, as capitalist, in the experience of the United States during the past three years. What have the capitalists done, what can the capitalists do, to help themselves in the event of a withdrawal of the business class ? They have done nothing, certainly, in the present crisis : they can do nothing important, of themselves. They can lower their terms and offer their capital at diminished rates, affording enterprise thus a wider margin for profits ; but if enterprise finds this inducement insufficient, the capitalist has nothing to do. The money lies in bank; the shops and stores are tenantless.
Does the capitalist, discontented with the inadequacy of his remuneration when he has for months received but two or three per cent per annum upon his money, set up business in order to employ his own capital and make a better interest for himself? I trow not. The very fact that the veteran professional conductors of business have withdrawn from production, or have greatly curtailed their operations, is a sufficient advertisement to him that it is no time for outsiders to push into the field. He knows that, in the best of seasons, a single venture into an industry of which he has had no personal experience, or even into one from which he has retired, but so long ago as to have become rusty in its methods, unfamiliar with its latest machinery, and strange to the personnel of the trade, might well cost him a year's interest on his fortune; while an attempt to carry on production, merely for the sake of employing his capital, in a time when the masters of the business shrink from the prospect of disaster, would, most likely, cost him the bulk of the capital itself. It is not in such a time, if ever, that the outside capitalist ventures into the field of industry. Even less than the laborer, who may be goaded by the stings of personal want, is he likely to step forward to take the place from which the entrepreneur retires. He, too, waits for better times, and meanwhile gets what he can for his money “on call.”
I shall, then, in the four remaining chapters of this work confine myself to (1) the comparative advantages, either in the essence of the relationship or in the accidental constitution of the classes as they are found in existing economical society, which the employers and the employed may be seen to possess; and (2) the means by which that class which we shall find at a relative disadvantage may be helped or hindered in competition for the product of industry.
And, in the first place, it should be inquired, has either a natural advantage over the other ?
It is to be observed that they are respectively buyers and sellers of the same thing,' service or labor; and each finds his own interest only as the bargain is effected. Unless that bargain be made, the employer can not have his profits any more than the laborer can have his wages. So far their interest is common: that the laborer shall be employed. It is only as to the rate of wages and the rate of profits that opinions and interests diverge. Hence we say, the relation of the two parties is not and can not be one of antagonism, for the object and effect of antagonism is to destroy or to supplant.
Since, then, the employer gets his profits only as the laborer gets his wages,' and because the laborer gets his
Mr. Frederick Harrison, in a somewhat noted article in the Fortnightly Review (vol. iii., p. 50), strenuously maintains that “the laborer has not got a thing to sell.” This seems to be a question of the proper use of two words, thing and sell. There are no facts or economical principles involved in the dispute. If Mr. Harrison were to acknowledge the propriety of our use of those two monosyllables, he would not object to our statement otherwise. If, again, we were to take Mr. Harrison's view of the etymology of these words, we should not claim that the laborer had a thing to sell.
I am here speaking broadly. In an individual transaction the employer may fail of his anticipr.ted profits and the laborer yet receive bis wages all the same ; and in other possible cases an employer may
wages, it is difficult to see that the employer is any more necessary to the laborer than the laborer is to the employer, or that either has any natural advantage over the other.
Not a little, however, has been written to prove that the employer has such an advantage. Mr. Thornton, in his well-known treatise On Labor, has sought to show that the sellers of labor are at a disadvantage.
“All other commodities,” he says," “may be stored up for a longer or a shorter time withont loss either in quantity or quality. But labor will not keep; it can not be left unused for one moment without partially wasting away. Unless it be sold immediately some portion of it can never be sold at all. Today's labor can not be sold after to-day, for to-morrow it will have ceased to exist. A laborer can not, for however short a time, postpone the sale of his labor without losing the price of the labor which he might have exercised during the period of the postponement."
Mr. Thornton certainly did not intend to say that labor can not be unused “ for one moment” without wasting away, since the very first condition of labor is that for several hours in each day, perhaps one half of the twentyfour, it shall be unused. But taking this expression as a mere slip of the pen, we note that Mr. Thornton overlooks a common experience in industry when he asserts that the omission to labor on any day carries with it a total loss of the labor that might have been performed. It surely can not be denied that a man may work considerably harder one day for having lain-by the day before, provided it was not for a debauch, or in honor of Saint Monday, but that the time was really taken for rest. So that it is entirely possible, if, to save contention, we take the case of a man engaged in piece-work or hired by the hour, that a man may still have left him to sell a part at least of the labor
consent to pay wages, and sacrifice his own present interest in the product, for the sake of profits to be made in better times.
On Labor, p. 98.
which, on Mr. Thornton's assumption, he would entirely and forever lose by failing to work, whether from deliberate choice, or by higgling with his employer, or by looking about for better terms than those offered him.
Nor is it only on the day following that he may find himself able to render a portion of the service which Mr. Thornton assumes to be wholly lost by the failure to perform a day's work every day. It is notorious that a laborer may be able, by lying-by a whole week, to perform a distinctly greater amount of work every day of the week following; not, perhaps, that he can well do two ordinary weeks' work in one, but that he can in six days do considerably more than one ordinary week's work, if he has been prepared for the effort by a long rest. And this capability of storing-up the power of labor is not wholly confined within the limits of a secular week. It is well known that in many trades, having peculiar natural or industrial conditions, workmen acquire an anaconda-like faculty of alternately gorging and digesting through periods amounting to entire seasons of the year. I do not say that this is de sirable; I merely assert it as a fact. In none, it may be assumed, do the workmen perform as much, in the aggre gate for twelve months, as if they had worked continuously, or at least with intervals of rest and recreation expressly adapted to maintain the highest degree of physical vigor; yet in none, probably, do they fail to perform more, and it may be very much more, than it would have been possible for them to perform in equal periods, without the preparation of a long term of complete rest.
But it was not alone to correct Mr. Thornton in this particular that I quoted him here. Granting, for the time, the total loss of labor in the instances given, and admitting, for argument's sake, that the sellers .of labor are in a different position from the sellers of any other commodity, is not - ----
-- - - The scholars and men of letters who distribute their labors equally over the fifty-two weeks of the year are, I apprehend, very few.
the buyer of labor in the same situation precisely? If he does not buy to-day's labor to-day, he surely can not buy it to-morrow; it will then, on Mr. Thornton's assumption, have ceased to exist. If the laborer does not realize wages on his present capacity for labor, the employer certainly can not realize profits on it. Manual labor is the essential condition of all production of wealth. If manual labor is withdrawn, land can not yield rent, money interest, or business-enterprise profits. Labor, meanwhile, and just for the same length of time, loses its wages. If the stoppage is for a month, each party loses one twelfth of its year.
But that is an even stranger reason which Mr. Thornton has discovered for attributing to the employer, in his turn, a disadvantage to a degree counterbalancing that which he attributes to the laborer, as above. It is that the employer, in case of the continued cessation of industry, will become “industrially defunct” (On Labor, p. 275) when he has eaten up all his capital, whereas the laborer, who is trying conclusions with him, provided only that his health be not permanently impaired by the privations he is meanwhile enduring, in preserving his thews and sinews preserves also bis stock-in-trade and his industrial ability." Mr. Thornton elsewhere (p. 177) explains what he means by employers becoming industrially defunct : “ to them entire exhaustion of resources would be absolutely fatal. .... For the capitalist in losing his capital loses his all, distinctive class-existence included; he ceases to be a capitalist.” So, we suppose, if the laborer should starve to death for want of employment, he would lose his dis tinctive class-existence, with his other existence, and cease to be a laborer.
Now, in the first place, who, pray (accepting Mr. Thornton's definitions of laborer and capitalist), is to find subsistence for the laborer, whom Mr. Thornton takes as habitually poor, through the long struggle during which the capitalist is to become industrially defunct? Is it not