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WHAT MAY HELP THE WAGES CLASS IN ITS COMPETITION
FOR THE PRODUCTS OF INDUSTRY.
In Chapter III. were set forth certain causes which go to heighten the efficiency of labor and increase the product of industry. Under the present title I shall have occasion to speak of causes, some of them the same, as operating to give the wage-laborer a larger share of that product, without reference to its absolute amount.
Bearing in mind still that it is competition in the full sense of that word, involving as it does the strong desire and the persistent effort to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, which alone is needed to give the wages class the highest remuneration which the existing conditions of industry will allow, we can not find difficulty in enumerating the principal helps to this end.' These are:
I. Frugality. All capital is the result of saving; and the frugality of the working classes, contributing to the increase of the wealth available for the purposes of industry, secures indirectly an increase of production.
Mr. Mill says : « When the object is to raise the permanent condi. tion of a people, small means do not merely produce small effects, they produce no effect at all." (Pol. Econ., i. 459.) The remark is just, bu: is perhaps liable to be misunderstood. Causes which, when contemplated as operating in a given moment, appear so small as to be inconsiderable, may, if they operate continuously in any direction, produce great effects; but then such causes can not, in a philosophical view, be considered small.
But we have here only to do with the fact that, without reference to any increase of production, the workman's frugality gives hiin a distinct advantage, rendering competition on his side, in one degree, more effective. No matter how clearly workingmen may discern their interest in a prompt resort to another market, whether that imply a change of occupation or of place, or both, without some savings out of their past earnings they must e'en say, with the “ Third Citizen" in Coriolanus, “We have the power in ourselves to do it; but it is a power that we have no power to do.” No human thought can distinguish the several parts of ignorance and of penury in the immobility of agricultural labor in the West of England; but it can not be doubted that the poverty which has existed among that class since the Napoleonic wars has contributed largely to the miserable result. Their scanty earnings have rendered it extremely difficult for them to make any savings out of their wages ; the lack of savings has placed them at the mercy of their employers by rendering it extremely difficult for them to escape to localities offering superior inducements. Prof. Fawcett, writing froin Salisbury in 1873 or '4, says of the agricultural laborers of that section : “ They are so poor that it is absolutely impossible for many of them to pay the expense of removing even to a neighboring county." I have already cited the testimony of Mr. Muggeridge' respecting the removal of large numbers from the south and west of England at the public expense, by which persons who had actually been supported as paupers were immediately brought to a condition of comfortable self-support. În some rare instances this removal of laborers has been effected by the enterprise of private employers. Thus, at the meeting of the Social Science Association in 1874, Mr. C. M. Palmer, of Newcastle, one of the largest employers in England, stated that some years previously, when there was great distress in Cornwall, he had sent an agent to collect laborers, paying him so much for each man recruited, offering minimum wages until the men should become instructed in inining, one half the cost of transportation to be ultimately deducted from their wages. Mr. Palmer deemed that the enterprise had been very prosperous both in his own interest and in that of the laborers. The philanthropic endeavors of Canon Girdlestone in securing the removal of laborers from the crowded districts have also been alluded to. But whether such schemes are undertaken by government, by business enterprise, or by private charity, they are almost sure to be successful, if at all, in some lower degree than where the laborer is furnished with means of his own earning and saving, and undertakes his own removal. In strong contrast with the helpless condition of the agricultural laborers of the south and west, Prof. Rogers notes the independence of the laborers of Cumberland and Westmoreland, of whom it is reported that they“ never allow themselves to be destitute of such a sum of money as will enable them to emigrate in case the ordinary rate of wages shows signs of yielding to the pressure for employment." ?
' Correspondence of the Daily News. 'P. 185.
On men thus provided, the casualties of production will work small permanent injury. Their reserves enable them to tide over any commercial disaster, and the return of prosperity finds their efficiency unimpaired. If, on the
Pol. Econ., pp. 101, 102. The savings-banks statistics bear out this assertion respecting the laboring classes of these counties. By the report of the Penrith Branch of the Carlisle Savings Bank, it appears that the total amount due to 260 male farm servants was £9259 9s. 5d.; to 240 female farm-servants, £7904. 88.9d. Instances are given of £200, £300, or even £500 having been accumulated by a single person. (Second Report (1869) of the Commission of 1867 on the Employ. ment of Children in Agriculture, p. 141.)
Sir Frederick Eden in his " History of the Poor" has preserved some remarkable instances of considerable accumulations out of earnings. (I. 495. 496, note.)
other hand, the steady decline of industry in their section, under any general or special cause, imposes on them the necessity of migration, they can go at the best time and in the best way. Thus we see that frugality on the part of the working classes goes far to supply that condition on which competition will secure to them absolutely the highest wages which the existing conditions of industry allow. “Wages," says Mr. Mill," are likely to be high where none are compelled by necessity to sell their labor.”
But while frugality is thus a condition of great importance in securing a beneficent distribution of the product of industry, we are compelled to acknowledge that the condition of the wage-laborer is not conducive to the development of this quality. We saw' that he must, human nature being what it is, be somewhat less industrious than the person who works on his own account; he is also likely to be less frugal. Take the case of the “peasant proprietor" of land. Is there an hour of the day left, there is always something to be done; the land is ever crying out for labor. Has he a few shillings t.) spare at the end of the month, there is always something connected with the land which demands its investment. Whether it be work on the growing crop, or the ditching, fencing, and clearing of land, the increase of live stock and implements, or additions to stables and barns, the small farmer has always a good use to which to put every hour of labor and every shilling of money which he can command. After all, it is as Sismondi said: “The true savings-bank is the land.”
With the wage-laborer the case is different. He can not reapply any portion of the product of his labor directly to the subject-matter of his labor, for that is not his. If he would put any portion of his wages to a re. productive use, he must seek out some borrower, and the amount he has to lend being small, this borrower must
be the bank, which will lend the money out, he knows not when, he knows not where. This is a very coldblooded affair compared with the application of earnings to the land by the proprietor thereof, who works over it and lives upon it, who feels that it is all his, and shall be his children's after him. Neither the imagination nor the affections are addressed very powerfully by the sayings-bank. There is, besides, some delay involved in a deposit, which, however slight, defeats many a good reso lution and brings many a half-consecrated sixpence to the grocery or the bar-room.
I have named in the last word the great foe to frugality in the working classes. Wholly aside from the perversion of instincts, the loss of laboring power, and the actual vice and crime resulting from drunkenness, the waste of wealth shown by the statistics of the consumption of wine, beer, and liquors by the working-classes is appalling.
I had occasion in the preceding chapter to refer to the payment of beer and cider as a part of agricultural wages in England. The amount of money actually received and spent for these and stronger drinks is estimated, on respectable authority, as follows:-1869, £113,464,874; 1871, £118, 906,066 ; 1873, £140,014,712. The author of this compntation proceeds to estimate the cost of the bread consumed annually by the people of England at £2 128. 6d. per head; the cost of tea, coffee, sugar, rice, and cocoa consumed, at £1. 108. 9d. per head : making altogether an average expenditure for these articles of £4. 78.3d., against an expenditure of £4.78.2d. for alcoholic drinks, on the basis of 1873. At this rate, six years' expenditure would amount to enough to pay the national debt, or to build a house worth £150 for every family in the kingdom. There may be some exaggeration in these estimates; and it is to be considered that the expenditure of the higher classes on this account is more than proportional; yet one can not set the cost of
The Temperance Reformation and the Christian Church, pp. 112, 118