« AnteriorContinuar »
could take place, except from the savings of labor; and no increased portion could accrue to the capitalist as taught by Mr. Carey. Neither Ricardo nor McCulloch saw clearly the operation of the principle of rent, or they could not have supposed that profits could have been kept intact merely by keeping the rate of wages down. For if we were to concede the Carey theory, that the most productive soils are last cultivated, the increased production arising from that circumstance could avail nothing against the extra expense of carrying the products two or three thousand miles, and of replacing the fertility of the soil, constantly abstracted by the increase of population; and therefore from these two circumstances a constantly increasing amount of labor is required, to bring the same relative amount of necessaries to the point of consumption. When the lowest kind of labor has been brought to that point of remuneration at which nature refuses to increase the number of that class, by its own propagation, the encroachment of rent continues, by the increase and competition of the other classes of society, until the rate of profit reaches that point at which further accumulation becomes impossible; and if population still continues to increase, capital must be consumed. We may be satisfied of this, by observing the continued decrease of the rate of profit in England, as well as the continued and increasing amount of emigration. While upon this point I must be excused for referring again to the Professor's article of November, in reference to Mr. Porter's statistics.
He says: “In order to give their proper weight to the facts collected by Mr. Porter, we ought to take into account the population of the British islands at the periods to which they relate. Thus, between 1812 and 1848 the population increased about 50 per cent: according to the theory of Malthus and R. S., the number of persons having incomes between £150 and £500 ought to have increased in a lower ratio, but, in point of fact, it has increased threefold. There ought to have been less than 46,000 of them, while there were 91,101, or twice as many as the law of the English economists allows."
Now I am not aware, that the English economists have laid down any law by which the relative increase of population and income should be regulated, but I think the more we study these statistics the more we shall be satisfied that they thoroughly accord with the Malthusian and Ricardo doctrine. It is true that an idea had got abroad that, relative to population, England was decreasing in wealth, no doubt from the writings of the “Anti-Corn-Law League," and the serious decrease in the revenue; and still this may be the fact, Mr. Porter's statistics notwithstanding. Mr. Porter has, however, proved, that the income of a very small portion of the population has increased, but the increase of that income is "very nearly threefold greater than the increase during the same period, of that portion of the population of the United Kingdom subject to the income tax."
The statement is, that there are 91,101 individuals of course including clergymen, lawyers, merchants, tradesmen, confidential clerks, agents, engineers, professional men of all descriptions, public servants, landowners and fundholders, and skilled mechanics, whose incomes are between fifteen dollars a week and fifty--while the whole of the upper and middle classes include only 109,000 persons--something over one three-hundredth part of the whole population. After all, this is no proof that the wealth of England has materially increased; there are the 299 individuals to each one of the hundred thousand, whose wealth or income, according to Lord Jobn Russell and the “Commissioners of Inquiry," have been diminished, which would allow a pretty good margin for accumulation, without any absolute in crease of capital. At any rate it is a startling fact disclosed by these statistics, that all the appendages of wealth and luxury are enjoyed-everything beyond the mere necessaries of life, by one three-hundredth part of the population of Great Britain. We cannot forget in the meantime, that the number of landowners has decreased, from two hundred and forty to thirty thousand, and that the late Sir Robert Peel was obliged to lay a tax on property and income to maintain the revenue. Verily the Professor's " law of progress" works slowly in England, and probably he will admit that circumstances alter cases, that the law works in an inverse ratio--the many grow poor while the few grow rich. But I must return to the third page of the January article, from which I take the following: “If the theory of R. S. is correct—if capital has been gaining power at the expense of labor, and that in virtue of a permanent law, which must continue to operate in the future as in the past then it is clear, that a duplication of real wages must have been and must ever be accompanied by more than a duplication of profits. If it were not, profits would recede relatively to wages, and our case would be made out. If it were, then the increase of wages and and the still greater increase of profits must be attended by a diminution of the share of products going to rent, which is equally fatal to the Malthusian hypothesis. The conclusion is to be avoided only by supposing the increase of production sufficiently large to cover a duplication and more than a duplication of rent, after satisfying the double demand of labor and the more than double demand of capital. All this, too, be it remembered, with a reduction in the cost of commodities to the consumer of more than fifty per cent."
The whole of this paragraph is a mass of mere sophistry, a tissue of misrepresentation and false reasoning. In the first place no one has said, " that capital has been gaining power at the expense of labor, in virtue of a permanent law, which must continue to operate in the future as in the past." The law laid down by Ricardo and others with respect to wages, may be stated as follows: the wages of common labor must always recede to the amount required to command the absolute necessaries of life; and when the price of necessaries permanently rises the money rate of wages must also rise, to cover the extra cost, or the laborers must diminish in number, until an equilibrium is produced, either by an increase of the rate of wages or a decrease in the price of necessaries. When labor is mixed with capital, as it is in the cirse of skilled labor, notwithstanding this circumstance it must to a considerable extent follow the same law; especially where the amount of capital required to learn the trade or profession is small. Therefore all the simpler operations of manufacturing industry may be classed in this category. The Professor speaks in the latter part of the sentence I have referred to, as though any one besides himself had supposed, or hinted, that a duplication of real wages had at any time taken place since the fall of Adam. It may be admitted, that in most cases of the invention or improvement of machinery, the workmen have to some extent shared in the extra amount of profit produced by those inventions; but when the monopoly of the invention ceases, wages always come down to the common level. And as improvements in machinery are more effective for the production of manufactures than for food and raw material, the manufacturing capitalist has had the opportunity, not only of reducing his workmen to the lowest necessary rate of wages, but the reduction in the amount of labor required, by improvements in machinery, for the production of a given amount of manufactures, has allowed him at various times to obtain an increased rate of profit, at the same time that he reduced the price of his goods; and this was no doubt the case of Lowell. But when the competition of the foreign manufacturer became more intense, through the repeal of the British "corn law," and the discovery of Californian gold, the capitalist doubled the amount of machinery to each hand, and thereby nearly doubled the amount of production, while wages remained nominally the same, although, as I have since heard, they were absolutely increased, if reckoned in money; but not relatively to production. The corporations of Lowell, as I understand, have been in the habit of finding the hands board, and as the prices of food and other necessaries increased, the price of board was also increased, at the expense of the corporations; this may serve to show the operation of the principle of rent, upon the profits of capital and labor. But the time arrived, when for the interest of the capitalist it became necessary that the rate of wages should be absolutely reduced, and as this was already too low for the convenience of the operatives, many of them chose to migrate in search of other employment, and the mills either became silent or worked with little or no profit at all. Thus if wages have not been lowered in money rate, we may say with Carlyle, “Thanks to the inexhaustible West."
Before taking my final leave of the very ingenious paragraph which I have quoted, I would remind the Professor, that “the reduction in the cost of commodities to the consumer of more than fifty per cent," relates only to those commodities of which manufacturing wages form the greatest part of the cost of production--the prices of food and raw material tending constantly to increase. With regard to my views “in reference to rent entering into the price of commodities," I think Professor Smith might have gleaned that from my previous articles; but, not wishing to be misunderstood, I will take the opportunity to say, that in my opinion, there can be no doubt, that all the equal and necessary expenses of production must eventually enter into the price of every commodity, but as rent is evoked by the excess of demand over supply, although it be a component part of the price, it is not an element of cost, and it would be paid whether the supply be increased or not, acting as a premium upon land capital; and therefore what may be correctly termed rent does not enhance the price of any commodity.
I must now pass over a certain quotation from Malthus, which appears to have been a very necessary prop to the learned Professor's argument, for he has quoted it three or four times, and also the page from McCulloch, to come the more readily at the Professor's summing up of that page. It is as follows: “It teaches that wages rise because labor becomes more ineficientthat more is given because less is received--that capital pays a larger dividend to labor, because the fund from which it has to pay is diminished. Now, it is true, that the exposition from McCulloch, of the operation of wages and cultivation, is not quite so guardedly expressed as to prevent a disingenuous construction, but Professor Smith must be aware that it will not bear such a construction as he has put upon it. Let us quote: "A rise in wages is seldom or never exactly coincident with a rise in the price of necessaries, but they can never be very far separated. The price of the necessaries of life is, in fact, the cost of producing labor. The laborer cannot work if he is not supplied with the means of subsistence.” Thus, in
stead of wages having a tendency to rise, according to this they have a tendency to fall, and in the nature of things they cannot rise, beyond a bare subsistence. Neither is it exactly correct to say, that “labor becomes more inefficient," but, rather, that the land upon which it is necessarily employed, is less fertile, or at a greater distance from market; and therefore it requires a greater amount of labor for the production of a given amount of food. It would therefore be more correct to say, that as capital becomes more inefficient, the price of the necessaries of life has a tendency to rise, and therefore real wages diminish, but as it is necessary that the laborer should exist, the money rate must be increased to make good the deficiency. That would have been much nearer the truth; but let us see how American labor is
The Professor says: “Our system, on the contrary, teaches that labor is more highly paid, both as to proportion and as to absolute amount, when it contributes and where it contributes, and because it contributes most to swell the gross quantity of the products out of which, or from the value of which, wages must be derived, when, and where, and because, it is most productive." This description of the mode of remunerating labor in this country appears to me equally loose with that of McCulloch, and in fact not very materially different, but with the characteristic ingenuity of Professor Smith, it could no doubt be made to mean anything, to suit circumstances. The Lowell operatives, however, were not paid according to production, but according to the necessary rate of subsistence, in the same manner as the Eng. lish laborer. When the price of food raised, the increased cost was paid out of the profits of capital instead of wages. The Professor continues : “It (labor) is not allowed to monopolize all the gain resulting from its supe. rior efficiency, though it obtains the larger share. Part is retained by the capital through the increased aid of which it was enabled to effect enlarged and improved results; part goes to the consumer by the fall of price.”
The perfect ideality of the Professor's theory of the remuneration of labor is enough to make one laugh, if the subject were not of too serious a nature for jesting; he really appears to be as innocent of the operations of this outof-door world as Casper Hauser could possibly be after his twenty years' confinement. If he will be pleased to ask the next working man which he meets in the city of Rochester, whether his wages will provide his family with as many necessaries now as they wculd ten years ago, he will then understand how much the laborer is benefited by his larger share of the profits, and how much the consumer is benefited by the superior efficiency of labor. But to proceed. The Professor thinks, "that it may be objected to the argument founded upon the diminished proportion which the declared or real value of exports from Great Britain bears to their official value, or quantity, that it is limited to manufactured commodities, and that the advance in real wages resulting in the diminution in their cost, may be counteracted by the rise in the price of agricultural products." That is very true, it may be objected to on that account; but the Professor thinks, that the statistics which he cited in the November number, of the agricultural production of France, and the statement of Mr. Malthus, before referred to, of the average proportion which rent bears to the value of the produce in England is a sufficient answer to that objection. This appears to be a little in the mode of begging the question.
Suppose one were to say to an English workman: “Why, you need not complain, that manufacturing wages have been lowering for the last thirty
years; your condition must be mending; it has been proved by some statistical calculations, that the production of food in France has been quadrupled, relatively to the increase of population, within the last one hundred and fifty years; therefore the working classes of England must be in a thriving condition; besides, the celebrated Mr. Malthus made a statement some forty years ago, to the effect, that the wages of labor must increase in proportion to rent, therefore you ought not to complain, for he ought to know." In such a case would not the workman think the party mad who volunteered this consolation ? Would he not ask, what had the statistics of France to do with the condition of English workmen? or the statement of Mr. Malthus with the present time? But the Professor tells us in the former part of his article, “that he knows the condition of the laboring classes in England is bad enough, and that of those in France still worse," and yet now, he would persuade us, contrary to the testimony he has given us, and in opposition to his own assertion, that their condition has been constantly improving.
According to the statistics quoted by Professor Smith, the prices of manufactures exported from Great Britain within the last thirty years, have been reduced nearly sixty per cent; and according to the Edinburgh Review, also quoted by the Professor, we find that the price of wheat in the same time has fallen something less than forty. But we must remember that the whole of this reduction in the price of manufactures, has fallen entirely upon wages and profits, as the raw material of which they are fabricated, has in the meantime maintained its price, if it has not increased; therefore the cost of labor, from some cause or other, must be considerably less than this would represent. But we ought to make some allowance for the peculiar position in which prices have been placed by the repeal of the "corn law," and the throwing open of the trade in provisions to the whole world. Even under present circumstances manufacturing productions have fallen relatively twenty per cent; but what might have been the case under other commercial policy we can only guess.
The Professor next quotes statistics to show the large comparative decrease of the agricultural population of England, for the purpose of assuming a decrease in the cost of agricultural production, but I think it unnecessary to say anything upon this point, except that I think it would be strange if the improvements in agricultural implements had not the effect of keeping the number of hands nearly stationary, in a stationary business. I would now call particular attention to the Professor's quotation from the Edinburgh Review, (on page 36,) in which is shown the relative progress of population, and the production of agricultural produce, for thirty years previous to 1841. From these statistics it appears that the population has increased about seven per cent more than the production of wheat, in thirty years, under the strictest system of protection to agriculture, and at a time when two-fifths, or upwards of twenty millions of acres of waste lands remained untilled. It appears also, from these statistics, that the price of wheat has fallen from an average of 88s. to 56s. 9d. in the same period. The Professor says: “It would be easy to bring any quantity of testimony upon the point under consideration." I can only say, that I have no objection to as much as he chooses, nor to rest the case upon what he has already produced. He appears to think I have stated the rise in rent something too high. I have no objection, however, to Mr. Porter's statement, as he appears to like it best. According to Mr. Porter, rent has increased throughout the United King