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paratively few who succeed in the difficult professions gain very high wages.
(3.) The Constancy or Inconstancy of Employment. When a man is sure of being employed and paid regularly all the year round, he is usually willing on that account to accept a less rate of wages. Thus, there is little difficulty in finding men to be policemen at about 25 shillings a week; for though they have to go on duty at
on duty at night, and their work is often tedious and disagreeable, yet policemen are nearly sure to have employment as long as they behave well. A carpenter or bricklayer, on the contrary, is sometimes thrown out of work, and becomes
to the means of keeping his family. Masons and bricklayers, who cannot work during frosty weather, ought of course to have higher wages during the rest of the year, so as to make up a good average. Dock-labourers, who are simply strong men without any particular skill, earn large wages when trade is brisk and many ships come into the docks; at other times, when trade is slack, or when contrary winds keep ships out of port, they often fall into destitution through want of employment.
(4.) The Small or Great Trust which must be reposed in those who exercise the Employments. This circumstance considerably affects the supply of people suitable for certain occupations. A man cannot expect to get employment in a bank, or in a jeweller's shop, unless he has a good character. Nothing is more difficult than for a person convicted of dishonesty to find desirable employment. Thus, a good character is often worth a great deal of money. Honesty, indeed, is so far common that it does not alone command high wages; but it is one requisite. The cleverest man would never be made the manager of a large business, if there was reason to think that he had committed fraud.
(5.) Lastly, The Probability or Improbability of Success in Employments greatly affects
the Wages of those who succeed. cases, a man can hardly avoid succeeding; if he once enlists, he is made into a soldier whether he likes it or not. Almost all, too, who become clerks in banks, counting-houses, or public offices, can succeed in doing some of the work required in such offices. Accordingly clerks are seldom highly paid. But of those who become barristers, only a few have the peculiar knowledge, tact, and skill required to make them successful; these few make very large gains, and the unsuccessful men have to seek for other employments.
Some occupations are very badly paid, because they can be taken up by men who fail in other work. Frequently a person who has learnt a trade or profession finds that he is unfit for it; in other cases, there is a failure in the demand for a commodity, which obliges its manufacturers to seek other work. Such people are usually too old and too poor to begin again from the beginning, and learn a new difficult trade. Thus they have to take to the first work they can do. Educated men who have not been successful become secretaries, house-agents, insurance-agents, small wine merchants, and the like. Uneducated men have to drive cabs, or go into the army, or break stones; poor women become seamstresses, or go out charing. Here again we see the need of leaving everybody at perfect liberty to enter any trade which he can manage to carry on; it is not only injurious to the public, but it is most unfair to people in misfortune, if they are shut out of employments by the artificial restrictions of those who already carry on those employments.
46. What is a Fair Day's Wages ? It is a favourite saying that a man should have a fair day's wages for a fair day's work; but this is a fallacious saying. Nothing, at first sight, can seem more reasonable and just; but when you examine its meaning, you soon find that there is no real meaning at all. It amounts merely to saying, that
a man ought to have what he ought to have. There is no way of deciding what is a fair day's wages. Some workmen receive only a shilling a day; others two, three, four, or five shillings; a few receive as much as ten, or even twenty shillings a day; which of these rates is fair? If the saying means that all should receive the same fair wages, then all the different characters and powers of men would first have to be made the same, and exactly equalised. We have seen that wages vary according to the laws of supply and demand, and as long as workmen differ in skil), and strength, and the kind of goods they can produce, there must be differences of demand for their products. Accordingly, there is no more a fair rate of wages than there is a fair price of cotton or iron. It is all a matter of bargain; he who has corn or cotton or iron or any other goods in his possession, does quite right in selling it for the best price he can get, provided he does not prevent other people from selling their goods as they think best. So, any workman does quite right in selling his labour for the highest rate of wages he can get, provided that he does not interfere with the similar right of other workmen to sell their labour as they like.
TRADES-UNIONS. 47. The Purposes of Trades-Unions. Working-men commonly think that the best way to raise their earnings is to form trades-unions, and oblige their employers to pay better wages. A tradesunion is a society of men belonging to any one kind of trade, who agree to act together as they are directed by their elected council, and who subscribe money to pay the expenses. Some trades-unions are very different from others, and they are not all well conducted nor all badly conducted, any more than people are all well behaved or all badly behaved. Moreover, the same trades-union often does different kinds of business. Usually they act as benefit or friendly societies, that is to say, if a member of a trades-union pays his subscription of say one shilling weekly, together with an entrance-fee and other small payments, he has a right, after a little time, to receive say twelve shillings a week in case of illness; he gets back the value of his tools if they should happen to be burnt or lost; when thrown out of work he will enjoy say ten shillings a week for a certain length of time; if he is so unfortunate as to be disabled by accident, he receives a good sum of money as an accident benefit; and when he dies he is buried at the expense of the union. All these arrangements are very good, for they insure a man against events which are not usually under his own conti and they prevent workmen from becoming paupers. So far as trades-unions occupy themselves in this way, it is impossible not to approve of them very warmly.
Then, again, trades-unions are able to take care of their members by insisting that employers shall make their factories wholesome and safe. If a single workman were to complain that the workshops were too hot, or that a machine was dangerous, or a mine not properly ventilated, he would probably not be listened to, or would be told to go about his business. But if all the workmen complain at once, and let it be known that they do not intend to go on working unless things are made better, the employer will think about the matter seriously, and will do anything that is reasonable to avoid disputes and trouble. Everybody is justified in taking good care of his own life and health, and in making things as convenient to himself as possible. Therefore we cannot find fault with workmen for discussing such matters among themselves, and agreeing upon the improvements they think right to demand. It is quite proper that they should do so.
But nobody is perfectly wise, and those who have not much time to get knowledge, and learn science and political economy, will often not see the effects of what they demand. They may ask for something which is impossible, or would cost so much as to stop the trade altogether. In all such matters, therefore, working-men should proceed cautiously, hearing what their employers have to say, and taking note especially of what the public opinion is, because it is the opinion of many who have nothing to lose or gain in the matter.
48. The Regulation of Hours. One of the principal subjects of dispute is usually the number of hours in the day that a workman should work. In some trades a man is paid by the hour or by the work done, so that each man can labour a longer or shorter time as he prefers. When this is the case, each man is the best judge of what suits him, and no trades-union ought to interfere. But in factories, generally speaking, it would not do to let the men come and go when they liked; they must work while the engines and machines are moving, and while other men need their assistance. Accordingly, somebody must settle whether the factory is to work for twelve, or ten, or nine, or eight hours a day. The employer would generally prefer long hours, because he would get more work and profit out of his buildings and machines, and he need not usually be on the spot all the time himself.
It seems reasonable, then, that the workmen should have their opinion, and have a voice in deciding how long they will work.
But workmen are likely to be mistaken, and imagine that they may get as much wages for nine hours' work as for ten. They think that the employer can raise the price of his goods, or that he can well afford to pay the difference out of his own great profits. But if political economy is to be believed, the wages