« ZurückWeiter »
persons who may enter them; all men of good character and sufficient knowledge can become barristers and solicitors. Moreover, the entrance to the legal, medical, and several other professions is being more and more regulated by examinations, which are intended purely to secure able men for the service of the public. Nor is any attempt made in these professional trades-unions to prevent men from exerting themselves as much as they can, so as to serve the public to the utmost of their ability. These professional trades-unions are thus free from some of the evils which other unions produce.
55. The Fallacy of Making Work. One of the commonest and worst fallacies into which people fall in political economy is to imagine that wages may be increased by doing work slowly, so that more hands shall be wanted. Workmen think they see plainly that the more men a job requires, the more wages must be paid by their employers, and the more money comes from the capitalists to the labourers. It seems, therefore, that any machine, invention, or new arrangement which gets through the work more quickly than before, tends to decrease their earnings. With this idea, bricklayers' labourers refuse (or did lately refuse) to raise bricks to the upper parts of a building by a rope and winch; they preferred the old, laborious, and dangerous mode of carrying the bricks up ladders in hods, because the work then required more hands. Similarly, brickmakers refused to use any machinery; masons totally declined to set stones shaped and dressed by machinery; some compositors still object to work in offices where type-composing machines are introduced. They are all afraid that if the work is done too easily and rapidly, they will not be wanted to do it; they think that there will be more men than there are berths for, and so wages will fall. In almost every case this is an absurd and most unfortunate mistake.
No doubt, if men insist on sticking to a worse way of doing work after a better one has been invented,
they may get bad wages, and perhaps go to the workhouse in old age. Thus, the hand-weavers in Spitalfields would continue weaving by hand, instead of learning to weave by steam power, and the case is somewhat the same with the hand-nailers of South Staffordshire. But when the younger workmen of a trade are wise and foreseeing enough to adopt a new invention as soon as it is successful, they are never injured, and usually much benefited by it. Seamstresses in England received wretchedly poor wages before the introduction of the American sewing machine, and they thought they would be starved altogether when the same work could be done twenty times as fast by machine as by hand. The effect, however, has been just of the opposite kind. Those who were not young, skilful or wise enough to learn machine-sewing, receive better wages for hand-sewing than they would formerly have done. The machine sewers earn still more, as much in many cases as 2os. a week. The explanation of this is that, when work is cheapened, people want much more of it. When sewing can be done so easily, more sewing is put into garments, and the garments being cheapened, more are bought. At the same time a good deal of the sewing, and finishing, and fitting, cannot be done by machinery, and this furnishes plenty of employment for those who cannot work machines.
If masons were to employ machines for cutting stone, they would be benefited like the seamstresses, instead of being injured. The cost of cutting stone by hand is now so great that people cannot build many stone buildings, nor use stone to decorate brick buildings, unless they are wealthy people. Were the dressing of stone much cheapened by the aid of machinery, a great deal more stone would be used, and the masons, instead of labouring at the dull work of cutting flat surfaces, would find plenty of employment in finishing, and carving, and setting the machineshaped stones. I have not the least doubt that, in addition to those engaged in working the machines, there would in the end be more masons wanted after the general introduction of machines than before. With type-setters the same thing will happen, if they take betimes to the new type-composing machines. It is true that a man with the aid of a good machine can set types several times as fast as without. But though the wages paid for setting a certain number of types might thus be reduced, so many more books, pamphlets, newspapers, and documents of various kinds would be printed, that no want of employment could be felt. Much of the work, too, such as the justifying, correcting, making into pages, &c., cannot be done by machinery, or not profitably, so that there would be plenty of work even for those who would not consent to work machines.
The fact is that wages are increased by increasing the produce of labour, not by decreasing the produce. The wages of the whole working population consist of the total produce remaining after the subtraction of rent, interest, and taxes. People get high wages in Lancashire because they use spinning machinery, which can do an immense quantity of work compared with the number of hands employed. If they refused to use machinery, they would have to spin cotton by hand like the poor inhabitants of Cashmere. Were there no machinery of any kind in England we should, nearly all of us, be as poor as the agricultural labourers of Wiltshire lately
People lose sight of the fact that we do not work for the sake of working, but for the sake of what we produce by working. The work itself is the disagreeable price paid for the wages earned, and these wages consist of the greater part of the value of the goods produced. It is absurd to suppose that people can become richer by having less riches. To become richer we must make more riches, and the object of every workman should be not to make work,
but to make goods as rapidly and abundantly as possible.
56. Piece-Work. Some trades unions endeavour to prevent their members from earning wages by piece work, that is, by payment for the quantity of work done, instead of payment for the time spent in doing it. If a man is paid tenpence an hour, whether he work quickly or slowly, it is evidently for his interest to work slowly rather than quickly, provided that he be not so lazy as to run a risk of being discharged. It is a well known fact that men employed on piece-work do much more work in the same time than those employed on time jobs, and it is altogether better that they should be paid by the piece when the work done can be exactly measured and paid for. The men earn better wages because they are incited to do so much more, and they earn it more fairly, as a general rule. Trades-unions, however, sometimes object to piecework, the reason given being that it makes the men work too hard, and thus injures their health. But this is an absurd reason; for men must generally be supposed capable of taking care of their own health. There are many trades and professions in which people are practically paid by the piece, but it is not found necessary to have trades-unions to keep them from killing themselves. There is more fear that people will work too little rather than too much.
The real objection which trades-unionists feel to piece-work is that it gets the work done quickly, and thus tends, as they think, to take employment away from other men. But, as I have already explained, men do not work for the sake of working, but for the sake of what they produce, and the more men in general produce, the higher wages in general will be. Tradesunionists put forward their views on the ground of unselfishness. They would say that it is selfish of Tom to work so as to take away employment from Dick and Harry; but they overlook the thousands of Toms, Dicks, and Harrys in other employments who get
small wages indeed, and who are perhaps prevented by their rules from earning more.
If the nation as a whole is to be wealthy and happy, we must each of us work to the best of our powers, producing the wealth which we can best produce, and not grudging others a greater success, it Providence has given them superior powers. People can seldom produce wealth for themselves without spreading a greater benefit over society in general, by cheapening commodities and lightening toil.
57. The Fallacy of Equality. Workmen often show a dislike to allowing one man to earn more than another in the same shop, and at the same kind of work. This feeling is partly due to the mistaken notion that in doing more work than others he takes employment from them. It partly, however, arises from a dislike to see one man better off than his mates. This feeling is not confined to workmen. Any one who reflects upon the state of society must regret that the few are so rich, and the many so poor. It might seem that the laws must be wrong which allow such differences to exist. It is needful to reflect, therefore, that such differences of wealth are not for the most part produced by the laws. All men, it has been said, are born free and equal; it is difficult to see how they can be born free, when, for many years after birth, they are helpless and dependent on their parents, and are properly under their governance. No doubt they ought to become free when grown up, but then they are seldom equal. One youth is stout, healthy and energetic; another puny and weak; one bright and intelligent; another dull and slow. Over these differences of body and mind the laws have no power. An Act of Parliament cannot make a weak frame strong. It follows that in after life' some men must be capable of earning more than others. Out of every thousand men and women, too, there will be a few who are distinguished by remarkable talents or inventive genius. One man by patient labour and