Puslapio vaizdai

According to the report of the Commissioner of Labor, there were in the United States, from 1881 to 1886 inclusive, 3,902 strikes; the number of workmen originating them was 1,020,156. Of the strikes, about 46 per cent were successful, 13 per cent were partially successful, while nearly 40 per cent failed. These facts not only show a great deal of discontent but imply a vast amount of organization on the part of laborers.

Organizations are costly, and strikes, even when successful, involve much loss to employee, as well as to employer. For instance, suppose a strike to occur for an advance of five per cent in wages: if the strike lasts a month, the increase of wages must continue one and three fifths years to compensate the workmen for their loss. Hence it is not strange that workingien have been tempted to turn their political power to their industrial benefit. Other classes have made use of the Government to obtain wealth; why should not they make use of it to obtain higher wages and shorter hours? It is very likely that nothing will prevent them from trying. The reason they have not tried more thus far is, probably, that in England they have hardly had political power long enough to learn how to use it most effectually; while in this country, the working classes, properly, or perhaps technically, so called, have not been numerous till within the last generation. Government has been a very effective agent in robbing the many for the benefit of the few; whether it can be made as effective in the reverse operation, we are likely to see tested within, perhaps, the present generation.

It is not at all surprising that the working classes should see, or should think they see, in the ballot, a means for righting what seem to them to be wrongs. Lycophron, the sophist, according to Aristotle, maintained that the law is a pledge to men of mutual just dealing, but has no power to make citizens good and just." The sophists, however, were so fond of maintaining what

was false that they naturally could not lend much weight to the truth. Some two thousand years later Kant, Fichte, Locke, and Wilhelm von Humboldt enunciated the same truth in little different words: "The safety (i. e. the end) of the State does not consist in the welfare or happiness of the citizens, but in the agreement of the Constitution with the principles of law." (Kant). "The assurance of the rights of all men is the only general will." (Fichte.) "The maintenance of security against both external enemies and internal dissensions is the end of the State." (von Humboldt.) Political economists in the early part of the present century developed the doctrine of laissez faire in reference to industry and trade. But superstitions do not die easily, and the present trend of thought seems to be toward a greater faith in state action. Just as men's faith in charms and amulets was not immediately destroyed by an exercise of reason, but survives even now in the most highly civilized nations, so men's faith in their political fetich constantly revives. What Lycophron, Locke, Kant, and others ignorantly asserted Herbert Spencer has conclusively demonstrated; and he is described in the Encyclopædia Britannica as a vox clamantis in deserto. Faith in spells and charms is by no means harmless, and faith in political fetiches is still less so. When a whole people declares its faith in the efficacy of state action to secure public health, morals, education, and material well-being, vox populi comes dangerously near being vox diaboli.

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its units upon another; and this condition the government can assist to procure. When it goes further than this it is, in its ignorance, far more likely to go wrong than right.

But, as has been said, the almost universal opinion, not so much of the multitude as of those who attempt to instruct it, is that the Government should go further than this in nearly all directions. And so, after our working classes get thoroughly organized, if they insist that the Government see to it that every man who will, may work, and that he shall receive a fair day's wages for eight hours' work, he will be able to plead that his demand is directly in line with the teachings of our prophets and wise men, our economists and statesmen. They are even now demanding it— the more advanced of them, but they are not yet sufficiently organized to make their demand imperative.

"What the public have now got to face squarely and deal with promptly is this: Shall we best secure the well-being of the State by insisting that all who work shall obtain reasonable rates of pay for a reasonable amount of work, or is the proper course that of ignoring the surroundings. of the workers, leaving matters to right themselves? Public responsibility has long been recognized in this country, as witness the Factory Acts legislation, that has operated so beneficially."

If the Factory Acts contribute to give plausibility and force to this demand, it is very doubtful whether their operation in its totality will have been so beneficial. It is very easy for governments to say to employers, "masters give unto your workmen that which is right"; but the command must be made much more definite before it can be enforced. There is a natural relation between labor and the reward of labor, and this relation may be disturbed, but cannot be permanently changed. The

organization of labor, which is itself the result of natural causes, may be a natural and potent element in the relation, but there is no place here for government. The amount distributed as wages obviously cannot be greater than the total amount of goods produced. The amount produced depends upon the co-operation of labor and capital - upon the earnestness and skill of those who manage the capital not less than upon the earnestness and skill of those who labor. It is possible that laborers, after having perfected their organization, will force the State to confiscate capital and "administer it in the interest of the community," they will have the power, and it is not unlikely that they will exercise it. In that case the product would be distributed very differently; but would there be as much to distribute? There is every reason to think that there would not. There is every reason for asserting that the State managers of capital would not exert anything like the ability and earnestness which the private managers now exert, and that the product would be much smaller. So that probably the laborers would receive even less than they receive at present.

On the other hand, by trusting to their organizations, there is every reason for thinking that they will receive a larger and larger share of the goods produced, and that the amount will be constantly increasing. A number of years ago, Mr. Thornton estimated that English workmen were receiving $25,000,000 more in wages than they would be getting if it had not been for their unions. They are likely to have the power of choice between the two methods of furthering their interests, and if they choose wrongly, the responsibility will lie largely upon those who are engaged in bringing about the extension of State action in so many other directions, and thus affording so many precedents for its extension in this direction also.


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