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as regards the increase of manufactured articles occasioned by a new application of industry, an additional power of purchasing them will be acquired by every member of the community.
But as regards agriculture also, increased industry applied to the land will raise an additional produce. Now it was stated in a former chapter, that the tendency of an increased agricultural produce is, first, to augment the command of food to the labourer, and secondly, to occasion an increase of population, by affording means of support to a greater number of persons. However, we generally find that when the wages of the labourer are raised, one of the new comforts that he seeks to obtain is a better and more expensive description of food. Now as a labourer who lives chiefly upon a meat diet will consume the produce of much more land than a labourer living upon a vegetable diet, he may be said to consume a greater amount of agricultural produce, not only in quality, but in quantity, as calculated by produce per acre; so that the demand for the higher description of food by certain classes of the community may occasion the consumption of an increased amount of agricul
tural produce : and thus, although the science and practice of agriculture may have advanced, it may actually be affording subsistence to a smaller number of persons.
If the improved industry or skill of two labourers enables them to do the work of three, and if it costs one-third more to maintain these two upon a superior diet than it did before to maintain three upon an inferior diet, it will cost about as much to maintain the two labourers as it did formerly to maintain the three ; but as they also do the work of three, the price of labour paid by the employer remains unaltered. Now if it be true that the industry of every class of labourer is regulated by the reward which that industry will procure, it is evident that the addi. tional reward received by the labourer in an improved diet cannot, any more than in other cases, be reduced by the competition of others ; because, where the hope of superior reward is the cause of the industry, in proportion as you diminish the expectation of superior reward, in the same proportion do you diminish the industry that is occasioned by it.
ON COMBINATIONS TO RAISE OR LOWER WAGES.
“ I gladly would be better satisfied
Henry IV. Second Part, Act I., Scene I.
HITHERTO we have argued upon the supposition of a free competition of labour, each workman and master consulting only his own individual interest without reference to that of others. But, as the labourers in any trade may combine among themselves not to work for less than a certain sum, they may in this manner for a time artificially raise wages. The masters may in like manner agree not to give above a certain price for labour, and may thus for a time reduce wages below their natural level.
Let us first see how far it is in the power of
labourers permanently to raise wages or improve their condition by a combination of this nature.
If there be no fall in the cost of production, or rise in the selling price, an increase of wages can only be made at the expense of the master's profits. Now if these profits are reduced below the average rate of profits in other businesses, the master will be desirous of quitting the trade where profits are reduced, to invest his capital in another, where profits are higher. It sometimes, however, takes much time before any considerable amount of capital can be taken out of one trade, and invested in another. A large proportion of it may be incapable of removal, except at great loss, such as that invested in buildings and durable machinery which is not adaptable to any other business. Now, although a person would not enter into this trade unless he expected to get the full ordinary profits both upon his fixed and upon his moveable capital, -yet, rather than sacrifice his fixed capital, which he would in a great measure do if he left the trade, he finds it his interest to work on as long as he can procure a larger profit upon his fixed and moveable capital together, than he could obtain before upon his moveable capital alone. But no new adventurer will invest his capital in the trade ; neither will the more durable portions of the machinery be replaced when worn out. Thus the capital employed in the trade will gradually diminish, and the demand for labour in consequence fall off, and the workmen be eventually paid less, and this whether they continue to combine or not; for if they refuse to accept of lower wages, a smaller number of them will be employed; and thus the combined body of workmen, in consequence of many of its members receiving no wages at all, may actually receive less money per week from their master in consequence of a successful combination to raise wages.
Sometimes when labourers strike for an advance of wages, the contest between them and their masters continues for so long a time, neither party giving way, that supposing the workmen to be ultimately successful according to their fullest hopes, and that they obtain not only increased wages, but constant employment,