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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/745

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725
THE COMING SLAVERY.

"make-wages" is between the kinds of satisfactions obtained; and this difference does not in the least affect the nature of the arrangement.

Moreover, the two are pervaded by substantially the same illusion. In the one case, as in the other, what looks like a gratis benefit is not a gratis benefit. The amount which, under the old poor-law, the half-pauperized laborer received from the parish to eke out his weekly income was not really, as it appeared, a bonus, for it was accompanied by a substantially equivalent decrease of his wages, as was quickly proved when the system was abolished and the wages rose. Just so is it with these seeming boons received by working-people in towns. I do not refer only to the fact that they unawares pay in part through the raised rents of their dwellings (when they are not actual ratepayers); but I refer to the fact that the wages received by them are, like the wages of the farm-laborer, diminished by these public burdens falling on employers. Read the accounts coming of late from Lancashire concerning the cotton-strike, containing proofs, given by artisans themselves, that the margin of profit is so narrow that the less skillful manufacturers, as well as those with deficient capital, fail, and that the companies of co-operators who compete with them can rarely hold their own; and then consider what is the implication respecting wages. Among the costs of production have to be reckoned taxes, general and local. If, as in our large towns, the local rates now amount to one third of the rental or more if the employer has to pay this, not on his private dwelling only, but on his business-premises, factories, warehouses, or the like, it results that the interest on his capital must be diminished by that amount, or the amount must be taken from the wages-fund, or partly one and partly the other. And if competition among capitalists in the same business and in other businesses has the effect of so keeping down interests that, while some gain, others lose, and not a few are ruined—if capital, not getting adequate interest, flows elsewhere and leaves labor unemployed—then it is manifest that the choice for the artisan under such conditions lies between diminished amount of work or diminished rate of payment for it. Moreover, for kindred reasons these local burdens raise the costs of the things he consumes. The charges made by distributors, too, are, on the average, determined by the current rates of interest on capital used in distributing businesses; and the extra costs of carrying on such businesses have to be paid for by extra prices. So that as in the past the rural worker lost in one way what he gained in another, so in the present does the urban worker; there being, too, in both cases, the loss entailed on him by the cost of administration and the waste accompanying it.

"But what has all this to do with 'the coming slavery'?" will perhaps be asked. Nothing directly, but a good deal indirectly, as we shall see after yet another preliminary section.