Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/601

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

It has previously been pointed out that the great and signal result of the recent extraordinary material progress, has been to increase the abundance and reduce the price of most useful and desirable commodities. But this statement applies to capital, as a commodity, in common with other commodities; and here comes in another very significant and, from a humanitarian point of view, a most important result, or perhaps rather a "law" (pointed out years ago by Bastiat, and in proof of which evidence will be presently submitted), that, "in proportion to the increase of capital, the relative share of the total product falling to the capitalist is diminished, while, on the contrary, the laborer's share is relatively increased. At the same time all progress, from scarcity to abundance, tends to increase also the absolute share of product to both capitalist and laborer, inasmuch as there is more to divide."

Again, it is a singular anomaly, that while an increasing cost of labor has been the greatest stimulant to the invention and introduction of labor-saving machinery, labor employed in connection with such machinery generally commands a better price than it was able to do when similar results were effected by more imperfect and less economical methods. Perhaps the most remarkable illustration of this is to be found in the experience of the American manufacture of flint glass, in which a reduction, since 1870, of from 70 to 80 per cent in the market price of such articles of glass table-ware as goblets, tumblers, wine-glasses, bowls, lamps, and the like, consequent upon the adoption of methods greatly economizing labor and improving quality, has been accompanied by an increase of from 70 to 100 per cent in wages, with a considerable reduction in the hours of labor.[1] M. Poulin, a leading French manufacturer at Rheims, has recently stated that the results of investigations in France show that during this century the progress of wages and machinery has been similar—the wages in French wool-manufactories, which were 11/2 franc per day in 1816, being (in 1883) 5 francs; while the cost of weaving a meter of merino cloth, which was then 16 francs, is now 1f. 45c. "In Nottingham," says Mr. Edwin Chadwick, the distinguished English economist,[2] "the introduction of more complex and more costly machinery for the manufacture of lace, while economizing labor, augmented wages to the extent of over 100 per cent. I asked a manufacturer of lace whether the large machine could not be worked at the common lower wages by any of the workers of the old machine. 'Yes, it might,' was the answer, 'but the capital invested in the new machinery is very large, and if from drunkenness or misconduct anything happened to the machine, the consequences would be very serious.' Instead of taking a man out of the streets, as might

  1. "Report on the Statistics of Wages," by Joseph D. Weeks, "Tenth Census of the United States," vol. xx.
  2. "Employers' Liability for Accidents to Work-people," by Edwin Chadwick.