him, we rise by insensible gradations, by an unbroken line, to the millionaire who controls thousands of men.
A characteristic of one class of economists is their fierce denunciation of the profit system. "Profit," they say, "is robbery." They contend that if a manufacturer supply the machinery for the manufacture of commodities, an amount set apart sufficient to replace the machinery when it shall have worn out, and no more, is a just return for its use, and all over and above this is theft. Now, the question at once arises, What does the laborer do more than the machine, that he should expect more than the equivalent for the quantity of brain-matter, nerve-tissue, and muscle expended by him in his labor? In other words, if he be allowed sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to maintain him in a healthy condition so long as he gives his entire labor time, is not justice satisfied? Is not this a quid pro quo? Why should one class of labor be allowed a larger return for its produce than another, even though this be made of brass and iron and steel instead of blood and bone and brains? Still further, if the producer is to receive the full reward of his labor, why should not the machine that produces ten times the quantity that the laborer produces receive ten times the reward? Setting out with the term "labor" as "that which produces wealth," a term that likewise defines the function of machinery, you will see the results to which we are reasonably drawn. You will understand that your economist does not claim that the question of affection or of moral obligation should interfere with the logical conclusions at which he arrives. The grand science of economics does not recognize human sympathies.
If we distinguish between labor and machinery by defining the former as human exertion applied to production, we gain nothing, since political economy gives no reason why a difference should be made in the treatment of the two. The distinction ordinarily observed is to make labor the grand motive power of production, and machinery the mere agency for rendering labor more productive. This is not a clear nor a just distinction. For the principal function of machinery is to displace the laborer rather than to make his labor more productive.
Take an illustration or two. The man who, in place of using a rough knife to cut down the branches of trees, invented a saw, made something which caused his labor to be more productive—i. e., a given quantity of the same kind of his energy produced larger useful results than before. So the invention of the file, by enabling him to sharpen his saw, made his labor still further productive than if he had to use a blunt one. Tools, especially, fulfill this particular function of making labor—the same kind of energy—more productive.