|PROFITS OF LEGITIMATE BUSINESS NOT TOO LARGE.|
IN The Popular Science Monthly for November Mr. J. B. Mann discussed the question, "Are Business Profits too Large?" His article is a defense of those business methods which have made the Vanderbilts, the Stewarts, and the Goulds. It is our purpose to briefly examine the statements from which he draws his conclusion.
That labor is at a great disadvantage is admitted, but Mr. Mann says, "It is a disadvantage imposed by Nature, and so need not be discussed." If this were true, there would be greater need of discussion, but fortunately it is not. Nature provides bountifully for all—there is a surplus of everything, and no one is required to be a drudge; but, by following the "gospel of greed," a few have taken possession of the wealth produced by the many, and amid an abundance half our people are fighting for a bare living. The ability to legally take from the masses justifies the taking, in the opinion of Mr. Mann. This is the new version of that barbarous rule of conduct, "Might makes right." A commercial pirate is worse than the one who robs by force, for the former is protected in his robbery. No man, by honest methods, can make millions in a few years. Such a one must, in some way, accumulate without rendering an equivalent. There is no principle of economics clearer than this.
To show that the workingmen get their full share of what they produce, Mr. Mann states that "there is no business of recognized legitimacy that pays labor only a third. . . . There is no business that gives to capital and skill combined even ten dollars out of thirty." If these sentences mean anything, it is that labor gets more than two thirds of production. This is not true of the following industries: The manufacture of iron and steel, the mining of coal, the manufacture of boots and shoes, the manufacture of sewing machines, the petroleum industry as carried on by the Standard Oil Company, the lumber business, the manufacture of clothing, watches, matches, and salt, not to mention the numberless notions that are consumed in every household. The truth is that the actual labor cost of almost every staple is a small fraction of its selling price.
Mr. Mann says that only one in ten has a competency by his own exertions, and that one because he was energetic, faithful, competent, and thoroughly systematic from the start. Before the era of paternalism this was the rule, now it is almost an exception. There are at least a hundred men in the city of Pittsburg who have been more industrious, more economical, and who are