Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/316

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prices for a particular product has led to the discovery of means whereby another product can be used in its stead, whereby the manufacturers of the original product have been compelled either to reduce their prices or retire from the field.

Competition, before reaching the point where the leaders in a particular industry are forced into final combination, tends to lower the wages of laborers in that industry; for, as it is to the interest of the consumer to procure that which he needs at the lowest cost, his efforts to buy cheaper tend to force the cost of production to the lowest notch. When this pressure for low prices is such that it can not be met by the saving in production gained by the use of economical methods and improved appliances, attack is necessarily made upon the wages of the workmen. Likewise the efforts of the salesmen of a particular product to extend its market in competition with other producers, force the lowest cost of production with like results upon the wages of the workingman. After competition has forced the final combination, the wages of workingmen in but few instances have voluntarily been increased, and sometimes they have been reduced. Those in control of the capital, desiring to recoup for past losses and to secure the greatest returns for the future, still find it to their interest to keep down the cost of production. From this has arisen the cry that a main purpose of industrial aggregation is to crush the workingmen. To retain their employees, however, even great combinations are usually obliged to pay wages not less than can be obtained in other fields. Such combinations must be managed by men of the first ability, whose services can not be secured except for high remuneration. To the efficiency of their work is necessary the careful training of a corps of subordinates to whom it is to the interest of the corporation to give adequate remuneration and certain tenure of position so long as they remain competent. And even to laborers of the lowest grades these corporations must pay a rate of wages established by supply and demand. It is shown by statistics that the rate of wages during the past fifty years has steadily increased, in all except the vocations that are being supplanted and are dying out. The rate of wages is a matter, however, in which self-interest on either side is the principal factor, and, whether forced by competition or actuated entirely by selfishness, employers, as a rule, have not at any time extended any greater compensation to their employees than they have been obliged to. But in opposition to the tendency to force wages down there have also grown combinations, the labor organizations. These are trusts, in that the laborers in a certain field of industry place the care of their collective interests as a trust in the hands of the officers thereof. The theoretical justification for the existence of labor organizations is, therefore, the same as the