Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/750

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ception of the real forces against which labor has to contend, in the realignment of industrial conditions. If this shall come, the gain will be greater than the loss. At the bottom of the engineers' movement was a remarkable misreading of the operation of economic cause and effect. The labor question of to-day is not the labor question of fifty years ago; it turns now on broader considerations than those which local environment can control. It is no longer a question that has chiefly to do with the relative share of the proceeds of industry which shall go to labor and to capital. In the preliminary stages of the evolution which has brought the factory system to its present perfection, this was practically the only question which underlaid the strike; and it may safely be conceded that in many instances of conflict which arose over this question the strikers were right, even when they failed. The law of industrial competition under which this evolution has progressed has so operated that profits have decreased as wages have increased; and so rapid has been the evolution, so strenuous has become the competition which the increase of capital has brought about in all industries and in all manufacturing nations, and more particularly in England, that the point is already reached where the problem has come to be largely one of how to keep the earnings of capital and the earnings of labor in that status of equilibrium which shall be equitable to both. It is a development in industry which was not dreamed of when trades-unionism was getting under way; a development the end of which no man can to-day foresee; a development which has brought about an increase in the producing capacity of the world which has far outstripped the increase in population, and with which consumption can keep abreast only in spasms and by jerks. Under these new conditions, wherever and whenever an oligarchy of labor succeeds in so fortifying itself that it can establish terms under which it is no longer possible for the capital employing it to earn a fair return, then it will have killed the goose which lays the golden egg.

The English engineers resolutely shut their eyes to this aspect of the case. From their point of view it had nothing to do with the controversy. From the masters' point of view it was all there was of the controversy. To the masters it was purely an economic question; to the engineers it was one which vitally involved the social advance of the wage-earning classes. It is not necessary to believe that this social advance and economics are hopelesssly at variance in the present stage of industrialism. It is better to say that while employers have much to learn from the humanitarian point of view, trades-unionism is equally in need of instruction from the economic point of view.

Does this great strike throw any new light upon the possible solu-