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Mr. M'Culloch avoids one of the great arguments against his views by his mode of stating the first proposition. "Suppose," says he," so much capital
“ invested in a machine”—and then he goes to show the effects of increasing the durability of the said machine. But before we get quite so far, he should in fairness have stated the effect of investing that amount of circulating capital in a machine at all. By supposing a machine to begin with, he saved himself the trouble of investigating, or even naming, that great evil which the strongest advocate of machinery, if candid, must admit to arise on its first introduction.
But the second portion of this argument is the main point; for if that be sound, it proves that the greatest possible increase of machinery cannot, in the slightest degree, permanently lessen the demand for labor. We will again quote the proposition on which the reasoning turns. “The consumers of Cottons would, by means of their equally increased demand for other articles, henceforth afford employment for six-sevenths of the disengaged laborers.' The fallacy is in assuming, that because proportionately more articles were demanded, proportionably more laborers would be required. The sentence should run: The consumers of cottons would demand other commodities to the extent to which they had sared in cotton.' But to assume that those commodities would require equal labor to produce them which it had taken to produce the cottons, is to beg the very question at issue. Suppose that if I want to expend what I save in cottons, in silk or cloth; if the cloth is made by hand-labor mainly,—that is, if there is a large proportion of circulating and a small proportion of fixed capital required to produce it,- I shall then employ as much labor as the new improvement has displaced. But if the contrary is the case,—if the cloth is made by much machinery and little labor,-it is no longer true that the equal amount of labor saved by the improvement in cottons will be required in something else. Now a continually increasing proportion of the necessaries and conveniences of life, are being produced by machinery. That this increase of machinery will multiply the wealth of those who own it, cannot be doubted. Every owner of capital, or of land, will be benefited. Larger and continually larger portions of produce will exchange agaiust each other. The man who, by means of an improved machine, can create two hats at the former cost of one, will benefit not only himself, but every one who has productions to exchange against his own. It is true that what producers save in hats, they will expend in something else, but unless that something is a commodity demanding as much labor as has been displaced by the new hat-machine, it is no compensation to the laborer. To make what we mean more palpable, suppose an extreme case,—-viz. that every thing were made by machines. Such a thing never can occur, as some labor will always be required, but in such a case, it is clear, none but the owners of machinery and of capital, could be exchangers, and therefore none but these could be consumers. Now, tho invention never will become perfected to such an extent that the roasted pigeons shall fly into our mouth,' machinery is approximating to a state when the wealth producing power may be enormous, and yet the fund employing labor very small. The effect on the laborer will then be, to compel him to depend on pauper relief; others may, as Ricardo suggests, become menial servants, while large numbers must emigrate.
If this reasoning be correct, we see that it is quite possible for the wealth of
the country to be continually increasing, without any proportionate increase in the demand for the labor of those who have only the sale of their labor to rely on for subsistence. If a Steam-engine of fifty horse-power cost as much as fifty Horses and produced the same result, it would be a matter of indifference to the capitalist which he employed. We apprehend, however, that it would not be the same thing to the horses, who if displaced, might be represented, as they were some years ago when the Manchester and Liverpool railway was opened, going about begging, with hats in their mouths. Instead of horses, say men, and the case remains precisely the same. The capital employing the men is circulating capital, that invested in the steam engine is fixed capital. If the former be transferred to the latter, the fund which employed the laborer is no longer available, and the greater the extent to which that transfer is made, the greater the displacement of labor.
Precisely the same phenomena take place in so-called Agricultural Improvements. Whenever these imply,—what in most cases they do,—the power of producing the same or greater results with a less amount of manual labor, the consequences must be destructive to the laborer. The faster improvements progress, the sooner will the outery of over-population be raised. In those countries where the laborer is landholder or half-landowner (metayer), -serf, slave, or whatever other character it may be, by which he participates in the profits of capital,—the evil is to that extent removed. Sismondi says, “ You tell me you have improved your lands, I ask, what have you done with the laborers ?” The advocates of competition are satisfied if they can show that more wealth has accrued. We wish to know who obtains it? By excluding the laborer from any ownership in the soil, he is deprived of all claim upon its fruits, save what he can obtain in cxchange for his labor. But by improving the land,—i. e. producing equal fruits with less labor,--the laborer's only commodity, his only purchase money (so to speak), is rendered valueless. What is true of that great machine—the Earthis equally true of all machines. Render the earth capable of producing loaves of bread without any labor whatever, and the loaves will entirely belong to those who own the land. Render your spinning-jennies and power-looms perfect, i. e. capable of producing clothing without any manual labor,—and you may fill warehouses with clothes, while the naked backs outside cannot approach them. “The power to purchase,” says Mr. M'Cullocli, “is the real and only desideratum.” Now, who are the principal purchasers of commodities ? Undoubtedly, on account of their vast numbers, the laboring classes.
But the laborer's power to purchase certainly depends on his power to sell his labor. This is his only commodity, and as you diminish the need for this, and consequently its value, so you diminish his power to purchase. The proposition, that "any improvement in the construction of a machine has the same result as if the improvement were in the productiveness of the laborer himself,” is therefore false; for, in the event of an extensive substitution of fixed for circulating capital, the result would certainly be to dispense with an immense number of operatives, while is the improvement was only in the skill or industry of the laborers, altho under present arrangements they would still be indispensable, and therefore in the latter instance capital would still have to maintain them." May we not suppose," says a London Paper, “that Iron men and maidens will be invented, Self-acting mules require no spinners.
In fact, we have seen machinery at work, so like the human fingers, performing their most delicate functions, taking up stitches and repairing breaks, that we do not despair of seeing the services of children dispensed with, and as much wealth created without their labor, as is now created by the cruel toils to which they are unfortunately subject.” Possibly so--but what provision exists, under the present arrangements of society, for enabling those children to share that wealth? They do not work for amusement, but for the means of existence, and their existence depends on their continuing to labor. If machinery be so perfected that labor may almost be entirely dispensed with—and the term “manufacture' (i. e. 'made by the band') is rapidly becoming a misnomer-either some other field for their exertions must be provided, or else some new social arrangement must be made by which they may be enabled to share in the advantages of machinery
To meet objections, recourse is had to the experience of previous ages, to the effect of Printing, for example; and it is easily demonstrable that more printers were employed shortly after the invention of the printing-press than were of manuscript writers before it. The fact of additional employment, however, to one set of people, is small consolation to another whose labor is substituted. The Bradford Wool-comber, or Nottingham Stockinger, must have more patriotism than ourselves, if they can cheerfully sacrifice themsclves for the wealth of their fellows. If the mechanical improvement is indeed for the benefit of the nation, the nation is as much bound to defend that portion of its citizens who suffer the consequence, as it is to protect them from a foreign foe in time of war.
But no inference respecting the effect of inventions prior to the last century can be applied to those since, for the rapidity with which mechanical inventions are now introduced, is the essential difference between the two cases, and the cause of the most serious part of the evil. The progress of mechanical invention, and the consequent social revolutions, have during that period been greater than in the whole previous history of the world. Before the Press or Post-office existed, a machine was a curiosity for the learned. It had not time to supersede labor (to any great extent) before that labor could expend itself in another direction. When we removed the prohibitions against exporting machinery, the French, aware that the plan of a machine could go thrö the post, and anxious to encourage their own Mechanicians, imposed an import duty. It would require but peace, and a barely tolerable government, to enable every
civi. lized nation to be stocked with machines, if the machine were not its own greatest obstacle by limiting the power of consumption of the working classes.
Another mode of stating the same argument, on which much stress is laid, consists in alleging 'the extraordinary increase which has taken place in Maufacturing industry Manufacturing compared with Agricultural districts, are found to have increased in the last forty years, twice, thrice, and even four times as fast. If, say they, machinery diminishes employment, whence this increase ? In reply to this we would remark, that the great increase in manufacturing districts during the last half-century, has arisen from causes which probably will not again occur. Unless we know the previous condition and other attendant circumstances of society, arguments brought from the past and applied to the future, must be subjcct to great qualification. The knowlege of
the Compass and of Gunpowder existed very early among the Chinese, and yet it produced no very remarkable change in them, while the same things among other nations changed the whole arts of Navigation and of War. The discoveries of the American gold-mines greatly increased the riches of Spain. For a time they became the most prosperous people in Europe.
But when the sources of their wealth were shared in by other nations they retrograded, not only to their old position but below it. We had similar advantages, far more solid it is true, in our coal and iron mines, which Spain had in her gold mines. Other nations had not discovered their own resources, and we had the start of all the world. We could supply foreigners cheaper than they could possibly supply themselves, and nothing could keep our manufactured goods out of continential states. Napoleon, tho he commanded the whole shore of the continent, tho he heaped up thousands of pounds worth of our goods and destroyed them,—could not do it. Our cheaper methods enabled us to bear the losses, and to beat all his custom-house officers and gens d' armerie. Already a trifling advance in foreign duties can play more havoc with our manufactures than all Napoleon's exertions.
Moreover, the increase itself is more apparent than real. To prove that machinery increased employment, it would be needful to show that a quantity of laborers previously unemployed, had been absorbed by the new branch of production. Thus the cotton manufacture employed more people after the inventions of Hargreave and Arkwright than before. But where did they come from? Were they standing idle, awaiting the advent of these inventors ? No, but scattered over the country, where they united agricultural with domestic manufacturing operations. From the agricultural districts they were withdrawn to the towns to obtain the great advantages of concentrated capital and division of labor, and the inducement lay in the high wages which capitalists could then, but can now no longer afford.
The truth is, there was much more of a transfer than increase of employment. That which had been made in the home of the laborer, was in future to be made in the factory. What mighty gain this was to the laborer, those who can com. pare rural influences with those of the large manufacturing towns, can best judge. With high profits and increasing wages, every body flocked to the new field of industry, and little villages became great marts of commerce. But with the exception of the middle classes, who have emerged from the con ion of laborers thro the wealth created by machinery, the vast mass of the operatives have not participated, to anything like a fair proportiou, in its advantages. Still less has the laborer reason to rejoice, whose bread was taken from him. Machinery, it is true, made every body's coat cheaper, but it left a mass of useless clothiers. It made cheap cottons, but left an immense mass of hand-loom weavers. It produced cheap stuffs, but left a quantity of wool-combers. It made cheap stockings, but the stockinger is a pauper. It made cheap laces, but beggared lace makers. Wherever mechanical improvements proceed to any extent, desolation is not far off. But these classes, combined, make up a large portion of the population, and pressing into the labor market with the employed and living on the rates in part collected from him, they help materially to deteriorate bis condition.
Nor are the future prospects very bright. No longer can we bave the manufacturing business of the world in our own hands. Great as our skill and knowlege may be, we have no monopoly of these qualities, and the time is going by when one Englishman can beat five Frenchmen, as in the days of our juvenile patriotism we were made to believe. The continental states are rapidly coming up with us, and America only wants population, which we are giving her fast enough. Other nations see what has made us surpass them so immensely, and are anxious to imitate us. They will not remain in pastoral simplicity to please Great Britain, and as their numbers increase, they will employ more and more in manufactures. They are taking our best artizans and machines. Our immense powers of production enable us to make more goods than we can sell, and in the busiest seasons we have much machinery at rest.
Railways have also been cited as evidences that machinery tends rather to increase than diminish employment. But they are too recent to enable us to judge of their permanent results. Like improved methods of manufacture generally, they create a vast field for exertion, which goes far to compensate for the evil they inflict in the commencement. Iron stokers, guards, and porters, are not yet invented. The principal reason however, why railways can never injuriously supersede a large portion of the community, is found in the fact of their exemption from the influence of unlimited competition. Tho they may be made much too fast, and thus inflict great evil,--the supply and the demand of the Means of Transit run so parallel, that a glut can scarcely occur. No sane man proposes to make two railways between the same towns. But our spinning-jennies and power-looms frequently go on manufacturing goods for which no general demand exists. If the second power-loom had not been brought into existence until the first had a customer for its produce, we should not so often have witnessed the anomaly of machinery producing goods without a market, while men stand by with half-clothed backs.
There is another fact to which far too little attention has been paid--the diminished necessity for, and consequently lessened value of, two important elements in the price of labor-Skill and Strength. Adam Smith justly observed, that “the improved dexterity of a workman, may be considered in the same light as a Machine or instrument of trade which facilitates and abridges labor, and which tho it costs a certain expense, repays
M'Culloch remarks that every individual who has arrived at maturity may be viewed as a machine, “ which it has cost twenty years of assiduous attention, and the expenditure of considerable capital to construct. And if a further sum has been laid out in educating or qualifying him for the exercise of a business or profession requiring unusual skill, his value will be proportionably increased, and he will be entitled to a greater reward for his cxertions-just as a machine becomes more valuable when new powers are given to it by the expenditure of additional capital or labor in its construction.”
Admitting this, is it not to the advantage of the laborer to be as skilled as possible--that his trade should demand much time and attention for its perfec
on If seven years labor be required to learn one employment, and only three months another, the former inust clearly command a higher rate of wages. If a certain amount of intelligence is needed for an employment, the wages paid must