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day, they would exchange with each other at the rate of 10 for 10. But, suppose now, that by some new invention, A's labor produced 20 per day. He would offer to exchange on the same terms as before, but he would offer 20, and expect from B, 20 in return. But, in consequence of the inferior productiveness of B’s labor, he would not be able to purchase so much; he could afford to buy only 10, as before. A, therefore, in order to induce him to exchange, that is, to buy, would abate his price; that is, would offer to exchange on better terms, and would offer him at the rate of 20 for 15, or in some such proportion. What B would not purchase at the rate of 10 for 10, he might be willing to purchase at the rate of 15 for 20. Thus, we see, they would, in this case, share the benefit between them. But let the labor of B now be increased in productiveness, so that it shall be equal to that of A; that is, be also at the rate of 20 per day. They will now exchange at the same rate as before; that is, at the rate of 20 for 20, with this difference, that for one day's labor, they will both have twice as many objects of desire as before, or as many objects of desire, with half a day's labor; that is, both will be twice as rich as before. Thus, the increased productiveness of B, is now a benefit to A, inasmuch as he now receives 20 for 20, when, before, he only received 15 for 20. Now it needs but a little reflection to perceive, that the case of A and B, is the case of the whole community
But the case is made still stronger, when the effect of competition is taken into the account. Let the productiveness of labor in any department be ever so great, where labor and capital are free, competition will always reduce profit in one department, to the same average per cent. that it affords in other departments. Hence, let the productiveness of labor and capital, in any one mode of employment, be ever so great; interest and wages, in that employment, will be no higher than they are, other things being equal, in other employments. That is, while the capitalist and the laborer receive the same interest and wages as the rest of the community; in other words, while the community pay no more for this capital and labor than they pay for any other, they receive a greater amount of value in exchange, and, as much more, as the productiveness of that labor and capital has been increased. Thus, capital and labor in the cotton manufacture is not better paid, upon an average, than in other modes of investment and industry. If it were, capital and labor would flow into it, until the equilibrium was restored. But, while this is the fact, we obtain a yard of cotton cloth for one fourth the price, or at one fourth of the labor, at which we formerly obtained it; that is, we receive four times as much as formerly, in return for what we pay for the cost and labor of making cotton cloth. And thus, over the whole world, every instance of increased productiveness, whether it be from the use of natural agents, or from the division of labor, whether in our own country, or in another country, if we choose to avail ourselves of it, enables every man, by paying the producer the same as before, to procure a larger amount of value; that is, of objects for the gratification of desire; that is, enables every man to become both richer and happier.
The above remarks will, I hope, be sufficient to illustrate the general principle. As, however, there are several consequences resulting from increased productiveness of human labor, especially from the use and improvement of natural agents, which seem at first view to be at variance with what we have here advanced, it may be necessary to pursue the results somewhat more minutely, and to consider the objection commonly made, that the use of laborsaving machinery is prejudicial to the interests of the laboring classes.
It may, however, be here premised, that the objection made against natural agents, is not to their use, but to their improvement. Men object to the use of a spinning jenny, but not to the use of a spinning wheel. They dislike a rake by horse power, but do not dislike a rake. But every one must see, that this sort of objection, if it be founded in truth, is by no means sufficiently extensive. A spinning wheel, or a hand loom, or a hand rake, is a labor-saving machine; and it involves the use of natural agents, just as truly as a spinning jenny, a power loom, or a horse rake. If the use of natural agents be injurious, we should abandon them altogether, and spin, and weave, and rake, with our fingers. But if this would be unwise, and it be conceded that we must use natural agents, in some form or other, why not use the best that we can procure; that is, the best that God has given us? If, as all must allow, the use of them, up to a certain point, has conferred an incalculable benefit, what reason have we to suppose, that additional improvement in the use of them will not confer still additional benefit.
But, passing this, I proceed to consider the effects of increased productiveness of labor, both upon Producers and Consumers.
I. The effects of natural agents upon PRODUCERS. These are either immediate, or ultimate.
1. Immediate. It is said that every improvement in machinery enables the work to be done by fewer laborers, and hence many persons are thrown out of employment; and that every change in the manner of labor, deprives many persons of the use of that skill, which is their whole means of subsistence.
So far as change in the manner of labor is concerned, but little need be said, as this is but a temporary inconvenience. If a new kind of work is to be done, some persons must learn to do it, and must be paid for learning. If a man do not choose to learn it, although he would be paid for learning it, and be supported by his labor, after he has learned it, it is his own fault. He may quarrel with his own obstinacy, but he has nothing else to blame. Nor is the simple change of employment a pecu
liar hardship. Few men pass through life, without, at some time or other, materially modifying their mode of employment, from choice, instead of from necessity
The main difficulty, therefore, which is supposed to result from the use of improved methods of production, is, that they employ a less number of laborers; and, hence, that many laborers are thrown out of employment.
In reply to this it might be asked, what is the testimony of facts, in this case. Improvements in machinery have been going on, ever since the creation. Has the demand for labor diminished ? Improvements have been made in particular districts. Have the laborers been, by these means, driven away; or, on the contrary, are not these the very districts, to which laborers inevitably resort for employment?
But, aside from this, let us examine the assertion, that some laborers are thrown out of employment. Let us, however, first endeavor to ascertain how great the evil is.
1. It is not universal. The improved mode of production always requires some labor, and, of course, a portion of those formerly employed must still find employment. To these, there results no other disadvantage, than that of a change in the mode of employment; but with the meliorating circumstances of higher wages and less fatiguing labor.
2. It is, by necessity, gradual. Improvements in machinery are made by slow degrees. Although the total change may show a greatly increased productiveness of labor, yet no one single change is often, of itself, great enough to produce a great change in the demand for laborers. Again : Let the change be ever so great, it cannot be introduced at once, over a whole nation. Hence, its effects will be, at first, to reduce the wages of those engaged in the former methods of manufacturing. The consequence will be, that no new laborers will learn the trade. This will tend to keep up the wages of those who remain in it. And, lastly: If a new instrument is to be employed, there must be an additional number of men employed to manufacture it. This will, of course, require an additional number of laborers, who must be withdrawn from other employments. This will tend to raise the price of labor, and, of course, either to furnish employment for those who wish to leave the former occupation, or else to keep up the wages of those who choose to remain in it.
3. The infelicity, here spoken of, is no other than that which belongs to the tenure of all property whatsoever. Skill and labor, as well as capital, are always liable, in the revolutions of society, to depreciate in value, or even to become worthless. "Riches make to themselves wings, and flee away.”
The wisdom of man, since the creation, has never yet discovered any link strong enough
strong enough to connect a human being, indissolubly, with any sublunary possession. The laborer, therefore, in this case, holds his property precisely as any other man holds it, and is subject to no peculiar hardship.
Let us however proceed to consider the ultimate effects of increased productiveness upon producers.
1. The producer shares with the rest of the community in the benefit derived from increased productiveness; that is, if he earn the same wages as before, he is richer; and, if he earn less, he is less poor than he would have been, if no such change had taken place. That is to say, money, or, in other words, a given amount of labor, is capable of procuring for him a greater amount of objects of desire, than before.
2. From this increased productiveness, there must be, throughout the whole community; an increased demand for labor. Suppose a community of one hundred men to acquire, by their labor and capital, every year, just enough to support themselves, after defraying the expenses of their several establishments. So long as this state of things continued, there would be no increased demand for laborers;