Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The last labor required, is to ascertain the laws by which these changes are governed. As soon as this is done, a great improvement is at once effected in all the former inventions; and new inventions arise, which otherwise would never have been suggested. Thus, a knowledge of the laws of combustion has greatly improved the construction of instruments for warming our houses. A knowledge of the laws of hydrostatics, has greatly improved the construction of ships. And a knowledge of the laws of steam, has given birth to all the machinery connected with the steam engine. And, it seems not too much to hope for, that the knowledge of the laws of nature will be yet so universally diffused, that invention shall almost cease to be the work of accident; but, that, when an instrument is wanted, men will proceed to discover the law and invent the application, just as Sir Humphrey Davy proceeded, when he was requested to invent the safety lamp.

OF THE DIFFERENT PRODUCTS OF THE VARIOUS FORMS

OF INDUSTRY.

1. The product of operative industry, is a change of form or of place in matter, by which its intrinsic and exchangeable value is increased. As the exertion of this labor confers its value, it gives to the laborer a right either to the whole, or to an equitable part of the matter on which it is exerted. This right is easily ascertained and enforced; for the laborer may enforce it, by seizing either on the matter itself, or on such part of it as may be sufficient to satisfy his demand.

2. The change, which is thus produced, could not be effected by a less amount of labor, than that which the laborer has exerted. If a man make a table with suitable skill, such a table could not be made by any one else with a less degree of skill and a smaller amount of labor; and hence, the cost of tables must, in the same place and at the same time,

be very much the same. Besides this, there is no power in tables to multiply themselves. Hence, the laborers in this or any other department, have a sort of monopoly of this kind of production, inasmuch as no one can produce it cheaper, and none but themselves can produce it as cheap.

But all this is reversed, in the case of the first two kinds of labor. For,

1. The product which the discoverer or inventor creates, is immaterial. It is knowledge, or a change effected on mind, the immaterial part of man.

By creating this change, a man does not acquire a right to the whole, or to any part of the substance, in which the value resides. The substance cannot be appropriated, nor can it be divided; and, were this possible, the laborer could make no use of it. Nor is the change one which is cognizable by the senses of others, but only by the consciousness of the person in whom it is wrought. Hence, this marks a broad distinction between this and the other forms of labor.

2. Although the discovery of the laws by which the changes in matter are governed, may require the exercise of the most unusual talent, and may demand both protracted and most expensive labor; yet these laws may be promulgated, after they are discovered, by men of the most ordinary talent. If a man discover a law and reveal it to his neighbor, that is, create this change in his mind, his neighbor may create the same product in an hour, in the minds of a thousand persons, and each one of these in the minds of a thousand more. And specially, by means of the press, this power is multiplied indefinitely. There is therefore no ratio between the labor or skill necessary to create it, and that necessary to promulgate it after it has been discovered. Hence, he who first creates knowledge, has no means of monopolizing it; nor can the exchangeable value be sustained, by the consideration that no one could create it, afterwards, with less labor. Hence, as the supply of the product can at any moment be illimitably in

creased, it very soon ceases to have any exchangeable value.

From these reasons it will be seen, that the ordinary rules of supply and demand, and cost and labor, do not enter into view, when we speak of intellectual products. They can therefore be adjusted by no fixed rule. Nevertheless as immaterial products are of the greatest importance to the prosperity of a country, the Political Economist may point out the circumstances most favorable to their production, and the rule by which their labor should be remunerated. The above considerations are suggested, in order to explain, why Political Economy, so commonly, treats almost exclusively of material products.

It may, however be remarked, that civil society observing that immaterial products are necessary to the well being of a community, and that those who create them, are liable to remain altogether unpaid; has frequently devised means by which some remuneration may be reaped from the exercise of this kind of industry. Such are the laws of copy, and of patent right. By the first of these, an author is allowed, for a limited time, the exclusive control over the publication of his work; and by the other, the inventor is entitled to the exclusive control over the use of his invention. In this manner, both of these classes of laborers are enabled to derive some portion of benefit from their productions. Were it otherwise, all their reward would consist in whatever of consideration they might obtain in the community, and in the gratification of benevolence from the consciousness of having improved the condition of their fellows. But, inasmuch as every other man, who is usefully employed, obtains these rewards also, and receives pecuniary advantage in addition, there is no reason why the intellectual laborer should receive only the first, and be excluded altogether from the second.

From what has been said, another difference between these two forms of product may be seen.

The product of operative labor, being united with matter, and being limited in quantity and fixed in cost, may be exported to another country, and will command a correspondent amount of exchangeable value in the products of that country. Hence, a nation may grow rich, either by agriculture, manufactures, or commerce. But this is not the case with immaterial products. We cannot send abroad a given amount of knowledge, and bring back a correspondent amount of material products. The smallest amount of knowledge, is capable of such indefinite multiplication, that the demand may be instantly supplied. Hence, a society composed solely of philosophers, or inventors, or professional men, would never grow rich, but must, if it performed no other labor, of necessity starve. Laborers of this class add greatly to the value of other labor, though their product, if no other were created, would be valueless in exchange. They may be compared to the steam in an engine, which, when it is combined with proper machinery, produces the most surprising results, but which, when left to itself, is dissipated into air. On the other hand, the separate parts of the machinery, though they might be of some use as raw material, yet, if the steam were withdrawn, would, immediately, become a mere mass of cumbersome and valueless lumber.

Thus, we see that all the classes of laborers are mutually necessary to each other. Without knowledge of the laws of nature, we should all be savages. Without the skill and labor of the mechanic, there would neither exist the opportunity of acquiring knowledge, nor would our knowledge, if acquired, be of any practical value. Nothing can, therefore, be more unreasonable than the prejudices which sometimes exist between these different classes of laborers, and nothing can be more beautiful, than their harmonious co-operation in every effort to increase production, and thus add to the conveniences and happiness of man.

a

58

PART II.

THE MODES BY WHICH THE PRODUCTIVENESS OF

HUMAN INDUSTRY MAY BE INCREASED.

It is obvious, that if the capital and number of laborers be at any one period the same, the annual amount of product created will be as the amount of industry exerted. Were the laborers all sickly, so that they could work only for four hours a day, there would be but half as large a product created, as if they all labored for eight hours a day. If, by a palsy, they were all deprived of the use of one of their arms, a correspondent decrease of production must ensue. On the contrary, if, while the cost of their support remained the same, their ordinary power of labor could be doubled, there would be twice the usual amount of value created. And hence, in general, we see that, other things being equal, just in proportion as more labor is bestowed, the desires of every one are more fully gratified, that is, he grows rich; and, on the contrary, as labor is diminished, the laborer suffers, or grows poor.

This result every one witnesses every day. Sick, aged, and idle people suffer, because they either do not, or cannot, bestow the labor upon capital necessary to create an amount of produce sufficient for their subsistence.

But the physical power of man is extremely limited. There is an average amount of fatigue which a human being can undergo, which can rarely, and but for very short periods, be exceeded. If he be worked too hard, he sickens and dies; and dies probably from being overworked more readily and more commonly than any other animal. When, therefore, the whole physical power of man is employed upon the capital which he possesses, this may be considered the natural limit of human productiveness.

« AnteriorContinuar »