MENIAL LABOR RAISED IN PRICE
166. The next result of the Cost Principle is one which is not less diverse from the operation of existing commerce or society, although its essential justice may to many minds be more obvious,--namely, that according to it the more ordinary and menial kinds of labor will be usually paid best. This result follows from the fact that all pursuits are paid according to their repugnance, and there is less in the inferior grades of labor to commend them to the taste and render them attractive. This result is qualified by the statement that such labor is usually paid best, because it is not always so. Severe mental labor may be more toilsome, painful, and repugnant than any corporeal labor whatever, and consequently cost more. This point will be more fully stated hereafter, in referring to the tax of different occupations upon different faculties. Besides, very little judgment can be formed from the present ideas upon the subject as to what kinds of labor will be regarded, under the operation of true principles. As inferior to, or more menial than others.
167. It is certain that every species of industry will be relatively very much elevated by the mere fact of being appropriately rewarded, and still more so by the consequent prevalence of more rational notions in relation to the dignity of labor. The principle here asserted merely amounts to this,--that whatever kinds of labor actually have in them the greatest amount of drudgery, from any cause, even from the whims and prejudices of society against them, and which are therefore more repugnant, will be best paid. The contrary is true now. Such labors are the most scantily paid. Consequently the more work or burden there is in any occupation, the less pay. There is such an obvious want of equity in this that the mere statement of the fact condemns it. Yet the common associations and habits of thought are so completely overturned by the idea of boot-blacking, street-cleaning, washing, scrubbing, etc., being paid higher prices than painting, sculpture, forensic oratory, and the largest commercial transactions, as they might, and probably would be, under the application of repugnance or cost as the measure of price, that the mind hesitates to admit the conclusion that such is the dictate of simple Equity. The principle of Equity is, nevertheless, clear and self-evident; and while the principle is admitted, the conclusion is inevitable.
168. The first resort of an illogical and determined opposition to this conclusion is to fly off from the principle to the consequences of the conclusion upon the condition and interests of society. These, as they address themselves to the mind of a superficial observer are repugnant, and even disastrous to the general good. A closer inspection, however, and especially a more comprehensive conception of all the changed conditions of society which will grow out of the operation of the Cost Principle, will reverse that opinion, and furnish an illustration of the fact that a true principle may always be trusted to work out true and harmonious results. The objections deduced from these supposed consequences require, however, to be noticed.
169. These objections are chiefly the following: It is objected, in the first place, that the effect of this system of remuneration would be to banish refinement, by placing those persons having less elevated tastes in the possession of the greater wealth, and those having more elevated tastes in the possession of less.
This is substantially the same objection which is urged by aristocracies generally against educating and improving the condition of the common people. It makes the assumption that the whole people are not susceptible of refinement, which is assuming too much. The objection draws its force chiefly from the existing state of society, the prevailing great inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and the general degrading of the masses consequent thereon. The result of the operation of the Cost Principle, or of the reign of Equity, will be an immense augmentation of the aggregate of wealth, and a far greater approach to equality in its distribution. It will be, in fact, the abolition of poverty, and the installation of general abundance and security of conditions. The particular modes in which these results will be attained will be referred to under other heads.
170. Consequently, in the state of society growing legitimately out of the operation of Equity, refinement, so far as that depends on the possession of wealth, will be, so to speak, the inheritance of all, and any objection, to be valid, should be taken within the circle of the new principles not drawn from a system of society quite alien to them.
171. Various calculations, and some actual experiments, go to establish the position that, if the laborer enjoyed the full results of his own labor in immediate products or equivalents of cost, two hours of labor a day would be ample to supply the ordinary wants of the individual,--that is, to bring his condition up to the average standard of comfort,--even without the benefits of labor-saving machinery or the economies of the large scale. With those extraordinary benefits the time necessary for such a result will be very much reduced; if it would not seem extravagant, I should say to one half hour's labor a day,--such being the nearest result at which calculation can arrive from such data as can now be obtained. The remaining time of the Individual would then be at his disposition for providing a higher grade of luxury, for mental improvement and amusement, and for laying up accumulations of wealth as a provision for sickness, old age, the indulgence of benevolence, taste, etc. Of course all calculations of this sort must be merely approximate. The terms used are too indefinite to render them more than that, even if the degree of saving, by a true arrangement of the production and distribution of wealth, could be rendered definite, comfort, luxury, etc., being always, in a great measure, relative to the individual. The estimate here stated, however, is the result of extensive investigations, made by different individuals, and in different countries, and of considerable actual experiment, the particulars of which will be stated elsewhere, and, as an approximation, it is believed that it is not very far from correct. The reason why this two hours of labor is now augmented to ten, twelve, fourteen, and even sixteen hours for those who labor, and even then without resulting in ordinary comfort, is of the same kind as those which have already been stated why others cannot procure labor at all and such as have been shown to be the legitimate results of the Value Principle. It is, in one word, because the state of society begotten of that principle is, as has been affirmed, a state of latent but universal war, and because all war is an exhausting drain upon peaceful industry. The men and women who work have now to support, ordinarily, now one individual each, but many, including the wealthy and speculating classes, the paupers, those who are thrown temporarily out of labor, the armies and navies, the officials, and, worse than all, those whose labor is now misapplied and wasted through the general antagonism and conflict of interests. Let any thinking person take passage, for example, upon a steamboat, and find himself plied by a dozen or twenty newsboys, each urging him to the purchase of the same newspapers; let him reflect that all the passengers present might have been as well served by one boy, and that this waste of human exertion is merely one sample out of thousands of a general or pervading system of the bestowal of labor to no useful purpose.
172. Again, the possession of wealth is only one means of refinement, or rather of the true development of the human being. Labor in itself is just as essential to that development as wealth. Labor without wealth, as its legitimate end and consequence, terminates in coarseness, vulgarity, and degradation. Wealth without labor, as the legitimate necessity and condition of its attainment, ends, on the other hand, in luxuriousness and effeminacy. The first is the condition of the ever-toiling and poverty-stricken masses in our actual civilization; the last is the hardly more fortunate condition of the rich. Labor is first degraded by being deprived of its reward, and, being degraded, the wealthy, who are enabled by their riches to avoid it, are repelled, even when their tastes would incline them to its performance. The rich suffer, therefore, from ennui, gout, and dyspepsia, while the poor suffer from fatigue, deformity, and starvation. The refinement toward which wealth conduces in existing society is not, then, genuine development. The dandy is no more refined, in any commendable sense of the term, than the boor. Wealth may coexist with inbred and excessive vulgarity. The fact is patent to all, but the proof of it could nowhere be more obvious than in the very objection I am answering. The absence of true refinement and gentility is in no manner so completely demonstrated as by selfish and wanton encroachments upon the rights of others, and no encroachment can be conceived more selfish and wanton than that of demanding that others shall work without compensation to maintain our gentility.
173. Refinement sits most gracefully upon those who have the most thorough physical development and training. The highest exhibit of the real gentleman can no more be produced without labor than that of the scholar without study. There is no more a royal road to true refinement than there is to mathematics. The experiment has been tried in either case a thousand times, of jumping the primary and intermediate steps, and the product has been in one event the fop, and in the other the pedant.
Refinement is, so to speak, a luxury to be indulged in after the necessaries of life are provided. Those necessaries consist of stamina of body and mind, which are only wrought out of mental and corporeal exercise. Mere refinement sought from the beginning, with no admixture of hardship, emasculates the man, and ends disastrously for the individual and the race. It is indispensable, therefore, to the true education and integral development of both the individual and the race that every person shall take upon himself or herself a due proportion of the common burden of mankind. If it were possible for any one individual to labor, for his whole life, at pursuits which were purely attractive and delightful, it is questionable whether even that would not mollify his character to the point of effeminacy,--whether absolute difficulties and repugnances to be overcome are not essential to a right education of a human being in every condition of his existence. The Cost Principle forces a compliance with what philosophy thus demonstrates to be the unavoidable condition of human development and genuine refinement. It removes the possibility of one person's living in indolence off the exertions of others. It administers labor as the inevitable prior condition of indulging in refinement, for which it furnishes the means and prepares the way. This objection, drawn from the consequences of the principle upon the well-being of society, is therefore destitute of validity. The balance of advantage predominates immensely in the opposite scale. The result which the principle works out is the elevation and genuine refinement of the whole race, instead of brutalizing the vast majority of mankind and emasculating the rest.
174. The second objection is that this method of remuneration depresses the condition of genius, and affords no means of obtaining a livelihood, and of making accumulations, to those who pursue purely attractive occupations. (99.)
This objection is, in part, answered in the same manner as the preceding. Genius, as well as refinement, has its basis in healthful physical conditions, such as result form a due amount of labor and struggle with mental and corporeal difficulties. Complete relief from all necessity for exertion is by no means a favorable state for the development of genius, or its maintenance in activity. The poet who works three hours a day at some occupation which is actual work will be a better poet than the same man if he should devote himself exclusively to his favorite literary pursuit. With the knowledge of physiological laws now prevalent, it cannot be necessary to enlarge upon a statement so well authenticated, both by science and experience. Less than that amount of labor, in true industrial relations, will furnish the means of existence and comfort. Hence, under the operation of these principle, genius has its own destiny in its own hands.
175. The man of genius who should devote himself exclusively, except so are as he must labor to provide himself the means of living, to that which to him was purely attractive and delightful, would of course not accumulate, as the price of his exertions, that kind of reward which appropriately belongs to the production of wealth. If he seeks his own gratification solely in this pursuit, he finds its reward in the pursuit itself. Probably, however, there is no species of occupation which, when continuously followed, is purely delightful. If the artist disposes of the products of his genius at all, he is entitled to demand a price for them according to the degree of cost or sacrifice they have occasioned him,--less in proportion to the degree to which he has pursued the occupation from pure delight. The correctness of this principle is now tacitly admitted in the case of the amateur, who does not charge for his works, because he performed them for his own gratification. So soon, however, as the artist, in any department of art, becomes professional, and exercises his profession for the pleasure and gratification of the public, he is forced to subordinate his own gratification, more or less, to that of those whom he attempts to propitiate, which, with the temperament usually belonging to that class of persons, is extremely irksome. In proportion to this irksomeness comes an augmentation of price. To be obliged to perform at stated times, to conform his own tastes to the demands of his employers or patrons, and the like,--all the sacrifice thus imposed enters legitimately into the estimate of price. It may be, therefore, that art pursued as a profession may be as lucrative, in a mere commercial point of view, as any other pursuit.
176. Ordinarily, however, there is a repugnance with the genuine artist to pursuing art as a profession at all. He desires ardently to pay his devotions at the shrine of his favorite divinity solely for her own sake. He feels that there is something like degradation in intermingling with his worship any mercenary motive whatever. For the gratification of this refined sentiment, how superior would his condition be, if, by expending a few hours of his time at some productive industry, which the arrangements of society placed always at his disposal, he could procure an assured subsistence, and that grade of comfort and elegance to which his tastes might incline him! There can be nothing in the vagrant and precarious condition of the devotees of art, in our existing society, to be viewed as a model, which it would be dangerous to deviate from.
177. The objection which we are now considering has been, however, already answered in a manner more satisfactory, perhaps, to those whose aspirations for the artist are more luxurious, in the chapter on Natural Wealth, under which head talent, natural skill, or genius is included. (87.) It was there shown that the subject treated of in this whole work is merely price, in its rigid sense as a remuneration for burden assumed, the only remuneration which the performer of any labor can be with propriety receive. If more is rendered as a free tribute for pleasure conferred, of which the party served must be the sole judge. (93.) Hence, as the business of the artist and the genius is to confer the purer and more elevated kinds of pleasure, the whole field is open to him to compel by pure attraction as liberal a tribute as he may, provided always no other force is employed. The point of honor would concur with equity in limiting him in his demand to the mere amount of burden assumed, as if he were the most menial laborer,--an amount which delicacy and politeness toward those whom he served would lead him rather to under than over estimate. On the other hand, the same point of honor would leave to them the estimate of the pleasure conferred, while delicacy and politeness on their part would in turn prompt them to magnify rather than diminish the obligation, and bespeak from them an appreciative and indulgent spirit. In this manner the intercourse of the artist, the genius, the discoverer, or other super-eminent public benefactor with the public would be raised to a natural and refined interchange of courtesies, instead of a disgraceful scramble about priority of rights, or the price of tickets.
178. In like manner there is nothing in the Cost Principle to prevent the most liberal contributions, on all hands, toward aiding inventors in carrying on their experiments before success has crowned their exertions, and the most liberal testimonials of the public appreciation of those exertions after success is achieved.
179. The third objection to the Cost Principle, drawn from its consequences upon the interests and conditions of society, is that it does not provide for the performance of every useful function in the community. More specifically stated, the objection is this: Labor is paid according to its repugnance; there are some kinds of labor which are not repugnant at all, but which, on the other hand, are purely pleasurable, and which consequently would bear no price, or receive no remuneration; but the performance of these kinds of labor is necessary to the well-being of society, and in order that they be performed, those who perform them must be sustained; consequently they must have a price for their labor The Cost Principle denies a price, therefore, at the same time that the well-being of society demands one.
180. This objection assumes that the labor in question will not be performed unless it bears a price, while it assumes at the same time that it is a pure pleasure to perform it. It assigns as the reason why it will not be performed, that the laborers performing it must be maintained while engaged in its performance. To assume this is in effect to assume that in the state of society which will result from these principles people will not have leisure to pursue their pleasure for pleasure's sake, and that they will be obliged to devote the whole of their time to occupations going towards furnishing them the means of subsistence. This is again assuming too much. Such assumptions are based upon the existing state of things, and not upon any such as could exist under the reign of Universal Equity. The very end and purpose of all radical social reform is a state of society which shall relieve every individual from subjugation to the necessity of continuous and repugnant labor, and furnish him the leisure and ability to pursue his own pleasurable occupations at his own option. It is claimed for the Cost Principle that, taken in conjunction with the doctrine of Individuality and the Sovereignty of the Individual, it works out a state of society in which that leisure and ability would exist. The real question, then, is whether it does so or not. If it does, then the objection falls. It is answered by the statements that all purely pleasurable occupations will be filled by such persons as have leisure, or by all persons at such times as they have leisure. Being pleasurable, they require no inducement in the form of price. Whether the operation of the Cost Principle is adequate to the production of general wealth, and the consequent prevalence of leisure and freedom of choice in regard to occupation, depends upon the correctness of the whole train of propositions which have been, and which are to be made upon the subject.
181. The next objection drawn from the operation of the Cost Principle is that it makes no provision for the maintenance of the poor and unfortunate,--that, although it secures exact justice, it has in it no provisions for benevolence.
It has been shown that, in order that benevolence be rightly appreciated and accepted as such, and beget benevolence in turn, it is essential that equity should first have been done. Mutual benevolence can only exist after all the requirements of equity have been complied with, and that can only be by first knowing what the requirements of equity really are; where, in other words, the relations of equity or justice cease, and those of benevolence begin.
182. It is the essential element of benevolence that it be perfectly voluntary. If it is exercised in obedience to a demand, it is no longer benevolence. Apply these principles to the question of public or private charity. If justice were done to all classes and all individuals in society; if, in other words, the whole products of the labor of each were secured to him for his own enjoyment,--the occasion for charity, as it is now administered, would be almost wholly removed. Pauperism, in any broad sense, would be extinguished. Poverty would, so to speak, be abolished, except in the very rare instances of absolute disability, from disease or accident overtaking persons for whom no prior provision had been made either by their own accumulations or those of their ancestors or deceased friends. Pauperism, with such rare exceptions, is purely the growth of the existing system of commercial exchanges, tending continually, as has been shown, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
183. With regard, then, to the few cases of disability, coupled with destitution, which may always continue to occur, it is obvious that the principle of science which intervenes to regulate the equitable exchange of products has no application whatever where there are no products to exchange. Equity is then out of the question. Equivalents cannot be rendered because there is nothing on the one side to render. Benevolence comes then fairly in play. In the same manner as the sentiment of justice is offended by the pretense of giving as charity what is felt to be due as a right, so, on the other hand, the sentiment of benevolence is offended by a claim as a matter of right to that which should be voluntarily bestowed, if at all. I have observed elsewhere the Rowland Hill would never have received the magnificent testimonial bestowed upon him by the English people, if he had seen fit to prefer a claim to it as the price of his services. Benevolence is conciliated, therefore, the moment that all claim is abandoned, and claims having no basis in right are abandoned immediately whenever there is an exact knowledge of the limits of equity. In this manner the Cost Principle, while it does not profess to be benevolent, serves, nevertheless, as an inspirer and regulator of benevolence itself. While justice is not benevolence, therefore, the foundations of benevolence are still laid in justice.
184. In a condition of society, then, in which Equity shall first have been secured to all, benevolence, whenever the occasion shall arise, will flow forth from every heart with unmeasured abundance. The disabled and unfortunate will be the pets and spoiled children of the community. It is a mistake in the philosophy of mind to suppose that there is naturally any sense of degradation from being the object of real charity. There never is any repugnance on the part of any one to being the recipient of genuine benevolence. The tenant of the poor-house in our pauper-ridden civilization is degraded and made sensible of his degradation by the malevolence, never by the benevolent sentiment, of society toward him. He is first hated because injustice has been done him, and then hated because he is a burden to society.
185. This is the true solution of the question of charity. So long as persons exist who are unable to support themselves from the products of their own labor, they must be maintained by the labor of other persons, without rendering any equivalent, and to be so maintained is to depend upon charity. There is no escaping from this necessity. Partnership or associate arrangements, or the theory of Communism, may disguise the fact, but the fact continues to exist, nevertheless. The remedy for the disagreeable features of charity is not to be sought by the impossible means of removing the fact, but by improving the general condition of society to the point where the demands for charity shall be so rare, and the general abundance of means so great, that there will be strife for the enjoyment of opportunities to gratify the benevolent sentiment. The relation of donor and beneficiary will then be alike agreeable and honorable to both. There is nothing, however, in the Cost Principle to prevent, but everything to encourage and require, the extension of the principle of insurance to everything to which it is applicable. Risk tables of longevity and the like, reduce that element to measurement, and render it as easy of calculation as any other element. Hence, parties who earn a surplus at any period of their lives can always insure permanent provision for the future. With reference to the very small number of those who, from the causes mentioned, may never be able to do that, the observations made above hold good. They must be objects of the benevolent regards of the community, and not rely upon any law regulating equivalents of which they have none to give. Benevolence, being purely voluntary and illimitable, cannot be measured nor prescribed for. Any attempt to organize it, or dictate its action, is, therefore, as much out of place as it would be to regulate politeness by legislation. First do justice and extinguish the pauperism, crime, and disease which grow out of relations of injustice, and cease to fear that the spontaneous benevolence of humanity will not be amply adequate to provide for the sparsely scattered instances of misfortune which may ever remain as an incentive to the healthy action of that affection.
186. There is a subtle objection sometimes urged against the whole doctrine of attractive industry, or, in other words, against the propriety of every individual being employed in that way in which his tastes incline him to act, and for which his natural gifts particularly qualify him. It is said that genius or superior natural endowment in any direction is always, in some sense, a diseased or abnormal condition of the man; that the true type of humanity is the exact equilibrium of all the faculties; and a consequent equal capacity for every species of performance; that the exercise of any faculty augments its power, and hence that, if those faculties which are in excess are chiefly exercised, the deflection from the true direction of integral individual development is continually rendered greater and greater. Hence the curious result, in reasoning, is arrived at that every individual should be constantly or chiefly engaged at those occupations for which he has least natural endowment, and which are least agreeable, or, in other words, the most repugnant, to him.
187. This is an extreme and erroneous presentation of principle of psychology and physiology; but, having a coloring truth, it requires to be carefully considered and distinguished. The assumption here made is that there is one given standard of perfection for universal manhood, which is the exact equilibrium of all the faculties. It is obvious that, according to this theory, the perfection of the race would be the reduction of all men to the common standard, until every individual would be merely the monotonous repetition of every other. It is not so clear, under this hypothesis, why the Almighty should not have created one big man instead of so many little ones. Since economy of means is one of His striking characteristics, as exhibited everywhere in nature, the probabilities would certainly be in favor of such a policy. Slight reflection, however, will show that this Simplistic Unity is no part of the scheme of creation. Universal Variety in Unity is the law of universe. The theoretical perfection of an exact equilibrium of faculties has no example in nature. It is an ideal point around which all individual organizations rotate in orbits more or less eccentric, all of them, however, when not arbitrarily interfered with, unapproachably distinct from every other, and hence positively incapable of collision. Individuality is infinite and universal. It cannot be extinguished, and, if it could, the result would be to reduce the universe to zero.
188. On the other hand it is undoubtedly true that, where some single faculty shows itself in any extraordinary degree of activity and power, there is a certain derangement of the whole system, growing out of, or conducing to, what may be regarded as disease. Genius verges upon insanity. Too great a departure from the ideal equilibrium of powers is unwholesome and dangerous to the physical, intellectual, and moral nature. Hence the arbitrary, and infinitesimal division of labor without variety, of which our existing civilization boasts, is a wretched perversion of the powers of the individual. It pushes out and develops some one faculty to the neglect and destruction of all others, sinking the manhood of the man in the skill of the artisan. Every other faculty is suffered to wither and die. The individual, instead of being integrally developed, is distorted. Men and women are sacrificed and subordinated by this means to Skill, as they are through Political Economy to Wealth, through political organizations to Government, and through the church to ritual observances. Thus Utility, Enjoyment, Social Order, and Religion are overlaid and smothered by the vary arrangements which are instituted professedly to secure those ends. A person who has been forced into the performance of some one function only during life is necessarily the helpless plaything of circumstances. He is rendered wholly imbecile for all else. All the higher purposes of his being are defeated by an insane and incessant devotion to some isolated fag-end of human affairs.
189. Hence it follows that true development is not to be found in either extreme. In medio tutissimus ibis. That man may be said to be best educated who has a general acquaintance with the largest scope of subjects, could with a particular and specific knowledge of some one, two, three, or more pursuits to which he chiefly dedicates his labors. In the beginning of a reform movement, while the circle is small, the most useful men of all are those who are spoken of disparagingly, in existing society, as Jacks-at-all trades,--those who can turn themselves the most readily from one occupation to another. In this respect the American character is superior to that of all other people. The largest development of the Individual tends in that direction. With the increase of the circle, and greater general security of condition, a more exclusive or one-sided class of talent will find its position, and a greater perfection of details a higher composite perfection of Society will then be achieved. The highest development of society demands the existence and cooperation of both classes. The true equilibrium is that the versatile man shall not go to the extreme of having neither preferences nor excellences in his performance, nor the devotee to a particular function to that of having no tastes or qualifications for any other. The point now to be observed is that Nature rarely, if ever, pushes things to either one or the other of these extremes. There is no man who is by nature totally indifferent as to what he will do, nor any so born to a single attraction that he never develops tastes for any other, while some have greater diversity, and some greater particularity of tastes, by natural organization. Hence all that is necessary in order to secure the right distribution of functions is that Nature be left wholly unembarrassed,--that no individual be driven or induced by the arrangements of poverty, into, or detained in, occupations discordant with his individual preferences or desires; on the one hand, and that those natural preferences or desires be not overstimulated by the same or a different class of influences, on the other. To secure that condition of things there must be an equilibrium between attractions and rewards. This is precisely what is effected by the adoption of cost as the limit of price. The greater the attraction for a particular occupation the less the price; consequently, while it is placed within the power of every one to follow his attractions so far as he may choose to do so at his own cost,--that is, by sacrificing the larger gains of more repugnant industry,--still, on the other hand, he is constantly appealed to by his cupidity,--that is, by another class of wants,--to compete with others in various kinds of labor more burdensome to him, and thereby to develop and keep in healthy exercise those faculties with which he is less liberally endowed by nature.
190. Again, if any individual is imbued with the theory that to indulge in the exercise of his best developed faculties is injurious to his health, moral attributes, or reasoning powers, by throwing him out of the ideal perfection of his nature, then that supposed injury to his nature becomes immediately, with him, an item of cost, raises the price of his labor in that function, throws him out of it by the competition of others having similar abilities with a different appreciation of the wear and tear of employing them, and places him in the performance of something which will call into play those faculties which he deems deficient and wishes to cultivate. The principle is adequate, therefore, to every emergency. But as we have seen already that the theory itself is only rational as a protest against an extreme use of the superior faculties, there is no doubt that the balance of natural attractions will, in the great majority of cases, determines the general direction of industry, and the more so as the increased abundance of wealth renders price a less important consideration. The true equilibrium will then be preserved, however, by an augmented scope of attractions, which we have seen is the type of individual development. That the conditions of attractive industry are supplied by the Cost Principle will be more fully shown in the following chapter, in which results will be partially sketched which are more directly in harmony with the flattering anticipations of those reformers who are most advanced, ideally.