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The means of increasing the power of labour, of improving its faculties, augmenting its produce, and ameliorating its quality, consists, therefore, with regard to agriculture, in large farms, and with regard to manufactures and commerce, in the division of labour and the use of machinery. These means, single or combined, must give to labour the highest degree of utility which it is capable of attaining, particularly if their effect be not impeded or destroyed by various obstacles, so much the more fatal, as opinions are yet divided concerning their influence.
These obstacles, pointed out by some as prejudicial to the progress of labour, and considered by others as beneficial, are, the slavery of the labourer, apprenticeships, corporations, and low wages.
Let us inquire into this part of the science to obtain correct notions on these subjects.
Of the Obstacles which impede the progress of Labour,
The advantages of liberty over slavery with regard to labour are no longer a problem in political economy. They have been demonstrated in the most convincing and satisfactory manner by the most esteemed writers. And could they do otherwise than promulgate an opinion so honourable, so consoling to humanity, and so fully established by the political and economical history of modern times? The liberation of the people of Europe from slavery has been followed by the clearing and cultivating of lands, by the transformation of huts into cottages, of hamlets into villages, of boroughs into towns, and of towns into cities; by the establishment of manufactures and commerce, by public order and national power. The nations which first made a brilliant figure on the political stage, are precisely those that first substituted the labour of the free man for the labour of the slave; and it is only by following their example that others have been enabled to rise to the same prosperity: in short, the sera of the political and economical regeneration of modern Europe is the aera of the abolition of real and personal slavery.
How could these striking facts escape the attention of a modern writer, who, in his Treatise of Political Economy, has professed liberal and philosophical sentiments, and has shewn himself on a level with the knowledge of an enlightened age?
How, after having asked, " what is the effect of "slavery upon production ?*' has he not been afraid of making this declaration : "I have no doubts that the la"bour of the slave yields a greater surplus of production (i over consumption than the labour of the free man?"
On what does he rest a doctrine combated by the experience of three centuries and the constantly increasing prosperity of Europe?
"The labour of a slave," says he, " has no limits "but the power of his faculties. His master, or "his overseer, takes care that he performs as much a work as he is able without declining sensibly. The C( labour of a free man is likewise limited by his facul"ties, but also by his will. In vain it is urged, that "his will is always to work as much as possible in "order to gain as much as possible. It is too well "known that this is not the case, and that the love of "gain is frequently inferior to that of idleness and u dissipation. The free man has in general but few iC wants for the moment, and little foresight respect"ing futurity; he does not think it necessary to "labour beyond what this foresight and these w^ants "require. The slave works to gratify the avarice of "his master, which is unbounded; and the indolence "and love of pleasure of the master do but aggravate "the toils of the slave." *
* Trake d' Economic Politique, par Jean Baptiste dc Say. Parish 1803. Vol. i. p. 216.
This theory appears far from being proved to demoiv stration. Whatever influence may be attributed to the whip of the taskmaster upon the determinations of the slave, it cannot be superior to the impulse which the attractions of pleasure., vanity and ambition give to the free labourer. Fear prevents the slave from acting and doing such things as he is forbidden to do; but nature has implanted in the heart of man other motives to impel him to action and keep him in constant activity. The strength of the labourer, far from being increased, is diminished by fear; his energy is impaired, his activity paralysed: fear is rather the parent of idleness, negligence, and stupidity, than of application, exertion, and intelligence. It is therefore as serious a mistake in political economy to prefer the labour of the slave to that of the free man, as it is a fundamental error in morals to suppose that man is more readily determined by fear than by interest, and that the anxiety to avoid pain is more powerful than the attraction of pleasure. Man exists and preserves himself merely by braving the pain with which nature has environed pleasure. Civil associations are formed and maintained, because the sacrifices which they command are advantageous when compared to the benefits which they hold out. Pain every where precedes pleasure; and every where man braves pain, to arrive at pleasure.
The same French author observes, that " while "the labour of the slave is more productive than that u of the free labourer, his expenees are less. The cc maintenance of a slave is as cheap as his toils arc "excessive. His master little cares whether he enjoys "life, provided lie barely keeps alive ."*
I shall not start any doubts against thisjobservation: perhaps it is, unfortunately, too true. But how did it escape the author, that this very observation destroys the doctrine which he is endeavouring to establish?
It is impossible that the free labourer should expend more and produce less than the slave. Greater expences suppose a larger produce; for at no time, and in no country, can any thing be obtained for nothing. Every expencc supposes an equivalent produced to meet that expence. If the free labourer expends more than the slave, the produce of his labour niust be more considerable than that of the labour of the slave.
I know it may be objected, with some truth, that the savings of the master in the expences of his slaves serve to enlarge his personal expences,, and to procure him greater enjoyments.
But it is more conducive to general wealth, that all orders of the community be in easy circumstances, than that a few individuals should enjoy excessive affluence. The diffusion of wealth favours consumption, accelerates the circulation of productions, and causes all kinds of manufactures and trade to prosper. The concentration of wealth maintains but few kinds of industry and trades, and plunges the remainder of
* Econonnie Politique^ par J. B. dc Say. Vol. 1. p. *216,