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sistence, (a right of which civil society neither can nor ought to deprive him,) and as an obstacle to the developement of his individual faculties, to the progress of labour, and to the improvement of industry.
They are of opinion, that the greater the liberty of labour, the greater the facility of every labourer to chuse the labour for which he thinks himself fit, the stronger is his disposition to work, and the greater the perfection he gives to the produce of his labour. When, on the contrary, every labourer is restrained in the choice of his labour by the laws of apprenticeships and corporations, the country, instead of good labourers, has but indifferent or bad ones; and instead of an active and improved industry, but few and coarse productions, of little benefit to the labourer and to the state; manufactures, arts, and commerce, centre in a small number of privileged beings; emulation vanishes, competition ceases, talent is degraded, and mediocrity feigns triumphant.
Finally, the incorporation of labourers gives them ^ monopoly of their work, raises its price, diminishes its home and foreign consumption, impedes reproduction, and paralyses the progress of general wealth.
And what is a counterpoise to so many disastrous inconveniencies?
These institutions are supposed to favour the levy pf the contributions assessed upon industry, to insure the perfection of its produce, to warrant to the foreign consumer the goodness of the national manufactures, to facilitate the superintendence of the police over this numerous portion of the people, whose tranquillity is of the most material importance to public safety.
These advantages must have appeared extremely valuable at a time when industry had made but little progress, when civilization was not much advanced, and public wealth inconsiderable.
But at present these considerations have lost all their force, and if they still deceive sound understandings, it is less by their effective importance than by the irresistible power of habit.
At a time when sovereigns could not easily obtain from their subjects the contributions which the public wants required, and when credit could not supply the insufficiency of general contributions, corporations may have afforded safe and easy means to borrow and to draw indirect supplies from the people: but at present, these resourcesvare so feeble, so disproportioned to the public wants, and yet so expensive, that the most limited and least enlightened monarch would debase his authority and his dignity, discredit his government, and enervate his power, if he allowed himself to resort to such pitiful measures.
On the other hand, if in the infancy of industry and arts it might have suited a manufacturing town, or even a manufacturing country, to keep their methods secret in order to retain the exclusive enjoyment of their advantages, and to insure to their produce a permanent superiority; this has long since ceased to be' of any avail. Drawing has made such extensive progress, its practice is so general, that it is no longer possible to keep the most complicated methods secret:
industry is no longer a mystery or craft for any one; the cleverest manufacturer could not deceive the least informed merchant, or the least experienced broker.
Lastly, if it be true that, in some respects, corporations are useful means of police and superintendance over the numerous labouring classes, there are few governments which, since the institution of standing armies, are not above such assistance.
And, besides, is it not obvious that if the masters, in obedience to the police, are able to restrain their labourers within their duty, they may also excite them to insurrection and sedition, when it suits their interest or coincides with their opinions? Masters have frequently opposed an efficacious resistance to the views of the best intentioned and most enlightened governments* How many seditions have owTed their origin to the seduction and corruption of the masters ! Governments acquainted with their own strength and power, ought no longer to depend on the various and fluctuating interests of the labouring classes; the general interest of the nation, which is constant and immutable, affords them a more solid and efficient support.
Thus political reasons and the interest of wealth justify alike the doctrine of speculative men upon apprenticeships and corporations, and ought to make it triumph over antiquated usages and old habits.
Of the Wages of Labour,
Prior to the days of Adam Smith, our notions on the subject of wages of labour were vague, confused, and incapable of leading to a reasonable and decided opinion.
The maxim of the French economists was, that the wages of labour are proportioned to the price of provisions, and that the cheapness of provisions is not favourable to the labouring class, because it lowers their wages_, diminishes their Comforts, and reduces the mass of labour.*
David Hume maintained that, men being particularly prone to indolence and repose, necessity alone can indues them to labour; that they cease to labour, whenever the gain of a few days enables them to supply themselves with necessaries, and only resume their labour after they have dissipated what they had amassed.
From this observation, which is confirmed byexperiencc, the Scotch philosopher inferred, that the Jowness of the wages of labour is advantageous.
In short, almost all writers on subjects connected with political economy thought, that bringing the
Physiocrat ie. Max, 19,
wages of labour down to the lowest rate was the true way of reducing the price of commodities, and insuring'their sale abroad and at home,
Adam Smith has triumphantly refuted these doctrines, really distressing to humanity. He maintains, that the high price of the wages of labour is equally profitable to the state, and to general wealth.
He first shews that the cheapness or dearness of provisions has but little influence on the rate of the wages of labour, and that this rate is chiefly fixed by the demand for labour. If this he progressive, wages rise; if stationary, they decline; if retrograde, they leave but a very small pittance to the labourers.
These general rules are modified by several particular circumstances, such as the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the labour, the facility or difficulty of learning it, its being continual or interrupted, its requiring a greater or smaller degree of trust in the labourer, the greater or smaller probability of its success, the greater or smaller competition occasioned by apprenticeships, corporations, duties, and more or less facility in circulating the productions of labour.
Finally, he shews that the amelioration of the condition of the lower classes of the people is beneficial to population, which, in civilized society, is limited only by the scarcity of provisions among the lower orders; that it accelerates the progress of industry^ tends to produce more work within less time and with less trouble; and that this increased produce compensates, and even exceeds the increase of wages.
This doctrine of Adam Smith concerning the wages of labour, leaves no doubt or uncertainty in