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the people should actually take place, the price of labour would again rise very high, and upon the return of plenty would encourage a rapid reproduction of people. But, considering the intervening misery and the great fluctuation in the rate of wages necessarily attending the process, and the dreadful disparity of condition introduced between the lowest and all other ranks of society, I think that a reasonable doubt may be entertained both with respect to the humanity and the sound policy of the whole system. And a mode of remunerating labour will surely appear preferable which secures regular comfort to the labourer in return for the fair and average exertion of his industry, and a regular rate of payment to the employer, whereby he can calculate beforehand, with some degree of accuracy, the prcportion which his means bear to the work which he must hire labourers to perform. It is with most unfeigned pleasure that I quote the following passage from a note in Mr. Malthus's “ Inquiry into Rent” (p. 48), where he incidentally alludes to the evidence upon which I have just commented. “ With regard to the unusual exertions made by the labouring classes in periods of dearness, which produce the fall of wages noted in the evidence, they are most meritorious in the individuals, and certainly favour the growth of capital. But no' man of humanity could wish to see them constant and unremitted. They are most admirable as a temporary relief; but if they were constantly in action, effects of a similar kind would result from them as from the population of a country being pushed to the very extreme limits of its food. There would be no resources in a scarcity. I own I do not see with pleasure the great
extension of the practice of task work: to work really hard during twelve or fourteen hours in the day for any length of time is too much for a human being. Some intervals of ease are necessary to health and happiness, and the occasional abuse of such intervals is no valid argument against their
Upon the whole then I conclude that the comfortable subsistence of the labourer by a competent rate of wages, is an indispensable constituent part of the price of raw produce in a free country; that, as society advances, and the expenses of cultivation increase, and the consumption of the labourer is changed from an exclusive subsistence on raw produce to one compounded of corn and other articles not materially affected by the price of corn, wages must absolutely undergo a real rise. And that a country has no alternative between providing some method by which this real rise can be paid without injuring its general industry; or entering upon a' retrograde course in society by giving up all those employments and the cultivation of all those lands which have rendered the rise in wages necessary.
In this view of the subject I apprehend the resource pointed at in the first chapter of this second book, which seems to be supplied by the spirit of the English poor-laws, may be found useful. Its consequences, as applicable to the case immediately before us, evidently are to prevent any great fluctuation in the rate of wages, to preserve a regular and constant rate of employment throughout the whole population, attended with a regular and fair remuneration, and this without precluding extra exertion
for increased wages where an extraordinary effort is occasionally required by the manufacturer to complete a sudden order or answer a sudden demand. But there is no grinding down of the frame of the poor man, by extracting from him double work at the time when he is least capable of performing his average portion, but in return for his regular exertion of that portion a corresponding supply of his necessary wants is secured to him.
It will of course be asserted in reply to this reasoning, that both the price and the supply of labour will be regulated by the demand for it. Now that the price of labour will for a time be regulated by the demand I am ready to admit; but I must be permitted to deny that the supply of labour will in the natural course of things follow the demand as in the case of ordinary commodities, and, therefore, that its price will ultimately be regulated by it. The supply of labour is of too slow a growth to follow the demand for an increased quantity, before the want of such increase has annihilated the causes which created the demand itself. And labour is composed of sensitive materials too much dependant upon regular wants and habits, to accommodate itself rapidly to the decreasing wants of a retrograde society, without effects very dismal to the labouring classes, and very detrimental to all the other classes of society. So that in neither case will the state of the supply readily accommodate itself to the state of the demand.
For let us suppose that a high price of labour indicates an increasing demand for it, and encourages marriage and the production of children to supply that demand. It is evident that the new stock of
labour thus created will not come into the market for 16 or 17 years at the soonest. And in the mean time what will be the necessary consequence of the high wages ? That from the decreasing exertion of some of the labourers, the capitalist will have diminished command over the supply of labour at the very moment that his interest and that of the State require that it should be considerably augmented. But the want of this supply, by enhancing the price of wages still further, must of course check the progress of industry which originally created the demand, and this soon after the first start is given to the population. By the time, therefore, that the children begin to make an effective demand upon the food of the country, the means of their parents for affording them that food will be proportionally dimi. nished, by the decreasing demand for their labour and by diminished wages ; and it will then remain to be geen by what means the redundant supply of labour actually in the market, or rising up for its supply, will by its reduction accommodate itself to the reduced demand. It is clear that this can only be done by the extinction of the superfluous population, in consequence of the misery and distress introduced among them by want of employment. I think myself, therefore, upon the whole justified in denying that, in the natural course of things, the supply of labour in the market will accommodate itself either to an increasing or decreasing demand, with sufficient rapidity and ease to secure the anticipated advantage to the capitalist in the first case; or to prevent the most extensive misery to the labouring classes in the last case.
The whole result of a reliance on such an hypothesis would be nothing else than great fluctua
tions of profit to the employer of labour; great fluctuations of price to the consumers of all the products of labour; and still greater fluctuations of condition to the labouring classes themselves, who are “unquestionably” (as Mr. Malthus observes with equal justice and liberality) " of the greatest weight in any estimate of national happiness.”
I know, in short, but one method by which the supply of labour can be made immediately to accommodate itself to the demand in the market; and that is, by anticipating the production of the materials, which may be called into action when the demand is increasing; and providing for their due preservation against a more convenient season, when the demand is decreasing. I have shown that this anticipation and provision can be made without any expense to the WHOLE society, by the means pointed out in the first chapter of this second book.
But this is not the case with respect to all the particular portions of the community; for where the process is to be applied to a highly manufacturing state, the reasoning in the same chapter and in various other parts of this treatise, concerning the spontaneous distribution of the people, will show that the anticipation must be made chiefly at the expense of the agricultural part of the society ; because the reproductive part of the people, from which the in creased supply of manufacturing as well as of all other labourers must come, exclusively resides in the agricultural districts. The provision also for their due preservation, when unemployed and in unfavourable seasons, necessarily, although not so exclusively, falls upon the produce of the land.
If the whole society, therefore, wish to preserve