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ART. VII.- HOURS OF LABOR.

What portion of a day laborers should work, is a question to which public attention is now very properly directed. The solution of this question will probably make it apparent that the interests of the employers and the employed are not materially diverse.

There is no doubt that a man working a certain time with elastic vigor and determined purpose may accomplish as much or more than by a listless, sluggish, irksome application to work during a much longer period. The hours of labor may be so long as greatly to impair the bodily strength, and thus directly diminish the effective power. But, on the other hand, it is certain that the limit of greatest efficiency is less than that within which the physical organism can exert itself without detriment to its energy.

It was always true, that intelligence added much to the efficiency of the laborer; but it is more emphatically so now that so large a portion of the work requiring mere force is performed by the action of steam and water power upon machinery demanding intelligence to design and construct it, and then to superintend its movements. The intellectual improvement of the laborer is then of great importance, even in the merely economic aspect of the subject which we are considering. This improvement requires not only time, but mental effort, to which physical exhaustion by labor too long continued is very unfavorable, while a very considerable amount of bodily exercise gives tone and vigor to the mind's action. It is, then, good economy to combine the two, and unwise to task all the powers of a man in mere muscular drudgery, to the exclusion of the mental effort which his intellectual health and progress demand. It is urged that laborers waste, or more than waste, the time which short working hours leave at their disposal. No class of men employ all their leisure most wisely; but there is, perhaps, good reason to believe that none more nearly do so than laborers, when libraries, lyceums, and other means of improvement are accessible to them, and especially when they are properly encouraged and directed, or even not misled, by those whose superior advantages should make them the exemplars of society. Though much of the laborer's leisure time may be wasted, yet that which is well employed will probably be in proportion to the whole quantity at his disposal; and if more is given, more will be devoted to intellectual pursuits or moral cultivation.

The conditions of slavery require that the laborers should be kept ignorant; and this is one reason why accumulation in the Slave States has been so much less than in the Free. The slaves not only had no inducement, and hence no disposition, to earn, but through ignorance were comparatively powerless to

do so.

The cardinal points in our inquiry regard, in the first place, the quantity of product; in the second, the division of that product. Security in its possession and economy in its application are important considerations, more remotely connected with our subject.

The quantity of product depends upon the efficient labor devoted to its creation, and the degree in which this labor is aided by natural agents or by artificial contrivances. Capital is one of the things needed to give efficiency to labor. As the laborers while at work on the growing crop must be fed, supported, paid from the accumulation of the past, this accumulation, this capital, constitutes a fund for this purpose. It is also needed to make the exchanges of property, — to construct roads, railways, and labor-saving machinery of various kinds. Having a value for these purposes, and the supply of it not being unlimited, it commands a price. This price is variable. In new countries, where there is little or no accumulation, and the opportunities for profitable use are numerous, its price is generally high, causing it to flow to them from older settled sections. In all countries, however, where there is trade, the products are divided between labor and capital; and the proportion which each obtains is a very important point in this discussion. Labor and capital getting the whole, the more there is allotted to one, the less will be left for the other.

The capitalist often also labors, and, in that case, will get the shares respectively due to the amount of labor and of capital he supplies. When he furnishes the whole of both, the whole

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product is his ; but it rarely if ever happens that a producer does not, in some way, avail himself of roads, railways, or machinery which have been provided by other capital than his own.

Looking only to the enjoyment of material comforts, the common interest of mankind obviously demands that labor should be so employed as to realize the greatest production. The more of such comforts produced, the more easily can each individual procure a portion of them.

It also appears, that for the greatest production the hours of labor must be less than the maximum which the mere muscles and sinews will bear. There must be time allotted to that intellectual development which gives efficiency and proper direction to muscular action. But the individual employer may overlook the tendency of excessive toil, or may not deem it his interest to foster the permanent efficiency of labor by accepting shorter days' work at present, and for immediate gain may sordidly become accessory to the deterioration of his fellowmen. He may do this with the consent of those most directly injured. By high wages he may bribe the laborer to work himself, or, what is much worse, to cause his children to work, more hours than is compatible with his own or the public interest, or with humanity.

Where the efficiency of the laborers has already been promoted by increased intelligence, such employers are in the position of a tenant hiring a farm which has been made productive by former good husbandry, but which he so crops as to render it comparatively barren, and then perhaps hires another to treat in the same manner. In neither case, however, does it often happen that so low a point of deterioration is actually arrived at, that a still lower may not be reached by a repetition of the same process. In the conditions of slavery, the minimum efficiency of labor was probably most nearly attained ; and here, too, the practice of wearing out one tract of land and removing to another was most common. This system can probably only be sustained under the most favorable conditions of soil and climate, or by drawing more from the land than with slave culture it would continue to yield. These results, to some extent, illustrate the influence of ignorant and degraded labor.

It is obvious that the whole community, on purely economic grounds, has a deep interest in the great questions affecting labor, and the thought of individuals and the organized power of society may well be invoked to devise means to prevent its deterioration or promote its efficiency.

It would not comport with our notions of liberty, nor should we deem it wise, or even expedient, for any government to interfere with the sphere of individual effort or duty, and deprive men of the needful discipline of self-control or self-direction, by prescribing the terms or conditions upon which they may dispose of their own labor; but justice to the community, as well as the common sentiment of humanity, demands that minors should be protected from the excessive toil which stints their intellectual growth, and that opportunities for the development of the greatest energy should be provided for all.

It is obvious, however, that even for these objects the time of labor may be too short as well as too long, --so short that the product would not be sufficient to sustain the highest bodily or mental conditions, nor the accumulations suffice for erecting forges, mills, and constructing the various machinery by which human labor is so abundantly aided. There would then be fewer products for use ; there would be a diminution of the comforts of life; and if the consequent privation be divided between capitalists and laborers, all will have fewer of those comforts which labor provides.

The idea prevails among laborers, and is shared by many others, that a general reduction of the hours of labor would so diminish the supply, that they could obtain as much wages for the shorter as they before did for the longer time. As this belief is the foundation of the combinations to reduce the hours of work, and of interference with those disposed to work the longer time, it is important to ascertain how far it is well founded. If it were universally true, labor might command for its remuneration more than all it produced.

We will suppose that ten hours per day will give the greatest product, and that laborers will work through each of the ten hours as efficiently as for a shorter time, and, further, that prices are inversely as the supply. Though neither of these propositions may be strictly true, they will serve the purposes of illustration.

If any one individual proposes to work only half time, he knows at once that he can get only half pay. Neither the supply of labor nor the quantity of product being sensibly affected, prices will remain the same, and in the division between labor and capital he gets the same share of what he actually produces, i. e. one half the quantity for half-time work that he would for whole time. He readily perceives that he can get no more per hour than all others demand. At any higher price there will be no sale for his labor, because all the customers for it can buy for less. He very naturally seeks to remove this obstacle to his obtaining the same wages per day for half time, by prevailing upon his colaborers to work half time also. Suppose he succeeds to an extent which will sensibly lessen the supply of labor. If the wages per hour are thus raised only in a very small section, the effect will be, either that the laborers from the adjoining sections will come in and do the work at a less rate, or the work will go to other sections to be done. Suppose, however, that this reduction of time is effected upon a larger scale ; for instance, that throughout Section A, embracing one whole country and one quarter of the whole labor of the commercial world, all reduce the time of work from ten to five hours. This would diminish the supply of labor to the world only one eighth (as 8 to 7); and the price per hour, being equalized by competition, would advance in the ratio of 7 to 8, or one seventh, say from 10 to 11ļ cents per hour, and the five-hour laborers will get 574 cents per day in place of the 100 cents they before received for ten hours. But this universal advance of ļ in the price of wages will advance the price of products ļ, so that the 57} cents will buy no more of them than 50 cents before did ; that is, for five hours' work the laborer still gets just half as much product as he did for ten hours' work.

This result, however, is founded upon the presumption that, as between capital and labor, the product will be divided in the same proportion as before its diminution. Labor and product, being both advanced in price as much as they are reduced in quantity, the amount of free or floating capital required to pay labor and exchange its products will remain the same. precisely for the reason that the capital applicable to these pur

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