Page images

munity A. The difference will be that half the available labor power in Community B will be employed in making producers' goods, whereas all the available labor power in Community A will be employed in making consumers' goods.

Next year, however, Community B will be better equipped with producers' goods than Community A. Its total product, that is, its real income, will be larger than Community A's. It will have more to spend and will be able to employ more labor or employ it to better advantage. If it continues spending half its enlarged income on producers' goods, adding largely to its productive equipment from year to year, it will outstrip Community A and leave it farther and farther behind. In a short time laborers from Community A will be migrating to Community B, where there is more employment and better wages.

The different items in a balancing-up program need not be discussed in detail. Most of them will occur to any economist who will give the subject a little thought. The author has previously outlined such a program in a book entitled Essays in Social Justice.1


The indispensable man can generally get what he wants by the method of voluntary agreement. The superfluous man will have difficulty. To the man who, in any industrial situation, is indispensable, freedom means freedom to prosper. To the superfluous man, freedom may mean freedom to starve and is pretty certain to mean freedom to be relatively unprosperous. Any industrial condition in which one man is indispensable and another superfluous is necessarily an un

1 Harvard University Press, 1915. Cf. Chap. x.

balanced condition. No man is indispensable if there are plenty of others who can do the same kind of work which he does. No man is superfluous unless there are more than are needed to do the kind of work which he can do. A situation in which no class of men was so small as to make any one indispensable, and no class so large as to make any one superfluous would be a better balanced situation. One in which all were about equally needed would be perfectly balanced.

Even in an unbalanced situation, while the individual in a large class may be superfluous, the class as a whole is indispensable. There may, for example, be so many ditch diggers as to make any individual among them superfluous, nevertheless, ditch diggers as a class may be indispensable. The superfluous individual, bargaining alone, is weak and can never, so long as he is superfluous, bargain to his own advantage. The indispensable class, if it can bargain as a unit, can take advantage of its indispensability and bargain to its own advantage. Therein lies the philosophy of the collective bargaining program.

Its reason for existence is found, however, in an unbalanced industrial system. A kind of labor which is scarce enough to make each individual laborer practically indispensable would not need collective bargaining. Individual bargaining would give them their full share in the general prosperity. To use collective bargaining to add still more to that prosperity would not be a means of defense but a means of extortion. It would not differ in any essential particular from the trust, and the public would soon become as impatient of collective bargaining on its part as it has already become of collective bargaining on the part of the trust.

Where the lack of balance among the factors of production is not so very extreme, that is, where there is no

great overabundance of one factor and no great scarcity of another, collective bargaining on the part of those who sell the overabundant factor is a sufficient remedy. That happens to be the situation in the United States with respect to most forms of skilled manual labor. Skilled laborers are not so numerous as to place them at any great disadvantage in the bargaining process. Such disadvantage as they suffer can generally be overcome by the simple process of collective bargaining. They are not strongly tempted to adopt either the voting or the fighting program; first, because they have no such grievance as would justify their surrender of individual freedom; second, they are not numerous enough to give them much voting or fighting power.


Generally speaking, the more numerous any industrial class happens to be, the weaker its members are in the process of bargaining on the free and open market. But the numbers which make them weak in bargaining make them strong in voting. On the market they are at a disadvantage; in politics they are at an advantage. The greater their weakness on the market, the greater their voting strength in politics.

As stated above, where the disproportion of numbers is not so very great, the disadvantage in bargaining is likewise not so very great, neither is their voting strength so very great. Under such circumstances, the voting program does not seem to be necessary, nor does it promise much success. Collective bargaining is the only logical program. But where the disproportion is very great, the voting program seems to be more of a necessity and, what is more to the point, it promises greater success.

In a community where any class of wage workers, say unskilled laborers, outnumber all other people, the oversupply of unskilled workers will make their position on the labor market very difficult. Even collective bargaining has its limits, mainly because of the difficulty of keeping so large a mass together in order to bargain as a unit. But since they outnumber all others, their voting strength is overwhelming if they can be induced to vote as a unit. They could easily control the state, elect the entire personnel of government and use the compulsory power of the government to gain their own ends. As a matter of fact, they would not even have to take the initiative. Candidates for the salaries and emoluments of public office would certainly appreciate their opportunities. They would seek the votes of this class which had so many votes to give by offering it everything it wanted, even more than it had the courage to ask for. The voting program is therefore almost a certainty in any community where the disproportion of occupational classes is very great.

This will explain why the dominant elements in American Trade Unionism have always stood for a collective bargaining rather than for a voting program. They have not needed to control the state in order to gain fairly good wages for themselves, and, moreover, they have not had votes enough to control the state even if they had wanted to. It will also explain why English laborers have adopted a voting program. The disproportion between wage workers and other factors of production or other elements in the population is much greater there than here. In bargaining, English laborers are therefore weaker, and in voting stronger than American laborers as a class. English laborers therefore have greater need of the help of the state, and greater power to gain control of the state than have American la

borers. The sheer logic of this situation calls for a greater trend toward socialism there than here.

Other classes besides laborers have shown the same tendency to use the state to help them out of a situation in which their bargaining power was reduced. In the seventies and eighties of the last century there was a disproportionate production of agricultural crops in this country. The rapid settlement of the rich prairies of the West had poured a flood of agricultural products upon the markets of the world. This put the farmers at a disadvantage on the free and open market. Their numbers proved to be their weakness on the market, but their strength at the polls. They were not slow to realize the situation and to use their voting strength rather than their weakness. Even if they had been slow to realize it, they were abundantly reminded by a swarm of candidates for office who had uses for the large farmer vote. Since 1909, the farmers have not been so numerous relatively to the rest of the population as to place them at a great disadvantage on the market, nor to give them a great advantage at the polls. Consequently they are not now demanding so much help from the government. In fact, the demand for price-fixing and similar government interference has not come recently from the farmer but from the urban consumers. At the same time, the candidates for office have, except in the far Northwest, almost forsaken the farmer and have become very solicitous of the labor vote.

There was also a time when the manufacturers, especially those starting new lines of manufacturing, felt weak on the market, or thought that they did when brought into competition with old and well established rivals across the water. They then turned to the state for help. They were able to deliver considerable numbers of votes. The result was that candidates for office became solicitous as to the welfare of infant industries.

« PreviousContinue »