Does Protection Raise The Rate Of Wages?

Workmen, your situation is singular! you are robbed, as I will presently

prove to you.... But no; I retract the word; we must avoid an

expression which is violent; perhaps indeed incorrect; inasmuch as this

spoliation, wrapped in the sophisms which disguise it, is practiced, we

must believe, without the intention of the spoiler, and with the consent

of the spoiled. But it is nevertheless true that you are deprived of the

> just compensation of your labor, while no one thinks of causing

justice to be rendered to you. If you could be consoled by noisy

appeals to philanthropy, to powerless charity, to degrading alms-giving,

or if high-sounding words would relieve you, these indeed you can have

in abundance. But justice, simple justice--nobody thinks of

rendering you this. For would it not be just that after a long day's

labor, when you have received your little wages, you should be permitted

to exchange them for the largest possible sum of comforts that you can

obtain voluntarily from any man whatsoever upon the face of the earth?

Let us examine if injustice is not done to you, by the legislative

limitation of the persons from whom you are allowed to buy those things

which you need; as bread, meat, cotton and woolen cloths, etc.; thus

fixing (so to express myself) the artificial price which these articles

must bear.

Is it true that protection, which avowedly raises prices, and thus

injures you, raises proportionably the rate of wages?

On what does the rate of wages depend?

One of your own class has energetically said: When two workmen run

after a master, wages fall; when two masters run after a workman, wages


Allow me, in more laconic phrase, to employ a more scientific, though

perhaps a less striking expression: The rate of wages depends upon the

proportion which the supply of labor bears to the demand.

On what depends the demand for labor?

On the quantity of disposable national capital. And the law which says,

such or such an article shall be limited to home production and no

longer imported from foreign countries, can it in any degree increase

this capital? Not in the least. This law may withdraw it from one

course, and transfer it to another; but cannot increase it one penny.

Then it cannot increase the demand for labor.

While we point with pride to some prosperous manufacture, can we answer,

from whence comes the capital with which it is founded and maintained?

Has it fallen from the moon? or rather is it not drawn either from

agriculture, or navigation, or other industry? We here see why, since

the reign of protective tariffs, if we see more workmen in our mines and

our manufacturing towns, we find also fewer sailors in our ports, and

fewer laborers and vine-growers in our fields and upon our hillsides.

I could speak at great length upon this subject, but prefer illustrating

my thought by an example.

A countryman had twenty acres of land, with a capital of 10,000 francs.

He divided his land into four parts, and adopted for it the following

changes of crops: 1st, maize; 2d, wheat; 3d, clover; and 4th, rye. As he

needed for himself and family but a small portion of the grain, meat,

and dairy-produce of the farm, he sold the surplus and bought oil, flax,

wine, etc. The whole of his capital was yearly distributed in wages and

payments of accounts to the workmen of the neighborhood. This capital

was, from his sales, again returned to him, and even increased from year

to year. Our countryman, being fully convinced that idle capital

produces nothing, caused to circulate among the working classes this

annual increase, which he devoted to the inclosing and clearing of

lands, or to improvements in his farming utensils and his buildings. He

deposited some sums in reserve in the hands of a neighboring banker, who

on his part did not leave these idle in his strong box, but lent them to

various tradesmen, so that the whole came to be usefully employed in the

payment of wages.

The countryman died, and his son, become master of the inheritance, said

to himself: It must be confessed that my father has, all his life,

allowed himself to be duped. He bought oil, and thus paid tribute to

Province, while our own land could, by an effort, be made to produce

olives. He bought wine, flax, and oranges, thus paying tribute to

Brittany, Medoc, and the Hiera islands very unnecessarily, for wine,

flax and oranges may be forced to grow upon our own lands. He paid

tribute to the miller and the weaver; our own servants could very well

weave our linen, and crush our wheat between two stones. He did all he

could to ruin himself, and gave to strangers what ought to have been

kept for the benefit of his own household.

Full of this reasoning, our headstrong fellow determined to change the

routine of his crops. He divided his farm into twenty parts. On one he

cultivated the olive; on another the mulberry; on a third flax; he

devoted the fourth to vines, the fifth to wheat, etc., etc. Thus he

succeeded in rendering himself independent, and furnished all his

family supplies from his own farm. He no longer received any thing from

the general circulation; neither, it is true, did he cast any thing into

it. Was he the richer for this course? No, for his land did not suit the

cultivation of the vine; nor was the climate favorable to the olive. In

short, the family supply of all these articles was very inferior to what

it had been during the time when the father had obtained them all by

exchange of produce.

With regard to the demand for labor, it certainly was no greater than

formerly. There were, to be sure, five times as many fields to

cultivate, but they were five times smaller. If oil was raised, there

was less wheat; and because there was no more flax bought, neither was

there any more rye sold. Besides, the farmer could not spend in wages

more than his capital, and his capital, instead of increasing, was now

constantly diminishing. A great part of it was necessarily devoted to

numerous buildings and utensils, indispensable to a person who

determines to undertake every thing. In short, the supply of labor

continued the same, but the means of paying becoming less, there was,

necessarily, a reduction of wages.

The result is precisely similar, when a nation isolates itself by the

prohibitive system. Its number of industrial pursuits is certainly

multiplied, but their importance is diminished. In proportion to their

number, they become less productive, for the same capital and the same

skill are obliged to meet a greater number of difficulties. The fixed

capital absorbs a greater part of the circulating capital; that is to

say, a greater part of the funds destined to the payment of wages. What

remains, ramifies itself in vain, the quantity cannot be augmented. It

is like the water of a pond, which, distributed in a multitude of

reservoirs, appears to be more abundant, because it covers a greater

quantity of soil, and presents a larger surface to the sun, while we

hardly perceive that, precisely on this account, it absorbs, evaporates,

and loses itself the quicker.

Capital and labor being given, the result is, a sum of production,

always the less great, in proportion as obstacles are numerous. There

can be no doubt that protective tariffs, by forcing capital and labor to

struggle against greater difficulties of soil and climate, must cause

the general production to be less, or, in other words, diminish the

portion of comforts which would thence result to mankind. If, then,

there be a general diminution of comforts, how, workmen, can it be

possible that your portion should be increased? Under such a

supposition, it would be necessary to believe that the rich, those who

made the law, have so arranged matters, that not only they subject

themselves to their own proportion of the general loss, but taking the

whole of it upon themselves, that they submit also to a further loss, in

order to increase your gains. Is this credible? Is this possible? It is,

indeed, a most suspicious act of generosity, and if you act wisely, you

will reject it.