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Remedies for Sweating.

Se. Factory Legislation. What it can do. Having now set forth the three aspects of the industrial disease of “Sweating” the excessive supply of unskilled labour, the multiplication of small employers, the irresponsibility of capital we have next to ask, What is the nature of the proposed remedies? Since any full discussion of the different remedies is here impossible, it must suffice if we briefly indicate the application of the chief proposed remedies to the different aspects of the disease. These remedies will fairly fall into three classes.

The first class aim at attacking by legislative means, the small workshop system, and the evils of long hours and unsanitary conditions from which the “sweated” workers suffer. Briefly, it may be said that they seek to increase and to enforce the legal responsibility of employers, and indirectly to crush the small workshop system by turning upon it the wholesome light of publicity, and imposing certain irksome and expensive conditions which will make its survival in its worst and ugliest shapes impossible. The most practical recommendation of the Report of the Lords’ Committee is an extension of the sanitary clauses of the Factory Act, so as to reach all workshops.

We have seen that the unrestricted use of cheap labour is the essence of “sweating.” If the wholesome restrictions of our Factory Legislation were in fact extended so as to cover all forms of employment, they would so increase the expenses of the sweating houses, that they would fall before the competition of the large factory system. Karl Marx writing a generation ago saw this most clearly. “But as regards labour in the so-called domestic industries, and the intermediate forms between this and manufacture, so soon as limits are put to the working day and to the employment of children, these industries go to the wall. Unlimited exploitation of cheap labour power is the sole foundation of their power to compete."

The effectiveness of the existing Factory Act, so far as relates to small workshops, is impaired by the following considerations

1. The difficulty in finding small workshops. There is no effectual registration of workshops, and the number of inspectors is inadequate to the elaborate and tedious method of search imposed by the present system.

2. The limitation as to right of entry. The power of inspectors to “enter, inspect, and examine at all reasonable times by day or night, a factory or a workshop, and every part thereof, when he has reason to believe that any person is employed therein, and to enter by day any place he has reasonable cause to believe to be a factory or workshop,” is in fact not applicable in the case of dwelling-rooms used for workshops. In a large number of cases of the worst form of “sweating,” the inspector has no right of entrance but by consent of the occupant, and the time which elapses before such consent is given suffices to enable the “sweater” to adjust matters so as to remove all evidence of infringements of the law.

3. The restricted power in reference to sanitation. A factory inspector has no sanitary powers; he cannot act save through the sanitary officer. The machinery of sanitary reform thus loses effectiveness.

Compulsory registration of workshops, adequate inspection, and reform of machinery of sanitary reform, would be of material value in dealing with some of the evils of the small workshop. But it would by no means put an end to “sweating.” So far as it admitted the continuance of the small workshop, it would neither directly nor indirectly abate the evil of low wages. It is even possible that any rapid extension of the Factory Act might, by limiting the amount of employment in small workshops, increase for a time the misery of those low-skilled workers, who might be incapable of undertaking regular work in the larger factory. It is, at any rate, not evident that such legislative reform would assist low-class workers to obtain decent wages and regular employment, though it would improve the other conditions under which they worked.

Again, existing factory legislation by no means covers even theoretically the whole field of “sweating.” Public-houses, restaurants, all shops and places of amusement, laundries, and certain other important forms of employment, which escape the present factory legislation, are in their lower branches liable to the evils of “sweating,” and should be included under such factory legislation as seeks to remedy these evils.

Se. Co-operative Production. The organization of labour is the second form of remedy. It is urged that wherever effective organization exists in any trade, there is no danger of sweating. We have therefore, it is maintained, only to organize the lower grades of labour, and “sweating” will cease to exist. There are two forms of organization commonly advocated, Co-operation and Trade Unionism.

The suggestion that the poorer grades of workers should by co-operative production seek to relieve themselves from the stress of poverty and the tyranny of the sweating system, is a counsel of perfection far removed from the possibility of present attainment. No one who has closely studied the growth of productive co-operation in England will regard it as a practicable remedy for poverty. Productive co-operation is successful at present only in rare cases among skilled workmen of exceptional morale and education. It is impossible that it should be practised by low-skilled, low-waged workers, under industrial conditions like those of to-day. It is surprising to find that the Lords Committee in its final report should have given prominence to schemes of co-operation as a cure for the disease. The following paragraph correctly sums up experience upon the subject

“Productive societies have been from time to time started in East London, but their career has been neither long nor brilliant. They have often had a semi-philanthropic basis, and have been well-meant but hopeless attempts to supersede ‘sweating’ by co-operation. None now working are of sufficient importance to be mentioned."

The place which productive and distributive co-operation is destined to occupy in the history of the industrial freedom and elevation of the masses doubtless will be of the first importance. To look forward to a time when the workers of the community may be grouped in co-operative bodies, either competing with one another, or related by some bond which shall minimize the friction of competition, while not impairing the freedom and integrity of each several group, is not perhaps a wild utopian vision. To students of English industrial history the transition to such a state will not appear more marked than the transition through which industry passed under the Industrial Revolution to the present capitalist system. But the recognition of this possible future does not justify us in suggesting productive co-operation as a present remedy for the poverty of low-skilled city workers. These latter must rise several steps on the industrial and moral ladder before they are brought within the reach of the co-operative remedy. It is with the cost and labour of these early steps that the students of the problem of present poverty must concern themselves.

Se. Trade Unionism. Ability of Workers to combine. Trade Unionism is a more hopeful remedy. Large bodies of workers have by this means helped to raise themselves from a condition of industrial weakness to one of industrial strength. Why should not close combination among workers in low-paid and sweating industries be attended with like results? Why should not the men and women working in “sweating” trades combine, and insist upon higher wages, shorter hours, more regular employment, and better sanitary conditions? Well, it may be regarded as an axiom in practical economies, that any concerted action, however weak and desultory, has its value. Union is always strength. An employer who can easily resist any number of individual claims for higher wages by his power to replace each worker by an outsider, can less easily resist the united pressure of a large body of his workmen, because the inconvenience of replacing them all at once by a body of outsiders, is far greater than the added difficulty of replacing each of them at separate intervals of time. This is the basis of the power of concerted action among workers. But the measure of this power depends in the main upon two considerations.

First comes the degree of effectiveness in combination. The prime requisites for effective combination are a spirit of comradeship and mutual trust, knowledge and self-restraint in the disposition of united force. Education and free and frequent intercourse can alone establish these elements of effective combination. And here the first difficulty for workers in “sweating” trades appears. Low-skilled work implies a low degree of intelligence and education. The sweating industries, as we have seen, are as a rule those which escape the centralizing influence of the factory System, and where the employes work, either singly or in small groups, unknown to one another, and with few opportunities of forming a close mutual understanding. In some employments this local severance belongs to the essence of the work, as, for example, in the case of cab-drivers, omnibus-drivers, and generally in shop-work, where, in spite of the growth of large stores, small masters still predominate; in other employments the disunion of workers forms a distinct commercial advantage which enables such low-class industries to survive, as in the small workshop and the home-labour, which form the central crux of our sweating problem. The very lack of leisure, and the incessant strain upon the physique which belong to “sweating,” contribute to retard education, and to render mutual acquaintanceship and the formation of a distinct trade interest extremely difficult. How to overcome these grave difficulties which stand in the way of effective combination among unskilled workers is a consideration of the first importance. The rapid and momentarily successful action of organized dock labourers must not be taken as conclusive evidence that combination in all other branches of low-class labour can proceed at the same pace. The public and localized character of the competition for casual dock labour rendered effective combination here possible, in spite of the low intellectual and moral calibre of the average labourer. It is the absence of such public and localized competition which is the kernel of the difficulty in most “sweating” trades. It may be safely said that the measure of progress in organization of low class labour will be the comparative size and localization of the industrial unit. Where “sweating” exists in large factories or large shops, effective combination even among workers of low education may be tolerably rapid; among workers engaged by some large firm whose work brings them only into occasional contact, the progress will be not so fast; among workers in small unrelated workshops who have no opportunities of direct intercourse with one another, the progress will be extremely slow. The most urgent need of organization is precisely in those industries where it is most difficult to organize. It is, on the whole, not reasonable to expect that this remedy, unless aided by other forces working against the small workshops, will enable the “hands” in the small sweater’s den to materially improve their condition.

Se. Trade Union Methods of limiting Competition. So far we have regarded the value of combination as dependent on the ability of workers to combine. There is another side which cannot be neglected. Two societies of workmen equally strong in the moral qualities of successful union may differ widely in the influence they can exert to secure and improve their position. We saw that the real value of organization to a body of workmen lay in the power it gave them to make it inconvenient for an employer to dispense with their services in favour of outsiders. Now the degree of this inconvenience will obviously depend in great measure upon the number of outsiders qualified by strength and skill to take their place without delay. The whole force of Unionism hangs on “the unemployed.” The strongest and most effective Unions are in trades where there are the smallest number of unemployed competitors; the weakest Unions are in trades which are beset by crowds of outsiders able and willing to undertake the work, and if necessary to underbid those who are employed.

Close attention to the composition and working of our Trade Unions discloses the fact that their chief object is to limit the competition for work in their respective trades. Since their methods are sometimes indirect, this is sometimes denied, but the following statement of Trade Union methods makes it clear. The minimum or standard rate of wages plays a prominent part in Unionism. It is arbitrarily fixed by the Union, which in its estimate takes into account, [Greek: a]. prices paid for articles produced; [Greek: b]. a reasonable standard of comfort; [Greek: g]. and remuneration for time spent in acquiring necessary skill. This is an estimate, it must be remembered, of a “fair wage,” based upon calculations as to what is just and reasonable, and does not necessarily correspond to the economic wage obtainable in a neighbourhood by the free competition of labour and capital. Now this standard wage, which may or may not be the wage actually paid, plays a very prominent part in Unionism. The point of importance here is its bearing on the admission of new members. The candidate for membership has, as his principal qualification, to show that he is capable of earning the standard rate of wages. It is evident, however, that the effect of any large new accession to the ranks of any trade must, unless there is a corresponding growth of employment, bring down the rate of wages, whether these be fixed by a Trade Union standard or not. Hence it is evident that any Trade Union would be bound to refuse admission to new applicants who, though they might be in other respects competent workmen, could not find work without under-bidding those who were at present occupied. This they would do by reason of their standard wage qualification, for they would be able to show that the new applicants would not be competent to earn standard wages under the circumstances. How far Trade Unions actually have conscious recourse to this method of limiting their numbers, may be doubted; but no one acquainted with the spirit of Trades Unions would believe that if a sudden growth of technical schools enabled large numbers of duly qualified youths to apply for admission into the various Unions so as to compete for the same quantity of work with the body of existing members, the Unions of the latter would freely and cheerfully admit them. To do so would be suicidal, for no standard rate of wages could stand against the pressure of an increased supply of labour upon a fixed demand. But it is not necessary to suppose that any considerable number of actually qualified workmen are refused admission to Trade Unions of skilled workers. For the possession of the requisite skill, implying as it does a certain natural capacity, and an expenditure of time and money not within the power of the poorest classes, forms a practical limit to the number of applicants. Moreover, in many trades, though by no means in all, restrictions are placed by the Unions upon the number of apprentices, with the object of limiting the number of those who should from year to year be qualified to compete for work. In other trades where no rigid rule to this effect exists, there is an understanding which is equally effective. Certain trades, such as the engineers, boiler-makers, and other branches of iron trade, place no restrictions, and in certain other trades the restrictions are not closely applied. But most of the strong Trades Unions protect themselves in another way against the competition of unemployed. By a System of “out of work” pay, they bribe those of their body, who from time to time are thrown out of work, not to underbid those in work, so as to bring down the rate of wages. Several of the most important Unions pay large sums every year to “out of work” members. By these three means, the “minimum wage” qualification for membership, the limitation of the number of apprentices, and the “out of work” fund, the Trade Unions strengthen the power of organized labour in skilled industries by restricting the competition of unemployed outsiders.

It is true that some of the leading exponents of Trade Unionism deny that the chief object of the Unions is to limit competition. Mr. Howell considers that the “standard wage” qualification for membership is designed in order to ensure a high standard of workmanship, and regards the “out of work” fund merely as belonging to the insurance or prudential side of Trade Unionism. But though it may readily be admitted that one effect of these measures may be to maintain good workmanship and to relieve distress, it is reasonable to regard the most important result actually attained as being the object chiefly sought. It is fair to suppose, therefore, that while Unionists may not be indifferent to the honour of their craft, their principal object is to strengthen their economic position. At any rate, whatever the intention of Trade Unions may be, the principal effect of their regulations is to limit the effective supply of competing labour in their respective branches of industry.

Se. Can Low-skilled Workers successfully combine? Now the question which concerns our inquiry may be stated thus. Supposing that the workers in “sweating” industries were able to combine, would they be able to secure themselves against outside competition as the skilled worker does? Will their combination practically increase the difficulty in replacing them by outsiders? Now it will be evident that the unskilled or low-skilled workers cannot depend upon the methods which are adopted by Unions of skilled workers, to limit the number of competitors for work. A test of physical fitness, such as was recently proposed as a qualification for admission to the Dock-labourers Union, will not, unless raised far above the average fitness of present members, limit the number of applicants to anything like the same extent as the test of workmanship in skilled industries. Neither could rules of apprenticeship act where the special skill required was very small. Nor again is it easy to see how funds raised by the contribution of the poorest classes of workers, could suffice to support unemployed members when temporarily “out of work,” or to buy off the active competition of outsiders, or “black-legs,” to use the term in vogue. The constant influx of unskilled labour from the rural districts and from abroad, swollen by the numbers of skilled workmen whose skill has been robbed of its value by machinery, keeps a large continual margin of unemployed, able and willing to undertake any kind of unskilled or low-skilled labour, which will provide a minimum subsistence wage. The very success which attends the efforts of skilled workers to limit the effective supply of their labour by making it more difficult for unskilled workers to enter their ranks, increases the competition for low-skilled work, and makes effective combination among low-skilled workers more difficult. Though we may not be inclined to agree with Prof. Jevons, that “it is quite impossible for Trade Unions in general to effect any permanent increase of wages,” there is much force in his conclusion, that “every rise of wages which one body secures by mere exclusive combination, represents a certain extent, sometimes a large extent, of injury to the other bodies of workmen." In so far as Unions of skilled workers limit their numbers, they increase the number of competitors for unskilled work; and since wages cannot rise when the supply of labour obtainable at the present rate exceeds the demand, their action helps to maintain that “bare subsistence wage,” which forms a leading feature in “sweating.”

Are we then to regard Unions of low-skilled workers as quite impotent so long as they are beset by the competition of innumerable outsiders? Can combination contribute nothing to a solution of the sweating problem? There are two ways in which close combination might seem to avail low-skilled workers in their endeavours to secure better industrial conditions.

In the first place, close united action of a large body of men engaged in any employment gives them, as we saw, a certain power dependent on the inconvenience and expense they can cause to their employers by a sudden withdrawal. This power is, of course, in part measured by the number of unemployed easily procurable to take their place. But granted the largest possible margin of unemployed, there will always be a certain difficulty and loss in replacing a united body of employes by a body of outsiders, though the working capacity of each new-comer may be equal to that of each member of the former gang. This power belonging inherently to those in possession, and largely dependent for its practical utility on close unity of action, may always be worked by a trade organization to push the interests of its members independently of the supply of free outside labour, and used by slow degrees may be made a means of gaining piece by piece a considerable industrial gain. Care must, however, be taken, never to press for a larger gain than is covered by the difficulty of replacing the body of present employes by outside labour. Miscalculations of the amount of this inherent power of Union are the chief causes of “lock-outs” and failures in strikes.

Another weapon in the hands of unskilled combination, less calculable in its effectiveness, is the force of public opinion aided by “picketing,” and the other machinery of persuasion or coercion used to prevent the effective competition of “free” labour. In certain crises, as for example in the Dock strike of 1889, these forces may operate so powerfully as to strictly limit the supply of labour, and to shut out the competition of unemployed. There can be no reason to doubt that if public authority had not winked at illegal coercion of outside labour, and public opinion touched by sentiment condoned the winking, the Dock strike would have failed as other movements of low-skilled labour have generally failed. The success of the Dockers is no measure of the power of combination among low-skilled labourers. It is possible, however, that a growing sense of comradeship, aided by a general recognition of the justice of a claim, may be generally relied upon to furnish a certain force which shall restrict the competition of free labour in critical junctures of the labour movement. If public opinion, especially among workmen, becomes strongly set in favour of letting capital and labour “fight it out” in cases of trade disputes, and vigorously resents all interference of outsiders offering to replace the contending labourers, it seems likely that this practical elimination of outside competition may enable combinations of unskilled workmen to materially improve their condition in spite of the existence of a large supply of outside labour able to replace them.

Se. Can Trade Unionism crush out “Sweating"? But here again it must be recognized that each movement of public opinion in this direction is really making for the establishment of new trade monopolies, which tend to aggravate the condition of free unemployed labour. Unions of low-skilled labour can only be successful at the expanse of outsiders, who will find it increasingly difficult to get employment. The success of combinations of low-skilled workers will close one by one every avenue of regular employment to the unemployed, who will tend to become even more nomadic and predatory in their habits, and more irregular and miserable in their lives, affording continually a larger field of operation for the small “sweater,” and other forms of “arrested development” in commerce. It must always be an absorbing interest to a Trades Union to maintain the industrial welfare of its members by preventing what it must regard as an “over-supply” of labour. No organization of labour can effect very much unless it takes measures to restrict the competition of “free labour”; each Union, by limiting the number of competitors for its work, increases the competition in trades not similarly protected. So with every growth of Trade Unionism the pressure on unprotected bodies of workmen grows greater. Thus it would seem that while organization of labour may become a real remedy for “sweating” in any industry to which it is vigorously applied, it cannot be relied upon ever entirely to crash out the evil. It can only drive it into a smaller compass, where its intenser character may secure for it that close and vigorous public attention which, in spite of recent revelations, has not been yet secured, and compel society to clearly face the problem of a residue of labour-power which is rotting in the miserable and degraded bodies of its owners, because all the material on which it might be productively employed is otherwise engaged.

Se. Public Workshops. Those who are most active in the spread of Unionism among the low-skilled branches of industry, are quite aware that their action, by fencing off section after section of labour from the fierce competition of outsiders, is rendering the struggle more intense for the unprotected residuum. So far as they indulge any wider view than the interest of their special trades, it may be taken that they design to force the public to provide in some way for the unemployed or casually employed workers, against whom the gates of each Union have been successively closed. There can be little doubt that if Unionism is able to establish itself firmly among the low-skilled industries, we shall find this margin of unemployed low-skilled labour growing larger and more desperate, in proportion to the growing difficulty of finding occupation. Trade Union leaders have boldly avowed that they will thus compel the State to recognize the “right to employment,” and to provide that employment by means of national or municipal workshops. With questions of abstract “right” we are not here concerned, but it may be well to indicate certain economic difficulties involved in the establishment of public works as a solution of the “unemployed” problem. Since the “unemployed” will, under the closer restrictions of growing Trade Unionism, consist more and more of low-skilled labourers, the public works on which they must be employed must be branches of low-skilled labour. But the Unions of low-skilled workers will have been organized with the view of monopolizing all the low-skilled work which the present needs of the community require to be done. How then will the public provide low-skilled work for the unemployed? One of two courses seems inevitable. Either the public must employ them in work similar to that which is being done by Union men for private firms, in which case they will enter into competition with the latter, and either undersell them in the market and take their trade, or by increasing the aggregate supply of the produce, bring down the price, and with it the wage of the Union men. Or else if they are not to compete with the labour of Union men, they must be employed in relief works, undertaken not to satisfy a public need or to produce a commodity with a market value, but in order that those employed may, by a wholly or partially idle expenditure of effort, appear to be contributing to their own support, whereas they are really just as much recipients of public charity as if they were kept in actual idleness. This is the dilemma which has to be faced by advocates of public workshops. Nor can it be eluded by supposing that the public may use the unemployed labour either in producing some new utility for the public use, such as improved street-paving, or a municipal hot-water supply. For if such undertakings are of a character which a private company would regard as commercially sound, they ought to be, and will be, undertaken by wise public bodies independently of the consideration of providing work for unemployed. If they are not such as would be considered commercially sound, then in so far as they fall short of commercial soundness, they will be “charity” pure and simple, given as relief is now given to able-bodied paupers, on condition of an expenditure of mere effort which is not a commercial quid pro quo.

If the State or municipality were permitted to conduct business on ordinary commercial principles, it might indeed be expected to seize the opportunity afforded by a large supply of unemployed labour, to undertake new public works at a lower cost than usual. But to take this advantage of the cheapness of labour is held to be “sweating.” Public bodies are called upon to disregard the rise and fall of market wages, and to pay “a fair wage,” which practically means a wage which is the same whether labour is plentiful or scarce. This refusal to permit the ordinary commercial inducement to operate in the case of public bodies, cuts off what might be regarded as a natural check to the accumulation of unemployed labour. If public bodies are to employ more labour, when labour is excessive, and pay a wage which shall be above the market price, it must be clearly understood that the portion of the wages which represents the “uncommercial” aspect of the contract is just as much public charity as the half-crown paid as out-door relief under the present Poor Law. Lastly, the establishment of State or municipal workshops for the “unemployed” has no economic connection with the “socialist” policy, by which the State or municipality should assume control and management of railways, mines, gas-works, tramways, and other works into which the element of monopoly enters. Such a “socialist” policy, if carried out, would not directly afford any relief to the unemployed. For, in the first place, the labour employed in these new public departments would be chiefly skilled, and not unskilled. Moreover, so far as the condition of the “workers” was concerned, the nationalization, or municipalization of these works would not imply any increased demand for labour, but merely the transfer of a number of employes from private to the public service. The public control of departments of industry, which are now in private hands, would not, so long as it was conducted on a commercial footing in the public interest, furnish either direct, or indirect, relief to “the unemployed.” A reduction of hours of labour in the case of workers transferred to the public service, might afford employment to an increased number of skilled labourers, and might indirectly operate in reducing the number of unemployed. But such reduction of hours of labour, like the payment of wages above the market rate, forms no essential part of a “socialist” policy, but is rather a charitable appendage.

Se. State Business on uncommercial terms. It cannot be too clearly recognized that the payment by a public body of wages which are above the market price, the payment of pensions, the reduction of hours of labour, and any other advantages freely conferred, which place public servants in a better position than private servants, stand on precisely the same economic footing with the establishment of public workshops for the relief of the unemployed, in which wages are paid for work which is deficient in commercial value. In each case the work done has some value, unless the unemployed are used to dig holes in the ground and fill them up again; in each case the wages paid for that work are in excess of the market rate.

If it were established as a general rule, that public bodies should always add a “bonus” to the market wage of their employes to bring it up to “fairness,” and take off a portion of the usual “working-day” to bring it down to “fairness,” it would follow quite consistently that a wage equal to, or exceeding, the minimum market rate might be paid to “unemployed” for work, the value of which would be somewhat less than that produced by the lowest class of “employed” workers. The policy throughout is one and the same, and is based upon a repudiation of competition as a test of the value of labour, and the substitution of some other standard derived from moral or prudential considerations.

So far as the State or Municipality chooses to regulate by an “uncommercial” or moral standard the conditions of labour for the limited number of employes required for the services which are a public monopoly, it is able to do so, provided the public is willing to pay the price. There is much to be said in favour of such a course, for the public example might lend invaluable aid in forming a strong public opinion which should successfully demand decent conditions of life and work, for the whole body of workers. But if the State or Municipality were to undertake to provide work and wages for an indefinite number of men who failed to obtain work in the competition market, the effect would be to offer a premium upon “unemployment.” Thus, it would appear that as fast as the public works drew off the unemployed, so fast would men leave the low-paid, irregular occupations, and by placing themselves in a state of “unemployment” qualify for public service. There would of course be a natural check to this flow. As the State drained off all surplus labour, the market value of labour would rise, greater regularity of employment would be secured, and the general improvement of industrial conditions would check the tendency of workers to flow towards the public workshops. This consideration has led many of the leaders of labour movements to favour a scheme of public workshops, which would practically mean that the State or Municipality undertook to limit the supply of labour in the open market, by providing for any surplus which might exist, at the public expense. The effect of such a policy would be of course to enormously strengthen the effective power of labour-organizations. But while the advocates of public workshops are fully alive to these economic effects, they have not worked out with equal clearness the question relating to the disposal of the labour in public workshops. How can the “protected” labour of the public workshops be so occupied, that its produce may not, by direct or indirect competition with the produce of outside labour, outweigh the advantage conferred upon the latter by the removal of the “unemployed” from the field of competition, in digging holes and filling them up again, or other useless work, the problem is a simple one. In that case the State provides maintenance for the weaker members in order that their presence as competitors for work may not injure the stronger members. But if the public workmen produce anything of value, by what means can it be kept from competing with and underselling the goods produced under ordinary commercial conditions? Without alleging that the difficulties involved in these questions are necessarily fatal to all schemes of public works, we maintain that they require to be clearly faced.

Even if it be held that public workshops can furnish no economic remedy for poverty, this judgment would of course be by no means conclusive against public emergency works undertaken on charitable grounds to tide over a crisis. Every form of charity, public or private, discriminate or indiscriminate, entails some evil consequences. But this consideration is not final. A charitable palliative is defensible and useful when the net advantages outweigh the net disadvantages. This might seem self-evident, but it requires to be stated, because there are not wanting individuals and societies which imagine they have disposed of the claim of charitable remedies by pointing out the evil consequences they entail. It is evident that circumstances might arise which would compel the wisest and steadiest Government to adopt public relief works as a temporary expedient for meeting exceptional distress.

Se. Restriction of Foreign Emigration. Two further proposals for keeping down the supply of low-skilled labour deserve notice, and the more so because they are forcing their way rapidly toward the arena of practical politics.

The first is the question of an Alien law limiting or prohibiting the migration of foreign labourers into England. The power of the German, Polish, or Russian Jew, accustomed to a lower standard of life, to undersell the English worker in the English labour market, has already been admitted as a cause of “sweating” in several city industries. The importance of this factor in the problem of poverty is, however, a much disputed point. To some extent these foreign labourers are said to make new industries, and not to enter into direct and disastrous competition with native workers. In most cases, however, direct competition between foreign and native workers does exist, and, as we see, the comparatively small number of the foreign immigrants compared with the aggregate of native workers, is no true criterion of the harm their competition does to low-waged workers. Whether this country will find it wise to reverse its national policy of free admission to outside labour, it is not easy to predict. The point should not be misunderstood. Free admission of cheap foreign labour must be admitted prima facie to be conducive to the greatest production of wealth in this country. Those who seek to restrict or prohibit this admission, do so on the ground that the damage inflicted upon that class of workers, brought directly or indirectly into competition for employment with these foreigners, overbalances the net gain in the aggregate of national wealth. It is this consideration which has chiefly operated in inducing the United States, Canada, and Australia to prohibit the admission of Chinese or Coolie labour, and to place close restrictions upon cheap European labour. Sir Charles Dilke, in a general summary of colonial policy on this matter, writes, “Colonial labour seeks protection by legislative means, not only against the cheap labour of the dark-skinned or of the yellow man, but also against white paupers, and against the artificial supply of labour by State-aided white immigration. Most of the countries of the world, indeed, have laws against the admission of destitute aliens, and the United Kingdom is in practice almost the only exception."

The greater contrast between the customary standard of living of the immigrants and that of the native workers with whom they would compete, has naturally made the question seem a more vital one for our colonies, and for the United States than for us. There can, however, be little doubt that if a few shiploads of Chinese labourers were emptied into the wharves of East London, whatever Government chanced to be in power would be compelled to adopt immediate measures of restraint on immigration, so terrible would the effect be upon the low class European labourers in our midst. Whether any such Alien legislation will be adopted to meet the inroad of continental labour depends in large measure on the course of continental history. It is, however, not improbable that if the organization of the workers proceeds along the present lines, when they come to realize their ability to use political power for securing their industrial position, they may decide that it will be advisable to limit the supply of labour by excluding foreigners. Those, however, who are already prepared to adopt such a step, do not always realize as clearly as they should, that the exclusion of cheap foreigners from our labour-market will be in all probability accompanied by an exclusion from our markets of the cheap goods made by these foreigners in their own country, the admission of which, while it increases the aggregate wealth of England, inflicts a direct injury on those particular workers, the demand for whose labour is diminished by the introduction of foreign goods which can undersell them. If an Alien law is passed, it will bring both logically and historically in its wake such protective measures as will constitute a reversal of our present Free Trade policy. Whether such new and hazardous changes in our national policy are likely to be made, depends in large measure upon the success of other schemes for treating the condition of over-supply of low-skilled labour. If no relief is found from these, it seems not unlikely that a democratic government will some day decide that such artificial prohibition of foreign labour, and the foreign goods which compete with the goods produced by low-skilled English labour, will benefit the low-skilled workers in their capacity as wage-earners, more than the consequent rise of prices will injure them in their capacity as consumers.

Se. The “Eight Hours Day” Argument. The last proposal which deserves attention, is that which seeks to shorten the average working-day. The attempt to secure by legislation or by combination an eight hours day, or its equivalent, might seem to affect the sweating system most directly, as a restriction on excessive hours of labour. But so far as it claims to strike a blow at the industrial oppression of low-skilled labour, its importance will depend upon its effect on the demand and supply of that low-skilled labour. The result which the advocates of an eight hours day claim for their measure, may be stated as follows

Assuming that low-skilled workers now work on an average twelve hours a day, a compulsory reduction to eight hours would mean that one-third more men were required to perform the same amount of work, leaving out for convenience the question whether an eight hours day would be more productive than the first eight hours of a twelve hours day. Since the same quantity of low-skilled work would require to be done, employment would now be provided for a large number of those who would otherwise have been unemployed. In fact, if the shorter day is accompanied by an absolute prohibition of over-time, it seems possible that work would thus be found for the whole army of “unemployed.” Nor is this all. The existence of a constant standing “pool” of unemployed was, as we saw, responsible for keeping the wages of low-skilled labour down to a bare subsistence wage. Let this “pool” be once drained off, wages will rapidly rise, since the combined action of workers will no longer be able to be defeated by the eagerness of “outsiders” to take their work and wages. Thus an eight hours day would at once solve the problem of the “work-less,” and raise the wages of low-skilled labour. The effect would be precisely the same as if the number of competitors for work were suddenly reduced. For the price of labour, as of all else, depends on the relation between the demand for it and the supply, and the price will rise if the demand is increased while the supply remains the same, or if the supply is decreased while the demand remains the same. A compulsory eight hours day would practically mean a shrinkage in the supply of labour offered in the market, and the first effect would indisputably be a rise in the price of labour. To reduce by one-third at a single blow the amount of labour put forth in a day by any class of workers, is precisely equivalent to a sudden removal of one-third of these workers from the field of labour. We know from history that the result of a disastrous epidemic, like the Black Plague, has been to raise the wages and improve the general condition of the labourer even in the teeth of legal attempts to keep down wages. The advocates of an Eight Hours Act assert that the same effect would follow from that measure.

Setting aside as foreign to our discussion all consideration of the difficulties in passing and enforcing an Eight Hours Act, or in applying it to certain industries, the following economic objection is raised by opponents to the eight hours movement

The larger aggregate of wages, which must be paid under an eight hours day, will increase the expanses of production in each industry. For the increased wage cannot in general be obtained by reducing profits, for any such reduction will drive freshly-accumulated capital more and more to seek foreign investments, and managing ability will in some measure tend to follow it. The higher aggregate of wages must therefore be represented in a general rise of prices. This rise of prices will have two effects. In the first place it will tend to largely negative the higher aggregate of money wages. Or if organized labour, free from the competition of unemployed, is able to maintain a higher rate of real wages, the general rise in prices will enable foreign producers to undersell us in our own market (unless we adopted a Protective Tariff), and will disable us from competing in foreign markets. This constitutes the pith of the economic objection raised against an eight hours day. The eight hours advocates meet the objection in the following ways  First, they deny that prices will rise in consequence of the increased aggregate of wages. A reduction in interest and in wages of superintendence will take place in many branches of industry, without any appreciable tendency to diminish the application of capital, or to drive it out of the country.

Secondly, the result of an increased expenditure in wages will be to crush the small factories and workshops, which are the backbone of the sweating System, and to assist the industrial evolution which makes in favour of large well-organized factories working with the newest machinery.

Thirdly, it is claimed that we shall not be ousted either from our own or from foreign markets by foreign competition, because the eight hours movement in England must be regarded as part of a larger industrial movement which is proceeding pari passu among the competing nations. If the wages of German, French, and American workers are advancing at the same rate as English wages, or if other industrial restrictions in those countries are otherwise increasing the expenses of production at a corresponding rate, the argument of foreign competition falls to the ground.

These leading arguments of the advocates of an eight hours day are of very unequal value. The first argument is really based upon the supposition that the increased aggregate of wages can be “got out of capital” by lowering interest and profits. The general validity of this argument may be questioned. In its application a distinction must be drawn between those businesses which by means of the possession of some monopoly, patent, or other trade advantage are screened from the full force of competition, and are thus enabled to earn profits above the average, and those businesses where the constant stress of close competition keeps interest and profits down to the lowest point which suffices to induce the continued application of capital and organizing ability. In the former cases the “cost” of an Eight Hours Day might be got out of capital, assuming an effective organization of labour, in the latter cases it could not.

As to the second argument, it is probable enough that the legal eight hours day would accelerate the industrial evolution, which is enabling the large well-equipped factory to crush out the smaller factory. As we have seen that the worst evils of “sweating” are associated with a lower order of industrial organization, any cause which assisted to destroy the small workshop and the out-work system, would be a benefit. But as the economic motive of such improved organization with increased use of machinery, would be to save human labour, it is doubtful whether a quickening of this process would not act as a continual feeder to the band of unemployed, by enabling employers to dispense with the services of even this or that body of workers whose work is taken over by brute machinery.

The net value of these two eight hours arguments is doubtful. The real weight of the discussion seems to rest on the third.

If the movement for improving the industrial condition of the working classes does proceed as rapidly in other industrial countries as in our own, we shall have nothing to fear from foreign competition, since expenses of production and prices will be rising equally among our own. If there is no such equal progress in other nations, then the industrial gain sought for the working classes of this country by a shorter day cannot be obtained, though any special class or classes of workers may be relieved of excessive toil at the expense of the community as a whole. Government employes, and that large number of workers who cannot be brought into direct competition with foreign labour, can receive the same wages for shorter hours, provided the public is willing to pay a higher price for their protected labour.

In conclusion, it may be well to add that the economic difficulties which beset this question cannot be lightly set aside by an assertion that the same difficulties were raised by economists against earlier factory legislation, and that experience has shown that they may be safely disregarded. It is impossible to say how far the introduction of humane restrictions upon the exploitation of cheap human labour has affected the aggregate production of wealth in England. It has not prevented the growth of our trade, but very possibly it has checked the rate of growth. If the mere accumulation of material wealth, regardless alike of the mode of production or of the distribution, be regarded as the industrial goal, it is quite conceivable that a policy of utter laissez faire might be the best means of securing that end. Although healthy and happy workers are more efficient than the half-starved and wholly degraded beings who slaved in the uninspected factories and mines during the earlier period of the factory system, and still slave in the sweater’s den, it may still be to the interest of employers to pay starvation wages for relatively inefficient work, rather than pay high wages for a shorter day’s work to more efficient workers. It is to the capitalist a mere sum in arithmetic; and we cannot predict that the result will always turn in favour of humanity and justice.

At the same time, even if it is uncertain whether a shorter working day could be secured without a fall of wages, it is still open to advocates of a shorter working day to urge that it is worth while to purchase leisure at such a price. If a shorter working day could cure or abate the evil of “the unemployed,” and help to raise the industrial condition of the low-skilled workers, the community might well afford to pay the cost.