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force the development of which is new in this admission, their entire reasonsince that comparatively recent time. ing would have been inevitably altered ; Now this force is not some new devel- but they never do this. They only at opment of labor-of labor as defined by intervals recoguize this truth, to drop the Socialists—of that muscular force it ; and instead of incorporating into it which can always be had for asking- their logical system, they leave it lying, the force which, as the Fabians say, useless and detached, on the surface. " breeds like rabbits.” Muscular force This procedure on their part is mainly is no more powerful now than it was due to the fact that they have never then ; nor is the muscular skill greater. clearly seen what Ability really is, and The most exquisite work that mere in what precise way, as a productive manual effort can accomplish has been agent, it differs from Labor. The true accomplished long ago, and we cannot difference, which I have explained at surpass it now. The sole cause, then, length in Labor and the Popular Wel. of this increment has not been Labor, fare, is as follows. Labor, of whatbut the gradual concentration of the ever degree, skilled or unskilled, is a moral and intellectual faculties of ex- kind of industrial exertion which beceptional men on the problem of direct- gins and ends with the particular task ing Labor.
These faculties thus con or material on which each laborer is centrated constitute Industrial Ability, engaged-whether it is carrying a sack or-to put it more shortly-Ability. of coals, fixing a brick in its place, rivIt is the increasing operation of Ability eting the plates of a ship, or scraping a that has been the sole new factor in true surface for the slide-valve of a production, and therefore it is to Ability steam-engine. Some of these forms of that the modern increment in wealth is labor are skilled, some unskilled. One due. In other words, about two thirds will bring the man who performs it fifof our present national income is pro- teen shillings a week, another four duced, not by Labor, but by Ability. guineas, or even more. But each has In Labor and the Popular Welfare this this characteristic in common, that it calculation is carefully worked out, but begins and ends with the individual it is enough here to put it in this brief sack carried, the individual surface form.
made true, and so forth. But Ability Now it is this fundamental fact that is a form of industrial exertion which Socialism ignores-Socialism generally, influences the labor of an indefinite and the Fabian essayists in particular; number of men on an indefinite numand in the case of these special writers ber of tasks, either by supplying each this lacuna in their analysis can be simultaneously with a similar assistance made all the more clear in connection in performing his task, or with some with the above criticism, because they given pattern by which he is to work, not only, like Mill, recognize in an in- or by correlating the different exertions termittent way that Ability is a pro- of different bodies of laborers. For inductive force of some kind, but they stance, so far as Labor is concerned, actually call it by the name I myself precisely the same kind and quality of have given to it. They call it Ability. force is exerted in digging a canal and in They even speak of “ the rent of Abil. digging a railway cutting or throwing up ity,” defining this as the quantity by a railway embankment. But what has which the products of the able man ex transformed canal-transit into railwayceed those of the average laborer ; and transit has been the Ability of a minority they admit on these occasions that, of men operating on a vast army of laborwhile Labor is a universal faculty, the ers, and entirely transfiguring the remore productive forms of Ability are sult, while the Labor has remained unby comparison extremely rare. The changed. And what is true of the creeditor of the volume, for instance, ation of railways is true of modern speaks of it in the opening pages as a progress and modern production genfunction“ of those scarce brains, which erally. The entire growth of wealth in are not the least of Nature's capricious the modern world is an increment which gifts.” Now if the writers had fol. has been added by Ability to the old Iowed out the train of thought latent product of Labor. The Fabian essay
ists, often as they mention Ability, for argumentative purposes made Lahave, as I say, never attempted an ac- bor a present of the total produce. It curate analysis of its character and its is impossible to maintain that mere functions ; but the moment they do so, Labor, the faculty “that breeds like and connect this analysis with the rest rabbits," divorced from the control of of their theory, the above conclusion is Ability, can produce more than the inevitable. It leaps to light.
total which, in the days of our grandFor the elucidation of this truth, so fathers and great-grandfathers, was profatal to the Socialistic theory, the So- duced by Labor and Ability together. cialists themselves are to be thanked. Starting, then, with the above exaggerThe orthodox economists dealt with the ated estimate of what Labor can prolaborer's reward only under the aspect duce, I showed what the total product of the wages paid him by an employer, of Labor in this country is at the presand treated it as something regulated ent time; the result being that Labor by supply and demand. The Socialis- at this moment produces less than five tic economists have done signal service thirteenths of the existing national inby insisting that this is a wrong, or at come, and Ability eight thirteenths. least a one-sided, view of the matter; The wages of Labor, however, are about and that the true view of the point at seven thirteenths of the whole ; that is issue is obtained not by inquiring what to say, Labor receives to-day at least Labor receives under the existing sys- forty per cent more than it produces. tem, but by inquiring what Labor pro The whole materials of this concluduces ; by insisting that wages are sion are in the Fabian volume itself. merely a disguised form of what is pro- Over and over again is the admission duced by the laborer, and by declaring made that in order to maintain producthat the wage-question is at bottom tion in its present state of efficiency, this-Does the laborer get the whole of still more to increase it, the State will his produce ? Or does he get only part ? require “the scarce brains” just as But here comes the point which the So- much as private enterprise does now; cialists fail to see. If the reward of but the writers fail to see the enormous Labor is to be considered in this way, results of this admission. I am not the reward of Ability must be so con- speaking now of the precise figures in sidered likewise ; and the question is the calculation just made. They are forced upon us, What proportion of the matters not of theory, but of historical national income does Ability produce? detail. But some result substantially or, in other words, what does that small the same as what I have mentioned inminority of men produce, who in vir- evitably follows from the reasoning of tue, as the Fabians say, “ of Nature's all the Fabian writers, when once their capricious gifts,” possess that rare fac- unconscious admissions have been exulty? And the answer is arrived at in panded into their full significance. The the way above indicated. This small only theoretical answer possible, which minority produces all that portion of bears any semblance of plausibility, is the national income which, without the one which they have not given, but assistance of its “rare gifts,” the ma- which they might give ; and I will menjority could not produce.
tion it for two reasons—firstly, because Such is the principle by which the its plausibility at first sight is so great ; respective products of these two facul- and, secondly, because by dwelling on ties must be discriminated.
Let us its falsehood, we shall have our attennow come to the application of the tion fixed on a fundamental economic principle. This, as I said, can be made truth, which has hitherto by all schools only by the assistance of actual experi- been altogether neglected, and which ence, and especially the facts of experi- will throw additional light on the calence, extending over considerable pe- culation made above. riods, as recorded in industrial history. The plausible answer is this. It may In Labor and the Popular Welfare I be said that if Ability is to be held to took the products of the industry of a produce all that part of the product population of ten million persons in which is orer and above what Labor this country a hundred years ago ; and could have produced without its assist
ance, by the same argument Labor can calculate wltat Labor would do if there be shown to have produced the whole were no Ability, we are indulging in a of the product, since without its assist- supposition which is altogether fanciful ance Ability would produce nothing. when we consider what would happen But this contention is false for two rea- if there were no Labor. We might as sons—a minor reason and a major rea- well calculate what would happen if the son. The minor reason is that when laborers had wings, and were to fly we talk of Labor and Ability we mean away to the moon. not abstract faculties, but we mean The recognition of this truth leads men possessing them; and though the us to a second set of considerations. average Laborer is not a potential man The true task-master of man being, as of Ability, the man of Ability is a po- was just said, Nature, his true tasktential Laborer ; therefore men of Abil master is not the employing class. ity could always produce more, per head, What this class, which represents Abilthan average Laborers, even though ity clothed with capital and operating these last gave them no assistance what. through capital, really does, is to interever. But this point is trifling, and re vene between man and Nature, and quires but passing notice. The impor- transfigure the impersonal brute task, tant point is as follows.
master into a reasonable and personal All practical reasoning is carried out one, which at its hardest imposes conby the aid of suppositions. We esti- ditions no harder than Nature does at mate the causes of this or that result by her hardest; which generally imposes seeing what would happen if such and conditions at once less hard and more such à cause were withdrawn. But in advantageous ; and which is the one inall practical reasoning-in all reasoning termediary through which mankind in intended to guide action—the supposi- general can ever strike with Nature a tions we make must be suppositions of better bargain than it does at present. possibilities. Thus in economics we The dark picture which Socialists draw take no account of the part played in of the lot of the working-classes owes agriculture by the air, or by the force most of its darkness to the fact of their of gravity ; because nothing we can do measuring life by a false standard. by our social or political action will in- They estimate the lot of the workers by terfere with the presence and opera- the lot of those who employ thema tion of either one or the other of them. lot which, under certain conditions, They are permanent facts of nature, may be made impossible for anybody, and we therefore assume them as such. but which, under no conditions, could Now Labor is, in this respect, exactly be made possible for all ; and they atlike air or gravity. It is a permanent tribute the hardness of the general lot necessity of life. Under certain cir- to the action of those who enjoy the excumstances a minority of men can be ceptional lot. But let them remove exempted from it; but for the majority these last, and what will happen then ? of all communities, to labor is as neces- The employing, the privileged class, sary as to eat, or even to breathe. In would have been swept aside, only to other words, the task-master of man is reveal the sterner, the more grudging, Nature. The average man is a little the more implacable features of Nature, mill that Nature turns, by the wind or the arch-capitalist—who, in some rethe stream of his necessities. His limbs gions, indeed, smiles on some of her and muscles labor as inevitably as his slaves, keeping them by her smile in heart beats. But the case of Ability is savagery, but who, over far wider poraltogether different. This is a faculty tions of the earth's surface, sweats them which develops itself only under special more unmercifully than the most calcircumstances ; while the productivity lous of human tyrants. of Labor varies little, that of Ability is Here, for instance, is a description capable of indefinite increase ; and of men free from the domination of again, after it has increased, it may at capital, and having Nature for their any moment contract.
sole employer. “They labor early and while we are arguing in accordance late. They work hard. They plod on with the realities of things when we from day to day, and from year to year
—the most patient, untireable, and per- its natural incentives, the national insevering of human animals. There is
There is come is capable of indefinite shrinkage. not an hour of a single day in the year When once this truth is plainly stated during which they rest. It would as- it becomes impossible for even the Sotonish the English common people to cialists themselves to deny it. It is, insee the intense labor with which they deed, inplicit in their teachings; and earn their firewood.” It might be it is unconsciously acknowledged by thought that the above was a passage every one of the Fabian essayists. The from Karl Marx, describing the misery State, according to their view, is to beof the "white slaves” of capital. It is come the sole employer ; but the State, not. It is taken, with merely the sen- to fulfil this function, will be obliged timental padding omitted, from an ac- gradually to enlist in its service all the count quoted by Mill as a show exam. Ability now in the service of private ple of the happy condition of a German enterprise ; and on the efficiency of this peasant proprietor.
Ability, under new conditions, 'will deAnd now we may return with a fresh pend whether there will be as much to set of illustrations, from the question distribute among the laborers, when laof the natural bondage of Labor to the bor takes nearly the whole, as there is question of the natural products of La- now, when it takes only a part. bor. The scanty amount wrung from So far as the question of men "sellthe soil by the German peasant is a ing themselves into bondage” is congood living example of what Labor it- cerned, Socialism would make no change self produces. Other examples are the whatever. If a man who has no land, village boot-maker, who works for him- who lives only on wages, and who has self and sells direct to the consumer; nothing to separate himself from starand the old cotton-spinners and weavers, vation but the sale of his labor—if such who worked in their own cottages. a man is a white slave now, the bulk of Both these last are cited by the Fabian the community under Socialism would essayists as types of the position of la- be white slaves still, and slaves with no borers, when not under the tyranny of chance of ever attaining freedom. The the profit-mongering and plundering three cardinal doctrines enforced by all employer. That under the dominion the Fabian essayists are, first, that no of the employer their gross product is man must be alowed to own any of the increased is too well known to require means of production ; secondly, that he reassertion here ; but it will be well to shall own, but own only, his wages, and point out that not only is the gross the articles of consumption he can buy product increased, but that what the with them; and, thirdly, that without laborer himself receives is increased labor a man will get no wages at all, also. A weaver, in the good old days and that if, as one of the Fabian essayto which the Fabian essayists refer-a ists says, “he choose not to work he weaver who represented Labor not in will be in danger of starvation." bondage to Ability--earned, according So far as the bulk of the community to Arthur Young, seven and sixpence a goes, Socialism does not even promise week. A weaver in a modern cotton- any change, except in the two follow. mill earns thirty shillings.
ing particulars. One is that, no matter There is no space here to pursue this how fast population increases, the State subject further ; but enough has been will be able to find productive labor for said to make it clear to the reader that all. The other is, that their labor will there are ample means of verifying the be rewarded by increased wages. practical reality of the fact that the Now, as to the first point, it must be Labor of the many, as apart from the enough for me here to say that there is Ability of the minority, creates but a in the Socialistic scheme no hint of any small part of our existing national in- new power or principle by which a Socome; that the national income rises cialistic State would be better enabled with the increased application and in- to solve the problem of finding produccreased efficacy of Ability; and that if tive Labor for all than the private capAbility is unduly hampered, or suffers italist is. A Socialistic State could a reduction in force by a reduction of easily waste the savings of the country
in setting men to useless and unpro- inevitably resulting from the exertions ductive labor ; but how to make pro. of a population of thirty-eight million ductive labor, on one narrow portion of people. But let them look back only a the earth's surface, keep pace with an few decades-let them look back only indefinite multiplication of its inhab- to the time of the first great Exhibiitants is a problem to be solved, if at all, tion, and they will find that even at that not by the State as the State, but by recent date, had the population then the State as a body able to secure the been as great as it is now, the producservices of individuals endowed with tion of this sum would have been imrare industrial genius-the genius that possible. If the actual wage earning is able to wrest new secrets from Nature population at that time had received and discover new industries or new the same wages per head they receive methods of industry. To say that the now, the entire national income would State, as the State, would be able to do have been more than swallowed up in this is as absurd as to say that the State paying them, and the Socialists would could discover a new star.
have found no surplus remaining at all. Next as to the question of increased The entire fund then, with which they wages-an increased reward for Labor propose to deal, is practically a growth -this point can be dealt with very of the last forty years. It has come to briefly and simply. The Fabian essay be produced only through a series of ists, as has been said, calculate that very complicated circumstances and the were Socialism realized to-day the State play of intricate forces; and were these would have an annual fund of five hun- interfered with the millions would at dred millions at its disposal, taken from once dwindle and disappear. It is, in the present possessing classes, and that other words, the product, not of the this would be available for division labor which we may always count on to among the great mass of the wage-earn- exert itself, and to breed like rab
These Utopian financiers, how- bits,” but of the Ability of the “ scarce ever, forget that, as Mr. Giffen pointed brains, which are not the least of Naout, two hundred millions of this rep- ture's capricious gifts," and which may resents capitalized savings, and that, cease to exert themselves any day if unless the productive powers of the they are not appropriately stimulated. community are to decline, this saving Here, then, comes the point of fundawould still have to be made. The wage- mental difference between Socialism and earners could not have it to spend as the existing system. So far as concerns private income. The five hundred mill- the necessity of men selling themselves ions, therefore, shrink to three hun- for wages, and working at the bidding dred, which would have to be divided of industrial superiors, Socialism will among some thirty-three million per- make no difference, except that it will sons,* and which would yield them a arm every director of industry with the bonus per head of three-and-sixpence powers of a State official. Its fundaper week.
mental peculiarity is that it will take So much, then, for what Socialism, from the men of Ability the larger part according to the figures quoted by So- of what they produce, and yet expect cialists, could do for the people gener- that they will continue to produce it ally, even if we accept their own pre- just the same. Every stimulus to exmises. But in their premises the most ceptional exertion will be annihilated. important question of all is neglected. The “scarce brains” who will still have They assume this five hundred million to wield capital are to be released alike of annual income as a natural product, from all the penalties of failure and
nearly all the rewards of success—from * In this calculation abont five million per
the penalties of failure, because the capsons are deducted from the total population, ital will not be their own; and from as belonging to the class of State Employers the rewards of success, because, as the of Labor and their families. If this number
Fabians distinctly say, a graduated inis thought too large, it is easy to alter the cal. culation, so as to increase the number of the
come-tax would always be held in readilaborers, in which case the increment of wages
ness for the special purpose of taking will be even less than what is above stated. from every industrial genius everything