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Capital And Labor

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

There is no natural antagonism between capital and labor. Such an antagonism could not have arisen if it had not been forced. These two forces must work together, or not at all. The true point of antagonism lies between the employer and the employed, and there is error on both sides. The one seeks to get as much labor as possible for the least wages, the other to do the smallest amount of work for the most wages. It is the old story of selfish greed upon both sides, and this social war can never be put down till that principle is banished from the relations between labor and capital. This demon of selfishness on the part of employer and employed is forever urging on a constant war of interests where there should be harmony. This inhuman conflict must cease, or it will wreck our whole industrial system and destroy the social fabric. To find some means by which the interests of the employer and employed may become the same, to find some means for a fair division of what they jointly produce, is the question for solution. Instead of growing forever apart, they should be partners and share together the profits of their common labor. But the strife grows louder and discontent grows deeper. The question is no longer one of the proper distribution of wealth, nor even of the rate of wages ; the social question has now overshadowed the industrial. The knowledge that wealth brings social power, position, luxuries and influence, to which the worker must remain a stranger, rankles in his breast. He is born with passions, ambitions, hopes and emotions ; but he sees that, to all intents and purposes, he and his children, in whom he rejoices, must be forever shut out from association with the rich and influential. This arouses a feeling harder to control than the knowledge that he does not receive a just compensation for his daily labor.

The application of the stiff laws of trade to the industrial problem is useless without a due consideration of the ethical questions involved. Political economy does not help us in solving this question. As a science it is not built broad enough. There is no use of preaching the bloodless theory of supply and demand to a hungry laborer. The chilling doctrine of competition in labor falls heavy and dead upon a heart filled with discontent and a mind gloomy with perplexity over the social problem. Starvation and want are more powerful than all the ex cathedra doctrines of the most profound economists. The ordinary remedies, such as a forcible division of property, nationalization of land, socialism and communism furnish no. relief for existing evils. If all the property were equally divided among the people and there were no change in the industrial system, it would soon be accummulated again where it now is—in the hands of the few. The right to property legally acquired under the present industrial system ought never to be disturbed, and we don't believe it ever will be, except in some mad and blinded revolution precipitated in fanaticism. The question is to obtain a better distribution in the future, and to obtain it by peaceful measures. The time for labor to get its fair share is not after wealth has been acquired and already divided, but at the time of its creation in production. There is not, and never has been, too much wealth in the world. All the wealth is needed that the ability and power of man can extract from the broad earth's fer-tile bosom.

Wealth honestly acquired stands for frugality, thrift, self-denial, personal effort and personal sacrifice. Labor stands for quite as much. In fact, wealth is only accumulated labor. These are the greatest forces in civilization, without which it would perish. Both require and should have all the aid, encouragement and protection that the law or individuals can afford them. If capital is in distress, labor is in trouble ; if it leaves a country, labor also disappears. Injury to capital through individual or state agency is hurtful to labor. Labor can never gain a permanent advantage from any oppression of capital.

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