The Reward Of Labor
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Every advance on the part of the people, every advance in their interest has been resisted. There is always some point where justice and self-interest clash and for a time self-interest seems in the ascendant. Reform and revolution never begin with the rulers ; they are satisfied and do not want a change. The propositions that all men are created free and equal, that slavery is wrong, that one man is as good as another before the law, were all opposed, and those who advocated them were looked upon in their time as agitators, dreamers, fanatics and doctrinaires. So will these be now regarded and resisted who advocate a better industrial system by which labor shall have more of the wealth that it produces. But in a popular government, where the preservation of the state depends upon the people no person can fail who advocates making the people wiser and better. The teacher, the leader and the political party in this government will have success that is found on the side of the people, working to elevate them and better their condition.
Labor is essential to the mental and physical development of man. If man does not comply with the law of labor he degenerates rapidly. In order that this law, so essential to progress and development, should be obeyed, obedience to it was made the means of gaining a living. In a state of nature, man has to labor to-day that he may eat and live to-morrow. In forming society and coming together for mutual protection, there were great advantages as well as disadvantages. Parasites Came, hurtful to society as parasites in the physical world are hurtful to nature. Enforced and voluntary idleness are both violations of the law of labor and willingly or unwillingly both these classes are social parasites. Added to the great army of honest workers who have no work there is let loose on society another army of speculators, men of elegant leisure, beggars, tramps, paupers and criminals, all alike parasites w,ho do not work and have to be supported by the honest toil of those who do. These two classes constitute one-twentieth of our population ; and, for their constant violation of the law of labor, society is made to suffer.
There is much for society to learn and do before the ` industrial problem is fully settled. It must somehow come to a realization of the ethics involved in the question. The capitalist must learn the lesson that it is safer and better to be just; that by agreeing to divide profits with the worker upon some rational plan, he will make more in the long run. He must learn that wealth is only a trust, and out of the abundance that has come to him he can afford to spare a portion of it for the uplifting and ennobling of the laborer. There is much also for the laborer to learn. He must learn that the way to aid himself is not through violence and coercion, but through obedience to law. He must learn the lesson of self-help and self-improvement. He must learn thrift, frugality and economy even in his humble circumstances. If he had not always spent all of those earnings, the wolf would not come so often to his door. And above all he must learn that waste and intemperance are his two deadly foes.
The object sought is not one of ideal perfection. We do not ask for a state where all will be equal in power, wisdom, goodness, position, wealth, and influence. There will always be some to serve and some to lead. Absolute equality can no more exist in the social world than all the peaks, mountains, hills, and valleys can be reduced to a level in the physical world. The relief sought is not equality—not even social equality—but equity, justice, and reason. Some will always be stronger, better, and wiser than others. There is no absolute equality anywhere, none intended, and it would not be desirable even if it were a possibility.
Through the difficulties that environ the question, it is plain that some adjustment must be reached by which the senseless war now raging between employer and employed, in the industrial world, must come to an end, and be superseded by a system that will unite these two opposing factions. They must become partners, instead of enemies, in the enterprises which they operate. During the process of the creation of wealth, there should be such a division between em-ployer and employed that the latter shall receive, at least, the three essentials of existence—food, clothing, and shelter. In addition, he should be able to secure means to sustain himself in sickness, and something over for the decrepitude of old age—these through frugality and thrift. He is entitled to this ; he should, and must have it. It is a modest, not to say reason-. ble, demand. Nature has made provision for all her sons, and why not the sons of toil. This is an un-answerable argument why all that are worthy should have enough. That industrial system which does not permit the worthy to get enough, is at fault. One of the greatest statesmen and orators of our times has said, " Wages are unjustly reduced when an industrious man is not able, by his earnings, to live in comfort, educate his children, and lay by a little for advancing age."
Mazzini said: " Every political question is rapidly becoming a social question, and every social question a religious question." And it is not easy to suggest remedies for these serious troubles that have grown up in the industrial world. But there will be no solution to these questions until they are brought down to the ethical and moral questions involved in them. In other words, the industrial problem must become a "religious question" and be settled on the principles of Christianity. The employer and employed must lay aside the motives of self-interest and be actuated by the broader principle of the greatest good to the greatest number. Arbitration, as a method of settling difficulties between employers and employed, has already made great triumphs and secured the best possible results. In France and England arbitration and conciliation have been tried with the most beneficial results to both capitalist and laborer. The state of Pennsylvania has passed a law providing regulations to govern arbitration of disputes between employer and employed. This course has prevented some strikes and will doubtless be but the beginning of more extensive legislation in the future. When the employer and the employed can lay down their differences and grievances sufficiently to meet as equals and discuss candidly the disputed issues before a board of arbitration selected by both parties, a great point has been gained, and we may well believe the solution of difficulties is near at hand. The best fruits of arbitration and conciliation are yet to ripen and will be gathered in the future, when strikes, violence and self-interest have been banished to the barbarism of the past.
Profit-sharing is an expedient that has been tried with good success. It has been adopted in agricultural industry in portions of some of the Southern and Western States and is growing in public favor. The two forces employed in transacting business and producing wealth are labor and capital. The question is to unite these forces in a way such that the interests of those controlling them shall be the same and not hostile as now. Constant war between employer and employed has brought constant loss to both. Such war can be and ought to be superseded by their becoming partners in business. The interest need not be equal. As a basis, the capitalist should have for the use of his capital a percentage of the amount that he contributes and, as against this, the worker should have fair wages. Then after paying all expenses, the profits might be divided between the capitalist on one side and the bulk of workers on the other, each according to amount of 'capital invested and amount of labor performed. In addition the laborer should have the right, by leaving with the working capital of the concern such part of his earnings or shares as he may choose, to become a partner in the business. This would be an incentive to more determined work on the part of the laborer and would do away forever with conflict, strikes, violence and incompetence.
There is another element even more irresistible. And that is the power of public opinion, which is reaching the conclusion that the laws of competition, supply and demand, as applied to the wage-receiver, operate unjustly; that the worker does not now, in many cases, get a fair share of what he helps to produce; that he is in effect a partner with the capitalist, though not treated as such. It is to be further considered that the worker, who heretofore has had little to say, is helping now, through education, to make this public opinion, which in the end must stand as the sole judge and final arbiter of what is just and fair between him and the capitalist. In view of these new conditions, the capitalist should seriously consider the best plan for uniting his interest with that of the laborer. In admitting the principle of co-partnership, would he not make, in the way of increased profits, nearly, if not all, that he would be called upon to concede ? The worker, having a direct interest, would do more and better work. The saving, by better care of property, tools and machinery, and by diminution in the cost of superintendence, would in the aggregate afford a large return to swell the profits. With copartnership between employer and employed, the worker would feel that he was more nearly the equal of the capitalist, his pride and ambition would be stimulated to better action, and his sense of inferiority would gradually disappear.
The aggressive civilization of to-day, the one that will conquer the world and supersede all the others ; the one that has proved the best for man, and that has lifted him up to a higher plane than any other is built upon and shaped by the teachings of Christ. The best thoughts of all the best thinkers and writers upon the industrial problem have found nothing equal to the words "Love thy neighbor as thyself," which em-bodies the New Testament doctrine of the industrial problem. All correct philosophy, all sound teaching and reasoning conduct us unerringly to these simple truths above stated, which combine in themselves every principle necessary to the solution of this great problem. A solution based upon these would abide, because it would be founded in simple justice. Al-ready the folly of strikes and violence has been demonstrated hundreds of times in the history of the past. Already the back of the boycott mania has been broken. The application of legal restraint to violence and outrage has taken the effectiveness out of the majority of strikes. All organized efforts to secure higher wages that proceed to violence will fail at the point where they become effective, simply be-cause the general public is stronger than the striker, and because the common cause of humanity is stronger than the cause of the wage-earner. In the failure of strikes, therefore, labor organizations are left without a remedy for their wrongs, and we are continually driven back to the moral principle of the GoldenRule for the effective remedy for the present industrial troubles.
Is the remedy Utopian? Does it belong to an ideal community ? So are all the remedies which the moral law provides for the sins and outrages and crimes of humanity. I can conceive a man smiling over the simplicity of these remedies, just as he smiles when we say that the drink traffic, murder, profanity, theft, licentiousness, and a hundred crimes must be obliterated by the triumph of Christianity, if they are ever obliterated. The war between labor and capital is inspired by human greed and selfishness, and the war will cease when the cause is removed. Christianity will be the herald of that peace.