« AnteriorContinuar »
BOOK ing them to market, according to the lowest rate at which labour can any-where be paid, the bare fubfiftence of the labourer. The workman muft always have been fed in fome way or other while he was about the work; but the landlord may not always have been paid. The profits of the trade which the fervants of the Eaft India Company carry on in Bengal may not perhaps be very far from this rate.
The proportion which the ufual market rate of intereft ought to bear to the ordinary rate of clear profit, neceffarily varies as profit rifes or falls. Double intereft is in Great Britain reckoned, what the merchants call, a good, moderate, reasonable profit; terms which I apprehend mean no more than a common and ufual profit. In a country where the ordinary rate of clear profit is eight or ten per cent. it may be reasonable that one half of it fhould go to interest, wherever business is carried on with borrowed money. The ftock is at the risk of the borrower, who, as it were, infures it to the lender; and four or five per cent. may, in the greater part of trades, be both a fufficient profit upon the risk of this infurance, and a fufficient recompence for the trouble of employing the stock. But the proportion between interest and clear profit might not be the fame in countries where the ordinary rate of profit was either a good deal lower, or a good deal higher. If it were a good deal lower, one half of it perhaps could not be afforded for intereft; and
more might be afforded if it were a good deal CHA P.
In countries which are faft advancing to riches, the low rate of profit may, in the price of many commodities, compenfate the high wages of labour, and enable thofe countries to fell as cheap as their lefs thriving neighbours, among whom the wages of labour may be lower.
In reality high profits tend much more to raise the price of work than high wages. If in the linen manufacture, for example, the wages of the different working people, the flax-dreffers, the spinners, the weavers, &c. fhould, all of them, be advanced two pence a day; it would be neceffary to heighten the price of a piece of linen only by a number of two pences equal to the number of people that had been employed about it, multiplied by the number of days during which they had been fo employed. That part of the price of the commodity which refolved itself into wages would, through all the different ftages of the manufacture, rife only in arithmetical proportion to this rife of wages. But if the profits of all the different employers of those working people fhould be raised five per cent. that part of the price of the commodity which refolved itself into profit, would, through all the different ftages of the manufacture, rife in geometrical proportion to this rife of profit. The employer of the flax-dreffers would in felling his flax require an additional five per cent. upon the whole value of the materials and wages which he advanced to his workmen. The employer of L 3 the
BOOK the spinners would require an additional five per cent. both upon the advanced price of the flax and upon the wages of the fpinners. And the employer of the weavers would require a like five per cent. both upon the advanced price of the linen the yarn and upon wages of the weavers. In raifing the price of commodities the rife of wages operates in the fame manner as fimple intereft does in the accumulation of debt. The rife of profit operates like compound intereft. Our merchants and mafter-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raifing the price, and thereby leffening the fale of their goods both at home and abroad. They fay nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are filent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of thofe of other people.
Of Wages and Profit in the different Employments
HE whole of the advantages and difad- CHA P. vantages of the different employments of labour and flock muft, in the fame neighbourhood, be either perfectly equal or continually tending to equality. If in the fame neighbourhood, there was any employment evidently either more or lefs advantageous than the reft, fo many people would crowd into it in the one cafe, and fo many would defert it in the other, that its advantages would foon return to the level of other employments. This at least would be the cafe in a fociety where things were left to follow their natural courfe, where there was perfect liberty, and where every man was perfectly free both to chufe what occupation he thought proper, and to change it as often as he thought proper. Every man's intereft would prompt him to feek the advantageous, and to fhun the disadvantageous employment.
Pecuniary wages and profit, indeed, are everywhere in Europe extremely different according to the different employments of labour and' flock. But this difference arifes partly from certain circumstances in the employments themfelves, which, either really, or at leaft in the imaginations of men, make up for a small pecu,
BOOK niary gain in fome, and counter-balance a great I. one in others; and partly from the policy of Europe, which no-where leaves things at perfect liberty.
The particular confideration of thofe circumstances and of that policy will divide this chapter into two parts.
Inequalities arifing from the Nature of the Employments themselves.
First, The wages of labour vary with the eafe or hardship, the cleanlinefs or dirtinefs, the honourableness or difhonourableness of the employment. Thus in moft places, take the year round, a journeyman taylor earns lefs than a journeyman weaver. His work is much easier. A journeyman weaver earns lefs than a journeyman fmith. His work is not always eafier, but