Chap. 8b: Wages in Different States

Wages Depend on the Advancing, Stagnating, and Declining State

22 It is not the actual greatness of national wealth, but its continual increase, which causes a rise in the wages of labour.

  • It is not in the richest countries, but in those which are growing rich the fastest, that wages are highest.
  • England is currently richer than any part of North America, but the wages in North America are much higher than in any part of England.
    • In New York before the start of the American Revolution, common labourers earn 3 shillings and sixpence currency, equal to 2 shillings sterling a day.
    • Ship carpenters earn 10 shillings and sixpence currency, with a pint of rum worth sixpence sterling, equal in all to 6 shillings and sixpence sterling
    • House carpenters and bricklayers earn 8 shillings currency, equal to 4 shillings and sixpence sterling.
    • Journeymen tailors earn 5 shillings currency equal to 2 shillings, 10 pence sterling
  • These prices are all above the London price but the same in our other American colonies.
  • The price of goods are much lower in North America than in England.
    • A dearth has never been known there.
      • They were always self sufficient even in the worst seasons, though they exported less at those times.
  • If the money price of labour in our colonies were higher than Great Britain, its real price must be higher in an even greater proportion.

23 But though North America is not yet as rich as England, it is advancing with more rapidity to riches.

  • The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is its population increase.
    • In most European countries, they are not supposed to double in less than 500 years.
Colonial American Family

Colonial American Family

  • In the British colonies in North America, they double in 20 to 25 years owing to the great multiplication of people there.
    • Those who live to old age there frequently see 50 to 100 or more descendants.
    • Labour is there so well rewarded that children is a source of prosperity, instead of burden, to the parents.
      • The labour of each child is computed to be worth 100 pounds clear gain to them.
    • A young widow with four or five young children, who in Europe would have a little chance for a second husband, is there frequently courted as a sort of fortune.
  • The value of children is the greatest encouragement to marriage, and so North Americans generally marry very young.
    • The scarcity of workers in North America adds to the demand for labourers, causing an increase in the funds for maintaining them.

Wages In Stationary Countries, Like China

24 Wages cannot be very high in a country that has long been stationary even though it is rich.

  • The revenue of the people is the fund for paying wages.
    • Even if the people’s revenue is very great, if they continued to be the same for several centuries, the supply of workers could easily match and even surpass the demand for workers the following year.
    • There could seldom be any labour shortage.
    • There would be no competition among employers for labour.
    • The workers would increase in number and eventually find a shortage of employment.
    • They would compete with each other to get employed and would lower wages to the lowest possible rate.
  • China has been long one of the richest, most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, and most populous countries in the world.
  • 17thcenturychina-peking


    • However, it has been long stationary.
    • Marco Polo, who visited it over 500 years ago, described it almost in the same way as today.
      • It had perhaps become rich even long before his time.
  • All travellers agree in:
    • the low wages of labour in China
    • the difficulty of a labourer in bringing up a family in China
      • He is content if he can earn a few rice by digging the ground the whole day.
      • Artificiers have worse condition than labourers.
        • They must continually run about the streets with their tools as if begging employment, unlike European artificiers who can wait indolently in their workhouses for customers.
  • The poverty of the lower ranks of people in China is worse than any European nation.
    • In Canton, many thousand families live in little fishing boats.
      • They are eager to fish up the nastiest garbage from any European ship, eating any dead animal as wholesome food.
    • Marriage is encouraged in China for the liberty of destroying children.
      • In all great towns, several children are exposed nightly in the street or drowned like puppies in the water sometimes as a way of earning a living. Chinese_anti_infanticide_tract_from_1800

25 Although China may stand still, it does not seem to go backwards because:

  • its towns are not deserted
  • the lands which had once been cultivated are not neglected

The same annual labour must therefore continue to be performed, and the funds for maintaining it must not be diminished.

  • The lowest class of labourers, must some way make shift to keep up their usual numbers.

26 But in a country where the funds for wages were decaying:

  • every year, the demand for workers would be less than the year before
  • the skilled workers would not be able to find jobs
    • They would start seeking employment in lesser skilled work.
    • They would compete with the lesser skilled workers and oversupply it.
      • The oversupply would reduce wages to the lowest rates, making job-seeking very difficult.
      • Many would resort to begging or crime.
        • Want, famine, and mortality would immediately prevail in the lower class.
          • From there it would extend to all upper classes.
          • Society would soon be reduced to a smaller revenue and stock which had escaped the calamity that destroyed the rest.
1877 Bengal Famine

1877 Bengal Famine

  • This perhaps is the present state of Bengal and some English settlements in the East Indies.
    • In a depopulated fertile country where 300,000-400,000 people die of hunger each year, the funds for maintaining the labouring poor are fast decaying.
    • The difference of our North American from our East Indies colonies best illustrates the genius of the British constitution which governs North America and the mercantile company which oppresses the East Indies.
  • A society advancing to wealth has high wages as its natural symptom.
  • A stagnating society is marked by low wages for its labouring poor.
  • A declining society is marked by its starving poor.

Next: Book 1, Chapter 8C: Real Wages

Words: 1022

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