Chap. 8c: Real Wages

Real Wages

27 In Great Britain, wages are in excess of what is needed to bring up a family.

  • We do not need to calculate the lowest sum needed to raise a family because there are many plain symptoms that wages are not at their lowest rates.
  1. 28 Summer wages are different from winter wages in Great Britain.
  • “Summer wages are always highest.”
  • The maintenance of a family is most expensive in winter due to high fuel costs.
  • Wages are highest when fuel expences are at their lowest
  • Wages are not regulated by fuel cost, but by the quantity and value of the work done.
  • A labourer should save part of his summer wages to defray his winter expence and be able to maintain his family throughout the year.
  • A slave, however, does not need to do this as his daily subsistence would be proportioned to his daily necessities.
  1. 29 Wages in Great Britain do not fluctuate with the price of goods which vary monthly and yearly.
  • But in many places, the money price of labour stays uniform even for half a century.
  • If in these places the working poor can maintain their families in dear years, they must be at ease in times of moderate plenty, and in affluence in times of extraordinary cheapness.
  • The high price of goods in many parts of Great Britain during the past 10 years was not accompanied with wage increases.
  1. 30 The price of goods varies more yearly than wages.
  • On the other hand, wages vary more from place to place than the price of goods.
  • The prices of bread and meat, bought by retail by the poor, are generally the same in Great Britain though cheaper in big towns than in remote places.
  • Wages in a big town are frequently 20-25% higher than a few miles outside the town.
    • 18 pence a day is the common wage in London.
    • At a few miles from the town, it falls to 14 and 15 pence.
    • 10 pence may be its price in Edinburgh.
    • A few miles away, it falls to 8 pence, which are the usual wages through the low country of Scotland.
  • Wages in Scotland vary much less than in England.
    • Such differences are not always sufficient to induce people to move from one district to another.
    • It however causes goods to be moved around from one district to another that the prices of goods soon stabilize.
    • But people do not move as much as those goods as people are the most difficult luggage to be transported.
    • If the labouring poor, therefore, can maintain their families where wages are lowest, they must be in affluence where wages are highest.
  1. 31 The variations in wages are opposite with the price of provisions both in place and in time.

32  Grain is the food of common people.

  • It is dearer in Scotland than in England even though Scotland receives very large supplies.
    • English corn is sold dearer in Scotland than in England where it comes from.
    • In terms of quality, English corn cannot be sold dearer in Scotland than the Scotch corn that competes with it.
  • Grain quality depends chiefly on the quantity of flour it yields at the mill.
    • English grain is so much superior to Scotch grain.
    • Even though English grain is more expensive in terms of size, it is cheaper in terms of quality and weight.
  • On the contrary, wages are higher in England than in Scotland.
    • If the labouring poor can maintain their families in Scotland, they must be in affluence in England.
  • Oatmeal is the food of the common people in Scotland.
    • It is much inferior to the food of the common people of England.
  • Their inferiority in food is the effect of the difference in their wages and not the cause.
    • A man’s car is not the cause of his wealth, but its effect.
    • A man walking on foot is not the cause of one’s poverty, but its effect.

33 In the last century, grain was dearer in both Scotland and England than at present.

  • In Scotland, France and most of Europe, this is proven by the valuations of the public fiars.
    • The clearest proof is in France.
    • Though grain was dearer then than now, labour was much cheaper then than now.
  • In the last century, the day wages of common labour in Scotland were:
    • 6 pence in summer and 5 pence in winter
    • 36 pence a week (the same price) is still paid in some parts of the Highlands and Western Islands
    • 8 pence a day in the low country
    • 10 pence, sometimes a 12 pence a day in Edinburgh, and in Glasgow, Carron, Ayr-shire, etc. where the demand for labour has risen
  • The improvements of agriculture, manufactures and commerce began much earlier in England than in Scotland.
    • The demand and price for labour must have increased with those improvements.
  • In the last century to the present, wages were higher in England than in Scotland.
  • In 1614, the pay of a foot soldier was 8 pence a day, the same as today.
    • Their pay was regulated by the usual wages of common labourers where foot soldiers are commonly drawn from.

Sir Matthew Hale

  • Lord Chief Justice Hales looked into this issue very closely during the time of Charles II.
    • He computed the necessary expence of a labourer’s family of six persons–the father, mother, two children able to do something, and two not able–at 120 pence a week or 6,240 pence a year [120 * 52].
      {His scheme for the poor’s maintenance is in Burn’s History of the Poor Laws}
  • Mr. Gregory King’s skill in political arithmetic was extolled by Doctor Davenant.
    • In 1688, Mr. King computed the labourers’ ordinary income to be 3,600 pence a year for a family of three and a half persons.
      • His calculation corresponds with that of judge Hales.
  • Both suppose the weekly expence of such families to be about 20 pence a head.
    • Both the money income and expence of such families have increased considerably since then.
  • The price of labour cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere.
  • Different wages are often paid at the same place for the same labour, according to:
    • the workers’ different abilities and
    • their masters’ easiness or hardness
  • Where wages are unregulated, we can only determine what are the most usual.
    • Laws can never regulate wages properly, though it has often pretended to do so.

34 The real compensation of labour is the real quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life it can procure to the labourer.

  • In the present century, it has increased more than its money price.
  • Grain and other food of the working poor have become much cheaper.
    • Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and cabbages, were formerly raised by the spade but now raised by the plough.
    • They do not cost half the price which they used to do 30-40 years ago.
    • Apples and onions consumed in Great Britain were imported from Flanders in the last century.
  • The improvements in linen and cloth manufactures furnish the labourers with cheaper and better clothing.
  • The improvements in metal manufactures furnish them with better tools and household furniture.
  • Soap, salt, candles, leather, and fermented liquors, have become much dearer because of the taxes on them.
    • However, they are not much consumed by the labouring poor, so their effect is minimal.
  • The increase in the real and nominal wages of the working poor is proven by the common complaint that they will not be contented with the same goods and lodging which satisfied them before.

Next: Book 1, Chapter 8D: Poverty and Maximum Wages

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