Monopoly Prices as affected by an Increase of Wages.—Arbitration often authorizes a rate of pay based on the profits of an employers' monopoly; and yet a tribunal of this kind must not, and will not, make itself the accomplice of any monopoly by making its position more secure. The policy of every public institution must, and will, be designed to help make an end of every such outlaw that now has a foothold in the field of business. Yet any plan which would force a monopolistic employer to give to his men an increased share of the "grab" which he makes from the pockets of consumers tends to increase the amount of the grab if the employer is entirely secure in his position. A monopoly that is thus safe from interference tries to put the price of each of its products at the point where the largest net revenue is afforded. If distance along the line AG measures the supply of a commodity and vertical distance from it measures price, DF will be the price curve of a commodity, as it is offered in increasing amounts. AD will be the price when one unit is offered, and GF will be the price when the full amount represented by the line AG is produced. The price will then stand at the cost of producing the article. When a monopoly is firmly established, it will seek to get the largest net profit that can be had, and a consistent execution of the plan would reduce the output from the amount measured by AG to that measured by AH. The price would then become HE and the net profit the amount of the area EB. If wages are so raised that the cost becomes G'F', the net profit becomes EB'. This profit can be increased by further reducing the product to the amount AH', putting the price at H'E', and the net profit E'B', which is larger than EB'. If an independent producer can employ non-union labor and create the goods at the cost GF, and market them without reducing the price much below the level indicated by H'E', he can make on each unit of product a profit nearly equal to I'E'. This fact makes the monopoly cautious about raising its price to the level H'E'. A tribunal of arbitration may somewhat raise wages without fearing such an increase of prices. By a crude and instinctive judgment the court will hit upon some level of wages which falls well within the limit of what the monopoly can pay and is above the amount which marginal social labor gets.
The Probable Result of a Strike as a Standard for an Award.—Let us see what would happen if a board of arbitration should abandon all effort to level out the general inequalities in wages, and try chiefly to end quarrels and avert long-continued strikes. With this in view it might aim to give the men whatever they would be likely to gain by means of the strike. In a true sense this mode of procedure is more nearly scientific than either of the others. Any tribunal of voluntary arbitration will aim to content both parties sufficiently to prevent an interruption of business. The men may consent to take somewhat less than they hope to get by a successful strike; and the employers may be willing to pay somewhat more than they would at the end of a successful lockout. The probable outcome of the struggle may be differently estimated by the contending parties, and if so, an actual struggle will end by making employers pay more and the workmen take less than they had severally expected to do. If this amount can be awarded at the outset and the struggle precluded, all parties will be gainers by the continuance of business, unless the employers desire a strike for the sake of making their products scarce and dear.
When the Probable Results of a Strike afford an Unfair Standard of Wages.—Where monopolies exist and trade unions rely on violence in carrying their point, it would not be fair to establish a permanent rule of wages based on the amounts that strikes so conducted secure. Such strikes depend for success on the violent exclusion of non-union men; and actually to give permanence to rates so gained would be to fasten on the majority of workers the disabilities under which they now labor, and to perpetuate the gains of a twofold monopoly. On the other hand, if the court should make its award conform to the probable result of a strike which should be general in the trade, but should not resort to any violence, the procedure would be natural and would base itself, in an unconscious way, on the true standard of wages. Such a general strike, by its mere magnitude, would preclude the possibility of any immediate filling of the vacated places by men at the time out of employment; and yet the fact that non-union men were not forcibly kept out of the trade would be an all-important feature of the situation. If, when no strikes were pending, men could gain admission to this field, there would be no true monopoly on the men's side. The rule of giving, by arbitration, what a strike would secure would remove the chance of cutting down the rate to that which prevails in the more ill-paid employments, and would insure to the men the rate that marginal workers in actual employment get plus the two additional amounts spoken of at the beginning of the preceding chapter. The marginal product of labor plus an amount for personal superiority plus an amount for good organization would be the standard to which wages in favored employments would conform; and it is as nearly normal as any practicable standard would be. A free application of it would reduce the wages of unions that thrive by the use of force and would be opposed by such unions. If it were adopted, there is a prospect that the awards would be rejected by the men until hard experience should teach them to relinquish gains secured by violence. Yet a tribunal that should adopt this standard would allow workmen to retain every advantage that organization can afford without a violation of the criminal law. Its guide in making awards would be the pay which the best unions lawfully get in trades akin to the one in whose case they were acting.
In dealing with a union which is not a true monopoly and does not depend on force, arbitrators may safely award what an actual strike would probably secure, and the simple plan of compromising gives an approximation to this amount. What the men will accept and the employers will give is about what a strike would extort. Where a monopoly of the field of labor exists and force is used to protect it, a compromise which anticipates the probable result of a strike concedes what could not otherwise be lawfully secured, and we have to see whether this is a plan that a board of arbitration can properly adopt.
Arbitration as affected by Employers' Monopolies.—We confine our attention, for the present, to arbitration that has no power of coercion behind it. A board may be formed which is compelled by statute to investigate quarrels and announce fair terms of settlement, but the contending parties may be allowed to do as they please about accepting the awards. The most difficult case with which such a tribunal would have to deal is that in which the employer has a monopoly of a department of production, and a trade union has an exclusive possession of its field of labor. The mere removal of the employer's monopoly would so greatly simplify the situation as to leave no ground for serious difficulty. With that out of the way,—with potential competition doing the perfect work that under good laws and good policing it ought to do,—the pay of laborers in other employments would be somewhat higher, and extortionate profits would be altogether absent. Profits based on special economy would exist, as they should, but those which are filched unjustly from any one's pocket would not exist. There would be likely to be, in most of the subgroups, independent employers efficient enough to hold their positions, but without any means of getting abnormal gains. These would be marginal employers in their several subgroups, and their returns would range about that static level at which the wages of labor and the interest on capital would absorb them all. An award based on what such employers could pay would express what other employers would naturally pay, and it would be all that the subgroup as a whole could concede without ruining some of its members, but it would allow others to make something by special economies in production. Productivity profits they would get and no others, and these it is in every way expedient that they should be allowed to enjoy. Suppressing employers' monopolies would remove much of the difficulty connected with arbitration, and putting an end to violence on the men's part would remove almost all the remainder.
With monopolies in the field it is quite otherwise. Their gains are not of the kind that it is for the interest of the public to let them keep. The public claims these sums on grounds of equity and expediency. It is a perverted distribution that gives them to their present recipients; and this fact threatens to involve more and more the processes of production themselves. Centralization, without monopoly, increases the product of industry; but the monopolistic feature that often attends it partially paralyzes the producing forces, and must be gotten rid of before there can be a normal income to divide and a normal way of dividing it. The court of arbitration itself cannot get rid of it, and it would do harm if it should try to do so. Drastically to cut down wages that have been raised by the power of monopoly would injure some workmen without materially helping others, and it would benefit chiefly the monopolistic employers. Such a policy would bring the entire system of arbitration to an end; for it is partly a fear that arbitration would not leave to favorably situated unions as much as they can now get by strikes and boycotts that prevents the system from coming into vogue. The state can end the monopoly, but it must do it by other measures than installing courts of arbitration. In the interim—long or short, as the case may be—before these measures will have their effect, it is necessary to proceed on a plan of securing by awards something like what would result from actual trials of strength. The effects of adjudication will not, in this interim, be ideal, but it is necessary to accept this fact and struggle the harder to obtain conditions that will improve them.
Abnormal Conditions which Arbitrators must Accept.—Crude force of one sort or another would sometimes give to organized labor twice or thrice as much as free labor can earn at the social margin of production, and the public approaches the problem of adjustment while this condition exists. It may be that a trust has crushed competition, made large gains for itself, and made it possible to pay employees at a high rate; while, on the other hand, a trade union has made itself strong, put pressure on the employers, excluded free laborers, and secured a share of the monopolistic spoils. Arbitrators, then, whenever a strike is pending, may divide the spoils as a strike would do, between masters and men. This will leave a few workers in possession of a rich field and many hungry ones outside of it; and we have asserted that the board should confirm the workmen's tenure of place on the sole condition that they accept a rate of pay which it shall authorize. In this case the arbitrators authorize a high rate, while needy men stand ready to take a lower one. They confirm wages based on the profits of monopoly, but look to the state as the power which will get them out of their anomalous position, by making an end of monopoly.
Why Sharing a "Grab" already made is not an Aggravation of the Evil.—While plunder is to be had, it is at least by one point fairer that workers should have a share of it than that employers should have it all. We have said that the court of arbitration finds two issues needing settlement, namely, the relation of employers and employed within the business, and that of laborers outside of this department of industry to those within it. Only one of these issues is it capable of settling, and it is by a true instinct and not merely from expediency that arbitrators permit workmen to share in some degree the gains of the monopoly that employs them. This is legitimate, however, only on the condition that, by further measures, the gains of monopoly be reduced.
How Arbitration will be facilitated by the Suppression of Monopolies.—In studying monopolies we discovered that the prices of their goods do not entirely part company with their natural standards, even when governments do not at all interfere with them. Potential competition keeps these prices from rising above the standard of cost by more than a certain margin. We shall see that if governments do nothing in the way of controlling the contests over wages, the rates that these yield will not be wholly unnatural. They will be held within a certain distance from the standards. If too high wages are exacted, the barriers will be broken down and competing laborers will come into the favored fields. The potential competition of idle men hangs as a menace over the heads of the too exacting trade unionists, and enforces a measure of prudence in the wages demanded. If the unions ask too much and strike in order to get it, the competition which is now latent will become active, other men will take the vacated places, and the struggle of force will begin. Slugging may ensue and may go to the limit of a weak government's toleration. The more complete is the exclusion of free labor, the higher is the rate which organized labor secures; but this rate always falls within a certain distance of the normal one, as that is fixed by the final productivity of social labor. Even the pay secured by violent strikes is, as we have already shown, governed by the law of final productivity, though it does not coincide with that rate. Actual pay and standard pay are like a vessel and a tug attached to each other by a hawser, which allows one to drift far from the other but does not let them part company. In the long run the tug takes the tow with it. Even the wages which a trust gives to a fighting union—wages paid by a monopoly to a monopoly—are governed by the law of final productivity, since there is a limit on what the trust can extort from the public, and there is a limit on what the union can extort from the trust. Potential competition, by limiting both the producing corporation and the trade union, vindicates the natural law of wages, though its results are made inexact by monopoly.
How Potential Competition affects Organized Labor.—We have seen that potential competition keeps within limits the prices of goods made by trusts. If they become too high, new mills are built. In a like way potential competition puts a check on the wages a strong union can secure; for if these are too far above the level of non-union men's pay, such men will find their way into the business. Open shops will be established, either by the present employers or by new ones. There will be much to be gained by an independent shop manned by non-union labor, and the danger of this makes a trade union more conservative than it would otherwise be. The chief potentiality in the case is that of the new and independent shop, and if the way is open for this to appear, the range of difference between the pay of favored laborers and that of others is greatly reduced. The trade union may be able to carry its point and keep free labor from its field, so long as it has only its own employers to deal with; but if new employers will appear whenever there is an inducement to do so, the case is quite otherwise. The new mills make the greater gains if they are manned by non-union men.
With the field open for all producers, the danger of free shops with free men will impend always over the union that demands too much for its members. This is now true even where consolidated companies exist, and it would be doubly true if there were no such companies. The rivalries which would then appear would keep wages, as well as prices, near to their natural standards.
In the absence of monopolies on the part of employers, and of "slugging" on the part of workmen, arbitrators may accept as standards what the actual dealings of employers and employed yield. In most cases they will ratify no wrong by doing so. The court may act as it now does and announce a rate based on a mere compromise or on the probable result of a strike. If the men accept the award, let them keep their places; but if not, let the positions be open to whoever will take them, and let the state repress every form of violence that would interfere with their doing so. The sentiment of even a local community will sustain such a maintenance of order.
The Case of Trades not affected by the Potential Competition of Non-union Men with New Employers.—Building trades are peculiarly situated in that their products have to be made in the locality where they will stay, and no competition from labor living at a distance is to be feared. If the local unions can protect their field by force, they can establish a high rate of pay, even though the employers have no unions. Arbitration that merely gives what a strike will yield will here deviate greatly from the natural standard of wages.
Labor in mining is somewhat similarly situated, and so is labor in transportation. In these, and in some other fields, new men do not weaken the position of strikers unless they are brought to the places where the strikers have been working; and that exposes them to assault. It is in the making of portable goods for a general market that the new and independent shop manned by non-union laborers is an important factor.
It is easy to answer the question whether, in such fields, the board of arbitration should confirm the workmen's tenure of place while his pay is sustained by force. All slugging is inherently criminal and should be always and everywhere repressed. In the cases that we first examined, a safe course would be to hold it in repression, announce a rate of pay based on what a strike would then yield, and trust to other measures for destroying monopoly on the capitalist's side. The chief danger of violence begins when the men reject the award and others take their places, and at this point the fact of arbitration will make the duty of the state easier though hardly clearer.
The case of such trades as building and mining differs from the others only in the fact that there is not present the check that is elsewhere afforded by the danger of new mills, and the pay secured by crude force is high. To announce a rate based on the result of a strike, if slugging is to be permitted during the strike, is to accept, for the moment, what violence will secure; and nothing will remove this feature of the adjudication but a manful assertion of sovereignty by the state and a complete ending of the tolerance now accorded to anarchy. By no means, however, does this deprive union men of the advantage that organization gives them. They may be secured in the possession of every advantage which collective bargaining, without violence, can secure. Great numbers enlisted in a union will give to it a prospect of success in enforcing any reasonable demand. Voluntary arbitration, that aims to preclude a strike, will have to respect this fact of organization and give the men about what a legitimate strike would yield. As a rule, this will result in compromises of opposing claims, and if violence is not in sight as a resource, the compromises will fall near to the natural standard of wages.
Why Conciliation is preferred to Arbitration.—Both among organized laborers and corporate employers there is a dread of state action for the positive adjustment of wages. There is a preference for conciliation over any kind of arbitration, and there is a preference for voluntary arbitration over that which has any trace of authority behind it. For tribunals which have full coercive power, most employers and strongly organized laborers have an insurmountable repugnance. If such tribunals were introduced, it would be against their strongest opposition, which is saying that a measure designed to secure industrial peace would have to be put into operation while the parties directly interested in it opposed it with might and main.
The reasons for this attitude are not difficult to discover. Conciliation aims solely to secure internal peace in a department of industry. To avert strikes or reduce their duration is all that it can do and all that the parties directly interested wish to have it do. From the point of view of employers and employed in a highly profitable industry, the averting of strikes is enough to aim at, and even the public sometimes accepts this easy-going view and thinks that everything desirable is gained merely by averting strife or ending it when it occurs. Uninterrupted production—the saving of the great wastes that strikes entail—does, indeed, promote the public welfare. When conciliation does this, it indirectly does something for the public. The essential thing about conciliation, then, is that it does not consciously try to do anything but to make the two parties in the dispute over wages contented enough to go on producing. A board which aims only to do this is careful not to introduce any one who represents an outside interest. The procedure must be kept "within the family." As is often said, "those who understand the business" must settle disputes within it. What is really desired is that only those who are interested in the business should have anything to say about it, and there is a dread of giving representation, either to the general public or to independent labor. Moreover, when the defects of conciliation are spoken of, what is mentioned is the uncertainty as to its working, the probability that in many cases it will not bring the disputants to an agreement and cause production to go on. There is no dread of the rates of pay that it yields. There is practically no dread on any one's part of what happens when employers and employed are contented because they jointly thrive at the expense of the public. Rather than have production stopped, the public is often willing to let a dispute be settled on almost any terms, though the result may be to let some men thrive at the expense of consumers and of other laborers. There is a monopolistic grab the sharing of which makes both parties better off than are men of their class elsewhere. Singular as it may seem, even this attitude of the public is justifiable. It is entirely right not only to welcome conciliation where it can be made to work, but to try it as often as possible before resorting to arbitration.
Rates resulting from Conciliation not Unlike those resulting from Strikes.—The results of collective bargaining, with conciliation in cases of dispute, come within a certain distance of those which would be gained by a perfectly natural adjustment of wages. All that we have said about the relation of wages adjusted by strikes to their natural standards applies here; potential competition generally keeps the actual rate within a certain distance of the natural one, though a monopoly may make the distance unduly great. If potential competition works feebly on the employers' side,—if independent producers are slow to appear even when the price of a product is very high,—there is a large profit in the industry for some one; and if potential competition works feebly on the side of labor,—if workmen can safely strike with little fear that independent laborers will dare to take their places,—the men can secure a fair-sized share of this profit. A strong trade union working for a strong monopoly gets wages that exceed the standard rate by the largest obtainable margin; and yet, as we have said, even this excess has limits, and adjusting disputes by conciliation does not alter those limits. The rates agreed upon are still governed by the standard rate to the same extent as under the regime of strikes. The strike and the lockout become potential, but they impend as possibilities and do their work. The board of conciliation knows that they will occur unless their probable results are anticipated and forestalled by the decision. The board cannot do otherwise, therefore, than to restrict the actual strikes. Wages then become the natural rate with a plus mark, and may be said to be adjusted in a way that at the bottom is natural, though it works under vitiating influences.
Why Voluntary Arbitration does more than Conciliation.—Voluntary arbitration is an advance over mere conciliation in point of effectiveness. It departs somewhat from the plan of confining the action to the family, since it introduces some other parties as arbitrators and thus invites some recognition of outside interests. Nevertheless its actual working involves little change in principle, and its results do not greatly vary from those attained by conciliation. When we speak of arbitration as voluntary, what we usually mean is that acceptance of the award is in no way enforced. Either party may accept it or refuse it, but it may be that both parties acting together cannot prevent the investigation; and the economic law of wages acts best when this is the case. How such voluntary arbitration is provided for,—whether it is established by free contract between employers and employed, or by statute,—is not in this connection of importance. The one thing that is important is that no compulsion is applied to either party to force him to accept the award.
A Moral Compulsion due to Voluntary Arbitration.—A certain moral force is, indeed, necessarily behind the award of such a tribunal. It informs the public what fair-minded men regard as a reasonable adjustment of the dispute, and forces any one who refuses to accept such a decision to go on record as claiming more than is presumably just. This tends to alienate public sympathy, and to forfeit the aid which sympathy insures. Moreover, where voluntary arbitration is established by a contract between parties,—where, for example, masters and men agree that during a term of years disputes that cannot otherwise be settled shall be referred to a tribunal constituted in some prescribed way,—the decision of the tribunal is made by the contract to be especially binding.
Why Mere Compromises lead to Fair Results.—A merely compromising policy, such as the one which has often been sharply criticised, involves an approximation to what strikes would yield; and this, as we have seen, gives results which, in a rude way, are controlled by economic law. A fact of the greatest importance is that the awards made by boards of arbitration with merely voluntary power are not compromises between mere demands of the two parties; they are between genuine ultimata. When the court is called in, the employer has offered a rate of pay and stands ready to close his mill if it is not accepted; and the men have offered to take a certain rate and are ready to strike if the rate is not given. The essential fact in the case is that neither of these rates usually varies by more than a certain amount from the natural level of wages. There is every difference between a demand put forward for strategic purposes and a real ultimatum. If workmen knew that a court would simply make an even division between their own demand and their employer's offer, then men who were getting two dollars a day might ask for four in the hope that the arbitrators might give them three. Even if no such expectations were entertained, it is certain that both parties would exaggerate their claims; workers would demand more and employers offer less than they expected in the end to agree upon. When, however, the demands are not made in this way for the sake of impressing the tribunal, but are known to be genuine ultimata, the case is quite different. The workers will actually go on a strike if their demands are not conceded, and they will certainly have to do this if they make their figures extravagant. The employer will close his mill if his offer is not accepted, and he will have to do it if his offer is absurdly low. Very much is involved in the fact that an actual severing of the relation between employers and employed impends over them as a possibility.
The Chief Advantage of Arbitration over Conciliation.—We are now in a position to measure the real difference between conciliation and voluntary arbitration. If a strike comes after nothing has been tried except conciliation, there is often nothing to prevent the strikers from resorting to all the devices which are available for guarding their tenure of place—in other words, for keeping "scabs" out of the field. The local community is in its usual position of uncertainty as to the equities of the case, and is likely to show its usual hesitancy in giving to the new laborers the complete protection which the laws enjoin. There is the customary dread of the effect of letting a strike-breaking force have full sway and the opportunity for disciplining the former workmen into submission. The chance that the resulting rate of pay may be too low to do justice to the laborers remains before the eyes of the local community, and has the effect to which we have earlier called attention—that of taking much of the vigor out of the official arm when violence occurs.
How is it when a tribunal of arbitration has studied the case and announced a decision? Though the workmen may be as free to strike as ever, such an action would put them at a fatal disadvantage. The arbitration has given to the public a basis for a judgment as to the equities of the dispute. If the tribunal is one which commands respect, a refusal to abide by its decision puts the men prima facie in the wrong. If they strike now, they reject a rate which is authoritatively pronounced just. Even this they have the privilege of doing if they so desire; but if they go farther and forcibly prevent other men from accepting the equitable rate and doing the work, they forfeit their right of tenure; and it would be a strangely constituted public which, under such circumstances, would let them use fists, missiles, or clubs in defending it.
There may be an agreement between employers and employed to submit to impartial arbitration such disputes as are not otherwise settled; and when this has been actually done and a decision has been reached, it is made by the contract to be too binding to be lightly disregarded. If it is still disregarded and if violence is resorted to, the forfeiture of public sympathy is so complete that there is little danger that violence will be winked at. The action of such a tribunal may be nearly as effective as that of one which has full coercive power.
Why Compulsory Arbitration is less Certain to give a Just Award.—Arbitration by a court that has full compulsion behind it does not theoretically need to satisfy the contending parties. If it can fine or otherwise coerce the party that refuses to accept its mandate, and thus insure a forced compliance with its orders, it is conceivable that it might announce rates of pay entirely at variance with prevailing ones. It might announce arbitrary rates or make a bold effort to discover and introduce those which should coincide with the ultimate natural standards—which would mean a relentless reducing of some rates and a raising of others. In a democratic country, however, such a court would have to satisfy the contestants and the public or forfeit its existence, and the only mode of insuring its continuance would be a more conservative policy and a respecting of the status quo. It might appeal to the probable result of violent contests somewhat less than a purely voluntary tribunal might do, since it might venture to give offense to employers or to workmen, and trust to the support of the general public; but in the main it would have to let the existing rates of wages continue with no radical change. Even though it were able by some statistical test to discover the natural rates of wages, it could not be bold enough rigorously to apply them without forfeiting its existence. Under any system, then, whether it be crude contention, conciliation, voluntary arbitration, or compulsory arbitration, the rates fixed by the present half-savage process would be allowed to rule till the process itself should be freed from the perversion that monopoly causes. Inequalities of pay would be tempered in different degrees by the various tribunals, but the existing rates in each employment would continue to furnish a basis of adjustment.
The Most Available Plan of Arbitration.—Since there is little prospect that compulsory arbitration will give rates of wages which will differ materially from those secured by arbitration of the voluntary sort, the latter kind has the preference, so long as it is able actually to prevent the strikes and lockouts which, at present, are so wasteful and disorganizing. To accomplish this, there is available a kind of arbitration which is voluntary, but has behind it enough authority to make actual strikes very rare. By this plan the state recognizes for an interim the laborers' tenure of place, on condition that they continue working during the time occupied by the adjustment. If they stop working before a decision is announced, they forfeit their tenure of positions. When the tribunal announces a decision as to the terms on which labor shall go on, the force already working has the option of retaining the positions or abandoning them; but if they elect to leave them, it must be with the understanding that their departure is definitive and their right to tenure surrendered. The state then uses its utmost power in protecting men who may occupy the vacated places. The mere prospect of this outcome will be enough, and the shifting of the force will not have actually to be made, since the right of tenure is too valuable to be forfeited. The system requires that prompt action be had whenever a strike or a lockout is impending, but it enforces decisions only by imposing on workmen who choose to be recalcitrant the penalty of forfeiting the right of ownership of positions, the claim to which they esteem so highly that they are ready literally to fight in defense of it.
A Mode of Dealing with Rebellious Employers.—An employer might refuse to accept the result of an arbitration. In view of the strong pressure that public opinion would exert after the decision should have been rendered, frequent refusals are not probable. If, however, the employer should reject an award, the logic of the case would require that he lose his tenure of place as the men do for a like offense; and the only way to accomplish this is to throw him out of his business connections. The tenure which an entrepreneur most values consists in his relation to his customers; and if the state should see to it that the goods he makes could always be had from some other source, the entrepreneur would be unlikely to close his mills. How the state shall keep the sources of supply open will become an important question if it shall appear that producers do defy the public opinion and reject the court's awards.
 If the employer were a corporation possessing a monopoly of its department of production, it would be difficult quickly to open such new sources of supply as would be requisite; but a temporary reduction of import duties would often go far in this direction. And a measure which would insure the running of the plant under a temporary receivership would, of course, do it.
The Practical Working of the Arbitration Proposed.—Let us see how such a system of arbitration as is here described would work in the case in which, as we have supposed, a strong trade union is dealing with a monopolistic employer. At the outset all violence on the men's side is ruled out. No assaulting, maiming, or killing of so-called "scabs" is tolerated, and, moreover, the first temptation to this is removed by the act of the state in recognizing for an interval the men's tenure of place. There are no strike breakers to be attacked. While proceedings of arbitration are pending, the obnoxious class is out of sight, and all the places are transiently reserved for their original holders. The court has submitted to it two possible rates of pay, one demanded by the men and the other offered by the employers. It may confirm either of these rates or any rate that is intermediate between them, and it is likely to pursue the latter course. In any case, it announces a rate, the one which to it appears to be fair and is more likely to be so than the one claimed by either of the parties. "This is a just rate," declares the tribunal to the men; "you may take it or leave it, but if you leave it a certain thing will happen,—workmen who refuse it will forfeit all claim upon their positions." Workmen will not often refuse the award, and the pressure of public opinion makes it improbable that the employer will do so. Coupled with arbitration and an essential part of the system is a policy which shall remove the danger of monopoly. In its perfectly secure form monopoly as yet scarcely exists, but what does exist is a great number of partial monopolies able to handle competitors roughly and extort profits from the people. Directly connected with the adjustment of wages is the disarming of such monopolies. The preventing of strikes may often be accomplished without this, but the insuring of just wages requires it. With a solution of the problem of monopoly in view, all other needs of the situation might well be met by arbitration without compulsory power.
We may now tabulate our conclusions.
1. In the making of the wages contract the individual laborer is at a disadvantage. He has something which he must sell and which his employer is not obliged to take, since he can reject single men with impunity.
2. A period of idleness may increase this disability to any extent. The vender of anything which must be sold at once is like a starving man pawning his coat—he must take whatever is offered.
3. Collective bargaining enables men to withhold, for a time, something which is of importance to an employer. He cannot let them all go with impunity.
4. A strike is a contest of endurance; and if it continues until the men are exhausted, they are collectively in the position of the hungry individual seller, who is at the buyer's mercy. The wages they then take may be far below the natural standard.
5. If their places are filled at once by men who are already thus necessitous, the resulting rate may be equally below the natural standard.
6. The power of the union often depends on its use of force in keeping the needy out of its field.
7. The rate of pay gained where compulsion is freely and successfully practiced is above the normal rate.
8. Conciliation does little in the way of changing the results which are realized without it, but it lessens the frequency of strikes.
9. Arbitration by a court, which must make a decision but cannot enforce it—by a court which confirms the workmen's tenure of place while action is pending and declares it forfeited if the men reject its decree,—such arbitration would secure a closer conformity to the normal standard of wages than any other action. It would establish rates which give the workmen the benefit of every legitimate advantage from collective bargaining.
10. Arbitration by a court which is compelled to act, and can enforce its decision, may deviate in a particular case from the rate of pay which strikes would yield; but if the deviation is frequent and great, it will induce a rebellion against the system of compulsory arbitration. The rate under this system cannot differ greatly from the result secured with no arbitration at all. The chief value of all the foregoing modes of settling disputes lies in their prevention of costly interruptions of business. They may reduce the number of strikes and prevent much waste and suffering.
11. A mode of procedure which aims chiefly to end strikes usually depends on making compromises between opposing claims. This secures an approach to a reasonable adjustment, as between employers and employed, but does not affect the differences between the wages of different classes of laborers.
12. In order that any mode of adjusting wages may give fair comparative rates, monopolies must be repressed; and this can only be accomplished by measures which are independent of tribunals of arbitration.
BOYCOTTS AND THE LIMITING OF PRODUCTS
When free from the taint of monopoly, trade unions, as has been shown, help rather than hinder the natural forces of distribution. Collective bargaining is normal, but barring men from a field of employment is not so. Connected with this undemocratic policy are certain practices which aim to benefit some laborers at the cost of others, and thus tend to pervert the distributive process.
Restrictions on the Number of Members in a Trade Union.—If a trade union were altogether a private organization, it might properly control the number of its own members. Before it is formed all members of the craft it represents are, of course, non-union workers, and the aim of the founders is to "unionize the trade"—that is, to enlist, in the membership of the body, as large a proportion as is possible of the men already working in the subgroup which the union represents. From that time on it can fix its own standard of admission, and allow its membership to increase slowly or rapidly as its interests may seem to dictate.
How a too Narrow Policy defeats its Own End.—Very narrow restrictions, while they keep men out of the union, attract them to the trade itself. An extreme scarcity of union labor and the high pay it signifies causes the establishment of new mills or shops run altogether by non-union men. If these mills and shops are successful, the union may later admit their employees to membership; and a series of successful efforts to produce goods by the aid of unorganized labor thus interferes with the exclusive policy of unions. The number of their members grows in spite of efforts to the contrary.
Free Admission to a Trade Equivalent to Free Admission to a Union.—We may recognize as one of the principles in the case that free admission to the craft itself involves free admission to the union. When once men are successfully practicing the trade, the union is eager to include them, though it enlarges its own membership by the process.
How a Government might prevent a Monopoly of Labor.—It is entirely possible that a government might require trade unions to incorporate themselves, and might include in the charter a clause requiring the free admission of qualified members, subject only to such dues as the reasonable needs of the union might require. That is not an immediate probability, but the end in view can be attained by making membership in the trade itself practically free—which means protecting from violence the men who practice it without joining the union. This is not difficult where a mill in an isolated place is run altogether by independent labor, and it is natural that the unions should endeavor, in other ways than the crudely illegal ones, to prevent the successful running of such mills. If they run with success, their employees will have to be attracted into the unions. A measure designed to impede the running of non-union mills is the boycott. It is a measure which does not involve force and which is yet of not a little value to workers.
The Nature and Varieties of the Boycott.—A boycott is a concurrent refusal to use or handle certain articles. In its original or negative form, the boycott enjoins upon workers that they shall let certain specified articles alone. If they are completed goods, they must not buy them for consumption; and if they are raw materials, or goods in the making, they must not do any work upon them or upon any product into which they enter. They may thus boycott the mantels of a dwelling house and refuse to put them in position, or, in case they have been put in position by other workmen, they may, as an extreme measure, refuse to do further work on the house until they are taken out. A producers' boycott, such as this, falls in quite a different category from the direct consumers' boycott, or the refusal to use a completed article. When a raw material is put under the ban, workers strike if an employer insists on using it. If the cause of the boycott is some disagreement between the maker of the raw material and his workmen, the measure amounts to the threat of a sympathetic strike in aid of the aggrieved workers. If the cause is the fact that the materials were made in a non-union shop, the men who thus made them have no grievance, but the union in the trade to which these men belong has one. It consists in the mere fact that the non-union men are working at the trade at all and that their employer is finding a market for their product. Workers in other trades are called on to aid this union by a sympathetic strike, either threatened or actually put into effect. Such a boycott as this may therefore be described as amounting to a potential or actual sympathetic strike somewhat strategically planned. If the strike actually comes, it may assist the men in whose cause it is undertaken; and the principles which govern such a boycott are those which govern strikes of the sympathetic kind.
Direct Consumers' Boycotts economically Legitimate.—The other type of boycott is a concurrent refusal to buy and use certain consumers' goods. Legally it has been treated as a conspiracy to injure a business, but the prohibition has lost its effectiveness, as legal requirements generally do when they are not in harmony with economic principles. Of late there has been little disposition to enforce the law against boycotting, and none whatever to enforce the law when the boycott carries its point by taking a positive instead of a negative form. The trade-label movement enjoins on men to bestow their patronage altogether on employers included within a certain list, and this involves withdrawing it from others; but the terms of the actual agreement between the workers involve the direct bestowing of a benefit and only inferentially the inflicting of an injury. The men do not, in terms, conspire to injure a particular person's business, but do band themselves together to help certain other persons' business. Economic theory has little use for this technical distinction. It is favorable rather than otherwise to every sort of direct consumers' boycott, and is particularly favorable to the trade-label movement. This movement may powerfully assist workers in obtaining normal rates of pay, and it will not help them to get much more.
The Ground of the Legitimacy of the Boycott.—An individual has a right to bestow his patronage where he pleases, and it is essential to the action of economic law that he should freely use this right. The whole fabric of economic society, the action of demand and supply, the laws of price, wages, etc., rest on this basis. Modern conditions require that large bodies of individuals should be able concurrently to exercise a similar right,—that organized labor should bestow its collective patronage where it wishes. This can be done, of course, only by controlling individual members, for the trade union does not buy consumers' goods collectively. If it can thus control its members, it can use in promoting its cause the extensive patronage at its disposal.
Unfavorable Features of the Indirect Boycott.—The boycott we have thus far had in view is a direct confining of union laborers' patronage to union-made goods. Why this is a thing to be encouraged we shall presently see. What we have said in favor of it does not apply to boycotting merchants on all their traffic because they deal in certain goods. If a brand of soap is proscribed, the workers are justified in concurrently refusing to use that variety; but it is not equally legitimate to prevent a merchant, whose function it is to serve the public, from selling this soap to the customers who want it. To refuse to buy anything whatsoever from a merchant because he keeps in his stock a prohibited article, and sells it to a different set of customers, is interfering, in an unwarranted way, with the freedom of the merchant and of the other customers. Indirect consumers' boycotts have little to commend them, but those of the direct kind have very much.
The Merits of the Trade-label Movement.—This appears most clearly in connection with the trade-label movement. As a result of this movement union laborers will, as is hoped, buy only union-made goods. The existence of such a movement in itself implies that there are goods of the same sort to be had which are not made by union labor. The shop that is run by the aid of independent labor is the cause of the existence of the union label. If all the labor in a group were organized, the label would have no significance. At present the trade unions offer to an employer a certain amount of patronage as a return for limiting himself to union men, and so long as the cost of making his goods is not much increased, the inducement may be sufficient to make him do it.
The Movement as affected by Extravagant Demands on Employers.—Unduly high wages mean, of course, unduly high prices. Without here taking account of the "ca'-canny" policy, which aims to make labor inefficient, extravagant wages for efficient labor increase the cost of goods. This opens the way, as we have seen, for the free shop and the labor which is willing to sell its product at a cheaper rate. If union labor then firmly resolves to buy only the goods with the label, it proposes a heroic measure of self-taxation.
Trade Labels and the Quality of Goods.—The experience of the trade-label movement thus far has been, that in some instances the label vouches for prices which are high, if quality be considered, or for a quality which is poor if the prices are the current ones. Instead of telling the purchaser that the shoes, hats, cigars, etc., which bear the label are surely the best that can be had for the money, the labels are more apt to tell him that the goods are poorer than others which can be had. In some instances this is not the case, and the union-made articles are as good and as cheap as others. When the label stands for a high price or a poor quality, the union fails to control its members and especially its members' wives. Having the meager pay of a week to invest, the wife needs to use it where it will do the most for the family. There is so strong an inducement to buy goods which are really cheap and good that the trade-label movement fails whenever loyalty to it means very much of self-taxation.
The Object Lesson of the Consumers' Boycott.—Organized labor gives itself a costly and impressive object lesson when it tries to force all men of its class to buy the dearer of two similar articles. What this shows is that the demands of unions must be limited, and that for the highest success they must be so limited that there shall be no decisive advantage given to an employer who has a non-union shop. A marked difference in costs of production will cause the free shop to grow and the union shop to shrink. A certain moderate difference in wages there may be, provided always that the union labor is highly efficient; but more than such a difference there cannot safely be. If the trade-label movement should be generally successful, that fact would prove that the demands of trade unions were kept within reasonable limits.
The Policy of Restricting the Product of Labor.—It is a part of the policy of trade unions to limit the intensity of labor. The term "ca'-canny" means working at an easy-going pace, which is one of the methods adopted in order to make work for an excessive number of men. For some of this the motive is to avoid an undue strain on the workers. If the employer selects "pacemakers," who have exceptional ability and endurance, and tries to bring other laborers to their standard, then the rule of the trade union, which forbids doing more than a certain amount of work in a day, becomes a remedy for a real evil—the excessive nervous wear of too strenuous labor. This, however, by no means proves that the policy as carried out is a good one. Beyond the relief that comes when undue speeding of machinery and driving of workers is repressed, it will be impossible to prove that in the long run there is any good whatsoever in it, and the evil in it is obvious and deplorable.
"Making Work" as related to Technical Progress.—The policy reverses the effects of progress. That which has caused the return to labor to grow steadily larger is labor saving or product multiplying, and labor making and product reducing are the antithesis of this. Enlarging the product of labor has caused the standard of pay to go steadily upward and the actual rate to follow it; and the prospect of a future and perpetual rise in the laborers' standard of living depends almost entirely on a continuance of this product-multiplying process. A single man maintaining himself in isolation would gain by everything that made his efforts fruitful, and society, as a whole, is like such an isolated man. It gains by means of every effective tool that is devised and by every bit of added efficiency in the hands that wield it.
Reversing the Effect of Progress.—It follows that undoing such an improvement and going back to earlier and less productive methods would reverse the effect of the improvement, which is higher pay for all; it is restoring the condition in which the product of labor and its pay were lower. The "ca'-canny" policy—the arbitrary limiting of what a man is allowed to do—has this effect. It aims to secure a reduction of output, not by enforcing the use of inferior tools, but by enforcing the inferior use of the customary tools. The effect, in the long run, is, and must be, to take something out of the laborers' pockets.
The Effect of the Work-making Policy under a Regime of Strong Trade Unions.—It is, of course, only a strong trade union that can enforce such a policy as this. Making one's own work worth but little offers a large inducement to an employer to hire some one else if he can. Within limits, the powerful union may prevent him from doing this, and if for the time being society is patient and tolerant of anarchy,—if it allows men who are willing to work well in a given field to be forcibly excluded from it by men who are determined to work ill,—the policy may be carried to disastrous lengths.
How Static Law thwarts the Work-making Policy.—Even strong unions, as we have seen, succeed in maintaining only a limited difference of pay between their trade and others. The effort to maintain an excessive premium on labor of any kind defeats itself by inducing free labor to break over the barrier that is erected against it. The same thing happens when we reduce the productive power of organized labor. If, at a time when the premium that union labor bears above the non-union kind is at a maximum, the policy of restricting products is introduced, it so increases the inducement to depend on an independent working force that there is no resisting it. The palisade which union labor has built about its field gives way, and other labor comes freely in. If the ca'-canny policy makes it necessary to pay ten men for doing five men's work, the union itself will have to give place to the independent men. No single good word can be said for the ultimate effect of the policy as carried beyond the moderate limit required by hygiene. Up to the point at which it will avert undue pressure upon workers, stop disastrous driving and the early disabling of men, the effect is so good as amply to justify the reduction of product and pay which the policy occasions. Beyond that there is nothing whatever to be said for it, and if it shall become a general and settled policy of trade unions, it will be a clog upon progress and mean a permanent loss for every class of laborers.
Notwithstanding all this, it must be true that some motive which can appeal to reasonable beings impels workers to this policy. No plan of action, as general as this, can be sustained unless some one, at least transiently, gains by it. Workers have a tremendous stake in the success of any plan of action they adopt, and they have every motive for coming to a right conclusion concerning it. They are in the way of getting object lessons from every mistaken policy, as its pernicious effects become apparent, even though some local and transient good effects also become evident. It is not difficult to see what it has been that has appealed to so many laborers and induced them voluntarily to reduce the value of their labor.
A Common Argument against Product Restricting.—What is commonly said of the policy is that it is based on the idea that there is a definite amount of work of each kind to be done, and that if a man does half as much as he could do, twice as many men will be employed to do the whole amount. Nobody who thinks at all actually believes that the amount of work of a given kind is fixed, no matter how much is charged for it. If workers on buildings charged from five to ten dollars a day, there would be fewer houses erected than would be erected if they charged three dollars; and the same thing is true everywhere. The amount of labor to be done in any field of employment varies constantly with changes of cost, and making labor more costly in a particular department reduces the amount of its product that can be sold.
A trade union often finds that there are too many workers in its field to be constantly employed at the rate of pay it establishes. The result is partially idle labor; the men work intermittently, and though the high wages they get for a part of their time may compensate them for idle days or weeks, the idleness which is the effect of the oversupply is inevitable.
A given number of workers in the group which makes A''' when the wages are three dollars a day becomes an excessive number when the wages are five, and even if the high wages do not attract men from without and make the absolute number of workers greater than before, employment is not constant. The ca'-canny policy is a transient remedy for this. It is an effort to avoid the necessity for partial idleness and for the transferring of laborers to other occupations. All the labor may, for a time, remain in its present field if it will afflict itself with a partial paralysis. For a while the demand for the product of the labor will be sufficient to give more constant employment. Time is required for the full effect of the product-limiting policy to show itself in a falling off of the consumption of the goods whose cost is thus increased. When it comes the evil effect of the policy will appear. If a union were strong enough to keep a monopoly of its field, in spite of the greater efficiency of laborers that are free to work in a normal way, it would be strong enough to maintain much higher pay for its own members if it limited the number of them and encouraged them to work efficiently. The strongest conceivable union must lose by substituting the plan of paralyzing labor for that of restricting the number of laborers. The union may choose to take the benefit of its monopolistic power by keeping an unnecessarily large number of men in constant employment, rather than by getting high wages for efficient work; but in that case any union but one the strength of which is maintained in some unnatural way is likely to come to grief by the great preference it creates for non-union labor. The independent shop will get the better men at the lower rate of wages, and its products will occupy the market. The popularity of the plan of work making is the effect of looking for benefits which are transient rather than permanent. If it were carried in many trades as far as it already is in some, it would probably neutralize, even for those who resort to it, much of the benefit of organization, and work still greater injury to others.
 It will be seen that whether the policy is successful in giving employment to the partially idle or fails to do so depends on the amount of reduction in the sale of the goods which the increased cost of making them entails; and if the market is highly sensitive to increased cost, the policy may fail in securing even a transient increase of employment.
The Eight-hour Movement as a Work-making Policy.—The effort to reduce the hours of labor to eight per day has in it so much that is altogether beneficent that it is not to be put in the same category with the ca'-canny plan of working. And yet one leading argument in favor of this reducing of the number of hours of work is identical with that by which a reduction of the amount accomplished in an hour is defended. The purpose is to make work and secure the employment of more workers. What has been said of the other mode of work making applies here. Reducing the length of the working day cuts down the product that workers create and the amount that they get. In the main the loss of product is probably offset by the gain in rest and enjoyment; but the loss of product, taken by itself alone, is an evil, and nothing can make it otherwise. If the hours were further reduced, the loss would be more apparent and the gain from rest and leisure would be less.
One Sound Argument in Favor of the Greater Productivity of the Eight-hour Day.—There is one reason why the eight-hour day may in a series of generations prove more permanently productive than a longer one. It may preserve the laborers' physical vigor and enable them to keep their employment to a later period in life. The dead line of sixty might be obliterated.
If what we wanted were to get the utmost we could out of a man in a single day, we should do it by making him work for twenty-four hours; after that, for another twenty-four hours, he would be worth very little. If we expected to make him work for a week, we should probably shorten the day to eighteen hours. If we expected to employ him for a month and then to throw him aside, we might possibly get a maximum product by making him work fourteen hours. If we wanted him for a year only, possibly a day of twelve hours would insure the utmost he could do. In a decade he could do more in a ten-hour day, and in a working lifetime he could probably do more in eight. Forty or fifty years of continuous work would tell less on his powers and on the amount and quality of his product.
The Connection between the Restriction of Products and the Trade-label Movement.—Very important is the bearing of these facts concerning the restriction of laborers' products and the trade-label movement. If that movement should become more general and effective, it would bring home to all who should take part in it the effects of the labor-paralyzing policy. The faithful trade unionist would find himself paying a full share of the bill which that policy entails on the public. Ordinary customers can avoid the product whose cost is enhanced by the trade-union rules; but the unionist must take it and must make himself and his class the chief subjects of the tax which enhanced prices impose. It may well be that the pernicious quality of the general work-making policy will become so evident in any case that it will be abandoned; and this would be made sure by a rule that should actually make union labor the chief purchaser of union goods. Ca'-canny would then mean self-taxation on a scale that no arguments could make popular.
PROTECTION AND MONOPOLY
The more serious perversions of the economic system which we have encountered have all been traceable to some working of the principle of monopoly, and it is important to know whether any established policy of governments lends force to this evil influence. Import duties were established in America for the purpose of protecting industries as such, and a vital question now is whether they have now begun to protect monopolies within the industries.
A Supposed Conflict between Theory and Practice.—There was a time when theorists and practical men seemed to be in hopeless disagreement concerning the entire subject of protection. In the view of the practical man an economist was a person who, in his study, had reached certain conclusions which were equally unanswerable in themselves and irreconcilable with the facts. The expression most commonly heard in this connection was that "theory and practice do not agree." The doctrinarians were, in those days, unusually harmonious among themselves, for there were comparatively few who made a vigorous defense of protection on grounds of economic principle. The practical world was less harmonious, since the views of different parts of it were colored by differing interests; but the fact that science did not fall into self-contradiction was encouraging. It was possible for the uncompromising free-trader to think and to say that fundamental principles were all on his side, and that the protectionist had nothing in his favor except transient disturbances that interfered with the perfect working of the principles.
Static Theory in Favor of Free Trade.—Now, the business world conceded too much to the free-trader when it said that he had theory altogether in his favor. What he could truthfully claim, and what the world could safely admit, was that he had static theory in his favor. Static theory deals with a world which is free, not only from friction and disturbance, but also from those elements of change and progress which are the marked features of actual life. Stop all the changes that are taking place in the industrial life of the world; put an end to inventions and improvements in business organization; let there be no moving of population to and fro, and no increase of the aggregate population of the world; further, let there be no addition to the wealth of the world and no change in its forms,—and you will have the static state described in the early part of this treatise. Men would go on making things to the end of time, using identically the same methods that are now in vogue and getting identically the same results, and in such an imaginary world there would be no possibility of answering the contention of the general body of economists of a generation ago. Free trade would be the only rational policy, and it could be defended upon the simple ground on which division of labor in the case of individuals is defended. One man has an aptitude for making shoes, another for making watches, another for painting pictures, and so on; and each one of them can gain far more by devoting himself to his specialty and bartering off the product of it than he can by trying to make everything for himself. Nations have their special aptitudes and should follow them, and make all they can out of them; and the nation which has special facilities for producing cotton, or wheat, or petroleum, or gold and silver bullion should devote itself to its specialties, barter off the results, and get all manner of goods in return.
Wastes from Protection reduced by the Fact of Diversified Resources.—It is true, indeed, that a great nation like our own makes a much better jack-of-all-trades than an individual can make. It is far more probable that the nation as a whole can produce without much waste all the things it wants to use than that any individual can do so. If we have all climates from the tropical to the arctic, all soils, and a full list of mineral deposits, why should it pay us to confine ourselves to the making of only a few things in order to barter them off for others? Why should we not, with our wide range of resources, make everything?
Undoubtedly we can make almost everything if we insist upon doing it; but there are still some things that other countries can make and sell to us on such terms that we can do better by buying them than by producing them ourselves. We can raise tea in the United States, but it pays us better to make something else and barter it off for tea. A day's labor spent in raising cotton to send away in exchange gives us more tea than a day's labor spent in producing the latter article directly. In a static condition we should have found in what fields it is most profitable to employ our energies. We should be directly making things that it would pay us best to make, and we should be indirectly making the other things; that is, we should be producing articles to send off in exchange for those other things. Wherever an indirect way of acquiring a thing had proved most profitable, we should have adopted that method, and we should always adhere to it. Anything that forced us to make directly something which we could secure in greater abundance by bestowing the labor that would make it on making something else, would turn our energies in a comparatively unproductive direction. It would inflict on us a waste and a loss—and there are such wastes and losses inherent in the operation of the principle of protection, and there is no contending against the argument that demonstrates their existence. Protection and a certain distortion of the productive system, a certain misdirection of energy, are synonymous.
The Argument for Protection Dynamic.—Now an intelligent argument in favor of protection begins at this point. It accepts the whole static argument in favor of free trade, and its own assertion begins with a "nevertheless." It claims that in spite of what is thus conceded, protection is justifiable, since, in the end, it will pay, notwithstanding the wastes that attend it. The argument for protection is entirely a dynamic one. It is based on the fact of progress and admits that it could make no case for itself under the conditions of a static state. If every country had certain special facilities for producing particular things, and if its state in this respect were destined to remain forever unchanged, it could, to the end of time, make itself richer by depending for many things on its neighbors than it could by depending for those things immediately on itself. The fact is, however, that a nation like our own abounds in undeveloped and even unknown resources which, when brought to the light, may take precedence of many of those which are known and utilized. If our country from end to end were like Cape Nome, and as rich in gold as the richest part of that remote region, and if it were certain that the deposits of gold would never be exhausted and would employ the whole energy of our people, it is clear that we should have one staple occupation and should depend upon the rest of the world for almost every sort of portable commodity. We should be stopped from manufacturing by the great productivity of labor in placer mining. So long as men could make ten dollars a day by washing out gold from the sands, there would be no use in setting them at work making two dollars a day as weavers or shoemakers or what not. By buying our cloth with gold dust we could get far more of it than we could if we took the men out of the mine and set them to making the stuff itself. But—and here is the proviso that makes the supposition correspond with the fact—if, besides the placers, we had deep mines of other metals than gold, if we had oil and lumber and loam of every variety, and if we had people with undeveloped mechanical aptitudes, it might be that we should do well to develop these latent energies even in a wasteful way. The condition that would fully establish the similarity between the supposed case and the actual one is that the placer deposits should be, as placers are, sure to be exhausted by continued working, and that producing other things than gold should tend to become, with time, a more and more fruitful process. We can justify the attitude of the country that taxes itself at an early date for the sake of testing and developing the latent aptitudes of its land and its people. At the outset it will thereby sustain a loss, because at the outset it can gain more goods by the indirect method of exchange than it can by production; but there may easily come a time when it can gain more by the direct method. If we learn to make things more economically than we could originally make them, if we hit upon cheap sources of motive power and of raw material, and especially if we devise machinery that works rapidly and accurately and greatly multiplies the product of a man's working day, we shall reach a condition in which, instead of a loss incidental to the early years of manufacturing, we shall have an increasing gain that will continue to the end of time. It may be, further, that without protection and the burdensome tax which it did undoubtedly impose upon us, we should have had to wait far too long for this gain to accrue and should have sacrificed the benefits that come from a long interval of diversified and fruitful industry.
In short, the static argument for free trade is unanswerable and the dynamic argument for protection, when intelligently stated, is equally so. The two arguments do not meet and refute each other, but are mutually consistent. It is possible to ridicule the argument for protection under the name of the "infant industry" argument, and it is possible for the policy it upholds to continue long after this argument has ceased to be valid. The overgrown infant will have sacrificed his claim for coddling, but that will not prove that there was never a time when he needed it.
The Policy demanded in View of Facts Static and Dynamic.—Now, there is an argument for tariff reduction which accepts both the static argument for free trade and the dynamic argument for protection. In fact, it bases itself on the protectionist's modern and intelligent claim. To advance in any form the infant industry argument is to admit that the policy advocated is temporary. Protective duties are, in fact, self-testing. They reveal in their very working whether they were originally justifiable or not. The ground on which they were imposed is that they would develop latent resources—that they would enable labor to produce as much by making a class of articles formerly produced in foreign countries as it could produce by engaging in industries already established and exchanging their products for the former articles. If that time should come, the industry that had to grow up originally under the protection of a duty would become so fruitful that it could dispense with the duty. Taxes of this kind tend to become inoperative, provided always that the latent resources for economical production really exist.
Some years ago a man who had retired from the business of making spool silk remarked that, in his judgment, a duty of three per cent on imported silk of this kind would enable the American mills to hold full possession of their own market. The difference between what it cost the foreigner to make the silk and what it cost the American to make it was, as he thought, not over three per cent. If he was right in his estimate, almost all of the actual duty might have been abolished without crushing the American manufacturer. Americans had developed a sufficient aptitude for making spool silk to be able to get nearly as much of it by turning their labor in that direction as they could by turning their labor in any other direction and exchanging the product for foreign silk. We must originally have lost much by forcing ourselves directly to make the silk, for, at the outset, we could not make it as economically as we could make an article which we could exchange for it. At the time of which we are speaking we could make it with almost no waste, and the case illustrates a general fact with regard to duties upon articles in the making of which we are originally at a disadvantage but are afterward at no disadvantage at all. When our original disadvantage has been quite overcome, the duty becomes inoperative. Whether we keep it or throw it off will make no difference to the American manufacturer or to the American consumer—provided always that competition is free and active. If it is not so, there is a very different story to tell.
Importance of Changes in the Relative Productivity of Different Industries.—Instead of getting from the soil gold dust to barter for merchandise, we have been getting a product that is not so greatly unlike it. For grains of gold read kernels of wheat, and the statement will tell what a large portion of our country has produced and exported. The productivity of wheat raising has made it uneconomical, in certain extensive regions, to engage in other occupations; but as the fertility of the wheat lands has declined, and as the productive power of labor in other directions has increased, we have reached a point at which it is just as natural to make things for which we formerly bartered wheat as it is to produce the grain itself. The decline in the fertility of agricultural lands and the increase in the productive power of labor devoted to making steel appear to have made the manufacturer of the latter article as independent as is the raiser of cereals. Originally it was necessary to protect iron and steel industries from competition in order to secure the establishment of them at an early day. Now it is apparently not necessary to continue the protection. Labor in making steel will give us as many tons of it in a year as the same labor would give us if spent in the raising of wheat to be exchanged for foreign steel. The duty on steel, if this is the case, has become inoperative, in the sense that it no longer acts to save from destruction the steel-making industry. It is perniciously operative in another direction, for it is an essential protector of a quasi-monopoly in the industry; and this illustrates what often happens in cases in which the infant industry argument proves to be well grounded. The argument predicts for the newly established industry a great future development and a time of ultimate independence. Protection undertakes to nurse it through its period of helplessness and dependence into a time when it can stand on its own feet and maintain itself against rivals. If that period comes,—and the history of the United States shows that in many cases it has come,—you can throw off the entire duty, if you will, and, unless the price of the article has been artificially sustained by something besides the duty, our manufacturers will not lose possession of their market.
An essential condition of realizing the happy predictions of the protectionists is that competition among American producers should be unimpeded. If that were so, goods would, as they said, be sold, in the end, at prices fixed by the costs of production, including the normal rate of interest on the capital employed. Manufacturers may originally get large profits, as an offset for such risks as they take in doing pioneer work; but afterward they will get interest on their capital and a good personal return for directing their business, but nothing more. If they sell goods at prices which yield only such returns as this, they will, when the industry is on its feet, sell them as cheaply as the foreigner would do. The high duty, if it still continues, may make it doubly difficult for the foreigner to come into our market; but with goods selling at natural cost or cost prices he would not come into it in any case, and the duty might be abolished with entire impunity.
There are, indeed, some questions which arise as to occasional unloading of extensive stocks in foreign markets, and protection has been called for to prevent the foreigner from making America his "dumping ground." This process works in both ways: the American can dump his surplus products into foreign territory as well as the foreigner can into American territory. Not much attention need be paid to this particular phase of the subject. Conservatism will probably suffice, for a long time, to retain in force a somewhat higher duty than is called for on general grounds. In the main the fact is as stated: if the protected infant has the capacity for growth that was attributed to him when the course of nursing, coddling, training, and patient waiting was entered upon, he will announce that fact after a term of years by showing his inherent strength and proving that these fostering practices are no longer necessary. They are then needed only to aid a monopolistic power within the industry.
The Protection of Industries distinguished from the Protection of Monopolies.—It appears, then, that duties have two distinct functions. One is to protect from foreign competition an industry as such—to shield every producer, whether he is working independently or in a pool or trust. The other function is to protect a trust in the industry—to enable a great combination working within the limits of the United States to keep that great field to itself and still charge abnormally high prices for its products. In fact, a distinguishable part of a duty usually performs the former of these functions, and another distinguishable part performs the latter. If the natural price of an article is based on the cost of making it in the United States, and if that is twenty per cent higher than the cost in a foreign country, a duty of twenty per cent will place the American product and the foreign product on an equality. The American maker will not be driven from his market until he begins to charge an abnormally high price. If he does that, the foreigner will come in. Suppose, then, that the duty is forty per cent. Twenty per cent may be needed to enable the American manufacturer to hold his own as against the foreigner. Provided he exacts from consumers of his goods only the natural returns which business yields, year in and year out, he can sell all that his mills produce with no danger that the foreigner will supplant him. The other twenty per cent of duty enables him to add a monopolistic profit to his prices. He can raise them by about that amount above what is natural before the foreigner will begin to make him trouble.
We have seen what ways the trust has of stifling competition within the limits of our own country. There are the favors which it is able to get from the railroads, and there is the practice of selling its goods in some one locality at a cut-throat rate whenever a competitor appears in that locality. There is the so-called factors' agreement, which often forces merchants to buy goods of a certain class exclusively from the trust. By these means and others the trust makes it perilous to build a mill for the purpose of competing with it. If, indeed, it makes its prices very high, some bold adventurer will build such a mill and take the chances that this entails; but if the trust stops short of offering such a tempting lure in the way of high prices, it can keep the field to itself. If the extra duty of twenty per cent—the unnecessary portion of the whole duty of forty per cent—did not exist, nothing of this sort would be possible. The trust would have to sell at a normal price in order to keep out the foreigner, and so would its independent competitor. Both the combination and its rivals could make their goods and sell them in security. The industry, as such, is protected by the duty of twenty per cent, and it is the additional duty which is the protector of monopoly—the enabling cause of the grab which the trust can make from the pockets of the consuming public.
In practice one would not try to make the figures quite as exact as is implied in the statement that just twenty per cent of duty is needed to protect the industry as such from the foreigner, and that just another twenty per cent acts as a maker of a monopolistic price. It would be impracticable to fix the duty in such a way as exactly to meet the need of protection. Owing to fluctuations in values, the duty might be made slightly higher than is necessary under normal conditions. All these things would have to be considered by a competent tariff commission. The figures we here use are illustrative only; but the principle is as clear as anything in economics. Protecting an industry, as such, is one thing; it means that Americans shall be enabled to hold possession of their market, provided they charge prices for their goods which yield a fair profit only. Protecting a monopoly in the industry is another thing; it means that foreign competition is to be cut off even when the American producer charges unnatural prices. It means that the trust shall be enabled to sell a portion of its goods abroad at one price and the remainder at home at a much higher price. It means that the trust is to be shielded from all competition, except that which may come from audacious rivals at home who are willing to brave the perils of entering the American field provided that the prices which here rule afford profit enough to justify the risk.
A Limit beyond which a Duty becomes a Supporter of Monopolies.—This line of cleavage runs through the greater part of the duties which this country now imposes on foreign articles; and the fact reveals the scientific rule for tariff reduction. Up to a certain point, according to the traditional American view, the duty may do good. It may be protecting an industry that is not quite an infant and yet has not grown to its full stature nor attained to its full competing power. Whatever may be claimed as to what ought to be done with this portion of the duty, there is no doubt what will be done; it will be retained, and the American people will wait with such patience as they may for the coming of the time when the industry will be independent of all such aid. Beyond this point a protective duty becomes a trust builder par excellence.
Most Duties Compounds of Good and Evil.—There are some industries which are fully matured. The duties which were imposed to shield them during their infancy are no longer necessary for that purpose. The amount of protection that in these cases is necessary to keep the American market for the American product is nil. The sole effect of duties on the products of such industries is to encourage monopoly. At the other extreme there are a few industries which have not gravitated into the control of monopolies and which need much of the protection that they have in order to hold their present fields. If they really are infants and not dwarfs,—if they have the capacity to grow to full stature and independence,—the policy of the people will undoubtedly be to let them keep, for a considerable time, all the protection that they now enjoy. The number of such industries as this is comparatively small. In the case of the great majority of our duties there is one part that protects the industry as such and another part that protects the monopoly within it. Throw off the whole duty, and you expose the independent rivals of the trust, as well as the trust itself, to a foreign competition which they are hardly able to bear; but if you throw off a part of the duty,—the part which serves to create the monopoly,—you do not destroy and probably do not hurt the independent producer. His position now is abnormal and perilous. He may be continuing solely by grace of a power that could crush him any day if it would, and its power to crush him is due to the great gains which its position as a monopoly affords. When it wishes to crush a local rival, it can enter his territory and, within that area, sell goods for less than it costs to make them; and, while pursuing this cut-throat policy, it can still make money, because it is getting high prices in the other parts of its extensive territory. With no such great general returns to draw on as a war fund, the trust would have to compete with its rivals on terms which would be at least more nearly even than they now are. It would still have weapons which it could employ against competitors, and its capacity for fighting unfairly would not be exhausted. Without further action on the part of lawmakers the position of a small rival of a trust might be unnaturally dangerous; but an essential point is that one means which the trust adopts in order to crush him depends on the existence of great profits in most of its territory; and these would not exist if it were not for the unnecessary and abnormal part of the duty.
The trust wants its duty, and it wants the whole of it. It is the perennial defender of the policy which is termed "standing pat." It values the monopoly-making part according to the measure of the profits which that part brings into its coffers. The trust is powerful, as we do not need to be told, and it will find ways of thwarting tariff reduction as it does other anti-trust legislation. Drastic laws forced through legislatures or Congress during ebullitions of popular wrath—laws which demand so much in the way of trust breaking that they will never be enforced and never ought to be—have not, thus far, been prevented. Such "bulls against the comet" have been issued frequently enough, but serious legislation, based on sound principles, will encounter graver difficulties. There are difficulties before our people even where they see clearly what they want and are trying to get it; but where they do not see what they want, the case is hopeless. The trust-making part of protective duties has an effect about which there is no uncertainty, and if the American people discover this fact, they will not have reached their goal, but the laborious route that leads to it will at least lie distinctly before them.
The Policy demanded in the Interest of Progress.—The general facts which have here been cited call for the abolition of a certain part of the existing duties and the retention of another part, and they make the division between the two parts clear at least in principle. We want to keep one part of a duty whenever it protects an industry which is not yet mature but is on its way toward maturity. We want the industry because it is progressive in its wealth-creating power and will, one day, make an important addition to our national income. It is a dynamic agent—a factor in the progress we are making toward the unrealized goal of universal comfort. We do not want the other part of the duty, first, because we do not want monopoly. Any feature of our industrial system which is convicted of being simply a monopoly-building element is condemned by that fact to extinction, if the power of the people suffices to destroy it. Does this mean that the consolidations themselves are thus condemned? Do we not want great corporations with vast capitals? Assuredly we want them, for the sake of their economy and of their capacity for greater economy. With the element of monopoly taken out of them, they will become dynamic agents and contributors to general progress. The part of the protective tariff which we need to get rid of is the part that helps decisively to put the element of monopoly into them; and in that connection the worst charge that has to be brought against this part of the duties remains to be stated.
Protection and Progress.—Monopoly acts squarely against the continuance of that very progress which the tariff was designed to create. The entire defense of protection has rested on the dynamic argument, and the sole justification of the tax which protection originally imposed is the fact that it has given us industries which have, in themselves, the power to become more and more productive. It would be hard to deny that much of this increase in productive power, which the originators of the protective system anticipated, has been practically realized. The manufactures which have been carried through a period of weakness have actually developed competing strength. We have acquired the power to make things far more cheaply than any one could formerly make them, and the cheapening process still goes on. Our manufacturing centers are alive with machinery, much of which is of our own devising. Thanks to the progressive character of these industries, the waste which attended the introduction of them has been largely atoned for. On dynamic grounds, and solely on those grounds, has the policy of protection fairly well vindicated itself. And now we have come to the point where that saving element in the protective system is in danger of vanishing. Indeed, the excessive part of the protective tariff now acts positively to check the progress that it once initiated, for monopoly is hostile to that progress. The whole force of the argument based on mechanical invention and the development of latent aptitudes in our people now holds as against the monopoly-building part of the tariff. Keep that portion of a duty which is not needed to save an independent producer from foreign competition, which is needed only to enable the trust to charge an abnormal price and still keep the foreigner out of our markets, and you build up a monopoly which is unfavorable to continued improvement in the productive arts.
Competition is the assured guarantee of all such progress. It causes a race of improvement in which eager rivals strive with each other to see who can get the best result from a day's labor. It puts the producer where he must be enterprising or drop out of the race. He must invent machines and processes, or adopt them as others discover them. He must organize, explore markets, and study consumers' wants. He must keep abreast of a rapidly moving procession if he expects to continue long to be a producer at all.
The Effect on Progress of Consolidation without Monopoly.—Does a monopoly live under any such forward pressure? Certainly not. It may make some improvements, for it can gain wealth by so doing; but it is not forced to make them or perish. Here we encounter a wide distinction that is in danger of being overlooked. A vast corporation that is not a true monopoly may be eminently progressive. If it still has to fear rivals, actual or potential, it is under the same kind of pressure that acts upon the independent producer—pressure to economize labor. It may be able to make even greater progress than a smaller corporation could make, for it may be able to hire ingenious men to devise new appliances, and it may be able to test them without greatly trenching on its income by such experiments. When it gets a successful machine, it may introduce it at once into many mills. Consolidation without monopoly is favorable to progress. With the element of monopoly infused into it, a great consolidation frees itself from the necessity for progress, and both experience and a priori reasoning are against the conclusion that, under such a regime, actual progress will be rapid. The secure monopoly may stagnate with impunity, and the reason why many corporations which have looked like monopolies have not actually stagnated is that their positions have not been thus secure. They have had some actual rivals and many potential ones. The part of the protective system which tends to make them more secure in their monopolistic position strikes at the most vital part of the industrial system, the progress within it, the element which adds daily to man's power to create wealth and enables the world to sustain an increasing population in an increasing degree of comfort. True monopoly means stagnation, oppression, and what has been called a new feudalism, while consolidation without monopoly means progress, freedom, and a constant approach to industrial democracy. One of the essential means of securing this latter result is the retention of so much protection as is needed to keep American ingenuity and organizing power alive and active, while abolishing that excess of it which fosters monopoly and does away with the necessity for exercising these traits. There will be disagreement as to the point at which the dividing line should, in particular cases, be drawn; a protected interest will claim a duty of fifty per cent where twenty would amply suffice and where every excess above this would be pernicious. There should, however, be no serious disagreement as to what we want—progress and the repression of monopoly which bars progress; and there should be little disagreement as to the principle to be followed in making a protective system contribute to these ends. It must assuredly not bar out the foreigner when the American trust has put its prices at an extortionate level and is using its power to crush all rivalry at home. The good effect and the evil effect of an excessive duty are quite distinct in principle, and the task that is before us is to make them so in practice. It is to abolish the monopoly-building part of the protective system.