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John Prince-Smith: Excerpts from his Collected Writings (1843-63)

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As self-evident as this should be, some individuals believed that the goal could be reached by way of a shorter path. Without having enlarged the total product, they want to have an enlarged share of this product go to the workers, and consequently to cut the capitalists’ share.** But if one cuts the profit of the capitalist, then one lessens his interest in accumulating and maintaining capital, as well as his capacity for enlarging his capital, and consequently his demand for labor. A higher profit on capital, by contrast, leads most quickly to a wage increase; for it provides the strongest incentive to increase capital. The worst condition for workers is when profit on capital and increased capital are substantially reduced by state expenditures for unproductive purposes; — capitalists would be able to give the people working for them much more to consume if they did not, at the same time, need to maintain so many peacetime soldiers, who do not repay their provisions through work. If all European states were to introduce the Swiss militia system, capital would increase in a short time, and wages would rise, so that the distress of the working class would no longer be the [subject of] discussion. Herein lies the solution to the labor question. "But," one argues, "all the capital increases won't help, because the number of job seekers necessarily keeps pace, indeed, according to an iron law confirmed by all economists, whereby the working wage is constantly depressed to a level that suffices only for the meagerest of livelihoods." This objection is completely unfounded. The science of economics refers rather to a law that secures a progressive improvement in the situation of the workers. A population increases more rapidly or more slowly, namely, according to whether it feels more or less comfortable, i.e., according to whether its payment funds more or less satisfy its customary living demands. With a given mass of payment funds, one nation can feel quite comfortable and proliferative, while another, better-situated nation would complain about oppressive misery and collapse. What matters here is habituation, the cultural level attained, in other words, the cultural history of that nation. In general, population increase has everywhere the same relationship to capital increase that secures the customary mass of payment; — if payment achieved becomes smaller than this mass, previous population growth slows down. If, by contrast, as often happens, an increase in capital enjoys a major upswing, e.g., as the result of new inventions and discoveries or the expansion

* It cannot go unmentioned, that in many countries, e.g., in Germany, much of the land is owned by farmers, who completely lack the knowledge to apply capital to agriculture. Thus, foodstuffs can not be offered for the same low price as manufactured wares. The wage is limited by the price of manufactured wares, whereas the worker's nourishment depends upon the relationship between his wage and the price of foodstuffs – original footnote.

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