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

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of economic freedom, then there is a sudden demand for more workers. But more workers are not instantly there for the taking; they first need to be produced in greater numbers, and this requires several years; and during this time a higher wage reigns, and this [wage] is accustomed to increased living demands, consequently increasing the mass of payment funds that the capitalists need to grant in order to see their demand for workers in their previous condition fulfilled. But in order to hold onto specific living demands, the working class already needs to be accustomed to a more or less secure livelihood, to cleanliness, and a modest propriety of its domesticity, as well as to certain spiritual [intellectual] and social satisfactions; it needs to have moral stability in the form of self-esteem; and this it can achieve only in [a climate of] economic and political freedom. The golden law of social progress lies in a situation where the improvement of the material condition of the working class is fundamentally secured by its spiritual [intellectual] and ethical improvement. — The misery of the lowest popular stratum should not, incidentally, be confused with the distress of the working classes. Those workers who truly have a place in the economic system, whose energies are sufficiently supported by capital, by no means live in misery; the capitalist can only use them when he nourishes them in such a way that they have a surplus of energy, for only this proves beneficial to him. The truly suffering are those whose labor power is almost completely unsupported by capital and who therefore produce little, those who have remained stuck in a pre-economic stage, and for whom there is not yet enough available capital to place them in the actual operation of a business. Yet for the complete employment of all, sufficient capital can be easily and even quickly created with complete freedom of economic movement,* — if only the state does not devour too much of what has been created.

Source: John Price-Smith, "Der Markt, eine Skizze," in John Prince-Smith’s gesammelte Schriften, eds. Otto Michaelis and Karl Braun-Wiesbaden. Berlin: Verlag von F.A. Herbig, 1877-80, vol. 1, pp. 19-22.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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