Advancing, Stagnating, Reversing Movement Icon

January 18, 2020

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

It is not in the richest countries, but in those which are growing rich the fastest, that wages are highest.

England is currently richer than any part of North America, but the wages in North America are much higher than in any part of England. In New York before the start of the American Revolution, common labourers earn the value of 24 English pence a day. [In London, the common wage is 18 pence.] Journeymen tailors earn 34 pence. House carpenters and bricklayers earn 54 pence. Ship carpenters earn 78 pence. These prices are all above the London price but the same in our other American colonies. The price of goods are much lower in North America than in England. A dearth has never been known there. They were always self sufficient even in the worst seasons, though they exported less at those times. If the money price of labour in our colonies were higher than Great Britain, its real price must be higher in an even greater proportion.

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

The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is its population increase. In most European countries, they are not supposed to double in less than 500 years. In the British colonies in North America, they double in 20-25 years owing to the great multiplication of people there. Those who live to old age there frequently see 50 to 100 or more descendants. Labour is there so well rewarded that children is a source of prosperity, instead of burden, to the parents. The labour of each child is computed to be worth 100 pounds clear gain to them. A young widow with four or five young children in Europe would have a little chance for a second husband. But such a widow in America is frequently courted as a sort of fortune The value of children is the greatest encouragement to marriage, and so North Americans generally marry very young. The scarcity of workers in North America adds to the demand for workers, causing an increase in the funds for maintaining them.

Wages in Stationary Countries, like China

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

The revenue of the people is the fund for paying wages. Even if the people’s revenue is very great, if they continued to be the same for several centuries, the supply of workers could easily match and even surpass the demand for workers the following year. There could seldom be any labour shortage. There would be no competition among employers for labour. The workers would increase in number and eventually find a shortage of employment. They would compete with each other to get employed and would lower wages to the lowest possible rate.

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

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

  • its towns are not deserted, and
  • its lands which had once been cultivated are not neglected.

The same labour must therefore continue to be performed. The funds for maintaining it must not be reduced. The lowest class of labourers, must some way make shift to keep up their usual numbers.

Wages in Declining Countries, like India

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

  • the demand for workers every year would be less than the year before, and
  • the skilled workers would not be able to find jobs.

They would=

  • start seeking employment in lesser skilled work.
  • compete with the lesser skilled workers and oversupply it.

The oversupply would reduce wages to the lowest rates, making job-seeking very difficult. Many would resort to begging or crime. Want, famine, and mortality would immediately prevail in the lower class. From there it would extend to all upper classes. Society would soon be reduced to a smaller revenue and stock which had escaped the calamity that destroyed the rest.

This perhaps is the present state of Bengal and some English settlements in the East Indies.

In a depopulated fertile country where 300,000-400,000 people die of hunger each year, the funds for maintaining the labouring poor are fast decaying. The difference of our colonies in North American from those in the East Indies best illustrates the genius of the British constitution which governs North America and the mercantile company which oppresses the East Indies.

A society advancing to wealth has high wages as its natural symptom. A stagnating society is marked by low wages for its labouring poor. A declining society is marked by its starving poor.