Rate of wages really depends on what the workman thinks
will buy him the necessities of life.
There are men in England
whose highest idea of life is to work sixteen hours a day, go naked, eat meat once a year, herd — both sexes and all ages-with cattle under one roof, and need only two hundred words to express all their ideas.
Such men will work for enough to supply these natural wants.
When wages fall below that, they steal, starve, or wake to an intellectual effort to better themselves; their idea of necessaries
does much to fix the rate of wages.
A Yankee farmer's boy must
have good clothes, schooling, ample food, and something over,--these are his necessities
. When wages will not buy them he ceases to belong to the ranks of “supply,” and carves out a new career.
There are good food and high wages in the kitchens of New York; more than many trades afford.
A great “demand” there for American girls; no “supply” nevertheless.
We know it is only a sentiment that prevents; but that sentiment is as rigid as iron and inexorable as fate.
“ Supply and demand,” therefore, are to be understood, with a qualification.
The “ideas” of the “supply” are a most important element in the calculation.
What are the ideas
of the “supply” ? These regulate his wages.
The Chinaman works cheap because he is a barbarian, and seeks gratification of only the lowest, the most inevitable wants.
The American demands more because the ages,--because Homer
, Luther and Shakspeare
, the printing-press
and the telegraph, the ballot-box and the Bible
,--have made him ten times as much a man. Bring the Chinese to us slowly, naturally, and we shall soon lift him to the level of the same artificial and civilized wants that we feel.
Then capitalist and laborer will both be equally helped.
Fill our industrial channels