The Question of Wages
A Man's Just Wage Is His Product
What is a
just wage, a
fair wage or a
living wage? Those who plead for the thing, do not define it.
Adam Smith proved by sound reasoning and all economists since his time have agreed, that all wealth is created by labor.
It follows, therefore, that the laborer is the rightful owner of all the product of his labor
That would be the case if a lone man should live in a territory having natural resources that he could work upon. His wealth would be the full product of his labor, and as he plays the parts of both employer and employee this full product constitutes his wage. The part not consumed or used would be accumulated wealth or wages, held as a reserve against a possible time of adversity. Any of the accumulated product used by him to increase the product of his labor is called capital; that is, head, power or advantage over his natural, bare-hand method of production. His increased product, due to his capital, is the same as wage increase. Being all the product, when it is considered as wage, it is fair and just, and necessarily a
living wage also.
If one or several other men should appear in the same common territory, and settle on different locations, the same condition would apply to each of them.
If two or more of these settlers combine their efforts in any undertaking, and furnish an equal amount of their accumulated products as capital, their wages, or shares of their joint product, would be equal.
Another man, taken in the company later, who had no accumulated wealth to invest as his share of the capital stock, would in equity have to pay the other members from his future dividends an amount sufficient to equalize investment, but no interest or excess.
Should the owner, firm or company not be willing to take in a newcomer on the above terms, but would make him a guarantee, pledge or promise of a certain amount of the product, whether above or below his true earnings, in exchange for his work, the wage would be fair, a free contract, in the absence of compulsion, where the newcomer could refuse and go it alone on an unoccupied, unused tract, just as his would-be employers had done, where he could eventually accumulate enough to establish a larger, specialized industrial concern of his own.
In free society there would be no wage question as there is in unfree society. An industrialist, in equity, should receive, over his wage share, an amount equal to the value of that part of his investment used by others who share equally with him the net product, until paid for, but with no interest or excess.
But practically this would not be so, for the one reason, if for no other, that it would be impossible to collect the data necessary for accurate calculation. Besides, the individual is more concerned in his own welfare than in ethical questions—he naturally expects the other men to look out for themselves.
In no form of society or economic plan will the hand-to-mouth worker receive the same material benefit as the owner of an industry. That would stop progress or improvement,  as no one would care to risk in any industrial enterprise if he could get just as much as a wage-worker. But this difference between the wage of worker and income of employer in free and fair conditions would be almost negligible compared with the vast difference today, where State monopolies give capital an advantage. In liberty this difference would not come off the product of the worker, as now.
The inventive and far-seeing man who conserves, accumulates, establishes, initiates, and plans the modus operandi of an industrial plant, will fare better than those who neglect to use an equal advantage, but depend on him for employment. The owner will take the larger share—all he can.
With equality of liberty, which means free competition and approximately equal opportunity, there would be a check on the powers of the
captains of industry that would hold them down to reason and fair play.
They would have to contract with free and independent men, and could not dictate as they do today, with workers under duress.
There would be no wage question such as we have today, and no oppression of labor in free or non-coercive, non-monopolistic society.
The natural degree of equality of men in free conditions, makes for fair and just contract, and in free society
allowance, would be changed to
This refers to the world and the relations of men as they should be—not as they are.
There is a wage question today, and great oppression of labor, and it is opportune to inquire into the cause.
The cause lies in monopoly—artificial disadvantages to workers and advantages to owners that set aside free contract, place the worker as an unarmed man before an armed foe—where the pangs of hunger serve as the lash of a Simon Legree.
Wages are now subject to the dictatorship of master; the worker must accept or starve.
The first monopoly that weakens the power of labor in contracting is that of landlordism, or absolute, non-resident, non-use ownership of land, and the power of the non-using owner to exact tribute, called rent, from the non-owning user. This privilege makes land ownership desirable, not for use, but as a power of mastery over those who must use land.
Eventually, all the land becomes owned by moneyed men—lords of our modern land feudalism. The masses then become dependents and are compelled to pay rent, or go to industrial centers and become wage-workers, where their great numbers throw them into severe competition, and reduce wages to the life limit. A man can't
go it alone on free land as he could in the free world first spoken of.
Employers are to a great extent immune from competition because of State-maintained monopolies in their favor.
Competition, they say,
is good sauce for the goose—labor—but not for the gander—capital. This means unjust wages to workers.
ANother monopoly limiting wages is the money or banking monopoly, which limits credit, restricts exchange, makes interest on IDLE capital possible, adds the interest on the money value of capital (machines, etc.), to the fair price of product, and takes from labor's wages untold millions—a monopoly that free or mutual banking would abolish.
Next is the institution of compulsory taxation, particularly for the maintenance of huge military establishments for the purpose of aggression, conquest, domination and exploitation by predatory, privileged capitalists, and to furnish the sinews for all sorts of intervention in non-criminal, non-invasive affairs. All this tax comes off the worker's just earnings, lowers his wage, and keeps him down.
These and other wrongs, such as tariffs and patents, are maintained by government, and until they are eliminated, labor will not get a just wage, but must remain as one in bondage, with wages driven down to the life-line; that is, in an indirect form of slavery.
Free or Mutual Banking, the ending of landlordism and the elimination of at least the more injurious of the lesser monopolies would sever the stronger of these bonds, and put the worker on the way to a just wage—HIS ENTIRE PRODUCT!