The Equitist Plan

[20]The Equitist Plan

The Equitist Plan is a proposition for the practical application of the Spencerian Law of Equal Freedom; the substitution of reasoned co-operation for coercion in human association. In consequence, it necessarily depends, for its adoption, upon the voluntary co-operation of all persons concerned. In order that exchange shall be equitable, Equitists propose that the unit of exchange shall be one hour of human work; that the monetary unit of every country, regardless of its name, shall represent this exchange unit. To facilitate its use, we propose the organization of small Mutual Banks in every locality, the members to agree to honor each other's checks, and of the members of other similar banks, on the basis of the exchange of hour-for-hour of adult human work. We do not exchange disagreeability, or conditions, or arduousness—we exchange only our exertions. Duration is the ONLY thing all kinds of human work have in common, consequently it is the only thing by which all work can be equitably compared. And the unit of exchange must be applicable to all exchanges of human work. I shall be eager to see what kind of criticism libertarians will make of the Equitist Plan, for it seems to me that, of all persons, they should be the first to welcome it as providing the only practicable way of abolishing coercion in human society. —W. E. Brokaw, Route 4, Box 225-A, Phoenix, Arizona.

Criticism by Fulton

With the aim of the Equitist Plan, as set forth in the first sentence in the above statement, all libertarians will probably fully agree, but an emphatic dissenting opinion will likely be handed down by them in re the unit of exchange proposed, or the medium of exchange system. It would be a waste of time and space to discuss other features of the plan until it can be shown that time of work is a true measure of work, and that time is the only thing that all kinds of human work have in common. My criticism is limited to this phase of the plan until Mr. Brokaw has answered it and sustained his statement. Then another phase will be in order. I will state my adverse view: An hour may be taken as a unit of time—it has a definite meaning, and time may be measured by it. But alone it is not a unit of work, and cannot measure work; it requires other factors to do so—such as speed, power, etc. The work done in an hour is an indefinite and variable amount of labor, hence not a true unit for calculation or measurement. An hour unit would give the lie to the slogan Labor for labor. Only by results can work be accurately measured, and this calls for a result unit. An hour unit is not a result unit in itself, but it would be controlled by result requirements, or else be relegated to the limbo of German war-time marks. A 50% worker would have to discount his checks 50%, but this would be a result unit principle and destroy the hour-for-hour stipulation. That all wealth is produced by labor (not TIME of labor), and that to the laborer belongs the full product of his labor, is the statement of a self-evident fact and its most important logical deduction. But exchange on the basis of equal time of work, (except in those cases where the quantity, quality and result of work are known and agreed to be so nearly equal that the cost of an exact measurement would exceed its value) is a denial of the facts stated in preceding sentence—a denial of work for work. The truth of the statement that the laborer is equitably entitled to his full product, does not mean that one product is equal in value to the product of equal labor, but with free competition, workers withdrawing from the less remunerative industries to the more prolific fields, production will be so proportioned that the results of equal work will be approximately equal in value. But this freedom cannot be while thousands of laws of State (supported by wage-slaves almost to a man) stand in the way of it, and no time unit, paper unit, or other kind of unit would give us any better conditions than a gold or result unit. But even a time unit, while not a result unit per se, would nevertheless have its value determined by its result—the result of an hour of time of work of variable and indefinite quality and quantity, which would render it useless as a factor in business or commercial calculations. Time is not labor. The asseveration that duration is the only thing all kinds of human work have in common, is contrary to my view. Work, labor, etc., are names of energy—in this instance, human exertion in production of wealth is meant. All kinds of work have in common power and motion; and pounds of pressure, rate of motion, in a certain time are all necessary in ascertaining a unit of labor. Neither one alone is sufficient. One hour is definite, but labor is not, hence an hour unit as a unit of exchange would be an uncertain quantity—neither a labor unit, result unit, or an equitable unit of exchange. If friend Brokaw can sustain his contention that duration is the only thing all kinds of human work have in common, and prove that power and motion are not common to all kinds of labor, and show that power, motion and time are not all three necessary in the determination of a true unit of labor, we will go further in the study of the Equitist Plan. Otherwise, it would be useless to discuss other features of an exchange system based on units no two of which mean the same.

E. H. F.

Brokaw's Answer

To the Editor: You say, An hour may be taken as a unit of time, but alone it is not a unit of work, and cannot measure work; it requires other factors to do so—such as speed, power, etc. An hour may be taken as a unit of the duration of work, regardless of the kind of work. What would you take as the unit of speed of all kinds of work?(1) What would you take as the unit of power of all kinds of work?(2) You say that the work done in an hour is an indefinite and variable amount. What do you mean by work done?(3) If the work done is measured by the duration unit, how can it be indefinite or variable?(4) Isn't it evident that it can be indefinite and variable only when measured by results?(5) And isn't that proof that you are merely begging the question? That is, you are taking for granted the very thing to be proved—that a work unit is an inequitable unit.(6) You make it stronger when you say: Only by results can work be accurately measured, and this calls for a result unit. Let us see. Results are the products of human work embodied in natural resources. They are, as it were, an amalgam. Here is an amalgam we call hard metal type. Can you measure the tin in 100 lbs. of type by taking one pound of type as the unit of measure? Must you not separate the tin from the amalgam and measure it by a unit of tin in order to determine just how much tin there is in the 100 lbs of type? Just so, we must separate the human work from the product in which it is embodied and then measure it by a pure unit of work in order to determine how much human work is in a given human product?(7) You say An hour unit is not a result unit in itself.(8) I should say not. But when you add that it would be [21] controlled by result requirements, you are mistaken. A unit controlled by result requirements is not, nor can it be, a work unit. What do you mean by a 50% worker?(9) When you say all wealth is produced by labor, not time of labor, do you mean there is such a thing as labor without duration?(10) Practically everywhere wages are now by the hour, and printers and others estimate costs by the hour.(11) Why are some products not considered equal in value to the product of equal labor?(12) Simply because the market value, or price, is not now determined by the amount of work. Market value is now a command power which includes appropriative power with purchasing power. It assigns to exchange natural resources and privileges as well as human work. Here is a fact for you to consider. Whenever the price includes anything other than the actual work of production, it coerces the buyer into giving work for which no work is given in return. This the result unit does, but the work unit does not.(13) When you say that I must show that power, motion and time are not all three necessary to the determination of a unit of labor, the inference is that you can propose a single unit of power, motion and time by which to so measure human work in exchange.(14) How else can that be done but by results? It can't. But you hereby include nature's part of the product. What I want to know is, how are going to avoid including nature's part?(15) If the quality and quantity of results were plainly equal, we would not need a work unit. It is because they never are, that we need a duration-of-work unit.(16) Owning for an income is possible solely by reason of the result unit. It would be absolutely impossible under the operation of the work unit.(17)

W. E. Brokaw.

Fulton's Rejoinder

Instead of showing that power and motion are not common to all kinds of work, as he virtually claimed in his statement that time is the only thing common to all kinds of work, friend Brokaw asks about 17 questions, which I will answer before stating why I think the Equity unit would not be equitable, or effect equitable distribution of the gifts of nature, and why the plan would not be satisfactory, or even practical.

1 and 2. Units of power and speed are not necessary in determining a unit of work. But one other result unit would be—that is the result of world's turning one twenty-fourth around—called one hour.

3. By work done I mean energy put forth, and its quantity depends on the amount of power and speed of the worker. It is measured by his product.

4. Because men put forth different amount of power, of energy, or both, in a given time.

5. Yes; where there are no results there has been no work. Only by results can work be measured. Time will not do it unless the quality and quantity of work are constant and known.

6. I have never taken for granted, nor claimed, that a WORK unit would be an indefinite, variable, or inequitable monetary or exchange unit. It is your TIME unit that I hold in that light. You use work unit when you mean TIME of work unit, with no qualification of work, and as work differs in intensity, time of work units would differ. This difference would render the hour dollar uncertain and unsatisfactory as a medium of exchange, besides, it involves the substitution of expropriation for appropriation, which is shown in your treatment of what you call the bounties of nature, or nature's part, and nature's gift, discussed subsequently. You do not even provide for a check-up on a man's time of work—a matter men may make mistakes about in their claims. Some might lie about it, and take a chance to get pay for what they KNOW as well as for what they DO. A plumber might think, Oh, I could fix this leak in 10 minutes by the job plan of payment, but on the Equity Plan I'll fuss and stall around for two hours on it—in fact I have my bill made out for two hours ($2) already. You have admitted in your paper that a man making shoes, being beaten in time by a competitor, would be passed up and have to engage in some other line of work. Thus your time unit would be controlled BY RESULT requirements.

7. The percentage of tin is generally determined in a 10 gram sample—the tin weighed as stannic oxide. Analysts use metric weights in weighing all substances—and they are made brass and platinum—no lead or tin. Having the per cent of tin, the amount in any weight of alloy is easily calculated. But you can't do this with any product to determine the labor expended in its production, nor the time consumed. Laboro r work is not a substance like tin; it is only figurative incorporated or embodied in a product—there is no material element of labor to be extracted. The only way you can estimate the labor is through judgment born of experience; it is next to impossible to determine the time consumed. If the time is left to the worker's claims, it is well to remember that the worker may err; or lie, just as metal mixers do.

8. This refers to the hour as a monetary unit—that is one thing that would make it useless. It is a unit or period of time—a result, or interval between two events. It does not measure the volume of work that a man does.

9. One who shovels up only half as much dirt, or sets only half as much type as the average worker in a given time. THere is a marked difference in the work that some can or will do in one hour, and a difference in their veracity in regard to time of work on a product.

10. There is no work without duration, but there are different amounts of work in a given time. That is why a unit of time is not a unit of work. Your many sound views are never successfully attacked, but this one false note—the time unit—makes its defense the chief burden of your paper. Every critic hops onto it, of course.

11. Wages are by the hour, but results are checked and you have to make the dead line.

12. Products are not always equal in value to other products of equal labor for various natural reasons—utiltiy, food value and scarcity, and people put in a premium bid or pay a higher price for these, to urge men to make keener search for them, or to change from the production of the less desirable to the production of the more desirable things, which would make for equalization of values, according to labor, in free society, with a result unit of exchange. There are artificial causes that create the havoc or injustice you blame the result unit for. They are the State-maintained monopolies—money, land, tariffs, patents, etc.

13. Your view is erroneous, or at least an inversion of what seems logical to me, as to many others, and will always meet, as it has long been met, with positive rejection. Only a definite, palpable, obvious, constant, result of work would answer as a work unit. There [22] is a unit of work now in use determined by certain factors and conditions—the horsepower, but neither it nor any unit or standard of the kind can be used to measure all kinds of work or products, or serve as a monetary unit. A definite weight of some valuable and imperishable product must be taken as the standard of value of the dollar. The work or time of work necessary in its production may be unknown, but the work, or other products, men will exchange for it is learned by everyday observation and experience.

14. A work unit can be found in most any special line of work, but none would do as a general monetary or exchange unit. That is why the value of a weight of gold is taken as the dollar, or exchange unit.

15. Nature has no part in a product except that, as matter, it is a part of nature. Things become products only when taken by labor. Whoever takes, or gathers, produces, and the product is his, irrespective of its value in exchange. I do not attempt to avoid what you call nature's part. I call it the producer's rightful wealth. By common assent, the world over, a man is entitled to whatever excess of product his superior personal ability, or favorability of natural circumstance, may mean to him over the product of another, and is justified in asking more product in exchange for his product than another who produces less wealth in the same time. This excess you call the result of appropriative power, which you stigmatize as coercive on the part of the seller. But you let they buyer have the benefit! You merely deny rightful AP-propriative power to the seller and grant wrongful EX-propriative power to the buyer!

16. Exactly the reverse is true. If quality and quantity of results in every hour of work were equal a time unit might do, but it is precisely because they are not equal that a definite weight of some element as the standard of value is necessary.

17. The result or material unit did not cause the profession called Owning for an income. That privilege is the offspring of robbery and murder by bands of cut-throats, whose organizations, glossed over and sanctified, grew to present day governments. This owning for an income, existed in lands where money, coin or currency was never used. It existed in feudal times in many parts of Europe when there was no money as we know it in circulation. The lower classes—working classes, of course—were slaves and had no money. Gold and silver, in most cases secured by assault and robbery by nobles, was exchanged among the privileged classes as commodity—barter. The kings, barons, lords, squires, and others of the nobility got their incomes by owning land, property and men—a privilege of State—the State that now maintains practically the same wrongs for the benefit of its moneyed aristocracy. The negro slaves of this country, when slavery was a government-protected wrong, as the money monopoly now is, were not robbed by the result unit of money. That the result unit causes the wrongs of the world, or the robbery of labor, or economic injustice, is not supported by reason or history.

Would the time unit be equitable? A farmers breaks even on an average crop. Buyers buy the largest offering. When a farmer's crop fails, or falls low because of flood, or other cause, he cannot sell on the hour basis, as others offer more. When he has a bumper crop, he gets no benefit of nature's gift, and can't recoup for past loss, as now. He would hold the sack.

If a man could ordinarily pan up half ounce of gold in 10 hours, gold would become know as a $10 or ten hour metal per half ounce bar. But if some day he found a pocket of rich sand and got one ounce in 10 hours he could charge only $10 for it, same as for his half ounce yesterday, not $20 or double, as the extra half ounce would be nature's part. Next day he found none, and lost 10 hours. Your scheme yesterday denied him nature's part,—half of the ounce—but today does not pay him for nature's deficiency—one-half ounce. This example will apply, with terms changed, to a farmer or most any pursuit. Your plan denies advantages, but doesn't compensate for disadvantages. Your plan would treat the greater product of energy, care and wise management in excess of that of dullness, carelessness, and unwise management same as nature's part.

If the gatherer of a bumper crop gets no more than for a half crop; if he is not entitled to nature's part, his buyer reaps the benefit. How is it that a buyer has a right to an advantage DENIED TO THE SELLER?

The Equit Plan makes no distinction between greater product due natural difference in fertility of soils and difference due to unequal personal ability, vim, snap or pep. It puts all greater results in the light of something that the producer should not enjoy the benefit of when he exchanges on a flat time bases, yet the recipient of it in the exchange may rightfully enjoy it. This would not eliminate an alleged wrong, but merely shift it from one to another. The workings of this plan can be shown by an example: In one hour A makes 2 pairs of gloves; B makes 2 pairs of socks; C produces 3 lbs shelled corn (energetic work, rich soil); D produces 1 lb shelled corn (late planting, poor soil). They meet to exchange. C takes 2 lbs., the gift of nature, and gives ½ lb. to each. After the exchange, A has 1½ lbs. corn; B has the same; C and D each have gloves, socks, and a half pound of corn. This would be equity, in that the four divide nature's gift equally, and exchange work. But suppose they meet and deal otherwise. A and C trade, then B and D trade, then C and D swap one pair socks and gloves. A would have all of nature's gift, while neither C, who had it first, nor B or D would get a smell of it! Would this be equity? Several different divisions can be made of this on the hour for hour basis, proving that the Equity Unit would not work equity, for equity requires an equal division of the fruits of equal labor. Different divisions cannot all be equal.

I hold that in the absence of monopoly, with thoroughgoing individualism (which covers mutual or voluntary associations), and with a monetary or exchange unit the value of which is standardized to a definite material product; would lead to equality of value of the products of equal labor—not absolutely, but with a viaration that may be necessary to progress, or to activity.

The aim of the advocates of the Equitist Plan is well intentioned, but the hour unit as a work unit or dollar would not be satisfactory. It has a plausible sound, but seems to me to be a great delusion—of no merit whatever.

E. H. F.