Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/257
SILK DRESSES AND EIGHT HOURS' WORK.
By J. B. MANN.
THE remark occurs in a recent editorial article in a prominent religious newspaper commending the eight-hour movement that if all the women who want silk dresses could have work, all the silk factories in the country could be set in motion and would furnish employment to the many thousands of people then idle; or words of that import. The proposition at first sight seems philosophical, but is it not reasoning in a circle? Having work, people will buy silks. If they buy silks, the factories will run. If the factories run, the people will have work. The old lady said: "This snow will never melt until the weather is warmer, and the weather can never be warmer until the snow has melted." Making the statement does not solve the problem.
When we look at the matter with care we find, sorrowfully, that the women who have no silks are the very ones who do the hardest work; and hence, as they are working clear up to the limit of human endurance to get bread, they have no time left over to put into silk dresses. This fact upsets the theory. Horace Greeley had a theory that poverty in cities could be cured by getting the poor to go West and engage in farming; entirely overlooking the fact that the next sixpence the poor man could get, and the next, and so on, must go for bread, thus putting a trip to the West out of the question.
But the imagining of philosophers in regard to the remedies is of small account, because want of work is not in this country one of the leading causes of poverty, as every careful observer knows. There are at least a dozen things which are more potent causes of the evil, and too much work, by which constitutions are broken and health ruined, is one of them. Is the remedy, therefore, not to be found in the eight-hour movement? I answer, No. The eight-hour movement does not approach the root of the evil. It is assumed by the promoters of the movement that society has a given amount of wants which require a given amount of labor to supply, and hence it is inferred that if all the workers cut down their hours from twelve to eight, the men now out of employment will come up and do the work the others have relinquished. In that way it is claimed that there will be work for all. Another theory is that men will accomplish as much in the long run in eight hours as they now do in twelve. It is evident on the face of it that both theories are not true, because if as much should be done by the present workers after the change as before, no more would be left for the others to do than they have now. And in that case the present workers would come much nearer to ex-