Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/157

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153
THE EFFICIENCY OF LABOR

THE PROBLEM OF THE EFFICIENCY OF LABOR
By HOWARD T. LEWIS, M.A.
HIRAM COLLEGE, HIRAM, OHIO

IT may truthfully be said that industrial evolution is little else than the progressive development of economic efficiency, and the various stages in the story of the evolution of industrial society have been largely based upon man's control over nature as indicated by his industrial efficiency. The transition from one stage to the next has ofttimes been imperceptible; at others it has been very marked. The modern period, with its great aggregations of capital and its machine-made products, is so far superior to the handicraft stage that comparisons are made merely for the sake of measuring that development. Yet even before we are thoroughly accustomed to the change, significant facts are presenting themselves which would seem to indicate that we are on the verge of still another era of industrial expansion. And though it is always rash to prophesy, yet it may be safe to say that the effect of this transformation upon society in general and especially upon the relation of employer to employee, will be far greater than we may at first think. This much at least seems certain, that tremendous strides are about to be taken from a purely productive point of view which will at the same time materially affect the condition of the working classes.

If we eliminate from consideration the element land, and we may safely do so in the present discussion, the production of wealth is the result of two factors, labor and capital, both of which are more or less variable in character. The development of modern power-driven machinery has in recent times been remarkable, and no one would for a moment maintain that the end is in sight. Greater care in the construction and location of mechanical devices already invented will immensely increase their efficiency. Yet it is very questionable if in the future any such radical changes will occur as were witnessed between 1750 and 1850. Perhaps, indeed, it was because of that progress that attention has been in the past chiefly centered upon man's control over nature through the means of mechanical devices. Be that as it may, this much can scarcely be contravened, that those engaged in the active work of production (as well indeed as many theorists) seemed until very recently to have forgotten that capital in the form of machines is only one of the factors upon which the production of wealth depends.