Page:Economic Sophisms.djvu/47

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35
TO EQUALIZE THE CONDITIONS OF PRODUCTION.

would probably not have made out to furnish me with one, and I should have had to pay him the same wages for his day's work. The utility produced by the saw is then, as far as I am concerned, a gratuitous gift of nature, or rather it is a part of that inheritance which, in common with all my brethren, I have received from my ancestors. I have two workmen in my field. The one handles the plough, the other the spade. The result of their labour is very different, but the day's wages are the same, because the remuneration is not proportioned to the utility produced, but to the effort, the labour, which is exacted.

I entreat the reader's patience, and beg him to believe that I have not lost sight of free trade. Let him only have the goodness to remember the conclusion at which I have arrived: Remuneration is not in proportion to the utilities which the producer brings to market, but to his labour.[1]

I have drawn my illustrations as yet from human inventions. Let us now turn our attention to natural advantages.

In every branch of production, nature and man concur. But the portion of utility which nature contributes is always gratuitous. It is only the portion of utility which human labour contributes which forms the subject of exchange and, consequently, of remuneration. The latter varies, no doubt, very much in proportion to the intensity of the labour, its skill, its promptitude, its suitableness, the need there is of it, the temporary absence of rivalry, etc. But it is not the less true, in principle, that the concurrence of natural laws, which are common to all, counts for nothing in the price of the product.

We do not pay for the air we breathe, although it is so useful to us, that, without it, we could not live two minutes. We do not pay for it, nevertheless; because nature furnishes it to us without the aid of human labour. But if, for example, we should desire to separate one of the gases of which it is composed, to make an experiment, we must make an exertion; or if we wish another to make that exertion for us, we must sacrifice for that other an equivalent amount of exertion, although we

  1. It is true that labour does not receive a uniform remuneration. It may be more or less intense, dangerous, skilled, etc. Competition settles the usual or current price in each department—and this is the fluctuating price of which I speak.