Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/664

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versal liability of individuals or partners, and only risk the portion of their wealth which they invest in the corporation. This feature of limited liability, probably more than any other, accounts for the growth and number of corporations. Private individuals or copartnerships do not enjoy this privilege or immunity, but remain liable to loss to the full extent of their possessions. It is clear, therefore, that the moral right of the State or society as a whole to regulate wage-contracts with a corporation is greater than with individuals or firms, provided the necessity exists and the wage-earners desire it. It is not intended to confine the discussion to the case of corporate employers, but merely to point out some differences between the two classes of employers.

Mr. Spencer's opinion that the State has no moral right to interfere with the freedom of contract between employer and employed, or to regulate wages in any way, is based upon the analogy supposed to exist between human labor and commodities. Because, in his opinion, the State has no right to regulate the price of bread, or the rate of interest, or the price of other commodities, therefore it has not the moral right to regulate the price of human labor, with the exception of labor for life, or slavery. Is this analogy correct? Is human labor a commodity? No; human labor is the creator of commodities, and commodities are things created by human labor. The creator is always superior to the thing created. The shoemaker is superior to the shoe; the watchmaker to the watch; and God to man. The slaveholder also believed that human labor when clothed in black was a commodity, and that negroes could be bought and sold as chattels; and it took four years of civil war to establish the contrary. Labor is much more than a commodity; it is the bone and sinew of the State, the very essence of its existence. It is the sole means of support of millions of human beings men, women, and children. Those who have only their labor to sell are more entitled to the protection of the State than those who have commodities to sell.

Mr. Spencer's admission that the State has the right to forbid the sale of one's self into slavery, or the sale of one's services for life, as well as to hinder freedom of contract when it endangers national existence, also proves his analogy to be unsound. For, if the State may regulate or forbid the sale of one's services for life, it may also regulate the sale of one's services for ten years, or five years, or one year, or a shorter term; and, if the State may hinder the freedom of contract when national existence is thereby endangered, why may it not hinder the freedom of contract when the existence of a large body of its citizens is thereby endangered? Their existence is endangered when they can not, by