Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/721

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701
EDITOR'S TABLE.

into their service. But they do nothing of the kind: as a rule they only yield when they have to, and yet there is generally more labor offering than can be satisfactorily employed. Now, this we consider to be the fundamental social problem of our time; and yet we do not find that it receives anything like the attention it deserves and requires. The labor organizations which play so prominent a part in the modern world seem to assume that labor will always be in excess, and devote their chief efforts to neutralizing by artificial means this natural disadvantage. Their attitude toward capital is thus normally a hostile one, even when actual hostilities are not in progress; and this fact alone may account for not a little of the friction which actually occurs in the practical relations between capital and labor. To be always confronted with a hostile force is not soothing to the temper, and suggests at least defensive, when it does not suggest offensive, measures. It would be better, as it seems to us, if the labor organizations would cultivate less of the militant and more of the administrative spirit, and would use the wide knowledge they must necessarily acquire of the conditions of the industrial world to prevent the overcrowding of particular trades, and, in a general way, to favor such a distribution of the working population as will tend most to their welfare. As long as the capitalist has only to blow his whistle, so to speak, in order to get all the "hands" he requires, the condition of the "hands" will be one of more or less dependence on him; and therefore the true policy of labor leaders is to try to so dispose of the laboring population that they will not be at the beck and call of capital, but will have a much larger measure than at present of social stability and personal independence.

Just how this very desirable result is to be brought about we are not prepared to say; but what strikes us is that if more effort and thought had been devoted by the working classes, organized as they are in unions which permit of their best men coming to the front, to problems of a constructive character, and less to the planning of campaigns and the devising of means by which the least return in labor should be given for the largest obtainable wage, they would have been the better of it to-day. One thing which they should long ago have seen is the desirableness of their complete separation from mere party politics, which, so far as they are concerned, is a simple delusion and a snare. What the workman wants is the simplest and cheapest form of government, and, above all, one under which no exceptional favors will be accorded to individuals or classes. If he is not wise enough to see this, but falls a victim to the special pleading used on behalf of preposterous tariff laws, he can not lay the blame on others; what he wants is understanding, and, until he gets it, he will suffer. A generally higher ideal of life would stand the workman in good stead—an ideal opposed to show and extravagance and favorable to earnest endeavor for intellectual and moral improvement. We are no advocates for "starvation wages"—far from it—but we can not overlook the fact that what one individual considers starvation wages will sometimes suffice for the comfort and self-respect of another, the difference between the two cases being one of personal habit.

As to the capitalist class, there is this to be said, that the man of large means, the large employer of labor who does not interest himself in his men and make the conditions of their labor as profitable and satisfactory to them as possible consistently with a due regard to the stability of his business, is shamefully neglecting the duties which lie to his hand. We have but a limited belief in what is commonly known as philanthropy, but we believe in justice and good will between man and man, and it should not be hard for the capitalist to