Josiah Warren, “Response to the Call of the National Labor Union” (1871)

 

RESPONSE

TO THE CALL OF THE

NATIONAL LABOR UNION

FOR

ESSAYS

ON THE

FOLLOWING SUBJECTS:

1.—THE SPECIE BASIS FALLACY.—What Money is best for the People?

2.—STRIKES.

3.—CO-OPERATION.—Its Mission and Benefits.

4.—COOLIE IMPORTATION.—Steam-ship Subsidies and Foreign Commerce.

5.—LABOR UNIONS.—Their Objects and Necessities.

6.—PROTECTION TO AMERICAN LABOR.

7.—THE INJUSTICE OF THE NATIONAL BANK SYSTEM.

8.—WOMAN.—Her Rights as Laborer.

9.—THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.—How it has been, and how it shall be, disposed of.

10.—THE INJUSTICE OF EXEMPTING GOVERNMENT BONDS FROM TAXATION.

11.—THE NECESSITY OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION.

12.—A GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.

BY THE AUTHOR OF

“TRUE CIVILIZATION”

[Intelligent Criticisms are invited]

BOSTON:

1871


“I. THE SPECIE BASIS FALLACY.”

WHAT MONEY OUGHT TO BE.

A Specie dollar does not embody nor represent any known or knowable quantity of labor. We cannot tell how much food, clothing, or any thing else we can get for it twenty-four hours after we have taken it:—This is the specie basis fallacy.

We want a money that positively promises a known and clearly expressed quantity of labor of a specified kind, and which will procure for us, from day to day and from year to year, as much labor as we gave for it. The labor to be measured by the Costs of time and other sacrifices necessarily incurred in the performance of it.

Any thing short of this is injustice towards labor: and without justice to labor successful life is impossible. We want abundance for all—equilibrium—safety—repose—which are impossible of attainment by any means generally known.—We are now, evidently, upon a pivot upon which civilization must turn towards improvement, or plunge back into barbarism.— We must learn and practice new things, or all is lost.

We necessarily shun what is disagreeable, and are attracted towards what is agreeable: and it must be evident that some pursuits are more disagreeable than others, and, to attain the Equilibrium required, the compensation in each pursuit should be so adjusted that there would be no preference for one or the other at the price affixed to it.

This makes it necessary to devise a mode of measuring the degrees of pleasures and pains involved in different pursuits, and setting prices accordingly. [1] When this is done, it leads us to startling discoveries: For instance, a man working all day in a coal mine, ankle deep in water, and in constant fear of being blown up, if Equity ruled, would receive a higher compensation per day, for his labor, than the owner of the mine, who sits in his comfortable counting room the same length of time, and runs no risks of a violent death.

Or, the poor seamstress, who trembles and cries with anxiety while making a costly dress for the merchant’s very fastidious wife, and lays awake all night from the heavy responsibility that rests upon her, incurs more trouble perhaps than the importing or retailing merchant does in a whole week; and consequently her compensation should perhaps be six times as much as his for the same length of time! If the merchant demurs at this, we advise the seamstresses to abandon dress making, go into merchandising, and by competition crowd the merchants down in price, and bring dress making up to equilibrium.

That kind of service which is wholly a pleasure (except contingent Costs), is its own compensation.

The expenditure of time, the responsibilities, or anxieties endured—the disagreeable circumstances attending the work—whatever sacrifices we make in the performance of any service, are, for the sake of convenience, all grouped under the word “Costs.” Thus we say the coal digger’s work is more costly than that of the owner of the mine; and the work of the seamstress is more costly than that of the merchant; and Costs should be the measure and limit of prices, in order to reach a true Civilization. This is exactly the opposite of what is now and always has been. The hardest, most disagreeable, the most abused and insulted labor, is paid the lowest, and the more agreeable has the higher pay; and that which is of no service to any body, but a crime, gets the highest pay! [2]

With this very meagre statement of the Cost principle, I must leave it to be studied and estimated by each understanding, according to inclination and capacity—While some minds will see nothing important in it, others will see in it the germ of the world’s last revolution.

A money promising a definite quantity of Labor of a specified kind, informs the laborer, when he takes it, how much labor he will get for his own; and his own interest will see to it that he does not take too little.

The operations of such a money would produce equal exchanges, aid it may be called Equitable Money, and is “the best for all people.” [3]

“II. STRIKES.”

Strikes grow out of insufficient wages, Equitable exchanges would furnish a comfortable and handsome living with the employment of two or three hours per day, and strikes would never be thought of.

“III. CO-OPERATION.—Its Mission and Benefits.”

The prices of all things being measured by their “Costs,” every body would become interested in co-operating to reduce their Costs for his own benefit:—Thus the interests of all would be made to harmonize; and, instead of all men’s hands being raised against each others’ in universal conflict, all would be working together, each from self-interest, for mutual benefit, as we now do in patronizing Rail-roads, without any artificial Organization whatever. This Cost principle thus naturally solves the great problem of Co-operation, without the least conflict with personal freedom,—its mission is to harmonize the interests and pursuits of all mankind.

With regard to the benefits that are to result from this harmonious adjustment of human pursuits, instead of the insane antagonisms that now desolate the earth, perhaps no thorough student of the subject will risk his reputation for sanity by attempting to describe the sublime, beautiful, and unspeakable visions of the future, that he sees based on universal Cooperation.

“IV. COOLIE IMPORTATION.—Steam-ship Subsidies and Foreign Commerce.”

With this Equitable Exchange of Labor for Labor, neither Coolies nor any other people could be induced to underwork others; for no wages they could get would afford one tenth of the benefits they would realize from Co-operation on the Cost principle.

Steam-ship and foreign commerce subsidies originate in schemes of speculation. Speculation being annihilated by Equitable Exchanges, all beneficial commerce between nations would not only abundantly sustain itself and its ships, but would set a natural, safe limit to that and all other exchanges, and put an end to the wars got up by speculators for their own particular profits.

“V. LABOR UNIONS. — Their Objects and Necessity.”

The necessity for Labor Unions is felt to be the necessity of self preservation. Their object is to preserve life outside of prisons and almshouses.

With the prevalent use of Equitable Money, this necessity never would be felt, nor would the Unions be thought of.

“VI. PROTECTION TO AMERICAN LABOR.”

The only effectual mode of protecting American Labor is, to do justice to all labor: which the Equitable Exchanges and Equitable Money, and nothing else, can accomplish.

“VII. THE INJUSTICE OF THE NATIONAL BANK SYSTEM.”

This must be self evident, in view of what money ought to be.

“VIII. WOMAN.—Her Rights as Laborer.”

Her right as laborer is to receive an Equivalent in Labor for all the sacrifices she makes for the comfort of others, as explained by Equitable Exchanges.

“IX. THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. — How it has been, and how it shall be, disposed of.”

It is well known how it has been disposed of: but buying and selling it for an Equitable compensation, like that of any other labor, would put an end to this frightful iniquity, and all other troubles on this score. If it could not be sold for profit, it would not be bought for speculation. The operation of the Cost principle in buying and selling land or any thing else, puts an end to all profit making over and above compensation for the Costs of labor incurred.

“X. THE INJUSTICE OF EXEMPTING GOVERNMENT BONDS FROM TAXATION.”

The lending of money, like any other service, should be compensated according to Costs of time and other sacrifices made in lending it and receiving it back again. In the light of this justice, the injustice of common, and especially uncommon interest on money can need no additional exposure. [4]

“XI. THE NECESSITY OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION.”

We have not yet agreed as to what constitutes the desired education. Perhaps the most fortunate children are those who escape education in the midst of the frauds, falsehoods, violence and misery, growing out of the barbarian money used in all past time. The idea of compulsory education is as absurd as that of compelling people to maintain life by means of food!

Besides, who are to be the educators:—When there are as many plans as there are sects, which one shall be enforced by compulsion!—Who has got the power to properly educate any person by compulsion, when the first and every succeeding step should be taken with a strict regard to the sacred right of all children to be educated by those examples and in the habits that they will need to practice when they have become adults. To educate them by compulsion, is to teach them by example to become tyrants to all around them—[See “True Civilization: Part I.”— Article “Education”, page 110.]

Make money what it ought to be, and it will itself be the inauguration of influences potent for education of the right kind, and show what is needed for successful education, which is only preparation for successful life.

“XII. A GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.”

Let us have this, and let its first step be to insist on money as it ought to be: and to obtain estimates of the amount of labor in each of the staple and necessary products; so that we may know how much labor we are getting when disposing of our own. With this knowledge, together with Equitable Money, we can act understandingly and solve not only all the foregoing problems, but many more; but without them no great improvement in the condition of the suffering classes and in civilization is possible.

Estimates of the labor in different products once obtained by investigation, might remain unchanged for years, unless new and better modes of production should reduce their costs and consequently, their prices. Then, all ruinous fluctuations in prices would be at an end; all speculations based upon them would be knocked in the head; and “profits in trade” being abolished, ruinous competition and the principal cause of modern wars would cease to be.

The burthen of necessary labor being reduced to one, two, or three hours a day, all anxiety about future sustenance would be dispelled: with this security of condition, the motive for large accumulations would die away, and the degrading scramble for “money making” would come to an end.

The hardest worker would be the richest man; and, in the common, vulgar estimation, would be the most “respectable”: then there would be as great a rush into the useful pursuits as there has been to shun them and force them upon the weak and defenceless. We now see the origin of all forms of slavery and the legitimate remedy for them.

It is folly to expect that people will prefer starved, ragged, insulted labor, how ever useful it may be, rather than an easy situation with a sufficient income and the respect of their follow men. Nor is it surprising that the ranks of the respected professions are crowded till they are tempted to live by fraud,—that we are overrun with speculators, thieves, defaulters, rapacious officials and other vagabonds or that the bibles are tortured into the defence of slavery and poverty, by those who are reveling in idleness and luxury; or, that when the opportunities for speculations and office holding opened by one war, are all filled, the next step is to get up another war. This pandemonium, miscalled “society” will continue as long as men are tempted to live by profitable crimes, rather than starve in useful pursuits.

If we had a new planet upon which to commence True Civilization, we should say that to set any price upon Land, Coal, Wood, Stone, Metals or any other Primitive wealth, except so far as Labor has been bestowed upon them, is a blunder more fatal than a crime: but, as this has already been done, the problem is, how to stop the iniquity where it is.

By buying and selling land on the Cost principle, one man, by making it his business, could do more to rectify blunders and prevent crimes, than all the governments have ever done or ever will do. He can stop land speculations for miles around him, and his example would act upon the darkened world and its suffering inhabitants like a flood of light from heaven.

It is too late to say that this can not or will not be done. Two villages have already been laid out end the land sold in this manner. An account of their workings will be given in “True Civilization”—Part III,—now being written.

It is often asked, “What can induce those in easy circumstances to take such a leap into a position so contrary to all the habits and customs by which large fortunes are suddenly made, and to adopt measures so eminently just—so practically religious?” The answer to this is many fold. Perhaps no intelligent observer of passing events feels himself in very “easy circumstances” Besides, it is not necessary that any one should take any sudden leap, all at once, nor to risk any thing of consequence. — They are not asked to join any organization or party, nor to become in any way responsible for, or connected with others.

Perhaps the principal reason why the rich are not found in the front ranks of reform, is, that they have never seen any one proposed which promised success.

There certainly are some, with surplus means (for we have been blessed with the sight of them), whose beautiful sensibilities make them grieve with the suffering of others, and who probably need nothing but the prospect of acting to some purpose, to ensure their hearty co-operation.

There are others whose first thought regards only the benefits or the detriment that may accrue to them, particularly. A little more thought, or a little example, will show them that no amount of money or property can ensure to them and their children the ease, the comfort and security, that these new modes of action would afford them.

There are others who never think nor feel at all; and who can be reached only through finding out that the Equitable Money will crowd the common, barbarian money out of use. When the useful classes will not take it for their products, the useless ones must go without bread, or depend on benevolence.

The “national blessing” can then be easily paid off; for the common money will be worthless and easily obtained;—but what will the bond holders do with it?

☞ It is so infinitely for the interest and pleasure of all people to act out this new justice (so nearly related to benevolence), we require no pledges or promises to do so; but any person disposed. to investigate and test this subject, may send a few cents for preliminary documents and samples of the Labor Money, with which to try first experiments among friends.

The Cost principle would justify much higher than common prices for all printed matter, when paid for in common money: but, until Labor Money comes into use, orders for documents will be filed in the common way, at common prices—two or three pages for a cent.

[1] This is more elaborately explained in “True Civilization.”

[2] I do vet wish to imply any censure towards any persons. The monsterous condition in which we find ourselves, is the result of ignorance, or the want of thought in the right direction.

[3] See a specimen of this money on the last page.

[4] This is more fully treated in “True Civilization,”—Part II, Chap. iv.


BOOKS AND TRACTS.

True Civilization, Part I, 50 cents: Part II, 75 cents. “Practical details”, 50 cents. All of E. H. Heywood’s admirable pamphlets on the Great Labor Question and “The Injustice and Impolicy of Governing Woman without her consent”, all 15 cents each. Lysander Spooner’s terrible and unanswerable Criticism on all existing governments, 35 cents. About 300 pages [12 mo.] of “ Periodical Letters” showing the practical applications of the “New Elements”, $1. All Post Paid.

☞ The “Political Platform for the COMING PARTY”: 13 pages—50 cents per dozen.

☞ Part III, of “True Civilization”, is being written in very minute Historical Details, showing the workings of these new elements in every day life;—to be published in Numbers of about fifty pages each—to be printed as soon as orders will sustain expenses. Price, 25 Cents each Number.

☞ For any of these Works, address. J. Warren, Cliftondale, Mass.


SPECIMEN OF THE LABOR MONEY.

The notes are made “Not Transferable” at first, because the use of them requires a new training of the understanding; and we do n’t want them to fall into the hands of those who have not had this.—Therefore, the name of the payee has to be inserted with a pen: and if he passes the note to any other person, it is because he presumes that the payer would not object to it, if he was present.

Limit of Issue: A record is kept at the printing office, of all notes given out and to whom; which record is open to public inspection.

The Labor embodied in the article promised, is stated Prominently on the note, so that the receiver of it may see how much labor he is to get for his own.

For further explanation, see the Tract entitled “The Principle of Equivalents”, page 19, and “True Civilization”, Part I, pages 116 and 117.

This is a very small and very simply thing to the eye; but, considered as a new element in human affairs, no mind can measure its magnitude.

We are on the same road will all the old countries.—The French have arrived at the precipice a little before us; but this is all the difference between us, unless we strike out a new path, and introduce New Financial Elements:— ☞ We have no time to lose!!

 

 

 

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2467 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.