three amigos Oregon Trail near Split Rock
and Family Wage
Labourers are Paid Enough to Support Families--
but they weren't
Smith's theories are derived from deduction,
not based upon observation. A
conspicuous instance of this is the way that he tries to answer a very basic
economic question: were the labourers paid enough to allow them to
raise families ? Instead of putting on
his hat and going out the door to find out whether labourers were in fact
receiving a family wage, Professor Smith remains in his study and
deploys logical deduction to answer
this question. Like Mycroft Holmes,
Sherlock's smarter brother, he doesn't need to visit the scene to figure it all
In Great Britain the wages of labour seem, in the present
times, to be evidently more than what is precisely necessary to enable the
labourer to bring up a family. In order
to satisfy ourselves upon this point it will not be necessary to enter into any
tedious or doubtful calculation of what may be the lowest sum upon which it is
possible to do this. There are many
plain symptoms that the wages of labour are nowhere in this country regulated
by this lowest rate which is consistent with common humanity. [ Wealth of Nations page 74 of 1937 Modern
Library Edition ]
is, labourers are being paid even more
than the minimum which allows them to raise families. How does Smith know this ? Elementary,
my dear Watson ! Smith deploys logical deduction: I. Summer wages are higher than winter
wages, even though the labourer has the expense of fewel in winter. Therefore,
they are being paid more than they really need to survive. Secondly,
the wages of labour do not in Great Britain fluctuate with the price of
provisions. . . . the money price of
labour remains uniformly the same sometimes for half a century together. If in these places, therefore, the labouring
poor can maintain their families in dear years, they must be at their ease in
times of moderate plenty, and in affluence in those of extraordinary cheapness. Thirdly
. . . If the labouring poor, therefore,
can maintain their families in those parts of the kingdom where the price of
labour is lowest, they must be in affluence where it is highest. Grain costs more in Scotland so If the
labouring poor, therefore, can maintain their families in the one part of the
united kingdom, they must be in affluence in the other. Grain costs less than it did in the last
century when labour
was much cheaper . . . so If the labouring poor, therefore, could bring
up their families then, they must be much more at their ease now." [ WN 74-76 ]
the science of deduction
These If . . . therefore arguments take the place of any scientific survey of the actual
situation of the labouring poor. Or even a hap hazard and desultory unscientific study. Like Smith asking his butler: Do you
have any kids ? Do I pay you enough ? Whatever the logic of these arguments, they rest upon unproven and very doubtful
assumptions. Was grain the major expense of the
labouring poor ? At the time Smith
was writing, the Enclosure Acts were
forcing large numbers of people off the commons
and out of the rural areas where they had little or no rent to pay and into the
cities where rent was a major expense. They no longer had gardens. They had to pay for coal instead of
argues that, since wages are higher in the summer than in the winter, these
wages must be ample. He does not
consider alternate assumptions--the probability that those hired for the summer
harvest are seasonal labourers who are laid off in the fall. If they fail to survive the winter, it is no
problem for the Farmer, who finds others to take their place. Smith offers no evidence that the same set of
labourers are in fact employed year round.
Instead he makes an If .
. . therefore calculation which
just assumes it. The scientific method--the inductive method: going to the trouble to collect some
facts--would have shown that there were large numbers of individuals who had no
jobs and large numbers who were barely surviving and / or failing to survive even
as single individuals on what they were paid, if they did have
This lowest rate which is consistent
with common humanity is a humanistic assumption derived from a
blindness to Man's inhumanity to man--the
recognition of what the English were capable of doing to other English, let alone what they did to
those of other races and nations.
Nothing was more conspicuous in the British Empire circa 1770 than the
gross inhumanity driven by the
pursuit of wealth. This phrase shows
Smith's silly faith that human nature is
basically good. We would not go so
far as to let other people starve ! Or
even reduce them to a level where they cannot afford to raise families. Even though, on the historical record, we are
quite willing to exterminate or enslave them.
The famines which killed millions in India and Ireland void any
assumption about common humanity in
the British Empire. The slave
plantations of Jamaica and Virginia provide sufficient proof that the British
loved money a lot more than they loved their fellow humans.
only looks at prevailing wages. That
tells you something about those who are employed, but nothing about those who
are unemployed. Who are out of a job in
London or on their way to America as indentured servants--if they are
lucky. They only have to be slaves for 7
years and then they will be free
! In fact, a large part of the English
population was forced off the land and into the cities in the 18th century and
many of these had no choice except to emigrate to America and Australia or
other parts of the British Empire--if they could get out of debtors'
prison. Not only did they not receive a family wage in England, they could not
even find a subsistence wage sufficient
for a healthy single person to survive.
But they are not included in Professor Smith's calculations. It is like looking at the walking survivors
of a train wreck and deducing that
the wreck cannot have been that bad--without bothering to check the wreckage
for bodies, or the ambulances for the injured.
A Family Wage
is typical of The Wealth of Nations
that it belatedly presents facts which undermine the theory without recognizing
the conflict or giving up the theory.
Smith does present facts about the actual wages of labour and the
expenses of families on pages 76 to 79 without acknowledging that they do not
fit his thesis that labourers are paid
enough to support families:
In the last century, the most usual day wages of common
labour through the greater part of Scotland were sixpence in summer and
fivepence in winter. Three shillings a
week, the same price very nearly, still continues to be paid in some parts of
the Highlands and Western Islands. [ 6
pence a day for a 6 day week = 3 shillings a week ] Through the greater part of the
low country the most usual wages of common labour are now eight-pence a
day; ten-pence, sometimes a shilling
about Edinburgh, in the counties which border upon England, probably on account
of that neighbourhood. In 1614, the pay of a foot soldier was the
same as in the present times, eight-pence a day. [ WN 76-77 ]
Lord Chief Justice Hales, who wrote in the time of Charles
II, [ + 1685
] computes the necessary expence of a
labourer's family, consisting of six persons, the father and mother, two
children able to do something, and two not able, at ten shillings a week, or 26 pounds a year. If they cannot earn this by their labour,
they must make it up, he supposes, either by begging or stealing. In 1688, Mr. Gregory King . . . computed the
ordinary income of labourers and out-servants to be 15 pounds a year to a family of 3.5 persons. [ WN 77 ]
shilling a day adds up to 6 shillings a week.
Times 52 weeks is 312 shillings or just over 15
pounds a year. There are 20
shillings in a pound. A shilling = 12
pence. 15 pounds a year was a Servant Wage, a subsistence wage for
one person--half what a family requires.
fact, Gregory King estimated that more than half of the English people lived in
poverty: "849,000 families,
containing an average of three and a quarter persons each, and the income of
each family was L 10.10.0 per year. "
[ from Colonists in Bondage White
Servitude And Convict Labor In America
1607-1776 By Abbot Emerson Smith page 43-44 ]
Obviously, family is a very
doubtful concept in this calculation because the level of income would have
been incompatible with intact and durable two parent families. Then as now, families were fragmented by
destitution. This standard is really destitution rather than poverty properly so called. It really means unable to survive without charity or government dole. Or begging or stealing. Poverty--barely getting by--was the situation of many more who were just
above this extreme.
Colonists in Bondage further says: "The total amount of poor rates
collected in 1685 was L 665,362, a figure equal to a third of the total
revenue. These rates steadily increased
yet Davenant remarked that despite them many of the poor died yearly from
famine. . . . Besides those who were
aged, impotent, or infants, there was a large class of able-bodied persons some
of whom were willing to work if they could find anything to do. The number of these unemployed cannot be
stated with any certainty; contemporary estimates vary from 100,000 to
1,200,000, and thus prove nothing."
The English population was about 7 million at this time.
blessing the poor
what it is worth, Adam Smith gives his verbal blessing to adequate wages--to
his imaginary assumption of adequate wages:
Is this improvement in the
circumstances of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage
or as an inconveniency to the society ?
. . . No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far
greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who
feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share
of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed,
cloathed and lodged. [ WN 78-79 ]
This blessing is joined to his unsubstantiated optimism that there has
in fact been an improvement. Smith neglects to prove his thesis and
ignores the evidence that, in England at this time, the far greater part of the members of
British society were in fact poor and miserable.
few places the reality of the situation of the lower ranks of the people briefly shows through--It is not uncommon, I have been frequently
told, in the Highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne twenty children
not to have two alive. As to the children of soldiers, very
few of them, it seems, arrive at the age of thirteen or fourteen. In some places one half the children born die
before they are four years of age; in many places before they are seven; and in
almost all places before they are nine or ten.
This great mortality, however, will every where be found chiefly among
the children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with the same
care as those of better station. [
WN 79 ]
hardly squares with the thesis that they are paid enough to raise
families. Or that they can reproduce
themselves by raising 4 children. The 8
pence a day the soldier received fell far short of anything that could be
called a family wage, as illustrated
by the poor chances his children had of surviving. If he had any. Most of them did not, no legitimate ones,
anyway, that they had to provide for. What
pay the soldiers received was commonly spent in bars and brothels. The assumption that they could raise families
on what a soldier is paid is absurd. It
is equally absurd to assume that labourers could raise a family on a similar
the race of workmen persists, therefore--
before this, Smith has argued from must
be that A man must always live by his
work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be
somewhat more; otherwise it would be
impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not
last beyond the first generation.
is, since the race of workmen
persists, they must be getting paid enough to raise families. This is another of those logical deductions . .
though in disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the
advantage, there is however a certain rate below which it seems impossible to
reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages even of the lowest
species of labour. [ WN 67-68 ]
theory is based upon the theory of Cantillon, a French writer on economy circa
1755, who supposed that "the lowest species of common labourers must
everywhere earn at least double their own maintenance, in order that one with
another they may be enabled to bring up two children; . . . But one-half the
children, it is computed, die before the age of manhood. The poorest labourers, therefore, according
to this account, must, one with another, attempt to rear at least four
children, in order that two may have an equal chance of living to that
age." [ WN 68 ]
a closed situation--
theory assumes a closed situation, such that, once your labourers are
used up, you won't get any more unless they are able to breed. The labourer must be paid enough to support 4
children, since 2 of them won't survive childhood. That is what it takes to maintain a labor
supply. A labour supply, as Smith spelled it.
Smith adopts this as his own theory: the wages of labourers must be sufficient
to enable them to raise families. He
relies upon imagination and deduction in lieu of an inquiry as to how much the
labourer is paid in London and Edinburgh and whether he can support a wife and
kids with what he is paid. Even a
desultory inquiry as to what labourers are being paid versus what rent they
have to pay would provide him with some information. He prefers to borrow a theory from an earlier
writer which he turns into a dogma via deduction, without attempting to verify
his conclusions. It has no claim to be science. And, in fact, Smith's optimistic assessment
of the situation of English labourers in his time was quite mistaken.
page 80 he says: The wages paid to journeymen and servants of every kind must be such as
may enable them . . . to continue the
race of journeyman and servants.
Smith does not consider the obvious probability that, since there is a
surplus of labour, the employer will pay only enough to support an individual with no family, because he can
easily hire another individual to replace him.
Is he supposed to adopt some Long View--some long and doubtful
view--that he is responsible for paying enough to insure a labor supply to
future generations ? More likely he will
leave that to Nature, as Mr. Smith does, and worry about his short term
revenue. Which is substantially
increased when he only has to pay subsistence wages--a wage which allows an
individual with no family to survive. So
long as there is a surplus of labourers, he need not worry. About 1700,
under pressure from employers,
Parliament passed laws restricting English labourers from going to
America as indentured servants to insure that England would continue to have an
abundance of cheap labour.
other times, the law facilitated shipping surplus English men and women to
America and Australia to relieve the gentry of the poor rates by which each parish was supposed to take care of its
own indigent. There was a conflict of
interest, as there is today, between those who needed a supply of cheap labor
to run their enterprises, and those whose incomes were not dependent upon any
such enterprise and who resented paying the poor rates and disliked sharing the
streets with a swarm of low class labourers--who supported a policy of get rid of them.
an over abundant supply of cheap labor has been the aim of many laws from 1700 to
2000--laws or lax enforcement of laws.
In the 19th century a mass of cheap labour, displaced by war and famine,
and desperate enough to work for any wage they could get, was shipped from
Ireland and China and Europe to America and Britain. Many thousands of labourers were shipped from
India to South Africa, where they suffered from a racial discrimination only
somewhat less severe than that inflicted upon the native Africans. We have 12 million Mexican illegals in
America right now because the employers want them. Under NAFTA and GATT [ = WTO ], owners can
move their factories to where cheap labor can be found, as the alternative to
bringing the cheap labor here.
is silly to talk about the law of supply
and demand without looking at who controls The Law in respect to the supply
of labor. The Law allowed masses of half
starved Chinese and Irish to be imported into America where they drove down
wages by competing with one another. It
illustrates how political power determines wages. Then the Chinese
Exclusion Act was pushed through by the late 19th century labor movement
led by Samuel Gompers. He once lost his
job in a cigar factory after a gang of Chinese laborers was brought in to
replace all the workers.
the Twentieth Century, after World War II and with the backing of the federal
government, organized labor halfway got hold of the law for a while and created
an artificial scarcity of labor which drove up union wages. This was facilitated by the drastic
curtailment of immigration to America after the first World War. The World Wars created employment while
substantially reducing the labor force.
The unions were as ready to abuse their power as any association of
employers. For a while they occupied a
privileged position in America and England at the expense of non union labor
and the public generally and at the expense of companies which have been pushed
out of business by having to pay union wages while trying to compete with non
union companies here and the very cheap labor of Asia and South America.
actual situation in Adam Smith's England was the opposite of the closed
situation that Smith assumes where employers would be dependent upon a limited
supply of labourers who must be paid enough to raise more labourers. The employers had the power to move cheap
labour to wherever it was needed, or to move their enterprises to where cheap
labour was to be found in abundance, just as they do today.
confuses the situation of labourers with that of servants. As the Porter book points out, they had to
take some care of their servants because they did not want to be waited on by
people in rags. Which wasn't true for
labourers sent down into the mines or out into the fields. Especially it wasn't true for the slave labor
used in the sugar plantations of the West Indies which the owners back in
England never even visited. [ See Adam
Hochschild Bury the Chains 2005 ]
even though servants were provided with a decent suit of clothes and good food,
it doesn't mean they were paid enough to allow them to raise families. Lady
Bellamy did not allow her servants to marry. The idyllic presentation of the romance of Hudson and Mrs. Bridges glosses over the fact that they had to wait until they
retired to enter into a companionate marriage.
That is, neither one ever had any
children. And that condition was
usually imposed upon servants, as upon rank and file soldiers and sailors below
the level of the officers. Getting
married and raising children was a privilege reserved for the privileged class,
not a right. Now society seems to be
returning to that situation in many nations.
does not consider the possibility that the wage paid will be subsistence for a
healthy single individual who will be out of a job as soon as he gets
sick. A lack of children mandated by
economic coercion was and is the common condition of a large part of
society. Those who rebel against it, who
persist in trying to have families they cannot afford, often pay a heavy price
for their reckless defiance of economic realities.
real situation in England in Adam Smith's time was that the economic refugees
of Great Britain and the displaced persons of the Empire migrated or were
transported to any place they could find work and they were paid a subsistence
wage at best--like the Irish labourers and prostitutes that Smith saw in
London, like the Scotsmen and Irishmen, conscripted into the armies and navies
of the Empire and sent to India or America or Australia. They were in basically the same situation as
the slaves and servants in the Empire and they were not expected to raise
families. Their circumstances did not
allow them to raise families. Rather,
they were used up, discarded and replaced.
They received such minimal wages that any change in the economy or any
sickness pushed them towards extinction.
As is shown by the great famines in Ireland and India where millions
living on a bare subsistence on the very edge of starvation were pushed over
the edge by even a partial crop failure.
the slave trade had been stopped, the American and West Indian planters would
have had to raise their own slaves to make sure of a steady supply. So they would have had to encourage breeding
and provide enough of a subsistence to produce healthy slaves. But the slave trade was not stopped. With the tacit connivance of President Thomas
Jefferson it continued long after it was nominally illegal. So the plantation owners worked their slaves
as hard as they could on the cheapest rations and then bought more slaves when
the first batch was used up. There was a
very high mortality rate among the slaves.
When they got too old or too sick to work they were pushed off a cliff. [ see Bury
the Chains ]
February 1862, after the Civil War began, Captain Nathaniel Gordon was hung for
bringing a cargo of slaves from Africa, the
first man in American history to be so punished, even though slave trading
had nominally been a hanging offense for more than 40 years. book: Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial
of an American Slave Trader Ron
fact, the slave trade persisted to the end of the 19th century despite the
law. In 1884 General Gordon in Khartoum
issued a declaration which re-legalized the slave trade in the Sudan to pacify
the Arab slave traders. [ The
White Nile Alan Moorehead ]
the guano pits
the Chinese and Indian COOLIE system
which replaced it was often as bad as outright slavery. See the horrifying little essay in the 9th
edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica VI 333
COOLIE or Cooly:
In 1860 it was calculated that of
the 4000 coolies who since the traffic began had been fraudulently consigned to
the guano pits of Peru, not one had survived.
at it in terms of labor cost, raising your own slaves is expensive. When the waves of starving Irish immigrants
arrived in New Orleans in the 19th century, the planters hired them to drain
the swamps rather then use their negroes.
Because these labourers often died from malaria and other mosquito borne
diseases. If your slave died, you were
out several hundred dollars. You might
even have to pay his medical bills. If
the Irishman died, you could replace him with another Irishman. His medical care--if he could get any--was
his expense, not yours.
Smith's deduction, you could argue that, since the race of soldiers and sailors persists, they must be receiving a
family wage sufficient to raise up little soldiers and sailors. But anyone with some knowledge of history
knows this isn't true. Conquered nations
and impoverished races and marginalized classes provide an endless supply of
surplus men who are readily conscripted or recruited for cannon fodder in the
endless wars of the empire. In the 21st
century, the refugee camps provide a steady supply of child soldiers and
suicide bombers for the war lords. The 8
pence a day which soldiers were paid in Adam Smith's time--2/3ds of a
shilling--did not come close to being a family wage.
one shilling a day
modern book does what Smith did not condescend to do--calculate wages versus
expenses: In the Georgian age, rock-bottom wages for males were about a shilling
a day, but a man fully employed all the weeks of the year--and most were
not--would not have been able to support a family on such a sum. For
that, earnings in the region of some L30-L40 a year would be required. [ Roy Porter English Society in the Eighteenth Century 1990 xv ]
One shilling a day would come out to L 15 a year. Enough for a healthy single person to survive
but only half what a family requires. Of
course, the women worked too. They were
usually forced to work. But try being a
mother when you have to put in a 13 hour day in the factory. And both parents would have to work full
time--a 6 day week of 13 hour days--to come close to the sum needed to raise a
family. That is even assuming that the
woman was paid as much as the man, which she often was not. It basically resembles the modern situation
where people try to raise a family on two subsistence wage incomes--which is what
the minimum wage provides. It leaves the
woman with no time for raising children.
If there are any children born to such families, they are very likely to
become the neglected and delinquent children who fill our prisons.
contemporary writers present a very different picture of Adam Smith's
England-- "Lord Macaulay, in his History of England, says of this period,
with little exaggeration, that the price
of the necessaries of life, of shoes, of ale, of oatmeal, rose fast. The labourer found that the bit of metal
which, when he received it, was called a shilling, would hardly, when he
purchased a pot of beer or a loaf of rye bread, go as far as sixpence." [ 1890
Encyclopedia Britannica, VI 410b article on corn laws. ] Smith blandly
assumes that wages were free to adjust for inflation. Macaulay, as quoted above, indicates that the
shilling had lost half its value. So the
wages of 1760 may have been nominally higher than those of 1660, but to measure the buying power of wages you have
to look at a market basket of prices,
not just grain, which was much higher before the corn laws were changed. rent
could become a major expense, as it is today.
article on corn laws continues: "The wages of labour would have followed
the advance in the prices of commodities had they been left free, but they were
kept down by statute to the 3 or
4 pence per day at which they stood, when the pound sterling contained
one-fourth more silver, and silver itself was much more valuable,--a refinement
of cruelty, for which an excuse is hardly to be found in the prevailing
ignorance of principles of political economy, great as that was. [ The great production of the silver mines of
the Americas led to a decrease in the value of silver in Europe. ]
feudal system was breaking up; a
wage-earning population was rapidly increasing both on the farms and in the
towns; but the spirit of feudalism remained, and the iron collar of serfdom was
rivetted round the necks of the labourers by these statutes many generations
after they had become nominally freemen.
. . . Mr. M`Cullough, to whose researches on this subject every
subsequent writer must be much indebted, found from a comparison of the prices
of corn and wages of labour in the reign of Henry VII and the latter part of
the reign of Elizabeth, that in the former period a labourer could earn a
quarter of wheat in 20, a quarter of rye in 12, and a quarter of barley in 9
days; whereas, in the latter period, to earn a quarter of wheat required 48, a
quarter of rye 32, and a quarter of barley 29 days labour. "
[ 1890 Encyclopedia
Britannica, VI 409 article on corn laws. a quarter = 8 bushels; 1 bushel = 8 gallons ] Roy Porter [ p. 96 ] continues the
calculation through the period when Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations was published:
price inflation was outstripping
wages. Wheat had cost 34 s. a quarter in
1780; it was up to 58 s. in 1790 and 128 s. by 1800.
proceeds on the bland assumption that, whatever the wage, it must have been
enough. He assumes some Natural Law of
Wages such that they have to be sufficient to maintain the families of those
who work for wages. He persists in this
assumption and ignores all the evidence of famines and mass migrations of desperate
people. You could further assume that
they must all receive good health care.
Or anything else you like. But it
would not be true.
Starving and Stealing
swarmed with destitute people, living from hand to mouth and consoling
themselves with cheap gin. Workhouses
were full, Bridewell and other prisons overflowed, idle and diseased wanderers
infested the land. There are few, if any, nations or countries where the poor . . . are in
a more scandalous nasty condition, than in England, reported Henry Fielding
in the middle of the 18th century. Compared to these people, wrote Benjamin Franklin of rural workers in 1771, every Indian is a gentleman; and the effect
of this kind of civil society seems only to be the depressing of multitudes below the savage state that a few
may be raised above it. [ Colonists in Bondage 46 ]
1753, Henry Fielding published A Proposal
for making an effectual Provision for the Poor, for amending their Morals, and
for rendering them useful Members of the Society based upon his experience as a
magistrate. It gives a picture of the
condition of the English poor despite the money spent on them under the Poor Laws of England. That
the poor are a very great burden and even a nuisance to the kingdom, that the
laws for relieving their distress and restraining their vices have not answered
their purposes, and that they are at present very ill provided for and much
worse governed are truths which every man will acknowledge. Every person who hath any property must feel
the weight of that tax which is levied for the use of the poor; and every person who hath any understanding
must see how absurdly it is applied. So
very useless, indeed, is the heavy tax, and so wretched its disposition, that
it is a question whether the poor or rich are actually more dissatisfied; since
the plunder of the one serves so little to the real advantage of the
other. For while a million yearly is
raised among the rich many of the poor are starved; many more languish in want
and misery; of the rest, numbers are found begging or pilfering in the streets
to-day, and to-morrow are locked up in jails and bridewells. If we were to make a progress through the
outskirts of the metropolis, and look into the habitations of the poor, we
should there behold such pictures of human misery as must move the compassion
of every heart that deserves the name of human.
What indeed must be his composition who could see whole families in want
of every necessary of life, oppressed with hunger, cold, nakedness, and filth,
and with disease the certain consequence of all these ! The sufferings indeed of the poor are less
known than their misdeeds; and therefore we are less apt to pity them. They starve, and freeze, and rot among
themselves; but they beg, and steal, and rob among their betters. There is not a parish in the liberty of
Westminster which doth not swarm all day with beggars and all night with
thieves. [ Westminster was the
district of London where Fielding had been a magistrate. from
article on Poor Laws
Encyclopedia Britannica 9th edition XIX 470
Observations of Samuel Johnson 1779
talked of the state of the poor in London.
Welch, the Justice, who was once High-Constable of Holborn, and had the best
opportunities of knowing the state of the poor, told me, that I under-rated the
number, when I computed that twenty a week, that is, above a thousand a year,
died of hunger, not absolutely of immediate hunger; but of the wasting and
other diseases which are the consequences of hunger. This happens only in so large a place as
London, where people are not known. What
we are told about the great sums got by begging is not true: the trade is
overstocked. And, you may depend upon
it, there are many who cannot get work.
A particular kind of manufacture fails: those who have been used to work at it, can,
for some time, work at nothing else. You
meet a man begging; you charge him with idleness: he says, "I am willing
to labour. Will You give me work ?
" "I cannot." Why, then you have no right to charge me with
idleness." [ The Life of Samuel Johnson by James
Boswell Modern Library 434 conversation
of Sunday October 10th 1779 ] Adam Smith
frequently visited London and belonged to the same social circle as Johnson and
Boswell. But his attitude towards the under
class tended to complacency--like many prosperous people then and now. And this attitude infects his supposedly
objective calculations as to how well off they were.
Smith himself, aged 40, resigned his position as a professor at the University
of Glasgow in 1736 to accompany Henry Scott, the young Duke of Buccleuch on a
two and a half year tour of Europe. For
this Smith was given a life time pension of L 300 a year--10 times a family
wage--although Smith had no family. A
few years later, through the Duke's patronage, he was appointed to an easy money sinecure as a Commissioner of
Customs, where he strolled in when he felt like it and received a substantial
salary for enforcing the trade restrictions which he deplores in The Wealth of Nations.
his 4 page introduction to The Wealth of
Nations, Adam Smith states without any evidence his bias in favor of civilized versus savage nations: the savage nations of hunters and fishers .
. . are so miserably poor, that from
mere want, they are frequently reduced, or, at least, think themselves reduced,
to the necessity sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes of abandoning
their infants, their old people, and those afflicted with lingering diseases,
to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wild beasts. . . .
Among civilized and thriving
nations, on the contrary, though a great number of people do not labour at all,
many of whom consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times
more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the
whole labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly
supplied, and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal
and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniencies
of life than it is possible for any savage to acquire. " [ WN lviii ]
the evils Smith describes as characteristic of savage nations were conspicuous in the British Empire in Smith's
time, though his theory prevented him from observing them. Directly destroying . . . their infants by abortion has become the foundation of the
modern civilized economy.
Civilized and Savage
working out his theories, Smith ignores the realities of London's east
end. And he ignores the famines of the
British Empire. The lifestyle of uncivilized tribes was less than
idyllic, especially after the English invaded and occupied their nations, and
took their land. But it is simply
Ignorance to claim, as Adam Smith does, that they were worse off than the lower
class of the empire. As Franklin's
statement shows, the opposite was true.
Of course they also became increasingly degraded and impoverished as
armed and rapacious civilization
advanced and rolled over them. They
wound up in America's equivalent of London's east end.
how easily Smith brushes past the basic question as to what effect it had upon the lowest and poorest order when a great number of people do not labour at
all, many of whom consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred
times more labour than the greater part of those who work. It may be an over simplification to say that the
luxuries of the rich are taken from the necessities of the poor,
but, as Franklin's common sense observation suggests, there is a relationship between the wealth of
the few and the poverty of the many.
Which Smith glosses over with his gratuitous assumption that there is
plenty to go around in the civilized
British Empire, where all are often
abundantly supplied. [ More often, not.
] The luxuries of the idle Dukes, who
were Smith's patrons, were produced on estates worked by labourers who were
lucky to be still employed, whatever the wage.
Estates from which the lowest and
poorest order had been evicted were common in England in Adam Smith's
time. The Duke of Sutherland
cleared 15,000 tenants off his estate
between 1811 and 1820 in the Highlands of Scotland to make way for deer forests
and grouse moors. The 19th century
English landlords staked their Irish tenants to one way tickets to America as
the cheapest way to get rid of them. The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith graphically describes
the wretched situation of the Irish peasants which led to the Irish Famine of
it wasn't just a lack of money which afflicted the lowest and poorest order.
The situation of the lowest class
is almost invariably accompanied by degradation. There is a violence which comes from the top
down and which falls the heaviest upon those at the bottom. Alcoholism, drug addiction and rampant crime
are characteristic of slums. Life was nasty, brutish and short for those stuck
in the slums of Paris and London. There
is obviously something fundamentally wrong with the human race. And, whatever it is, there is a lethal
concentration of it at the lowest levels of society and a further concentration
in the inner city slums of our great
cities--our gigantic over grown cities.
drained into the cities
poverty was promoted in the period from 1600-1800 by the transition from a
feudal to a commercial to an industrial economy-- the
dissolution of the monasteries and cessation of their charities, the disbanding
of the private armies of feudal lords, the enclosing of arable land for sheep
pastures or for large-scale cultivation, the rise of commerce and the decline
of the gilds, the adoption of labor-saving machinery. . . . many thousands of
the poor were dislodged from their ancestral habitations and occupations, and
turned out to wander in the world. . . . They drained into the towns and
cities. These were centuries in which
London grew with enormous rapidity.
[ Colonists in Bondage 44-45
who are trying to survive on the margins of society are sometimes benefited by
great changes--the outbreak of a great war or the industrial revolution may
bring them employment. But many of them
are left out. And many of those employed
are killed in wars or coal mine cave ins or industrial accidents. Men died in droves working on canals and
railroads. Some 1300 Chinese labourers
were killed in accidents when the railroad was blasted through the
Sierras. Some 2000 laborers, mostly
Irish, died building the right of way across southern Pennsylvania which later
became the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In
Butte Montana the miners were dead before they reached 50 from Miner's Consumption.
Drained into the towns and cities, times 100, still describes the basic
characteristic of modern society, where the economy relentlessly pushes people
out of the boarded up small towns and deserted rural areas and into sprawling
Mega Cities choked by traffic and blanketed by a brown cloud of air pollution,
where rents keep rising. That fact alone
is a major indictment of the modern economy, whoever or whatever is responsible
for it. Giant harvesters, owned by the
Agri Business in which prosperous people invest, have displaced the farmers who
used to live there and the workers they employed. The income from farming goes to people who
rarely even visit a farm. Those who worked for a living have been displaced
by those who own for a living--who reap where they did not sow and conceal
that reality by the fiction that their money works for them.
The Enclosure Acts deprived the rural poor
of the Commons land which had allowed
them to survive on the minimal wages they were paid. "Enclosure further reduced independence
by depriving labourers of customary access to common land, which had helped
them eke out a living from firing, grazing, nuts and berries, and the odd
rabbit. The Revd Richard Warner, touring
the southern counties, mused, Time was
when these commons enabled the poor man to support his family, and bring up his
children. Here he could turn out his cow
and pony, feed his flock of geese, and keep his pig. But the enclosures have deprived him of these
advantages. . . . As Cobbett vividly
described, the southern rural proletariat was becoming demoralized. Not only were they afflicted in the midst of
plenty, but even when they were in employment they could not command a living
wage. The Revd David Davies wrote in
1795, In visiting the labouring families
of my parish . . . I could not but observe with concern their mean and
distressed condition. . . Yet I could not impute the wretchedness I saw either
to sloth or wastefulness. " [ Porter 94-95 ]
Smith and Malthus: 2
roads to the same conclusion--
Smith's unscientific optimism about how well off the labouring class is in
civilized society was soon replaced by
the pessimism of Malthus who theorized that the lower class invariably
multiplies to the point of starvation.
gloomy prognosis greatly influenced Charles Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest via evolution. Herbert Spencer further developed the
ideology of Social Darwinism when he gave his lectures in America in
the late 19th century. It justified all
the Capitalists who paid subsistence wages to their
workers. [ See Letter to the Bishops page 66 ]
Adam Smith's optimistic doctrine and Herbert Spencer's pessimistic doctrine
arrive at the same practical conclusion: you don't have to do anything about the
You don't have to worry about
them, the System of Natural Liberty--the Free Market System-- will take care of them--has become II. It
is no use worrying about them--nature has doomed them--no use trying to
modern assumption is that the government can take care of all of us. And we seem to have just about pushed that
theory to the limit. More and more of us
depend upon the minimum subsistence provided by the government. But in many places it is no longer passing
the stress test.
America in 1776, because of the rapid expansion of the colonies, labourers were
paid two shillings a day, twice what they received in England. And, because of cheaper provisions and the
abundance of cheap land, they could raise families. Much of the labor of colonial America was
done by slaves and indentured servants and apprentices. But when individuals from these last two
categories finally became independent of their masters, they could get high
enough wages to support a family. In
America, a laborer could support a family.
There was so much opportunity in a rapidly expanding economy that half
grown children could also find ways to make money and contribute to family
states that in America "The labour of each child, before it can leave
their house, is computed to be worth a hundred pounds clear gain to them. A young widow with four or five young
children, who among the middling or inferior ranks of people in Europe, would
have so little chance for a second husband, is there frequently courted as a
sort of fortune. " [ WN 70 ] And
people in America tended to marry young and have lots of children. [ WN 74-75 ]
Smith contrasts this with the common practice of the exposure and
drowning of unwanted children in China [
WN 72 ] because of a mature and stagnant
economy, he says. The rapid expansion of
the British Empire to all parts of the world produced all sorts of economic
opportunities while the curtailment of the ancient empire of China had the
Able to Marry
Nicholas Cresswell visited America, hoping to find a farm he could afford, he
saw that there were opportunities here to raise a family: they
increase much faster than they do in England, indeed they marry much
sooner. Perhaps one reason may be, in
England they cannot maintain a family with so much ease as they do in America .
. . here with the least spark of industry, they may support a family of small
children. [ page 271 of the Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1777
] But he was a patriotic Englishman and
he was forced to return to England when the rebellion broke out and the Committee of Safety came after him. Back in England working on his father's farm
at Edale, binding corn and shearing sheep, he wrote: my
Brother Richard and his wife came to see my Father for the first time since his
marriage . . . There is no provision made for them either by her friends or his
own that I can learn. what strange
infatuation can induce people to be so cursed foolish to marry without knowing
how they are to subsist afterwards.
[ entry for October 4th 1777 page 283 ]
It appears that Nicholas had no good alternative to being dependent upon
his father and working on the family farm because there were few opportunities
in England like those he saw in America, which he had to give up because he
would not go along with the rebellion.
The same thing was true in Ireland where a man often had to wait to get
married until his father died and he inherited the family farm. A similar story of shrinking opportunities
has repeated itself in America over the past 250 years, where the number of
independent small farmers has steadily decreased, farms get larger and larger,
and farm land increasingly belongs to Corporations and those who own stock in
was the land of opportunity for
millions of immigrants, even if that opportunity came at the expense of the
natives who were pushed off their ancestral lands to make way for the
newcomers. And it was at the expense of
an under class of former slaves whose opportunities were severely limited by
racial discrimination. But now Americans
find themselves at the mercy of forces which take away their opportunities to
work and raise families.
like to regale ourselves with the stories of those who have succeeded in
America while we ignore those who failed.
The newspaper puts the lottery winner on the front page and ignores all
those who lost money to make up the purse.
He proves that any one can win ! But the question is whether any one willing
to work can find the opportunity to make a living and raise a family. The answer to that in most places and most
times, including our own, is No. Which leads to the next question: Why not
? What can we do about it ?
of the young people in America can only find part time or subsistence wage jobs
and have no realistic chance of starting families of their own any time
soon. And of course it is 10 times
worse in Asia and Africa and Central and South America, where total corruption
and structural violence erode the very foundations of economic life. From which desperate young men try to
emigrate, often risking their lives in the attempt.
Wage versus Subsistence Wage
family wage must be triple the subsistence wage. There has been a steady decrease in the
number of family wage jobs in the
American economy in the last 50 years.
In the 1960s men began working two jobs to support families. In the modern era, stay at home mothers are
effectively banned. Women have to work
at full time permanent jobs, delay child-bearing as long as possible, and
strictly limit the number of children they have in order to have children at
all. Many wait too long and go through
life childless as a result. Even among
modern, halfway prosperous, two income families, when both parents have to
work, it means few or no children. A Pew
Research Center poll of 2008 says that the percentage of American women who did
not have children by their early 40s was double what it was in 1976. The lifestyle which forces couples to delay
having children until they are in their 30s is based upon contraception backed
by abortion. It is a basic reason for
the modern epidemic of abortion in America.
basic question about any society is how much opportunity it provides for the
average man to raise a family. Not how
much opportunity it provides for speculators to make a profit. At times the U.S. has been a society where
most men could find the opportunity to raise a family. But has
been describes it. Those
opportunities steadily eroded in the last part of the 20th century and they
continue to erode. [ See The Unjust Economy for more about it.
sensible definition of a family wage
is that it is enough to allow a man to support his wife and children working no
more than 40 hours a week. If he has to
work two jobs to make ends meet he will have little time with his family. My father was home for dinner and he was home
on the week ends and we saw a lot of him growing up. My mother never had to work at a job outside
the home to earn wages, and she was always there for us. Back in the 1950s, there were a lot of
families who lived well enough on one income.
That modest lifestyle now requires two incomes, that is, it requires the
women to have full time jobs outside the home.
major factor is the runaway inflation in the housing market driven by the
speculators. Some of these speculators
are big investment banks. Others are
hedge funds investing the pension funds of public employees. Some of them are individuals flipping houses who see no evil in making money at the
expense of families looking for homes.
Doesn't everybody do it ? The end
result of all this speculation in real estate, this engrossing and forestalling
as they used to call it, is that wives have to work to help make the mortgage
his wife has to work, how will they raise a family ? Even taking care of one baby is a full time
job, when it is done right. Raising
several children, and giving them all the attention they want and need, takes
all of a woman's time and she needs helpers as well. She needs the chance to get out of the
house. But today's woman only gets relief from working at home by working
outside the home for wages. This
supposedly represents progress. More
like regress. An economy which prevents
women from devoting their time and energy to their children is a bad economy,
however much wealth it
possesses. Children need amateur child care: the full attention of mothers who really love them. That is what allows us to develop our full
potential. Child care centers staffed by
so-called professionals--people who
get paid--are no substitute.
America today, even before the current recession, family wage jobs have largely disappeared and we are left with subsistence wage jobs which barely allow
a single person to pay the high rents that now prevail. And that is a fundamental issue which
measures the difference between a good economy and a bad economy, between a
decent society and an indecent society--whether men can find family
wage jobs or not.
The Illusion of Equality
Inequality of income is a false issue. We all suffer from inequality of income. Bill
Gates and Warren Buffet suffer from inequality
of income because they have less income than Carlos Slim, the world's
richest man. And he lost 1.6 billion
several years ago in a market downturn. Pobrecito ! And none of us demand equality with the can collector.
We all want equality with the
rich man. How is that going to work
? It isn't.
eat steak while my neighbor eats hamburger that isn't the same thing as if he
starves to death because of my excessive consumption. The real issue is whether we have enough to
live on as single individuals and the much more important question is whether
we can raise families. The test of a
good society is whether the average income worker can raise a family by honest
work--whether he can find a family
wage. Whether he owns his
home. Whether his wife has to work also
to help pay the mortgage. That is the
measure of improvement, not how many own cell phones or TVs.
issue of Inequality of income in
Europe and America is a trivial pursuit
distraction from the attempt to understand the vast misery of Latin America and
Asia and liberated Africa produced by
the violence and corruption of privileged elites ruling destitute masses. And they are aided and abetted by
unscrupulous international investors. It
is a distraction from the attempt to understand why half the young people in
Spain and Italy are still stuck living at home with their parents, with no
realistic prospect of ever having a home and family of their own. How did that happen ?
Inequality of income is invoked by demagogues to appeal to
the notion that we can arrive at a just society by appropriating the wealth of
the 1 per cent who are ridiculously rich.
None of the rest of us have to give up anything. The 99 per cent of us who are righteous but
not rich can just vote to transfer the funds of the 1 per cent who are rich but
not righteous. An easy solution based
upon an easy assumption that most of us really
believe in equality and that there is some simple mechanism
whereby poverty can be ended at the expense of the rich. Do American Negroes believe in equality of income as between
themselves and other American Negroes ?
Despite the rhetoric about brothers
and sisters, there is scant evidence
for the existence of any such belief.
Like the rest of us, they are interested in re-distributing the income
of other people, not their own income.
if the only effective way to end poverty is to take the surplus of the 60 per
cent of us who are above the poverty line and transfer it to those who are
below that line ? Are you still enthused
about doing it ? Probably not, if you
are already above the line. You may have
noticed that no one ever has enough money.
Except for a couple of billionaires who gave half their wealth to
charity. Let us do the same and then we
will be free to criticize them for not giving the rest away.
question isn't just how much you have but how
you got it and what you are doing
with it. For every one who earns a
fair return by providing useful goods and honest services to others, there are
99 who do something else. Who get hold
of a berth in the bureaucracy and take a nap.
Who charge double what the service is worth. Who pursue wealth without work. They make money off short selling and currency
manipulation and high frequency trading. They engage in Vulture Capitalism and Vampire
Capitalism. Many of them have what is
essentially a gambling addiction.
the believers in Capitalism have to
admit to the predominance of Crony Capitalism in the American
economy--Capitalism which is dependent upon and intertwined with crooked
government. As if there were any other
kind of capitalism or any other kind of government. What else is the Military Industrial Complex ?
In theory, the fellow with an unlicensed burrito cart might represent
natural and free and independent capitalism,
so long as he doesn't start paying off the cop with free burritos, but that is
about all there is which fits the free
the gamblers were just going into the tavern and cheating one another, we could
shrug it off and let them go to it. But
they get the farmer inside and take his crop money. What is worse are the speculators who drive
up the price of the homes we need to raise families. They truly are very harmful social parasites
and at least half of the population is now included in their number, one way or
another. If they don't do it directly,
they do it via hedge funds etc. Below that level, they aren't honest either,
but they are limited to swiping your
battery or your hub caps. Which are a
lot cheaper to replace.
a ceiling on wealth
putting a ceiling on wealth necessary to put a floor under poverty ? If
so, who can be trusted to do it ? The
revolutionaries ? A popularly elected
government ? Gaunt and ragged
revolutionaries coming in from the hills have a keener appetite for luxuries
than any jaded aristocrat. They are soon
living in the mansions of those they displaced.
Popular elections are determined by the amount of money spent and day to
day government is shaped and reshaped by those who know how to use their money
to buy influence.
faith in free enterprise claims that rich men invest their money in enterprizes
which provide goods and services and employment for the rest of us. In one case out of 100, it might be true--or
half true. .
what they do with the money
phony claim raises the question as to what people do with their money and how
it affects society. A man who invests in
a coal mine where the rest of us can get good wages while trying to avoid black
lung, is, relatively at least, a public benefactor. Even if you die at age 40, you have a chance
to raise some kids.
then there is investment of capital
which does not necessarily hurt the rest of us, even when it doesn't do us much
good. One very rich man paid $ 45 million
for a painting of the artist's homosexual lover. And he is welcome to it as far as I am
concerned, even if he keeps it in his house where the public never sees
it--especially if he does that.
Investing in houses tends to double
and triple the price a family has to pay for the home they need. That is obviously a much more pernicious use
of wealth in its effect on others.
rich man who spent $ 34 million on a super size yaught, revived the ship yard
which employs some 200 people. And it also
means long term employment for those who serve on the yaught. It may be somewhat servile labor, but serving
sherry to painted ladies while cruising in the Caribbean is not so bad. At least it beats coal mining in respect to
breathing fresh air.
luxuries of the rich come at the expense of the poor. When the Duke of Sutherland evicted thousands
of tenants to create a hunting preserve for himself and his aristocratic
guests, he took their livelihood away and also their homes.
justice or charity
my family lives in a 10 room house while your family lives in a 6 room house,
is that a great injustice ? Obviously
some further inquiry is mandated. If my
family lives in a 20 room house and your family has no house at all, that
implies an injustice or at least a lack of charity. But it still has to be asked what has
prevented you from acquiring a house and why I am responsible.
wealth is accrued by honest work and by the production of useful goods and
services, the presumption is that it is justly acquired, even if it
substantially exceeds what others have.
But most of the world's wealth is distributed by coercion and corruption
and privilege. The good jobs go to those
who know somebody. The government
bureaucracy has become a privileged class.
Despite Civil Service, there is still a spoils system by which political
power translates into government employment at the expense of those who are
excluded from it.
spectacle found everywhere in the world of a small class of people who live in
gross and extravagant luxury while the large mass live in the most wretched
poverty, has the appearance on its face of gross injustice. And it is not hard to discover how much force
and fraud there is in this situation,
how little of the wealth flows to honest labor. We live in a Rip Off Society. But the
assumption that there is some mechanical way to remedy this situation, which
does not require a renewal of social morality, is an illusion. A good society requires good people. It is tempting to dream of escaping via space
ship from this dying planet. The real
possibility is to escape to that inner space which is created by the Spirit and
in which a real community can be built.
the Disney portrait of nature, for every buck there is a doe, and for every
Jack there is a Jill. The reality is
that surplus males and females who don't raise families are commonly found
it is the peculiarity of human society that it takes what is found in nature
and makes it much better or else makes it 10 times worse. In nature, animals sometimes have an
abundance of food and sometimes starve.
In human society we control our own food supply by farming, stock
raising, and fishing boats and nets etc.
We have green houses, storage towers full of surplus grain and man made
fish ponds. But we also have un natural
famines that kill millions, brought about by imperial governments and absentee
landlords or wars and sieges and naval blockades.
of surplus men are used up in war, or exploited for cheap labor, or left on the
stoops of slums with just enough money for a pint of cheap wine. Surplus women are sent to convents or they
become servants and clerks and prostitutes.
Sometimes they can get enough welfare to try and raise kids without a
father in the crime-ridden slums of our giant cities.
most of the world, throughout most of its history, the prospect of a society in
which they were able to make a good living and raise a family looked like
utopia. It would be utopia in many
parts of the world today, if they could achieve a society in which the violence
had stopped and water and electricity were reliably supplied. A society in which there is a minimum of food and shelter looks
like utopia to those who don't have it.
But we should not forget that
America was once a place in which the majority of the common people
could make a living and raise a family.
Why is that situation being so relentlessly eroded in modern times
? Why has paradise been lost ?
basic reason is the human habit of grabbing more and more as time goes by, at
the expense of widows and orphans or
anyone else that can be taken advantage of.
It is astonishing how rapidly what seemed to be the limitless wealth of
the American continent has been claimed and fenced and then wound up in the
grasp of fewer and fewer owners. In a
very short historical span we went from being a nation of small farmers to
being a nation of giant agricultural corporations, where farm income goes to
stock holders who do no farm work. They own for a living.
The predatory power of surplus money
generated by everything except honest work is a corrosive acid which eats away
the foundation of any economy built by honest work.
the habit of luxury
basic reason is the growth of the habit of luxury. Yesterday's luxuries are today's
necessities. When I was growing up, we
had one second hand car for the whole family.
We almost never dined in restaurants.
We were unacquainted with steak and shrimp and lobster, and knew little
of fine wines. But we owned our home,
the meat loaf was good and we had a rich family life.
the labor movement pursued the utopia of a family wage for all workers. But more and more the successful government
backed unions pursued extravagant wages and benefits for their own senior
members at the expense of everyone else, including other workers. It isn't just the greed of the rich that impoverishes the rest of us. That love
of money which is the root of all
evil permeates all levels of society as
Jeremiah 6.13 states: For from the least to the greatest of them,
every one is greedy for unjust gain.
original anti family ideology of the
Women's Liberation Movement, which re-emerged in the late 1960s, disguised
that agenda behind the call for Careers
for Women. But their success is mainly
due to the fact that their agenda coincided with a major movement in American
life towards more money / fewer children
by pushing women out of the home and into the job market. In the short run, pushing women into the job
market doubles family income. But, since
it effectively doubles the labor supply, it leads to cutting wages in
half. Now it takes two pay checks to buy
a house, which has doubled and tripled in price because of that and because of
all the speculators and flippers in
the housing market.
Destruction of the Civil Rights Movement
the 1960s, the American Civil Rights Movement generated a major national push
to end discrimination against Negroes in employment. But, in the late 1960s, the eruption of Black Power and riots in 200 American
cities eroded the broad white / black coalition which had successfully pushed
for an end to discrimination in public accommodations, voting rights, housing
and employment. Gratuitous anti semitism
by slightly insane black rabble rousers alienated the major financial
supporters of the Movement. Gangs which
had adopted black nationalist ideologies terrorized black residents of the
inner city, while still dealing drugs.
opportunities created by the Civil Rights Movement plus the riots and the
predatory armed gangs produced an exodus of both white and black from the inner
city. Everyone able to get out, got out,
leaving the helpless and the hopeless behind at the mercy of the
criminals. The exodus deprived the inner
city of those who might have helped,
but they put their own families first to escape the violence and the
happened to Detroit is emblematic. In
June 1963 Detroit had a giant inter racial march. In July 1967 Detroit had a giant riot
which left it looking like it had been bombed. Then the politics of black racial spite
completed the process of destruction.
What was once America's major manufacturing city is now half abandoned,
boarded up and broke. The businesses
left and took the jobs with them.
Vietnam War diverted the funds which were going into the War on Poverty. The white activists who were pushed out of
the Civil Rights Movement, moved on to the anti Vietnam War movement. The Vietnam War provided jobs of a sort in
the army for many Negro men.
reappearance of the radical feminist movement in the late 1960s diverted the
demand for corporations to hire Negroes into the demand to promote women. It allowed them to escape the pressure to hire blacks. Hiring
a blond could take the place of hiring
a black. Government bureaucracies
which already had a disproportionate number of female employees even adopted Affirmative Action which increased the
disparity. In the recent depression, men
were laid off disproportionately.
Unemployment among Negro men is as bad as it was before affirmative action came along.
power versus prosperity
growth of American power has led to the erosion of American prosperity. Power costs money. It costs millions to run for the Senate and
it costs trillions to maintain the position of the World's Great Empire. America has client states all over the world
and some 800 military bases on various continents, it has to sacrifice the
interests of American workers to its extravagant global out reach. If we don't bribe half the nations on the
planet--especially their military establishments--they will no longer give us
that half-hearted and treacherous loyalty upon which our precarious imperial
power depends. And that matters a lot to
those who occupy the highest positions of power in the American empire. And they persuade the rabble to identify with
that power in lieu of more tangible rewards.
They give you a flag to wave instead of a family wage job.
Social Justice requires that we create societies in
which the right to have a family is a common right. Instead we create societies in which only a
minority have the chance at a decent family life. The rest must remain single or make the
desperate attempt to raise children under conditions which lead to
disaster. In the crime infested slums of
our great cities, women without husbands try to raise children on welfare, if
they can get it, in spite of the new feminist / conservative coalition. The
fathers are on the street or in prison.
They find employment in the drug trade if they find it at all. The number of families headed by single women
is proportional to the number of men working at subsistence wage jobs or stuck
in prison, often because they tried to make a living in an outlaw trade which
was the only family wage they could
A Question of Systems
there an Ideal system of Economy ?
Adam Smith believed there was.
Karl Marx believed there was. But
there is no mechanical and amoral system,
whether so-called Capitalism or
so-called Socialism, which can be an
effective antidote to that historical and perennial and universal
conglomeration of militarism, corruption and privilege
which produces wealth without work for the few and poverty for most
you trust the government ? No. Can you trust the corporations ? No.
Can you trust nature ? No.
Can you trust history ? No.
Can you trust the people ? No.
Can you trust yourself ? Probably
not. So whom can you trust ? You can trust whoever is trustworthy. Whoever is good enough to trust. You can trust honest and hard-working
people--if you can find any. The others
you cannot trust. You can't trust the
notion that there is some system which can operate
independently of the good or bad character of those who belong to it.
don't exactly believe any more in what was called Nonviolence. ( I have even
less faith in violence. ) There is good
reason to be disillusioned with what happened in America in the 1960s and
disillusioned with what Gandhi accomplished in India--what he failed to
accomplish. I have no faith that the masses, aka the people, have the moral and spiritual capacity to carry out the revolution, or the accelerated moral evolution which is so obviously needed. It has to be a revolution which does not
depend upon rifles and the masses are
not going to help, not until they quit the
masses in favor of becoming moral individuals--moral Green Berets, as it
were, who can act on their own instead of just clumping along with the
just society requires that people be just.
Since most of them are not, the only realistic way to build a just
society is by building a small society--a community
in the real sense of the word--around those who will adhere to standards of
justice, while finding ways to keep their distance from the rest. Don't buy stolen merchandise. Don't let rip off artists work on your
car. Don't pursue wealth without work or give any countenance to those who do. We urgently need to find a road to a Moral
Society. A family friendly society. Which requires a morally independent economy
. We need an alternative society with
the Courage to defy the unjust world which surrounds it.
[ 10582 words ] Terry
Sullivan Oct 21 2015
Three Kings Approach the Temple [ Arches Sept 20 2005 ]