"Brother Dowley, who is it that determines, every spring, what the particular wage of each kind of mechanic, laborer, and servant shall be for that year?"
"Sometimes the courts, sometimes the town council; but most of all, the magistrate. Ye may say, in general terms, it is the magistrate that fixes the wages."
"Doesn't ask any of those poor devils to _help_ him fix their wages for them, does he?"
"Hm! That _were_ an idea! The master that's to pay him the money is the one that's rightly concerned in that matter, ye will notice."
"Yes--but I thought the other man might have some little trifle at stake in it, too; and even his wife and children, poor creatures. The masters are these: nobles, rich men, the prosperous generally. These few, who do no work, determine what pay the vast hive shall have who _do_ work. You see? They're a 'combine'--a trade union, to coin a new phrase--who band themselves together to force their lowly brother to take what they choose to give. Thirteen hundred years hence--so says the unwritten law--the 'combine' will be the other way, and then how these fine people's posterity will fume and fret and grit their teeth over the insolent tyranny of trade unions! Yes, indeed! the magistrate will tranquilly arrange the wages from now clear away down into the nineteenth century; and then all of a sudden the wage-earner will consider that a couple of thousand years or so is enough of this one-sided sort of thing; and he will rise up and take a hand in fixing his wages himself. Ah, he will have a long and bitter account of wrong and humiliation to settle."
"Do ye believe--"
"That he actually will help to fix his own wages? Yes, indeed. And he will be strong and able, then."
"Brave times, brave times, of a truth!" sneered the prosperous smith.
"Oh,--and there's another detail. In that day, a master may hire a man for only just one day, or one week, or one month at a time, if he wants to."
"It's true. Moreover, a magistrate won't be able to force a man to work for a master a whole year on a stretch whether the man wants to or not."
"Will there be _no_ law or sense in that day?"
"Both of them, Dowley. In that day a man will be his own property, not the property of magistrate and master. And he can leave town whenever he wants to, if the wages don't suit him!--and they can't put him in the pillory for it."
"Perdition catch such an age!" shouted Dowley, in strong indignation. "An age of dogs, an age barren of reverence for superiors and respect for authority!"
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
Mark Twain On Labor Markets And How Wages Should Be Decided-By Government Fiat Or By Markets?
This is another in a series of posts about A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. This is also from chapter 33 "SIXTH CENTURY POLITICAL ECONOMY." The time traveler, Hank Martin, has discussion with Dowley. Twain seems to think that the government should not dictate wages or who works for whom or for how long. A seemingly chaotic idea in the 6th century, yet law and sense will still prevail.
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