Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

In order to make sure that our reader shall comprehend our theory, we will give a long extract from the “Science of Society," by Stephen Pearle Andrews of New York. He is, we think, far the ablest writer on moral science that America has produced. Though an abolitionist, he has not a very bad opinion of slavery. We verily believe, there is not one intelligent abolitionist at the North who does not believe that slavery to capital in free society is worse than Southern negro slavery; but like Mr. Andrews, they are all perfectionists, with a Utopia in full view:

I. Suppose I am a wheelwright in a small village, and the only one of my trade. You are travelling with certain valuables in your carriage, which breaks down opposite my shop. It will take an hour of my time to mend the carriage. You can get no other means of conveyance, and the loss to you, if

you

fail to arrive at the neighboring town in season for the sailing of a certain vessel, will be $500, which fact you mention to me, in good faith, in order to quicken my exertions. I give one hour of my work and mend the carriage. What am I in equity entitled to charge—what should be the limit of price upon my labor ?

Let us apply the different measures, and see how they will operate. If Value is the limit of price, then the price of the hour's labor should be $500. That is the equivalent of the value of the labor to you. If cost is the limit of price, then you should pay me a commodity,

or commodities, or a representative in currency, which will procure me commodities having in them one hour's labor equally as hard as the mending of the carriage, without the slightest reference to the degree of benefit which that labor has bestowed on you; or, putting the illustration in money, thus: assuming the twenty-five cents to be an equivalent for an hour's labor of an artizan in that particular trade, then, according to the Cost Principle, I should be justified in asking only twentyfive cents, but according to the Value Principle, I should be justified in asking $500.

The Value Principle, in some form of expression, is, as I have said, the only recognized principle of trade throughout the world. “A thing is worth what it will bring in the market." Still, if I were to charge you $500, or a fourth part of that sum, and, taking advantage of your necessities, force you to pay it, everybody would denounce me, the poor wheelwright, as an extortioner and a scoundrel. Why? Simply because this is an unusual application of the principle. Wheelwrights seldom have a chance to make such a "speculation," and therefore it is not according to the “established usages of trade." Hence its manifest injustice shocks, in such a case, the common sense of rigit. Meanwhile you, a wealthy merchant, are daily rolling up an immense fortune by doing business upon tue same principle which you condemn in the wheelwright, and nobody finds fault. At every scarcity in the market, you immediately raise the price of every article you hold. It is your business to take advantage of the necessities of those with whom you deal, by selling to them accord

to you.

ing to the Value to them, and not according to the Cost

You

go

further. You, by every means in your power, create those necessities, by buying up particular articles and holding them out of the market until the demand becomes pressing, by circulating false reports of short

crops, and by other similar tricks known to the trade. This is the same in principle, as if the wheelwright had first dug the rut in which your carriage upset, and then charged you the $500.

Yet hitherto no one has thought of seriously questioning the principle, namely, that “ Value is the limit of price," or, in other words, that it is right to take for a thing what it is worth.It is upon this principle or maxim, that all honorable trade professes now to be conducted, until instances arise in which its oppressive operation is so glaring and repugnant to the moral sense of mankind, that those who carry it out are denounced as rogues and cheats. In this manner a sort of conventional limit is placed upon the application of a principle which is equally the principle of every swindling transaction, and of what is called legitimate commerce. The discovery has not hitherto been made, that the principle itself is essentially vicious, and that in its infinite and all-pervading variety of applications, this vicious principle is the source of the injustice, inequality of condition, and frightful pauperism and wretchedness which characterize the existing state of our so-called civilization. Still less has the discovery been made, that there is another simple principle of traffic which, once understood and applied in practice, will effectually rectify all those monstrous evils, and introduce into human society the reign of absolute equity in all property relations, while it will lay the foundations of universal harmony in the social and moral relations as well.

II. Suppose it. costs me ten minutes' labor to concoct a pill which will save your life when nothing else will; and suppose, at the same time, to render the case simple, that the knowledge of the ingredients came to me by accident, without labor or cost. It is clear that

your

life is worth to you more than your fortune. Am I, then, entitled to demand of you for the nostrum the whole of your property, more or less? Clearly so, if it is right to take for a thing what it is worth, which is theoretically the highest ethics of trade.

Forced, on the one hand, by the impossibility, existing in the nature of things, of ascertaining and measuring positive values, or of determining, in other words, what a thing is really worth, and rendered partially conscious by the obvious hardship and injustice of every unusual or extreme application of the principle that it is either no rule or a bad one, and not guided by the knowledge of any true principle out of the labyrinth of conflicting rights into which the false principle conducts, the world has practically abandoned the attempt to combine Equity with Commerce, and lowered its standard of morality to the inverse statement of the formula, namely, that, “A thing is worth what it will bring;" or, in other words, that it is fitting and proper to take for a thing when sold whatever can be got for it. This, then, is what is denominated the Market Value of an article, as distinguished from its actual value. Without being more equitable as a measure of price, it certainly has a great

[ocr errors]

practical advantage over the more decent theoretical statement, in the fact that it is possible to ascertain by experiment how much you can force people, through their necessities, to give. The principle, in this form, measures the price by the degree of want on the part of the purchaser, that is, by what he supposes will prove to be the value or benefit to him of the commodity purchased, in comparison with that of the one with which he parts in the transaction. Hence it becomes immediately and continually the interest of the seller to place the purchaser in a condition of as much want as possible; "to corner” him, as the phrase is in Wall street, and force him to buy at the dearest rate. If he is unable to increase his actual necessity, he resorts to every means of creating an imaginary want by false praises bestowed upon the qualities and uses of his goods. Hence the usages of forestalling the market, of confusing the public knowledge of Supply and Demand, of advertising and puffing worthless commodities, and the like, which constitute the existing commercial system-a system which, in our age, is ripening into putrefaction, and coming to offend the nostrils of good taste no less than the innate sense of right, which, dreadfully vitiating as it is, it has failed wholly to extinguish.

The Value Principle in this form, as in the other, is therefore felt, without being distinctly understood, to be essentially diabolical, and hence it undergoes again a kind of sentimental modification wherever the sentiment for honesty is most potent. This last and highest ex. pression of the doctrine of honesty, as now known in the world, may be stated in the form of the hortatory pre

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »