This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
There have now been presented most of the considerations we have room to offer in regard to the subject before us, and in somewhat the usual manner of arrangement. We propose, in conclusion, to give what may be a new, but is, as we think, a more natural and scientific classification of wages.
Properly considered, wages are paid for three different kinds of power; viz.,—
1st, Physical power, or mere muscular effort with the spade, shovel, hoe, and the like; the kind of labor least elevated above that of the horse or ox. This power is most plenty, comes by nature, costs the least, and is therefore cheapest. It would be so regarded theoretically: it is so practically. This has ever been, and will be, the lowest priced.
2d, Mental power. Those faculties of mind that give ability to manage complicated affairs, the general operations of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, — all services, in fact, that require the exercise of judgment, discretion, reflection, calculation. Such power is more rare than physical force. It will therefore command a higher price, especially in a progressive state of society. To this class may be referred all persons of natural ingenuity, inventors, authors, and men of genius. Such often receive great rewards. In this class may be placed the greater proportion of those professional services which are subsidiary to production, and indispensable to its fullest development.
To prepare men for the exercise of their intellectual powers, a considerable amount of education and training is necessary. Hence such powers are not only more rare, but more expensive, than brute force, and therefore rightfully command higher compensation,
3d, Moral power. As man advances in civilization; as wealth, its great concomitant, increases; and social combinations are multiplied, — it becomes more and more necessary that important trusts should devolve on individuals occupying particular stations. With all the checks and securities that can be devised, the greatest reliance must ever be placed on the character of the person to whom the trust is committed. Oftentimes the honor and interests of vast bodies of men must be committed to a single hand.
Hence arises *a necessity for something more and higher than physical and mental faculties or qualities combined,— something that shall furnish a guaranty, irrespective of all contrivances, that these high trusts shall be faithfully discharged. That guaranty is found in the moral power of the individual, — the power which gives such a control over appetites, passions, and propensities as affords assurance that under no circumstances of trial or temptation will he ever depart from the strictest line of duty. This confidence can be inspired only by the conviction that the individual to be trusted has firm, abiding principle; that he will be honorable and true, not merely because it is for his immediate interest to do so, but because such are his sentiments and convictions that he cannot be otherwise; that no change of circumstances will ever induce him to deviate from the path of rectitude.
When men are found possessing this high moral power over themselves and the accidents of their position, they will, of course, be called to places of responsibility and trust.
Now, as such men are more rare than those having only physical power, or physical and mental power combined, they will command higher rewards, — the highest paid for any class of services.
The merchant must often intrust all his fortune to a single confidential clerk. He must put himself in the power of that clerk to injure, it may be to ruin, if he will. Hence, should he find a man to whom of all others he is willing to commit this power, he will be disposed — he can afford — to give him large wages. The incorporated company, with its capital of millions, must put into the hands of its officers, sometimes of a single man, its whole wealth. And, after all the bonds and guaranties that can be devised, reliance must be mainly placed upon the moral character of the man.
In affairs of state, in the highest public trusts, how much must always depend on personal honor and integrity! What other assurance can the people have, that their servant may not, under great temptation, prove recreant to duty, and injure and disgrace himself and his country? Looking at all rewards in the light of political economy, it is here that we find the highest plane of human effort. It may be objected to this new classification of labor, that we confound economic with moral science, and depart from our appropriate sphere. We reply, that men, if truly moral, are so not because it is profitable, not because it will enlarge the value of their services, but because it is right, because they love integrity for its own sake. This must be their motive, or their morality has no reliable foundation. Yet from this cause it occurs that their services are more desirable, and they will receive greater remuneration,— will be paid for honesty as truly as for intelligence, activity, and strength. So a man must preserve his health, if he would receive wages for even the lowest form of labor; but that will not be his motive. The love of life and the pleasures of health will form the grand consideration in his mind why he should abstain from all that Will impair his physical energies; yet, as a consequence, he secures the ability to command wages, and is paid for his abstinence and discretion.
We cannot, therefore, acknowledge the validity of the objection to that which seems to us the most natural and scientific classification of wages.