But the question of wages forms only one side of the working man's account; on the other stands the cost of living, and no comparisons of prosperity, in given industrial communities, are of any value which omit to take into consideration the relative ease with which such communities can procure the means of subsistence. Table C presents a summary of prices, gathered in 1883, of the chief items in a working man's expenditure, and their cost in Massachusetts and Great Britain.
Table C. --------------------------------------------------------- Articles. |Percentage higher | Percentage higher | in Mass. | in Great Britain --------------------------------------------------------- Groceries | 16.18 | - Provisions | - | 20.00 Fuel | 104.98 | - Dry goods | 13.26 | - Boots and shoes | 42.75 | - Clothing | 45.06 | - Rents | 89.62 | - ---------------------------------------------------------
Having agreed that wages are probably 62 per cent. higher in Massachusetts than in Great Britain, it would be easy, if we could ascertain what proportion of a working man's income is spent respectively in groceries, provisions, clothing, etc., to determine what advantage an operative derives from the higher wages of the United States. Dr. Engel, the chief of the Prussian Bureau of Statistics, puts us in possession of this information, and, as the result of a laborious inquiry, has formulated a certain economic law which governs the relations between income and expenditure. From him we learn (see Table D) that:
Table D. A working man with an income of £60 per annum spends as follows: Per cent. of income. Shillings. / meat.... 248 1. On subsistence 62 or \ groceries 496 2. " clothing 16 " 192 3. " rent 12 " 144 4. " fuel 5 " 60 5. " sundries 5 " 60 - - - - - - Total shillings 1,200 Or £60
Now, referring to Table C, it will be seen that the same man's expenditure in America would be:
Shillings. S. 1. On subsistence / meat.... 248 - 20 p.c. = 198.4 \ groceries 496 + 16 " = 575.3 2. " clothing 192 + 45 " = 278.4 3. " rent 144 + 89 " = 272.1 4. " fuel 60 + 104 " = 122.0 5. " sundries 60 + 50 " = 90.0 - - - - - - - Total 1,536.2 Or £76 16s.
In other words, a workman earning £60 per annum in Great Britain would receive £99, or 62 per cent. more wages in the States, but living there would cost him £77, or £17 more than here, giving him a net advantage of only 28 per cent., instead of 62 per cent., derived from living and working in America.
But this result does not exhaust the question. The standard of life is very different among working men in the States and in Great Britain, and the almost inexhaustible statistics of the report, already so often quoted, enable us to gauge this difference with accuracy. It has been proved, by a recent investigation, whose details we need not follow, that the expenditure of working men's families, of similar size, in Massachusetts and in Great Britain, stand to each other in the ratio of 15 to 10. By introducing this new factor into our calculations, we find that a man who spends £60 per annum in England would spend £90, instead of £77, per annum in the States, paying American prices for subsistence, and living up to American standards. In other words, he would be a gainer to the extent of only £9 per annum by living and working in the United States. Finally, if we presume that 48 or 50 per cent., rather than 62 per cent., measures the higher wages of Massachusetts, the same man's increased wages would be £90 instead of £99, and he would-neither lose nor gain in money by becoming an American citizen, and adopting American habits.
That these conclusions agree with those rough and ready practical illustrations which, without being scientific, are generally trustworthy, let the following story evidence.
Some years ago, a skillful moulder, in my then firm's employ, left us for the States, where he permanently settled. After a long absence, he returned for a few weeks' holiday, when I asked him whether he earned higher wages and found life more agreeable in America than in England. "Well, as to money" was his reply, "I think, taking all things into consideration, I did about as well in the old shop as I do now; but, socially speaking, I am somebody there, while here I am only a moulder." Social advantage, indeed, probably measures almost all the difference between the position of a skilled factory operative in the States and in England.
Let me not seem, however, to undervalue that difference. Statistics, after all, do not dominate human nature; on the contrary, human nature determines the statistician's figures. Every artisan emigrant to America gains opportunities of advancement of which his European fellows know nothing. If he have brains, the way to success is open there, while it is practically barred to anything short of genius for men of his class in Europe. Our Australian colonies, where unskilled labor can earn 7s. 6d. a day, and live for a trifle, are, indeed, a paradise for the mere wage-earner, who can scarcely help becoming also a wage-saver; but America is the country which, with wage conditions such as I have attempted to portray, still offers the best possible opportunities of success, and even of great careers, to clever working men, and especially to clever mechanics. That man, however, is not worthy of a home in the great republic, who does not appreciate the higher social levels at which native labor desires to live, who is not anxious to make the most of the advantages which democratic institutions offer him, who does not, in short, ardently desire to become a "good American."
There remains the question already alluded to as inextricably bound up with American labor problems: How does the American tariff affect wages? The idea that these are determinable by the tariff is the corner stone of protection in the States. The artisan has been so sedulously educated to believe that the chief object of import duties is to protect him from falling into a ruinous competition with what is called the "pauper labor of Europe," that no movement on the part of workmen in the direction of free trade is ever likely to arise in America. I am not now about to argue the question of protection, except in so far as it relates to labor; but it may be remarked, in passing, that internal competition, rather than the people, is the enemy from whom the tariff will probably receive its death blow in the future. Protection will ultimately break down by its own weight in the States. Production already exceeds demand, the cry for a "wider market" and for "raw materials free" is in every manufacturer's mouth; and if America upholds her protective legislation too long, the produce of her factories and mills will, by and by, force its way, in spite of the tariff, into the open markets of the world, but it will be through the gate of national suffering.
Few people in this country are, I think, aware of the extraordinary fervor with which the doctrine that protection benefits labor is preached in the States. We are ourselves accustomed to hear the question of free trade argued only from the economic standpoint, but this is by no means so commonly the case in America. I shall try, by paraphrasing certain recent addresses of an able personal friend and enthusiastic protectionist, to illustrate the position taken by those persons who advocate the tariff, not upon economic grounds, but in the avowed interests of labor.