I have this professor, he is a nice guy and all but he is more or less a fascist (militaristic Republican who is openly very pro-government + devoted vegetarian just to make things that much creepier). In class he was talking about how the government was nessasary to prevent the abuse of employees by early capitalists. Of course this made my blood boil, and at that moment I knew what my paper would be about...
I know for a fact that early proto-capitalists where not abusive; and any later abuse of employees was the result of pro-business state intervention. However I have forgotten where I have read these facts...
I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for sources. This is a business management class so they don't have to be primary or any thing; I was hoping to get some thing off of the mises site or something.
Of course something about early labor relation would be good, also some thing about later pro-business intervention would be good; an article about the government indemnifying railroads whose sparks set crops afire comes to mind.
Thanks for your help.
LeFevre has a great series of audio lectures on the Industrial Revolution, found here: http://www.mises.org/media.aspx?action=category&ID=27
He gives a lot of details about pre-industrial conditions and the Sadler Report which is responsible for the gross public misunderstanding re: early factories.
"He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." Edmund Burke
You might want to define what is meant by abuse because the notion of acceptable working conditions has changed over time. If you look at how Empire State Building was built, for example, it seems extremely dangerous but was normal at the time.
If I hear not allowed much oftener; said Sam, I'm going to get angry.
J.R.R.Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Welcome back max. You've been missed.
Thanks, big guy... I've been poking my head in but haven't really had time to contribute to threads. I'll be trying to post more though
Thanks Max, that is actually the one I had been thinking about ... I'm new to posting the forums but def not new to mises.org. It must have been about two years ago when I listened to that one
Any other suggestions would be much appreciated
personally would compare abusing of workers in more historical complex view. Abusing
of labour was started much earlier with „invetion“of feudal system. This I call
abusing. Serfdom during feudal age forced people living on the area of aristocrat’s
power to work on his soil with no
countervalue for it. Industrial revolution started (and enabled) moving people
into cities and at this point large scale of capitalist companies was created.
At this point people worked under terrible health conditions in our point of
view. And that is the problem our point of view today is very different. People
were abused by different kind of people. People with aristocratic origin (actually
at the early industrial revolution there were aristocratic entrepreneurs) were
replaced in time for „self made men“typical in US history.
huge diference between serfdom and early capitalist era where people had a
chance to change their lives. Pople started to have power over their lives.
If you are talking specifically about employee abuses and working conditions in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, I have some ideas that might shed light on the matter(I'm a newbie to economics... be gentle). The market isnt some invisible omnipotent force, it is obviously the collective actions of any and everyone participating in the economy. This means that it is limited to the knowledge of the people at the time. The Industrial Revolution marked the first encounter of of the market with heavy machinery on a whole new scale. It had to take time for both workers and owners to be familiar with the potential dangers and costs(both human and material) of operating these machines. A safe working environment is financially beneficial to owners, since it not only makes workers more productive, but shields the company and its owners from law suits. It took time for people to understand how to operate the new machinery
as safe and efficiently as possible. But much to the demise of the free
market, this type of change occurred slower than the government's. I'm not too familiar with this era in history, but if I had to guess why this change took so long, I would guess that it was more difficult to sue your employer for work-related injuries which may owe more to political corruption than the nature of the market. This would reduce the consequences associated with an unsafe work place, destroying the incentive to protect employees.
If these relations were so terrible why did the employees consent to them? The employers had no way to force anyone to work against their will(they weren't the government after all.)
The truth is, no matter how poor working conditions might have been, they were better then the conditions that Europe's urban poor had lived under before the industrial revolution. These poor workers were better off because of their factories jobs, I think this is a point that even left-libertarians fail to realize.
Nock in Our Enemy, The State. p51-52
14. The horrors of England’s industrial life in the last century furnish a standing brief for addicts ofpositive intervention. Child-labour and woman-labour in the mills and mines; Coketown and Mr.Bounderby; starvation wages; killing hours; vile and hazardous conditions of labour; coffin shipsofficered by ruffians – all these are glibly charged off by reformers and publicists to a regime ofrugged individualism, unrestrained competition, and laissez-faire. This is an absurdity on its face,for no such regime ever existed in England. They were due to the State’s primary interventionwhereby the population of England was expropriated from the land; due to the State’s removal ofthe land from competition with industry for labour. Nor did the factory system and the “industrialrevolution” have the least thing to do with creating those hordes of miserable beings. When thefactory system came in, those hordes were already there, expropriated, and they went into themills for whatever Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Plugson of Undershot would give them, because they hadno choice but to beg, steal or starve. Their misery and degradation did not lie at the door ofindividualism; they lay nowhere but at the door of the State. Adam Smith’s economics are not theeconomics of individualism; they are the economics of landowners and mill-owners. Our zealots ofpositive intervention would do well to read the history of the Enclosures Acts and the work of theHammonds, and see what they can make of them.
I remember once reading in wikipedia where Karl Marx concedes that real wages have drastically risen under capitalism, but argues that the wealth has not been distributed equally. Can somebody help me find the quote?
"As long as there are
sovereign nations possessing great power, war is
I have a few suggestions. First of all, I suggest, as others have, that you focus on the Industrial Revolution; this period is the one most associated with employer abuse of employees, and a wealth of information is available, which makes it a good area of study. One book I highly recommend is Capitalism and the Historians, edited by Friedrich Hayek, which has two articles on the conditions of workers during the Industrial Revolution: "The Standard of Life of the Workers in England 1790-1830", by T. S. Ashton, and "The Factory System of the Early Nineteenth Century", by W. H. Hutt (the latter article is available online, but you will need to purchase the book to read the other). These articles dispel many historical myths; for the reason these myths arose, you might want to check out the first part of the book, which is a discussion on the treatment of capitalism by historians. Another book I strongly recommend is The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth by R. M. Hartwell, which is much more heavy in nature, so you may not be willing to purchase it for a mere essay. Nevertheless, it discusses the rise in living standards, increase in real wages, decrease in the price of consumer goods, decrease in death rate, etc. It really is a brilliant reference.
JonBostwick:The truth is, no matter how poor working conditions might have been, they were better then the conditions that Europe's urban poor had lived under before the industrial revolution. These poor workers were better off because of their factories jobs, I think this is a point that even left-libertarians fail to realize.
And part of being a left-libertarian is keeping things in context. Yes, the poor were better off with a factory job than without any job. They would have been even better off if their land hadn't been stolen, for the stated purpose of creating a laboring class.
Market anarchist, Linux geek, aspiring Perl hacker, and student of the neo-Aristotelians, the classical individualist anarchists, and the Austrian school.
What about 'Capitalism and the Historians' by Hayek?
If capital is growing rapidly, wages may indeed rise. The profit of capital rises incomparably more rapidly. The material position of the worker has improved, but at the cost of his social position. The social gulf that divides him from the capitalist is wider.