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there must be a skein the less spun by some poor family that spun it before; and for every piece of baize so madein London, there must be a piece the less made at Colchester, or somewhere elsea.” Sir F. M. Eden, on the same subject, observes, that " whether mops and brooms are made by parish children or by private workmen, no more can be sold than the public is in want of b."
It will be said, perhaps, that the same reasoning might be applied to any new capital brought into competition in a par
• See Extracts from Daniel de Foe, in Sir F.M.Eden's valuable Work on the poor, vol. i. p. 261.
• Sir F. M. Eden, speaking of the supposed right of the poor to be supplied with employment while able to work, and with a maintenance when incapacitated from labour, very justly remarks, “ It may however be doubted, “ whether any right, the gratification of which seems to “ be impracticable, can be said to exist,” vol. i. p. 447. No man has collected so many materials for forming a judgment on the effects of the poor-laws as Sir F.M.Eden, and the result he thus expresses : “ Upon the whole there“ fore there seems to be just grounds for concluding, “ that the sum of good to be expected from a compulsory “ maintenance of the poor will be far outbalanced by the
sum of evil which it will inevitably create,” vol. i. p. 467.-I am happy to have the sanction of so practical an inquirer to my opinion of the poor-laws.
ticular trade or manufacture, which can rarely be done without injuring, in some degree, those that were engaged in it before. But there is a material difference in the two
In this the competition is perfectly fair, and what every man on entering into business must lay his account to. He may rest secure that he will not be supplanted, unless his competitor possess superior skill and industry. In the other case the competition is supported by a great bounty; by which means, notwithstanding very
inferior skill and industry on the part of his competitors, the independent workman may
be undersold, and unjustly excluded from the market. He himself perhaps is made to contribute to this competition against his own earnings; and the funds for the maintenance of labour are thus turned from the support of a trade which yields a proper profit, to one which cannot maintain itself without a bounty. It should be observed in general, that when a fund for the maintenance of labour is raised by assessment, the greatest part of it is not a new capital brought into trade, but an old one, which before was much more profitably employed, turned into a new channel. The farmer pays to the poor's rates, for the encouragement of a bad and unprofitable manufacture, what he would have employed on his land with infinitely more advantage to his country. In the one case, the funds for the maintenance of labour are daily diminished; in the other, daily increased. And this obvious tendency of assessments for the employment of the poor, to decrease the real funds for the maintenance of labour in any country, aggravates the absurdity of supposing that it is in the power of a government to find employment for all its subjects, however fast they may increase.
It is not intended that these reasonings should be applied against every mode of employing the poor on a limited scale, and with such restrictions as may not encourage at the same time their increase. I would never wish to push general principles too far; though I think that they ought always to be kept in view. In particular cases the individual good to be obtained may be so great, and the general evil so slight, that
the former may clearly overbalance the latter.
My intention is merely to shew that the poor-laws as a general system are founded on a gross error; and that the common declamation on the subject of the poor, which we see so often in print, and hear continually in conversation, namely, that the market price of labour ought always to be sufficient decently to support a family, and that employment ought to be found for all those who are willing to work, is in effect to say, that the funds for the maintenance of labour in this country are not only infinite, but not subject to variation; and that, whether the resources of a country be rapidly progressive, slowly progressive, stationary or declining, the power of giving full employment and good wages to the labouring classes must always remain exactly the same,-a conclusion which contradicts the plainest and most obvious principles of supply and demand, and involves the absurd position that a definite quantity of territory can maintain an infinite population.
CHAP. CHAP. VII.
Of Poor-Laws, continued.
THE remarks made in the last chapter on the nature and effects of the poor-laws have been in the most striking manner confirmed by the experience of the 1815, 1816 and 1817. During these years, two points of the very highest importance have been established, so as no longer to admit of a doubt in the mind of any rational
The first is, that the country does not in point of fact fulfil the promise which it makes to the poor in the poor-laws, to maintain and find in employment, by means of parish assessments, those who are unable to support themselves or their families, either from want of work or any other cause.
. And secondly, that with a very great increase of legal parish assessments, aided by the most liberal and praiseworthy contri