Monday, August 3, 2009

Hours of Labour 5

by Sydney J. Chapman (translated and condensed by the Sandwichman)

Next, suppose that an agreement between employers, tacit or overt, is impossible, and that each employer will make what arrangements he can when he can. What hours, then, will competition among employers tend to bring about, when humanitarian considerations and any resistance from the workers are ruled out?

Suppose the efficiency of labor at the time is that associated with a customary working day of ten hours. The product of the last fraction of the tenth hour could not be zero, for if it were ten hours would not be worked. The ultimate effect of extending the working day beyond nine hours is loss, not because the product of the last fraction of the ninth hour is zero, but because the product of the last fraction of the ninth hour just equals the ultimate reduction of the product of the other hours occasioned by the lengthening of the working day.

Hence, on the assumption that employers are perfectly far-sighted but that agreement between them as to working hours is lacking, the disposition on the part of each employer to reduce hours to nine would be weakened if each employer could not depend upon keeping workers after he had brought them to the level of efficiency associated with the nine hours' day. The reforming employer would run the risk of paying the whole cost of the labor value created by shorter hours and getting little in return; other employers might secure and exhaust the new labor value, and no permanent good would be effected. Nor would there be any more guarantee in the conditions supposed that the nine hours' day would be retained, if instituted, for an employer could always snatch a temporary advantage by extending hours and paying slightly higher weekly wages. This is a general proof that, on the assumption made as regards the intelligence and foresight of employers and in the absence of agreement between them, the hours resulting in the maximum product would not necessarily establish themselves, no force on the side of the working people being supposed operative.


1 comment:

TheTrucker said...

I do not disagree with this analysis. But the labor union methodology assumes that most jobs are in heavy industry and manufacturing and this simply isn't the case. And although labor unions still serve a definite function in manufacturing and in any arena where huge capital investments for a barrier to entry, the current and seemingly forthcoming economy is not (or should not be) primarily composed of such oligarchy. Even when this oligarchic composition is the case, a redistribution of economic rent (or social surplus if that is your preference) garnered by such consolidations may well be a better solution to the problems of producer injustice.

I am admittedly mystified by the Canadian economy and the seeming lack of worker satisfaction. You have the health care hook removed from your posterior such that the employers can't keep you from changing jobs and you do not have the illegal aliens invading, working for less, and sending the money to where it will buy more. I would think that it would be a blissful existence. Yet this does not seem to be the case. It seems to me that there should be a very real competition for labor in the diversified Canadian economy that would provide sufficient alternatives to trade union (manufacturing) style employment. And that these labor opportunities would be sufficient to control the profit lusts of the manufacturers. Yet it seems that I am simply wrong in my own theories about worker mobility being the real key to producer fairness.

Perhaps you can shed some light that will correct the error of my current thinking. Is the lust for more lip gloss so strong as to overpower the desire to go fishing?