The invisible cause of unemployment

October 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

From our friends at The Progress Report:

Populist era economist and social reformer Henry George testified as part of the investigation conducted in 1883 by the Senate Committee Upon the Relations Between Labor and Capital. Below is part of his testimony, which remains surprisingly relevant to our economic debates today.

[Questioning by Senator Wilkinson Call, Florida Democrat]

Senator Call:: You have been engaged for some years, I believe, in looking into the labor question, the condition of the laboring population, and the relations of labor and capital, have you not?

Henry George:: For some time, with a great deal of attention.

Senator Call:: We should be glad to have a statement from you in your own way of any facts that may be within your knowledge in regard to the condition of labor in its relations to capital, and any suggestions of remedies which you think would bring about an improved condition of things.

Henry George: The general fact … is that there exists among the laboring classes of the United States a great and growing feeling of dissatisfaction and discontent. As to whether the condition of the laboring classes in the United States is getting any worse, that is a difficult and complex question. I am inclined to think that it is; but whether it is or not, the feeling of dissatisfaction is evidently increasing. It is certainly becoming more and more difficult for a man in any particular occupation to become his own employer. The tendency of business of all kinds, both in production and in exchange, is concentration, to the massing of large capital, and to the massing of men. The inventions and improvements of all kinds that have done so much to change all the aspects of production, and which are still going on, tend to require a greater and greater division of labor, the employment of more and more capital, and in turn to make it more and more difficult for a man who has nothing but his labor to become his own employer, or to rise to a position of independence in his craft or occupation.

Senator Call:: Can you state any economic reasons why that is the case?

Henry George:: I do not believe that there is any conflict of interest between labor and capital, using those terms in their large sense. I believe the conflict is really between labor and monopoly. « Read the rest of this entry »

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