Land and Wages

Henry George: The Wages of Labor
Nor can the State cure poverty by regulating wages. It is as much beyond the power of the State to regulate wages as it is to regulate the rates of interest. Usury laws have been tried again and again, but the only effect they have ever had has been to increase what the poorer borrowers must pay, and for the same reasons that all attempts to lower by regulation the price of goods have always resulted merely in increasing their price.

The general rate of wages is fixed by the ease or difficulty with which labor can obtain access to land, ranging from the full earnings of labor, where land is free; to the least on which laborers can live and reproduce, where land is fully monopolised.

Thus, where it has been comparatively easy for laborers to get land, as in the United States and in Australasia, wages have been higher than in Europe, and it has been impossible to get European laborers to work there for wages that they would gladly accept at home; while now, as monopolisation goes on under the influence of private property in land, wages tend to fall, and the social conditions of Europe to appear.

Thus, under the partial yet substantial recognition of common rights to land, the many attempts of the British Parliaments to reduce wages by regulation failed utterly: And so, when the institution of private property in land had done its work in England, all attempts of Parliament to raise wages proved unavailing.

At the beginning of this century it was even attempted to increase the earnings of laborers by grants in aid of wages. But the only result was to lower commensurately what wages employers paid.

The State could only maintain wages above the tendency of the market (for, as I have shown, labor deprived of land becomes a commodity) by offering employment to all who wish it; or by lending its sanction to strikes and supporting them with its funds.

Thus it is that the thorough-going Socialists who want the State to take all industry into its hands are much more logical than those timid Socialists who propose that the State should regulate private industry – but only a little.    ...  read the whole article