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View Diary: The End of Economic Growth (188 comments)

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  •  Abraham Lincoln (1+ / 0-)
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    SuWho

    had thoughts on the relation between labor and capital that may get us back to basics:

    http://dig.lib.niu.edu/...

    From: Lincoln, Abraham. "Annual Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 30, 1859."

    The world is agreed that labor is the source from which human wants are mainly supplied. There is no dispute upon this point. From this point, however, men immediately diverge. Much disputation is maintained as to the best way of applying and controlling the labor element. By some it is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital – that nobody labors, unless somebody else owning capital, somehow, by the use of it, induces him to do it...

    But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed... They hold that labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed; that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior – greatly the superior – of capital. They do not deny that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital. The error, as they hold, is in assuming that the whole labor of the world exists within that relation...

    Men, with their families – wives, sons and daughters – work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other... The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor – the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all...

    The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated – quite too nearly all to leave the labor of the uneducated in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor.

    Excerpt of Lincoln's Speech on Free Labor vs. Slave Labor
    The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 5. Eds. John G. Nicolay and John Hay. New York: Francis D. Tandy Company, 1894.

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