Injustice of our Labor System

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Every man has a natural right to labor. Every man is equitably entitled to exactly that proportion of the world’s wealth which his own labor produces. I hold the second of these propositions to be self-evident, and the first to follow clearly from the hypothesis that all men are endowed with an inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Now marketable commodities are of two kinds: First, the fruits or products of labor; Secondly, the means of labor. The means of labor are three in number: 1st, the earth and its crude products; 2d, time; 3d, vital energy. Without these, no man can possibly labor. And these, the means of labor, are not produced by labor. They are free gifts of God to man. It is a patent violation of man’s natural right to labor, that the means of labor should be taken from him. It is a great wrong if any man is forced to pay for the privilege; therefore, it is wrong to buy up the means of labor and make them marketable commodities. I understand, of course that any man has a right to exchange the fruits of some of his own labor for an equivalent in the fruits of some one else’s. But the means of labor are not the fruits of labor at all. They belong only to the race. No person has a special right to them except the Almighty; for no one else can claim to have produced them. Unless I can buy them of my Creator, I have no right to deny them to any of my fellow-creatures.

Unhappily, capitalists have always the power to perpetuate the wrong under consideration. Not ten years since, they bought and sold vital power, the living bodies of men. They still buy and sell the land and its crude products, thus compelling labor to pay a tax for their support. If we would know the possibilities of this iniquity let us look to Ireland. They there also buy up time, and compel men to pay a tax upon its use. Do you ask how? Through the principle of interest!

It may be said that to abolish those odious tyrannies would be to destroy our business relations, But here is the rub. Our social system is founded on iniquity. It is the cause of pauperism and all its horrors. It robs the laborer of two-thirds of the products of his toil, perhaps. Is it not a plain duty to seek its abolition?

The National Labor Union fail to see the exigency of the time, when they talk of the “unfair distribution of the products of labor between non-producing capital and labor.” Non-producing capital is a thief. Any distribution is unfair which gives products of labor to non-producing capital. Non-producing capital has the same claims on labor that a tape-worm has upon the body it infests.

Sweep away our existing social system, and it must soon be succeeded by another. And what shall that other be?

C. L. James