Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Adam Smith says wage increases not a problem

I recently complained about the standard business response to regulation--it will raise prices and destroy the market! Apparently Adam Smith beat me to this observation a couple of hundred years ago.In short, wage increases affect price linearly while profit increases affect price exponentially.

In reality, high profits tend much more to raise the price of work
than high wages. If, in the linen manufacture, for example, the wages
of the different working people, the flax-dressers, the spinners, the
weavers, etc. should all of them be advanced twopence a-day, it would
be necessary to heighten the price of a piece of linen only by a
number of twopences equal to the number of people that had been
employed about it, multiplied by the number of days during which they
had been so employed. That part of the price of the commodity which
resolved itself into the wages, would, through all the different
stages of the manufacture, rise only in arithmetical proportion to
this rise of wages.
But if the profits of all the different employers
of those working people should be raised five per cent. that part of
the price of the commodity which resolved itself into profit would,
through all the different stages of the manufacture, rise in
geometrical proportion to this rise of profit.
The employer of the
flax dressers would, in selling his flax, require an additional five
per cent. upon the whole value of the materials and wages which he
advanced to his workmen. The employer of the spinners would require an
additional five per cent. both upon the advanced price of the flax,
and upon the wages of the spinners. And the employer of the weavers
would require alike five per cent. both upon the advanced price of the
linen-yarn, and upon the wages of the weavers. In raising the price of
commodities, the rise of wages operates in the same manner as simple
interest does in the accumulation of debt. The rise of profit operates
like compound interest. Our merchants and master manufacturers
complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price,
and thereby lessening the sale of their goods, both at home and
abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits;
they are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own
gains; they complain only of those of other people.

From The Project Gutenberg EBook of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith

1 comment:

boredoom said...

I don't care, I'm still not giving you a raise.

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