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The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Chapter 31

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"You say 'for farm work,'" said Mr. Maynard. "Then labor is not to be paid alike?"

"Manifestly not, since some work is easy and some hard, and we should have millions of rural mail carriers, and no coal miners. Of course the wages may be left the same, and the hours varied; one or the other will have to be varied continually, according as a greater or less number of workers is needed in any particular industry. That is precisely what is done at present, except that the transfer of the workers is accomplished blindly and imperfectly, by rumors and advertisements, instead of instantly and completely, by a universal government bulletin."

"How about those occupations in which time is difficult to calculate? What is the labor cost of a book?"

"Obviously it is the labor cost of the paper, printing, and binding of it--about a fifth of its present cost."

"And the author?"

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"I have already said that the state could not control intellectual production. The state might say that it had taken a year to write the book, and the author might say it had taken thirty. Goethe said that every bon mot of his had cost a purse of gold. What I outline here is a national, or rather international, system for the providing of the material needs of men. Since a man has intellectual needs also, he will work longer, earn more, and provide for them to his own taste and in his own way. I live on the same earth as the majority, I wear the same kind of shoes and sleep in the same kind of bed; but I do not think the same kind of thoughts, and I do not wish to pay for such thinkers as the majority selects. I wish such things to be left to free effort, as at present. If people want to listen to a certain preacher, they get together and contribute what they please, and pay for a church and support the preacher, and then listen to him; I, who do not want to listen to him, stay away, and it costs me nothing. In the same way there are magazines about Egyptian coins, and Catholic saints, and flying machines, and athletic records, and I know nothing about any of them. On the other hand, if wage slavery were abolished, and I could earn some spare money without paying tribute to an exploiting capitalist, then there would be a magazine for the purpose of interpreting and popularizing the gospel of Friedrich Nietzsche, the prophet of Evolution, and also of Horace Fletcher, the inventor of the noble science of clean eating; and incidentally, perhaps, for the discouraging of long skirts, and the scientific breeding of men and women, and the establishing of divorce by mutual consent."

Dr. Schliemann paused for a moment. "That was a lecture," he said with a laugh, "and yet I am only begun!"

"What else is there?" asked Maynard.

"I have pointed out some of the negative wastes of competition," answered the other. "I have hardly mentioned the positive economies of co-operation. Allowing five to a family, there are fifteen million families in this country; and at least ten million of these live separately, the domestic drudge being either the wife or a wage slave. Now set aside the modern system of pneumatic house-cleaning, and the economies of co-operative cooking; and consider one single item, the washing of dishes. Surely it is moderate to say that the dishwashing for a family of five takes half an hour a day; with ten hours as a day's work, it takes, therefore, half a million able-bodied persons--mostly women to do the dishwashing of the country. And note that this is most filthy and deadening and brutalizing work; that it is a cause of anemia, nervousness, ugliness, and ill-temper; of prostitution, suicide, and insanity; of drunken husbands and degenerate children--for all of which things the community has naturally to pay. And now consider that in each of my little free communities there would be a machine which would wash and dry the dishes, and do it, not merely to the eye and the touch, but scientifically--sterilizing them--and do it at a saving of all the drudgery and nine-tenths of the time! All of these things you may find in the books of Mrs. Gilman; and then take Kropotkin's Fields, Factories, and Workshops, and read about the new science of agriculture, which has been built up in the last ten years; by which, with made soils and intensive culture, a gardener can raise ten or twelve crops in a season, and two hundred tons of vegetables upon a single acre; by which the population of the whole globe could be supported on the soil now cultivated in the United States alone! It is impossible to apply such methods now, owing to the ignorance and poverty of our scattered farming population; but imagine the problem of providing the food supply of our nation once taken in hand systematically and rationally, by scientists! All the poor and rocky land set apart for a national timber reserve, in which our children play, and our young men hunt, and our poets dwell! The most favorable climate and soil for each product selected; the exact requirements of the community known, and the acreage figured accordingly; the most improved machinery employed, under the direction of expert agricultural chemists! I was brought up on a farm, and I know the awful deadliness of farm work; and I like to picture it all as it will be after the revolution. To picture the great potato-planting machine, drawn by four horses, or an electric motor, ploughing the furrow, cutting and dropping and covering the potatoes, and planting a score of acres a day! To picture the great potato-digging machine, run by electricity, perhaps, and moving across a thousand-acre field, scooping up earth and potatoes, and dropping the latter into sacks! To every other kind of vegetable and fruit handled in the same way--apples and oranges picked by machinery, cows milked by electricity--things which are already done, as you may know. To picture the harvest fields of the future, to which millions of happy men and women come for a summer holiday, brought by special trains, the exactly needful number to each place! And to contrast all this with our present agonizing system of independent small farming,--a stunted, haggard, ignorant man, mated with a yellow, lean, and sad-eyed drudge, and toiling from four o'clock in the morning until nine at night, working the children as soon as they are able to walk, scratching the soil with its primitive tools, and shut out from all knowledge and hope, from all their benefits of science and invention, and all the joys of the spirit--held to a bare existence by competition in labor, and boasting of his freedom because he is too blind to see his chains!"

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The Jungle
Upton Sinclair

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