Sunday, August 08, 2010


Purchased at auction in Monmouth, IL, today, a pamphlet of rare timeliness:

by Elbert Hubbard,

Published by The Roycrofters, East• Aurora • Erie • County • N.Y.

Done into a Book by The Roycrofters at their shop, which is in East Aurora, State of New York.

Copyright 1910 By Elbert Hubbard

The Closed or Open Shop?

IN Eighteen Hundred Eighty-nine, an engineer on a fast passenger-train, on a railroad that need not here be advertised, became violently insane. The time on his run had been cut down to fifty miles an hour. It was very rapid running at that time, and told severely on the man's nerves. Suddenly, while at the throttle, reason gave way, and the engineer started to make a record run. He imagined there was another fast train just behind ; his life was at stake, and safety for himself and his train demanded that he should make a hundred miles an hour.

He had nearly attained his pace and was flying past a station where he should have stopped for orders, when the fireman, realizing the situation, laid the madman low with a link-pin, and the train was slowed just in time to escape a wreck.

THERE is a natural law, well recognized and defined by men who think, called the Law of Diminishing Returns, sometimes referred to as


the Law of Pivotal Points. ¶ A man starts in to take systematic exercise, and he finds his strength increases. He takes more exercise and keeps on until he gets "––that is, becomes sore and lame. He has passed the Pivotal Point and is getting a Diminishing Return. In running a railroad-engine a certain amount of coal is required to pull a train of given weight a mile, say at the rate of fifty miles an hour. You double the amount of your coal, and simple folks might say you double your speed, but railroad men know better. The double amount of coal will give you only about sixty miles instead of fifty with a heavy train. Increase your coal and from this on you get a Diminishing Return. If you insist on eighty miles an hour you get your speed at a terrific cost and a terrible risk.
Another case : Your body requires a certain amount of food –– the body is an engine ; food is fuel ; life is combustion. Better the quality and quantity of your food and up to a point you increase your strength. Go on increasing it, and you reach a point where you get Diminishing Returns. Go on increasing your food and you get death. Loan money at five per cent, and your investment is reasonably secure and safe. Loan money at ten


per cent and you do not double the returns ; on the contrary, you have taken on so much risk! Loan money at twenty per cent and you probably lose it ; for the man who borrows at twenty per cent does not intend to pay it if he can help it.
The Law of Diminishing Returns was what Oliver Wendell Holmes had in mind when he said : "Because I like a pinch of salt in my soup is no reason I wish to be immersed in brine."
Churches, preachers and religious denominations are good things in their time and place, and up to a certain point. Whether for you the church has passed the Pivotal Point is for you, yourself, to decide. But remember this, because a thing is good up to a certain point, or has been good, is no reason why it should be perpetuated. The Law of Diminishing Returns is the natural refutation of the popular fallacy, that because a thing is good you can not get too much of it.


LABOR-UNIONS well illustrate the law of Diminishing Returns.
Labor-Unions have increased wages, shortened hours, introduced Government Factory-Inspection, have partially done away with child-labor, and done


many other useful, excellent and beautiful things. But when the Labor-Unions go beyond the Pivotal Point and attempt to dictate the amount of the output : forbidding any mand to earn more than so much ; decide on the proportion of apprentices to workmen, that is, who shall advance and who not ; declare what work shall be done in schools, in prisons, and what not ; tear out work that has been done by non-Union men and require that it be done over by Union men ; insist that you must join a Union, or else be deprived of the right to work –– then the Union has passed the Pivotal Point, and has ceased to give an equitable return. When your children do not go to school for fear of the cry of "scab" ; when your wife dare not hang out the washing in the back yard for fear of the cry of "scab" ; when you hesitate to go to your work, knowing you may be carried home on a shutter ; when brickbats take the place of reason, and the Walking Delegate says "Carry a Union-card or take out an Accident Policy," –– then things have gone so far that in self-protection the Union must be temporarily laid low with a link-pin.
The people of America can not afford to let any combination of men become an engine for the


destruction of liberty, be it Labor-Unions, Molly Maguires, Ku Klux, or church.
There are a million and a half men in America paying dues in Labor-Unions. There are eight thousand paid Walking Delegates or Business Agents, who look to the laborers for support.
A million dollars a year is paid to organizers, the money being paid by the laborers.
Here we get an institution that supports a large number of men who do not work ; who can call a strike or declare it off ; who can prey on both employee and employer at will.
It is like a religious institution grown great, that lives and thrives on the fears of its constituents.
¶ Local Unions meet weekly or daily. The men are called together in the "chapel" to receive orders. Conference and consultation are out of the question –– Unions are run by the men who get paid for running them. And the talking men in any Union are, almost without exception, men who hope to rise through loyalty to the Union and not by helping along their employer. Did you ever hear of a Union where the men were called together to discuss methods and means to better the business that supplied them with work? ¶ Well, not exactly!


¶ Members of a Union hope to rise by helping along the Union. They want more pay, shorter hours, and give their time to stating grievances that grow by telling. They wish to become Walking Delegates, organizers or officers in the Union. Men who are loyal to the firm ; who have ambitions about furthering the business ; who expect to become superintendents, foremen, partners and officers in the company, keep out of the Unions, because they are not wanted there. John Mitchell was right, "Once a laborer always a laborer," if you are Union man and work in a Closed Shop. The Closed Shop writes the life-sentence of every man in it, and shuts the man off from the assistance and friendship of the employer.
Labor-Union organizers constantly fan the fallacy that employers are the enemies of the men to whom they supply work ; that capital is at war with labor, and that success lies in secretly combining against capital.
The organizers and helpers are really paid attorneys, and their business is to distort the truth for their own interests. They are preachers upholding their own denomination.
Labor-Union meetings are all ex-parte –– only one


side is represented. The employer, his superintendents and foremen are carefully excluded. With the Open Shop the Labor-Union is a good thing–– it brings men together, and that which cements friendships and makes for brotherhood is well.
But the Closed Shop creates a sharp line of demarcation between labor and capital, and between Union and non-Union men. It says, "Once a laborer, always a laborer." It stops the law of evolution ; throttles ambition ; stifles endeavor ; and tends to make tramps of steady and honest working men. Working men who won homes can not afford to join Unions, and men who are in Unions can not afford to invest in homes. Because to strike is not a matter of choice ; they have to throw up their jobs as the crook of the finger of a man who, perhaps, has no home, no wife, no children, no aged parents. Men over forty who go on a strike do not get back. Strikes are ordered by young men who have no property interests ; no family ties and nothing to lose. For old men who can not earn the scale there is no work. Men with children to feed and clothe had better not forfeit the friendship of their employer by disregard-


ing or opposing his interests. ¶ When the Unions have power to dictate a Closed Shop, they have reached a point where they say, "You must join our Union or starve."
That is, join our church or you shall not live in this community. Exactly the condition that existed in Spain when Torquemada gave all Jews thirty days to join the Catholic Church or leave the country. When he saw that many were leaving the country, he fell upon them, and the gutters of Granada ran ankle-deep in human blood. This, in degree, stopped the emigration, and thousands of people, to save their lives, were forced into hypocrisy and mental servitude.
When Unionism gets to a point where it dictates to the employer whom he shall hire, and decides who shall have the right to labor and who not, then Unionism has become un-American –– a menace too great to overlook. Unlimited power is always dangerous when centered in the hands of a few men.
The American Federation of Labor is controlled by eleven men.
These men are not working men. They may have been once, but now they live in the labor of others.


They undertake to manipulate and regulate the lives of those who toil, and take toll for their service. The result is that, being humans, they are drunk –– power-crazed by success –– and are attempting to run an engine fitted for fifty miles an hour at a speed of one hundred. It is the working out of the Law of Diminishing Returns. From being a benefit, the Labor-Union has become a burden. the few men who control the Labor-Unions have created a phantom in their minds called "Capital," which they think is after them and is going to shunt them into the ditch. They have frightened the laborers so long with ghost-stories that they have come to believe their own fabrications.
What shall be done about this insane clutch for power? Must we forever endure the rule of the Demagog?
Who is right in this question of "Labor versus Capital"?
I'll tell you : both sides are right and both sides are wrong. The capitalists of this country, for the most part, were once working men, and many are working men now.
And any laborer who owns a home and has a savings-bank account is a capitalist.


THE Open shop means liberty. The Closed shop means slavery. Moreover, it means faction, feud, strife, violence.
The Open Shop will make employers considerate, and Labor-Unions cautious. Employers are not base and grasping, any more than men who work for wages are truthful, trusting and intent on giving honest service.
Men are men, and safety lies in the balance of power.


HENRY GEORGE, one of the sanest men that America or any other country has ever produced, a working man, and for many years a member of a Union, and the Labor-Union candidate for Mayor of New York in Eighteen Hundred Eighty-six, says, in his "Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII" :

While within narrow lines trades-unionism promotes the idea of the mutuality of interests, and often helps to raise courage and further political education, and while it has enabled limited bodies of working men to improve somewhat their condition, and gain, as it were, breathing space, yet it takes no note of the general causes that determine the conditions of labor, and strives for the elevation of only a small part of the great body by means that can not help the rest. Aiming at the restriction of competition –– the limitation


of the right to labor –– its methods are like those of the army, which even in a righteous cause are subversive of liberty and liable to abuse, while its weapon, the strike, is destructive in nature, both to combatants and non-combatants. To apply the principle if trades-unions to all industry, as some dream of doing, would be to enthrall men in a caste system. Union methods are superficial in proposing forcibly to restrain overwork while utterly ignoring its cause, and the sting of poverty that forces human beings to it.
And the methods by which these restraints must be enforced, multiply officials, interfere with personal liberty, tend to corruption, and are liable to abuse.
Labor-associations can do nothing to raise wages but by force. It may be force applied passively, or force applied actively, or force held in reserve, but it must be force. They must coerce or hold power to coerce employers ; they must coerce those among their own members disposed to straggle ; they must do their best to get into their hands the whole field of labor they seek to occupy, and to force others to join them or starve. Those who tell you of trade-unions bent on raising wages by moral suasion alone are like people who tell you of tigers that live on oranges.
Labor-associations of the nature of trade-guilds or unions are necessarily selfish ; by the law of their being they must fight, regardless of who is hurt ; they ignore and must ignore the teachings of Christ, that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, which a true political economy shows us is the only way to the full emancipation of the masses. They must do their best to starve workmen who do not join the, they must by all means in their power force back the "Scab," as a soldier in battle must shoot down his mother's son if in the opposing ranks : a fellow creature seeking work –– a fellow creature, in all probability, more pressed and


starved than those who bitterly denounce him, and often with the hungry, pleading faces of wife and child behind him. And, in so far as they succeed, what is it that the trades-guilds and unions do but to impose more restriction on natural rights ; to create "trusts" in labor ; to add to privileged classes other somewhat privileged classes ; to press the weaker to the wall?
I speak without prejudice against trade-unions, of which for years I was an active member. I state the simple, undeniable truth when I say their principle is selfish and incapable of large and permanent benefits, and their methods violate natural rights and work hardship and injustice. Intelligent trade-unionists know it, and the less intelligent vaguely feel it.


Thus ends the first half of Elbert Hubbard's pamphlet. I intend to post the rest in the near future, but this demanded I post it today...

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