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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 83 of the 2008 Oxford World’s Classics edition of Elizabeth Gaskell’s brilliant 1855 novel, North and South; the quotation is from the character John Thornton, a cotton-mill owner in the fictional English town of Milton (modeled by Gaskell after Manchester):

[W]ell, some of these early manufacturers did ride to the devil in a magnificent style – crushing human bone and flesh under their horses’ hoofs without remorse.  But by-and-by came a reaction; there were more factories, more masters; more men were wanted.  The power of masters and men became more evenly balanced; and now the battle is pretty fairly waged between us.  We will hardly submit to the decision of an umpire, much less to the interference of a meddler with only a smattering of the knowledge of the real facts of the case, even though that meddler be called the High Court of Parliament.

Pay and working conditions are best determined by open competition among employers for workers and among workers for jobs, with this competition being most effective when there are no government-imposed restraints on entry, by firms, into any enterprise or, by workers, into any occupation.  Government officials with their power, incumbent firms with their political influence, labor-union bosses with their bully tactics, and academics with their models cannot possibly ever know enough about reality to successfully second guess the astonishingly detailed, nuanced, and ever-changing outcomes of this competitive process.