Editorial: The Pint Pot
The capitalists are very much concerned just now to teach the workers something of economics—of the capitalist variety, of course. We have before us as we write a whole pile of effusions which have recently appeared in the capitalist Press, or have been let loose upon the workers in the form of capitalist leaflets, to which, in most cases, those who issue them have not the courage to put their names.
Of the latter—the cowardly (cowardly because the issuers shirk the obligation of publicly defending their lying statements)—two of the most ludicrous are entitled “Does Capital Rob Labour?” and ‘‘The Soldier’s Return.” respectively. A series of articles from the pen of a Canadian professor now appearing in the “Sunday Express” is a further case in point, while that fine old capitalist servant, Frederic Harrison, issues a touching appeal to labour “leaders” to “make those who look to you for guidance see it [capitalist economics as expounded by F.H.] as clearly as yourselves.”
Most of the literary efforts have one specific object — to induce the workers to produce at a cheaper rate. Thus Frederic Harrison tells us that “slack work releases capital, to go elsewhere,” and also that “higher wages mean rise of prices to the millions,” while the “Star” (September 8th) says “we have got to fill up the pint-pot to the brim before we can get a pint out of it.”
It appears that it is Lord Wrenbury who provides the “pint-pot” simile in a letter to the “Times,” and the “Star” quotes his lordship as saying “If the labourer says he must have a pint-and-a-half [out of a pint pot] he cannot have it because it is not there to have. If he says he will have a pint he will not get it because the beer will never be brewed if the master brewer is to get no return.” The “Star’s” assertion was thus effectively answered in advance.
Of course ca’canny drops in for it all round. The unfortunate thing about the argument that the less the workers produce the better it is for them is that pushed to extremes it brings us to the proposition that if nobody produced anything the labourer would be in his second Golden Age. The “Star” adopts this line under disguise when it argues that “if each of us leaves; say, half of his work to be done by others, the total wealth of the country will be half what it might be.” Of course our contemporary fails to see that this depends upon whether or not the work left is done by the others—a point of peculiar interest to those thousands who are unable to get work to do.
The Press may call it a poisonous doctrine, that the less work anyone does the more work there is for others to do, but the fact remains. The workers are only paid while they are filing the pint pot. The harder they work, therefore, the sooner it is filled and the fewer are required to fill it. The capitalists would like the analogy of the pint pot to be abandoned at this point, but it is just here that it becomes most interesting to the worker.
John Stuart Mill, the beloved economist of the banking profession, holds that it is capital which presents the limit to production. The pint pot is formed of capital arid increases or decreases according as capital is added to or subtracted from its walls. This is a very comfortable theory for bankers, who like to believe that it is capital that makes the world go round. But capital itself is tied up in filling the pint pot—in other words, the master brewer’s pot gets smaller as it gets fuller; he must sell his beer or he will find the put full. And when the pot is full the worker ceases to get anything out of it because he is no longer required to put anything into it. It behoves the worker, therefore, to see that the pot does not get full, by putting into it as little as he can and taking out of it as much as he can.
Nevertheless, it is not in this direction that the worker must expend his main energy. He must see to it that the pot and all he puts into it are his. Then only can he quaff the full pot.