THE ECONOMY OF LOW WAGES
American advances, and the report of a delegation of the British Iron Trade Association which visited Belgium and Germany during the spring of 1895,1 moulded the dominant opinion in the early nineteen-hundreds concerning the influence of English wage rates on the progress of foreign competition. It was commonly known that wages were higher in the United States than in England. And the report of the delegation made it seem doubtful whether English wages were higher than those paid by producers in the most important competing region in Europe.
During the long depression of the early 'nineties the English workman's wages had been freely held responsible, as in the past, for the distresses of ironmaking. The inquiry of 1895 was in conception a courageous effort to test this high-wage theory. Representatives of masters and men went side by side to make a "co-operative investigation of unpalatable facts".2 Six months after returning they issued their report, which was a broad survey of the comparative advantages of British, German and Belgian works.
Curiously enough, wage disparities were not discussed here in detail; but their influence was "writ small". The delegates did not feel, they reported, that they were "called upon to make detailed comparison". Indeed this could not be done "without a wider range of figures". Wages of different districts varied considerably "even in our own country". So, having collected figures from a few factories, they "were agreed to leave them, as they stand on record, to speak for themselves". They did,____________________