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THE universal cry for arbitration is either dishonest or unwise. For every evil there are quack remedies galore–especially for every evil that is irremediable. Of this order of remedies is arbitration, for of this order of evils is the inadequate wage of manual labor. Since the beginning of authentic history everything has been tried in the hope of divorcing poverty and labor, but nothing has parted them. It is not conceivable that anything ever will; success of arbitration, antecedently improbable, is demonstrably impossible. Most of the work of the world is hard, disagreeable work, requiring little intelligence. Most of the people of the world are unintelligent–unfit to do any other work. If it were not done by them it would not be done, and it is the basic work. Withdraw them from it and the whole superstructure would topple and fall. Yet there is too little of the work, and there are so many incapable of doing anything else that adequate return is out of the question. For the laboring class there is no hope of an existence that is comfortable in comparison with that of the other class; the hope of an individual laborer lies in the possibility of fitting himself for higher employment–employment of the head; not manual but cerebral labor. While selfishness remains the main ingredient of human nature (and a survey of the centuries accessible to examination shows but a slow and intermittent decrease) the cerebral workers, being the wiser and no better, will manage to take the greater profit. In justice it must be said of them that they extend a warm and sincere invitation to their ranks, and take “apprentices;” every chance of education that the other class enjoys is proof of that.

All this is perhaps a trifle abstruse; let us, then, look at arbitration more nearly; in our time it is, in form at least something new. It began as “international arbitration,” which already, in settling a few disputes of no great importance, has shown itself a dangerous remedy. In the necessary negotiation to determine exactly what points to submit to whom, and how, and where, and when to submit them, and how to carry out the arbitrator’s decision, scores of questions are raised, upon each of which it is as easy to disagree and fight as upon the original issue. International arbitration may be defined as the substitution of many burning questions for a smouldering one; for disputes that have reached a really acute stage are not submitted. The animosities that it has kindled have been hotter than those it has quenched.

Industrial arbitration is no better; it is manifestly worse, and any law enforcing it and enforcing compliance with its decisions, is absurd and mischievous. “Compulsory arbitration” is not arbitration, the essence whereof is voluntary submission of differences and voluntary submission to judgment. If either reference or obedience is enforced the arbitrators are simply a court with no powers to do anything but apply the law. Proponents of the fad would do well to consider this: If a party to a labor dispute is compelled to invoke and obey a decision of arbitrators that decision must follow strictly the line of law; the smallest invasion of any constitutional, statutory or common-law right will enable him to upset the whole judgment No legislative body can establish a tribunal empowered to make and enforce illegal or extra legal decisions; for making and enforcing legal ones the tribunals that we already have are sufficient This talk of “compulsory arbitration” is the maddest nonsense that the industrial situation has yet evolved. Doubtless it is sent upon us for our sins; but had we not already a plague of inveracity?

Arbitration of labor disputes means compromise with the unions. It can, in this country, mean nothing else, for the law would not survive a half-dozen failures to concede some part of their demands, however reasonless. By repeated strikes they would eventually get all their original demand and as much more as on second thought they might choose to ask for. Each concession would be, as it is now, followed by a new demand, and the first arbitrators might as well allow them all that they demand and all that they mean to demand hereafter.