Monday, February 05, 2007

Practical application of the cost principle in Massachusetts, 1863

Lots of material on Josiah Warren and equitable commerce has surfaced in the Boston Investigator, while I've been looking for material by Lewis Masquerier. This is a particularly interesting account of an equity store being opened in Massachusetts in 1863. The note at the end might go some distance in clarifying the terms under which at least some of the Warren-inspired businesses actually traded with suppliers. Some critics have fixated on the labor note and "corn standard" as the central points of Warren's scheme, which, I think, confuses two projects: the implementation of the "cost principle" and "labor for labor exchange."
For the Boston Investigator
A Novel Step in Business
Is about to be taken, which will interest the public generally.

The leading idea is, that it is more for the interest of each citizen to do a reason able amount of useful labor, and have a permanent, steady and uniform income sufficient for all his legitimate purposes, and to be at peace with the public, rather than to be at war with the public, and labor all the time in a degrading scramble for bread, in which all are victimized or disappointed in one form or another,

A little beginning, ("no bigger than a man's hand") now about being made, will serve as a text for explanations.

The keeper of a store, will, himself, voluntarily set a LIMIT TO HIS INCOME, or wages (as the working classes general do.) This limit to be made as public as possible, by every practicable means, going to show that the limit once set, it cannot be exceeded without detection and exposure.

Bills of all purchases are to be immediately exposed on the Bulletin Board and regular percentage will be added to first cost to pay all expenses of mending; including, say, three dollars per day for the labor of the keeper, and all the rest of the per centage going to pay rent, insurance, and all other contingent expenses, and to create a fund as security against unforeseen losses.

This contingent fund not to exceed twenty per cent. on the capital owned or risked by the keeper. Which fund though controlled by him is not to be appropriated to his private purposes.

To render all as secure as possible against losses and unnecessary expenses, everything will be paid for at the time of purchase.

We can sometimes best explain a thing by showing what it is not. It is not buying up the necessaries of life to make them scarce, for the purpose of raising their prices in proportion to "the Demand" or distress, thereby created.

The first public step (in this part of the country,) is about being taken at 189 Main St., Charlestown, beginning with some of the first necessaries, with a view of extending the same regulation power to all branches of business as fast as persons are found to undertake them.

The store is to be open to all the public without exception; and all persons who want anything or have anything to dispose of are invited to go there (at present) as a centre of general intelligence or OFFICE OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND, so that the keeper of the store may know what to purchase, and persons wanting business may know what to engage in.

When this branch will sustain the expenses of an office, there will be one appropriated solely to receiving and communicating such necessary intelligence, for a publicly limited income to its keeper, so that he cannot make money by giving false information.

It is not until the public have absolute and indisputable proof that the keeper's income is faithfully kept within the professed limit, that he is entitled to any confidence. If the point is not gained, nothing is gained. If it is satisfactorily established the ruinous fluctuations and uncertainties in prices and in business, will, sometime, come to an end. The public cannot compel a man to conduct public business publicly, but they can patronizes those who prefer to do so, and thus establish and maintain a regulating power, perfectly irresistible, and one which will have no enemies, when once its far-reaching and immense benefits are understood.

For more elaborate explanations, see the work entitled TRUE CIVILIZATION, for sale at the store, and at the INVESTIGATOR Office.
A Socialist
Notice.

The undersigned, (keeper of the store above mentioned,) would like to hold correspondence with farmers for the purpose of buying their products; such as flour, butter, cheese, potatoes, lard, eggs, dried apples, beans, &c.

Farmers that have any of the above name articles for sale, will confer a favor upon me by writing the lowest cash process, delivered on the cars.
Nath'l G. Simonds,
No. 189 Main St., Charlestown.
[Boston Investigator, Vol. XXXII, No. 50, April 15, 1863, p. 393]

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