WAGES means the money given for personal services, as distinct from the price of anything sold, whether made by the seller or not. When a man makes a basket, and sells it, the price is not wages, though it may be the same thing to him. The term has by general usage been limited to the remuneration of hand-working. A manager of a bank or railway—even an overseer or a clerk, in a manufactory—is said to draw a salary. It is generally a feature of wages, too, that they are paid at short intervals, as being necessary for immediate support. This division is connected with social distinctions which have exercised a baneful moral influence in the direction of improvidence. The clerk at a hundred a year is supposed to be a gentleman who dresses decently, and so adjusts his expenditure that he can draw it quarterly. The puddler or shingler who can make a guine a day is, by traditionary usage, a member of the needy classes, who requires to draw his wages weekly, and is expected to spend them at once. Wages are more absolutely ruled by their value in the market than other services. A writer of poems or a painter of pictures does work which is exceptional—if people are willing to pay him any price he may ask for his work, there is probably no one who can compete with him and undersell him. A lawyer or a physician may also have special qualities to a
extent excluding competition: and in appointments to offices requiring trust, dgment, and skill, a great many things have to be considered besides the question, who will do the duty cheapest? But in the staple hand-works—the making of clothes, the baking of bread, and the like—there are uniform functions of the hand which a certain number of persons will always be found ready to give for a price. Strong efforts are made from time to time—by combinations, strikes, etc.—to make wages fictitiously high. These efforts are of course often successful for a time, bringing profit to some members of the working-classes, though injury to others, and a general loss of the wealth of the community. But the great law of political economy, that labor as well as all other things, will bring what it is worth, ever prevails in the end in a country where trade and labor are free. See CAPITAL, COMBINATION, LABOR, TRUCK-SYSTEM.