The immediate conditions of capital supply, and the number of laborers who are in the market for em ployment in any group, soon come to establish a rate of wages, tho in the background lies the marginal ef ficiency of the worker, which acts as a great under lying principle of wage adjustment. I3etween these limits the higgling of the market goes on, moving now in one direction, now in another, and influenced by many factors, such as restriction of output, the num ber of trade-unions, the falling off in market require ments for products and the draining of capital from the land by war and pestilence. The higgling proc ess determines the results of the relative supply and demand in the market, but it does not determine the price; it is merely the means of finding the price which has already been determined thru the principle of marginal efficiency.
N. Regulation of a result of the interpretation of the value of the marginal worker to an industry, low wages have often been paid. It is true that the higgling of the market may carry the wage below even.the marginal worker's value, but not for long. Society sometimes has cared too little about the service rendered, and has, in consequence, paid a low wage. This situation has been reflected in long hours of labor and small pay, together with inade quate living conditions.
By degrees the law has been invoked to alter the situation; hence, eight-hour laws have been passed in many states. The method of paying wages, also, has been regulated by legal enactment and has been influenced, too, by many elements in the relations be tween wage-earners and employers. In 1913, the State of. Oregon enacted a minimum-wage law, and under its provisions a commission was created to see that it was enforced. After much consideration a minimum wage was established for women and minors under eighteen years of age in several industries. Other states have created similar statutes.
The purpose of this legislation is to safeguard the welfare of the workers by regulating the conditions of employment upon which the welfare depends. The worker, from the social and humane point of' view, must have a decent maintenance, and this the industry must furnish him. A view of this kind is widely at variance with ,the individualistic ideas of an earlier period and they may go counter to fundamen tal economic principles. If this proves to be the case, the history of such legislation will show that the eco nomic laws must in the end prevail.