Capital, then, is stored up work, work that has been paid for by society. Those who did the work and took its reward, turned the proceeds of it into making something more instead of into pleasure and gratification for themselves. By a striking metaphor capital is often described as the seed corn of industry. Seed corn is the grain that the farmer, instead of making it into bread for his own table, or selling it to turn it into picture-palace tickets, or beer, or other forms of short-lived comfort, keeps to sow in the earth so that he may reap his harvest next year. If the whole world's crop were eaten, there would be no seed corn and no harvest. So it is with industry. If its whole product were turned into goods for immediate consumption, there could be no further development of industry, and no maintenance of its existing plant, which would soon wear out and perish. The man who spends less than he earns and puts his margin into industry, keeps industry alive.
From the point of view of the worker--by whom I mean the man who has little or no capital of his own, and has only, or chiefly, his skill, of head or of hand, to earn his living with--those who are prepared to save and put capital at the disposal of industry ought to be given every possible encouragement to do so. For since capital is essential to industry, all those who want to earn a living in the workshops or in the countinghouse, or in the manager's office, will most of all, if they are well advised, want to see as much capital saved as possible. The more there is of it, the more demand there will be for the brains and muscles of the workers, and the better the bargain these latter will be able to make for the use of their brains and muscles. If capital is so scarce and timid that it can only be tempted by the offer of high rates for its use, organizers of industry will think twice about expanding works or opening new ones, and there will be a check to the demand for workers. If so many people are saving that capital is a drug in the market, anyone who has an enterprise in his head will put it in hand, and workers will be wanted, first for construction then for operation.
It is to the interest of workers that there should be as many capitalists as possible offering as much capital as possible to industry, so that industry shall be in a state of chronic glut of capital and scarcity of workers. Roughly, it is true that the product of industry is divided between the workers who carry it on, and the savers who, out of the product of past work, have built the workshop, put in the plant and advanced the money to pay the workers until the new product is marketed. The workers and the savers are at once partners and rivals. They are partners because one cannot do without the other; rivals because they compete continually concerning their share of the profit realized. If the workers are to succeed in this competition and secure for themselves an ever-increasing share of the profit of industry--and from the point of view of humanity, civilization, nationality, and common sense it is most desirable that this should be so--then this is most likely to happen if the savers are so numerous that they will be weak in bargaining and unable to stand out against the demands of the workers. If there were innumerable millions of workers and only one saver with money enough to start one factory, the one saver would be able to name his own terms in arranging his wages bill, and the salaries of his managers and clerks. If the wind were on the other cheek, and a crowd of capitalists with countless millions of money were eager to set the wheels of industry going, and could not find enough workers to man and organize and manage their workshops, then the workers would have the whip hand. To bring this state of things about it would seem to be good policy not to damn the capitalist with bell and with book and frighten him till he is so scarce that he is master of the situation, but to give him every encouragement to save his money and put it into industry. For the more plentiful he is, the stronger is the position of the workers.