Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/595

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



SEPTEMBER, 1887.




THE ECONOMIC DISTURBANCES SINCE 1873.

By Hon. DAVID A. WELLS, LL. D.

III.

[In the preceding article of this series (No. II) two propositions were submitted: First, that in the increased control during the last quarter of a century, which mankind has acquired over the forces of Nature, and the increased utilization of such control for the work of production and distribution, is to be found a cause amply sufficient to account for the almost universal and extraordinary economic disturbance which has prevailed since 1873, and bids fair in a greater or less degree to continue. Second, that all the other causes which have been popularly regarded as having directly occasioned or essentially contributed to the economic disturbance in question—with the exception of such as are in the nature of natural phenomena, as bad seasons and harvests, diseases of plants and animals, disappearance of fish and the like, and such as are due to excessive taxation, consequent on war expenditures, all of which are local, and the first temporary in character—naturally group themselves about the one great cause that has been suggested, as sequences or derivatives, and as secondary rather than primary in their influence. A summary of the evidence in support of the first proposition having been submitted, it is proposed in the following article to ask attention to the facts which seem to be confirmatory of the second.]

Over-production.—Consider first the most popular alleged cause of recent economic disturbances, that to which the Royal Commission of Great Britain in its final report [1] (December, 1886), and

  1. "One of the commonest explanations of this depression or absence of profit is that known under the name of over-production; by which we understand the production of commodities, or even the existence of a capacity for production, at a time when the demand is not sufficiently brisk to maintain a remunerative price to the producer, and to afford him an adequate return on his capital. We think such an over-production has been one of the most prominent features of the course of trade during recent years; and that the depression under which we are now suffering may be partially explained by this fact."—British Commission, majority report. "By over-production we understand the production of commodities (or existence of the agencies of production) in excess, not of the capacity of consumption if their distribution was gratuitous, but of the demand for export at remunerative prices, and of the