Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/15

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5
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

formerly constituted almost insuperable obstacles in the way of frequent intercourse between people of different races, countries, and communities, and have made the civilized world, as it were, one great neighborhood. Every increased facility that is afforded for the dissemination of intelligence, or for personal movement, finds a marvelously quick response in an extended use. The written correspondence—letters and cards—exchanged through the world's postal service, more than doubled between the years 1873 and 1885; while in the United States the number of people annually transported on railroads alone exceeds every year many times the total population of the country; the annual number for the New England States being more than sixteen times greater than their population. Under these powerful but natural educating influences, there has been a great advance in the intelligence of the masses. They have come to know more of what others are doing; know better what they themselves are capable of; and their wants have correspondingly increased, not merely in respect to quantities of the things to which they have always been accustomed, but very many articles and services which within a comparatively recent period were regarded as luxuries, are now almost universally considered and demanded as necessities. At the same time, the increased power of production and distribution, and the consequent reduction in the cost of most commodities and services, have also worked for the satisfaction of these wants in such a degree that a complete revolution has been effected during recent years in the every-day life of all classes of the people of the great industrial and commercial countries. Let any one compare the condition of even the abject poor of London, as described in recent publications, with the condition of English laborers as described by writers of acknowledged authority not more than forty years ago,[1] and he can not resist the conclusion that the very outcasts of England are now better provided for than were multitudes of her common laboring-men at the period mentioned.

But the widening of the sphere of one's surroundings, and a larger acquaintance with other men and their pursuits, have long been recognized as not productive of content.[2] Writing to his nephew a hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson thus concisely

  1. The condition of agricultural laborers in general, and large classes of artisans, in the United Kingdom, forty or fifty years ago, as described by Carlyle in his "Past and Present" and "Sartor Resartus," and by another most reliable English authority, Mr. W. T. Thornton, in his "Overpopulation and its Remedy," was so deplorable that it is now difficult to realize that it ever existed.
  2. Increased facility for communication between Great Britain and the United States has without doubt been a large factor in occasioning the present profound discontent of Ireland; and political subjugation and their existing land system have been more intolerable to the Irish peasant and artisan, since they have been enabled to compare the in-