Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/16

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6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

expressed the results of his own observation: "Traveling," he says, "makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel they gather knowledge, but they are, after all, subject to recollections mixed with regret; their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects, and they learn new habits which can not be gratified when they return home." Again, as the former few and simple requirements of the masses have become more varied and costly, the individual effort necessary for the satisfaction of the latter is not relatively less, even under the new conditions of production, than before, and in many instances is possibly greater. Hence, notwithstanding the large advance in recent years in the average rates of wages, and their increased purchasing power, there is no less complaint than formerly of the cost of living; when (as M. Leroy-Beaulieu has pointed out in the case of France[1]) the foundation for the complaint is for the most part to be found in the circumstance that a totally different style of living has been adopted, and that society makes conformity with such different style a standard of family respectability.

There is, therefore, unquestionably in these facts an explanation of what to many has seemed one of the greatest puzzles of the times, namely, that with greater and increasing abundance and cheapness of most desirable things, popular discontent with the existing economic condition of affairs does not seem to diminish, but rather to greatly increase. And out of such discontent, which is not based on anything akin to actual and unavoidable poverty, has originated a feeling that the new conditions of abundance should be further equalized by some other methods than intelligent individual effort, self-denial, and a natural, progressive material and social development,[2] and that the state

  1. stitutions under which they live with those which their expatriated fellow-countrymen enjoy elsewhere.

  2. "The Fall in the Price of Commodities: its Cause and Effect," by Leroy-Beaulieu. Economiste français, April, 1887.
  3. As it is important to make clear the full force and meaning of the term "self-denial" and "natural progressive material and social development," as above used, attention is asked to the following considerations: The investigations of Mr. Atkinson show that an increase of five cents' worth of material comfort per day, for every day in the year, to each inhabitant of the United States, would require the annual production and equitable distribution of more than $1,000,000,000 worth of commodities! In the last analysis, therefore, national prosperity and adversity are measurable by a difference which is not in excess of the price of a daily glass of beer; or, if five cents' worth of product for each inhabitant could be added to the capital of the country in excess of the average for each day in the year, such a year, by reason of its increased exchanges and sum of individual satisfactions, could not be other than most prosperous.
    Again, the extraordinary and comparatively recent reductions in the cost of transportation of commodities by land and water (in the case of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, for example, from an average of 3-45 cents per ton per mile in 1865 to