Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/21

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11
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

the United States, in the strictest meaning of these words, are, decade by decade, securing to their own use and enjoyment an increasing share in a steadily increasing product."[1]

The report of the Bureau of Industrial Statistics of the State of Maine, for the year 1887, also presents some notable evidence of the continued increase in the purchasing power of wages; and show that, taking the experience of a typical American family in that State, deriving their living from manufacturing employments, as a basis, as much of food could be bought in 1887 for one dollar as would have cost $1.20 in 1882 and $1.30 in 1877; the difference being mainly due to reductions in the prices of flour, sugar, molasses, fresh meats, lard, oil, and soap.

In a paper presented to the British Association in 1886 by Mr. M. G. Mulhall, the increase in the purchasing power of money as respects commodities, and its decrease in purchasing power as respects labor in England during the period from 1880-83 as compared with the period from 1821 to 1848, was thus illustrated by being reduced to figures and quantities: Thus in 1880-'83, 117 units of money would have bought as much of grain as 142 units could have done in 1821-'48; but, in respect to labor, it would have required 285 units of money to have bought as much in 1880-83 as 201 units did in 1821-48. In respect to cattle, the purchasing power of money had decreased in the ratio of 312 in the latter to 218 in the former period; but since 1879 the carcass price of meats has notably declined in England: inferior beef upon the London market to the extent of 43 per cent (in 1885-'86); prime beef, 18 per cent; pork, 22 per cent; middling mutton, 27 per cent. It is also undoubtedly true, as Mr. John Bright has recently pointed out that meat,[2] in common with milk and butter, commands comparatively high prices in England, "because our people, by thousands of families, now eat meat who formerly rarely tasted it, and because our imports of these articles are not sufficient to keep prices at a more moderate rate."

One point of interest pertinent to this discussion, which has for some time attracted the attention of students of social science in England and France, has also been made a matter of comment in the cities of the northwestern United States, especially in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and is probably applicable to all other sections of the country; and that is, that expenditures for rent form at present a much larger item in the living expenses of families than ever before, and for the reason that people are no longer content to live in the same classes of houses as formerly; but demand houses with all of the so-called modern improvements—gas and water and better warming, ventilating, and sanitary arrangements—which must be paid for.

  1. "Century Magazine," 1887.
  2. Letter to the London "Times," November, 1884.