Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/29

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THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

derstand the situation as an entirety; and that effort is likely to be rendered ineffectual and disturbance intensified by all discussions and actions that start from any other basis. In fact, one of the remarkable features of the situation has been the tendency of many of the best of men in all countries to rush, as it were, to the front, and, appalled by some of the revelations which economic investigations everywhere reveal, and with the emotional largely predominating over their perceptive and reasoning faculties, to proclaim that civilization is a failure, or that something ought immediately to be done, and more especially by the state, without any very clear or definite idea of what can be done, or with any well-considered and practical method of doing. The position of the Russian novelist Tolstoi, before noticed, is a case in point. The distressing picture of what the world has come to during the fifty years of the reign of Queen Victoria, as drawn by the poet Tennyson in his new "Locksley Hall," and which Mr. Gladstone has so impressively reviewed and effectually disproved, is another. On the other hand, it may be confidently asserted that a comprehensive view of the situation will show that not an evil referable to recent economic changes or disturbances can be cited, which has not been attended with much in the way of alleviation or compensation, the comparison being between individuals and classes and society as a whole. Thus, the facts in relation to the wages earned by the poor men and women who work for the sellers of cheap clothing, and who seem to be unable to find any more remunerative occupations, are indeed pitiful; but, if clothes were not thus made cheap, many would be clothed far more poorly than they now are, or possibly not at all. It is not the rich man who buys "slop" coats and shirts, but the man who, if he could not be thus supplied, would go ragged or without them. If the decline in the price of cereals and in the value of arable land has forced many who follow agricultural pursuits out of employment, there never was a time in the history of the world when the mass of mankind was fed so abundantly and so cheaply as at present. If the decline in the rates of interest on capital has been a sore grievance to the small capitalists, a reduction in the rate of income from invested property means in the final analysis that the world pays less than it has before for the use of its machinery, and that labor is obtaining a "larger" and capital a "smaller" share of the compensation paid for production.

Inequality in the distribution of wealth seems to many to constitute the greatest of all social evils. But, great as may be the evils that are attendant on such a condition of things, the evils resulting from an equality of wealth would undoubtedly be much greater. Dissatisfaction with one's condition is the