Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/35

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25
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

effected with, much less of physical effort than at any former period; and therefore a general and arbitrary reduction of the hours of labor, independent of what has already occurred and is further likely to occur through the quiet influence of natural agencies, is not only justifiable, but every way practicable. This would undoubtedly be true if mankind were content to live as their fathers did. But they are not so content. They want more, and this want is so progressive, that the satisfactions of today almost cease to be satisfactions on the morrow. But what "more" of abundance, comfort, and even luxury to the masses has been achieved—and its aggregate has not been small—has not been brought about by any diminution of labor, but has been due mainly to the fact that the labor set free by the utilization of natural forces has been re-employed, as it were, to produce them; or, in other words, recent material progress is more correctly defined by saying, that it consists in the attainment of greater results with a given expenditure of labor, rather than the attainment of former results with a diminished expenditure. Whether the present relation of production to consumption which it now seems necessary should be maintained, if the present status of abundance, wages, and prices is to be continued and further progress made, can be maintained with a diminished amount of labor, may not at present admit of a satisfactory answer. Production in excess of current demand, or overproduction, which has been and still is a feature of certain departments of industry, and which may seem to favor an affirmative answer, is certain to be a temporary factor, for nothing will long continue to be produced unless there is a demand for it at remunerative prices from those possessed of means to purchase and consume, and therefore can not be legitimately taken into account in forming an opinion on this subject; but, other than this, all available evidence indicates that the answer must be still in the negative. Thus, for example, the. latest results of investigation by the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics show that during the year 1885 all the products of manufacture in that State could have been secured by steady work for 307 working days of 9.04 hours each, if this steady work could have been distributed equally among all the persons engaged in manufactures. But, to effect such an equitable distribution is at present almost impossible; and if it could be brought about, a reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day in such industries, as has been advocated by many, would reduce the present annual product of Massachusetts to the extent of more than one ninth. Apart, therefore, from the disastrous competition which, would be invited from other States and countries where labor was more productive, to expect that under such a reduc-