Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/41

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31
THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

more popular favor and support in England than in the United States; and, probably, for the reason that the great establishments which have sprung up in recent years at almost all the considerable centers of population in the United States for the sale of imperishable commodities, and which are systematically conducted on the economic basis that large sales with relatively small profits ultimately assure the largest aggregate of profits, sell goods of the character indicated at lower retail prices than generally prevail in England, and so limit the sphere of beneficial operation of the American co-operative societies.

The relation between prices and poverty has long attracted attention, and nothing new in the way of theory remains to be offered. Three thousand or more years ago, a certain wise man, who had sat at the marts of trade, and made himself conversant with the nature of wholesale and retail transactions, embodied in the following short and simple sentence as much in the way of explanation of these involved phenomena as the best results of modern science will probably ever be able to offer, namely—"The destruction of the poor is their poverty."—Proverbs, 10th chapter, 15th verse. Something in the way of a real contribution to our general understanding of this subject would, however, seem to be found in the recent observation that the value-perceiving sense or faculty is not implanted by Nature in every person, but differs widely in different races and families; and that "he who has it will accumulate wealth with comparatively slight exertion, while he who has it not will not gain it, no matter how energetically he labors."[1] Illustrations of this are familiar to every student and investigator of social science; but the following one seems especially worthy of record: On the ferries between New York and Brooklyn, the rates of toll were some years ago reduced nearly one half to all who would buy at one time (or at wholesale) fifty cents' worth of tickets. But it was soon noticed that the working-classes, who at morning and evening constituted the bulk of the travel, rarely bought tickets, while they were bought as a rule by those who belonged to banking and mercantile establishments.

The countries of the world which within the last third of the century have made the greatest material progress are the United States and Australia. This has been due largely in both cases to the vast abundance of cheap and fertile land, which has occasioned and made possible a great increase in population. Like conditions have been similarly influential in increasing the population of Russia in a more rapid ratio than in most of the other countries of Europe. The United States, by reason of its great natural resources, and extensive use of machinery and con-

  1. "The Labor-Value Fallacy," by M. L. Scudder, Chicago, 1886.