Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/42

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32
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sequent ability to control the supply and the price of many of the chief staple articles of the world's consumption—cotton, cereals, meats, tobacco, petroleum, and silver—is at present the great disturbing factor in the world's economic condition. But, of all old countries, England leads in all that pertains to civilization; and, making allowance for the exceptional advantages enjoyed by the United States and Australia, her relative progress has probably been as great as that of any country. In no one of the countries of Europe has the increase of population been greater, and in Italy, Germany, and Russia only, has there been an approximate growth; and this result has been especially remarkable, inasmuch as for many years England has not had an acre of virgin soil to expand upon. In no country of Europe, furthermore, has the increase of population been probably so largely accompanied by an increase in comfort as in England. Forty years ago the United Kingdom owned only about one third of the world's shipping. Now it practically owns more than one half, and of the existing steam-tonnage it owns seventy per cent. In respect to exports and imports—comparisons being made per capita—no other nation approximates England in its results to an extent sufficient to fairly justify a claim in its behalf to even the holding of a second place.[1]

Something of inference respecting the economic changes of the future may be warranted from a study of the past. It may, for example, be safely predicated that whatever of economic disturbance has been due to a change in the relative value of silver to gold, will ultimately, and probably at no very distant period, be terminated by a restoration of the bullion price of the former metal to the rates (60 to 61 pence per ounce) that prevailed for many years prior to the year 1873. The reasons which warrant such an opinion are briefly as follows:

Silver is the only suitable coin medium for countries of comparatively low prices, low wages, and limited exchanges, like India, China, Central and South America, which represent about three fifths of the population of the world, or about a thousand millions of people. Civilization in most of these countries, through the advent of better means of production and exchange, is rapidly advancing—necessitating a continually increasing demand for silver as money, as well as of iron for tools and machinery. Generations also will pass before the people of such countries will begin to economize money by the use to any extent of its representatives—paper and credit, under such circumstances a scarcity, rather than a superabundant supply of silver, in the world's market, is the outlook for the future; inasmuch as a comparatively small per capita increase in the use of

  1. Robert Giffen, letters to the London "Times," 1884.