Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/170

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166
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE WEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH

By Dr. A. C. LANE

STATE GEOLOGIST OF MICHIGAN

IN these days of evolutionary theories and dominance of biology it has become fashionable to apply the analogies and language of biology in other fields—for the geographer to speak of mature rivers, and youthful drainage, and the sociologist and historian to speak of society and nations as organisms. So, without going so far as to assume that there are units of consciousness apart from brains, and that there is an American or Michigan consciousness standing in somewhat the same relation to your consciousness and my consciousness as ours may be supposed to stand in relation to the sensitiveness which may belong to each individual cell of the body, we may still accept the comparison of the nation or state to that of an organism so far as it may help to remember and connect real facts.

The youth of a people is in reality like that of a man, full of hope, extravagant, feeling boundless resources and inclined recklessly to squander them in attaining the objects of desire. If it is wisely guided, age may bring riches which are not merely in prospect, but in possession, which are the fruits of useful industry and the relics and mementoes of a noble ancestry. Unwisely guided, age may bring the exhaustion of the resources thought to be boundless, with nothing worth while to show for them; and as the individual man may be found bankrupt in purse and pride, so the nation or community may suddenly find its supposedly inexhaustible supplies exhausted, the fabulous fertility of its fields failing, its hills once clad in forests naked and seamed and gashed by gullies until they remind one of the beggar's clothes whose spendthrift habits have dragged him down to like depths of destitution.

Mill[1] says that 'looking on the world as not only the home of man, but as subservient in all its phenomena to the welfare of the human race, we may consider the development of any region to mean such treatment of its natural resources as will enable the land to continue to support an increasing number of inhabitants,' and ventures the suggestion that, "fortune hunting is inimical to development in its true sense. A fortune acquired through production or speculation can usually be made by only a few individuals and almost always entails the exhaustion of natural resources or the lowering of wages; a pros-

  1. Hugh R. Mill, 'New Lands,' p. 7.