Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/51
The Unit of Social Life
spur him to the invention of the automobile; speed is an economy of effort for the accomplishment of results. The psychopath turns to stealing because he thinks that is the easiest way to satisfy his desires, and the shrewd monopolist is one who contrives to improve his circumstances without putting out the effort that competition would impose upon him. Every crime in the calendar, every social evil, every piece of political skulduggery is traceable to the "law of parsimony." So is every advance in the sciences and the arts.
It is beyond the mark to moralize about this aversion to labor qua labor. It is as amoral as the hair on a man's head. But if one looks into human psychology one can find there the germ of an ethical principle in this law of behavior. There it will be found that the value the individual puts on himself is measured in terms of the labor he must put out to satisfy his desires. His ego expands or contracts in proportion to the labor cost of his living. Thus, a slave, who reaps a bare existence from his exertions, makes mental adjustment to that rate of pay and acquires what we call a slave psychology; that is, he thinks of himself as not worth more than what he gets. On the other hand, the "big shot" gangster looms large in his estimation of himself because with no apparent expenditure of labor he is able to live in luxury. The self-opinion of both the slave and the "big shot" is shared by their contemporaries simply because their self-evaluation is similarly measured. The adulation we accord the opulent man and our vicarious enjoyment of cinema luxuries evidence the workings of the "law of parsimony"; it is not so much that our envy is pricked, for this only stirs us to emulation or to theft; it is that what we desire has been acquired with no visible expenditure of effort; it is the summum bonum. That being so, an economy so managed as