Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/11

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MAY, 1872.


I.—Our Need of It.

OVER his pipe in the village ale-house, the laborer says very positively what Parliament should do about the "foot and mouth disease." At the farmer's market-table his master makes the glasses jingle as, with his fist, he emphasizes the assertion that he did not get half enough compensation for his slaughtered beasts during the cattle-plague. These are not hesitating opinions. On a matter affecting the agricultural interest, it is still as it was during the Anti-Corn-Law agitation, when, in every rural circle, you heard that the nation would be ruined if the lightly-taxed foreigner was allowed to compete in our markets with the heavily-taxed Englishman: a proposition held to be so self-evident that dissent from it implied either stupidity or knavery.

Now, as then, may be daily heard, among other classes, opinions just as decided and just as unwarranted. By men called educated, the old plea for extravagant expenditure, that "it is good for trade," is still continually urged with full belief in its sufficiency. Scarcely any decrease is observable in the fallacy that whatever gives employment is beneficial—no regard being had to the value for ulterior purposes of that which the labor produces; no question being asked what would have resulted had the capital which paid for the labor taken some other channel and paid for some other labor. Neither criticism nor explanation appreciably modifies these beliefs. When there is again an opening for them, they are expressed with undiminished confidence. Along with these delusions go whole families of others. People who think that the relations between expenditure and production are so simple, naturally assume simplicity in other relations among social phenomena. Is there distress somewhere? They suppose nothing more is required than to subscribe money for