Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/329

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315
OVER-CONSUMPTION OR OVER-PRODUCTION?

do this than in the heat of competition overstock the market, and then be forced to stop the works altogether, throwing all the miners out of employment. We should say that combination is just what is needed—so that the supply of material may be kept nearly on a par with the demand, and the mines uniformly worked at a sustained rate from one season to another. Spasmodic production is a dreadful evil. It is unfortunate for the consumer because it makes prices uneven, and it inflicts cruel injury upon laborers and operatives, and through them upon the whole community.

Here, then, is the evil. Speculation inflames it; currency inflation stimulates it; but undiffused, unregulated, and unrestrained production throws the whole complex machinery of trade out of order; it stirs the whole energies of the people into producing at one period, and arrests energies at another; in suddenly stopping production, it reduces consumption, and hence renders recovery the very labor indeed of Sisyphus. The only remedy we can discover is the wise cooperation of producers, the determination to put the production of goods in careful and just relation to the means possessed by the community for exchanging for them.

We hear recently a great deal of the example of France, and Prof. Price is among those who point admiringly to her in this crisis. Now, as every one knows, the savings of people in England, Germany, and America, are deposited in banks, whence they are loaned and become utilized as capital; in France the peasants hoard their savings in old stockings and secret corners. To withdraw from either of the former countries so large an amount as that of the indemnity paid Germany would greatly disturb trade; but the peasants, patriotically unearthing their hoardings of secret gold in exchange for government bonds, enabled the state, to the surprise of all, to pay her heavy penalty without distress or financial disturbance. But this was an exceptional position. We are scarcely to argue therefrom that hoarding is the true principle; that a nation is better off because its work-people hide their savings, withdrawing them from public use, rather than placing them in banks where they may become active capital. Prof. Price attributes the successful payment by France of the German indemnity to "the practice of one of the very greatest of economical virtues—she had saved." Now it was solely due to the manner in which her savings had been held. The fact seems to have dazzled everybody. The example of the French peasant is now held up on all sides—that he lives the narrowest and most restricted of lives; that his excessive economical spirit not only limits his comforts, but keeps him ignorant, superstitious, dull, spiritless, hopeless (the tragedy of the French peasant-life is only too well told in the pictures of Millet); that he has neither intellectual life nor any grace of art or refined civilization—these facts are nothing to the economist; the peasant has drudged and hoarded; he has refused himself and