Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/519

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503
THE PRESENT COMMERCIAL CRISIS.

diminution of their profits, so workmen, the unfaithful ones at least, among Western peoples, will have to recover the habits of regular and conscientious work, which were formerly in honor, but upon which they are now trying to cast discredit. Possibly, most of the additions to wages that have been made in later years will have to be reduced; but this will be compensated for by the greater regularity of work and the general cheapening of the necessaries of life.

In addition to the factors we have described, a new arrangement of commercial agencies is needed to the full bringing about of the equalization of consumption with production. In most countries the economical organism is complicated with superfluous wheels. The curiously abnormal situation is presented that, while the producer gets lower prices, the consumer pays no less. The number of middle-men also grows quite as fast as the difference between wholesale and retail prices, so that they too make no great profits. Two evils results from these conditions: many persons are lost from work on the farm or in the shop; and the consumer, not profiting or profiting but little by the cheapening of prices, does not extend his consumption. No equilibrium can be established between a production that is increasing and a consumption that remains nearly stationary. The state has no part in this situation; but producers and consumers sin by indifference to one another; and the remedy for the result should be brought about by their joint action in creating market depots at which they can be brought into more direct relations. The state may best facilitate such arrangements by leaving the parties at perfect liberty. Its interference in any way would be a blunder, and only a hindrance to the accomplishment of the desired end.

The present crisis has a much more general character than any of the crises that have preceded it, because it is a part of an abrupt transformation in the production and circulation of the whole world. For the same reason it is destined to last longer. Nevertheless, if governments have wisdom and foresight enough not to interfere with the course of events, an era of improvement may shortly begin. Those persons who occupy their minds with plans to induce interference by the state in the interest of labor and enterprise, whether by the purchase or establishment of works, stimulation by bounties, discriminating taxes, or by rules for the regulation of the relations between workmen and their employers, show more zeal than wisdom, and are asking what will only aggravate the evil. The action of the state in such matters is essentially disturbing, and can never be regulative. All that we should ask of it is not to interfere, but to retrench its own expenses, to contribute by economical administration to the reduction of costs of production, and by a calm and wise attitude to the revival of confidence.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.