The fact that in no country do the masses ever experience as much benefit from a fall of prices as they would seem to be fairly entitled to, owing to the great difference between wholesale and retail rates, and that this difference is always greatly intensified in the case of the poor who purchase in small quantities, clearly indicates one of the greatest and as yet least occupied fields for economic and social reform. Flour, in the form of bread, costs usually three times more, when distributed to the poorer consumers in cities of the United States, than the total aggregate cost of growing the wheat out of which it is made, milling it into flour, barreling, and transporting it to the bakeries. The retail prices of meats are enhanced in like manner; and investigation some years ago showed that when anthracite coal was being sold and delivered in New York city for $4.60 per ton, it cost the people on the East and North Rivers, who bought it by the bucketful, from $10 to $14 per ton.
Similar results are noticed in all other countries. Out of every £100 paid by the consumers of milk in London, Sir James Caird estimates that not more than £30 finds its way into the hands of the English dairy farmers who in the first instance supply it. In the case of some varieties of fish—mackerel—the cost of inland distribution in England has been reported to be as high as 400 per cent in excess of the price paid to the fishermen. Eggs collected from the farmers in Normandy are sold according to size to Parisian consumers, at an advance in price of from 82 to 200 per cent.
The payment of rent is believed by many to be the chief cause of social distress, and a continual draught on the resources of the poor, for which no adequate equivalent is returned. And yet investigations similar to those (before noticed) which have demonstrated how small need be the first cost of the food essentials of good living, have also led to the opinion that, "not much more than half the money that men usually pay for rent would, if expended in the right direction and under easily prepared guarantees, secure them possession of good homes, protected in all the rights given by a title in fee simple, and which they could transmit unencumbered to their families."
Co-operative associations have done something in the way of remedying the evils resulting from unfair and unnecessary enhancements of prices to consumers buying at retail or in small quantities; but as yet the success that has attended their efforts in this direction, although promising, has been partial and incomplete. Associations of this character appear to find much
in a most satisfactory manner by the manufacture of artificial butter. And it is offered in the markets in a condition superior to natural butter as far as cleanliness and careful preparation are concerned."