Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/131

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123
IMPORTANCE OF STATISTICAL IDEAS.

It is expedient, however, in an address like this, to avoid anything which verges on party politics, and I shall only notice that while the topic has lately become of keen interest to politicians, it is not new to statisticians, who were able long ago to foresee what is now so much remarked on. This very topic was discussed at length in the addresses of 1882-83, to which reference has been made, and even before that in 1876 it received attention.[1] Another topic which might have been added is that of the economic growth of the different countries which was discussed in the address in 1883; and such topics as the increase of population in a country like India under the peace imposed by its European conquerors, by which the stationariness of the country in numbers and wealth under purely native conditions has been changed, and something like European progress has been begun. Enough has been said, however, it may be hoped, to justify this mode of looking at statistics, and the ideas suggested by them.

May I once more, then, express the hope, as I have done on former occasions, that as time goes on more and more attention will be given to these common statistics and the ideas derived from them? The domination of the ideas suggested by these common figures of population statistics, in international politics and in social and economic relations, is obvious; and although the decline in the rate of growth of population in recent years, the last of the topics now touched on, suggests a great many points which the statistics themselves are as yet unfit to solve—what can be done with a great country like the United States, absolutely devoid of bare records of births, marriages and deaths?—still the facts of the decline as far as recorded throw a great deal of light on the social and economic history of the past century, prepare the way for discussing the further topics which require a more elaborate treatment, and enforce the necessity for more and better records. We may emphasize the appeal then, for the better statistical and economic education of our public men, and for the more careful study by all concerned of such familiar publications as the 'Statistical Abstracts,'" the 'Statesman's Year-book,' and the like. The material transformations which are going on throughout the world can be substantially followed without any difficulty in such publications by those who have eyes to see; and to follow such transformations, so as to be ready for the practical questions constantly raised, is at least one of the main uses of statistical knowledge.


  1. See Essays in Finance, 2nd series, p. 290 et seq.; p. 330 et seq.; and 1st series, p. 280 et seq.