Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/171

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167
THE WEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH

perous livelihood, on the other hand, can often be secured to a multitude without permanent impoverishment of the land."

The former statement we may consider a very fair definition of development of a country. The latter is one of those general statements which are hard to disprove, being both vague and qualified. But it suggests that there may be such a thing as improper development. Much talk and writing seem based on the theory that development is always and only good—is a good in itself. This we may fairly question.

It is fit then to consider what is the path of wisdom, what is that true development of natural resources which scattereth and yet increaseth, and what is that development which may better be called devastation, whose scattering is not that of the seed corn which returns many fold, but that of the whirlwind and tornado. How best to conserve natural resources and secure adequate compensation for that consumption which is necessary are questions which interest scientists studying either the face of nature or the course of history, patriots desiring the welfare of their country, and parents desiring to pass on unimpaired the patrimony that has come down to them.

In the first place, note that the development of national resources does not in all cases imply consumption. It is true that one can not eat one's cake and have it too, but it is also true that one can use a house, see a picture, and gaze at a statue, and they be none the worse for it. Italy and Greece are vastly wealthier to-day than they would have been had the marbles of their statues remained in the quarries of Pentelicos, Paros or Carrara.

The marble still in the quarry has not the value that it has piled up in the Parthenon, and every Milton who dies mute, inglorious, but who might have sung immortal verse is a loss and waste, most of course to the higher and spiritual interests of the nation, but also to the commercial interests as well. I do not know how much cash loss of trade it would be to Stratford-on-Avon had Shakespeare lived and died there without knowing letters, but I do know that the American pilgrims to Europe are expected to leave 130,000,000 dollars, and a very large part of this comes from those who go to visit the footsteps of great men gone before us.

Thus a development of natural resources which means merely turning the material into more valuable, artistic shape, or surrounding it with inspiring associations—such a development is pure gain and no loss, so long at least as we do not bury living prophets under the tombs of their forerunners or shackle the present with reverence for the past. This accumulation of wealth may be either by the importation of art from abroad or by turning our own material into art forms. Particularly is this true of architecture and of furniture which are worthy to descend as heirlooms from father to son. Dollar chairs are no