Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/605

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601
A BUGBEAR OF ECONOMICS

Patten in his last book, "The Social Basis of Religion," says, "Sin is misery; misery is poverty; the antidote of poverty is income." If the signs of the times meant anything, there is an increase in the world's income and a potential decrease in the world's misery through better distribution. Misery, then, with its accompanying vice can not be the result of the law of diminishing returns, for returns are increasing.

Since the means of production are land, labor and capital, and the methods of capitalistic-mechanical production increase the possibilities of the last two indefinitely, the resources of production show no more signs of being exhausted than the heat of the sun. Our census returns show that the population of the United States has increased 21 per cent, in the last decade, that urban population has increased even more, and that many of the best rural districts have lost population; and still there has been a disproportionate increase in the amount and variety of food. These facts make it absurd to argue that, as applied to production in the large, the law of diminishing returns is a factor to be considered. Why then in the teaching of economics, and in business is not the emphasis changed so that such a point of view as that of Mr. Rockefeller may not be attained? For obviously, as Patten says, our modern progressive civilization has passed the line of deficit and is capturing broader and broader fields of surplus. If we are going to retain a full treatment of this law and Malthusianism in our text-books, could it not be labeled as a historical condition of which occasional relics may still be found? In answer to the argument that it is essential that we take the law as a starting point for the explanation of economic phenomena, I would reply that the explanation is good only for a condition that is stationary and looks to the past. May we not demand that in some way economists should frame a law, in which, as in the law of the moving point by which the hyperbola is traced, the prophecy of the future should be as perfectly expressed as the history of the past, and thus looking ahead, give us a true description of modern conditions of production?