Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/50

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The Unit of Social Life

his institutions arise from forces outside of him, forces that use him as an instrument, not as the creator, as the meta-physicians and the socialists do.

Correlating with this "law of parsimony" is another constant characteristic of the human which throws light on his institutions. It is the fact that he is the only animal whose desires are never satisfied. He does not shun labor merely for the sake of shunning it; he is not lazy. In fact, we find him investing every saving of labor in a new desire, one that he was hardly aware of before he had a surplus of energy to put into it. When he masters the art of grubbing for a livelihood and finds it easy, he begins to think of tablecloths and music with his meals. His living consists of a constant climb to greater heights, to what are sometimes called luxuries or marginal satisfactions, such as books, rare stamps, baseball, and Beethoven. Man's desires are unlimited. But each new step in the search for a fuller life must be preceded by some shortcut in the securing of those things he has become accustomed to enjoy, and luxuries become necessities in proportion to the ease with which they can be had. Since the beginning of time, as far as we know, man has been a labor saver, a capitalist, not that he might hoard energy but that he might expend it in further accomplishment. It is for this reason, as we shall see, that Society becomes his natural habitat.

The "law of parsimony" does not maintain that men always satisfy their desires with the least exertion; it says that they seek to do so. Ignorance of the shortest cut, the easiest means, is the reason for his taking the longest way around. Before he knew about the automobile, the oxcart had to take care of his transportation, but as his aversion to labor caused him to invent that primitive improvement over walking, so did it