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The Distribution of Products

nature, natural, materials, differences, industry, industrial, dependent and fruit

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THE DISTRIBUTION OF PRODUCTS The chapters immediately preceding have dealt with the abstract laws of consumption, prosperity, and value. It is now time to return to the more concrete facts of industrial society, in order to trace the operation of economic forces in the actual exchange of goods from hand to hand.

Nature deals very unequally with the regions of the earth in the distribution of the various sources of wealth. If man in each region were dependent entirely upon the goods that he finds, he would be fed and clothed and sheltered in curious fashions. As we have seen, man makes goods as well as finds them. At first thought it might seem that this power of making goods would of itself rectify the inequalities of nature in the disposition of her free goods, since man would be able to make on any given spot the things of which nature has been niggardly in her supply. If, however, we recall clearly what is meant by the making of goods, it will be seen that so far from rectifying in this manner the inequalities of nature, "man's industry tends rather to increase them. Industry is dependent upon nature for its materials. The making of goods is only the increasing of the number of goods and the increasing of the regularity of their supply. If we bring in no other consider ations, what we must say of man's activity in the making of goods is that it produces more fruit where nature produces some fruit, that it turns to account the flesh of animals where ani mals are to be found, that it unearths minerals from the natural mineral deposits, that it in creases by cultivation the crops of grain which are found growing wild. Evidently all this only emphasizes, and does not correct, the irregulari ties in the natural distribution of minerals, grain, fruit, and animal products.

Surrounded by superfluous quantities of the goods which exist spontaneously, or are easily made, the inhabitants of each region are de prived of the means of gratifying their most rudimentary wants in othN- directions. Hunters in cold regions slay the wild animals of their chase for a small quantity of food, and throw aside their skins, being already well supplied with skins, and the greater part of its flesh ; but they suffer severely, it may be, for lack of salt, for iron, and other commodities which their environment does not provide. African savages may remain in the most abject poverty notwith standing the ease with which they might supply themselves with precious ivory. A profusion of tropical fruits does not bring any great amount of real wealth to the indolent natives of equa torial regions. Nor even if their indolence gave

way to the most enterprising and vigorous indus try, in the gathering and preservation of those fruits and other products which nature gives them, would that industry be of any avail to raise their standard of civilization, or to insure them a comfortably independent and normal existence. Midas, starving in the midst of his gold, is not poorer than any community which is dependent for its goods, and for the materials of its industry, upon the resources of its own local environment.

This is not yet the whole truth. Industry not only does not of itself correct the inequali ties of nature, but it gives rise to others which in turn are quite as much in need of correction. The industrial characteristics of man show di versities almost as great as those of the physical world. These diversities are often parallel with the diversities in natural products and make the differences in the industrial product more strik ing than they would be if men of the same type were to be found everywhere. It may be that the differences in men are due to the same underlying causes as the differences in natural products. However this may be, both sets of differences exist, and they may at times partly counteract each other, while at other times their effort is cumulative. If Japanese turn their attention to the occupations which they find agreeable and natural, they will make goods of a different sort from those that would be most easily produced by Russians or French, and this would be so, even if exactly the same natural materials were within reach of all nations. The industrial characteristics of the negro are still observable in this country, as are also those of the Chinese, the Italians,. the Germans, and the Irish. If any one of these nations were put in easy contact with every variety of natural prod uct upon the globe, and given free opportunity to gather materials of every sort, it would still fail to make certain kinds of goods that would be first produced by some one of the others. Of the commodities which the first nation would include in its total production there would be many of inferior quality, as compared with simi lar products of the other countries. The general tendency of these differences in the industrial qualities of different communities is to increase the number of superfluous, and hence relatively worthless commodities, and to diminish the number of many others that might be provided from the materials at hand if there were the requisite ability to utilize them.

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