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Contributions of Society

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CONTRIBUTIONS OF SOCIETY Under normal conditions, however, the wisest housewife, with an adequate income, is apt to be thwarted in her attempts to provide intelligently for her household unless society does some intelli gent planning on its own account. Even in the daily marketing there is scope for social coopera tion, now that our market-gardens extend from Key West to Halifax, and our poultry yards reach beyond the Mississippi. The cheapening of sugar, the development of cold storage transportation, and the invention of the art of canning fruit and vegetables have transformed our diet, but safely so only if the government inspects the canned goods, debars authoritatively poisonous preservatives, and makes the labels tell the truth.

Take the fundamental matter of choosing a home, the physical dwelling-place of the family. For the great majority of families choice is restricted to houses that have already been built by some one else. Where they have been built and what kind of houses they are has been determined not with reference to the needs of the people for homes, as such, but by the real estate system, the tax system, the transportation system, and other things resting upon laws and the administration of laws, all of which have ordinarily had in view business in terests, civic interests, perhaps, in a narrow and short-sighted sense, but not the welfare of the aver age family. The way in which the streets of the city were originally laid out has its influence, and mistakes need not be repeated in newer parts of the city or in new cities. The transportation system is generally a " system " by courtesy only, being made up of a number of unrelated ventures, under taken for private gain, and of most unequal and frequently uncertain social value. Factories have been located primarily with a view to the immediate interests of the business, not for the effect they might have in bringing about a healthy and de sirable development which would bring permanent advantages to the individual manufacturer as well as to the rest of the community. When we have concerned ourselves with town planning and the transportation problem at all, it has been rather for their relation to business, commerce, industry, and civic centers, than for their bearing upon the charac ter and location of the homes of the people.

In a sound program of social construction the streets and parks and car-lines will all be looked upon as elements in the problem of domestic house keeping. Transportation facilities will be devel oped, actively and consciously, into an adequate system, making it possible to get quickly and com fortably from home to work and back home again, and opening a variety of different residence dis tricts to persons employed in the same establish ment. Factories will be located in accordance with a consistent plan, based upon consideration of social welfare and worked out with scientific wisdom and prophetic insight. The city will be divided on what is called the zone system, not necessarily into concentric zones, but into districts suitable for its geographical contour and social needs, for the purpose of securing diversity in the character of buildings in the different zones, dis couraging speculation in land, and preventing the duplication in outlying portions of bad conditions already established in the center. Specific legis

lation will insure, furthermore, that all buildings intended for homes—all congregate dwellings, at any rate—shall have certain minimum require ments which have come to be regarded as essential.

The primary function of the home is to give pro tection, privacy, and security. The modern city home gives excellent protection from rain and snow and lightning, and relative security from robbers. In the tenement flats of the large cities, however, its minute dimensions make privacy within its walls almost impossible, and it affords but scanty pro tection against the vice and contamination that may be housed on the next landing or next door in the alley. It exposes its occupants to worse ene mies than the weather, in the unseen germs which it shelters, until it actually seems, as an inspector of the New York Board of Health reflected in 1842, and as health conditions in the refugee camps in San Francisco suggested in 1906, that it might be preferable to be "absolutely houseless." It is a fact that after the destruction of the homes of San Francisco by the great fire and earthquake the death-rate and the morbidity rate were astonish ingly reduced.

Because of the seriousness of the evils which de veloped under the laissez-faire system of providing houses, and because the individual can to so lim ited an extent influence the kind of house that he is to live in, since a house once built will almost certainly be occupied by some one, the principle may be said to be established that it is a duty of society to make it impossible for any of its members to live in houses below a minimum standard pre scribed by law. In many places now the laws en sure that all tenements which are built shall be model tenements, i. e. shall be practically as good in the essential features of light, ventilation, sani tary conveniences, security from fire and other similar dangers, as the dwellings erected but a few years ago, partly from philanthropic motives, and called "model." On no other subject perhaps have we gone so far in putting into the form of laws or ordinances our social standard as we have in some cities on the subject of housing; and this is well, for the character of our domestic life is enormously influenced by the character of the houses in which we live. Think, for example, of the tremendous social and economic effects of such minor features as a garden, an attic, a cellar (with a cellar-door for a slide) and pantries, fences and a gate to swing on and a post to sit on, and roofs and verandas, to say nothing of more serious matters, like the size and number and arrangement of rooms, ventilation and water-supply, and fire-escapes.