PUBLIC OUTDOOR RELIEF IN America has suffered comparatively little from pauper ism, vagrancy, and those forms of crime and disorder that are produced by extreme want. There are individual in stances in every community of persons who have made an economic failure of their lives ; there are instances in many communities of large numbers who are subjected to great hardships in their daily toil ; but complete failure, resulting in dependence upon others for the necessities of life, is more exceptional than among savage tribes or among advanced civilization elsewhere, and even those who are taxed most severely in their daily work by long hours and hard conditions receive a return for their work which enables them to live at a higher standard than do manual laborers of other countries. Brutal and squalid as are the conditions which we meet occasionally in city tenements, there is no widespread or general condition of squalor or brutishness which can be regarded as typical or permanent. Or if in a particular neighborhood the con ditions appear to remain permanently bad, it is neverthe less found that the individuals making up the community are constantly changing and passing out of the unfavor able environment.
I From this brief sketch has been omitted any account of the almshouse system, and the history of the various methods of caring for dependent children outside their own families, these two subjects having been treated by Robert W. Hebberd and Homer Folks respectively in a series of his torical studies, published in the Charities Review, 1899-1900, to which the author contributed an account of the care of the poor in their homes by public and private agencies. This account is republished in the pres ent chapter and that immediately following. Mr. Folks's contribution has been republished under the title Dependent, Delinquent, and Neglected Children. Macmillan, 1902.
278 Except in a few cities, the number of the destitute has been small. Except in recent years, neither chronic lack of employment nor low wages have been a serious factor in the lives of any considerable number of people. It is
still true that for the average workingman and his family there is no recognized need of assistance, even in sickness or in old age. Both on the farm and in town the laborer supports himself. He borrows at times to meet temporary needs; he gets into debt, it may be, at the grocer's and the butcher's ; and he fails sometimes to pay the rent ; but he cheerfully pays enough more for rent, meat, and groceries at other times to make up for such delinquencies. He nearly always carries a small amount of an expensive kind of life insurance, and he organizes readily benefit societies and trade-unions with benefit features, both of which, it may be said in passing, need better legal safeguards than have yet been generally provided.
Americans are not economical — in a sense they are not thrifty. They are generous to a fault, and they have lit tle patience with petty saving devices. Their labor, how ever, is unusually productive ; thus their margin for saving is large, and unremitting hard work is more com mon than in other countries. Still more characteristic is a readiness to adopt new methods. Economies of produc tion are as much the rule as is the absence of economies in consumption. It is natural to use tools and machinery. The inclination to discover short cuts, to combine in such a way as to save labor, to invent more economical processes, is found everywhere.
If, therefore, Americans are not by nature saving or thrifty, they are still capitalists in that they naturally use machinery and saving devices, and methods of industry which enable an ounce of muscular energy to accomplish the greatest possible result. The essence of capital is not accumulated wealth, but rather the ability to apply brains to industry in such a way as to make human labor pro ductive, and in this sense capital is more abundant in America than elsewhere.