Consumption of Wealth 1

economist, people, conditions, lessen, production, forward and senses

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Economics is sometimes called a materialistic science because the economist seems to be interested only in progress of this sort. In reality, however, the economist is no more materialistic than the psycholo gist or sociologist. He sees clearly that any cause' which tends to lower the cost of producing the neces saries and comforts of life will tend to increase the welfare of people now on the earth and to make pos sible a still larger population in the future. He also sees more clearly than others the evil economic effects of unwise consumption, of excessive indulgence in any form of pleasure, of alcohol and other drug habits— these weaken character, injure the health and lessen a people's productive power.

19; What is progress?—True economic progress is identical with the advancement of civilization and is not measurable in material good. The difference between the civilized man and the sav age is found, first, in the greater number of' goods which the former can produce and enjoy, and second, in his control of sources of en joy ment which makes no appeal whatever to the savage. In other words, the civilized man gets more delight out of his physical senses, than does the savage, and also out of what might be called the higher senses, the wsthetic, the intellectual and the spiritual, which in the savage are almost dormant. Hence churches, universities, art galleries, public parks, statues of heroes, beautified homes, are all landmarks of eco nomic progress or civilization. They express the existence of wants higher than those of' the senses and mean that men are getting vastly more out of life than mere physical comfort and pleasure.

Any change in the condition of a people which tends to increase their happiness may be regarded as a step forward in civilization. For example, if a nation improves its educational system or enacts wiser laws regulating the conditions under which labor may be employed, or adopts a policy which makes war less probable, it is moving forward and upward. The economist in his vision looks forward to an ideal civili zation. In it labor will be so admirably adjusted to ability that all men will love their work: the consump tion of wealth and all the enjoyments of life will be so rationally balanced that disease, poverty and misery will disappear from the earth. This economic mil

lennium unhappily seems just now to lie far in the future.

20. Impediments to progress.—Folly and extrava gance mark the consumption of many people. Much of their income is squandered upon pleasures and luxuries that are hurtful to their health and to their morals. The economist may grieve over these facts as a- man, but as an economist it is his business to study the facts and conditions as they exist. It is his task first to know what is, and why, not what ought to be. He maY also be a social reformer and endeavor to make people improve their method of consumption, but that is not his task as an economist.

The entomologist must know the anatomy of the wasp and not waste his scientific time worrying about its dangerous end, nor can the zoologist stop to con sider methods of breeding fangless rattlesnakes.

There are plenty of human wasps and snakes, and the economist is interested in knowing their number, their methods of attack and the conditions which breed them; for they are destroyers and not producers. As we shall see later, the production of wealth at the present time is the result of an involuntary coopera tion among millions of workers and mutual confi dence is absolutely essential to the highest rate. of pro duction. Dishonesty, misrepresentation, deception of any kind, like sand in the cogs of a machine, lessen the efficiency of the industrial organism, thus lessen ing the production of wealth and the sum total of human welfare.

It is the economist's duty to call attention to eco / nomic evils and perils as they are discovered and to make clear the causes and conditions responsible for their existence. The consumption of tobacco and alcoholic beverages gives pleasure to many people, but the economist knows that such consumption tends to raise the price of a loaf of bread because of the land and labor which are diverted from the production of wheat ; and it is his duty to ma,ke this truth clear.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7