COMPETITION (Lat. competitio, rivalry, from competere, to vie, from con-, together veterc, to seek). This term has been defined as the struggle for existence carried into human affairs. It is, in general, the conflict of efforts directed to the same goal. In this sense it is applied to the method of appointing government officials ender civil-se•vice rules. to the contests of political parties, the often amusing rivalry of one city with another for population, trade, etc., and a host of similar rivalries. In the world of economic effort it is recognized as the great regulative principle which holds in check the overreaching designs of individuals, and makes their selfish efforts contribute to the general welfare.
As self-preservation is said to be the law of nature, so may self-interest be said to be the law of industrial society. Every man labors for his own ends. To provide food and raiment, to minister to his necessities and to his enjoyments, is the motive which leads him to action. In the pursuit of his individual welfare he is not wholly unrestrained, for the influences of law and moral ity set bounds to his permissible actions. Tint within those bounds every man seeks first his own welfare. Nevertheless, at every step he comes into contact with others whose actions limit his own. If he is a seller of merchandise his interest is to secure the highest price; but other sellers are equally eager to part with their goods, and in this rivalry prices are lowered to a point at which all the goods may be transferred. If he is a buyer he offers the lowest price, but he finds other buyers offering higher prices, and he must raise his offer to such a price that all the buyers, able to afford the first Bice, can be satisfied by at least a share in the goods to be sold. The rivalry of buyers and sellers is the competition of the market, which becomes an equitable ad justment of supply and demand.
The process by which the competition of in dividuals increases the aggregate wealth and promotes the welfare of society at large is very simple. If the produce- must sell at the market
price, his only chance for gain consists in lower ing his costs and increasing the margin between what he obtains for his goods and what lie gives for them. Competition, therefore, makes lihn keen to obtain the most effective results of his activity, to economize his labor, to improve his methods, to lop off wasteful practices and useless expenditures; to scrutinize, in short, every of the process of making and selling his goods in order that wherever possible he may effect economies. This ingenuity inures in the first instance to his own benefit; but as other pro ducers follow the same practice, the general cost of producing goods is lowered, and with it the price of the goods. For if price be not lowered, the unusual rewards which the enterprise offers will tempt others to undertake it. and, by en hancing the volume of goods to be sold, inevitably lower their price. A decrease in the cost of production results in an increase of the volume of goods produced by the expenditure of the same effort. it is this increase which consti tutes the growth of wealth for the community at large.
The same competition which regulates the price of goods governs, in large measure, the relations of capital and labor. It is the com petition of employers for labor, and that of labor ers for employment, that fixes at any given time the rate of wages. This competition is not so free as that between buyers and sellers. Capital may lie idle for a time without dimi nution, hut the laborer may not cease work with out, starvation. Hence the contest seems at times a very unequal one, and the issue to he decided by the needs of the laborer rather than anything else. If all the competition were among laborers themselves, and if there were in sufficient employment offered, workmen would be forced to make such terms as they could. But it is quite as likely that there should be an abundance of employment seeking workers, and in such cases the workman might make what terms he pleases.