Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

There is one species of waste suggested by the one last named that might easily escape notice, because of the greater importance attached to it on account of its criminal character. This is the waste caused by theft and embezzlement. These are not only offences against divine and human law, but they are treason to the capitalistic system. No other crime, save murder, is so offensive to capitalism. "The costliest unclean beast that society can keep in its menagerie is an unpunished commercial rogue." That these crimes involve a vast economical waste cannot be doubted. It is said that the embezzlements in the United States during the year 1891 reached the enormous sum of $19,720,294, which was more than double the amount of defalcations for the preceding year. Many cases are hushed up, so that this estimate must fall far short of the actual fact..

"If the actual total could be arrived at, the Tribune thinks it would rise as high as $25,000,000, or an average of forty cents for every inhabitant of the United States lost, by men who abuse the trust reposed in them by others." 1 We must add to this vast sum all the moneys taken by other forms of theft, if we would get the total of all that was squandered and lost in this country during the year 1891. What does capitalism propose, to check “this great and growing national evil"? Absolutely nothing. How can it prevent this economic waste? It cannot prevent it. Is it no recommendation for Socialism, that by abolishing private capital it would at once and forever put an end to this form of wickedness and waste?

11. Needless Intemperance.

By needless, here, we intend the intemperance due directly to capitalism, or, in other words, to the stimulus given to the liquor traffic because there is money in it. This is a kind of business in which the supply, to a large extent, creates the demand. We have already discussed this subject (p. 254), and refer to it again merely to show the enormous waste it entails upon society. In the United States 800,000 persons are, in one way or another, engaged in the

1 "Public Opinion," March 12, 1892.

liquor traffic, with a capital of $1,000,000,000, of which $132,051,260, according to the census of 1880, are invested in the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. The annual liquor bill of the United States is $900,000,000, which equals $15.00 for every man, woman, and child in the country. In 1887 we consumed 71,064,733 gallons of distilled spirits, 717,748,854 gallons of malt liquors, and 32,618,290 gallons of wine; in all, 821,431,877 gallons, "which if poured together would fill a channel twenty feet in depth, twenty feet in width, and forty-six miles long." The economic waste occasioned by the liquor traffic is almost beyond calculation. We do not say that all alcoholic liquors are wasted. Those used for mechanical and medicinal purposes are not wasted, and possibly certain forms of alcoholic beverage may be said to yield an equivalent gain; neither do we say that Socialism would put an end to all waste from this source: what is maintained here is, that capitalism encourages men to engage in the liquor traffic for the sake of private gain; that it has now in the United States 3,000,000 men and dependants directly interested in and benefited by it; and that immense vested interests stand behind it, and successfully resist efforts to suppress it: Our insistence is, that Socialism, by removing all hope of private gain, would break the back of this leviathan; that out of the $1,000,000,000 invested in the traffic, the 800,000 men engaged in it, the 850,000 drunkards, and the seven or eight million bushels of grain now consumed by it, Socialism would save enough annually to feed every wage-worker and his family in the United States.

We have not considered other forms of intemperance which Socialism would be in a position to check, if not abolish altogether. The opium habit is even more disastrous in its effects on both mind and body than alcohol; it is rapidly increasing in the United States, and so long as it is supplied by the irresistible incentive of private gain, the waste from the opium habit will be likely to increase.

12. Needless Change in Fashion.

The present economic constitution of society suffers no

inconsiderable loss from changing fashion. It is not that change in fashion in itself is necessarily objectionable, but the present modus operandi cannot be too severely condemned. It is capricious, irresponsible, extravagant, and wasteful, to a degree not dreamed of by the thoughtless. Articles of apparel purchased to-day must be made over or discarded before they are half worn out because "out of fashion." This is pure waste, and to estimate its sum total we have only to multiply the labor and loss of a single family by the total number of families in the country. Waste from change in fashion is as serious in production as in consumption. Professor Francis A. Walker says, "Seemingly petty changes in fashion will often produce wide-reaching effects in production. Mr. Malthus states that the substitution of shoe ribbons for buckles was a severe blow, long felt by Sheffield and Birmingham. On a smaller scale, and with less notoriety,' says a writer in the Atheneum, 'the dismal tragedy of the cotton famine is enacted every year in one or another of our great cities. Every time fashion selects a new material for dress, workmen are thrown out of employment.' Professor Rogers gives the following piquant illustration of the effect of changes in the mere fashion of dress: 'A year or two ago every woman who made any pretensions to dress according to the custom of the day, surrounded herself with a congeries of parallel steel hoops. It is said that fifty tons of crinoline wire were turned out weekly from the factories, chiefly in Yorkshire. The fashion has passed away, and the demand for the material and the labor has ceased. Thousands of persons once engaged in this production are now reduced to enforced idleness, or constrained to betake themselves to some other occupation. Again, a few years ago, women dressed themselves plentifully with ribbons. This fashion has also changed; where a hundred yards were sold, one is hardly produced now, and the looms of a multitude of silk-operatives are idle. To quote another instance. At the present time women are pleased to walk about bareheaded. The straw-plaiters of Bedfordshire, Bucks, Hertfordshire, and Essex are reduced suddenly from

a condition of tolerable prosperity to one of great poverty and distress.'"'1

But waste from this source is not confined to wearingapparel. It extends to all the furnishings of a house which, although good as new, fashion requires to be replaced every few years; even the house itself soon gets to be out of style, and must be pulled down or remodelled. As already intimated, changes in fashion are not per se objectionable, but rather desirable. They give variety to life, furnish opportunities for the exercise of taste, and yield a certain pleasure which is innocent and even helpful; but any considerable waste in connection with such changes is illegitimate. It is, however, unavoidable under the present competitive system, which justifies the individual producer in enriching himself, however great the waste to others and to society at large, and which recognizes no law in the production of commodities but the whim of the individual. Socialism, on the other hand, by recognizing the solidarity of society, would proceed to cut off the greater part of this waste, through an industrial organization that would regulate both the time and quantity of the production of commodities, and would give due notice of changes in fashions, and thus save a large per cent of the time and labor now wasted on this account.

13. Needless Luxury.

Closely associated with the foregoing cause of waste is the expenditure caused by Luxury, which cannot be said to yield an equivalent gain. It may, indeed, yield a certain kind of pleasure; but it is a pleasure which, while it does no one any real good, is positively harmful to society.

It is difficult to define luxury except in the abstract, and especially because the word is not always used in a bad sense. The more general conception, however, regards luxury as an evil. In this sense it is any costly object of pleasure that is, on the whole, harmful to the individual and to society. Professor E. W. Bemis defines it as "Whatever contributes chiefly to enjoyment, rather than to the better training of our powers. Luxury is defensible only

1 "The Wages Question," p. 178. Note.

in so far as it does not hinder the development of a better manhood in us, and in all those whom we could influence." The definition is worthy of more than a superficial reading. It condemns whatever ministers to pride and vanity; all those expenditures, whose name is legion, that gratify sensuality, and voluptuousness; objects and pursuits that weaken the muscles and demoralize the mind, but which capitalism and the prevailing Christianity may easily approve; and finally it condemns the entire lives of a large self-indulging, pleasure-seeking class, the product of capitalism, whose influence is to lower the standard of true manhood. This involves a vast economic waste.

The current political economy, however, is handicapped in attempting to treat of this species of waste, because of a false assumption concerning utility. A utility is something useful, and a thing is useful not merely because it is full of use, but because it is a good.

By a utility, therefore, must be understood something good, and not something bad. Economists, however, ignore this distinction; for example, the latest work on political economy, in accordance with the highest authorities, says, "Those quantities of utility which result from labor are called economic goods. . . . Everything which satisfies a human want we call a good." Economically speaking, every luxury is a good, a utility, however mischievous in its nature, because it "satisfies a human want." This is true of many wicked things. Gambling-dens, liquor saloons, brothels, infernal machines for wholesale murder, and many other things which employ millions of money and men, "satisfy human wants;" but can good or utility be predicated of them on this account? So long as political economy continues to confound all distinction between products of labor that benefit and those that injure society, designating both alike as goods, utilities, so long must it observe a prudential reticence concerning the waste of luxury. The difficulty of drawing the line should not prevent any line being drawn. Many of the luxuries that satisfy human

1 "Political Economy" (Ely), p. 144.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »