point, the next thing to be done was to find out where I lived; and this he did by accompanying me to my office. Seeing her vomit, lie brought her a tin pan, which he probably had seen her use for that purpose, and then set out for my office. The dog called for me a number of times afterward, but never without my services were needed. He was never told to fetch me, but determined himself when it was necessary to do so.Yours, respectfully,
|John Sundberg, M. D.|
|Baltimore, December 4, 1876.|
To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.
Sir: In an article headed "Over-Consumption or Over-Production?" in your July issue, Mr. Bunce offers an answer to the question, "Why are the times so hard?" taking as his text Prof. Bonamy Price's article, "One per Cent.," which he pronounces to be illogical, fallacious, and based on unwarranted assumptions. It is not easy to disentangle Mr. Bunce's argument, but the following is believed to be a fair statement of the propositions it involves:
1. That the common ideas in regard to national extravagance are erroneous, it being something essentially different from individual extravagance.
2. That wasteful consumption has had nothing to do with commercial distress; that, on the contrary, destruction produces abundance.
3. That no part of the nation's capital has been lost in unproductive enterprises.
4. That the real cause of the trouble is over-production.
5. That the remedy lies in coöperation among producers to regulate production.
A refutation of these propositions is not the object of this letter; all that time and space will allow is to stand them up, stripped of verbiage, and see how they will look.
In the first place, concerning national extravagance, after pronouncing the idea ordinarily held to be "peculiarly erroneous," Mr. Bunce says: "We think it can be shown that expenditure in the case of the individual, and expenditure in the case of a large number of individuals, have certain essential differences, the difference being that the income of the former is absolutely fixed, while that of the latter is wholly expansive." As it stands, this proposition must mean that wastefulness, a bad thing in the case of the individual, becomes in the case of an aggregate of individuals a good thing; it means that, each man's income being fixed, he cannot safely live beyond it; but, if we add together a "large group" of these incomes, they become "wholly expansive," whatever that may be, and cannot be too recklessly spent; it means, in short, that the whole is something totally different from the sum of its parts.
Mr. Bunce tells us that "a community is rich because it consumes abundance being the product and consequent of excessive destruction." And here is the proof: "It is evident that the immense consumption of coal has made coal cheap and abundant. It has rendered possible the employment of vast capital in the erection of costly machinery for working, transporting, etc. . . . It is true, the consumption of coal is increased by cheapness, but it is only by extravagance that the machinery by which it is made cheap is put in operation. We have an immense wealth of coal because we consume coal so extensively!" This rule, we are told, works in all, or nearly all, our staples, and the conclusion is, "that in all staple things a nation is rich because it consumes." Was ever the operation of the law of supply and demand so grotesquely construed? That the demand for a commodity stimulates the activity of supply is most true, and, where increase is possible, the supply is increased until the widest area of demand is filled at a minimum cost, but it is only by economy that this minimum can be reached. It is surely only necessary to remember that, no matter what the employment of capital or appliance of machinery, every ton of coal moved a foot represents a given unit of force in the total sum available for supplying human needs, and that, when so used, it cannot be applied to other work, in order to see the full absurdity of the proposition that the nation is the richer if the product be wastefully destroyed instead of being husbanded and prudently used!
The third point made, that no part of the capital of the country has been lost in unproductive enterprises, deserves, perhaps, a little fuller attention because of the peculiar reasoning by which it is sought to be sustained. Mr. Bunce says that these works were largely carried on by what he calls "released energy, by labor not otherwise required," and that so far "the community is not the poorer by a mite in consequence." He is willing to admit that, by the purchase of iron abroad, etc., we have lost a part of our "surplus," but he declares that "the assumption that it impaired our capital is wholly groundless." With such a use of terms, it becomes needful to define what is meant by capital in an economic sense, and to point out the difference between it and the capital stock and surplus of a bank or a life-insurance company. The latter are terms used to designate what a book-keeper knows as the fictitious accounts which show the amount of assets of a corporation; it is a purely artificial division which has been