Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/12

This page has been validated.

have exhibited no tendency to decline in price, but rather the reverse. A given amount of gold does not now buy more, but less, of domestic service and of manual and professional labor generally than formerly; does not buy more of amusements; not more of hand-woven lace, of cigars, and of flax, which are mainly the products of hand-labor; of cut-glass, of gloves, of pictures, or of precious stones. It buys notably less of hides and leather, which are the sequences of cattle-growing, which in turn involves time, and for which, in point of economy, large sections of the earth are not adapted; of horses, and most other animals; of pepper; of cocoa, the cheap production of which is limited to a few countries, and requires an interval of five years between the inception and maturing of a crop; of malt liquors, eggs, currants, and potatoes; and also of house-rents, which depend largely upon the price of land, and which in turn is influenced by fashion, population, trade, facilities for access, and the like.

How little of change in price has come to the commodities of countries of low or stagnant civilization, that have remained outside of the current of recent progress, is strikingly illustrated in the case of a not unimportant article of commerce, namely, the root sarsaparilla; which, with a gradually-increasing demand, continues to be produced (collected and prepared) in Central America, by the most primitive methods, and, without any change in the conditions of supply, save, possibly, some greater facilities for transportation from the localities of production to the ports of exportation. Thus, in the case of Honduras sarsaparilla, at New York, which is the principal distributing market of the world, the average price for the best grade is reported as identical for the years 1881 and 1886; while for the "Mexican," the average reported for 1881 was eight cents per pound, and for 1886, with much larger sales, from seven to eight and a quarter cents.

All the evidence, furthermore, tends to show that there has been very little decline in recent years in the prices of such of the commodities of India as constitute her staple exports, which can not, as will be hereafter shown, be clearly referred to agencies entirely disconnected with any influence assumed to have been occasioned by any increase in the purchasing power of gold due to its absolute or relative scarcity.[1]

Now, all of the commodities referred to, including labor and personal service, and many others which might be specified, whose condition in recent years has not been materially influenced by changes

  1. According to Mr. Robert Giffin, in his testimony before the British Commission, "On the Changes in the Relative Values of the Precious Metals," 1886, the general result of a comparison of India prices submitted to the Commission "On Trade Depression," shows a fall of only two per cent in 1880-'84, as compared with 1870-'74, or with the period immediately before the fall in silver:

    "The general conclusion appears to me to be that the effect of the present relations between gold and silver have not told appreciably on prices in India, or on the relative progress of her import and export trade."—Testimony of Sir Lons Mallet, late Under-Secretary of State for India, Trade Depression Commission, 1886.