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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/481

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THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

food has, within recent years, been largely and progressively increasing; and as the consumption of rich and well-to-do people in such countries remains almost stationary, inasmuch as they have always been able to have all they desired of such articles, it is reasonable to infer that this result has been mainly due to the annually increasing ability of the masses to consume. In Great Britain, where this matter has been more thoroughly investigated than in any other country, the facts revealed (as will be presently shown) are most extraordinary. In the case of the population of Paris, M. Leroy-Beaulieu also reports a wonderful increase in the consumption of food-products since 1866, and states that, if the ravages of the phylloxera (vine pest) could be checked, and the price of wine reduced, the cost of living for the whole of France would be less than it has ever been during the last half-century.

Furthermore, not only has the supply of food increased, but the variety of food available to the masses has become greater. Nearly all tropical fruits that will bear transportation have become as cheap in non-tropical countries as the domestic fruits of the latter, and even cheaper; and the increased consumption thus induced has built up new and extensive branches of business, and brought prosperity to the people of many localities that heretofore have had no markets for any products of their industry.

An acre of the sea, cultivated by comparatively recently-discovered methods, is said to be capable of yielding as much food as any acre of fertile dry land; but thirty or forty years ago, fish in its most acceptable form—namely, fresh—was only available to consumers living in close proximity to the ocean. Now, fish caught on the waters of the North Pacific, and transported more than 2,000 miles, are daily supplied fresh to the markets of the Atlantic slope of the United States, and sea-products of the coast of the latter, transported 2,000 miles, are regularly furnished in a fresh condition to British markets.

One point of immense and novel importance in helping to a conclusion as to whether the race under the conditions of high civilization is tending toward increased comfort and prosperity, or toward greater poverty and degradation, is to be found in the fact which recent investigators have determined, namely: that in the United States the daily wages paid, or the daily earning capacity of a healthy adult worker, in even the most poorly remunerated employments, is more than sufficient, if properly expended, to far remove the individual recipient from anything like absolute want, suffering, or starvation. Thus, in the case of fifty-nine adult female operatives in a well-managed cotton mill in Maryland, the per-capita cost of subsistence, with a bill of fare embracing meats, all ordinary groceries and vegetables, milk, eggs, butter, fish, and fruit, has been found to be not in excess of twenty cents per day, including the cost of the preparation of the food and its serving. In Massachusetts, where the results were derived from the