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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/606

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pose that the maximum of progress in this direction has been attained, and every reason to expect that the future will be characterized by like and even greater results progressively occurring, the question arises, Is labor to be continually, and in a degree ultimately displaced from occupation by progressive economy of production? Is continual and fiercer competition to effect sales, both of product and labor, in excess of current demands, likely to produce continued disturbance and an unhealthy fall of prices, extensive reductions in wages, and the more extensive employment of the cheaper labor of women and children? Is society working through all this movement toward what has been called an "anarchy of production"?

Experience thus far, under what may be termed the new régime of production and distribution, does not, however, fairly warrant any such anticipations. Wages, speaking generally, have not fallen, but have increased; and, except in Germany, there is little indication of a tendency to increase the hours of labor, or encroach upon the reservation of Sunday. Everywhere else, even in Russia, the tendency is in the opposite direction.

Again, the extent and rapidity of the increase in the consumption of all useful and desirable commodities and services which follows every increase in the ability of the masses to consume, is one of the most wonderful of modern economic phenomena; and the one thing which, more than any other, augments their ability to consume, is the reduction in the price of commodities, or rather the reduction in the amount of human effort or toil requisite to obtain them, which the recent improvements in the work of production and distribution have effected. Better living, contingent on a reduction of effort necessary to insure a comfortable subsistence, induces familiarity with better things; constitutes the surest foundation for the elevation of the standard of popular intelligence and culture, and creates an increasing desire for not only more but for a higher grade of commodities and services. There are, therefore, two lines upon which the consumption of the products of labor is advancing: the one, in which this stimulant is animal in its nature, and demands food, clothing, shelter, and fuel, for its satisfaction; and the other intellectual, which will only be satisfied by an increased supply of those things which will minister to a higher standard of comfort and education. Thus far the world's manual laborers have not kept up in culture with the improved and quickened methods of production; and therefore in certain departments there is not yet that opportunity for work that there undoubtedly will be in the future.

"There is no good reason why a workingman earning one thousand or fifteen hundred dollars a year, as many do, should not desire as many comforts in the shape of furniture, books, clothing, pictures, and the like for himself and his family, and desire them as intelligently, as the minister, or lawyer, or doctor who is earning a similar amount."