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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/607

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THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

But as abstract conclusions in economic as well as in all other discussions are best substantiated and comprehended through practical examples, to examples let us turn. And first as to certain notable instances derived from recent experiences, showing how remarkably and rapidly increase of consumption has followed reduction of prices, even in cases where the reduction has been comparatively slight, and a marked increase of consumption could not have been reasonably anticipated.

Among the staple food articles that have greatly declined in price during recent years is sugar, and this decline has been attended with a large increase in consumption; the decline in the average price of fair refining sugar in the United States (in bond) having been from 4·75 cents per pound in 1882 to 2·92 cents in 1886; while the average consumption per capita, which was 39 pounds for the five years from 1877 to 1882, was 49·8 pounds for the five years from 1882 to 1887. Comparing 1885 with 1887, the consumption of sugar in the United States increased over 11 per cent, or largely in excess of any concurrent growth of population. Converting, now, so much of this larger consumption as was due to diminished price (probably more than one hundred million pounds) into terms of acres and labor employed in its production; into the ships and men required for its transportation; into the products, agricultural and manufactured, and the labor they represent, that were given in exchange for it, and we can form some idea of the greater opportunities for labor through larger volume of exchanges, and the increased comfort for those who labor, that follows every reduction in the cost necessary to procure desirable things.

In 1887, with an import price of about 10 cents per pound, the importation of coffee into the United States was 331,000,000 pounds. In 1885, with an average import price of eight cents, the importation was 572,000,000 pounds. Between 1873 and 1885 the coffee product of the world that went to market, concurrently with this large decline in its price, increased to the extent of 52 per cent.

The great reduction in recent years in the price of copper, consequent upon its increased product and a surplus offering upon the world's markets, led to such an extraordinary increase in the demand for manufactures of copper and brass, and such a general extension of the uses of the metal, as to finally not only absorb any surplus stock, but also to create apprehension of an inadequacy of supply. For the year 1886 the authorities of the United States Geological Survey estimate that the increase in the consumption of copper by the leading American manufactories of copper and brass was in excess of 24 per cent; and that a very nearly equal increase was experienced in the preceding year (1885); all of which indicates a large if not a fully proportional increase for the periods mentioned in the opportunity for labor, at comparatively high wages, in these departments of industry. On the other hand, with a large advance in the price of copper during the latter