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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/613

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tation of works of art of a high character and large cost, under the assumption that it is desirable to tax all such articles as luxuries, and that it is for the interest of the masses to adopt such a policy! In illustration, let us suppose a man of wealth to purchase and import a costly and beautiful art product. Having obtained it, he rarely finds a compensating return for his expenditure in an exclusive and selfish inspection, but rather in exhibiting it to the public; and the public go away from these exhibitions with such higher tastes and culture as impel them to desire to have in their life-surroundings, as much that is artistic and beautiful—not the work of one, but of many—as their means will allow; even if it be no more than a cheerful chromo-lithograph, a photograph, a carpet or a curtain of novel and attractive design, a piece of elegant furniture, or of bronze, porcelain, or pottery. And to supply the new and miscellaneous industries that are created or enlarged by such desires and demands, labor will be, as it were, constantly drained off from occupations in which improved machinery tends to supplant it, into other spheres of employment in which the conditions and environments are every way elevating, because in them the worker is less of a machine, and the rewards of labor are very much greater.

The phenomena of the overproduction of certain staple commodities, although for the time being often a matter of difficulty and the occasion of serious industrial and commercial disturbances, are also certain, in each specific instance, to sooner or later disappear in virtue of the influence of what may be regarded as economic axioms, namely: that we produce to consume, and that, unless there is perfect reciprocity in consumption, production will not long continue in a disproportionate ratio to consumption; and also that, under continued and marked reduction of prices, consumption will quickly tend to increase and equalize, or accommodate itself to production. Illustrations of the actual and possible under this head, and of the rapidity with which conditions are reversed and "overproduction" disappears, are most curious and instructive. For example, all authorities in 1885 were agreed that the then existing capacity for manufacturing cotton was greatly in excess of the world's capacity for consumption; the season of 1885-'86 closing with a surplus of nearly 400,000,000 yards on the British market, for which the manufacturers found no demand. Since that date, however, and with no special renewal of business activity in any country except the United States, the world's consumption of cotton fabrics has reached a larger total than ever before, and there are probably at the present time (1888) no more spindles in existence than are necessary to supply the current demands for their products. In the case of sugar, also, an increase in consumption occasioned by low prices, and a notable restriction of production through the same price influences, has reduced an estimated actual surplus of sugar on the world's markets in October, 1885, of 1,012,956 tons, to 568,188 tons in October, 1887,