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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/125

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SKETCH OF EDWARD ATKINSON.

obnoxious incident for which, some person, generally the owner or occupant, shall be held responsible.

From the fruits of his studies in economic science he has sustained, or perhaps first presented, the proposition that the burden of a tax upon any commodity can be truly measured only by its ratio to the margin of profits on a given manufacture rather than by its ratio to the total cost of the product into which the taxed material enters as a component. Hence a tax bearing a very small ratio to the gross value of the product, when imposed upon some apparently insignificant article which enters into a process of manufacture, may entirely forbid the establishment of that branch of industry in a country where otherwise it might have been successfully established. He therefore opposes duties on what are commonly but incorrectly called "raw materials," for the reason that such duties, when imposed upon crude or partly manufactured materials which are used in the various processes of domestic industry, not only cripple the manufacturers, but also injure the domestic producers, even of the same materials, by restricting their use.

He has, further, worked out and presented facts in proof of the theory that the wages or earnings of those who are commonly called "the working-classes" are a result of production, and can not be considered an antecedent to production which can be absolutely measured and determined or agreed upon for any considerable period before the work is undertaken, since all taxes, profits, and wages must, in the long run, be derived from the product itself. It follows, however, from this principle that, under free conditions, high wages in money, or in what money will buy, must in the end be the necessary correlative or consequence of a low cost of production. In other words, the price of labor does not measure the cost of labor, the cost of labor depending upon many other elements than the wages or earnings of those who take part in the conversion of the cruder products of the soil, the mine, or the forest, into the finished forms commonly known as manufactures.

He has also maintained the proposition that under free conditions of exchange the workman must of necessity, decade by decade, secure to his own use or enjoyment an increasing share of an increasing product, even though free exchange be limited in the United States to its own area—the exceptions to this rule being in countries where the free exchange of services is obstructed by the diversion of products in the form of taxes to the support of great standing armies, or to the payment of interest on huge national debts. In such instances, the benefits of improvement and invention being taken up by the tax-gatherer, it may follow that the workman is, decade by decade, becoming poorer and more in-