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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/640

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY,

not hesitated to dilute and falsify the drugs employed to assuage pain and heal the sick and wounded. With this not only the intensity of modern competition but the width of its area has had something to do. One of the strongest moral checks in human nature is sympathy with suffering; but if aggravation of suffering be remote in place, uncertain in time, and unpublished, conscience is apt to slumber. A druggist to-day receives from scores of factories hundreds of preparations, concerning the purity of which he knows little or nothing. He dispenses them not to neighbors, but to customers, who, from the necessities of the case, must be strangers to him.

Not only in adulteration, but in other evils developed by competition, is the meanest man in a trade the lawgiver in that trade. A manufacturer or miner imports cheap Italian and Hungarian labor, thereby reducing the standard of living among his other work-people to the Italian and Hungarian level, and obliging his competitors to follow his example. A few firms who introduced child-labor into the manufacture of garments are responsible for the shrinkage in wages which of late years has steadily overtaken the entire seamstress class.

Adam Smith tells us that one of the elements of price is the higgling of the market—a pregnant observation concerning one of the grievous burdens of competition. We hear much about the frauds perpetrated by those who make and sell goods—we hear little concerning the frauds committed by those who buy; yet buyers and sellers are made of the same clay, and buyers not seldom grudge to pay a fair profit to the men who supply them. To illustrate: Let us suppose the firm of Robinson & Co. to be makers of thermometers, on which they set prices as just to their customers as to themselves. They are accustomed to sell a tenth part of their output to a certain New-Yorker. He goes to them one day and says that, unless they reduce their prices five percent, he will cease to deal with them. Although at a deduction from the profit fairly their due, they comply, simply because to refuse will result in larger loss than to submit. What one customer has done others may do, so that "higgling" may for a longer or shorter time force capable and industrious men to work without wages. Competition may be dreaded for just as well as for interested motives. A new rival may inflict severe loss through overestimating the business field which he enters; through cutting the price of a staple below cost, and making it what is called a "leader"; or through downright dishonesty and recklessness.

One of the remarkable developments of modern competition is in the matter of its costly and pervasive methods of solicitation. This, in the case of the commercial-traveling system, has had