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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/473

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EVOLUTION AND POLITICAL ECONOMY.

boards of trade, and by telegraphs, without which existing society would instantly dissolve, are nowhere set forth. And likewise the great subject of industrial disorders, their origins, progress, and decline, a subject which promises so much to scientific study, is not even hinted at. In a word, the conception of industrial society as an organism, subject to the same laws of evolution as others, and like other organisms having its structures and functions, its changes in response to environment, its health and disease, is entirely absent.

It is the province of evolution to introduce these ideas into political economy; to point out the harmony of the evolution of industrial society with that of universal Nature. Evolutionary political economy begins with the formation of those simple social groups whose members lived by hunting and fishing, and the first step in industrial life is shown to be the selection of a member surpassing the rest as a maker of weapons and implements for that duty. This step increases the strength of the group and leads to a further increase in size. Presently, by the interaction of this and other factors, the size of the group becomes such that it is partly encouraged, partly forced into the pastoral and then into the agricultural state.

And, however blended and complicated with other social phenomena industrial evolution may be, no one who has once fixed his eye on the cardinal principles of evolution will fail to see how strikingly they reveal themselves in economic history. As the yolk slowly divides and again divides until head and limbs and stomach and feathers faintly appear, and finally the chick steps forth, so industrial society, impelled by an indwelling force, evolves from time to time as conditions permit the organizations of men necessary for the better supply of social wants, and also the functions they perform and the processes by which they work.

To me the supreme lesson evolution has to offer to students of political economy is the automatic and irresistible nature of the process by which society evolves the functions and structures needful for its betterment. No philosopher or statesman invented boards of trade or foresaw their indispensable necessity as the social agents for the distribution of grain throughout the world, for the steadying of prices, and for the guaranty they afford of a close approximation of the prices paid the producer to that paid by the consumer. No economist established banks or conceived the vast uses they would subserve. No human mind foresaw the uses of the railroad, the steamboat, or the telegraph, nor were any of these created with much thought as to such uses. Gunpowder had accomplished its mission of establishing the physical supremacy of intelligence before anybody understood what that