Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/911

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
829
THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF WEALTH.

two or three seconds. This seemed about the extreme limit of their endurance. Possibly the muscular activity they exhibited was too intense for prolonged exertion.

And now let us make a little calculation as to the amount of force that each ant must have exerted. As before stated, here was a company of them dragging over a wooden chair seat a weight nineteen hundred and ninety-one times that of each individual engaged in the task! Supposing that forty ants were at one time at work (which is the largest number that I could count), and that the force exerted was evenly distributed (which in point of fact could not have been the case), each ant must have done at least one fortieth of the work. In other words, each of these tiny workmen was dragging or pushing forward nearly fifty times his own weight (exactly 49·75). A man of medium build weighs, we will say, one hundred and fifty pounds. Fifty times this is seven thousand five hundred pounds, or three tons and three quarters. So that even Sandow in relative strength is a long way inferior to these curious little "racehorse" ants.

 

THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF WEALTH.
By M. PAUL LEROY BEAULIEU.

WEALTH—concentrated to a high degree in the hands of an individual has a mission,—a social function, which is derived from its very nature and which it alone can properly fulfill. Wealth has the power of commanding production and labor, and consequently of giving a direction to both; indirectly, without show, but very effectively, more intimately, and more familiarly, a rich man, like a politician, is a leader of men. Fortune, which is abundant wealth in the hands of an individual, constitutes a power of administration. This power of administration, whether acquired or inherited, can not be used while affairs dependent on one's self are allowed to drift; for the fortune will in that case probably be dispersed and will escape the hands that are holding it. One may try using it in a purely selfish interest; he will be likely to become richer and richer, accumulating capital and making himself useful to society by new expenditures; but he will not fulfill the social function of fortune. One may, on the other hand, place himself at a high general point of view in using this power without excluding his personality.

The gospel precept, repeated in all Christian morals, that the wealthy are the administrators of the goods of the poor, or the economists of the poor, is a pious maxim not wholly practicable from the human point of view; but it embodies the principles of