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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/512

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494
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

on imports, in respect to the article borax (borate of soda). Formerly the world's supply of this mineral substance, which enters largely into industrial processes and medicine, was limited, and mainly derived from certain hot springs in Tuscany, Italy; but within a comparatively recent period it has been found that it exists in such abundance in certain of the desert regions of California, Nevada, and Arizona, that it can be gathered with the minimum of labor from the very surface of the ground. Were a single acre of similar desert to be found in any section of a country enjoying the most ordinary privileges in respect to transportation and water supply, it would be a source of wealth to its proprietor. But under existing circumstances, although thousands and thousands of acres of this land can be bought with certain title from its owner—the Federal Government—for two dollars and twenty-five cents an acre, no one wants it at any price; and the prospective demand for it has not yet been sufficient to warrant the Government in instituting even a survey as a preliminary to effecting a sale. In the Senate debate above alluded to it was proposed to increase the duty on imported borax, with the expectation that a consequent increase in its domestic price would afford sufficient profit to induce such construction of roads and such a supply of water and labor on the borax tracts of the deserts as to enable them to become property.[1]

In the oases of the deserts of North Africa and Egypt the value of a tract of land depends very little upon its size or location, but almost exclusively upon the number of the date-bearing palms, the result of labor, growing upon it, and the quality of their fruit. John Bright on one occasion stated that if the land of Ireland were stripped of the improvements made upon it by the labor of the occupier, the face of the country would be "as bare and naked as an American prairie."

An exact parallel to this state of things is afforded in the case of lands of no value reclaimed from the sea and made valuable, as has been often done in England, Holland, and other countries, by embodying labor upon them in the shape of restraining embankments and the transportation and use of filling material. Again, the value of springs or running streams of water is generally limited and of little account. But when, through direct labor, or the results of labor, the water is collected in reservoirs and made the instrumentality of


  1. "Senator Paddock: I should like to ask the Senator from Nevada if, in the region of country where borax is found, by reason of finding it the land in the particular State or Territory is appreciated in value on account of its existence.

    "Senator Stewart: Not at all.

    "Senator Paddock: The value then given to it is all in labor."—Congressional Record, July, 1890.