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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/785

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THE WHEAT PROBLEM AGAIN.

of the future and of the cotton-seed-oil industry, then almost unheard of in this country. In 1880 I also entered upon my first "speculation" (not in the market) on the lines of a "contemplation" or forecast of the effect of agricultural machinery applied to our wheat land, coupled with the prospective reduction in the cost of carrying wheat to England, upon the condition of the American farmer and the British landlord. That forecast of prosperity to our farmers in the supply of bread at low cost to our kin beyond the sea has been justified at every point and in every detail. I therefore ventured to review Sir William Crookes's address, and I am well assured that what Mr. Hyde now calls a "somewhat dubious outlook" is subject to no doubt whatever as to our ability to continue our full supply for domestic consumption and export for the next century.

Let me now repeat again what I have often said: statistics are good servants, but very bad masters. I long since ceased to put any great reliance upon averages of crops, wages, or products covering wide areas and varying conditions, unless I could find out, first, the personal equation of the man who compiled them; second, ascertain what he knew himself about the subject of which his statistics or figures were the symbols; and, third, unless I could verify these great averages from one or more typical areas of farm land, or from one or more representative factories or workshops, of the conditions of which I could myself obtain personal information.

General statistics and averages of farm products and earnings I regard with more suspicion than almost any others because of the immense variation in conditions.

I have sometimes almost come to the conclusion that so many of the figures of the United States census are mere statistical rubbish as to throw a doubt on nearly all the schedules. Yet without accurate statistics on many points, many of them yet to be secured, the conduct of our national affairs must become as uncertain as would be the conduct of any great business corporation without a true ledger account and a trial balance. Hence the necessity for a permanent census bureau and for a careful "speculation" or "intellectual" and intelligent examination and "contemplation" or study of the facts about our land by which our future welfare must be governed.

A good beginning has been made by the authorities of many States, yet more by the body of well-trained men in charge of the Agricultural Experiment Station, in whose support too much can not be said. To them I appealed when trying to get an adequate conception of our potential in wheat.

When we think of the blunders which have been made in very recent years, we may well have some suspicion that we may still be very ignorant on many points about our own country. Who really