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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/548

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538
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

can be done is to serve as a finger-post to point the road along which there is work to be done.

If nothing has been said about the waste and extravagance of the wealthier classes, it is because economy is with them of less moment. They suffer little or no privation from extravagance, and derive less advantage from checking it than those to whom every little is a help. And so far as much of this waste is concerned, they sin against the light. It is one thing to point out a more excellent way to the unwary, another to preach to those who, seeing the better, follow the worse.

But the expenditure of the working classes is also, from a scientific point of view, vastly more important. Their expenses are more uniform, less disturbed by fantasy, or hospitality, or expensive travel, and will give us more insight into the hitherto inscrutable laws of demand. The time is far removed when any reduction in the cost of living could be successfully made the pretext for a reduction in the rate of wages. The Committee on the Aged Deserving Poor recommends under certain conditions pensions varying with the 'cost of living in the locality.' The same factor, we are told, enters into the adjustment of postmen's wages as between town and town. How are we to know the comparative cost of living without these details of expenditure? How else can we measure with any exactness the progress of civilization itself? How else can we discover the cohesive force of the family in holding together the structure of society, the mutual succor of young and old, the strong and the infirm or sick, the well-to-do and the victim of accident or ill-luck? To what department soever of economic life we turn our eyes we find live men and women, born into families, living in families, their social happiness and efficiency largely dependent on their family lives, and when we consider how greatly our knowledge and insight into society will be increased by a more intimate acquaintance with the economics of the family, we may well cherish the highest hopes for the future progress of our science. The theory of this subject, at any rate, is not 'complete.' It has not even been begun.

Upon certain aspects of the spending or using of wealth as opposed to the getting of wealth, like the expenditure of central and local governments, it would hardly be proper for me to enlarge. The first is subject to the watchful control of the tax-payer, of Parliament, and of a highly trained civil service; the second to the jealous criticism of the rate-payer and his representative. But there is some social expenditure, like the scandalous multiplication of advertisements (which by a refinement of cruelty gives us no rest night or day), which is wicked to a degree. In all these matters of the consumption of wealth, individually and collectively, we are as yet, it must be again repeated, too ignorant of the facts. An unimaginative people as we are, we are fortunately fond enough of travel to have suggestions constantly forced upon