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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/549

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EXPENDITURE OF THE WORKING CLASSES.

us by the different experiences and habits of foreign countries. And we are happy in a neighbor like France, with her literary and social charms and graces, her scientific lucidity and inventiveness, and the contrasts of her social genius to inspire comparisons, and in many respects to set us examples. I have singled out one of her many writers for attention, precisely because of this quality of suggestiveness. Other investigators have, of course, attacked the subject. In Belgium and Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria, and the United States, governments and individuals have recently undertaken the preparation of family budgets; but in many respects Le Play's monographs are the first and greatest of all. They yield excellent material, upon which science, in its various branches, has yet to do work which will benefit mankind in general; and promises especially to benefit the people of this country. The cosmopolitan attitude of the older economists was largely due to their centering their attention upon the problems of exchange. To them the globe was peopled by men like ourselves, producing the fruits of the earth, anxious to exchange them to the greatest mutual advantage, but hindered from doing so by the perversity of national governments. The facts of consumption, at any rate, are local. They are often determined by geology, geography, climate and occupation; and, however fully we may admit the economic solidarity of the world, and the advantage which one part of it derives from the prosperity of another, yet we may be easily forgiven for thinking that our first duty lies to our own brethren; that our natural work is that which lies at our own doors; that, as the old proverb says, 'the skin is nearer than the shirt.' And we may fairly be excused if we attempt to make our contribution to the welfare of the human family through the improvement of the consumption of wealth and the condition of the people in our own land.