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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/114

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

inquiry as to the scope of political economy and the methods which it pursues.

The division between the various fields of human knowledge is largely a matter of convenience, a sort of intellectual division of labor. This is particularly the case with those subjects which deal with the various aspects of human relation's, especially political science, political economy and sociology. Human activities are so interlaced that it is comparatively easy, from whatever standpoint we begin their investigation, to extend the field of inquiry so as to embrace them all. There has been therefore, respecting these three subjects, much unprofitable controversy as to which should be deemed the dominant or master science and to which priority should be given. If, however, the study of each of these aspects of human society calls for peculiar aptitudes on the part of the investigator, it would seem that the best results should be obtained when each laborer cultivated his own patch without indulging in border controversies with his neighbors.

Political economy, the science of wealth, deals with man's relation to nature in the satisfaction of his material wants. Since nature does not shower its bounties abundantly, man's wants cannot be satisfied without human effort. Economics seeks to discover the general rules which govern man in this effort. Certain of the conditions of this activity are axiomatic and fundamental, while others are dependent upon time, place and circumstance.

Primary conditions are nature's limits and man's wants, and both have hitherto been accepted without inquiry. Of late years, however, economists have sought to measure man's wants, to determine their direction and intensity, and to thus ascertain their effects as molding forces in the economic activities which result from them. This has given us an analysis of demand which has been useful in pointing out the subjective elements in our economic activities, though it has led its adherents to trench closely upon the domain of psychology and has exposed them to the criticism that they have been digging in other men's gardens with inefficient instruments. The results of this analysis have been extremely interesting, and despite the protest of the psychologists, promise a restatement of economic theory based upon a more exact formulation of the laws of demand. Yet it can hardly be said that these views and the treatment which follows from them have become commonplaces of economic reasoning, and as it is the general consensus of opinion with which we are concerned, we may pass them over.

It was not until the economic processes became somewhat differentiated that the necessity for an explanation of them was felt. When men awoke to the idea that the affairs of every-day life were subject to rules and order, they observed that the processes involved were by no means simple. They saw men cooperating in the production of