Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/323

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SOCIAL BACTERIA AND ECONOMIC MICROBES.

SOCIAL BACTERIA AND ECONOMIC MICROBES, WHOLESOME AND NOXIOUS. A STUDY IN SMALLS.
BY EDWARD ATKINSON, LL.D., PH.D.
The profit of each generation, or in the present era the profit of each decade, consists in the saving of what was wasted in the last one.

I HAVE long sought a method by which the value of the annual product of this country at the prices fixed at final distribution, commonly called retail prices, might be ascertained with approximate accuracy. In the study of the data of 1880 I was led to the conclusion that the average per capita expenditure (and therefore the annual product in its final stage) of the people of this country for the necessaries, comforts and luxuries of life could not be less than what $200 per head could buy at the prices of the census year. The proportion of the population occupied for gain varied but a fraction from one in three, leading to the conclusion that the average product of each person occupied for gain could not be less than $600 worth a year. Assuming this estimate to be approximately correct, this sum must have been the measure in money within which the cost of living, the taxes, additions to capital and all personal expenditures must have been covered. But on multiplying the population of the census year 1880 by $200 worth per head, I was led to a very much larger estimate of the value of the annual product than the estimates of any other student of social facts. I revised this computation on the basis of the census of 1890, reaching a conclusion that, while prices had been lessened, the value of the annual product at the lessened prices had reached not less than $225 worth per head or $675 per person occupied for gain. Upon revising the figures of 1900 as far as given—these figures being more adequate than any before compiled—I have again reached the conclusion that the per capita product of the year reported in the census of 1900 was not less than what $225 per capita would come to, each dollar of that $225 standing on the average for a considerably larger quantity of products than ever before. At the present time prices have been enhanced, in consequence mainly of a short product of Indian corn, of potatoes and other root crops, and of some other products; but under the present aspect of ample crops and normal production a return to normal conditions may be anticipated within a few months or by the time when the population of this country will