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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/198

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194
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

employed, and wages are unusually high and still going up. So fortunate do we consider ourselves that a great political party, with a complacency that almost compels admiration, taking credit to itself for the conditions that have produced these unprecedented results, presents as its watchword, borrowing an elegant phrase from the gambler, the injunction to "Stand pat," on the assumption that conditions are so near perfection that they can not be improved.

Conditions being as I have described, let us imagine an intelligent traveler from Altruria, or from Mars, coming among us, and let us fancy his observations. "Surely," he will say, falling into the superlative, "this is the greatest country in the world. The easy circumstances of your people have undoubtedly left them time for the enjoyment of art, of literature and of science, and have enabled them to cultivate the love of beauty and of truth as no other nation has done. Your rich men have had the leisure to educate themselves to the highest pitch, to patronize the arts so that your architecture, your paintings and your music surpass all others, and have been able to constitute themselves a leading class whose influence by their writings, their scientific discoveries and their civic devotion has made them an aristocracy such as the world has not seen." I fancy I see a slight shade of embarrassment spread over the face of his cicerone, say in New York or Pittsburg, from which he presently rallies, as he points out to the stranger, "To be sure, speaking of architecture, that office building is the tallest structure in the world, overtopping the cathedral of Cologne, and doubling the height of the pyramids; either of those two railway stations is larger than any other; as for music, every family has an automatically played piano, in these two opera houses sing artists paid salaries higher than anywhere else, mostly Europeans to be sure; in this gallery are the most expensive pictures to be had in Europe, no princely family in Europe being able to resist our offers; as to literature, our newspapers are larger, printed faster, in larger type, and containing more news, unimportant it is true, than any others, and as for science, these dynamos furnish more current than any others in the world. As for the power of our rich men, one of them controls more miles of railway than would go around the earth, which he manages all for the benefit of the public, while others freely give their energies to the management of great public institutions which insure what poor we have against the terrors of old age and death."

But enough of imaginary conversation, and let us examine in all seriousness what are the fruits by which America shall be known. Within the last few years we have frequently heard the exultant statement that the United States is now a world-power. What is a world-power? Is it a nation whose armaments are able to wring from all