Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/599

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A BUGBEAR OF ECONOMICS

made in the method of cultivation or exploitation." Carver in his "Distribution of Wealth" goes more into detail and proves the law with mathematical exactness. In fact, he is so clear that he seems to be proving the obvious. However, he offers as an excuse that such proof would not be needed "had not certain writers seen fit to deny it because it did not harmonize with their views of economics, and certain would-be reformers to ignore it because its recognition would interfere with the acceptance of their reforms."

Such a reformer, I suppose, he would call Wm. H. Allen, of New York, who said in a recent article in the Annals of The American Academy that "When John D. Rockefeller said to the world, 'There will never be enough money to do the world's uplift work,' he started in motion forces and doubts and compromises that will do vastly more harm to the south than the hookworm." The reason Mr. Rockefeller made such a statement was that he was biased by the law of diminishing returns which closes the door of hope, because, as Patten indicates, hopelessness is inherent in a world of diminishing returns. Many who argue for the truth of this law quote not only men of success like Mr. Rockefeller, but any business man or farmer who finds himself face to face with the law. The difficulty in both cases is that the individual is looking at production from his personal point of view, and not from the point of view of production as a whole. The economists, however, ought to see principles in the large.

Scientific laws are much like creeds. Some one has an insight which he formulates, and for him and some of his successors the formulation seems to satisfy the conditions and the needs. So an economic law is the classification of a group of facts as some one's insight sees them; but as with the creed, men may make the fatal mistake of thinking it an eternal truth. There was a time when belief in hell fire was an incentive to morality, but now many of us succeed in getting a degree of morality when in the state of mind of the small son of a famous modern philosopher who asked his mother what hell was. She described it to him and at the close added, "But there are some who do not believe this." The boy replied, "Mamma, I am one of those." There was a time when the law under discussion had a vital meaning to the race, but I am one of those who think that a new formulation is in place, that here is a case where orthodoxy does not mean clear thinking.

The fallacy common to Seligman, Seager, Carver and the others is that of emphasizing archaic conditions. Seligman, for example, was talking about equal "additional doses" of capital and labor; and Seager at the close of his definition said, "it being understood, of course, that no important change is made in the method of cultivation or exploitation." Now of what earthly good is a law for such conditions? If