there is any indisputable fact in the world it is that important changes are being made in the methods of cultivation and exploitation, and as for equal "doses" of capital and labor, who is so simple as to think of adding them? The question is not that of adding another cartload of the old fertilizer to a wheat field, but of adding some new fertilizer, exactly fitted to the wants of the crop, by which it may be doubled in quantity. It is not a question of adding a man with a sickle, but of adding a man with a modern harvester; not of sowing the old seed to yield tenfold, but the new seed to yield an hundredfold. Capital is multiplying so rapidly that it worries some people, at least, to know what to "dose," and invention multiplies the units of labor so fast that they outstrip even our imagination. Now, to be sure, individual farmers must have practical methods of directing the expenditure of what capital and labor they have, and the law applies to them since an individual is more or less in an eddy, just as I am in the matter of capital. I have little more than I had before the last multiplication of the capital of the world, but I am not so personal as to deny the increase. I claim to be part of the age of airships, though I have never seen one, and am no nearer an automobile than a state of covetousness. I try not to be like the woman in a small town who came to me after a lecture in which I had said that, since three fourths of the women in that village bought their bread from bakeries where it was made by men, they could retain their power over bread making only by voting, she confidentially told me that she made her own bread, and hence did not see any need for women's voting. It seems to me that an economic law ought to be comprehensive enough to summarize the individual cases. Professor Carver shows conclusively that in an individual case the law of diminishing returns may work exactly. He even shows that large-scale production does not overthrow the principle; but he does not consider the pertinent fact of modern industry, that invention, organization and efficiency make constantly changing conditions, and that "equal doses" are out of date. He admits that the law is more evident when applied to stationary civilization, saying, "If civilization should remain stationary while population increases in density there would be a smaller per capita production because of the law of diminishing returns. The terrible reality of this law is witnessed by the overcrowding of those populations where, as in the unchanging east, civilization has become stationary." I reply, "to be sure," but modern economics is neither history nor anthropology, and what should be taught in our colleges and to business men is a principle that applies to a progressive civilization. Again Carver says, "but with respect to the livelihood of a complex population considering all its industries in a mass, the operation of the law is not so clearly perceived."
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/600
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