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obtain the enjoyment of luxury by a deplorable sacrifice of their own labour. The luxury of high living,* the excessive and almost exclusive use of meat as the principal article of food, creates an immense amount of agricultural labour of the most disagreeable kind in the breeding, rearing, fattening, and driving of cattle, which, according to some highly-esteemed testimony, might advantageously be avoided by the introduction of a purely vegetable diet. Sir George Campbell says: “It is well known that the mass of the Scotch people became one of the finest and most vigorous races of the earth on oat-meal and a little milk, with scarcely any meat at all. There are no finer specimens of mankind than the Afghans and the natives of the Punjaub, but they live on the simplest diet—a diet almost entirely without meat.”
CHAPTER XI.— WASTE IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF PRODUCE
BY WHOLESALE TRADING. IT is really surprising that the enormous waste of labour
caused by the present system of the distribution of produce has not yet aroused the indignation of the political economist. But it seems that, on the contrary, he rejoices at the wasteful working of the system in both wholesale and retail trade. Being deficient of inventive ingenuity, he cannot imagine a better state of things in which this waste might be avoided, and he thus looks upon the present mode of distribution as the only possible one, and reasons that the waste connected with it is at least preferable to the abnormities that would be created by new social arrangements, the principles of which he rejects without any previous and serious investigation.
* A cheerful prescription by the celebrated Dr. Brown runs thus :“For breakfast, toast and rich soup, made on a slow fire ; a walk before breakfast, and a good deal after it. A glass of wine in the forenoon, from time to time. Good broth or soup to dinner, with meat of any kind he likes, but always the most nourishing. Several glasses of port or punch to be taken after dinner, and a dram of whisky after everything heavy. One hour and a half after dinner, another walk. Between tea-time and supper, a game with cheerful company at cards, or any other play, never too prolonged ; lastly, the company of amiable, handsome, and delightful young women, and an enlivening glass."
The frequent displacement of goods from one wholesale warehouse into another,—or the changing of hands, as this cumbersome process is called by a facile commercial term,—the repeated selling and reselling of the same goods, is, in the opinion of the political economist, the surest means of distributing produce in the cheapest and most expeditious way. He is blinded by preconceived notions of the excellency of the present social system, and is therefore unable to see its absurdity, which even a child could point out to him.
There is scarcely any commercial transaction, however simple, both in wholesale and retail trade, which is not more or less causing deplorable waste of labour. The changing of hands which takes place with a cargo still afloat on the distant ocean needs no trans-shipment, or unloading of goods; but it cannot be effected without a considerable amount of labour being spent in advertising the sale, and committing the transaction into writing, and entering it into the ledgers of the respective merchants by their clerks. The transfer of goods from one warehouse to another, their frequent displacement in one and the same repository, entail a waste of labour on the part of warehousemen, porters, clerks, carmen, and others, which, if its fearful amount were ascertained, would cast the greatest discredit upon this mode of distributing produce; but the political economist boldly faces the stupidity of the system, and obstinately persists in its efficacy of cheapening all articles of consumption, though the most limited understanding can see that all additional labour required for the repeated displacement and removal of goods must inevitably enhance their price. Is it not bitter irony that many of the real workers - the porters and carmen, for instance-are by this wasteful labour raising the price of many articles of consumption which they themselves need buying for their daily support ?
Losses incurred and failures experienced in commerce anıl trade are so much loss of labour; for money is but the result of accumulated labour, and the amount lost in adverse commercial transactions exactly represents an equal amount of waste in labour. The political economist thinks that the losses and failures in commerce and trade can be repaired by subsequent success in speculation; but the social reformer maintains that, as capital cannot increase by itself unless it is fructified by labour, the amount of money once lost cannot be regained by subsequent successful operations without further appeal to the fructifying nature of labour.
To the waste of labour, caused by the frequent displacement of goods, and by the losses in unsuccessful commercial speculations, must be added the waste resulting from the injury and damage the goods themselves are frequently suffering by long lying in store, and by their repeated removal from one warehouse to another before they reach the retail dealer, who in his turn may be overtaken by slackness of trade, and have great quantities of goods spoiled in his shop.
The loss incurred by society at large from the present mode of distribution is nowhere more conspicuous than in the provision trade. The facts brought to light by the annual report of Dr. Letheby are startling in the highest degree; for they not only discredit the present mode of the distribution of food, but inculpate in a serious manner even the character of the distributors, and lead to the grave conclusion that our provision dealers deserve to rank high among the eminent poisoners of the nineteeth century, and that they are diverting from the support of the people, and especially of the poorer classes, an amount of food that had to be destroyed as unfit for human use, but which, under proper regulations, might have served to cheapen provisions, and to lighten the burdens of living. His report for the official year of 1873 states that the inspectors of meat and markets seized and condemned and destroyed 80 tons of meat, and in the bonded warehouses 896 boxes, 600 barrels, 30 hogsheads, 40 bags, and 69 cartloads of figs ; 22 barrels of currants; more than a million of fish (weighing nearly 400 tons); 9,425 gallons of shrimps, 882 bushels of sprats, oysters, perriwinkels, mussels, and cockles; 4,278 lb. of eels, and rather more than 8 cwt. of salmon. If one, however, considers that this spoiling and destruction of so much valuable food as stated above is not confined to London, but that a similar process and proportionate destruction of the means of living have obtained in all the large towns of the United Kingdom,-in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, and many other places,the injury inflicted upon the people is of fearful magnitude.
The exposure of the glaring defects of the present mode of distribution by means of the wholesale trade is in itself sufficient to condemn the entire system; and if the author can point out another arrangement that would economize the greatest amount of labour by exposing the goods to the least damage and injury; by reducing the labour now required in filling up the huge ledgers of the counting houses to such a minimum as would require not one hundredth part of the number of clerks now employed; then, every one will be anxious that such a change should be made without the briefest delay, and that the old counting-house, with its crowds of clerks and giant volumes of ledgers; the warehouse, with its narrow storerooms, so difficult of access; the chaotic bustle of the traffic, and all the confusion of the higgling market and annual fair, should be cleanly and speedily swept away, and that men's minds should in future be freed from those chronic evils called commercial speculation, risk, failure, bankruptcy, fraud, embezzlement, loss, panic, and the like; the final effects of which not only end in the ruin of isolated commercial houses and single individuals, but often check the prosperity of whole communities and endanger the safety of nations and states.
CHAPTER XII.- WASTE OF LABOUR IN RETAIL TRADE. F the above picture of the wholesale trade be a faithful
representation of the irrational working of the present system of distributing produce, the description which the author will presently give of the wasteful operation of retail trade will appear in still darker colours. Indeed, the waste of labour incurred in this operation is of so gigantic a character that it is even to social critics, who have studied the subject, an almost insurmountable task to state even an approximate estimate of its immensity. The author will, therefore, only be able to point out the chief causes of this enormous waste, and will leave the minor instances of the absurdity and wastefulness of the system to the reader's own reflection and imagination.
The waste of labour and time in carrying out the operations of the retail trade begins with the shopkeeper himself, when he is sitting idle * in his shop, anxiously waiting for the arrival of customers, who, when they have come, very often do not purchase ; in which case the shopkeeper wastes his labour in an unnecessary display and replacement of goods, and the customer loses his time in an unsuccessful attempt to purchase. The time lost in idleness by waiting for customers is an indirect loss of labour, for the time thus lost could be profitably and usefully employed in other occupations; and although the future social state will even grant a greater extension of the temporary cessation of labour than the shopkeeper now frequently enjoys, yet it will not be objectionable, because it will be the same for all employments. By the equal distribution of work and cessation from it, the shopkeeper will retain his leisure and perhaps enjoy it to a greater degree; and the working man and factory operative, who are now bound to incessant work and strict hours of labour, will be relieved from the hardships of continuous daily, weekly, and yearly work, and have the same allowance of leisure as any other class of the community.
Social criticism goes, however, still further in its condemnation of the occupation of shopkeeping. From a comparison of the comfort, ease, and the almost total absence of any danger to limb and life, which those enjoy who are, either as masters or men, engaged in retail trade, with the occupation of those who have to perform heavy and often dirty work, coupled with great exposure to accidents and injury to health, one is induced to argue that even were the time of the retail dealer fully occupied, and did he not spend it in idleness by waiting for his customers, he would still be regarded by the hardworking multitude as one belonging to the privileged and favoured classes who are exempt from those hardships and dangers which others have to endure. This line of argument
* Mr. Goldwin Smith says : .“ Retail shops can only be kept open on three conditions, all of them bad—first, the great waste of human labour, because each shopkeeper must be idling half his time; secondly, undue profits, for without undue profits no man can live on a very small trade ; and thirdly, which is the worst of all, the credit system.”