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verifies the axiom, that it is easier to distribute goods than to produce them.
The minute distribution of goods in retail trade causes an enormous waste of another kind. Tea, coffee, sugar, bread, butter, cheese, and many other articles of consumption, are very often parcelled out into packets containing halves and quarters of pounds, and even single ounces and half-ounces. The waste of labour incurred in this mode of distribution, takes place in three ways: firstly, in the making up of the parcels and the sub-division of the goods, besides the time lost in measuring and weighing; secondly, in the waste of paper produced by the labour of the paper maker, and is often manufactured for the very purpose of being used for these diminutive parcels; and, thirdly, in the repeated small purchases the customers make, the frequent courses they run to and fro for the purpose of fetching their articles of consumption; in the shoes they wear out in these daily and even hourly repeated errands to the retail shopkeepers, and which, if added together for the whole people of 30,000,000 individuals, would in a single year present a measurement that in extension would probably suffice to circumscribe the earth many times.
But whilst the social reformer is greatly incensed by the stupidity of a system that is productive of such wanton waste of labour, the political economist, on the contrary, remains filled with admiration at the aspect of the busy turmoil of retail trade; for he considers it to be one of the principal sources of the wealth and employment of the people. This is his strain of arguments:-The more minute the sub-division of the retailed articles, the more parcels will have to be made, and the more shopmen and shopkeepers will find employment; the greater the quantity of paper used for these parcels, the greater will be the produce of the paper manufacture, and the more work will be created for the people employed in the paper mills; the more shoes are worn out in the errands of the customers, the better it will be for the shoemakers, the leather dresser, and leather merchant. Surely, these and similar modes of reasoning for finding a valid explanation of the irrational working of the present social order, reach, in the opinion of the author, the greatest height of absurdity.
Another prodigious waste of labour caused by wholesale and
retail trade, is the time lost in the printing, posting, and distribution of advertisements, and the manufacture of the paper used for advertising. The enormous quantity of paper wasted by this mode of advancing trade, and the labour required for the manufacture of the same, can easily be imagined by any one who looks at the countless number and continually increasing size of the bills posted on every available wall, boarding, and corner of the streets, sometimes covering whole fronts and sides of houses, or being spread on long and high timber stands, erected by the carpenter; the lost labour of whom must also be taken into account. Of these bills posted, not one hundredth part accomplishes the object of the advertiser, many of them being torn off and splashed over with dirt by malicious boys. A heavy rain and wind sometimes play sad havock amongst the posters and broadsheets of the advertising board, in pulling them off more affectually than the whole rabble of malicious juveniles could accomplish. In this destruction, the beautifully and artistically designed advertisement shares the same fate as the common print; thus causing not only a loss of hand-labour in the paper mill, but also wasting the talent of the artist designer and illuminator. In order to render the mode of advertising more permanent, the shopkeeper frequently engages the house painter and signwriter, and has the front of his house covered with big and gaudy inscriptions, containing the names and prices of wares to be had within; letters in enamel and gold fill every pane of glass in the windows of his shop; and the sign-writer has provided him with beautifully-written tickets, which are stuck on or attached to the goods, exposed in the windows and on the premises. But finding that the big bills he has stuck on the advertising boards in all the quarters of the town, and the gaudy inscriptions on his house, have not yet drawn a sufficient number of customers, he resorts to the distribution of handbills in thousands; he loads some half-dozen men with huge advertising boards,* who have to walk up and down in front of his shop and make peregrinations into the adjacent streets;
* The men who carry these advertising boards do so from sheer necessity, and generally belong to the poorest of the poor. But little commiseration is felt for their sad lot; on the contrary, the unsparing raillery of heartless snobs delights in calling them "Sandwiches," because the
he engages an agent, who obtains for him permission to placard his advertisements in all the railway stations of the kingdom, and in the compartments of every railway carriage; and thus his business is made known throughout the whole length and breadth of the land. To give to his advertisement the greatest possible durability, he has even had it engraved on stone and combined with the mementoes of the dead, for we read that there is to be seen in a cemetery near New York, the following epitaph :
"Here lies Jonathan Thompson,
A kind Husband and an affectionate Parent.
His disconsolate Widow continues to carry on
The Tripe and Trotter business
At the same place as before her Bereavement."
But in order to ensure the final success of his trade, he calls to his assistance the newspapers; he finally invades not only every available corner of the paper, where he continually and persistently puts his advertisement at the end of some startling news, or under some sensational heading, but, besides this, he likes to occupy whole columns and even hole pages with the description of the novelties to be sold in his shop. At other times his name only will appear in the midst of a large blank space in a column of the paper, thus monopolizing for himself the room which other advertisers might be anxious to fill up, but whom for obvious reasons he does not want to see in the advertising field. The paper and printing wasted in the advertising columns of newspapers entail, moreover, a waste of steam-power; and as steam is generated from water by the application of coal fire, the labour of the coal-miner, of the coal-heaver, and of the engineer, is even requisitioned by the advertiser, and it may safely be assumed that half the steam-power used in the working of the printing presses is monopolized by the advertising columns of the newspapers. Moreover, half the space of many printed books, and especially periodicals, is filled with advertisements, which the reader is obliged to turn over leaf by leaf in order to arrive at the real text of the book indicated by its title page. To force the
men sticking between two boards are like a slice of (bad) ham between two slices of (dry) bread.
reader to this perusal of advertising matter-which, out of a hundred, will not interest one-is to cause him a waste of time, and is a fraud of the same kind when the advertiser intrudes in the leading columns of a paper containing the most important news, and where he is quite sure to steal a glance from the eager and unsuspicious reader; which, though only a moment's loss of time, will, in the life-time of an assiduous newspaper reader, sum up to a goodly number of days. Horniman's tea, Holloway's ointment, and Glenfield's starch, are advertisements of this type, that continue pestering the eyes of readers in newspapers and books by their intrusive appearance in places where they are least expected to be met with.
The sum total of the waste of labour necessitated by the uneconomical distribution of produce, especially by retail trade, is, however, not yet completed. There remains yet to be considered the waste of labour in the consumption of gas, which farther incurs unnecessary work both from the gas-stokers who make the gas, and from the miner who digs the coal from which gas is made. In a well-organised state of society, the distribution of all kinds of goods would take place by daylight, and not a single gas-flame would consequently be burning for this purpose in any shop or warehouse.*
Of the greatest absurdity in retail trade is, also, the mode of the distribution of goods to customers by means of errandboys, handcarts, vans, and vehicles of various kinds. The waste of labour and ridiculous aspect of this mode of distribution is nowhere better visible than in the case of the numerous bakers' and butchers' vans, carts, trays, and baskets, from which bread and meat are distributed. In the short time of a couple of hours, and in one and the same street, several bakers' carts and butchers' vans, all belonging to different tradesmen, may be seen engaged in delivering their goods to various customers in that street, and it will frequently happen that bread and meat are brought to one and the same house by several bakers and butchers. Having accomplished their several distributions, which could easily have been done from one
* "All the towns in Icaria are well lighted with gas, which can be done the better since the burning matter is no longer absorbed by private shops and premises.”—M. CABET.
baker's cart and butcher's van, they hurry off at a furious rate, crossing each other in the most confused manner, and in all possible directions, accomplishing their mission with a prodigious waste of labour in spite of their furious driving. In this wasteful method of distribution, the loss of time and labour extends even into the sphere of the agriculturist, for he has to provide the hay and oats on which the horses feed that draw the vans and carts, and he has to grow the corn and fatten the ox from which to get food for the men and boys employed in this senseless mode of outdoor delivery of goods and articles of consumption. The political economist, however, is quite contented with it, and rejoices; for some retail dealers get rich through it, many men and boys obtain employment, and some of those employed become in their turn retail dealers, and enrich themselves. The same senseless chaos in the distribution of goods prevails throughout every branch of the retail trade, and is rapidly developing itself in the wholesale trade by the action of commercial travellers.
CHAPTER XIII.—AVOIDING ATTENDANCE TO OUR OWN
instances of the waste of labour are to be met with
in all social positions, and do not wholly relate to trading. One of them occurs when persons engage others to do the work they themselves could have done. This instance chiefly relates to the waste of domestic labour which servants perform in wealthy families. The man who engages another one to clean his boots for him when he could have done it himself wastes labour. The work of the chambermaid who makes the beds of ladies and gentlemen, and cleans their rooms, is wasted; for these could, with very little trouble, and in less time, have made their own beds and cleaned their own rooms. The gentlefolks who keep horses and carriages, waste the labour of both coachmen and grooms, coachbuilder and harnessmaker, for they could have walked instead of being driven about, which would also have been more conducive to their health.