« ZurückWeiter »
all these cases utility is destroyed, slowly or quickly, and the commodities may be said to be consumed. It is obvious that we must use things while they are fit to be used, if we are to use them at all.
It is evident, too, that we ought to try to get the utmost possible use out of things which we are happy enough to possess. If an object is not injured nor destroyed by use, as in the case of reading a book, or looking at a picture, then the more often we use it the greater is the utility. Such things become more useful if they are passed on from one person to another, like books in a circulating library. In this case there arises what we may call the multiplication of utility. Public libraries, museums, picture galleries and like institutions all multiply utility, and the cost of such institutions is little or nothing compared with their usefulness.
When a commodity is destroyed at once by use, as in the case of food, it is obvious that only one person can use the same portion of commodity. Our object must then be to consume it when it is most useful. If a man lost in the bush find himself with a short supply of food, it would be foolish of him to eat it all up at once, when he might starve for several days afterwards. He should spread out his supply, so as to eat each bit of food when it will support his strength the most. So we ought to do with the earnings of a life time. The working man should not spend all his wages when trade is brisk, because he will want some of it much more when trade becomes slack, and he is out of employment. Similarly, that which is spent in early life upon mere luxuries and frivolities, might be much more useful in old age, when even necessaries and ordinary comforts may be difficult to obtain. All wealth is produced in order that it may be consumed, but then it must be consumed when it best fulfils its purpose, that is, when it is most useful.
14. The Fallacy of Consumption. It is not
uncommon to hear people say that they ought to spend money freely in order to encourage trade. If every person were to save his money instead of spending it, trade, they think, would languish and workmen would be out of employment. Tradespeople favour these notions, because it is obvious that, the more a milliner or draper can persuade his customer to buy, the more profit he makes thereby. The customers, too, are quite inclined to think the argument a good one, because they enjoy buying new dresses, and other pleasant things. Nevertheless the argument is a bad fallacy.
The fact is, that a person who has riches cannot help employing labour of some kind or other. If he saves up his money he probably puts it into a bank; but the banker does not keep it idle. The banker lends it out again to merchants, manufacturers and builders, who use it to increase their business and employ more hands. If he buy railway shares or government funds, those who receive the money put it to some other profitable use. If the rich man actually hoards up his money in the form of gold or silver, he gets no advantage from it, but he creates so much more demand for gold or silver. If many rich people were to take to hoarding up gold, the result would be to make gold mining more profitable, and there would be so many more gold miners, instead of railway navvies, or other workmen.
We see then that, when a rich person decides how to spend his money he is deciding not how many more workpeople shall be set to work, but what kind of work they shall do. If he decide to give a grand fancy ball, then in the end there will be so many more milliners, costumiers, lacemakers, confectioners, &c. A single ball indeed will have no great effect; but, if many people were to do the same, there would soon be more tradespeople attracted to these trades. If, on the other hand, rich people invest their money in a new railway, there will be so many more surveyors,
engineers, foremen, navvies, iron puddlers, iron rollers, engine mechanics, carriage builders, &c.
The question really comes to this, whether people are made happier by more fancy balls, or by more railways. A fancy ball creates amusement at the time, but it costs a great deal of money, especially to the guests who buy expensive costumes. When it is over there is no permanent result, and no one is much the better for it. The railway, on the other hand, is no immediate cause of pleasure, but it cheapens goods by enabling them to be carried more easily : it allows people to live in the country, instead of the crowded town, or it carries them on pleasant and wholesome excursions.
We see, then, that it is simple folly to approve of consumption for its own sake, or because it benefits trade. In spending our wealth we ought to think solely of the advantage which people get out of that spending
15. The Fallacy of Non-consumption. Some people fall into the opposite fallacy of thinking that all spending is an evil. The best thing to do with wealth is to keep it and let it grow by interest, or even to neglect the interest and keep the gold itself. Thus they become what we call misers, and there are always a certain number of people, who deprive themselves of the ordinary pleasures of life, in order that they may have the pleasure of feeling rich. Now these kind of people do no positive harm to their fellow-men; on the contrary they increase the wealth of the country, and some one or other will sooner or later benefit by it. Moreover, if they put their wealth into banks and other good investments, they do great service in increasing the capital of the nation, and thus enabling so many more factories, docks, railways, and other important works to be constructed. Most people are so fond of spending their money on passing amusements, entertainments, eating and drinking, and fine dressing, that it is a distinct advantage to have other
In ар255 wh: pro SUC
people who will put their wealth into a more permanently useful form.
Nevertheless, there could be no use in abstaining from all enjoyment in order that we might lay up a store of wealth. Things are not wealth unless they are useful and pleasant to us. If everybody invested his savings in railway shares, we should have so many railways that they could not be all used, and they would become rather a nuisance than a benefit. Similarly, there could be no good in building docks unless there were ships to load in them, nor ships unless there were goods or passengers to convey.
It would be equally absurd to make cotton mills if there were already enough to manufacture as much cotton goods as people could consume.
Thus we come to see that wealth must be fitted for use and consumption in some way or other. What we have to do is to endeavour to spend our means so as to get the greatest real happiness for ourselves, our relatives, friends, and all other people whom we ought to consider.
In production we bring these things together; we apply labour to the land, and we employ the capital in assisting the labourer with tools, and feeding him while he is engaged on the work. We must now proceed to consider each of the three requisites in succession.
17. Land or Source of Materials. The word production is a very good one; it means drawing forth (Latin, pro, before, and ducere, to draw), and it thus exactly expresses the fact that, when we want to create wealth, we have to go to some piece of land, or to some lake, river, or sea, and draw forth the substance which is to be made into wealth. It does not matter whether the material comes from the surface of the earth, or from mines and quarries sunk into the earth, or from seas and oceans. Our food mostly grows upon the land, as in the case of corn, potatoes, cattle, game, &c.; our clothes are chiefly made of cotton, flax, wool, skins, raised in like manner. Minerals and metals are obtained by sinking pits and mines into the crust of the earth. Rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans are no slight source of wealth : they yield food, oil, whalebone, sealskin, &c. We cannot manufacture any goods unless we have some matter to work upon; to make a pin we must get copper, zinc, and tin out of mines; a ribbon requires the silk and the dye materials; everything that we touch, and use, and eat, and drink, contains substance, so that we must always begin by finding a supply of the right sort of materials.
Commonly, too, we want something more than matter; we want force which shall help us to carry and work the raw material. People naturally wish to avoid tiring themselves by labouring with their own arms and legs, and so they make windmills to grind corn, ships to carry goods, steam-engines to pump water and to do all sorts of hard work. From the earth, or, as we say, from Nature, we obtain both the materials of wealth and the force which helps us to