תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

of our own land mingle with it. There the wallflowers smell sweet, and the foxglove clusters dappled bells, and the short turf is full of thyme or violets, such as lean over our own shepherd streams. Gothic ruin is easier to appreciate than Greek: it takes both study and travel, and perhaps a little artistic training, to appreciate the effect of one of the ruins of all Time. He brings low the cloud-capt towers and gorgeous palaces; but there is a confessed awe about those which have made the longest stand : and when like the Parthenon they are central buildings of the world, representing wide civilisations, and the great deeds and sufferings of many races, that feeling is redoubled. The glorious sculpture and colour, the frieze of Athenian knighthood, beauty, and sacrifice, the ivory and gold of the towering Agalma, are hardly missed as one sits, a stranger in place and time, among the marble blocks which long defied time not in vain, only to be shattered by brute rage of war. All the immeasurable loss matters not—the great landscape with its world-wide associations, the rich all-embracing light, the tender colours of two thousand years are enough for us. Sculpture we think is necessary to our wild Gothic, not here, in the desolated centre of all sculpture. We miss the wallflower scent, and the tall foxglove ; but here grows the soft acanthus, “gift of the dust of Greece,"* itself the symbol of immortality, rising from decay among the potsherds of the earth : type of forgotten glory which is not lost before God; pledge of St. Paul's hope of forgiveness, and yet greater glory for the fathers whose ignorance He winked at. " Yet shall

ye

be like to the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold.”

R. ST. J. TYRWHITT, Ch. Ch.

[blocks in formation]

OVER-PRODUCTION.

DUR

URING the last few years the whole industrial state of England

has been subject to a series of extreme and rapid changes. Six or seven years ago there was, or was supposed to be, almost no limit to the demand for all kinds of manufactured goods. The blast furnaces of Cleveland and Glasgow could not turn out iron fast enough to supply the eager demands of shipbuilders and engineers. The coal mines of Wales and Northumberland were insufficient to satisfy the requirements even of our own country. It seemed for a time as if coal-owners and pitmen, ironmasters and puddlers alike, had but to demand any price they thought proper for their goods or their labour, and the public, much-desiring and long-suffering, were only too glad to pay that price.

Wages went up “ by leaps and bounds,” and at the same time the prices of most things which the wage-receiving class consume went up at a parallel rate. Persons with limited fixed incomes, whose fortune, or misfortune, it was to live within the manufacturing districts, found by painful experience that their incomes would not purchase as much as before, either of the material comforts of life, or of the more intangible, though scarcely less necessary, advantages for which they depended on the services of others. The classes interested in manufactures, on the other hand, whether as employers or employed, found themselves on the borders of an El Dorado of unexampled wealth, the only difficulty being that of seizing the profits quickly enough, and of arranging about the division of the spoil when secured.

But a change came over the spirit of the dream. Gradually the enormous profits of iron steamship and engineering ventures diminished. The ultimate victim, the great mass of consumers, at length, in a quiet but very definite way, struck against paying more for what it consumed than the real worth of the articles. The tide which had risen so high

receded; and, as it went down, left many a fair barque stranded and wrecked, until of late in manufacturing firms prosperity and security have seemed a rare exception, while insolvency, or at least the fear of it, has become the rule.

What have been the causes of the great and sudden decline in our manufacturing prosperity? By what means may the present state of distress be alleviated or removed ? These are questions of vital importance, questions to which many answers have been given of greater or less wisdom and clearness. The object of the present paper is to examine some of the views which have been put forward, and in so doing to throw out some hints which may perhaps serve as a help to fuller and clearer answers than have yet been given.

It has been very loudly and confidently alleged that the chief cause of the present inactivity of trade is “over-production.” This view has, perhaps, been the most popular one, and has usually been coupled with the further theory that the true remedy must lie in reducing production, the hope being expressed that the limitation of supply will speedily produce an increased demand, and that by this means the golden days will be brought back.

In order to examine this view satisfactorily it will be necessary to lay our foundations very clearly, and to premise one or two very elementary economical propositions, familiar though they are to most.

What, then, do we mean by production ? Briefly, we may define production as the process of imparting to some natural object, by human agency, some property of usefulness which in its natural state that object

This property may be only its removal from a place where it is useless to a place where it is useful. The natural object so increased in value we may call a product or commodity.

What, further, is the object of production ? The ultimate object in all cases is human enjoyment; that the property affixed to the natural object in question, or the natural object with the property affixed to it, may conduce to the comfort, the nourishment, or the pleasure of some

did not possess.

human being.

What, thirdly, is meant by over-production ? Strictly speaking, there is then only over-production of any particular thing when more of that thing is produced than suffices for the utmost necessities or desires of those human beings who are in a position to enjoy that particular product.

In a primitive state of society the articles produced are few in number and simple in character. Food of the plainest kind obtained by cultivation of the soil or by the chase, clothing of equally rude description, these constitute the chief products of industry. All that is consumed by each family or tribe is produced by its own members. The influence of affection, or the stern authority of a master, assigns to each person his appointed task; and, according to the fitness of each, allots to one the care of the flocks, to another the tillage of the soil,

and to others the spinning of the wool and the weaving of the cloth. In such a community there may be little wealth, even the necessities of life may at times be scantily supplied, there will probably be little advance in science, and nothing that can be called literature; sweetness and light and culture may be conspicuous by their absence, but one evil will assuredly be unfelt—there will be no such thing as “over. production.” For, should it so happen that for a time more food is produced than is required, those members whose chief duty is the production of food will direct their energies to some other branch of labour, and a similar transference will take place if the excess be in any other product. If all the wants of the society be at any instant over-supplied, all the members will diminish their hours of labour, or else employ their spare time in inventing new wants, which will require new industries to supply them.

As, however, the numbers of a community increase, and as their knowledge of the refinements and luxuries of civilized life is enlarged, it becomes not such a simple matter to ascertain the exact instant when any given product is being produced in excess. The introduction of machinery and the consequent extinction of small manufactories in favour of large ones, the increased facilities of transport and communication which render it possible for manufacturers in one country to supply the whole world, tend constantly to render it more and more difficult to regulate any given production by calculations as to the amount likely to be required. Moreover, the greater degree of skill and technical training required in the workman and the larger amount of fixed capital required by the employer, constantly increase the difficulty of transferring either capital or labour from one employment to another. It is thus possible that production may go on in any given manufacture considerably beyond the real requirements of the world.

Such over-production must before long give some certain sign of its existence. The following illustration may to suggest the symptoms by which it is ordinarily manifested.

Every person must live. In spite of Dr. Johnson's views to the contrary, this is accepted by all as true, in regard at least to their own

In order to live each person needs at least food and clothing and house-room. The higher his station in society the more numerous are his wants in addition to these bare necessaries. He has not skill to produce for himself all the things he wants, and if he had the skill he would not have the time, for his energies would be frittered away, and his time wasted in the multitude of different occupations. A tacit agreement is accordingly made that each man sball devote himself to that work for which, cither by position or natural ability or inclination, he is best fitted ; that he shall produce as much by his labour as will supply his own wants in that particular kind of product, and as much more as he can exchange with others for the things which they produce, and he wants. Thus each man in a civilized community produces some

serve

case.

one thing while he consumes many; the distinction, in fact, so often made between producers and consumers is for the most part fictitious.

Even the man who lives on his means is in a very important sense a producer, for it is bis capital invested remuneratively that is used for, and is necessary to, the production carried on by those to whom he has lent it. Every man must produce so much by his labour or capital as will replace the capital employed in the production, supply his own wants in that particular product, and leave a surplus sufficient to exchange for all the other things which he requires.

This exchange is carried on by the intervention of money, which, for the purpose of this discussion, may be considered as simply a set of counters of no value or use to their possessors, save for a universal agreement to take them in exchange for goods. The number of these counters given for any article is called its price, and at any given time the values in exchange of different articles may be estimated by their prices.

The process by which the price of any given article is determined may be illustrated by an imaginary case. Suppose, for instance, that in a given open market there are only fifty loads of coal, while sixty householders desire a load apiece at the price they have been accustomed to pay. The owners of the coal finding the demand so brisk, ask for a higher price. Some of the poorer householders cannot afford to buy a whole load at this higher price, and consequently the whole demand is now for less than sixty loads. The coal-owners will continue to raise their price until the purchasers are just able and willing to take the fifty loads at that price. Unless the sellers have a monopoly, or all act in combination, they will dispose of their coals at this price; for, if they ask a higher, some of the coals will remain unsold in virtue of the continuell diminution of the demand.

Thus if there be at any time less coal in a given free market than the public require at the current price, the price will rise. On the other hand, if the supply of coal be in excess of the demand the price will fall, the price finally settling at that level at which the public will pay for all the coal that is offered. This final level is affected also by the fact that the amount offered will depend considerably on the price obtainable. Suppose, for instance, that in the above illustrative case the coalowners were at first obtaining a reasonable profit on their transactionsthat is, a profit which was sufficient to induce them to continue the process of mining—when the price rises their profits will be at once increased, and there will thus be a greater inducement than before to invest fresh capital in coal-mining operations : fresh pits will be sunk, old ones will be reopened, more coal will be won, and the supply of coal in the market will be materially increased. The supply will thus obviously become equal to the amount demanded, before the price bas risen so high as it would on the former supposition of a constant supply. It may even happen that the influx of capital and labour may

« הקודםהמשך »