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must be descriptive for the most part, but that the descriptive matter must be logically interpreted, the next question to consider is the proper order of investigation and the resulting subdivision of the science. We may make some havoc, now, with the traditional division into Production, Exchange, Distribution and Consumption.

We have to remember, first, that in an organic aggregate the unequal effects of different parts and functions upon each other is due in great measure to the unequal rigidity of the parts and the unequal constancy of their action. On this account the physiologist begins his exposition by describing those parts that are least plastic and those characteristics of organs and functions that are relatively constant. He makes the provisional assumption that they are constant. From this beginning he goes on to give an account of the characteristics that are relatively inconstant, being easily affected by changes of surroundings, habit and nutrition. Next, he shows how changes in activity and nutrition slowly modify organs and functions, and he is then ready to go back and correct the provisional assumption with which he started out, and show that the constancy presumed is only a relative constancy, and that the whole organism is undergoing a gradual evolution. Finally, he reconstructs the process of historical evolution through which the organism came to be what it is.

May we not find advantage in following a similar course in economic investigation?

Beginning the search for the relatively rigid and constant factors in economic phenomena, we shall find them to be (1) The economic institutions of common and statute law. These are the most inflexible, the least easily modified things the economist has to consider; all other factors have to shape themselves to these. (2) The economic customs of the people, that is, the arrangements and habits whereby they associate or compete in carrying on production; the ways in which they combine their efforts. (3) Those economic ideas and traits in the natures of men that have become hereditary. These, of course, are the usual ideas of the community, and the physical and moral traits of the great majority of men.

The plastic and modifying factors in the economic organism will be found in the ideas and traits that differ from the average type, and in the changing general conditions resulting from these, especially those results of plastic ideas that are embodied in inventions.

Neither in the usual nor in the occasional economic nature, shall we discover the famous economic man. The conceptions of wealth and value brought to light will be but vaguely like those set forth in economic definitions. For it is the popular conceptions of wealth in the concrete, not any notion of wealth in the abstract, that are the real antecedent

actual economic phenomena. What does a society crave? That it sets itself to produce. That determines what shall be wealth, and the proportions in which it demands the different sorts of wealth not only create the phenomena of value, but they determine the accumulation of capital, the organization of industry, the industrial vitality of labor, and, in fine, the reproductive, self-enlarging, self-perpetuating power of the economic life.

Is any concrete illustration needed of this truth? Look, then, at the mediæval and the modern concep


tions of wealth and their consequences. For the mediæval mind the supreme embodiment of wealth was the cathedral, a structure not for the individual but for man; a structure in which centered the pride and devotion of high born and low alike, and into the building of which nothing but perfect materials and perfect workmanship might enter. By this ideal trade was controlled and labor organized. Cheapness was not a good. Fidelity, painstaking, the patient achievement of perfection were the industrial virtues, and by them the artisan was lifted up into a truly noble life. His guilds were associations for something more than organized resistance, and men and masters mingled in fraternal fellowship. To-day, the characteristic sign of the popular notion of wealth is cheapness. We demand abundance rather than quality. If commodities are cheap we do not always inquire, as Mr. Ruskin would have us, whether the money we save is the outcome of action that has created, or action that has annihilated, ten times as much. Business is debased. The moral sentiment pervading any trade is forced down, as Professor Adams has shown, to the level of that which characterizes the worst man who can maintain himself in it.” The mediæval conception of wealth found the workman a serf and raised him to freedom. The modern conception of wealth found him a freeman; it has forced upon him the conviction that he must now protect his freedom by measures of defensive war.

Different communities and the same community at different times, will exhibit a great variety of economic human nature in all but fundamental characteristics. Through the comparative study of this

variety we shall reach the scientific reconciliation between those economists who hold that Political Economy should formulate an economic ideal with those who hold that it should concern itself only with the actual. Economic science can formulate no higher ideal than one derived from the most advanced ideas and practices found in actual life. If the economist, pursuing the study of the actual, faithfully describes the economic natures and practices of the most advanced men, he does, in so doing, forecast the economic ideal. And if the economic thought and action of the best communities or associations of men are described in contrast with the economy of communities or associations that are less perfect, whatever of moral obligation it may be the function of economic science to disclose, will stand out and speak out for itself. There will be no need of dogmatism or exhortation.

The comparative study of economic institutions and customs as we find them, and of the economic natures of men as we find them, constitutes the first part or division of the science. The second part has to do with the activities arising from economic desires and taking channels determined in part by economic institutions and customs. These activities constitute the actual phenomena of production and distribution. They are continually multiplying and assuming a bewildering variety of new forms, yet they are also undergoing a process of integration which brings them into orderly arrangement. In this part of the science, as in the former one, we may advantageously conform the order of exposition to the generality and constancy of the phenomena. So doing we shall first note two principal ways in which the economic natures of men act themselves out in production and distribution. One way is through individual efforts, consciously or unconsciously combined. This is the constant and universal way, found wherever human beings exist, in whatever stage of culture. It is the way without which society could not exist at all. The other way is through the self-consciousness of the community, expressing itself in law and public opinion. This mode of action is found in all of the more highly evolved societies, but it is lacking in those that are less developed. It is a secondary mode in all and not absolutely essential in any. A community can always exist after a manner, without it. Do not understand me to mean that the individual is precedent to society, and that society is constituted by the aggregation of individuals, as used to be taught. All the latest researches of biology and ethnology go to show that the exact contrary is true; that society is precedent to the individual. But the primordial society is not a self-conscious society. The ties that bind its units together are physical forces and the ties of relationship, superstition and tradition. In society, as in the individual, true selfconsciousness is of late birth. It is also, as compared with the great fundamental processes that are built up by the unconscious combination of individual efforts, very easily modifiable. There is perhaps no other organic product that is quite so sensitive to every influence and quite so plastic in form, as true public opinion.

Accordingly, the student should turn his attention to production and distribution, as determined by individual efforts, before undertaking to trace the economic action of the social self-consciousness.

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