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dred and neighbors, and even by strangers. They may all be
counted as contributions to the common good, if not to wealth,
in so far as they save goods, conserve force, and advance well-
being.

We have thus glanced at the great subdivisions of that field
in which the working power of the world finds its daily employ-
ment. This survey will help us to study, with more clearness,
the factors, or agencies, and instruments by which man effects
his purposes. It is not needful to anticipate here the discussion
of these factors, each of which will demand its separate chapter
or chapters.

In the examination of the chief forms of industry, each of
which will also ask its own chapter, we shall revisit, from a new
Hne of approach, and see under a different light the fields here
explained.



CHAPTER IX



THE GIFTS OF NATURE.



92. General view. — We come now to the factors which
necessarily enter into all of man's work. They are these three:
I. The gifts of nature; 2. Labor; 3. Capital.

Before acquiring any thing of his own, man must take from
existing things around him. His work presupposes matter and
its laws.

Nature, or the world of matter . and force, presents to man.
kind and their industries, an endless variety of substance,
forms, and forces. To measure properly the economic charac-
ter and influence of these, they must be divided into their
proper classes. The following diagram will bring these classes
under the eye at once :

{Animal.
Vegetable.
Mineral.
Metals.. ^ Useful : iron, tin, copper, etc.

^ Precious : gold, silver.
Other minerals — stone, earths, clay, lime.
Organic matter — wood, cotton, wool, bone, silk,
I etc.

•^ Air and water.
Human strength.
Animal strength.
Forces of growth.

r Gravitation and cohesion.

Molar J ?.'^."''§^'^ ^"'^ ^"^^•



Matter.



Forces.



Crude materials.



Vital,



Non-vital. -



Molecular.



Wind-power.

Water-power.

Electricity and galvanism.

Magnetism.

Chemical affinities.

Heat and combustion.



Land.



P. E.-9.



As soil.
As site.



(97)



98 POLITICAL ECONOMY.

This classification is economic, not scientific. In a scientific
classification, water-power is a form of gravitation, and wind
and steam are results of heat. The division lines in science are
never fixed and impassible. Class melts into class by insensible
gradations.

93. Nature's gifts control industry. — These so-called
gifts of nature, though without any proper value, have often
the highest utility, and are among the most important economic
facts and forces. They furnish the solid basis of all values, and
their abundance or scarcity in any region, potentially affects
and controls the industries of that region.

In tropical climates, the gifts of nature so nearly meet the
common wants of man as to seriously discourage industry.
The spontaneous growths of edible fruits and vegetables pro-
vide the indolent natives with food; the warm air renders cloth-
ing nearly useless except for decency, and the shade of the
trees shelters from the sunshine. Except to guard against the
attacks of wild beasts, and to protect from the occasional
storms, houses would be needless, and the simplest inclosure,
with roof of boughs or bark, serves as domicile and home.
Store-houses and barns are unknown. When commerce tempts
them with its offers of useful exchanges, the labor is often lim-
ited to a more abundant gathering of the spontaneous products
of their prolific soil and clime.

In the arctic regions, on the contrary, nature is so chary of its
higher gifts, that the laboring power of the inhabitants is mostly
exhausted in the toil of procuring the merest necessaries of life.
If the desire is ever awakened to engage in higher and more
productive arts, the rigors of the climate, and the absence of
favoring conditions, would make them powerless against the
rivalries of more temperate and propitious climes. The fields
of ice and snow offer poor soil for seed-sowing, and the scant
sunshine of the brief summer could ripen only the hardiest
plants. The darkness and cold of the arctic winter would
compel a suspension of most manufactures, and commerce



THE GIFTS OF NATURE. 99

would find in the dog-sleds but a poor substitute for the rail-
roads and canals, snow-bound and ice-bound through so many
months.

The temperate regions are the natural homes of the industrial
arts.. Here the impulse to work is strongest, and the oppor-
tunities are most favoring. Earth and sky conspire to stimulate
and aid the work-spirit in mankind. Nature refuses him food
without labor; but she responds so liberally to his efforts that
the surplus invites him to traffic, or affords him support and
leisure for all his arts.

It is obvious that the practical problems of economics will
vary in the different zones almost as much as the zones them-
selves differ. Both man and his work change as they cross the
Hnes of latitude.

94. How nature helps arts. — The presence or absence
of minerals and other materials, of food supplies, of coal for the
generation of steam- and of water-power, also give direction,
and put limitations, to human industry. English statesmen and
economists have already begun to express fears for the future
of their island, in view of the rapid consumption of their coal
supplies. But the influence of these circumstances has largely
diminished since the railroad, the steamship, and the telegraph
have so far overcome the barriers of time and distance; and
electricity or other new motors may relieve their fears long
ere the coal-beds have been exhausted.

A careful study of the history of human industries and arts,
would doubtless show that the forms and the processes of nat-
ure have frequently, if not usually, furnished man the hints
for his inventions. The mechanism of his own body has taught
him the devices for a hundred machines, and his agriculture is
but a late imitation of nature's planting and sowing. The com-
ing arts and industries of mankind will doubtless be still more
indebted to nature's gifts. Since modern science began in
earnest, the closer and more comprehensive study of nature,
the arts have made strides hitherto unprecedented in their



lOO POLITICAL ECONOMY.

history; and the new victories have been won just where the
facts of nature have come most to be understood.

95. Unappropriated gifts. — There is a class of nature's
gifts which are too abundant to be appropriated, and which can
never, under ordinary circumstances, have any value in the
markets. Such are the atmosphere, the light and heat of the
sun, gravitation, climate, the rain and snow, the rivers and
seas, and, in most cases, potable water. All these have high
utility, and are indispensable to mankind. Yet they are no
man's property, and are bought and sold in no market; except
in the case of water in time of drought, and in the great cities.
But, like all other gifts of nature, these can not be utilized in
the arts, except under conditions which cost effort and have
value. The wind is free, but we must have sails if we will
have it waft our ships.

We have already noted how climates, including the elements
of the light and heat of the sun, influence the industrial pur-
suits of whole populations. But there are other important eco-
nomic influences and relations of these great natural agencies
which can not be omitted in the broadest view of Political
Economy. From the moment that man places himself over
against the world of matter, to subdue and use it, from that
moment every aspect and agency of nature comes to have an
economic bearing. The Gulf Stream has played, and still
plays, as important a part in the Pohtical Economy of England
as do the coal-beds hidden under her soil. The coast lines of
Europe have determined the commerce of Europe, and this in
turn has influenced European production and wealth.

Climate, soil, food, and water influence the health of a popu-
lation, and health reacts on their industries.

Dr. Roscher has collected many interesting facts which illus-
trate the influence of external nature, the sea and the climate,
on the courses and success of the industries of different peo-
ples. Owing to the great oceanic currents, "England is nearer
to almost all the important mercantile coasts of the world, by



THE GIFTS OF NATURE. loi

three hundred geographical miles, than the eastern states of the
American union."

"The more remote a country is from the equator, the more
is its fertility confined to its lowest parts. Greater heat will, as
a rule, ripen the same product sooner, and thus permit the
same land to be used several times in a year." "In central
Germany, even a second crop can be produced after the corn
harvest. In Arabia, the same seed produces three harvests, be-
cause the grain which falls at the time of harvesting germinates
immediately, and suffices for new seed."

96. Natural products. — In this class of nature's gifts are
included ah those which are ready, without change, or with
such slight changes as do not destroy their character, to satisfy
human wants. Thus, the edible plants, fruits, grains, and
roots, with or without cooking, give man food. The forests
and coal-beds give him fuel with no change but that of cutting
or digging. The animals to carry him, or give him their flesh,
milk, and eggs to feed him. The mineral world gives him salt
for his viands, water for his thirst, and air for his breath. In
all these cases, the utihty is given by nature ; man's art does
nothing but collect and appropriate the products of nature's
own labor; or if, as in agriculture, man also labors, it is with
nature, and as her assistant. The lower animals, without art or
labor, share with man in many of these gifts.

If all of nature's gifts had been of this class, or if she had in
this manner provided for all the wants of man, then human in-
dustry might never have existed, and economic science would
have had no field. Arts would have been as needless to man
as they are to the animal tribes. As we have seen, even the
abundance of these products, in the tropical regions, leaves
mankind with little occasion, and with still less disposition, to
labor.

It is obvious that as these products of nature's organic forces
require less of man's labor to fit them for his use, so also they
afford less scope for man's arts than do the crude forms of



I02 POLITICAL ECONOMY,

matter. We shall find this an important economic fact in
judging the value of the different forms of labor.

These products appeal to the vital wants of man, incessant,
pressing, immediate, but chiefly animal and sensuous. They
are thus the more useful, but the less valuable, portion of man's
wealth. In time of. great need, all other wealth will be readily
given for these food products; but in times of ordinary kbun-
dance men give dollars for manufactured goods where they give
only a few cents for bread and meat.

97. Crude materials. — Most of the substances met in
nature have no immediate use for man. They feed no appe-
tite, gratify no desire ; they simply help to make up the world.
But to human art they are the materials for its work, and it
gives to this crude matter shapes which make it highly useful.
Many animal and vegetable substances, such as wool, silk,
hides, bones, shell, wood, cotton, flax, are included in this
class of substances, because they are employed as materials and
not as products useful in themselves. They are substances out
of which art may manufacture its useful goods. The utility is
chiefly in the form of construction of such goods, and not in
their materials. To the worthless, man gives the highest values
known in the markets.

Out of the metals, in themselves useless and inconvenient,
work brings the myriad articles of use and beauty which fill
our houses with convenience and comfort, our mills with pow-
erful machinery, our roads with vehicles, our shops and fields
with tools, and cover our rivers and seas with ships and swift-
sailing steamers. Out of the wood, fit, as nature gives it, only
for fuel, art constructs our houses, our furniture, and a host of
utilities to help human life in its conflicts for existence, happi-
ness, and progress. And so through the entire range of crude
matter, nature gives things in themselves worthless; but work
changes them into goods of highest use, and into treasures of
countless wealth.

Here in this field of brute matter, art wins its greatest tri-



THE GIFTS OF NATURE. 103

umphs and gains its richest rewards. Out of this comes the
largest part of the world's riches, and here economic science
finds some of its most difficult problems.

g8. Products of nature and art contrasted. — A look
through the great marts of trade will tell us that nature's prod-
ucts fill but a small space there, and that manufactured goods —
goods for which nature furnished material only, and labor gave
valuable forms — fill the great ware-houses. Most of the per-
manent wealth of the world belongs to this class. The houses
dotting the farms and walling in the streets of the great cities;
the cultivated lands, won from weeds and wildness by years
of skillful tillage; the roads, railroads, and paved streets; the
great mills and their costly machinery; the innumerable wares,
woven, forged, cast, wrought, pressed, printed, or shaped by
hands of men or hands of iron ; the beautiful' works of higher
art, — these fill the endless pages of the inventories of wealth.

The products of nature are fitted mostly to gratify the lower,
animal wants of mankind. Manufactured goods are, in gen-
eral, intended for higher gratifications. Nature satisfies the
brute and the savage; but art labors to afford joy and satisfac-
tion to the children of civilization.

The forms and properties of nature's products are nearly
fixed. They may be enlarged, improved, and multipHed by
the skill of man, but the natural type remains visible through
all changes. The goods wrought by art, from nature's crude
materials, have an endless variety, and fresh novelties are
added almost daily to the list. Hence, the production may go
on endlessly since it may perpetually choose new forms and
objects — new desires to gratify and new gratifications for the
old.

gg. Natural forces. — The forces of nature stand next in
the catalogue of her gifts. All work — all changes in matter — :
imply force as their efficient agent. Physical changes presup-
pose physical forces, and these must come from nature. Of
nature's forces we know little. They are the unknown causes



I04 POLITICAL ECONOMY.

of known and visible effects. Whether they are all distinct and
different, or are merely the differing forms of a common en-
ergy, it is of little use to inquire. As economic facts, these
forces differ in rank and worth.

Force is never an absolutely free gift of nature. Human
strength must be nourished and educated before it is useful;
animals must be tamed, trained, fed, and cared for; and the
non-vital forces must be fitted with the proper machinery before
they can be made to do useful work.

First in the rank of forces stand the vital, and first among the
vital stand the human, and first among the human stand the
mental or brain forces, if we may separate the brain power from
the bodily forces.

lOO. Human strength. — The mental, or rather the brain
and nerve force, stands most nearly connected with the mind
which controls all by its intelligence. It is not necessary to
discuss here the real relations of mind and matter. Taking the
mind or intelligence as a palpable and admitted fact, we may
confine our view to the physical side of being. On this side,
man's power, or strength, rather, is a gift of nature as much as
is that of the animals which serve him. Man, it is true, is
reared for his manhood, not simply for his labor. The wants
of childhood are as much the ultimate end and use of wealth
as those of manhood. But, as an economic force, we must take
account of the cost and productiveness of human strength as
we would of any other agent used in our work. The proper
and full showing of this cost belongs to another chapter — that
on labor.

Whatever the aids man may summon by his arts, from nat-
ural forces and mechanical devices, human strength can never
be dispensed with in the field of the industries. Above the
machine always stands the man. Even the business of super-
vision — the work of eyes and brain — demands a certain outlay
of physical energy. The hand of the machinist comes before
the machine which he constructs; and the hand of the engi-



THE GIFTS OF NATURE. 105

neer, or other attendant, must remain upon the machine till its
work is done. As to fact, the wide introduction of so-called
labor-saving machinery, in modern times, has greatly increased
the demand for human labor, in place of diminishing it. It has
simply transferred the man to another, and generally to a
higher, sphere of work,

loi. Animal strength. — The strength of the domesticated
animals — the first force which man learned to employ next his
own — has also been crowded out of its old places in the indus-
tries. Water, wind, and steam have shown themselver cheaper,
mightier, and more manageable servants than the ox and the
horse. But, like their masters and drivers, these animals have
found themselves not dismissed from labor, but only transferred
to new fields. It was thought that the railroads, which dis-
placed the old stage coaches, would also render thousands of
horses useless; but the result shows that the demand for horses
was increased. New routes were found for many of the
coaches, and a multitude of cars and carts came into demand
to transport people and packages to and from the railway sta-
tions. Agriculture and other industries also took on immense
growths, making new requisitions for the draft animals; and
hence the animal forces, instead of disappearing from our in-
dustries, hold now, among these industries, a larger place than
ever.

102. Forces of growth. — The silent, vital forces employed
by nature to build up her forests and to clothe her fields with
vegetation, as also those which work out the tissues and organs
of animal life, are implied and embraced in the organic gifts
which they create.

In the great agricultural industries, the forces of plant-growth
have for ages been the chief reliance of the grain-raisers and
the forest and fruit-growers. To stimulate these forces by cul-
tivation, to nourish them by fertilizers, to direct them by selec-
tions of seed and soil, by grafting and pruning, — these make up
much of agricultural art.



Io6 POLITICAL ECONOMY.

But with the advance of biological science, and in the farm-
er's and stock-breeder's art, these forces are coming to be
counted on and employed as the mechanician counts on and
employs the energies of steam and electricity. Thus they are
now to be reckoned among the costly and controllable eco-
nomic forces, to be taken into account in the computations of
values.

103. Economic production a problem of force. — In
the final analysis, all economic questions, in the production and
consumption of wealth, reduce to the question of the economy
and conservation of energies — the silent energies of nature
above all others. The productive power of the soil, the work-
ing power of the domestic animals, and the steam or electric
power generated by the consumption of costly fuels, all alike
belong to these silent molecular energies. The foods or other
gratifications which they produce, are only stored-up energy,
ready to be transformed, in turn, to the finer energies of human
life and happiness.

104. N on- vital forces. — The non-vital or inanimate forces
of nature can only be employed through machinery costing
great skill in its invention, construction, and management.
But, when thus harnessed and controlled, these forces work with
a tireless power and steadiness which defy the competition of
human energies. The most conspicuous feature of the indus-
trial progress of this century, is the rapid multipHcation and
perfection of power-machinery of all sorts. Its triumphs are
still extending: i. In the variety of purposes to which it is ap-
plied, leaving no field of industry uninvaded; 2. In the perfec-
tion and abundance of its work, surpassing skilled labor in
some of its very strongholds, such as watch-making and bank-
note engraving, and so abundantly that a watch may now be
had for five dollars, and even less; and, 3. In man's increas-
ing mastery over these forces, enabling him to cheapen the use
of the older forces of wind and water, and to introduce new
forces, as in the heat engine and the electric motors.



THE GIFTS OF NATURE. 107

It was estimated, in 1876, that the steam-power then in use
throughout the world, amounted to fifteen million horse-power;
and that, if worked continuously, it would do the work of sixty
million horses. Stephenson's first railroad locomotive, built in
1 8 14, could run six miles an hour. Locomotives have lately
drawn trains ninety miles the hour. The Rocket, the first
locomotive of the first regular railroad, the Liverpool and Man-
chester Railway, weighed four and one-fourth _ tons. Loco-
motives are now made which weigh nearly one hundred tons.

The non-vital forces which nature offers for the service of
man are usually divided into the molar forces, or those which
affect masses of matter and produce sensible movements, and
the molecular, or those which act upon the molecules of matter
and produce motions inappreciable by the senses. In their
origin all known forces are molecular, the largest motions
growing out of the minute and insensible.

The molar forces, embracing the power of moving winds, of
falhng waters, the down-pulling weight, and the coiled spring,
early attracted attention, and were utilized in the arts. Their
sensible character made it easy to invent the sails, the water-
wheel, and the pulley, which served to harness them to their
work. But their utiHty was limited to times and conditions
which prevented their general employment.

The molecular forces of electricity, magnetism, chemical
affinities, and, above all, the steam-generating heat, have come
forth only at the bidding of science, but their omnipotence and
their independence of favoring times and localities have given
them a sudden acceptance and a universal employment.

105. The land gift. — Land, as a gift of nature and a factor
in the world's work, might seem properly to belong partly to
the class of crude matter and partly to the non-vital forces
which alone make the soil productive. But the land problems
hold so important a place in Political Economy as to ask separ-
ate treatment.

Land, as an economic fact, is both important and peculiar.



Io8 POLITICAL ECONOMY.

As constituting the habitable part of the globe, all human life
must have a part in its occupation. As the theater of all estab-
lished industrial operations, it is a prime necessity to such op-
erations. As the source of nearly all the food supplies, and
thus of man's continued stay in life, its cultivation fills the first
place among human employments. As a form of permanent
investment of wealth, its security and other advantages are so
unique and superior as to claim for it a still higher considera-
tion. And, finally, its connections as territory, with social and
national life and power, force it perpetually to the front in all
great political interests and questions. The peculiarity and im-
portance of its economic character are attested by the space
given to its discussion among the economists, and by the
diversity of views presented in their discussions.

io6. Land as soil. — Land as soil is useful in proportion to
its productiveness, and its nearness to markets.

Its productiveness depends: (i.) Upon its composition and
that of the subsoil; (2.) Upon the climate in which it Hes;
(3,) Upon its elevation, slope, and exposure; (4.) Upon the
irrigation and drainage required and possible to it; (5.) Upon
the fertiHzation needed or applicable to it; (6.) Upon the crops
to which it is adapted; (7.) Upon the kind and amount of cul-
tivation to be employed. The character, amount, and value
of the crops will depend, in part, upon all of these. The dis-
cussion of the extent of the influence of these several circum-
stances would occupy more space than can be given in this
chapter.

The nearness to markets affects the value of land because of
the time and labor required to get its crops to the place of sale.
Many of the coarser products are so great in bulk in proportion



Online LibraryJohn Milton GregoryA new political economy → online text (page 8 of 32)