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Ship building 60 per cent.^

Carpets and rugs 40 per cent.^*

Simple average 40 per cent.


Even when the industrial plant"^ is running, we find that
enormous quantities of the output never reach the consumer
at all by reason of defects in the distribution and market
mechanism. In a period of so-called "over-production," we
see night riders burning tobacco and cotton, corn used as
fuel, milk dumped into rivers by the thousands of gallons,
one-half of the potato crop rotting in the ground, carloads

10 U. S. Department of Commerce, op. cit.
" Bru&re, op. cit.

12 U. S. Council of National Defense. Studies in the High Cost of Living.
^ Federated American Engineering Societies, op. cit.
i« Ibid.
IS Ibid.
M /bid.

" Management Engineering, January, 1922.
18 Walter N. Polakov, Iron and Steel Wastes.

1* U. S. Department of Commerce, 8ui~vei/ of Current B%tsincss, December,

^ Mackaye, op. cit.

21 Senate Document on Reconstruction, March, 1921.

22 Ibid.

23 U. S. Department of Commerce, op. cit.
2* Ibid.

26 Including farms, factories and mines.


of watermelons floating down the Potomac, boat loads of
bananas in the waters of New York harbor, textiles and ma-
chinery "dumped" in foreign markets at a fraction of the
price the domestic consumer is forced to pay, sugar and cof-
fee crops wantonly destroyed. Thus even if the efficiency of
the productive mechanism chances to be high, there is always
the chance that this very fact will so lower the efficiency of
the distribution mechanism — due to price considerations —
that the resulting output will be dumped or destroyed rather
than permitted to reach the consumer , . . the same
consumer, it must be remembered, who receives considerably
less on the average than the minimum budget of health and
decency calls for.

The coal industry has recently been subjected to a bom-
bardment from the standpoint of waste. Engineers have
found that not only is it excessively over-capitalized, but that
its underground methods are so bad that coal miners — on the
days when they get a chance to work — average only three or
four hours on the face of the coal.^ The articulation of the
out-put with the transportation system is wretched. The
mines can dig 18,000,000 tons a week. The railroads have only
cars enough to carry away 12,000,000 tons. When we come
to the utilization of coal, the scandal grows ever greater. The
ordinary steam engine only secures 6 per cent of the thermal
energy contained in the coal which it burns. Dr. Charles P.
Steinmetz has estimated that perhaps three-quarters of all
coal mined could be saved by the introduction of better
methods of utilization. Coal, furthermore, contains great
quantities of dyes, tars, fertilizers and other valuable by-
products, which are now largely thrown away.

And what engineers have discovered concerning the tech-
nical wastes of coal applies pretty well down the line to all
other industries.


Let us recapitulate the three great classes of waste as we
have tried to outline them, and form a very rough estimate,
if we can, of the stupendous total involved.

First, there is the waste in output by virtue of the fact
that a given product or service bears no relation to the wants

^ Archbald, The Four-Hour Day in Coal.


of man as defined. How much of the total output of Amer-
ica falls under this category awaits a basic survey. Secretary
Houston's figures on super-luxury production alone lead us
to believe that not less than one-third of the total labor power
of the country is lost in this field. And that means the la-
bor power of about 14 million persons.

Secondly, there is the waste by virtue of idleness — the fail-
ure for one reason or another, to render an equivalent for
things consumed. This we saw amounted to the labor power
of from four to eight million able-bodied persons, depending
upon whether business was booming or depressed.

Thirdly, there is the waste by virtue of stupid and anti-
quated technical processes — both in the mechanism of produc-
tion and of distribution. The coal industry functions at less
than 50 per cent efficiency today due to technical causes —
causes which can be remedied without an undue penalty in
new construction cost. H coal be any criterion for industry
in general, it is probable that one-half the labor of the twenty-
four million workers who are now making and distributing
goods and services which satisfy the wants of man, is wasted
labor from the standpoint of modern technical methods. And
that means twelve million workers more. Recapitulating :

Labor lost by reason of producing "illth"

13,000,000 man years

Labor lost by bad technical methods, 12,000,000 man years

Labor lost through idleness (average)

5,000,000 man years

Total labor lost 30,000,000 man years

Total productive power, 1922 42,000,000 man years

Ratio of Waste, 70 per cent.

This can only be a crude, illustrative estimate. Some en-
gineers have declared that the ratio of waste in the present
system is 90 per cent. Conservative business men believe
that it is less than 25 per cent. But if it can be shown that
the various elements of waste outlined herein aggregate more
than 50 per cent of the total labor power of America (with
corresponding waste in raw materials) it follows relentlessly
that the elimination of that waste would double the capacity
of the country to make sound goods and services — goods
which really mean the satisfaction of human wants. And
this would operate to banish poverty, to raise the last family


above the line of the minimum budget, and at the same time
to provide for moderate kixuries and comforts, and a rea-
sonably wide range of income levels.

That is the challenge which the problem of waste presents
to those of us who dream of a high central tower directing
and simplifying the economic destinies of men.


The problem as we have outlined it, has dealt only with the
wants of man, and the possibility of measuring the sum total
of labor power and raw materials, which, under the pre-
vailing economic system, are expended to other ends. Stud-
ents of waste hitherto have tended to confuse the loss due
to wasted effort with the effect of such loss on human life.
"Human" wastes are in a quite different category from la-
bor and material wastes. If labor and material wastes are
so large that the wants of man are not adequately met, then
and only then do human wastes arise. They are in the na-
ture of a deficiency factor. It is possible to conceive of
immense labor wastes, resulting in no human wastes at all
in a society which had developed labor-saving machinery to
a point where it could carry all sorts of irrelevant activities,
and a large margin of idleness, and still satisfy human wants.

The modern industrial system however has reached no
such point. The figures of national income already examined
prove that. The normal wants of more than half the popula-
tion of America — from the standpoint of the minimum bud-
get — are not satisfied, with the resulting misery, suffering
and human cost.

The measurement of human waste largely defies the sta-
tistician. It is compounded of tears and pain and twisted
souls. It carries most of the world's crime and most of the
world's thwarted aspirations. In its embrace, the creative
instinct of untold millions lies buried.

The failure of the present industrial mechanism to throw
out enough of the goods and services men need, together
with the pressure under which great numbers of workers
are placed by reason of the waste and loss involved, results
in these outstanding types of human cost :

Malnutrition ;

Overcrowding ;


Inadequate clothing ;

Industrial accidents and diseases;

Infant mortality;

Illiteracy and undereducation ;

Crime and prostitution ;

Alcoholism and the use of drugs ;

Deadening of the play instinct ;

Death of the creative instinct.

The human cost of war might properly be added to this
list. War implies a staggering waste in labor and materials
on the one hand, and an even more staggering human cost
in death, wounds and social degeneration on the other. The
net gain appears to rest solely in the satisfaction of "national
honor" — a metaphysical quality lying outside the wants of

In 1919 there were, in the United States, 23,000 fatal ac-
cidents; 575,000 cases of injury involving at least four
weeks absence from work; 3,000,000 cases of injury involv-
ing more than one day's absence. The total labor days lost
amounted to 296,000,000. The wage loss has been estimated
at $853,000,000. Professor Irving Fisher has found that in
industry alone, 270,000,000 working days a year are lost
through sickness, of which about 40 per cent is preventible.
These figures give some idea of the vast extent of human


Modern industry, it is universally conceded, is operated
on the basis of production for profit. The usefulness of th^
thing produced is a by-product. Realistic defenders of the
present order admit this, but go on to explain that the pro-
fit motive provides so strong an incentive for production that
more by way of consumable goods is thrown off — even as a
by-product — than could possibly be attained under any sys-
tem founded on production for use only. In short, it is
claimed that the wayfaring man secures a greater net bene-
fit from the profit system — despite its left-handed regard for
his interests — than he could from any system designed di-
rectly to serve him.

This is no mean argument. It brings to the front the
whole question of economic incentives to invent, produce,
organize, distribute. We have, in the foregoing analysis,


wa ved this question entirely. We have assumed that men
vnll work as hard to supply their own social wants as to
supply stocks bonds and mortgages for enterprising busi-
ness men and bankers. And on the basis of this assumption
we have noted the very large margin of waste which obtans
Mechanically speaking this waste is proveable-as any corn^
patent engineering survey would show ^

r^n^hi ^^V^ ^^ ^'^^^^ psychologically? Is mankind at large

sTem on th?'"""^/"^.T"^"'"'"^ ^ "hole industril!
system on the same straight line methods which a pioneer
family uses? Or does human intelligence lag and faint as
the unit grows bigger, until the onl/ control of a nat"on\
«'? " " '" ''■"' ^^"'"^ ^^ ^^^ profit-s:ekTng
Frankly I do not know. I have only the exoerience nf

W 1 ^:tfT 'fi'' ''^^ '^ point Vra"pos"ib
hope I realize that the whole conception of waste as here-
n outlined is but a tilting at windmills until it can be shown
hat men are capable of directing their own industrial dls

anTUutf Zflr^''\''h^'''''^ their mtad
Xhanengfof W^^^^ " "'^ ^^'^ P^^^P^'^^ - -"^d the

' 27

Bibliography of
Economic Waste.


The Engineers and the Price System. Thorstein Veblen.
N. Y.: B. W. Huebsch, 1921; 169 pp.

The Theory of the Leisure Class. Thorstein Veblen. N. Y. :
Macmillan, 1899; 400 pp.

Old Worlds for New. A. J. Penty. London: G. Allen &
Unwin, Ltd., 1917; 186 pp.

The Fallacy of Saving. J. M. Robertson.

Looking Backward. Edward Bellamy. Boston : Houghton,
Mifflin, 1898 (written in 1889); 377 pp.

Fields, Factories and Workships. P. A. Kropotkin. Bos-
ton: Houghton, Mifflin, 1899; 315 pp.

Socialism in Thought and Action, Chap. L Harry W. Laid-
ler. N. Y.: Macmillan, 1920; 546 pp.

Creative Chemistry. Slosson.

The Economic Writings of Ruskin.

Modern Economic Tendencies. Sidney A. Reeve. N. Y. :
E. P. Button & Co., 1921; 871 pp.

Waste in Industry. Committee on Elimination of Waste
in Industry of the Federated American Engineering So-
cieties (Hoover Engineers). N. Y. : McGraw-Hill Co.,
1921; 409 pp.

Luxury and Waste. E. J. Warick.

Direct and Indirect Costs of the Great War. E. L. Bogart.
N. Y. : Oxford University Press, 1919; 338 pp.

Cooperation, the Hope of the Consumer. Harris. N. Y. :
Macmillan, 1918.

Poverty and Waste. Hartley Withers. London: Smith,
Elder & Co., 1914; 180 pp.

The Conservation of Natural Resources in the U. S. Van
Hise. N. Y. : Macmillan.

Triumph of Nationalization. Sir Leo Chiozza Money. Lon-
don: Cassell & Co., Ltd., 1920; 275 pp.

America's Power Resources. Chester G. Gilbert and
J. E. Pogue N. Y.: Century, 1921; 326 pp.

The Economics of Petroleum. Joseph E. Pogue. N. Y. :
John Wiley & Sons, 1921; 375 pp.

The Coming of Coal. Robert W. Bruere. N. Y. : Associ-
ated Press, 1922; 229 pp.


The Four-Hour Day in Coal, Hugh Archbald. N. Y. : Har-
court & Brace, 1922.

The World's Food Resources. J, Russel Smith N Y •
Henry Holt, 1919; 634 pp. " "

Forest Products — Their Manufacture and Use. Nelson C


Our Railroads Tomorrow, Edward Hungerford. N. Y. :

Wealth from Waste. Henry John Spooner. London:
Routledge, 1918; 312 pp.


Waste. W. R. Ingalls. Mining & Metallurgy. March, 1922.

Fifty Points About Capitalism. Sir Leo Chiozza Money
(l^amphlet). London: C. Palmer & Hayward 1919- 50
pp. ' '

Wasting Human Life, A.M.Simons. (Pamphlet). Chi-
cago: Socialist Party; 96 pp.
Delimitation and Transmutation of Industries. Sir Leo

Chiozza Money. New Statesman. March 14, 1914.
Conservation Through Engineering. U. S. Geological Sur-
vey Bulletin No. 705.

Wastes of Uneven Production, C. E. Knoeppel. (Pam-

Plant Idleness. W. N. Polakov. Factory, April, 1922.

^T*^ ^^c,F°°^ Handling. A. H. Kirchhofer. N. Y. Mail,

Study in Distribution Costs. Joint Committee of Agri-
cultural Inquiry. Congress, 1922.

"Toctr/n't No!'"'l9''-°'*""°"- "'* ''°"^"^^- Senate
Wasting Coal. Stuart Chase. Labor Age, May, 1922.

'^''a^ry 2^3"?9^21°^ ^^'*^' ^*"^'** ^^^'^' '^"^*'^"' ^^^^"-

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Online LibraryStuart ChaseThe challenge of waste → online text (page 3 of 3)