Thomas Nixon Carver.

Principles of political economy online

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more money there is spent for producers' goods, the more
rapidly they will accumulate. This means that the more thrifty
the people are, and the more inclined they are to live on less
than their incomes and to spend the balance for tools, the
better equipped with tools they will be.

We now see how definitely the prosperity, power, and great-
ness of a nation depend upon the three factors, labor, land,
and capital. A nation whose people are possessed of high
average natural ability, whose educational system trains that
ability (especially for those fields of work where ability is most
needed), which has an abundance of rich land, and which accu-
mulates capital rapidly, so as to supply itself with the best of
tools and other equipment, has all that is needed on the physical
side to make it prosperous. But much remains to be said in
detail about each of these factors and the ways in which they
are to be combined.



Why man rules over the rest of the animal creation. In
attempting to discuss the quality of the people, we are not
necessarily entering upon a discussion of the whole field of
physiology, psychology, and morals. There are certain out-
standing qualities which man possesses in greater degree than
the brutes, which civilized man possesses in greater degree
than the savage, and which, in any civilized community, the
more successful classes possess in greater degree than the
less successful. There are other qualities, such as muscular
strength, which the brutes, many of them at least, possess in
greater degree than man. If these were the important qualities,
man could scarcely claim superiority over the brutes. There
are other qualities, such as the sense of smell and the ability
to endure pain, which certain savages seem to possess in greater
degree than civilized man. If these were the important quali-
ties, civilized man could scarcely claim superiority over the
savage. Some savage races seem even to possess certain moral
qualities in greater degree than civilized men. Travelers have
frequently praised the honesty of certain tribes, their fidelity
to their friends, their courage, and their fortitude. Civilized
nations are each possessed of certain characteristic vices which
can scarcely be apologized for, much less defended. One who
thinks that the peculiar virtues of the savage and the peculiar
vices of the civilized man are the important virtues and vices
will certainly reach the conclusion that the savage is really
superior morally to the civilized man. But it is very easy to
be mistaken in one's emphasis. We need to consider carefully
what qualities really give superiority to a people.



Our present problem is to form some sort of intelligent
opinion as to the qualities which a people need in order to
become prosperous, powerful, and great in an economic and
worldly sense. The following outline is suggested as express-
ing a tentative opinion on this subject. Whatever may be
said on purely religious or moral grounds, a nation whose
people are possessed of these qualities in superior degree will
have an economic advantage, other things equal, over a nation
whose people possess them in less degree.


1. Knowledge of

a. The physical environment

b. The social environment

2. Forethought, as shown by

a. Industry

b. Thrift

3. Dependableness, made up of

a. Honesty

b. Sobriety

c. Courage

d. Fidelity

4. Reasonableness, as shown by

a. Eagerness to learn

b. Obedience to law

c. Willingness to cooperate

Man has achieved " dominion over the fish of the sea, and
over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the
earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the
earth " by reason of certain powers or qualities which he pos-
sesses in higher degree than they. These are, first, his greater
knowledge of and control over the forces of nature ; second,
his greater forethought in making provision for the future and
working for distinct ends ; third, his greater power of organi-
zation, or teamwork. This power of organization is the result
mainly of two factors, his dependability and his reasonableness.
The same powers, or qualities, have given the civilized man


dominion over the savage, and the intellectual man dominion
over the ignorant man. In the future, as in the past, we must
expect that the world will be ruled by the nations which possess
these qualities in the highest degree.

Physical advantages over the brutes. Man's erect posture,
leaving his hands free to be used for other purposes than
for locomotion, must be counted as a great advantage over
the brute creation. A thumb which opposes the fingers and
gives him a better grasp adds greatly to this advantage. These
advantages, however, would not count for much if he did not
have a mind which enabled him to devise tools to be grasped
and used with his thumbed hands. So far as the upright pos-
ture and the thumb are concerned, while they give him an
advantage over the brutes, they alone do not give the civilized
man any advantage over the savage. The posture of the
savage is as upright, and his thumb as handy, as the civilized
man's. In seeking, therefore, the advantages which have given
the civilized man dominion over the savage we must look at
the mental and moral qualities. These are not necessarily
physiological in their nature ; they may be mainly the results
of accumulated history, tradition, and training.

Intellectual advantages of civilized men over savages.
Knowledge of the forces of nature may almost be said to
include control over them, though the erect posture and the
thumb assist in that control. Our physical environment includes
not only the physical objects which surround us but their
properties and the forces which govern them as well. To
know our physical environment, therefore, means to know
the properties of matter and the forces which operate in and
through it. In short, this is scientific knowledge. It is this
which underlies all our mechanical improvements. Our social
environment includes human beings and all their powers,
characteristics, habits, emotions, etc. A knowledge of one's
social environment includes such a knowledge of man and his
ways as to enable one to work with other men comfortably,


knowing what to expect and what to depend upon. This is
particularly important in those who are intrusted with the work
of governing or administering the affairs of government.

Forethought. Forethought is only one aspect of what may
be called the time sense. Among the many definitions of man
is one which says that he is the being " who looks before and
after." His memory of the distant past and his forethought
for the distant future modify his actions in the immediate
present more than the actions of any other creature are modi-
fied. But the past cannot be changed ; only the future now
lies within our control. Even industry is chiefly carried on
because of the vivid appreciation in the present of those needs
which are certain to arise in the future. Those creatures
which appreciate future needs most vividly will, of course,
labor most assiduously. The same difference shows itself
among men. Those nations, as well as those individuals, who
see most clearly in advance what their future needs are likely
to be are the nations and the individuals who show the greatest
industry as well as the greatest thrift.

There is a story of an aged savage who, after having lived
in civilized communities most of his life, returned in his old
age to his native tribe, saying that he had tried civilization for
forty years and that it was n't worth the trouble. Much of the
philosophy of civilization is summed up in that remark. Civ-
ilization consists largely in taking trouble. Genius, in the indi-
vidual, has been said to consist in the capacity for taking
infinite pains in one's work. It is this capacity which marks
the superior race as well as the superior individual. They
who find the taking of pains too burdensome to be borne
will naturally decide that civilization is not worth the trouble.
They who do not find it so very burdensome to take pains
will naturally decide that civilization is worth the trouble, and
will therefore become civilized.

This principle applies to every stage of civilization and
progress. The greatest advancement is made by those who


are capable of taking the greatest pains. It applies especially
to agricultural progress. It is more trouble to select than not
to select seed, and to select it in the field than in the bin. It
is more trouble to test cows than not to test them, to keep
accounts than not to keep them, to diversify or rotate crops
than not to diversify or rotate, to mix fertilizers intelligently
than to buy them already mixed, to cooperate with one's pig-
headed neighbors, especially if one is one's self a little pig-
headed, than to work alone. It is also more profitable. In all
these and in a multitude of other cases it is found that it pays
to take trouble.

Thrift. Thrift differs from industry in that it consists in
saving that which is already produced or possessed, whereas
industry consists in producing or gaining possession of desir-
able objects. Even more than industry, thrift is a mark of
forethought. It requires an even stronger self-control, combined
with a keener sense of the importance of future needs, to lead
one to refrain from consuming that which is already produced
than it does to work to produce that which does not yet exist.
However, the two things must always go together, in the com-
munity at least if not in the individual. The farmer, that is,
some farmer, must at least save seed (which means that he
must refrain from consuming it) before any farmer can labor
successfully at the growing of next year's crop. One may,
however, save the seed which another plants. There are some
savages so thriftless as not to be ' able even to save seed.
Needless to say, their industry, even if they were industrious,
would not count for much. If cattle are benevolently given to
them, they kill them all in time of scarcity. Therefore they
cannot succeed even as herdsmen but fall back into a lower
economic stage, namely, hunting and fishing. Such people are
not likely to grow powerful enough to occasion much uneasiness
to the rest of the world. Even if there were no other reasons
for their weakness, they could never support numbers enough
to be very strong.


Knowledge and forethought are primarily mental qualities,
though there is an element of morality in forethought ; depend-
ableness and reasonableness are primarily moral qualities,
though there is an element of mentality in both of them.
In this age of great mental achievements, especially in the
fields of physical science and mechanical invention, there is a
tendency to underestimate the importance of moral qualities.
This tendency may have been increased by the perception
that moral teachers themselves have sometimes overemphasized
the lesser virtues (that is, those which count least in the
improvement of social life) and underemphasized those which
count most.

Moral advantages of civilized men over savages, depend-
ableness. Nothing can be more important in the building of
a great and prosperous nation than dependableness. Many
writers have taken pains to point out how dependent we are
upon one another in a highly civilized state. One way of
illustrating this mutual dependence is by comparing a highly
developed society to a complicated machine or a highly devel-
oped animal organism. There are many striking resemblances,
among the most important of which is the interdependence of
parts. This interdependence of parts increases as we ascend
in the scale of organic life. In the human body, for example,
or in that of any of the higher mammals, the interdependence
of parts is much greater than that found in the bodies of the
lower forms of life. The same change is noticeable as we
ascend in the scale of social life. Each individual tends to
specialize in some particular kind of work and to depend upon
other individuals, who have specialized on other kinds of work,
to supply him with goods and services which he cannot produce
for himself. Some of the reasons why this is so advantageous
will be discussed in the chapter The Division of Labor.

There can be no great amount of dependence of one upon
another where the people are not dependable. This is equally
true of a machine or an animal organism, but we do not


attribute moral qualities to the parts of any of them. The
wheel in a machine has no choice. It must of physical neces-
sity do whatever its construction requires it to do. But if the
machine be not well made, so that some part is not compelled
to work harmoniously with every other part, the whole machine
will work very imperfectly or not at all. Similarly, if one
part of the animal organism, especially of a highly developed
organism, should fail to perform its functions, every other
part is likely to suffer, and the whole organism may even die.
There is no physical necessity compelling a person to be de-
pendable, as is the case with the parts of a well-made machine
or the organs of a healthy body ; but it is just as important
that he should be. That is why dependableness is such an
important quality of the people, and why it becomes increas-
ingly important as civilization advances. In fact, without it
civilization cannot advance at all.

Our mutual dependence is of various sorts and degrees. If
someone fails to do that which he is expected to do, he may
imperil the lives of hundreds or thousands of his fellow men,
as in the case of a switch tender or a locomotive engineer ;
he may occasion the loss of valuable property ; or he may, as
in the case of an unpunctual person, merely upset our calcula-
tions and cause many of us to waste our time waiting for him
or guessing what he is likely to do. In all these cases, in
greater or less degree, he occasions loss to the nation. The
time we waste on account of his lack of dependableness is as
truly a loss as the property which is destroyed. Aside from
the direct loss of time and property, there is the greater loss
which comes from the discouragement of enterprise, the lack
of confidence, and the general demoralization which ensues
when men can no longer rely upon one another.

Honesty. The first element in dependableness is common
honesty. Men who will not keep their word, fulfill their con-
tracts, or do business without cheating, are not only morally
odious ; they are also obstructions to the progress and prosperity


of the community. Perhaps this is why they are morally
odious. A community made up of such people, no matter how
gifted they might be mentally, could scarcely prosper. No one
could trust anyone else ; consequently there could be no credit.
Nothing could be bought or sold without the closest and most
minute inspection, and this would be laborious and therefore
wasteful of time. There could be no cooperation or teamwork,
but everyone would have to look after himself and spend a
great deal of time watching his dishonest neighbors. Among
the many advantages of honesty, therefore, not the least is
that it is a great labor-saving device when it is practiced
throughout a community. Of two communities which are
otherwise equal, the one within which honesty prevails will
advance more rapidly in prosperity and power than the one in
which dishonesty prevails.

Sobriety. Next to honesty, sobriety is probably the most
important element in dependableness. In a rudimentary state
of society, where each individual works and acts most of the
time alone, and where, therefore, there is little interdependence,
drunkenness may not be so vicious as it has now become. In
our interlocking civilization no personal habit or vice so unfits
a man for usefulness as drunkenness. If you had to take
your choice between riding behind a locomotive engineer who
was addicted to drunkenness and riding behind one who was
addicted to any other vice, there is not much doubt as to
which you would choose. If you had to take your choice
between a chauffeur who was in the habit of getting drunk and
one who had formed any other bad habit whatsoever, you
would not be likely to take the drunkard. Apply a similar
test to anyone in any of the hundreds of responsible positions
(and all positions are coming to be responsible positions) and
you will reach the conclusion that the person who is ad-
dicted to drink is about the least desirable citizen you can
name. There are fewer places where he is of any use and
more where he is a menace than is the case with the victims


of any other vice. Whatever you may think when you are
discussing, in the abstract, the relative harmfulness of various
vices, you are not likely to be much in doubt when you come
to a concrete case like that of a locomotive engineer, a switch-
man, a driver of an automobile, or even a janitor or anyone
else whose lack of dependableness might endanger your life.
Sobriety must obviously rank high among the virtues which
go to make up what we have called dependableness.

Courage. Courage is the father of many virtues, as fear is
of many vices. It is probable that as many falsehoods result
from fear as from malice. In any kind of emergency you
will want dependable companions who will not fail you. Their
dependableness will be in proportion to their courage. Even
your own courage may depend partly upon their courage, and
theirs upon yours ; that is to say, when you feel that you can
rely upon one another, you will all feel more courageous and
more capable of coping with a difficult situation than if each
of you doubts the courage of the others. This applies not
only to physical courage in a time of physical danger, but to
moral courage in times when the larger interests of society
are at stake. Men of weak courage fear to come out on the
right side, and even men of real courage have their confidence
shaken by the feeling that they cannot depend upon their
fellow citizens.

Fidelity. Fidelity is closely related both to honesty and to
courage, and serves much the same purpose. It is the quality
which keeps faith even though one might gain some individual
advantage by breaking faith. The habit of breaking faith or
abusing confidence demoralizes a group or a community and
makes any kind of effective teamwork impossible.

There are doubtless many other elements which contribute
to the dependableness of a people, but these four are the
principal ones. Any group of people who possess these
four in high degree can rely upon and cooperate with one
another and carry out any form of teamwork which they have


the intelligence to plan. A community whose people are weak
in any one of these four qualities will have difficulty in carry-
ing out any effective scheme of group action, no matter how
clearly they perceive the advantage of doing so. While these
are moral qualities, they are nevertheless qualities upon which
the economic prosperity of the nation depends. They are
therefore of just as much interest to the economist as good
tools, good land, or any other factor.

Reasonableness. Reasonableness is a noticeable characteristic
of progressive people, as its absence is of unprogressive people.
It includes freedom from prejudice, passion, and superstition,
willingness to take a sensible view of things and to be guided
by sound judgment rather than by stubbornness and general
contrariness. It is opposed equally to the slavish following of
old customs, on the one hand, and blind and headlong pursuit
of new fads, on the other. It involves a frank recognition of
all the necessary conditions of social life and teamwork, and
a willingness to submit to those conditions even at some
inconvenience to self. It involves the willingness to help in
any genuine reform movement even at some inconvenience
to self, and likewise a recognition of the necessary and legally
constituted methods of effective reform.

Teachableness. The first element in reasonableness is
teachableness, or eagerness to learn, especially to learn better
ways of doing the work which we have to do. Travelers
among backward races give many strange accounts, not simply
of the ineffective methods of work, which we might expect,
but of the unwillingness of the people to learn new ways even
when they are shown. One railroad builder who was forced
to employ native labor in a backward country, which need not
be named, found that they were accustomed to carry all burdens
on their heads. In moving dirt they insisted even on carrying
it in boxes and various receptacles on their heads. He supplied
them with wheelbarrows and gave orders that they were to
use these and nothing else. They used the wheelbarrows, but


carried them also on their heads, and nothing could induce
them to change their immemorial custom. Another story
from another backward country relates how an enterprising
American undertook to substitute some well-made American
carts for the exceedingly clumsy and inefficient carts then in
use. The native teamsters refused to adopt the innovation,
giving as their reason that the new carts were too silent, that
they missed the screeching made by the wheels turning on the
heavy wooden axles of their old carts. Similar illustrations
could be repeated by the hundred if necessary. No nation
whose people are so unteachable as these illustrations indicate
is likely to become prosperous, or great in any sense, no matter
how well endowed it may be with natural resources. Such
nations will always remain at the mercy of the stronger nations
and will survive only because their stronger neighbors show
enough moral self-restraint to refrain from conquering them.

This difficulty is not simply a lack of knowledge. It is more
fundamental than that. It is a habit of mind which resists
knowledge, which refuses to accept knowledge even when
it is presented. Whether this is due to some defect in the
physiology of the people or merely to bad teaching in the
past, it may be difficult to determine. That there are constitu-
tional differences of this kind among peoples there can be
little reasonable doubt. To some the pain of a new idea is so
considerable that they prefer to endure poverty and hardship
rather than the painful process of learning better ways of doing
things. To others the painfulness of learning is so slight as
to place no obstacles in the way of progress. On the other
hand, a wise but strong ruler who would establish a system of
compulsory education and rigidly enforce it could doubtless
accomplish a great deal in the way of increasing the teachable-
ness of the people. During their enforced schooling they
would form the habit of learning, and the pain of a new
idea would be greatly reduced. A wise majority in a democracy
might do the same thing for an unwise minority.


Even in what passes for a progressive nation, and
among people who are ranked as moderately intelligent, there
survive many practices which can only be regarded as super-
stitions. Some farmers still plant their potatoes in the dark of
the moon rather than when the soil and the weather conditions
are right. Others observe ceremonies of various kinds which
have not the slightest relation to the laws of plant or animal
growth. Still others refuse to submit to rules or to adopt
practices which have been proved to have scientific value,
either because it is contrary to their religion or because it is
not the way they and their fathers have always done. Among
others besides farmers there is sometimes a prejudice against
"book learning" even after the book learning has proved
itself a practical thing.

Covetousness. There is another form of unreasonableness,
and it is probably the most destructive of all, which takes the
form of jealousy or resentfulness at the success of other people.
It is the worst form, perhaps the only real form, of covetous-
ness. There are few things which so deaden the enterprising
and constructive spirit of a people as this form of resentfulness,
and there are few things which so encourage that spirit as
a generous appreciation, on the part of everyone, of real

Online LibraryThomas Nixon CarverPrinciples of political economy → online text (page 9 of 48)