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tude receives from above, from a class or from classes comparatively small. The small classes I speak of are socially the most heterogeneous mixture, recruited from all ranks; but intellectually they have one bond of union, in that they read and think, that they appreciate logical argument or what they believe to be such, that they recognize the complexity of our social problems, and the necessity for study and statistical research if we would understand them rightly. In a word, they constitute the circle to which social and economic science directly appeals, and whose influence on the classes below them is directly shaped by the teaching of such science, as they themselves interpret it.
And now let us ask this highly pertinent question: What is the condition of economic science at present? There is no science, there is no department of knowledge, in a state so disorganized, so chaotic, and so incomplete as this. There are certain conclusions, indeed, of certain great economists, which are generally accepted by all who understand them, and which no thinker of any school has been able to call in question. But these are imbedded in a mass of other doctrines, with regard to which there is no such agreement, and the whole is commonly spoken of, and too often thought of, under the common name of political economy. To illustrate this it is enough to cite the celebrated saying of a living English statesman, that, under certain circumstances, "political economy might go to Saturn.” What a revelation is contained in the fact that the use of such a phrase was possible! If political economy has established any truths whatever, if it has put anything beyond the reach of doubt, it is as ridiculous to say that these truths may go to Saturn, as it would be to say that arithmetic might go to Saturn. Plainly, then, in the mind of the statesman who used the phrase, and the public that tolerated it, there was complete confusion as to what political economy is or comprises. Its undoubted conclusions were confounded with its debatable ones, as if in a madman's dream; the former were eclipsed or discredited by the latter, and the whole province of economic thought, for the time being, had relapsed into anarchy.
And there is precisely such an anarchy now. Of what is settled in this science and what is debatable, there is no general, efficient,
practical knowledge. Consequently every kind of speculation is able to put itself before the public with sufficient plausibility to wear an air of science to those whose sympathies may dispose them to assent to it. I said just now that with many of the intellectual leaders of the labor movement philanthropy and moral emotion come first, and science, though they recognize its authority, comes second; and such being the case, emotion becomes the judge of what scientific theory is reasonable, not scientific theory the judge of what emotion is reasonable. Everything is topsy-turvy, and why? I answered the question a moment ago. I answer it now again. Because general knowledge with regard to this particular subject is far behind general knowledge with regard to any other subject of equal general importance.
Let me give instances; and I will take them, not from any theories (properly so called) of the economists, but from the ascertainable facts of industrial life, by which all theories must be tested. One of the most specious and widely read works on political economy which has appeared for many years is Mr. Henry George's "Progress and Poverty." Now this work, as many of its readers may remember, endeavored to explain the existence of poverty by the constant increase of rent, which, according to Mr. George's demonstrations, not only was always increasing absolutely, but was always having a greater and greater proportion of the total income of the community; so much so, that Mr. George declared that its ultimate tendency was to absorb the whole of that income, except such a portion of it as would yield a bare subsistence to those who were not land-owners. And nowhere was this doctrine received with greater favor than in England. Now, had the thinking classes in England possessed, as a body, the commonest knowledge of statistics, and had Mr. George himself thought it worth his while to consult authorities as accessible as parliamentary blue books, it would have been utterly impossible for such a work as "Progress and Poverty" ever to have been written, or if written, to have commanded a moment's attention. For its whole main assumption with regard to the increase of rent is not only not true, but is the absolute reverse of the truth; nor is there, when once the statistics of the subject are studied, the smallest room for dispute or
doubt about the question. Rent in England, as the country has grown in wealth, though it has, of course, grown greater absolutely, has been growing constantly smaller relatively; and instead of rent tending to absorb all other sources of income, the other sources of income are tending to outstrip rent and to dwarf it into comparative insignificance. Nor is this tendency due to any recent depression in agriculture. It has steadily shown itself through the whole period for which we possess any exact records of our industrial progress.
Again, what statement can be commoner than that “the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle classes are being crushed out"? I do not know how often it is made in America; but in England it has become a commonplace with certain classes of reformers, a sort of postulate on which their demands or speculations are based. And yet when once statistics are consulted—and they are ample and unimpeachable-the whole of this statement is found to be, just like Mr. George's, not only wide of the truth, but literally and absolutely an inversion of it. Large incomes, on the whole, are diminishing, small incomes are increasing, and moderate incomes are multiplying.
Yet again, how constantly are we presented with appalling pictures of the destitution of the poor! And it is hard, when reading these, to repress the feeling that a civilization which produces such horrible and such miserable results must be rapidly hastening forward to some great catastrophe. But let us apply to this dark picture the test of authoritative statistics, and what do we find then? We do not find that the details of the picture are false; on the contrary, we find that we could go on adding to them; but we do find this: that the extent of this disheartening and alarming misery, though vast in itself, is small when compared with the extent of the community. In England the darker pictures of distress and poverty do not apply to more than one-eighth of the population. It is true that the eighth of the population would people the whole of Scotland, people it from end to end with want and misery; but, appalling as this fact is, it should not blind our eyes to the other fact, that for one miserable population there are seven populations progressively prosperous, and that misery of the kind spoken of is, in spite of the
millions of the miserable, not the rule, but the exception. But of this fact our philanthropic economists seem for the most part in utter ignorance. They go on taking the exception for the rule, and by their very way of approaching the problem disqualify themselves for explaining it.
Here, then, are three illustrations of the density of the ignorance prevailing among the thinking classes on the subject of political economy; and they are illustrations, also, of the rapid way in which such ignorance operates on the passions and character of the multitudes, and produces movements which must be hurtful and dangerous, since they are wholly out of relation with the world as it actually exists. It is in this atmosphere of ignorance that the current estimates of our existing social civilization are shaped by our economic reformers; and sympathies and fears which, if broken in to the complicated harness of fact, might be noble, wise, and useful, run loose like so many wild horses, doing no work themselves, but confusing and endangering those that do.
What, therefore, I would urge on all who are interested in the labor movement, and who believe in its importance, is not to turn from economic science as a secondary element in the problem, but to recognize that it is the rudder and the compass of the movement, if not the sails. I urge this on the socialists themselves, and on the semi-socialists, though probably they will not think the advice needed. What I urge on them is statistical study, which shall be not only accurate, as far as it goes, but also comprehensive. But the persons to whom I would specially address myself are that other class, of which I spoke at starting men who are not socialists, or even semi-socialists, but who are disquieted by the attacks and arguments of those who are; and who, though they do not join in assailing the existing social order, are bewildered and half-hearted in their defense of it. A wider, a more accurate, a more general knowledge of the question will show them that the pictures drawn by extremists do indeed resemble things as they are to some extent, but only in that remote and fanciful way in which a cloud resembles a weasel or a whale.
W. H. MALLOCK.
REVOLUTIONIZING THE REVENUE SYSTEM.
MANY persons doubtless believe that the issues involved in the effort to force the Mills Bill through the House of Representatives are simply the questions of the surplus and the tariff. Nothing could be more remote from the truth.
Important to the labor and enterprise of the country as would be the correction of the inequalities of the tariff, and dangerous and demoralizing as is the influence of the collection of revenue in excess of the requirements of an economic administration of the government, the tariff and surplus are but incidental points in the pending controversy. This fact is shown by the readiness with which the managers of the bill have modified proposed rates of duty in exchange for the promise of votes for the measure. The issue tendered the advocates of national development by the President, Mr. Speaker Carlisle, and the junto who, by the speaker's favor, were enabled to usurp the functions of the Committee on Ways and Means, and exclude from its deliberations five of its members, involves a revolution in the revenue system of the country. Its purpose is more farreaching than was the demand to which Mr. Clay and his followers were constrained by fear of civil war to yield in 1832. The surrender of the protective tariffs of 1824 and 1828 appeased the embattled fire-eaters of that day; but the cabal who determined the character of the pending bill, and who hope to procure its adoption by a distribution of the honors and emoluments of the government more audacious than has been witnessed since Jackson's administration illustrated the doctrine that "to the victors belong the spoils," would not be satisfied by the reduction to a revenue standard of the duties levied by the present tariff. Their purpose is to revolutionize our revenue system by substituting, as our exclusive sources of income, internal taxes and duties on commodities which we do not produce, such as tea, coffee, spices, and tropical drugs, for the system of protective