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percentage of our people, at one end of the scale, to pamper and soften themselves by luxurious living, and refuses comfort, health, leisure to a considerable percentage at the other end of the scale, is not a sensible division. What we should seek is efficiency in consumption, as well as in production; that is, the greatest attainable welfare for the amount of wealth consumed. Luxury consumption is inefficient consumption; the same amount of money would produce more valuable results if consumed in the form of more necessary things by more people.
The problem of the ways in which money can most efficiently be spent to forward human happiness is a matter for very careful study. But it is clear that our present methods of consumption are far from the norm. Certainly more money should be spent upon food for the undernourished, comfortable homes to replace the squalid and unhealthful tenements into which the poor are crowded, care for the sick, education for the ignorant, and public works that benefit the whole community; less money, therefore, should be allowed for fine clothes, elaborate meals, and the costlier forms of amusement. Our present system of distribution, which permits a great expenditure for needless luxuries on the one hand, while on the other hand it denies the amenities of life to others, is an inefficient and inherently unstable system. And any nation that permits such a system to perpetuate itself will, in the long run, fall behind a nation that evolves a more efficient distribution of wealth.
Here and there one may discern signs among the upper classes of a realization of this truth. An Ameri
a can financier of note recently declared that in his judgment the interest in acquiring wealth was beginning to give way, in this country, to the interest
in performing public service. Perhaps we shall witness a revival of the spirit of the Greeks of the best period, by whom, Professor Butcher says, “money lavished on personal enjoyment was counted vulgar, oriental, inhuman.” Perhaps we shall take Walt Whitman's utterance as our motto:
"I speak the pass-word primeval-I give the sign of democracy; By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their
counterpart of on the same terms."
Several distinguished Americans have recently urged "self-limitation in regard to wealth.” The wellto-do, one holds, should "take for their own use only what they require for the essentials of a civilized life, and regard the rest as a deposit for the general good.” Another, writing in the Atlantic Monthly a “Word to the Rich,” urges them to spend their fortunes during their life-time in good works. “The strong man has reached his goal, but it is not time for resting. The day has come for him to show other men that his life and his work are henceforth for them, and not for his own gratification. He must prove that he has labored for the common good, and that he knows the rightful, wise use of his profits. ... This plan gives occupation and happiness to the giver, explains, and, if you please, atones to his fellows for his success. It blesses the receiver and the giver; it cultivates kindly relations and feelings between the lucky and the less lucky men; it takes a long step toward the making of a great, healthy nation; and what higher, more pressing duty can the citizen have than this task?"
Such instances as the following are becoming more and more frequent. The daily papers for November 29, 1920, announced that a young Bostonian had re
nounced his right to a legacy of about a million dollars left him by his father. “I refuse to accept the money," the young man declared, “because it is not mine. A system which starves thousands, while hundreds are stuffed, condemns itself. A system which leaves a sick woman helpless and offers its services to a healthy man condemns itself. It is such a system that offers me a million dollars."
Other, equally conscientious, young men and young women, instead of refusing to handle wealth bequeathed to them, or accruing to them in the form of rent, interest, or profits from industry, are maintaining a simple manner of life and spending their surplus money for social or philanthropic purposes. Others are returning the greater part of their profits to the workers on some profit-sharing plan. Others are investing their surplus in the expansion of industry, while keeping the ownership of the wealth in their name. It is a gravely puzzling question, which is the best way, the most socially desirable way, of disposing of the surplus wealth of the nation. It is clear, however, that its use for luxurious and extravagant living is not its best possible use. Surplus wealth should be used, for the most part, in ways that are socially efficient and just. The ideal of Americ: must be, not unlimited enjoyments for those who are fortunate or clever enough to command them, but a widely diffused welfare.
Our existing industrial system could easily produce enough to provide plenty of food and clothing and the other necessities of life for everybody. If it does not, it is partly because too much of its energy is consumed in producing superfluities for the well-to-do, partly because production is often purposely kept below its maximum by the owners of industry, in
order to keep prices high, and partly because the workers often fail to give their wholehearted energy to the work. The War showed that with most of the able-bodied young men drafted from industry more goods than ever could be produced. And although that feverish energy could not be permanently maintained, there is no doubt that we can all live in comfort if we utilize to the full the resources and inventions and human abilities now at our disposal.
It is possible that some people are incorrigibly lazy; but a proper system of vocational guidance and training would certainly discover for almost all men and women some work to which they would be willing to give a reasonable amount of energy. Some people, of course, are stupid; but appropriate education can make all of these useful producers except the extremely sub-normal; and these the State must look after-if for no other reason, to prevent their having children. Some people will be improvident, and fail to provide for illness and old age; a proper system of health and old-age insurance will remove this gambler's risk and protect people against misfortune. Differences in productive ability will remain, but not such as to deny to anyone a decent livelihood. There is no need of anything more than sporadic poverty and want, overwork, undernourishment, or indecent housing. It is our fault, our national crime, that these evils exist on a large scale.
The fact is, we have not yet realized our national unity. We are, in reality, one big family; the misfortune of one class is the misfortune of the nation. As Professor Leacock well says, “Every child of the nation has the right to be clothed and fed and trained irrespective of its parents' lot. . .. The ancient grudging selfishness that would not feed other peo
ples' children must be cast out. In the war time the wealthy bachelor and the spinster of advancing years took it for granted that other peoples' children should fight for them. The obligation must apply
No society is properly organized until every child that is born into it shall have an opportunity in life.”
The lot of the children is most important, for a man's whole life is commonly made or marred by his opportunities during a few years of childhood. But the lot of the adult wage-earner should also be a matter of national concern. And we should be content with nothing short of a reasonable amount of comfort-at least food enough, enough warm cloth
ing, and a decent home, for every citizen of America.
E. T. Devine, Misery and its Causes.
Riches. C. B. Spahr, The Present Distribution of Wealth in the United
States. P. L. Haworth, America in Ferment, Chapter IX. W. Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis, Chapters