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ELEMENTS OF ECONOMICS

THE ELEMENTS OF ECONOMICS

CHAPTER I

THE NATURE OF ECONOMICS

Economics treats of man in his relation to wealth. It tells how men make a living and how they may make a better living. It is concerned with the production of wealth, how wealth is divided among the various members of the community, and, how wealth is used. It has also to do with plans for a larger production of goods, a more equitable distribution, and a more rational and more economic consumption.

Not many years ago the subject was called Political Economy. Some authors still prefer this title, but Economics is the more appropriate term, inasmuch as many subjects discussed in economics are not at all political.

The Social Point of View.—Most people consider their own economic well-being as of first importance. This is natural. The economist, however, looks at all things from the social point of view, that is, “the greatest good to the greatest number.” The individual economic interest is often opposed to the social interest. For example, a few years ago the Louisiana State Lottery was a profitable enterprise for a small group of men. Its operations were

opposed to the economic interests of a majority of the people of Louisiana and of the nation and to the moral interests of all. The State of Louisiana, in refusing to permit the company to continue in business, rendered an economic as well as a social service. Then, again, the owners of a cotton-mill might benefit by employing child labor, but the public would not benefit. Economic Dependence upon Others.-In earlier times every family was, to a large extent, independent of every other family. It produced its own food, made its own clothing, and lived in its own house supplied with water from its own well and lighted with candles made from the tallow of its own sheep. Such was the condition in America during colonial times. Now all is changed. No one is economically independent. Each of us renders some service or produces some commodity for others and receives payment in money with which to purchase the goods we need. Recently a popular magazine showed, even for a simple meal, our dependence upon others: “The pepper came from ten thousand miles away. It grew on a little bush about eight feet high, which must have had a growth of at least five years. The pepper was picked green, it had to be dried in the sun, and this meant employing women. It took one ship and a thousand miles of railroad to bring the pepper to the United States. The tea on the table came from China and the coffee from South America. The codfish had to be brought from Maine. Men had to be employed to catch the fish; other men and women were employed in drying, packing, and boxing it, and it, too, had to make a long railroad journey. The flour of which the bread was made was grown in

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