« PreviousContinue »
and profit by the successes of those who have preceded us. Since the economic life of man is closely related to his other activities, sociology is helpful to the student of economics. For convenience in treatment, economics is divided into three sections: (1) The consumption of wealth, (2) the production of wealth, (3) the distribution of wealth. Each section is closely related to the others. Some economists prefer to begin the discussion of our science with the production of wealth; others with the consumption of wealth. Many motives impel men to work. Among the more important are self-interest, the desire for social esteem, the pleasure that comes from being employed, the instinct for association, and the desire to help others.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION, DEBATE, AND SPECIAL REPORTS
1. What is a science? Is economics less of a science than mathematics? How do the social sciences differ from the physical sciences? 2. Give some illustrations of the conflict between individual and social interests. 3. Show how you are dependent upon others for the materials used in your classroom. How many men do you suppose contributed toward making your classroom what it is? 4. We have mentioned in the text five motives which impel men to work. See if you can find any other motives which influence Some men. 5. Which motive do you think is the most important? Do the same motives appeal in the same proportion to a lawyer and a teacher? To a farmer and a clergyman? To a missionary and a pawnbroker? 6. Professor F. A. Fetter of Princeton University speaks of men
being influenced to work by their desire to serve the public. Their reward is largely in “their own consciousness of duty well performed.” This reward he calls “psychic income.” Give an illustration of psychic income that has come to some persons in your community. What psychic income have you received?
7. Some economists say that society is an organism. Others prefer to say that society is like an organism. Which expression do you prefer? Why?
SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERN ECONOMIC
Private Property.—In modern times most property is owned by private persons. People care for the things which they can call their own. A man who owns his own home has a pride in its possession. He has a personal interest in his city and in the street on which he lives. This makes for good citizenship. Private property exists because it is to the interest of most people that it should exist. - Private Enterprise.—As with property so industry is chiefly in private hands. Agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, professional services, and banking are as a rule private enterprises. In some foreign countries the State owns and operates the railroads, engages in the banking business, manufactures and sells certain goods, but even in these countries most industries are privately owned and operated.
Though private property and private industry are the rule, there is everywhere a certain amount of public control. For example, corporations, before they can do business, must meet the conditions prescribed by law. Factories must be run in accordance with the sanitary code and the legal requirements of labor. Rates charged by public-service corporations must not exceed legal rates. Food products must be clean and properly labelled. Nuisances and illegal business are forbidden. Certain professions like medicine, dentistry, and law cannot be practised unless a state examination be passed. Such regulations are in the interest of private persons, who would otherwise be unable to protect themselves against dishonest and grasping employers or incompetent professional men. Inheritance.—Closely associated with the right of owning property is the right of disposing of property. During the life of the owner there is no restriction in his power to sell his property, except that in most states a married man cannot sell land without his wife's consent. However, his power to dispose of property after death is limited by all states. The law prescribes how wills must be made and makes provision in regard to the disposition of property in the absence of a will. In most states a man cannot disinherit his wife, and his minor children have rights that must not be ignored. In America, unlike England, land must not be left in entail, as it is called, if a will prescribes that an estate shall pass to a certain class of heirs, like the eldest sons, through all future time. Wested Rights.-Wested interests are rights which cannot be disturbed unless the owners of these interests receive compensation. They usually exist in property or contract. Wested rights were everywhere in evidence in feudal times, extending even to offices. Professor R. T. Ely gives several survivals of mediaeval vested rights: “Leeds was compelled by a feudal arrangement to grind its corn, grain, and meal at the lord’s mill till well on in the last century, and finally had to pay £13,000 to terminate these obligations ! When Prussia bought the railroads, the railway presidents were indemnified for the loss of their positions by large payments; in other words, their offices were looked upon as vested interests. England is the classic land of vested interests. An office in the army was until recently looked upon as such, and so was an appointment in the established church.” In the United States vested interests have never played so important a part as in Europe, doubtless because America never passed through a feudal régime. When the XVIIIth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States deprived them of the value of much of their property without compensation, the distillers and brewers advanced the claim that their vested rights were violated. However, the claim was not allowed. Street railroad companies in their competition with motor busses have sometimes been regarded as possessing vested interests which protect them. Division of Labor and Exchange.—As has been said, most of us produce one commodity or part of a commodity, or render some personal service. We are paid in money and then we exchange our money for the things we want. Every one of us is dependent upon others. Even the lonely backwoodsman who gets his living by hunting and fishing is dependent upon thousands of others for his rifle, sugar, tobacco, coffee, and clothes. Freedom of Labor.—Laborers are free to move from one part of the country to another and may choose whatever employment they prefer. Under normal conditions laborers seek the most remunerative opportunities open to them. If any trade or profession is overcrowded the pay to those engaged in it will fall and the workmen will seek other employments. So on the other hand if a great demand exists for some service or commodity, the remunera