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CHAPTER VII

THE UNCONSUMED SURPLUS AND WHAT IT MEANS IN THE WORLD

UNDER the present form of industry, which we call the Capitalist System, let us say that a man makes daily in a factory the equivalent of four pairs of shoes. He gets paid in wages $2. But the shoes are worth $8 in the factory. The consumer that finally buys and wears them will probably have to pay $4 or $5 a pair for them. “But we need not go so far as that.

The worker with his $2 in wages can buy back and consume only $2 worth of commodities. That leaves $6 worth of wealth in the form of shoes, hats, stoves or whatever the product may be, for the capitalist, the owner of the factory. The capitalist deducts the cost of his raw material, rent and other expenses and still has left a profit in the form of product. The amount of this profit varies in different industries, but its existence must be assured, under the present system, if the enterprise is to continue; for our entire industrial organization as it is constituted to-day is based upon the assurance of profit.

But the owner of the factory has only one pair of feet, one head and in numbers he is comparatively few. He has only one body to clothe, one stomach to feed. With his best efforts he is unable, as an individual or as a class, to consume all the wealth that is created for him by other men's labor. Labor would be able to consume its own product, but is not allowed to because the wages of labor permit it to buy back only a fraction.

So we have what is known to economists as the Unconsumed Surplus. Every year all the countries of the world that are by some mistake called “civilized,” produce in various forms of wealth more than they consume.

To get rid of this unconsumed surplus is the problem of industry to-day.

There would be one sensible, obvious and reasonable method of getting rid of it, namely to pay the workers that have produced it enough in wages and salaries to enable them to buy back their own product, in other words to increase the purchasing power of the working class. But the masters of industry of the country, the “managerial brains” by whose wisdom we set so much store, appear never to have thought of so simple a solution as that.

So manufacturers and merchants continue their present futile efforts to get rid of their surplus stocks by “making business better.” That is, they attempt, by one childish device after another, to compel the small percentage of the population that has purchasing power to buy things that they do not need.

To this worthy end are employed a vast army of advertising experts and salesmanship specialists. An appalling sum of human effort and intelligence is perverted from legitimate channels of activity and is prostituted to the service of designing and forcing upon the market continual changes in “fashion.”

Though no form of human product escapes it the most obvious manifestation, perhaps, of this species of insanity is apparent in woman's wearing apparel, for the reason that the idle rich woman has more per capita spending power than any other class and that her desires have not evolved beyond the primitive demands supplied by endless variations in the decking of her own person.

We have therefore one ridiculous fashion in April, another in May. One monstrous absurdity assaults our vision in January, another

once

in February. We no sooner accustom our eyes to womankind tied in around the ankles than they suddenly balloon out at the base. We train ourselves to regard with philosophical equanimity hats perched at a precarious angle on the top of the head when suddenly, as with a flail, all high hats are swept from the landscape and feminine headgear is more jammed bucket-wise over forehead and eyes.

Season after season the unsophisticated public is treated to the same delighted announcements of the fashion mongers that whereas last year collars were high, this year they will be low, that last season's skirts were wide at the bottom, but this year they must be wide at the top. The fashion venders, the commercial insiders, bear these tidings without shock. Naturally. What else would you expect?

Blame the folly of womankind? That is the easy and superficial thing to do. Meanwhile just how strong-minded must an individual woman needs be to dress in one fashion while her world dresses in another? Are you not yourself ready to ridicule and call “ queer” the slightest deviation from the prevailing standard? If you think the responsibility for the silliness of fashion lies in the vanity of woman,

or man.

suppose, Mr. Superior-minded Philosopher, you try arraying yourself this season in that perfectly good straw hat and pair of pointed shoes that you set away a few years ago. Or why not bring out that bicycle which you once found both useful and enjoyable and which is still practically as serviceable as ever?

The responsibility lies not in the folly' of individual woman

The responsibility, lies in a social and industrial system which is deliberately designed to compel its members to buy things that they do not need. If they did not do this our whole industrial and commercial organization, as at present constituted, would fall to the ground with a crash. Against this system the individual is helpless.

Under the present organization of Society a vast majority of the population is unable to buy more than the barest necessities of life. Great masses are unable to buy even these. If the small minority that possesses purchasing power was not practically forced to buy more than it really wanted or needed, our whole present system of industry would fail. And in spite of what may be called the desperate efforts of manufacturers and merchants and their hired talent to compel ever quicker and more reckless changes of fashion signs are not want

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