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One has often tried to get some account of a battle or of a campaign from a private soldier, but always without success. He knows only marchings and counter-marchings, knows that one night he lay behind a hill and that the next morning his regiment charged over a plain. This is all. Any student of history knows more of battles than the soldiers who were there, who are not students of history.
Thus, in the turmoil of party politics, in the midst of the struggles of Conservative and Liberal, Republican and Democrat, N. P. and "grit," we here at least may be tranquil, but observant. The onlookers see most of the game.
This then is the rôle of economic science in the study of practical problems, it is to give a man that sane and allround view which our dual system of party government tends to prevent him from having; it is to show a man that the result of his action is at the best uncertain, but that in proportion as step by step he reasons rightly and comprehensively, he is the more likely to bring his action to good issues. The study of economics makes a man modest, would make even a politician modest. For it brings him into the presence of the vast social and material forces with which in any action on the large scale he has to reckon. It makes him realize how complex are the issues of life, how numerous the cross-currents, how many forces may conspire to defeat his best aims.
And now, in this attitude of theoretically the most perfect independence, the most absolute indifference to the immediate or remote results, the uttermost absence of what the world calls "sentiment," let us regard the problems of poverty.
The first question we must ask about poverty is-What is the meaning of the word? The dictionary does not help us much, though it gives us a number of synonyms. While every one has a general idea of what is meant by the expres sion, we should find considerable difference in ideas as to what constitutes poverty. If our scientific method is to
avail us at all, it must first offer us the means of obtaining a more definite idea of the range and meaning of poverty than is offered to us in the language of every-day life. It must provide us with some gauge for determining the degree of poverty and with some method by which we may discover where poverty comes in in the general scheme of things and what brings it there.
Like all early inquiries, the early inquiries into poverty regarded it as an isolated fact which might be considered apart from the other facts of life, and described it as a disease due to one or two specific causes, and capable of being dealt with by one or two specific remedies.
But just as the study of physiology,-the study of the normal action of the functions of the organism preceded pathology, the study of the morbid action of the organs, so the scientific study of diseases of the social organism-social pathology we may call it was necessarily preceded by study of the normal action of the economic functions. It was necessary for us to have the study of the wealth of nations before we could have the study of the poverty of nations.
Technically the study of wealth is in the departments of production and distribution-the study of poverty is in the department of consumption.* Poverty is unsatisfied need.. The need is there, the resources to satisfy it are not there.
Poverty is thus the condition of those who live at a low level, whose food, clothing and shelter are relatively inadequate-relatively inadequate-for if they were absolutely inadequate, those who found themselves in that condition would perish-inadequate relatively to the resources and consumption of those who are living at a higher level.
Poverty is simply the shady side of life, and we cannot understand that unless we understand what life is and how it is now being lived by the people. We must, therefore,
*While inadequate production or a defective system of distribution may pro. duce poverty, neither will determine the depth and range of it.
look upon the study of poverty as being part of a large whole. This is the central idea of the modern study of poverty. It. is a part of the study of the economic life of the people as a whole.
The methods that are now being employed in the study of poverty are simply the methods by which other sciences than economics have succeeded in enlarging the domain of knowledge, viz., observation, induction and deduction. The same order of skill with which beasts, birds, fishes and insects have been classified and arranged is at last being. brought to bear upon mankind. It is beginning to be possible to understand ourselves.
This orderly scientific method is rather the outcome of the general movement than the offspring of a single investigator. It has, indeed, not sprung into existence in a moment; but is rather a development, many workers having been devoting themselves to a close and systematic study of economic life, some of them even without being aware of the importance of the work they were doing.
I desire to suggest the need of adequate coördination of the results of such inquiries, rather than to make a premature attempt at coördination. It seems essential that the order of facts whose interpretation is desired should be widely understood. This order of facts may perhaps be most effectually gathered from an account of two different but parallel investigations.
One of the leaders in the new method of the study of society was Frederic Le Play, who, in 1829, began the series of family monographs which has been carried on by his disciples over the period of sixty-four years that has elapsed since then. It is not my purpose to give an exhaustive account of the method of Le Play. I shall endeavor merely to indicate so much of it as may suffice to show its place in the study of the problem of poverty.
The chief feature in the method of Le Play is the comprehensiveness and minuteness of its view of social life.
takes as its starting point the idea that the unit of society is the family, and that the plexus of social forces can only be inductively studied by means of microscopic observation of a great number of these units. The family, then, must be examined in detail with scrupulous care, and its environment, heredity and characteristics exhaustively catalogued.
Thus, the three chief heads under which the investigation must be carried on are these:
1. The external condition of the family.
2. The status of the family, with its record of heredity. 3. The means and mode of existence of the family It is the business of the observer to note:
1. THE EXTERNAL CONDITION OF THE FAMILY.
The Place of Habitation.-The features of the district; the municipal government; the provision of open spaces; means of transit; the physical characters of the district; climate and natural resources.
The Chief Industries.-The mode in which these are organized-domestic or capitalistic; exportation and importation from the district; mode of land ownership; division of property; state of commercial property; number of population, and trades of these.
2. CIVIL STATE OF THE FAMILY.
Constitution of the Family.-Names and places of birth and death of members of the family.
Religion and Moral Habits.-Religious belief of the family and of the population in general; influence of the clergy; details of religious practices; private observances; domestic worship; public worship; sacred images; ceremonies at marriage, birth and death.
Domestic Virtues.-Attachment between homes; influence accorded to the wife in domestic affairs; deference accorded to aged parents-measures taken to secure for them
a happy old age; remembrance of dead parents; affection to offspring-measures taken for their development, moral and intellectual; treatment of domestics and animals.
Social Virtues.-Charity; devotion; disposition to hospitality; spirit of conciliation in dispute; politeness and harmony in social relations; guild relations, friendly societies, corporations, trade unions; deference and attachment of family to employer; relations with devotees of other religions; toleration.
Moral Habits Relative to Mode of Existence.-Inclination to own property in house, furniture and in clothes; tendency to simplicity; temperance in food and drink; inclination to save; terms of investment of saved capital; mode of transmission of property to the period of old age and of death; tendency to remain in place of habitation or to emigrate temporarily or permanently.
Principal Traits Characterizing Intellectual Development.Knowledge communicated by primary instruction and by religious instruction; special facts relative to the education of children; the relation of the exercise of their trade to intellectual development; use of museums in this connection; attachment to tradition, or tendency to innovations in methods of labor; relation of workmen to masters; the attitude of the family to civil and political institutions.
Hygiene. The habitual state of health of the family; practices of ablution; cleanliness or otherwise of clothes and houses.
Medical Service.-Aptitude or ignorance of head of family or of the wife to administer medical relief or to act as nurse; superstitious or archaic practices or theories regarding care of health; care of health of children by parents; infant insurance, bearing upon health and life of children.
Rank of Family.-Relations of family with other families of employers or workmen in same locality; conception of status of family by itself; relation to strangers; sociability or otherwise of family.