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One of the striking results of the census investigation of mortgage debt is the discovery of its geographical concentration. Considerably more than half of the mortgage debt of the United States incumbers the real estate of Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the great urban and industrial States of the Union, and in each of these States there is a geographical concentration. In New York, for instance, seventy-eight per cent of the debt is in the six counties containing the cities of Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York, Rochester and Syracuse, and the mortgage debt of these counties is more than one-fifth of the mortgage debt of the nation. Eighteen counties in various States owe about two-fifths of the entire debt. The real estate mortgage debt of New York City is more than twice as great as the debt of the same sort in the entire South, and must be nearly as great as the South's entire real estate, crop and chattel mortgage debt combined.
Considerable analysis is required before the meaning of mortgage debt can be fairly understood. It is not enough to have numbers so incomprehensibly large, when viewed alone, that they are appalling. An acquaintance must be had with the individual debtors and their circumstances. In comparing two such really unlike States as New York and Kansas, for example, points must be touched and explanations sought outside of statistics. New York has a per capita mortgage debt of $268; Kansas, $170-both large amounts. In both States the capacity of the real estate to bear debt is tested to a high degree, namely, forty per cent in Kansas and 37.59 per cent in New York, if Mayor Gilroy's estimate of the value of the taxed real estate of New York City is accepted; and in both States most of the debt had its immediate origin in the purchase of real estate and the erection of buildings.
In New York forty per cent of the taxed acres were under mortgage in 1890, and in Kansas sixty per cent, both percentages being above the average for the United
States. Notwithstanding these facts, we know that these States are characterized by diverse circumstances. Kansas is a comparatively new and poor country, whose inhabitants have needed to go outside of the State for much of their capital. Speculation in land values has been rife; agriculture and stock raising are the chief occupations of the people and urban development has merely begun. A year or so of crop failure or of low prices for live stock and farm produce, and a reaction from speculative prices of land, especially when it consists of unimproved town lots, has a trying effect on the interest-paying ability of a large proportion of the mortgage debtors. New York, on the other hand, is a State of cities, of trade and manufactures, of abundant capital, with savings and resources enough to tide over financial depressions without touching mortgage debtors to the quick, in such numbers as to raise any great and general outcry. In this State eighty-six per cent of the mortgage debt incumbers lots, and not all of the remaining fourteen per cent of the debt is on farms. In Kansas only twenty-eight per cent of the entire mortgage debt is on lots. New York has carried its enormous mortgage debt apparently without feeling its weight, because salaries, wages and business are not so sensitive to the interest charge as agriculture and non-productive town lots are; and for the same reason, under reversed circumstances, Kansas has been the more sensitive of the two.
In a comparison of the South with the North, the former region has been superficially regarded as being in more fortunate circumstances. With its population of nearly twenty millions, it has a real estate mortgage debt that is hardly more than five-eighths of the mortgage debt of New York City, or less than double the mortgage debt of Illinois, or of Massachusetts. One of the reasons for this is the fact that Southern agricultural land is not readily mortgageable; crops and personal property are preferred as security. Other reasons are, that the towns are comparatively small, that real estate values are low, that enterprise is not active and
general, and that manufactures and business have not assumed the proportions that they have assumed in the North relative to population.
Here is palpable evidence that real estate mortgages are indicative of prosperity, although, at the same time, they may be indicative of a concentration of wealth. But, under the tendency of mortgage debt to increase faster than real estate values do, this prosperity is a substitute for what should be a more substantial prosperity growing out of a better distribution of wealth, tending to be still better. This qualification of the prosperity of mortgage debtors is the menace of the future. While, as individuals, they have improved their condition by entering into debt; as a class, they may be regarded as exhibiting an increasing necessity of debt burden in order that improvement of condition may be made. GEORGE K. HOLMES.
Washington, D. C.
THE FAILURE OF BIOLOGIC SOCIOLOGY.
In his latest book* Mr. Ward illustrates at once the strength and weakness of the class of writers to which he belongs. Judged by the standards this class would accept, he is particularly strong. Viewed by an outsider, his arguments seem weak and inconclusive. His chains of reasoning break of their own weight when not buoyed up by the sympathies of the reader. A detailed criticism of the conclusions arrived at in such a work would be of little value unless undertaken by one in complete sympathy with the standpoint and method of the author. A criticism, however, aimed rather at general tendencies than at particular conclusions, and which will treat the book as representative of the class of literature to which it belongs, may be not without interest even though from the pen of one whose views are in many respects opposed to those held by Mr. Ward. The following review is designed to contrast what I may call the economic and the biologic concepts of social phenomena. It seems fair to regard Mr. Ward's book as a development of the biologic concept; but I shall not feel bound to confine myself to his work in emphasizing the contrast which I have in mind.
In the development of the social sciences the paradoxical has played an important rôle. One might suppose that the scientific world would have marked out a particular field for the social sciences; that work would have begun in all parts of this field simultaneously, and that these parts would have been kept well co-ordinated from the start. Perhaps this method would have been pursued if the science had originated a century later when the idea of the universal reign of law was generally accepted. As it was, however,
"The Psychic Factors of Civilization," BY LESTER F. WARD. Pp. 370. Boston: Ginn & Co., 1893.
only a small section of social science was at first investigated in a scientific spirit while other portions of social phenomena were gradually added to this existing science at later periods. With each addition the concept of this growing science changed until at length it practically covered the whole realm of social science. To this historic science has been given the name political economy, and the persons whose attitude toward social questions is determined by its study have been called economists. Every one admits that these names are defective, and many unsuccessful attempts have been made to coin other terms which would make the name of the science correspond more nearly to the phenomena investigated. About 1830, when the economists had already mastered a good portion of this field, a new and abstract classification of the sciences was devised by Comte, and the name "sociology" given to the science of social phenomena. The opposition to "economists" was at this time very marked, and those who were dissatisfied with the methods and results of economics rallied around this new name and endeavored to create a science whose scope would be broad enough to include all social phenomena, and whose results would harmonize more fully than did those of the economists with the historical and inductive spirit of the age. The new movement, however, was not productive of results. Thus we have come to have in political economy a science without a name, and in sociology a name without a science, both claiming to occupy the same general field. The economists refuse to recognize a name which is associated in their minds with wrong methods and untenable conclusions, while every opponent of the economists, stimulated by the word "sociology," seizes upon stray phenomena and from them derives far-reaching laws, imagines that he has discovered a new science, and proceeds to disposess the "squatter" economists who have so long held the field without legal title.
The opposition between these two schools of social science is emphasized by different concepts of psychic phenomena.