This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
These, in the economic view, may have value, and so may be produced, exchanged, distributed, and consumed. The reward they receive, the price they bring, is in no sense due to them in their own right, because they are true, beautiful, or good; but arises legitimately out of the desires they gratify, and the labor they cost. It is the appreciation of a service rendered. That reward will vary in form and degree, at every state of society. The wandering Homer was content with the most simple hospitality. The modern man of letters has his rooms, his club, his carriage, his opera, paid for perhaps out of very mild criticisms on the blind bard of Greece. There is not a real scholar of the present day who would not work ten years in the mines, to hear Homer recite the parting of Hector and Andromache. So differently is the same service counted in different ages. Cicero, long before he reached the height of his fame, had received, by will, £170,000, as a tribute to his genius. The younger Pliny was loaded with wealth by his admirers. The laureate of England drinks to the royal bounty in royal wine. Blackstone's legal profits did not permit his marriage till his thirty-eighth year. A popular novel or sketch-book to-day earns a fortune.
Thus it is that learning and art enter into wealth. While their rewards are uncertain, and apparently wayward, they have yet, from the mythic days, had a place with the most •substantial industries. Whatever may be true of the quality of such productions, the amount of labor bestowed on them obeys strictly the same laws of supply and demand which govern the growth of cotton or wheat. Economical science has no occasion to take them out of the same category. When one man gives his efforts to any work of this character, and finds one other who has a desire for it, that work begins to have value, comes hereby into the domain of political economy, and must submit to its principles. Milton, chaffering for the price of "Paradise Lost," forms no royal exception to the sovereignty of the empire he has entered.
What is the character and effect of such consumption? This is a question doubly interesting, having an importance to general scholarship, as well as to our immediate science. Of course, learning and art have not necessarily to establish an economic usefulness, in order to justify their pursuit. In their own names, they have sovereignty, and claim homage. But there is an economic relation which we cannot overlook, and which must affect, somewhat, the place which they shall be accorded in the world. In brief, their effect upon industry may be defined as follows: So far as they give dignity to human aspirations, furnish new objects to human desires, enlarge ambition, develop the useful sciences, and suggest the application of new powers, as the telegraph, the locomotive, and the magnet; so far as they unite and harmonize social and political divisions, — they are of inestimable value; and such consumption of wealth as rewards and encourages them is seed thrown into a soil more grateful than any land of fable or story. But so far as learning or art tend to produce that unmanly sentimentalism which shrinks from dirty details, present duty, and simple fact; that mawkish cosmopolitanism, moral or political indifference, which weakens each nationality, without promoting the union of all; that softening of the mental fibre, that dissolution of the will, which makes man the slave of his circumstances, and even of his fellows; and, worst of all, that selfish fastidiousness which shuts itself in from human activities and social alliances, to dwell in dreams and idle imaginations, whether of philosophy or art, — why, in so far, we must call such an employment of time and labor, not merely unprofitable, but mischievous, consumption.