This brings us to one of the means of judging of overpopulation - the wages of labor. In undersaturated countries, like America, the demand is great and laborers few, and by the law of supply and demand the wages are high. As the laborers increase in number and fill the demand, the wages diminish, so that in the most overpopulated countries men will work almost for their keep, and in China and India the overpopulation is so great that work is not available, and men devote their lives to the most trivial and childish of occupations to make enough money to buy food. Of course, the worst overpopulation is found where the people are of so little intelligence that they are inefficient workmen. They accomplish little and must expect little. The Filipino mechanics receive twenty cents a day when wages are very high, and for the amount they accomplish they are overpaid. Economists have studied the stupid laborers of Europe and found that though they receive but a fraction of the wages of an American, they are overpaid for the amount of work they accomplish. They cannot utilize machinery by means of which an intelligent man can do so much. The Chinese shoemaker labors over a pair of shoes for many days, and in the end gets less for the shoes than an American receives, but he gets more for his work than the American workmen in shoe factories who accomplishes as much in a few minutes.
In Germany, the same conditions exist among the home workers (heimarbeiter). Whole families, including the little children, work from ten to sixteen hours a day, making toys, and receive but one or two cents an hour. At other places, harmonicas are made; at others, corsets, and so on throughout a long list of industries - some hundreds of thousands of children helping their parents secure enough food to keep body and soul together. No wonder there is such an exodus to less saturated countries. Our sweatshops are the only places where similar conditions prevail.
Petty economies are often an index of the severity of the struggle for existence due to overpopulation. We have all read of the wonderful economies of the Chinese, who save every scrap of food and fuel, and everything which can be put to use. In France saving is also a national characteristic. Writers are continually enlarging upon the strict economy and good housekeeping of the French, where nothing goes to waste. In Austria, it is the same. It is said that in the government offices, the necessary economies are actually painful. Every envelope is carefully slit open and used as we use scratch pads, and hundreds of other illustrations might be given. Wasteful methods and extravagances are characteristics of a new country, where population is scarce and food plenty. We cannot understand European economies, but it will not be long before we will, and painfully, too.
Another method of estimating overcrowding is the cheapness of life - but here again low intelligence steps in and lowers its value. In China a life is not worth saving, and death is desired by many; indeed, men will die for a fee to be given to the family. The railroad to Pekin had to stop the payments to families of victims of accidents because so many were committing suicide by purposely "sleeping" on the tracks. In the Philippines life is so cheap that death does not make the slightest impression after the funeral is over. In Pekin every cold morning the carts gather up the dead bodies of beggars, who have died of cold and starvation over night, and it is said the city harbors 80,000 of these wretches. We often wonder why the killing of Chinese soldiers was so quickly forgotten - it made no impression. A million Chinese could be killed and the loss would not be felt in that sodden, gelatinous, inelastic mass - indeed, the Empire would be benefited. Safety for foreigners can only be obtained by an ever-present force. Chinamen are cheaper than beasts of burden and cost less to feed, and are even far cheaper than engines.
No better illustration of the cheapness of human life can be imagined than our method of investigating disease. The United States Government spends untold thousands every year in official investigations of the diseases of domestic animals, but will scarcely recognize work in human diseases. When extermination threatened the cattle in South Africa, the English Government offered *10,000 sterling to a scientist to investigate the matter and propose a remedy, but when "sleeping sickness" began to kill the natives by the hundred thousands, not one penny was appropriated* It might be put even stronger yet, for Anglo-Saxon democratic governments oppose any appropriation of public funds for the investigation of human pathology. Life is too cheap to waste money this way - if people die, there are that many more positions to be filled by the unemployed, and there are plenty of babies growing up to fill the places. But when cattle die it is a serious matter. In a peasant family, it is a far greater disaster to lose the pig than to lose the baby.
The history of slavery is a ghastly proof of the cheapness of human life in ancient times. After we ceased to kill all those vanquished in war we sold them as slaves, and the market was always overstocked. "After Lucullus plundered Pontus, a slave brought only four drachmae or perhaps seventy cents."* "Having all Asia Minor to draw upon for labour, they [the Romans in Sicily] deliberately starved and overworked their field-hands [slaves], since it was cheaper to buy others."*¡ Relatively, ancient overpopulation was worse than now, for no such conditions are possible in modern civilization.