This section is from the "Economics In Two Volumes: Volume I. Economic Principles" book, by Frank A. Fetter. Also available from Amazon: Economic
§ 1. Consumptive and non-consumptive uses of goods. § 2. Direct uses, consumptive and durative. § 3. Indirect uses, consumptive and dura-tive. § 4. The single consumptive use. § 5. No economic goods absolutely durable. § 6. Inevitable depreciation. § 7. Using up of agricultural land. § 8. Artificial durability of agricultural land. § 9. Varying rates of depreciation of machinery. § 10. Repair of tools and machinery. § 11. Economy of repairs. § 12. Production as betterment and repair of nature.
§ 1. Consumptive and non-consumptive uses of goods.
We have in the last two chapters considered two essential aspects that every use of a good exhibits. We have seen that every use is more or less direct or indirect (roundabout), according as the good acts directly upon the person using it or indirectly transmits its effect through some other good; this is the technical relation of uses (and of goods) to desires. We have seen next, that a use may be either present or future in varying degrees (and in either case may be valued); this is the time-relation of uses to desires. We now come to the consideration of yet another aspect of use, namely, the effect that the use has upon the duration of the object yielding the use (called the use-bearer). This may be termed the duration-relation of goods to desires. The apple is eaten and gone; the picture continues for years to impart beauty to the room. The lemonade quenches thirst once, the glass in which it is served may be used many times. The use that destroys the good (or its possibilities of further use) is a consumptive use. Coal is consumed and becomes ashes, smoke, and gas, as it is burnt to create heat for comfort, for cooking, and for steam-power. The white gloves are consumed when they become soiled (unless they can be cleaned). There is, of course no physical annihilation of matter in any of these cases but merely a change in the qualities that relate the good to desires. The essential test of economic consumption lies in the effect that use has in unfitting the use-bearer for the rendering of subsequent uses.
In contrast with the thought of consumption of a use-bearer is the thought of its duration. In contrast with the consumptive use, which uses up the use-bearer, is the durative use which leaves the use-bearer more or less capable of rendering subsequent uses. These ideas are abundantly illustrated in what follows.
§ 2. Direct uses, consumptive and durative. Direct goods that are momentary gratifiers, yielding only a single use, and being destroyed in the using, are represented by multitudes of consumable foods and drinks in cellars and in pantries, on tables, in restaurants, hotels, and saloons; by matches, candles, oil, gas for lighting, fuel for heating houses; by cigars, fireworks, and many other things which appeal directly to the senses. The use of these things when it occurs unites the three qualities; it is direct, it is present, it is consumptive.
A dwelling is an example of a good for direct use which is durable and gives off throughout a period of time a series of direct uses. The durability of houses is not absolute or uniform, but is more or less, varying from the Indian tepee to the marble or granite palace that will stand for centuries. Houses are subject to wear and tear, and thus undergo a slow consumption, but this, with care, is so slight that it often is less than the deterioration from disuse. The supply of housing, while insufficient for some classes of our population, is to-day enormous - winter houses and summer houses, city and suburban, private houses and hotels, churches and theaters. All are more or less durable, and are direct goods, excepting as the owners use them in business as a source of rent or of profit. Every durable agent, of course, contains future as well as present uses. That is the essence of the idea of dura-tiveness. Direct, present, and durable (in a degree) are also furniture, pianos, organs, and musical instruments of every kind, carriages and horses, bicycles, automobiles, boats, and many other material agents used for enjoyment. Especially good examples of this class of goods are those whose appeal is to the eye - pictures, statuary, and other contents of private and of public museums. Very similar in this regard are all grounds with improvements used for residence purposes, all yards, trees, lawns, playgrounds, public parks and reserves for sightseers such as the Yosemite Valley, Yellowstone Park, and Niagara Falls, and mountains covered with forests held for private or public pleasure in hunting, fishing, and camping. Nearly all the material equipment used in education is marked by this grouping of qualities, as well the school grounds as the school books, libraries, furniture, and apparatus for illustration and instruction. Among the most lasting of the goods which man has shaped by his action are great engineering works - railroad tunnels, bridges, aqueducts, roadways, canals between rivers, lakes, and oceans (Panama, Suez, etc.). These, so far as they are used by passengers, are giving direct uses. Ornaments and other goods made of the precious metals are among the most durable of the direct goods man possesses. Other kinds of ornament, such as feathers, laces, and ordinary clothing, while less durable than most of the foregoing examples, share the quality of durability in a degree and with care may be made to yield very lengthened series of uses.
*If degrees of directness are represented as ranging from a to d (as in Figure 18) then degrees of durativeness may be represented as ranging from 1 to 4 (4 being the consumptive use). These qualities thus are in two dimensions; for example, the use of a marble statue might be called a1, that of a tent a3, that of a match for lighting a blast furnace d , etc.
§ 3. Indirect uses, consumptive and durative. We turn now to illustrations of indirect uses which are consumptive or durative in varying degrees (and, of course, either present or future). Many of the objects that yield indirect uses yield at the same time direct ones; indeed, this is the rule rather than the exception. Other examples of consumptive goods used indirectly are: the oil giving light in the factory, the ice in the refrigerator. These are present uses and are also capable of direct use. The oil in a tank, and the ice in the icehouse contain future consumptive uses. A dynamo producing electricity is yielding a present durative use and, as it is capable of continuing to yield similar uses, it contains also future durative uses. Further examples are most tools, implements, and machines, and all houses, lands, engineering works, and all transportation agencies that are used both directly for passenger service, and indirectly in carrying freight.