This section is from the "Economics In Two Volumes: Volume I. Economic Principles" book, by Frank A. Fetter. Also available from Amazon: Economic
§ 4. Schooling. Education in schools is a most imperfect index of training for industrial tasks. A large part of the purpose even of the elementary schooling is to fit for citizenship and for the receipt of the large psychic income possible through reading and the understanding of life about one. But one without reading, writing, and other elementary school subjects is in these days unfitted to take part in all but the simplest tasks. The percentage of illiteracy in the United States, tho still considerable, is steadily declining.
Population in the United States, 10 years of age and over.
Percentage of Illiterates
Average years of schooling
The decline in illiteracy accompanies a regular increase in the average period spent by the youth in school, which has risen from 3.4 years in 1870, and 4 years in 1S80, to 5.9 years in 1910. Still a very large number of children drop out of school very early as is indicated by these figures.
Proportion of age groups attending school
Per cent attending
Many of those that remain get no farther than the fourth grade. An average result, as follows, is indicated by the statistics: of the children entering the first grade, About 90 per cent attained the fourth grade. About 66 per cent attained the sixth grade. About 50 per cent attained the eighth grade. About 25 per cent entered High School. About 10 per cent graduated from High School. About 5 per cent entered a college, normal, technical or professional school.
§ 5. Political security and honest government. If men are to labor in the present and for the future, they must enjoy the protection of a stable and strong government. As the framers of the Constitution expressed it, the function of gov. ernment is to insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, and insure the blessings of liberty to the citizen. Directness and certainty of reward are more essential than mere size of reward in insuring action and effort. There must be a close relation between work and the fruits of work. Political insecurity weakens this relation and makes the reward dependent on the chance of escaping the highwayman and the foreign invader. For fear of this, many a nation has sacrificed some of the precious elements of liberty, and has submitted to a strong despot. This was the economic motive in the feudal system.
The prevalence of standards of honesty in private and public business is a condition for high industrial efficiency. Corruption in government has the same effect as political insecurity; in fact, it is but another form of it. We are accustomed to the thought that in an Asiatic despotism a worker beginning a task is uncertain whether he will reap the reward, as public officials may at any moment seize upon the fruits of his labor. But in our own country similar evils are not entirely lacking. Assessments often are unfair, and justice sometimes is bought. Men in high executive positions are able to make or mar the fortunes of their followers. Sometimes a legislator from a country town goes to the state capital poor and returns rich. The spoils system in politics is costly to the community, not merely because a few men successful in gaining office get paid several times as much as they are worth; it is an economic evil because it tempts many other men to give up steady work. Such examples break down the motives leading to careful preparation for regular industry. They breed the notion that wealth is more dependent • on chance or jobbery than on efficient service. Dishonesty in private business means the use of energy not to produce wealth, not to add to the sum for all to enjoy, but to get it from some one else. Public corruption and commercial dishonesty alike entail upon the industrious both immediate loss and the far greater cost of weakened character, relaxed energy, and decreased efficiency of labor.
* The diagram represents 4,367,000 children in the first grade. A very large number (more than two out of three) stay there more than a year, repeating the work. A few never get beyond this point, but all excepting about a tenth attain the fourth grade, tho some take seven or eight years to do it. Then each year several hundred thousands drop out. More than one-half of those in the eighth grade do not enter a high school (or its equivalent).
§ 6. Effect of caste upon efficiency. It may be said generally that customs and social ideals that raise or depress hope and ambition, affect efficiency. The institution called caste, which fixes the place of the worker and makes it impossible to rise out of the social position in which he is born, and disgraceful to do any work reserved to other castes, is depressing to energy. It exists in some form throughout the world, and where it is not called by that name, the same caste spirit is at work. The European peasants in the Middle Ages lived under the shadow of it. Where slavery exists the master class at times feels its hardships. "It is not so hard to live," says the hungry Creole daughter in "The Grandissimes," "but it is hard to be ladies. . . . We are compelled not to make a living. Look at me: I can cook, but I must not cook; I am skilful with the needle, but I must not take in sewing; I could keep accounts; I could nurse the sick; but I must not." Nowhere in the world is there less caste than in America, but it is here. The negro's low measure of industrial efficiency is partly the cause of so-called race feeling against him, but in the case of the more capable individuals it may be partly the effect of that feeling. To close to a capable worker all but the menial occupations is to weaken his motives for effort.
§ 7. American democracy and efficiency. Democracy has made for the efficiency of American industry much as have the great natural resources. America's rapid advance in industrial lines has been favored by her ideas and institutions.