This section is from the "Economics In Two Volumes: Volume I. Economic Principles" book, by Frank A. Fetter. Also available from Amazon: Economic
2 In 1910 there were nearly 2,000,000 children of the age-group between ten and fifteen years reported as engaged in gainful occupations in the United States, most of them in agriculture. Two-thirds of the total number were boys, those occupied being one-fourth of all boys of that age-group. In the South, however (comprising the three southern geographical divisions in the census), nearly half the boys of that age-group were in gainful occupations, while in the North only one-eighth were.
§ 7. Comparative strength of men and women. A difference in the physical strength of the sexes is found in some degree throughout the world, but it would appear to be far more marked in civilized than in savage communities. The records made at the field-games in the women's colleges are improving; but still fall far short of the men's records in any leading college: in the hundred-yard dash, thirteen seconds as against nine and a fraction; in the high jump, fifty-two inches as against six feet and over. The muscular force of American college women as tested in various gymnasiums (average of all students in college) is little more than one third that of men. The average strength of back for women is 35 per cent that of men, the average strength of legs, 41 per cent, and the average strength of right forearm, 38 per cent. This is an abnormal difference. The natural and possible strength is more nearly attained by men than by women under our social conditions. Women escape the physical toil which strengthens, but not the mental strain which kills. Men carry more of the wood, but the women not less of the worries. A fairer test is applied among peasants in field-work in France and Germany, where the strength of women is found to be about two thirds that of men. American women should do and will do more to attain their natural strength as we attain sounder ideas of education and saner modes of living. § 8. Differences in natural intelligence. Mental qualities are not easily distinguishable from physical qualities, if in the physical are included keenness of eye, quickness of nerve, and even superior judgment of materials, tools, methods, etc. Moreover, mental ability is a very complex idea. It may refer to one of the many different qualities of mind, to quickness of observation, talent for color, form, harmony, to memory or imagination, to readiness in speech, to systematic habits of thought, to power of intense and prolonged mental application, to mathematical power in various directions, to philosophical capacity, that is, a capacity to discover the more far-reaching causes of things. These qualities unite in unending combinations to produce that kaleidoscopic variety of personality which makes the world so interesting. Some men the world calls geniuses have lacked some of these qualities almost entirely. Others who in most respects are either feeble-minded or insane (called idiot savants) have shown an uncanny talent in music, or in mathematics, the very subject which is the stumbling block for many otherwise bright minds.
By this set of psychological tests the children testing "at age" or but one year above or below (accounted normal), were 77.3 per cent, of the total (of whom 35.8 per cent tested at age). Those testing two to four years above age (supernormal) were 4.2 per cent of the total. Those testing two to seven years below age (subnormal) were 18.5 per cent of the total. Some children testing subnormal are simply slow of development and, as they mature, become normal and sometimes supernormal. But on the other hand, many of the younger children testing almost normal will develop very little mentally, and at fifteen will be several years below age. This in part explains the failure of so many children to attain grades above the fourth, as shown in Figure 29, below.
Fig. 28. Binet Test in an Elementary School.
Each of these natural mental traits has its peculiar part in fitting the man for some kind of work, and the absence or weakness of any one of them increases the difficulty of qualifying as an efficient worker in some occupations. Native intelligence shortens the time needed for preparation in any calling, hastens new methods, decreases the cost of supervision, saves materials, tools, and time, diminishes loss from breakage, makes possible the use of finer machinery and better appliances, and imparts those subtler qualities that distinguish the best from the mediocre products. It is impossible to measure these factors of native ability exactly, tho the psychological tests recently devised are giving remarkable results. But in every school children in all their activities show marked differences in traits, which, we all believe, are inherited in certain families. Mental capacity of the higher order develops more slowly and longer than do the physical powers and the senses. Judgment and wisdom are the fruits only of a life rich in experience.
§ 9. Talent and training as factors of efficiency. It is impossible to measure exactly the parts that natural talent and acquired ability play in determining any person's efficiency. Two men sitting side by side in an examination, get the same grade; one of them has had excellent preparation from childhood, and all the opportunities that money, travel, and cultured associates can give; the other, under great difficulties, has prepared in a country district school with a little coaching now and then, and struggling against great odds, has at last entered college. The same grade does not mean either that in their natural ability or in their training in this particular subject, they are equal. Yet the grade is the best expression to be had of their efficiency in the particular work.
One person with great natural musical ability may have lacked alike good opportunities of study and the health and industry to gain skill by long practice; while another with less natural ability but more favored in health and in education will attain to a much greater success both artistically and economically as composer, performer, or director of music.
Similarly the net economic quality of an artizan, an engineer, a lawyer, a business man, a worker of any kind, is a resultant of education and native talent, which along a broad zone are interchangeable, each in some degree indispensable, each supplementing the other. Any ability may be helped by education in the broad and true sense, tho a fool cannot be made wise by training, and tho many a potential genius doubtless has been dwarfed in dusty schoolrooms by stupid teachers. Education increases adaptability and enables a trained mind to outstrip an untrained mind of greater natural power. Education makes direction easier, fits for higher tasks, and decreases the difficulty of cooperation.
By education in this connection should be understood not merely knowledge gained in schoolrooms and by the aid of books and teachers, but every sort of experience and activity of mind and body which helps the natural capacities of the man to grow and strengthen. The subjective conditions, the eager mind and the strong character, most often bred of necessity and deprivation, are more valuable equipments for life's work than is unheeded or half-comprehended schoolroom instruction. Hence the business man's usual skepticism of the practical benefits of "higher education" in the more limited sense as applied to pampered youth with indolent minds.
§ 10. The moral qualities required in industry. The moral qualities of the worker are increasingly important as society grows more complex. But the need of a particular moral quality is relative to the special task in hand. Honesty is needed in the bank teller, but he need not spoil a good story. The champion bronco-buster of Arizona is not a Sunday-school superintendent. So, discipline, obedience, self-control, regularity, and punctuality are needed, for more and more in these days business is run by the watch. Confidence, patience, good temper, in fact all the virtues in the calendar are necessary at some time and place, and most of them are needed all the time in business. Places may be found in our developed society for those who are deficient in some of these qualities (it is fortunate that it is so), but these are the poorer places. Many men fail to recognize all the qualities necessary for success, and few are able to understand the cause of their own failures. Blind to their own faults, many are, for lack perhaps of one trait which to themselves seems insignificant, dropped down one notch after another in the scale of industry, and equally blind to the true cause of success in their rivals, they rail against the unjust fates.
§ 11. Necessary combination of qualities. Skill and capacity in industrial tasks is a resultant of many qualities. The simplest task calls for a combination of physical force and of judgment - even the digging of a ditch or the fitting of a stovepipe. For most industrial tasks rarer combinations of qualities are required. The retail salesman must be neat, punctual, polite, and long suffering. A confidential clerk must have discretion, judgment, and other moral qualities in an unusual combination. The substitution of qualities is possible within limits; a rare quality may make amends for the lack of a commoner one, and a man may, because of peculiar fitness in some regards, continue to hold a position for which in other ways he is little fitted. The rarest and most valued worker is one uniting many good qualities and fitted to deal with emergencies. The economic efficiency of the worker often is no stronger than its weakest link. A most frequent use for training is found in the fact that strengthening some one weak quality may raise the total efficiency in a remarkable degree.
§12. Inequality of talents shown by biologic studies. The political philosophy of the eighteenth century was based on the idea of natural rights and natural equality. Even so shrewd an observer as Adam Smith, misled by the prevailing view, discussed wages on the assumption that all men had equal natural ability. It is still a favorite assumption of radical social reformers that the natural ability of all men is equal, and that all the differences in success result from political injustice. The study of biology of late has made patent the unending differences that prevail throughout the animate world. No two members of the same family or species are just alike; no two pigeons have wings of just the same length. Nature by numberless devices is experimenting constantly with variations on either side of the established mean. The accepted fact of biologic evolution rests on the foundation of inequality, in structure and powers, selected, adapted and transmitted by heredity. In all life there is inequality, and the whole drama of human history as well as that of biologic evolution must be meaningless or illusory to one who does not see this truth. Accustomed now to this point of view, we as inevitably think of the natural inequalities in men as did Adam Smith of their equality. Inequality of talents is a continuing fact. Men in all their qualities of mind and body display this kaleidoscopic variety.
This does not mean that industrial inequality as it exists to-day, the great disparity of incomes, correctly or justly reflects the degree of difference in men's qualities, either native or acquired. It does not follow that a thousand-dollar income represents ten times the ability of a hundred-dollar one - far from it. But to those who ignore the inequality of men, the whole problem of industrial remuneration must remain a mystery. The differences in human capacity, in respect to the rendering of services of value, is one of the fundamental factors entering into the determination of labor-incomes.