Als ik kan: life on the automobile basis and where it is leading us, pp. 711-712
ALS IK KAN: REVIEWS ALS IK KAN LIFE ON THE AUTOMOBILE BASIS AND WHERE IT IS LEADING US T last, they say, we have got at the real cause of the increased cost of living, but the satisfaction we might feel over finding out finally what the matter is is somehow lessened by the fact that the name of that cause is legion. Senator Lodge's committee distributes the responsibility of the overwhelming bills we have to foot each month among many con- ditions and circumstances, of which the most important are: "Increased cost of production of farm products by reason of higher land values and higher wages; increased demand for farm products and food: shifting of popula- tion from food-producing to food-consum- ing occupations and localities; immigration to food-consuming localities; reduced fertil- ity of land, resulting in lower average pro- duction or in increased expenditures for fertilization; increased banking facilities in agricultural localities which enable farmers to hold their crops and market them to the best advantage, which results in steadying prices, but also tends to advance prices; re- duced supply convenient to transportation facilities of such commodities as timber; cold storage plants, which result in prevent- ing extreme fluctuations of prices of certain commodities with the seasons, but by en- abling the wholesalers to buy and sell at the best possible advantage tend to advance prices; increased cost of distribution; indus- trial combinations; organizations of pro- ducers or of dealers; advertising; increased money supply; overcapitalization; higher standard of living." It all sounds reasonable, and we have no doubt that each and every one of these causes bears its own share in the present stress and strain of living. But, after all, could not the whole list be summed up in the last item, the higher standard of living? We call it a higher standard for want of a better word, but we really mean a standard of ease and luxury that demands more money than the average man can possibly earn in a normal way. In the old days of moderate fortunes built up by hard work, necessities came first and luxuries were carefully con- sidered with relation to the general income and the needs of the family before they were made a charge upon the yearly income. But now the carpenter or plumber who comes to your house if you happen to live in a suburban town or in the country, comes in an automobile, and you can hardly cross the highroads on a Saturday or Sunday after- noon for dodging the procession of flying motor cars. You see that the people riding in these cars are your neighbors and ac- quaintances, most of them families depend- ing upon the earnings of a man in a salaried position or one who is in business for him- self in a small way. Knowing something of the cost of a motor car and the steady expense of its upkeep, you are inclined to wonder how they manage it, until you read in an article on financial conditions in the West that: "the Western speculation in land was getting to be dangerous, but the banks have checked that. So was the hunger for automobiles. I never saw anything like the way Western farmers went after automo- biles. They even mortgaged their farms to get them. I know of one Kansas City bank that held fifty-two mortgages on that num- ber of machines." If you were to make a canvass of Eastern banks you would find precisely the same state of affairs. The ma- jority of these people have either mortgaged their homes or borrowed money to buy an automobile which they can not afford to keep after they have got it, and the very fact that they have it sets the pace for ex- penditures all along the line. It is hard for a man with a moderate in- come to order his life on the automobile basis unless he has some way of making money outside of his salary. If he is dis- honest he naturally hunts opportunities for graft; if he holds to a higher standard of integrity he turns just as naturally to some form of speculation, whether in stocks, real estate or anything else that promises quick returns on a small investment. Then, when the market sags and the bottom drops out of prices, there is trouble all along the line, for all the ingredients of a panic are held in solution all the time, and it takes the veriest trifle to crystallize them into a genuine financial crisis. In fact, we are all living at high pressure, and nothing but the maximum of speed will satisfy us. This is a truism that during the past two or three years has echoed from, one end of the land to the other, but until peo- ple begin to take it seriously it can not be repeated too often. At one time it looked as if this problem of the higher cost of liv- ing was really going to be taken seriously 71"
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