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Gilman, James W. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XIX, Number 5 (March 1920)

Halline, Edward
"Apres moi--!",   pp. 115-116


Page 115

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
"Apres Moi-!"
(Being the Presentation of a Few Facts Dealing
weith the Present Economic Situation.)
,lIT      HAT," I asked a fellow student, "is the
world coming to, anyway, with all these
strikes and labor disturbances? Do you think that
"I bid two spades," he replied in unruffled tones.
"Labor wants higher wages, the manufacturer
shoves the added cost on to the wholesaler, the whole-
saler politely indicates the retailer, and the retailer
points to the consumer. And the consumer, in despera-
tion, throws his gold on the counter and in a wild
burst of extravagance orders silk shirts, five dollar
ties, butter, eggs, sugar, silk pajamas, and turkey at
sixty cents a pound. The manufacturer, wholesaler,
and retailer shrug their shoulders and let the law of
supply and demand take care of the situation; and
another layer is spread on the H. C. L."
I handed this analysis to an ex-classmate of mine.
"Your shot," he said, chalking his cue.
I was not discouraged. The other sex-they would
be interested; the coming enfranchisement had with-
out doubt whetted their appetites for political science,
for economics, for sociology.
"Here are people," I said to one of the younger
specimens,-"here are people spending their money
like lords when the dollar isn't worth fifty cents. The
more they spend, the more its value is depressed; and
the more its value is depressed, the more they spend.
How are we going to stop this vicious circle? You,
as a woman, deeply interested and concerned in the
cost of food, clothing, and the necessities of life, must
have come to some conclusion on these fundamental
problems of the day."
I was conscious that that final phrase had a ring
that intensified the grave seriousness of my remarks.
"Fundamental" was particularly good.
She looked at me, slightly startled. Then she re-
covered her calm.
"Say, but you should have seen the wonderful silk
stockings I got for Christmas. Simply wonderful!"
and her voice trailed off in a rapid ascent of the vocal
register.
Two women stood on a street corner conversing in
a serious manner. Addressing the elder one,-a
charming matron with three children,-I began my
story.
"Do you think," I said in a tone of oratorical pitch,
-"do you think that hunting the profiteers down is
the real solution of the high cost of living? Isn't the
question something deeper? Isn't it the increased con-
sumption,-the reckless extravagance of every class
in society,-that has shoved up prices? And with in-
creased consumption has come a decreased produc-
tion. Don't you, an experienced housekeeper, think
that the fundamental remedy lies with the individual
-with each one of us?
"Individuals," I went on ardently, "must act col-
lectively; they must--
"Yes, surely," said the matron. "Now I trimmed
that hat with some tulle and red ribbon, giving it a
taffeta effect without the brim's seeming to daring. It
made a wonderful hat for Marjorie,-so youthful ap-
pearing, don't you know? And it was only last win-
ter's too."
I do not vouch for the accuracy of this transcrip-
tion of the matron's remarks, but let it stand. I went
on my way, a little discouraged.
But I ran into a socialist acquaintance of mine and
took another chance.
"What do you think-?" I said. He interrupted
me, smiling cynically.
"What do I think? You know what I think-
what I have always thought. Capitalism is headed
straight for perdition. The ultimate result is as clear
as day. You can see for yourself. Everything is
happening as Karl Marx foresaw,-the concentra-
tion of wealth, the exploitation of labor, the enrich-
ment of the few by the impoverishment of the many,
the separation into classes, and the irreconcilable class
conflict between bourgeois and proletarian. Capital-
ism has overleaped itself and the social structure it has
built is tottering because its foundation is rotten with
the socioeconomic inequalities that the capitalist ex-
ploiter has piled up through the deleterious institution
of wage-slavery."
He continued in the same vein, quoting Lassalle,
Isaiah, Bernard Shaw, Rachmaninoff, Shakespeare,
John D. Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, and Caruso.
When I departed -he was setting forth Marx's three
laws of the Self-Destruction of Capitalism, with a
few enlargements of his own parentage.
I next sought out a business man. I barely finished
115
March 1920


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