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Congested Prices

Congested Prices

Regular price $6.99
  • ISBN-13: 9781511532044
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Release Date: Mar 30, 2015
  • Pages: 52 pages
  • Dimensions: 0.12 x 9.0 x 6.0 inches


IN his monograph on "Congested Prices," Mr. Scudder evidently uses the word "congested" as meaning artificial or abnormal; and his work is principally an inquiry into the causes of the fluctuation of prices, with especial reference to the causes of commercial panics. He recognizes at the outset the occult and subtle nature of his subject, and propounds his views tentatively and with caution. Without attempting anything like a complete solution of the problem, or the formulating of distinct means by which the recurrence of panics may be anticipated or averted, he has stated concisely some very important factors in the solution, and made an interesting contribution to the discussion of the complex elements which the problem involves. An important step is taken in the distinctness with which he recognizes the purely mental element in the formation of prices. The "Boomtowner" described by a recent clever writer in the "Atlantic Monthly," who, seeing no market for his town lots when offered at cost, doubled the figures and found eager purchasers who argued that properly rising so rapidly must be a desirable investment, gave a practical illustration of the power of this mental element, which is a very direct and potent factor in the prices of real estate and other speculative values. There might have been a gain in clearness, however, had Mr. Scudder excluded more definitely the class of prices with which quite another law obtains—the law of comparative or substitutional values. Species of property that have a natural value closely determined by their relation with each other and their comparative desirability for the same general purposes, seem substantially to exclude the mental factor, except in cases of artificial manipulation — of which the most prominent example, the "corner," is the subject of a very full discussion at Mr. Scudder's hands. The ethical aspect of this subject is not directly treated, the author contenting himself with analyzing the commercial quality of "corners" and examining their influence upon business prosperity, his conclusion being that they "demoralize trade and create fictitious prices." Another view of "corners," quite unlike, yet a fitting supplement to, Mr. Scudder's, is presented with great effectiveness by a writer (Mr. H. D. Lloyd) in a late number of the "North American Review," who points out more particularly the extent to which outsiders, and especially the poorer classes of consumers, suffer from these manipulations. "As food grows dear," says Mr. Lloyd, "typhus grows plenty. Scarce bread means more crime. The enemies of the men who corner wheat and pork could wish for no heavier burden on their souls than that they should be successful. As wheat rises, flour rises; and when flour becomes dear through manipulations it is the blood of the poor that flows into the treasury of the syndicate. * * * Every moment the corner lasts there is a mouthful of food the less for the laboring man. Every hour of its continuance some child in Pittsburgh or Manchester grows faint, and every day hundreds of little hands let go another finger from the slippery edge of existence." The rhetoric of Mr. Lloyd differs sharply from that of Mr. Scudder, but their arguments against "corners" seem strongly to sustain each other. Odious as are these conspiracies in an ethical sense, it is a satisfaction to see them thus defined by economic writers, and the responsibility clearly fixed for their share in producing great 'commercial disturbances. In his discussion of panics, we think Mr. Scudder's treatment would have been improved had he distinguished more closely between the phenomena and their causes....

The Dial: A Monthly Review and Index of Current Literature, Volume 4 [1884]

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