Current Economic Literature
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Current Economic Literature.<ref>The Private Memoirs of Alexander Seikirk. Published by the Bogus Press Company, Samoa, 1899. 2 vols. Calf, 8vo. $12.</ref>
IT appears from the preface of this remarkable book that a lot of diaries, discovered in an old sail-loft, extend to the return to the island, and give some account of the economic difficulties which Selkirk (Robinson Crusoe) experienced in his famous State. His principal trouble was that Friday was chronically out of work, and eventually became a "submerged half." Bread fruit, fish and skins were easily obtained; and, after Robinson had eaten and wasted and worn all that he possibly could, Friday was unable to find employment for which Robinson could pay him by letting him keep part of what he had gathered and made. It will be remembered that Robinson made a spear from a stick, some traps, and baskets from reeds. These complicated the social problem, because they increased production, so that Robinson could not use it all.
After the arrival of Friday's father and the Spaniard, the social pressure became more intense. Friday was very good at climbing trees to gather fruit; while Saturday, his father, was quite clever at netting fish, and the Spanish proletariat was skilful in spearing goats. Consequently, employment became differentiated; and Friday spent his whole time in gathering fruit, getting such prodigious quantities of it that Robinson could not eat it all and most of it rotted.
The same result followed the use of Saturday's net and the Spaniard's spear, so that wages went down, and the three workingmen were reduced to want. They ascribed their poverty to the introduction of machinery. Of course, Robinson could have allowed the labourers to use a part of his island to support themselves; but, as he observed, there would then have been no reason why they should work for him rather than for themselves. Indeed, they might even have made spears, nets, and baskets for each other. It was not possible for Robin son to charge them rent; as he tells us in his story that he had all the things he needed, even before immigration began. He might have given them food as charity, but that would have pauperized the population.
But Robinson was a man of political genius and resource. He divided the island into three portions, prohibited immigration into each, and established high tariffs on everything. One division took in all the water, another nearly all the hills and woods, and the third was pasture and garden land.
Part of the increased population was now provided with a comfortable place, guarding the lines. To be sure, this part lived at the expense of the others; but he "relieved the labour market." Under the new regime, Saturday, who was fond of fish, but was cut off from the sea, had to work all day to get bread-fruit enough to buy a mess of fish, which it took Friday a day to catch. A large surplus accumulated in the treasury, which it was no easier to dispose of than to dispose of a deficit, as there was no one to steal it, and no one to make war upon. Prices, however, instantly rose, so that, in order to get a bunch of bananas, it was necessary to gather a bushel of oysters or to give a whole goat. The "system" worked beautifully, and the domestic industry of raising infant goats on sand was greatly stimulated. They were continually "on the eve of prosperity." In fact, the only trouble was that Robinson got the gout, and Friday's father and the Spaniard starved to death.