THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 31: MARCO
It was not a dull excursion for me. I managed to put in the time
very well. I made various acquaintanceships, and in my quality
of stranger was able to ask as many questions as I wanted to.
A thing which naturally interested me, as a statesman, was the
matter of wages. I picked up what I could under that head during
the afternoon. A man who hasn't had much experience, and doesn't
think, is apt to measure a nation's prosperity or lack of prosperity
by the mere size of the prevailing wages; if the wages be high, the
nation is prosperous; if low, it isn't. Which is an error. It
isn't what sum you get, it's how much you can buy with it, that's
the important thing; and it's that that tells whether your wages
are high in fact or only high in name. I could remember how it
was in the time of our great civil war in the nineteenth century.
In the North a carpenter got three dollars a day, gold valuation;
in the South he got fifty--payable in Confederate shinplasters
worth a dollar a bushel. In the North a suit of overalls cost
three dollars--a day's wages; in the South it cost seventy-five--
which was two days' wages. Other things were in proportion.
Consequently, wages were twice as high in the North as they were
in the South, because the one wage had that much more purchasing
power than the other had.