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"household waste." The obligation to pay arrears of debts to tradesmen will both fret and worry both husband and wife. The unforeseen expenditure of the first year of married life often lays the basis of concealment by the husband-"the bread-winner "—from the wife-"the bread-giver"-of pecuniary embarrassments, often ending in most painful estrangement of interests. Especially in money-matters, there ought to be no concealment between husband and wife; and he is cruel in his kindness who involves his loving and inexperienced wife in an early burden of debt, even though it was to furnish her with a more sumptuous drawing-room, or a cosy boudoir hung with pictures and supplied with an extra piano. The pleasure of discussing each contemplated purchase, and of effecting it, so as to complete the equipment of their household, as soon as they have the money, will far more than compensate the young couple for doing without the article till they could pay for it. I know many to whom the first few years of married life have proved a heart-burning struggle, and merely because they commenced in an unsuitable style, that is, in a style they could not honestly afford, because they could not pay at once for what they had obtained.
Extravagant expenditure undermines the honesty of the most upright. It is a species of gambling-a staking of the husband's chances of health and income against somebody else's money. This consideration leads us to the second maxim:-Do not go into debt. A household is not a trade. The trader necessarily takes credit; but against his indebtedness he places the value of his business connection, his commercial ability, his good debts, and the balance of his uninjured stock in trade, estimated at so low an amount as that it could command the price, and almost even at a forced sale. Commodities used in a household are either consumed in the using or else are greatly deteriorated in value by having been used. Besides, the commodities for which the trader pledges his credit are such as he means to sell again, and, he believes, at a profit to himself. Household goods are purchased for domestic purposes; there is no possibility of any profit being made on them. The debts incurred will have to be met by the practice of economy in other matters: it is safer and wiser to make those economies beforehand, and so to acquire the money for the purchase of the desired article, with all the attendant advantages which a "cash customer" can ever obtain.
The third maxim is:-Live below your income. Style of living is altogether a relative thing; what is essential to one's comfort greatly depends on imagination. The annual expenditure of three
hundred pounds means luxury, as compared with a yearly expenditure necessarily limited to one hundred and fifty. The poor rich man spending a thousand, while craving to imitate the style of those who annually spend five thousand, feels continually pinched-he is the slave, not to his economies, but to his caprice of rivalling his wealthier competitors. The desire to seem richer than we are is an absurd folly, and it will lead to a host of mean hypocrisies. The desire to ape the style of those better off than ourselves is a self-avenging blunder. We have to pay for it in deteriorated character as well as in money. To feel ashamed of being poorer than one's neighbours is false and foolish it is eating, like a gangrened ulcer, into the very vitals of modern society; its saps comfort, breeds discontent, prompts constant irritability arising from continual toil, prevents intellectual development, renders domestic life a series of degrading shams, embitters the lives and shortens the days of millions. Against this growing and terrible evil every moralist should raise his warning and denouncing voice.
It were well, indeed, if every household believed that inseparable from the true idea of comfort was the owning of a reserve fund, however small at first, on which to draw for casualties such as illness, or for a holiday which otherwise would be impossible. The first idea of a young couple should be to not anticipate in household expenditure the income of the current week, month, quarter, or half year, as the case might be; to be beforehand with the world; to live during the current term, whether week, month, quarter, or year, on the income obtained from the earnings, savings, or profits of the preceding term. To succeed in doing this is to pave the way for more than this, for the accumulation of a reserve fund. I despise sordid economies: the life of continual begrudgery must be a life of constant wretchedness; but I honour the moral honesty, and respect the moral courage of those who resolve to forego some gratification "because they cannot afford it." Such honesty and courage rarely fail of reaping their reward even externally, in enlarged possessions, to say nothing of the consciousness of integrity and freedom from sordid anxieties. They who spend more than their income are positively dishonest: nobody has the right to spend other people's money. If our notions of domestic expenditure are so much in advance of our known means of meeting it, we had no right to marry, If the wife "can do with no less" we not only made a mistake in marrying, but we have also married the wrong person.
The most wasteful items of expenditure, wasteful because they yield no adequate return, are the dozen and one little matters of personal indulgence. If any man takes note of his personal expenditure for a month, he will be surprised not only as to its total amount, but also as to the ease with which he could have reduced it by at least one half. In reference to these items, retrenchment is ever the most easy, and often advantageous in more ways than one.
A question which has frequently been debated is, "How far should every man be contented with his lot in life?" It seems reasonable to say that every man should desire that as his family and household expenditure increase, his income should proportionately increase. To desire this means only that his last child should enjoy the same amount of comfort as his first child, and be able to have similar educational advantages. The labour of every man of middle age should, theoretically, possess a greater relative value than that of a young man. If it be otherwise, his larger experience is valueless. Hence every man is justified in looking forward to increased possessions as the reward of his longer continued industry. Only in this way can he provide for those days of declining strength, diminished fertility of resource, and decreased plasticity of character, which are the penalty of long life. Any definition of "contentment" which would preclude this reasonable desire must be regarded as erroneous. Practically, such a "contentment" would result in destroying exertion, by the destruction of a principal motive to exert one's self. Every worker is a wealth-producer, and unless he produced more wealth than he consumed, he must speedily come to cold charity or the union workhouse. He must rightly desire to acquire the control of an increasing proportion of the wealth he produces, and which also he ought to be able to increasingly produce.
This desire, however, is not at all inconsistent with the only right idea of contentment. To be contented is to be not discontented with the present; but we can at the same time feel quite content with what we have, and yet also be laudably ambitious of improvement in reference to the future. Contentment is not the contrary of ambition; for a man may be desirous of improvement in his worldly circumstances; and, at the same time, he may also be either contented with his present position, or discontented with it. Contentment
regards the present rather than the future: ambition regards the future rather than the present. Regarding different times, both
feelings may co-exist in the mind; and ought so to co-exist. Wealth, like knowledge, physical strength, and many other things, is a power; and just as no man ought to be so contented with his ignorance as to cease to desire increased knowledge, so also no man ought to be so contented with his present poverty as not to desire to increase the available wealth of the world, and his own share of it. All power in itself is a good thing; the use each individual makes of the power he can exercise determines, in each case, whether its possession is a good thing to him who possesses it. What we do with it, rather than how much of it we can obtain, is the all-important question.
I pass over such topics as domestic hospitality, the amount and variety of amusements, the respect the young couple will need to evince towards the parents and relatives of each other, and other similar details of home life. The two economic laws should ever be observednot to exceed one's income, and to form a reserve fund; but within these limits, the less parsimony that is shown the greater will be the chance of happiness.
I assume that the integrity, trustworthiness, intelligence, and force of character which the young man will continue to exhibit will secure for him the almost inevitable reward of such qualities-an improved and improving position. Especially is it true in the multifarious industries of our own country, that high moral and intellectual qualities pay. No wise employer will restrict to a less important and less profitable post a really superior man. The most valuable, and perhaps the scarcest, of all things is really efficient, and at the same time really trustworthy assistants. Real competence, that is, sterling character and genuine ability, can ever secure a market.
The ideal young man whose development I have been tracing is certain to rise into positions of influence, responsibility and emolument. He will have subordinates under him. He may easily have opportunities of becoming a master. The right treatment of his subordinates and employés will come to be one of the vexed questions which he will have to settle and act upon. It is impossible to do more than indicate a few general principles, which, I think, should guide any one in such matters.
He is a far greater benefactor of his kind who provides regular employment, at fair wages, for a body of workmen, than he who, in the name of charity, might maintain the same number in idleness. Indiscriminate almsgiving is the most pernicious practice in which
a reasonable being can engage. It encourages laziness and begging. It is a premium offered to haters of work. We need to try to hit the happy medium between "egoism," the love of self, and "altruism," the preferring of others to ourselves. On the whole, strict justice between employers and employés is more productive of good than laxity in general dealing, supplemented, or more than supplemented, at intervals, by spasmodic acts of generosity. Increasing experience proves, that every attempt to establish between employer and employed anything like the old feudal feeling of personal regard and personal loyalty, is likely to prove a failure. Although in reality, judged according to every true standard, the ultimate interests of both are identical, yet the immediate interests of employers and employed appear to be contrary. The immediate appearance exercises far more influence than the ultimate truth. The present relations must be much more controlled by the immediate convictions of both, than by any ultimate philosophical truth, which, perhaps, neither see clearly, and which the employés, very probably, cannot see at all. While all questions of rate of payment, etc., must be left to the inexorable laws of political economy, there is ever a margin left in the most rigid system of economy, and it is well to remember that he is not the best served who is served the most cheaply.
Apart, however, from this consideration, we may all well remember that we owe constant courtesy to those who toil in our behalf. That those who serve us shall receive kindness at our hands, as far as they need it, occasional relaxation, and, as far as they will accept it, human sympathy, may not be "written in the bond," but it is implied therein. I have found in many cases injustice of manner inflicts severer wounds than even injustice in remuneration. No dog likes to be hurt, even though the missile be a bone. Self-respect is never more surely forfeited than when we fail in respect for others. Certainly, some establishments, both manufacturing and mercantile, appear to be conducted as though the maxims of slave-owners and negro-drivers were the only maxims known. Certainly some households are managed as though the master and mistress deemed themselves absolutely beings of another and superior kind, quite different from the men and maid servants. I am aware of the difficulty on both sides, of the facility with which the best intentioned may err; but error being so easy, it is safer to err on the side of generosity, urbanity, and sympathy, than on the side of niggardliness, vulgarity, and moroseness.