We thus find ourselves confronted with a problem of vital importance to our well-being as a nation. We are called upon to explain why it is that, notwithstanding the exceptional advantages we possess, in an ever-increasing command over the more recondite powers of nature, an ever-increasing use of labour-saving machinery, a body of labourers whose industry and skill are proverbial, and far more complete and perfect communication with the whole world than was possessed by any previous generation—notwithstanding all these favourable conditions, which would seem to render prosperity certain, we yet find trade crippled and labour paralysed, goods of all kinds selling at unremunerative prices, yet the masses too poor to buy, and universal complaints of diminished profits and restricted markets. So long as these questions are not fully and completely answered, so long as a remedy is not found for the widespread and persistent evil which afflicts the mass of our people, our whole system of social economy, even our civilisation itself, must be accounted to be failures. It will undoubtedly be admitted that a system of society under which willing hands cannot find profitable work, and countless shops and warehouses overflowing with every necessary, comfort, and luxury, mock the longing eyes of insufficiently-clad and half-starved millions, is neither a sound nor a safe one.
We may therefore expect to find that the problem of trade-depression is fundamentally the same as that of the persistence of widespread poverty and pauperism notwithstanding our rapid and continuous growth in wealth; and if this be so, its solution will assuredly furnish us with some important principles to direct the course of future legislation. The main points of a sound political programme may be one of the important results of a successful investigation into the causes which have brought about the present depression of trade.