No one absolutely sets price. It is determined by far-reaching industrial conditions, and by economic law. War, weather, famine, stocks, strikes, elections, all have a say. Yet, to a certain degree, there are those who rule price. As a representative of the ideal, as executors of social trust, how shall each one use his Power of Price? The man who has control of a price—a price for a day’s labor, for wages, for a cargo, or for any kind of product—has control of the living conditions of the one who works for him. The question is not: How shall I grind down price to the lowest? It is: What price will be an ethical return to this man for his social toil?—just to me for my brains, my capital, my energy, my distributing power,—just to him for his brains, his time, his skill, his artistic perceptions, his fidelity and honor? Each buyer must henceforth not only resolve: I will buy only what I can pay for, but, what I can pay for at a just rate. So far as lies in my power, I will make an adequate return to society for this personal benefit.
Some one says: Do you realize that you are making a moral laughing-stock of much of our system of trade? that you are setting an axe to that system, more cutting than the axe of any Socialist, Nihilist, or Anarchist in the world? Oh, no. I have simply set myself to answer the question: How can the business man stand among the ideal-makers of the world, so that he shall no more, in spiritual assemblies, be told to go away?
Woman is the real economic distributer. The millionaire manufacturer imagines that he himself runs his business. Oh, no. It is run by farmers’ wives. When they do not care for yarn or calico, his looms stand idle for a year; the vast machinery of the world turns on woman’s little word: I want. Hence the education of women should include this factor: the desire to want the right things. Extravagance is not a part of woman’s make-up; it is extraneous.
Gain is that which permanently enriches the life. By every act of charity, or justice, or insight, or right barter, the soul is made more grand. True trade everywhere may be made a new method of inspiration, growth, and power.
Money is a makeshift of the race. God is the only real appraiser, and we never get back a money-value for our soul’s toil. Whether we pass wampum, or nickels, or taels, or bank-checks, we are not yet paid for our trade.
The higher value of money is its spiritual capacity. Not what it will bring me is primarily important, but what I can buy with it for the race. Sometimes the question comes over me: What am I trading for money? My time? My energy? My ideals? Part of my soul is passing from me: do dollars ever repay? Hence it comes about that all money transactions are fragmentary and symbolic.
Money may lead to poverty, or to spiritual wealth. The gift of trade is a gift of God, as much as the gift of prophecy or song. In a right way, we should all love gain. We are not born to go out of the world as poor as when we came into it. We should gain stature, wisdom, strength, influence, ideals. If our latent business capacity were more fully aroused, we should get much more out of life. We would refuse to barter a spiritual heritage for carnal things.