RELIEF BY PUBLIC WORKS

The utter disregard which the advice of eminent economists met when Congress made the recent tariff revision must prevent observers from being to sanguine about the disinterestedness of political partisans who ask the opinion of experts on partisan economic projects. But the new Democratic Plan to relieve unemployment by undertaking extensive public works has received such unanimous approval from economists and should receive such support from public opinion that opposing partisans should be way before they condemn it.

Yet the objections to such a plan are numerous. The undertaking of public works for the sole purpose of "creating" employment is liable to lead to the flagrant waste of public funds. In Germany where public money appropriated to increase employment was expended on parks and elaborate housing improvements instead of on other things which were much more essential to a war-ridden, debt-burdened country, there is a striking example of this misdirection of public wealth. It is a truism in economics that such schemes as that proposed by the Democratic Committee of the Senate for the undertaking of public enterprises in reality do not "create" work. For the money which the public will spend on bonds for these government undertakings will be diverted from other channels and in a sense the government is morely taking money out of the pockets of the already established workmen to put it in the pockets of those now unemployed. Only insofar as the money spent on bonds is that which is now boarded, will there be a material increase in the total amount of money in circulation, and how much of this there will be cannot be safely predicted.

But despite these apparent and numerous objections, the plan for relieving unemployment by undertaking public works is at present a wise and necessary one. The chance that the money appropriated will be spent on needless projects is not large, and even if it were, the danger would be much out weighted by the pressing need to provide employment for men and to assure support to families. If money must be doled out, it is surely more desirable that it should be given in the form of wages for labor, even though done on public works not greatly needed, than that the money should be given as charity. And though the project might not increase the total wealth of the community it would make for more equitable distribution, taking in no considerable measure from those who can afford to pay in order to provide the bare essentials for others.