Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
Wants
By David Ames Wells (1828–1898)
 
[Why We Trade and How We Trade. 1888.]

WANTS have their origin in human nature, and are practically illimitable. No one ever has all he wants, though pretension may be made to that effect. In general, every one satisfies his wants by his own labor; but no man who is not a savage or a Robinson Crusoe ever attempts to obtain all he wants by his own labor directly, or from the products of one locality; and nature evidently never intended that it should be otherwise. For there is no nation, or country, or community, nor probably any one man, that is not, by reason of differences in soil, climate, physical or mental capacities, at advantage or disadvantage as respects some other nation, country, community, or men, in producing or doing something useful. It is only a brute, furthermore, as economists have long recognized, that can find a full satisfaction for its desires in its immediate surroundings: while poor indeed must be the man of civilization that does not lay every quarter of the globe under contribution every morning for his breakfast. Hence—springing out of this diversity in the powers of production, and of wants in respect to locations and individuals—the origin of trade. Hence its necessity and advantage; and the man who has not sufficient education to read the letters of any printed book perceives by instinct, more clearly, as a general rule, than the man of civilization, that if he can trade freely, he can better his condition and increase the sum of his happiness; for the first thing the savage, when brought in contact with civilized man, wants to do, is to exchange; and the first effort of every new settlement in any new country, after providing temporary food and shelter, is to open a road or other means of communication to some other settlement, in order that they may trade or exchange the commodities which they can produce to advantage, for the products which some others can produce to greater advantage. And, obeying this same natural instinct, the heart of every man, that has not been filled with prejudice of race or country, or perverted by talk about the necessity of tariffs and custom-houses, experiences a pleasurable emotion when it learns that a new road has been opened, a new railroad constructed, or that the time of crossing the seas has been greatly shortened; and if to-day it could be announced that the problem of aërial navigation had been solved, and that hereafter everybody could go everywhere, with all their goods and chattels, for one-tenth of the cost and in one-tenth of the time that is now required, one universal shout of jubilation would arise spontaneously from the whole civilized world. And why? Simply because everybody would feel that there would be forthwith a multitude of new wants, an equal multitude of new satisfactions, an increase of business in putting wants and satisfactions into the relations of equations in which one side would balance the other, and an increase of comfort and happiness everywhere.
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