'Appreciation of Municipal Assets', Francis G.Burton, The Accountant, 9 March, 1907, 327-36
Tu1:: subject whi~h 1 ,·enture to briug under you1 1 0tice this evening is so complicated by political and sociological considerations, by altruistic aspirations, by modern forms of C<JIIIbination, that it is difficult to clivest it of these extraneous factors, and to deal with it merely as a question of value. Xor do the definitions which economists gi,·e us materially assist in the divesting process. ~!r. \\'. ,\. S. Hewi ns says: ·• Economics, as we "understand it, is the s.: ie1ce which ill\·estigates the 11 manner in which nati()ns or other larger or smaller com· '· munities, and their individual members. obtain food , " clothing, shelter, and whatever else is considered I ; desirable or necessary for the maintenance and improve-" ment o[ the conditions of life. It is thus the study of the "· life of communities with special referen.ce to one s ide of ' · their activity. It necessarily involves the scientific "examinr..tion of the structure and organisation or the com-" munity or comlllunities in qu-estion; their h istory, th ejr
~-;customs, law~. and i.nstit ution,c;; and the relations "between their members, in so far as they are affected by "this department of their activity. At the root of all ., economic investigation lies the conception of the
St'<ndard of life of the communi tv. By this expression we "do Llot mean an ideal mode of tivincr but the habits a nd :. . tl'
requuements of life generally current in a community or .. grade of society at a given period." ~ow it will be seen that this defmition contains much mnre than we have bciore us at the moment, and that if we are to confine our. :;el\'es to an examination of the \'alue of collective property , We must tc.~ a large extent ignure "the cunception of the !itandard of life of the community." Perhaps we cannot do so entirely, fur the " standard of life " at any gi ,·en period must of necessity a ffect the value of some des~rip· hons of pro h · · perty, w dst leavmg unchanged, or pract ically :Inchanged, the value of many others. But beyond this, ·he definition a lso reminds us of the mo re reasoned analysis which expresses wealth as consisting of all cons~rnable util1ties which require labour for their prc<duction and ca b . . .