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CLIMATE. By Robert De Courcy Ward, Assistant Professor of Climatol
ogy in Harvard University. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1908.
The vague term “climate" suggests at first very little that is of interest to the business man. How vital the subject really is to all business will be readily shown by a little reflection. The old story of the English merchant who sent a consignment of skates to be sold to the natives of tropical South Africa is not unparalleled to-day. Every month reports come from our American consuls in foreign lands, complaining of the absolute disregard and ignorance which our merchants show in adapting their wares to foreign climes. In another field, the speculator in grain and other commodities has wired the globe in order that he may obtain immediate and accurate information about the weather and crop conditions.
In still another direction, owing to the recent panic, the attention of the present business world has been turned, and perhaps here lies the chief interest of this book on climate. Is there a steady though slow progress toward climatic change? Or do these changes move in cycles of regular recurring periods of high and low temperatures, wetness and dryness, etc? Professor Ward proves that the popular belief in a progressive change is a fallacy. In regard to the question of climatic cycles, he states that there are evidences of long cycles of thirty-five years, and of shorter ones averaging about eleven years in length, and goes on to say that all attempts to account for these changes have availed little. The best known of these theories, and the one promising the best results, is that founded on the sun spot hypothesis, and upon which the economist, Professor Jevons, constructed his famous theory of the cause for panics and industrial depressions.
But even admitting the failure to establish the cause for these changes, it would be of great practical importance if it could be established that these changes recur with sufficient regularity for forecasting the future. In regard to this, Professor Ward agrees with all the best authorities on climatology that no period either short or long is sufficiently well established to warrant accuracy in forecasting. COTTON MOVEMENT AND FLUCTUATION. Published by Latham,
Alexander and Company, Bankers and Commission Merchants, New
This volume is the thirty-fourth annual edition which the Latham, Alexander Company has published. The book is unique in the beauty of its design, and it is a model of business typography. Statistics cease to be dry and uninteresting when presented in such a pleasing form. In respect to information and method of presentation, it is equally attractive, affording a thorough record of the cotton situation. To the cotton trade such a publication is most valuable as a book of reference. To the world outside of the cotton trade, however, a book of this kind would be of greater value if the many pages of statistical tables were interpreted in such a way as to show the effects and bearing of all this information upon the movement of prices. No class of men is in a better position to know the facts connected with the market fluctuations than the commission men themselves, and their judgment as to the relative importance of these
various factors in fixing the prices during the year would be of great value and interest to the outsider.
For example, in addition to the presentation of the annual tables of receipts, stocks, exports, consumption, acreage, total visible supply and fluctuations, there should be given some explanation as to the importance of these factors and the bearing of each upon the fixing of cotton prices. How do such facts help one toward forming correct business judgments ?
The opinions of men who have spent years in the business, and are consequently thoroughly acquainted with all the features of the trade, could be more absolutely relied upon when given in accordance with the facts of the year that is past than when offered to the public in the form of letters and bulletins prognosticating the future for the benefit of the "trade." Such a publication would then become a text-book, and would not be confined to the narrower field of the commercial encyclopedia. SIMPLE MINE ACCOUNTING, by David Wallace. Hill Publishing Co.,
New York, 1908. 63 pages. Price, $1.00. As the author states in his preface, “This book is intended primarily for those who have had no opportunity to include among their other studies that of bookkeeping-superintendents, mine foremen, timekeepers; and, while mine accountants and bookkeepers may perhaps find something useful, the explanations and expressions have been simplified as much as possible for the guidance of those referred to."
While rather condensed, yet for the novice in this class of accounts, for students of accountancy and for mine owners and their assistants, especially, it will be found very useful.
The book contains in addition to the explanations some twenty forms of books and accounts, all of which are in accordance with modern accounting principles. If accounting literature is enriched with similar small volumes dealing with special classes of accounts, the task of handling the highly specialized problems which often confront students and practitioners will be rendered much easier. EXAMINATION QUESTIONS 1899 to 1907, by the Pennsylvania State
Board of Examiners of Public Accountants, Philadelphia. 1908, 158 pages. Price $1.00.
As the heading indicates, this little volume gives the questions set at each examination in the State of Pennsylvania for the above mentioned period. It also includes the Pennsylvania C. P. A. act and the rules of the Board of Examiners. The purpose of compiling this book was, as expressed in the introductory notes, to assist students of accountancy in their preparation and also that other boards of examiners may have the benefit of the experience of this board.
With regard to the revised syllabus of 1907 and the examinations of that year based on that syllabus, not much comment is necessary, as both the syllabus and the examination papers were fully described in the April number of THE JOURNAL. If other boards would follow the example of the Pennsylvania Board of Examiners, it would undoubtedly be highly appreciated by students of accountancy.
The periodical literature of business is enormous in volume, but not impressive in quality. Too much of it is mere gossip or disguised advertising or superficial rehash of what sensible business men already know. But among the chaff there are always a few grains of wheat which ought not to be allowed to go to waste.
It is the purpose of this department to pick out and summarize some of the articles that are worth attention. As no one man could possibly cover the whole field, the editor will be grateful to any one who will take the trouble to call his attention to articles that have been found useful.
Freight Car Efficiency. In the May 22nd number of the Railroad Gazette appears a paper presented at the April meeting of the Western Railroad Club, by E. R. Dewsnup, Professor of Railway Administration, University of Illinois. It is to be regretted that only a few of the leading points of this excellent paper can be here presented.
The fact that the ton mileage in 1906 had made an increase of 52% per cent. over that of 1900 is in itself, Professor Dewsnup believes, an indication of the injustice of those general charges of inefficiency which superficial observers have felt themselves free to make.
“ The freight car equipment during the period was enlarged 3472 per cent. At first glance this compares unfavorably with the 52/2 per cent. increase of business. That this is not really so is obvious when the capacity of the car is taken into account. From the equipment statistics, the increase of average capacity from 1900 to 1906 must have been close to 20 per cent. The enlargement of the freight car was not accompanied, however, by a raising, of minimum weights, so that in some shippers made no practical use of the extra space facility.
So far as practical results of American freight operation of recent years are concerned, it is not at all difficult to demonstrate that, coincident with the movement toward a high tonnage car, there has been a material increase in average load, indicating that to a certain extent at least such a car has proved adaptable to modern methods of industrial distribution. Statistics of the different roads show that from 1900 to 1906 a 20 per cent. increase in average capacity has been met by a 17 per cent. increase in average load, indicating, as already remarked, the suitability of the high capacity car, within certain limits, to present industrial conditions."
“One of the difficulties connected with per diem as a means of stimulating the prompt handling of foreign equipment is that at the times when cars are in most demand it is least effective. Whether the cost of car hire be 20, 25 or 50 cents a day, or even $1, it is obviously to the interest of a road short of cars not to return foreign equipment if, during the rush of business, the cars are capable of earning more than sufficient to cover operating and per diem expenses. Conversely, when business is dull and cars less urgently needed by the home roads, low car earnings stimulate the effectiveness of per diem to the cost of, it may be, unnecessary empty mileage. There seems much to be urged in favor of a variable per diem charge, especially if handled along with the whole matter of car interchange arrangements, by some permanently organized central bureau of the railroads.
"The more one studies the car situation in general, the more one realizes that the intensity of the car famines, which recur from time to time, could be materially relieved if more skillful attention were applied to the supervision and improvement of this distribution and of the mileage performance of cars both in local and inter-line business, the crowning difficulties of railroad operations. However, it is not intended to have inferred that under any reasonable economical system of car equipment the railroads could obviate such shortages.”
A resort to car pooling methods really appears to be the only alternative, if economy of equipment is to be a consideration at all.
Accountancy and Economics.
In The Accountant, the organ of the chartered accountants of Great Britain, for May 16 is printed a lecture on the above subject delivered by W. R. Hamilton, F. C. A., to the Leicester Chartered Accountants' Students' Society.
Mr. Hamilton insists that a knowledge of political economy is useful to accountants, for two reasons: first, because accountants are citizens and should regard business not as an end in itself, but as a means to the greater end, right living; second, the more accountants broaden themselves the more efficient they will be in their calling.
The big problems of society are not so much in production as in distribution. “We know how to make the cake, and we make it more efficiently than it used to be made, but we have not yet found an equitable way to divide it.” Accountants have a peculiar advantage which is denied to almost all other people, in that they can see better than any other class the inside working of the great commercial machine.
Mr. Hamilton confines his paper to the Profit and Loss account. “ It is a series of photographs—a kind of kinematograph.” Profit and Loss accounts have one common feature; that, speaking generally, they all show a profit. They may not show a profit every year, but taking any business in groups of years and amalgamating the Profit and Loss accounts for that period, they will show a profit, and, taking them in groups of years, substantially the same rate of profit.
The conclusion is that the proprietor performs a public function and his remuneration may be looked upon as a form of commission for his trouble and service given to society. “The truth is that in the long run the public pays all expenses of manufacture—everything necessarily entering into the cost of an article, and, on the other hand, every benefit in the way of reduction in cost of production is shared by the public."
Mr. Hamilton shows that the Profit and Loss Account means more than an account showing profit and loss, and that each item in it has its meaning. Each item in it stands for a certain phase of human life, Mr. Hamilton suggests to his readers that they should not work mechanically nor be so wholly engrossed in business as to consider that there is nothing worth doing except business. It is the duty and privilege of accountants to serve their fellow men and it is by this broad study that accountants can serve their day and generation. They should use their opportunities to see what is before them in the accounts that pass through their hands, and draw conclusions that will make them better citizens.
Proposed Pan-American Bank.
To the April issue of Moody's Magazine Professor Edwin Maxey, of the University of Nebraska, contributes an article based on the reports of the Pan-American Conferences.
Resolutions were adopted at the first Pan-American Conference that the conference recommend to the governments represented the granting of liberal concessions to facilitate inter-American banking and the establishment of an international American Bank. Nothing resulted from these resolutions.
The need of such an institution became more evident during the decade which passed between the two conferences. As a result, the idea of an international bank was revived with more vigor in the second conference. The report of the Committee on International Banking again recommended the establishment of a great credit institution, which, by means of branches and agencies established in the leading cities, would encourage the development of business and improve and enlarge the methods of international exchanges. While the conference was unanimous as to the advisability of this enterprise, its unanimity ceased when any definite plans and details were introduced.
There were several plans discussed. Among them was suggested that a banking institution should be established in New York or any other commercial centre, with branches in the principal cities of the American Republics. This institution should establish uniform rules relating to charges, etc. “The difficulty with this plan,” says Professor Maxey, " is the fact that it commits the states represented to nothing more than moral support, and the banks must have more tangible security.”
Another plan quite thoroughly discussed was the establishment of an international banking institution with branch offices in the most prominent city in each of the American Republics. This institution was to be favored by an annual subsidy of $100,000 gold for the term of five years, and by exemption from taxes for the same period. This plan was submitted to the International Banking Committee and was reported adversely, on the grounds that the plan would have to overcome constitutional difficulties in many of the republics represented.
The proposition to grant the necessary aid in the form of subscription to shares of stock in the banks was not favorably considered. It was decided that such an arrangement would mean great difficulties in management. As Professor Maxey puts it, “A bank managed by nineteen countries would be like a Mormon child in the tutelage of nineteen stepmothers."
The conference reached the conclusion that if substantial aid were given to such a bank it would have to be by subsidy rather than by exemption from taxes or subscription to its stock. But the chief value in the discussion consisted in again emphasizing the need of such an institution.