Simon Patten

At the turn of the twentieth century so much of the developing United States of America was transforexternal image outside-the-warners-theater-before-the-premiere-of-don-juan-with-john-barrymore-300x227.jpgming. Of all the changes, mass-production and industry seemed to lead the country with such an advantage into the 1900’s. People from the rural areas of the nation, the farmers, the poverty stricken, the new immigrants, all flocked to the new urbanized centers where their labor would power the momentum of the industry. With the increased productivity, the consumers were also increasing their consumption of the products being provided by this “revolutionized” manufacturing. With the variety and surplus of consumer options, there was also an expansion in the amount of leisure time available to the common American citizen.
Leisure time is defined as “free time” spent doing what you want to do, when you want to it. Most often doing something nonproductive for personal relaxation. As crazy as it seems, in this day and age, leisure time was not always regarded as something so convenient or even something socially accepted by all people who weren’t part of the aristocratic upper class.
For most Americans before the turn of the century, they were busy working long hour, low paying jobs. But as the improvements in factory working and advancements in technology the workers had more time they could spend away from work. Employees had evenings, weekend, and even vacations off from their responsibilities at work. It was now that they started to advocate leisure time as a “right” and also a healthy and as a “crucial part of their emotional health”. Leading the way in changing the mentality of the nation was one man, Simon Patten.


Simon Patten was most notably known as being one of the most influential economists of the era. However, he had to work hard and endured a rough history before he could rise from obscurity. Not too long after Simon Patten was born in 1852, his entire family moved from their homexternal image halle-university.jpgetown and moved Illinois. Patten’s father was a prosperous farmer, was involved in their local church and served in the civil war. Patten’s father was the primary role model for this young man because his mother had passed away when he was only about the age of four.

As Patten grew he had attended public school. Upon graduating, Patten thirsted for more knowledge and at the young age of seventeen, he entered the Jennings Seminary School located not to far from the family farm. Even after graduating, Patten still desired to learn more. He applied to study in other schools but decided to move to Germany instead. At the University of Halle Patten’s eyes seemed to be opened to what was to be the future for American economics.
While living in Germany, Patten was impressed with how well the German economy could support the consumerism of the German population. With this impression of how economics should work and the help of prominent professors Patten graduated from Halle in 1878. Patten returned to the United States and studied law for a time. Due to eye problems he had to stop almost everything. A few years passed before he had his vision fixed. After he had his vision repaired he decided to teach and he also started writing books. Two of his most famous books in reference to his economic ideals include
The Theory of Prosperity and The New Basis of Civilization.

external image Simon_Nelson_Patten.jpgPatten's Economic Ideals

Patten believed that with all of the advancements with industry and business we needed to step away from previous beliefs and reach out and grasp the future with a new mentality. The earlier thoughts on leisure stated that it wasn’t available to everyone because work and money were more important and going without economically was not an option during this time period. However Patten saw and believed that America was providing more then before, so then there are in turn more possibilities to be offered.

People had more money now and could afford more possessions. Patten’s ideas relate similarly to the thought that money can buy happiness through material goods. People didn’t have to avoid leisure and simple lavishness just because the “old assumption that the normal condition of civilization was [based on] a scarcity of goods … the fear of scarcity had caused people to place a high value on thrift, self-denial, and restraint,” (Quoted from Alan Brinkley’s
A Survey American History). Now with advanced industrialization there was an abundance of “stuff”. People didn’t have to focus solely on their absolute needs, but could spend time doing the “fun” activities they enjoyed. This shift from a “scarcity economics” and the “abundance economics” was the redefinition of the country’s moral thanks to the ideas of Simon Patten.

Other Works Written by Simon Patten:
Das finanzwesen der staaten und städte der Nordamerikanischen Union (1878)
Premises of Political Economy, being a re-examination of certain fundamental principles of economic science (1885)
The Consumption of Wealth (1889)external image application.pdf
The Stability of Prices (1889)
Principles of Rational Taxation (1890)
The Economic Basis of Protection (1890)
The Educational Value of Political Economy (1890)
The Theory of Dynamic Economics (1892)
The Theory of Social Forces (1896)
The Development of English Thought: A Study in the economic interpretation of history (1899)
The Theory of Prosperity (1902)
Heredity and Social Progress (1903)
New Basis of Civilization (1907)
"Theories of Progress" (1911)
The Social Basis of Religion (1911)
Reconstruction of Economic Theory (1912)
"Mandeville in the Twentieth Century" (1918)

Brinkley, Alan. American History: A Survey, 12th Edition (pages 506-507)