Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/56

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46
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The class-bias, like the bias of patriotism, is a reflex egoism; and, like it, has its uses and abuses. As the strong feelings enlisted on behalf of one's nation cause that enthusiastic coöperation by which its integrity is maintained in presence of other nations, severally tending to spread and subjugate their neighbors; so the esprit de corps, more or less manifest in each specialized part of the body politic, prompts measures to preserve the integrity of that part in opposition to other parts, all more or less antagonistic. The egoism of individuals becomes an egoism of the class they form; and, besides the separate efforts, generates a joint effort to get an undue share of the aggregate proceeds of social activity. The aggressive tendency of each class, so produced, has to be balanced by like aggressive tendencies of other classes. The class-feelings do, in short, develop one another; and the respective organizations in which they embody themselves develop one another. Large classes of the community, marked off by rank, and sub-classes marked off by special occupations, everywhere form their defensive combinations, and set up organs advocating their interests; and the reason assigned is in all cases the same—the need for self-defence.

Along with the good which a society derives from this self-asserting and self-preserving action, by which each division and subdivision keeps itself strong enough for its functions, there goes, among other evils, this which we are considering—the aptness to contemplate all social actions in their bearings on class-interests, and the resulting inability to estimate rightly their effects on the society as a whole. The habit of thought produced perverts not merely the judgments on questions which directly touch class-welfare, but it perverts the judgments on multitudinous questions which touch class-welfare very indirectly, if at all. It fosters an adapted theory of social relations of every kind, with sentiments to fit the theory; and a characteristic stamp is given to the beliefs on public matters in general. Take an instance:

Whatever its technical ownership may be, Hyde Park is open for the public benefit: no title to special benefit is producible by those who ride and drive. It happens, however, that those who ride and drive make large use of it daily; and extensive tracts of it have been laid out for their convenience: the tracts for equestrians having been from time to time increased. Of people without carriages and horses, a few, mostly of the kind who lead easy lives, use Hyde Park frequently as a promenade. Meanwhile, by the great mass of Londoners, too busy to go so far, it is scarcely ever visited: their share of the general benefit is scarcely appreciable. And now what do the few who have a constant and almost exclusive use of it think about the occasional use of it by the many? They are angry when, at long intervals, even a small portion of it, quite distant from their haunts, is occupied for a few hours in ways disagreeable to them—nay, even when such temporary occupation is on a day during which Rotten