Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/842

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as well as in the broad popular strata, respecting the influence which the rapid advance of science and art is exercising upon the character of popular life, and respecting the end to which that advance is tending.

The questions have been raised and discussed whether man is really better and happier for all these achievements of science and art, or whether they do not rather lead to the destruction of all ideal qualities of good, and to a coarse pleasure-seeking; whether the inequality in the division of the goods and pleasures of life will not be magnified through them; and whether the opportunities for work of individuals will not be diminished through the growth of machine-industry and the division of labor resulting from it, and the laborer himself be brought into a more restrained, dependent condition than before; or, in short, whether, instead of the lordship of birth and the sword, there will not prevail the still more oppressive rule of inherited or acquired wealth.

It can not be denied that there is now some show of justification for these gloomy anticipations. The rapid and continuous advance of scientific technics must necessarily, as it goes on, have a disturbing effect on many branches of industry. Better working methods may in many ways cause production to rise faster than consumption, and reduce the demand for labor, while manual labor, which formerly employed a much larger number of workmen to produce the same results, will no longer be able to compete with special machines. The like may be observed in the production of food-materials. Cheaper means of transportation are bringing to the old civilized lands the products in masses of thinly inhabited regions, whose virgin soils are not yet in need of artificial fertilization, but in which the scarcity of labor has led to the perfection of mechanical processes. It is true that scientific art provides means of equalizing these disadvantages by more rational methods of fertilizing and working; yet it is very hard to replace old accustomed but untenable conditions by better ones. Complaints are multiplying over the general depression in prices, and the falling off of the demand for labor, and the strangest theories are proposed for curing these evils by the isolation of certain lands against the products of others, and by forced limitations of production. The adherents of such theories go so far as to deny all utility to mankind of the scientific tendency, and to dream of a return to the methods of former presumed happier days. They do not recollect that, in this case, the number of men would also have to be brought back to the old figure. The number of happy shepherds and huntsmen is very small, and yet it must enter as an essential factor into the estimation of the greater or less prosperity of any period. It is a very hard but at the same time an unalterable social law, that all transitions to other, even if they be better, conditions, are connected with suffering. It is, therefore, certainly a humane proceeding to alleviate these sufferings to the present generation by a careful direction and partial limitation of the new,