Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/30

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
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motive power of all human progress,[1] and there is no such incentive for individual exertion as the apprehension of prospective want. "If everybody was content with his situation, or if everybody believed that no improvement of his condition was possible, the state of the world would be that of torpor," or even worse, for society is so constituted that it can not for any length of time remain stationary, and, if it does not continually advance, it is sure to retrograde.[2]

It is a matter of regret that those who declaim most loudly against the inequalities in the distribution of wealth, and are ready with schemes for the more "equal division of unequal earnings" as remedies against suffering, are the ones who seem to have the least appreciation of the positive fact, that most of the suffering which the human race endures is the result of causes which are entirely within the province of individual human nature to prevent, and that, therefore, reformation of the individual is something more important than the reformation of society.

To understand the problem of poverty, as it at present exhibits itself, especially with reference to remedial effects, it is necessary to look at it comprehensively from two different standpoints. Viewed from the standi)oint of twenty or twenty-five years ago, or before what may be termed the advent of the "ma-

  1. The incentives of progress are the desires inherent in human nature—the desire to gratify the wants of the animal nature, the wants of the intellectual nature, and the wants of the sympathetic nature—desires that, short of infinity, can never be satisfied, as they grow by what they feed on."—Henry George.
  2. The conditions which are naturally imbedded, as it were, in human nature, and which war against the realization of the idea of an ultimate equality in the distribution or possession of capital, have been thus clearly and forcibly pointed out by Mr. George Baden Powell in his "New Homes for the Old Country," published in 1872 after a visit to Australia and New Zealand: "Since the arrival of man in the world there have been perpetual questionings as to why all men are not well off. Why should the good things of this life be so unequally distributed? The two great causes, one as powerful as the other, are circumstances and talents. But these two opposite causes all through man's life influence each other greatly. Circumstances call forth peculiar talents which might otherwise be uselessly dormant, and talents often take advantage of peculiar circumstances which might otherwise be overlooked and missed. It is by no means improbable that as the world grows wiser some means will be found of considerably raising the lowest stage of existence, but it is entirely against the nature of things that all should be equal in every way. Innate pride continually urges men to seek that which is above them, and to many happiness in life is the mere gaining of such successive steps. The essential rule is to work one's own circumstances to the highest point attainable by means of the talents possessed. These talents may be said to resolve themselves into various capitals, and a man may have capital for the improvement of his condition in the form of money, brains, or health and strength—in fact, he may thrive by the possession of 'talents,' whether of gold, of the mind, or of the body. With this fully recognized fact of the diversities of capital, it would seem obviously impossible for a people to continue long in the humanly imposed possession of equal personal shares in any capital."