Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/574

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556
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

largely analogous to those of employés in private firms or corporations; what we are afraid of is the really irresponsible action of our legislators who are sent to Congress almost solely as representatives of local interests, wholly unembarrassed by local consciences. Our real Government is not the executive — it is the Legislature; and if Prof. Henderson will take the responsibility of stating that the private business of the country is carried on on less honest principles than the business of legislation, we think he will surprise most well-informed readers.

We must demur altogether to Prof. Henderson's identification of liberty with power or faculty. If a man can not swim, we do not say he is not at liberty to swim. If, on the other hand, a boy can swim, but is not allowed to by his parents, we say he is not at liberty to swim. The business of Government, according to Herbert Spencer, to whom Prof. Henderson refers, is to protect individuals in the exercise of already acquired faculties and powers, not to take measures for enlarging their faculties and powers: that, he holds, they should look after for themselves. Liberty means nothing else than freedom from external restraint; and to assume, as Prof. Henderson seems to, that a man free from external restraint is not truly free unless he has also a wide range of action is about as logical as to say that a man can not be truly sane unless he has a very wide range of knowledge. Yet it is on the strength of this apparent confusion of thought that Prof. Henderson asks us, in the name of liberty, to intrust the Government with a great diversity of functions for the purpose of "making desirable individual action possible"! We sincerely trust that university-extension lecturers will not be found teaching this doctrine, and arguing that a man's freedom is increased when he gets cheaper postage, or any other added facilities for action. In the sense in which Prof. Henderson is using the word "liberty," it would surely be the duty of the Government to see that every man was well supplied with pocket-money, since nothing so circumscribes action as poverty.

Finally, we fail to see much force in the paragraph in which our contributor sums up his case: "A governmental action which compels is mischievous; an activity which says, 'Thou mayst; lo! here are the means,' is helpful." Surely it is obvious that before the Government can say "Thou mayst; lo! here are the means," it must have taken those means from somebody else. The one great form of compulsion which governments nowadays have it in their power to exercise is this one of taxation. The business of Government is not to say "Thou mayst" to any one, but to say "Thou must not" to every one who shows a disposition to encroach on the liberties of his neighbor. "Thou mayst" in the mouth of the Government is almost, if not quite, an impertinence. "Thou must not," if uttered in the right quarter, is the watchword of individual liberty.




LITERARY NOTICES.

The Cause of an Ice Age. By Sir Robert Ball, LL. D., F. R. S., Royal Astronomer of Ireland, author of Starland. Modern Science Series, Vol. I. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1891. 16mo. Pp. xii +180. Price, $1.

As a mathematician, Dr. Ball has a high reputation, and he has at the same time rare ability in popularizing his themes. Even those who have little mathematical knowledge will find no difficulty in understanding the main points of this volume, while the abstruse formulas upon which his theory depends are relegated to a short appendix, where they can be examined at leisure by those who are competent to carry on extended mathematical calculations.

In his opinion, the discovery which Dr. Ball has made lends strong support to the theory of Adhémar and Croll, namely, that the great Ice age was produced by the precession of the equinoxes during a period of