Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/321

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307
PRIVATE RELIEF OF THE POOR.

The above facts and conclusions are from personal observations begun by me in the summer of 1891, and continued in the summer of 1892 in connection with Prof. James Mercur, of the United States Military Academy. Not until we had embodied our conclusions in an official report to the War Department did I become aware that anything had been published in relation to these forests. I then learned that Mr. W. H. Holmes, formerly of the Hayden Survey, had made reference to them in his report on The Geology of the Yellowstone Park; also that Mr. W. H. Weed, of the present Geological Survey, had contributed an article upon the subject to the School of Mines Quarterly for April, 1892. It is believed that nothing else of an explanatory or descriptive nature has been published in regard to these interesting objects.


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PRIVATE RELIEF OF THE POOR.[1]

By HERBERT SPENCER.

LESS objectionable than administration of poor relief by a law — established and coercive organization, is its administration by privately established and voluntary organizations — benevolent societies, mendicity societies, etc. "Less objectionable" I say, but still, objectionable: in some ways even more objectionable. For though the vitiating influences of coercion are now avoided the vitiating influences of proxy-distribution remain. If we have not a machinery so rigid as that set up by the Poor Law, yet we have a machinery. The beneficiary is not brought in direct relation with the benefactor, but in relation with an agent appointed by a number of benefactors. The transaction, instead of being one which advantageously cultivates the moral nature on both sides, excludes culture of the moral nature as much as is practicable, and introduces a number of bad motives. Note the ill workings of the system.

As with the Poor Law (especially the old Poor Law), those who were distressed but thrifty and well conducted got no help, while help came to the improvident and ill-conducted; so with philanthropic societies in general. The worthy suffer rather than ask assistance; while the worthless press for assistance and get it. The Mansion House Fund of 1885-'86, for instance, was proved to have gone largely for the support of "idlers, spendthrifts, and drunkards." "They did not see why they should not have some of the money going as well as their neighbors." In some cases applicants "demanded their share." Where, as in another case,

  1. From the author's Principles of Ethics, vol. ii, just published by D. Appleton & Co.