Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/209

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STATE INTERFERENCE IN SOCIAL AFFAIRS. 199

short time nobody would have more than four hundred pounds a year, and the sources of taxation would dry up just as people had become used to and dependent on governmental assistance. [Laughter.] The general argument may be summarized in the favorite phraseology of the day. The utility of every increment of governmental work rapidly diminishes, and the disutility of every increment of taxation rapidly increases. The classical economists maintain that even if the state could do something for individuals as cheaply and effectively as they could do it for themselves, it is in general better to trust to individual effort. The decisive consideration is the effect on the character and ener- gies of the people. Self-reliance, independence, liberty these were the old watchwords not state reliance, dependence, and obedience. In the matter of pauperism, for example, they teach us to distinguish between the immediate effects of relief which may be beneficial and the effects of reliance on that relief which may be disastrous. They are bold enough to maintain that the condition of life of the dependent pauper should not be made by aids and allowances better than that of the independent laborer. They insist on the great historical distinction between the sturdy rogues and vagabonds who can work and will not and the impotent poor, the poor in very deed, who can not sup- port themselves. They look upon the payment of poor rates as they look upon other forms of taxation namely, as the lesser of two evils ; they do not try to persuade themselves and other peo- ple that it is a duty which is essentially pleasant. If Christian charity realized a tithe of its ideal there would be no need for relief on the part of the state. It does not take ten ants to relieve another ant, and in this land of ours there are more than ten pro- fessed Christians to every pauper. To the student I would say, political economy has a vast literature, and you will not find all the good concentrated in the last marginal increment ; you must master the old before you can appreciate the new ; a portion of truth just rediscovered for the hundredth time by some amateur is not of such value as a body of doctrines that have been devel- oped for more than a century by economists of repute. And to the legislator I would say, vaster than the literature of political economy is the economic experience of nations ; the lessons to be learned from the multitudinous experiments of the past can never become antiquated, for they have revealed certain broad features of human character that you can no more disregard than the vital functions of the human body. Just as Harvey did not in- vent but discovered the circulation of the blood, so Adam Smith did not invent but discovered the system of natural liberty. And nothing has been better established than the position that legisla- tion which neglects to take account of the liberties of individuals

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