Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/10

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

man, deliverance from the sophistries and absurdities of current social and political discussion becomes easy and inevitable. Its real problems cease to be an endless succession of political devices that stimulate cunning and evasion, and countless encroachments upon individual freedom that stir up contention and ill feeling. Instead of being innumerable and complex, defying the solvent power of the greatest intellects and the efforts of the most enthusiastic philanthropists, they become few and simple. While their proper solution is beset with difficulties, these difficulties are not as hopeless as the framing of a statute to produce a growth of virtue in a depraved heart. Indeed, no such task has ever been accomplished, and every effort in that direction has been worse than futile. It has encouraged the growth of all the savage traits that ages of conflict have stamped so profoundly in the nervous system of the race. But let it be understood that the real problems of democracy are the problems of self-support and self-control, the problems that appeared with the appearance of human life, and that their sole solution is to be found in the application of precisely the same methods with which Nature disciplines the meanest of her creatures, then we may expect a measure of success from the efforts of social and political reformers; for freedom of thought and action, coupled with the punishment that comes from a failure to comply with the laws of life and the conditions of existence, creates an internal control far more potent than any law. It impels men to depend upon their own efforts to gain a livelihood; it inspires them with a respect for the right of others to do the same.

Simple and commonplace as the traits of self-support and self-control may seem, they are of transcendent importance. Every other trait sinks into insignificance. The society whose members have learned to care for themselves and to control themselves has no further moral or economic conquests to make. It will be in the happy condition dreamed of by all poets, philosophers, and philanthropists. There will be no destitution, for each person, being able to maintain himself and his family, will have no occasion, except in a case of a sudden and an unforeseen misfortune, to look to his friends and neighbors for aid. But in thus maintaining himself—that is, in pursuing the occupation best adapted to his ability and most congenial to his taste—he will contribute in the largest degree to the happiness of the other members of the community. While they are pursuing the occupations best adapted to their ability and most congenial to their tastes, they will be able to obtain from him, as he will be able to obtain from them, those things that both need to supplement the products of