Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/12
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
not contribute to the realization of any such millennium. They are a flagrant violation of the laws of life and the conditions of existence. They make difficult, if not impossible, the establishment of the moral government of a democracy that insures every man and woman not only freedom but also sustentation and protection. In disregard of the principles of biology, which demand that benefit shall be in proportion to merit, the feeble members of society are fostered at the expense of the strong. Setting at defiance the principles of psychology, which insist upon the cultivation of the clearest perception of the inseparable relation of cause and effect and the equally inseparable relation of aggression and punishment, honest people are turned into thieves and murderers, and thieves and murderers are taught to believe that no retribution awaits the commission of the foulest crime. Scornful of the principles of sociology, which teach in the plainest way that the institutions of feudalism are the products of war and can serve no other purpose than the promotion of aggression, a deliberate effort, born of the astonishing belief that they can be transformed into the agencies of progress, is made in time of peace to restore them to life.
To the American Philistine nothing is more indicative of the marvelous moral superiority of this age and country than the rapid increase in the public expenditures for enterprises "to benefit the people." Particularly enamored is he of the showy statistics of hospitals, asylums, reformatories, and other so-called charitable institutions supported by public taxation. "How unselfish we are!" he exclaims, swelling with pride as he points to them. "In what other age or in what other country has so much been done for the poor and unfortunate?" Naught shall ever be said by me against the desire to help others. The fellow-feeling that thrives upon the aid rendered to the sick and destitute I believe to be the most precious gift of civilization. Upon its growth depends the further moral advancement of the race. As I have already intimated, only as human beings are able to represent to themselves vividly the sufferings of others will they be moved to desist from the conduct that contributes to those sufferings. But the system of public charity that prevails in this country is not charity at all; it is a system of forcible public largesses, as odious and demoralizing as the one that contributed so powerfully to the downfall of Athens and Rome. By it money is extorted from the taxpayer with as little justification as the crime of the highwayman, and expended by politicians with as little love as he of their fellows. What is the result? Precisely what might be expected. He is infuriated because of the growing burden of his taxes.