Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/268

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258
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE SOCIAL PROBLEM
By Professor JOHN J. STEVENSON
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

MACCHIAVELLI, discussing the choice of political ministers, grouped intellects into three classes: "one which comprehends by itself, another which appreciates what others comprehend, and a third, which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless." The last class constitutes the mass in any nation. Draper put Macchiavelli's statement into terse Saxon: "The first group thinks for itself, the second thinks as others think, the third does not think at all." Every man, familiar with "practical politics," knows well that the grouping is as true for this day, and for America, as it was for Italy four centuries ago. In preparing a list of candidates for office, the third class is ignored—it will vote straight. The second class is ignored; it consists of "independents," following slavishly some men in the first group, whose opinions they respect. Those leaders must be considered, but their followers give managers no concern.

The economist is compelled to recognize a similar grouping. His first class consists of men gifted with foresight, able to plan and to execute, able, as it were, to hold the future in the grasp of the present; men of his second class possess these powers in less degree, but lack initiative or mental poise, are apt to be found wanting at critical moments, yet are capable of much as subordinates; while those of the third class are able or willing to work in very narrow paths with little or no responsibility.

In this, as in all classification, the boundaries are indefinite and gradations exist in each group. There are many in the second who, but for some defect, would have been in the first. "He might have been a statesman, if—"or" He ought to have been at the head of great enterprises, but—" are expressions only too familiar. The third class has many who possess almost every qualification for the second, but they are unwilling to undertake serious tasks, preferring to provide for the present as well as for the future by moving along lines of least resistance. Yet the grouping as a generalization is true; it is merely the assertion that differences in men are largely innate, are due only in part to environment. If a man belonging to the first group be born among the lowest of the third, he is certain, in this country, at least, to find his place as leader in politics or in other directions long before