Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/189

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183
PRESENT POLITICS

AN ECONOMIC INTERPRETATION OF PRESENT POLITICS
By Professor C. C. ARBUTHNOT
WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

ONE hesitates in taking the reader's time to call his attention to the fact that the present is an exceptional period of political unrest and anxiety over governmental policies touching certain public economic relationships. "Conservation," "graft," "the tariff," and "special privileges" have been talked about and about until the honest citizen who is trying to get a decent living for his family would be utterly weary if he were not so vitally interested in the results of the agitation. His interest in insurgency has become a demand for progression. There is determination in it.

The conservatives have felt that the whole hubbub is the result of unreasonable clamor, cheap reformers and low-priced magazines; that the people do not know when to leave well-enough alone, and that the wise policy is to adhere to the time-honored practises of the fathers until the storm blows by. On the other hand, great masses of the people are smarting under a sense of wrong and burdened by a feeling of oppression too great to be borne. They suspect they are playing the game of life with the cards stacked so that neither skill nor luck can be hoped to yield results favorable to themselves. The popular demand is for "fairness," "a square deal," and "equality of opportunity." The uneasy feeling prevails that the general public is losing something as well as the sense of personal injury. An exploitation of the many, collectively and individually, for the benefit of a few seems to be the evil of the day. Passionate reproaches, fierce denunciations, and tempestuous outbursts of feeling accompanied by determined action are aimed at the abuses. And yet no one can point to any fresh overt acts, or new public policies, or unusual legislation against which to protest. The subjects of the complaints are not the uncommon features, but the complaints themselves are. The economic and political phenomena assailed are time-honored, well-established heritages from the country's past that have come down to us from far enough back to be esteemed almost institutions characteristic of the republic. They do not need to be explained. It is the outcry against them that is to be accounted for, and the understanding is not far to seek. It is evident in view of our economic history.

Careful readers of history and students of social movements have