Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/545
TEE STRUGGLE FOB EQUALITY 541
In the main, however, the course of events has been so moderate as to attract and not to repel adherents. There is no evidence that the country is growing less radical, or that it is tiring of reform. Probably there has been no decade in the country's history during which humanitarian measures have scored so many victories as during the last ten years. Hypocrisy has been mercilessly unmasked. One stronghold of privilege after another has been assaulted. Conduct once supposed to concern no one but the individual has been seen to have a public aspect, and some of the points at which the self-interest of the individual is inconsistent with the public welfare have been noted and a measure of collective control has been imposed. The public has become more exacting in the demands which it makes upon its servants. There is a quickening in- fluence felt in nearly every direction. The man absorbed in business and the closet philosopher are waking up to the claims of public affairs, and are contesting the supremacy of those who have hitherto run our politics. There is a growing realization that we have had the forms without the substance of a real democracy. It is not so much statutory enactments as the general atmosphere of criticism in which the ordi- nary man lives and works that is making for higher standards of private and public conduct. The discriminating character of the times nowhere appears to better advantage than in the readiness with which sham re- formers and their works are detected and rejected. Most men are pro- gressive in spots and the public is showing the good sense necessary to distinguish between the respects in which those who profess to lead it face the future and those respects in which they face the past. The sub- sidized press has lost much of its influence. It is the critical attitude of the age that is so full of promise for the future.
A notable change in public opinion has taken place since 1896. At that time the man successful in gaining public office stood primarily for an ultra-individualism and for upholding property rights. The prevailing view was that a man acted in consonance with the public in- terest in securing the kind of a tariff or franchise that he wanted. This idea is to-day discredited. The emphasis has shifted somewhat from business success to the broader interests of mankind. Society has be- come less complacent with unwholesome conditions. It is more gener- ally understood that sweat-shops, unsanitary tenements and unduly long hours of labor threaten the well-being of the public at large as well as that of the victims immediately involved. An awakened people is striving to control its political institutions. Moreover, business and politics are such close bed-fellows that the improvement in the latter reflects the change for the better that has taken place in the former.
The forward movement of recent years has not won its triumphs without a fight. Nearly every inch of the ground has been contested by skilled and often opulent adversaries. The vested interests affected