Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/176

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One Can Always Hope

dom prevails, men learn to dream and hope again, and the realization of each dream through effort encourages further fantasy and generates more effort; thus wealth multiplies, knowledge accumulates, manners take shape, and the nonmaterial values attain importance in man's hierarchy. A new civilization is born. Although something of the lost civilization is recaptured by accident, what is dug up has to be relearned; the new civilization does not grow out of its predecessor, but emerges from the efforts of the living. At any rate, history tells us, a civilization no more than gets started when a political institution attaches itself to it, feeds on it, and in the end devours it. And the roundelay starts all over again.


Is there no escape from the cycle? None has as yet been discovered. Nevertheless, the search for a formula for the "good society" has never been abandoned, hope being what it is, and out of the laboratory of the human mind has come a congeries of utopias. The connotation of unreality that the word has acquired follows from the fact that every utopia ignores the central operating lever of man: he seeks to satisfy his desires with the least expenditure of effort. Every "good society" conjured up by philosophers and reformers presupposes an imaginary man managing his behavior by the dictates of pure reason and keeping in mind the long-range effects of his every act. Since there is no such man, or none we know of, every utopian scheme is indulgently put into the category of a fairy tale, interesting but unreal.

To be sure, man is a reasoning animal, and if he were to refer the matter to his reason he would conclude that something-for-nothing is an impossibility; what one acquires "for free" must be provided by another. He would admit that a 152