Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/59

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Society Are People
 

joyed. By the process of elimination we come to this special advantage: freedom. Not only freedom from political restraints but also freedom from the inhibitions that institutionalized tradition imposes on man's aspirations. The early American did not have an expensive government to support, little in the way of taxation to deprive him of his savings, no traditional caste system to depress his sense of self-importance. A few of these restraining influences he did import, to his hindrance, but they had not had time enough to become entrenched and institutionalized in the wilderness. He was free to work out his destiny according to his capacities. And he chose to follow his natural bent, to better his wages by cooperation and specialization, to save some of the increase and to invest it in devices that enabled him to produce more with less effort. He was a capitalist on the loose.

Society is a growth, with roots imbedded in its component units. It is no more a manufactured thing than is a tree, although like the tree its growth can be impeded by artificial impediments or facilitated by their removal. There is a current conceit that Society can be fabricated, like a chair or a shoe, by imposing the achievements of one group of people on another. Seeing that the special characteristic of what we call an advanced culture is its fund of capital, the conceit holds that the showering of this fund on a "backward" people will speed their advancement. The idea is as silly as that of forcing a child to keep pace with an adult. A factory does not make Society, but a Society makes a factory. When an itinerant tailor could take care of their clothing needs, the pioneer community would have found a clothing factory in its midst something of a monstrosity; only when the population was large enough and productive enough to take care of its antecedent desires did the idea of a steel mill suggest itself. One

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