Page:Garden Cities.djvu/18

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9
GARDEN CITIES

tion will inevitably be followed by mental degeneration. Now if this be so it must be admitted that in a most important particular the policy of Laisser aller Laisser faire has in our country conspicuously failed. We wanted no commission to tell us whether or no physical deterioration existed in our great towns. No man with eyes in his head need do more than visit them and observe the working population there to satisfy himself conclusively upon that point. The fact is patent. The extent and cause or causes of the deterioration are proper and important matters for investigation. A good deal of confusion appears to exist in the minds of some people on the subject. Explanations of the phenomenon many and varied have been offered extending from over-education in the board schools to the pernicious cheapness of sugar, which it has been suggested tempts the children of the very poor to squander their ample pocket money in the purchase of sweets. But the very obvious and patent cause, the unhealthy conditions of town life, does not find very ready acceptance, possibly on account of the extreme difficulty of dealing with it. If physical deterioration be caused by cheap sugar and over-education the remedies lie ready to our hand. But if it be true that it is the result of life in existing towns it means that a great and sustained effort will be needed to put the matter right—I shall at all events assume, I hope with your concurrence, that whatever other causes may be at work, the principal cause of physical deterioration is the congestion of population in our great towns.

If this is the root of the matter it is important to consider the cause of the growth of our great towns. In the first place it is to be noted that the growth of towns has accompanied the transfer of capital and labour from agricultural to mechanical industries. This being so, it has naturally occurred to many, that by reversing the