Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/202

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192
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

disproved a posteriori. The belief that truly good legislation and administration can go along with a humanity not truly good, is a chronic delusion. While our own form of government, giving means for expressing and enforcing claims, is the best form yet evolved for preventing aggressions of class upon class, and of individuals on one another, yet it is hopeless to expect from it, any more than from other forms of government, a capacity and a rectitude greater than those of the society out of which it grows. And criticisms like the foregoing, which imply that its shortcomings can be set right by expostulating with existing governing agents or by appointing others, imply that subtlest kind of political bias which is apt to remain when the stronger kinds have been got rid of.

 

Second only to the class-bias, we may say that the political bias most seriously distorts sociological conceptions. That this is so with the bias of political party, every one sees in some measure, though not in full measure. It is manifest to the Radical that the bias of the Tory blinds him to a present evil or to a future good. It is manifest to the Tory that the Radical does not see the benefit there is in that which he wishes to destroy, and fails to recognize the mischiefs likely to be done by the institution he would establish. But neither imagines that the other is no less needful than himself. The Radical, with his impracticable ideal, is unaware that his enthusiasm will serve only to advance things a little, but not at all as he expects; and he will not admit that the obstructiveness of the Tory is a wholesome check. The Tory, doggedly resisting, cannot perceive that the established order is but relatively good, and that his defence of it is simply a means of preventing premature change; while he fails to recognize in the bitter antagonism and sanguine hopes of the Radical the agencies without which there could be no progress. Thus neither fully understands his own function or the function of his opponent; and, by as much as he falls short of understanding it, he is disabled from rightly understanding social phenomena.

The more general kinds of political bias distort men's sociological conceptions in other ways, but quite as seriously. There is this perennial delusion, common to Radical and Tory, that legislation is omnipotent, and that things will get done because laws are passed to do them; there is this confidence in one or other form of government, due to the belief that a government once established will retain its form and work as was intended; there is this hope that by some means the collective wisdom can be separated from the collective folly, and set over it in such way as to guide things aright—all of them implying that general political bias which inevitably coexists with subordination to political agencies. The effect on sociological speculation is to maintain the conception of a society as something manufactured by statesmen, and to distract attention from the phenomena of social evolution.