Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/649

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LAW AS A DISTURBER OF SOCIAL ORDER.

LAW AS A DISTURBER OF SOCIAL ORDER.
By BENJAMIN REECE.

NOTHING is more perplexing to the inquiring mind than a contemplation of the great contrasts between the harmony and adaptation existing in the material world and the incongruities, antagonisms, and disorder which characterize the social and moral worlds. When one realizes how successfully the inventor and the artisan have followed the teachings of the scientist, he can not but suspect that much of our social unrest has arisen because our law-makers and philanthropists have not followed the teachings of social philosophy.

The fact is patent that, in the material world, where man's hand is powerless to interfere, there are perfect order and harmonious development; but in the moral and social worlds, which are always subject to man's petty and ill-considered meddling, we have great disorder and confusion. So marked are the incongruities of social condition that the philosophic thought which has failed to grasp the vital elements of development seems to be divided by the extravagant superlatives of pessimistic and optimistic expression. In his criticism of Mr. Herbert Spencer's essay, "Man vs. the State," Emile de Laveleye recognizes this uncertainty and want of harmony in human affairs, but fails to see that the disparities are caused by man's interference with the laws of his own being and development. He says: "Nature is subject to certain laws which are invariable, as, for instance, the law of gravitation. We may call these laws of nature, but in human institutions, which are ever varying, nothing of the sort can exist." He fails to realize that the law of gravitation is invariable because man's hand is powerless to change it, but directs its cunning to the construction of screws, levers, and inclined planes, in order to obtain mastery over nature.

Suppose the power had rested with man to substitute human contrivances for this unvarying law of nature, what inextricable confusion had resulted! Suppose the citizens of the vast territory whose commerce is tributary to the Northern chain of lakes should call upon their senators and representatives to devise ways and means by which to conduct their foreign trade direct from the lake ports, without first transshipping to, and thereby paying tribute to, the cities of the Atlantic coast. A physical difficulty at once presents itself, insomuch that the shallow-draught vessels of the lakes are unfit for ocean service, whereas the deep-draught vessels of the Atlantic are unable to enter the shallow waters of the canals and harbors of the lakes. After various consultations