Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/323

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309
PRIVATE RELIEF OF THE POOR.

Not even now have we reached the end of the evils. There is the insincerity of those who furnish the funds distributed: flunkyism and the desire to display being often larger motives than beneficent feeling. These swindling promoters when writing to wealthy men for contributions, take care to request the honor of their names as vice-presidents. Even where the institutions are genuine, the giving of handsome subscriptions or donations, is largely prompted by the wish to figure before the world as generous, and as filling posts of distinction and authority. A still meaner motive co-operates. One of the nouveaux riches, or even one whose business is tolerably prosperous, takes an active part in getting up, or in carrying on, one of these societies supposed to be originated purely by benevolence, because he likes the prospect of sitting on a committee presided over by a peer, and perhaps side by side with the son of one. He and his wife and his daughters enjoy the thought of seeing his name annually thus associated in the list of officers; and they contemplate this result more than the benefits to be given.

There are kindred vitiations of other organizations having beneficent aims—orphanages, provisions for unfortunate and aged tradesmen, etc. Here again, the least necessitous, who have many friends, are usually those to benefit, and the most necessitous, who have no friends, are neglected. Then there is the costliness and corruption of the selecting process—expensive and laborious canvassing, exchange of votes, philanthropic log-rolling. Evidently the outlay for working the system, in money and effort, is such as would be equivalent to a maintenance for many more beneficiaries, were it not thus wasted in machinery.

JSTor is it otherwise with institutions thought by most people to be indisputably beneficial—hospitals and dispensaries. The first significant fact is that thirty per cent of the people of London are frequenters of them; and the largeness of this proportion makes it clear that most of them, not to be ranked as indigent, are able to pay their doctors. Gratis medical relief tends to pauperize in more definite ways. The out-patients begin by getting physic and presently get food; and the system "leads them afterward openly to solicit pecuniary aid." This vitiating effect is proved by the fact that during the forty years from 1830 to 1869, the increase in the number of hospital patients has been five times greater than the increase of population; and as there has not been more disease, the implication is obvious. Moreover, the promise of advice for nothing attracts the mean-spirited to the extent that "the poor are now being gradually ousted out of the consulting-room by well-to-do persons." People of several hundreds a year, I even up to a thousand, apply as out-patients, going in disguise: twenty per cent of the out-patients in one large hospital having