Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/863

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845
EDITOR'S TABLE.

the problem of the unemployed. It is probably true, as hinted by Herbert Spencer in the address delivered by him in this city in the year 1882, that the pace set by the stronger and more competent members of the community is faster than the weaker ones can keep up with. "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king," and many of the "failures" of a civilized society might be brilliant successes in a society of a more primitive cast. So far as an unrestrained use by the strong of their superior abilities in competition for wealth and all that it represents may be an evil—and that it is an evil Mr. Spencer has again suggested in the last volume of his Principles of Sociology—we can only hope to check it by promoting the growth of higher moral and social sentiments. This will, in any case, take time; but meantime we should earnestly and sedulously consider in what directions and to what extent we are interfering with the operation of those natural laws the tendency of which is to produce a condition of social equilibrium. We need to open our eyes to the mischief we have done by a crude political philosophy, by unwise legislation, by indiscreet philanthropy, by the application of untried abstract ideas to the regulation of social questions. We need to awaken to a sense of the extreme liability of the human intellect to go astray when it attempts constructive work of any kind. That things have gone wrong we have the proof before our eyes, and where is the chief blame to be laid if not on our own short-sighted views and meddlesome policies?

 

It happened that just as we had finished the above article the Fortnightly Review for February was placed in our hands. The first article in the number is one by Herbert Spencer upon the late Prof. Tyndall; the second is by Goldwin Smith, and bears the title of Oxford Revisited. From the first, which will be found entire elsewhere in this number, we extract the following passage: "A conversation with him [Tyndall] some years since made it manifest that personal experience had greatly shaken his faith in public administrations, and made him look with more favor on the view of state functions held by me. On the other hand, my faith in free institutions, originally strong (though always joined with the belief that the maintenance and success of them is a question of national character), has in these later years been greatly decreased by the conviction that the fit character is not possessed by any people, nor is likely to be possessed for ages to come."

From the second article we take the following: "It may be said without reference to university extension or to any educational movement in particular, and it is to be hoped without incurring the charge of illiberality or obscurantism that people will have presently to consider the economical as well as the intellectual effects of pressing on everybody what is called high education. The good founder of Cornell University once confided to a friend his hope that the day would come when there would be five thousand students in his institution. His friend replied that if that day did come the institution, instead of being a blessing, would be in danger of being a curse, since there would not be a market for anything like such a number of graduates, and the residue would be without suitable work, unhappy, discontented, and probably dangerous to the commonwealth."

Whether we agree with these sentiments or not, let us ponder them. Of both writers it may be said that they are men of strong practical instincts.

 

 

WHY BENEFICENCE SHOULD NOT BE ENFORCED.

In a criticism of Mr. Spencer's Principles of Ethics in the January number of Mind, Prof. S. Alexander asks a question which, it seems to us, admits of an