Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/402

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398

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

The environment of a man changes not as he moves from place to place, but as his income is raised or lowered. A change from $10 to $20 a week alters radically the conditions under which a family lives and gives to its members other motives and temptations than those that moved them in their earlier period. Two contrasted conditions result. A condition of surplus where choices are large and a condition of deficit where physical wants are seldom met. Each of these states have visible effects that can be readily traced. A state of deficit affecting children results in defective bodily development. The child matures more rapidly and loses the plasticity of mind and body which better nourished children possess. This means the appearance of atavistic traits which in turn promote criminal tendencies. A state of deficit is thus the cause of crime and of those peculiarities that accompany the retardation of development. Families under its influence falling below the normal standard approximate in thought and character the condition of distant ancestors. Deficit and retardation are different phases of one group of tendencies. Deficit is the cause; retardation is an effect. The result is the increase of crime and the loss of moral tone.

The deterioration due to a deficit is not more marked than that due to a surplus. An animal eats freely and even gorges itself without injury because the energy to acquire food must always be kept active in order to assure survival. Men, however, separate action from enjoyment; those who are favored in income can expand their consumption without correspondingly increasing their activity. The constant stimulation of appetite and the overworking of organs to relieve the system of its load leads to morbidness and disease. It also results in the creation of toxic substances which poison the body and depress mental activity. These evils react on the will and reduce its power to control thought and activity. With the decay of will power the moral virtues are undermined. The victim of indulgence thus sinks into vice and drifts into evils that an active will power would have avoided. Morbidness, disease, auto-intoxication, a weak will and vicious inclinations appear when social conditions throw into the hands of individuals a surplus that permits a cessation of strenuous activity.

Surplus and deficit are thus equally dangerous. Those in want have their development retarded and suffer from the evils bound up with this condition. Those whose surplus permits satiety and idleness suffer with equal severity from a train of evils that flows from morbid conditions. Moral, vicious and criminal traits thus vary with objective conditions and are marks of bodily states that depend on the surplus and deficit of society. The result is the sinking of the race into a subnormal condition from which there is no relief until economic conditions are altered. Normality is increased by taking from the surplus of the prosperous and adding to the welfare of those injured by poverty.