Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/194

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citizens from this property. The land grants made this familiar to the mass of the people and accredited it as a practise. Special grants to citizens, if they could be classified in any way as developmental in their outcome, were favored. Farms, franchises and tariffs were freely given and received. What are referred to now as "special privileges" were merely species of an approved genus.

When the ideas that the country was boundlessly rich and that it should be lavishly generous prevailed, it is not to be wondered at that the officials who were administering the division of the wealth should feel no hesitancy about taking toll of whatever passed through their hands. Graft was a normal collateral result of current practise and is to be distinguished from embezzlement or larceny. The officers were like men passing through a dripping orchard. To pluck and eat was to follow a natural impulse, easily yielded to when everybody was receiving according to their needs.

Out of these conditions of our first hundred years came the ethics of acquisition as a result of our method of exploiting a rich continent; a code which justified the accumulation of wealth by the process of taking it. This was normal and natural. The pertinent question now is, why has it become, or why is it becoming immoral?

A structure is no more stable than its foundation. The phase of public morals discussed here rested upon the fact that the people were carving up the public domain and trying to increase the value of their individual portions. When the good lands of the common heritage had passed from the government's control the general run of citizens had nothing to expect from the public directly. With the extension of the network of railways and other methods of communication over the country at large and the local areas as well, and after the rise of manufactures on a large scale, the prospect of further benefits from further opening of the country did not exist for the major portion of the people. When the populace can no longer look for immediate or collateral benefits of a private nature from governmental grants the policy of distribution is doomed in a democracy. Donations widely scattered may be approved, but if the range is narrowed they become evidences of favoritism and discrimination. As soon as the voters become conscious of the situation they will wipe out the remnants of the system. While "conservation" means both preservation of our natural resources in themselves and their future use for the people as a whole, the popular support behind the movement at present is in the nature of a demand that "landgrabbing" be stopped. What can no longer be done by all will not be permitted to any.

The swift growth of population has exhausted what once seemed to be a limitless territory. With the disappearance of good free lands falls the notion that the government of itself abounds in wealth. Men have