Young men among us always talk of the time when they will be rich, as if wealth were at least among the possibilities for each one. At middle life all but a few of us find that we shall never be rich—poverty is our lot. We are in the great crowd to whom, their whole life long, the struggle for material necessities must be the predominant or absorbing interest. If we can support our families and pay our debts, that becomes the horizon of our ambition. We either did not plan our lives correctly, or we have made errors of judgment, or we have misapprehended the facts of life, or we have neglected our opportunities, or we have met with misfortune. If now we could unite our failures and transmute them into success at the bidding of some social magician, and "abolish" the poverty with which we have been contending all our lives, what a grand thing it would be! It would then only remain to abolish disease and death, and all human woes would come to an end at once.
But when we turn to examine the means which we are invited to employ for this purpose, we find that it is only the same old proposal once more in a new disguise; we are invited only to take and waste what wealth there is; we are to abolish poverty by abolishing wealth. We are to go back, in fact, to the primitive barbarism, to the bliss which rests on ignorance, and the contentment which comes from savage stupidity; and the net final gain will be that our envy will no longer be excited by seeing anybody else better off than we.
The philosophizing which goes on about these things is one of the marks of the literature of our time. Most of it is as idle as it would be to write essays about the distress of excessive heat. When all is said, the only rational question is: what can we do about it? When we read the older literature, and note the efforts which