Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/335

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This movement, however, like every other, has its perils and abuses. If individualism destroys institutions, and if democracy, with its dream of equality, simply works disintegration, the society is at the sport of the new elements which combine and organize on new centers, for actual disintegration and atomization of society is impossible.

What then are the centers on which the new organizations form, and what is the character of the new organizations? In our modern society they are sure to be interests, meaning by that, groups of persons united by a desire for the success of the same enterprises and seeking pecuniary gain from that success. Here is where the plutocratic element finds entrance into the democratic system, and here lies the weakness of democracy, in the face of the plutocratic forces with which it has to cope in modern society.

What, in the face of such an antagonism, is the significance of this new notion that "the state is an ethical person"—a triviality in the guise of an apothegm? If the state is an ethical person, and is rent by interests which may be sordid, and are at best commercial, what becomes of its ethical authority, and how can its ethical character abide? In order to save its own existence—not its ethical character, but its purely brute existence—it has to take sides with some interests against others, which is just what all modern civilized states are doing.

And yet, as I said at the outset of this essay, it has seemed not impossible that democracy might contain within itself the form and potency of better things. It has seemed that it might be simple-minded enough to throw off all the big dogmas of state-olatry, might be so open and visible, and might feel itself so well known of