great towns in the distribution of one commodity at least, which is found in abundance, the water supplied to each house.
As long as there is no fear of the supply running short, no water company thinks of checking the consumption of water in each house. Take what you please! In Paris during the great droughts if there is any fear of supply failing, the water companies know that all they have to do is to make known the fact, by means of a short advertisement in the papers, and the citizens will reduce their consumption of water and not let it run to waste.
But if water were actually scarce, what would be done? Recourse would be had to a system of rations. Such a measure is so natural, so inherent in common sense, that Paris twice asked to be put on rations during the two sieges which it supported in 1871.
Is it necessary to go into details, to prepare tables, showing how the distribution of rations will work, to prove that it is just and equitable, infinitely more just and equitable than the existing state of things? All these tables and details will not serve to convince those of the middle classes, nor, alas, those of the workers tainted with middle-class prejudices, who regard the people as a mob of savages ready to fall upon and devour each other directly the government ceases to direct affairs. Only one who has never seen the people resolve and act on their own initiative can doubt for a moment that if they were masters of the situation they could and would distribute rations to each and all in strictest accordance with justice and equity.
If you were to give utterance, in any gathering of people, to the opinion that delicacies—game and such like—should be reserved for the fastidious palates of aristocratic idlers, and black bread given to the sick in the hospitals, you would be hissed. But say at the same gathering, preach at the street corners and in the market places, that the most tempting delicacies ought to be kept for the sick and feeble—especially for the sick. Say that if there are only five brace of partridge in the whole of Paris, and only one case of sherry wine, they should go to sick people and convalescents. Say that after the sick come the children. For them the milk of the cows and goats should be reserved if there is not enough for all. To the children and the aged the last piece of meat, and to the strong man dry bread, if the community be reduced to that extremity.
Say, in a word, that if this or that article of consumption runs short, and has to be doled out, to those who have most need most should be given: say that and see if you do not meet with universal agreement.
The man who is full-fed does not understand this, but the people do understand; have always understood it, and even the child of luxury,