Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/624

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clear this vexing but important subject. Scientific methods are unthought of, and scientific conclusions either ignored or denounced as cold, hard, and unsympathetic. They never trouble themselves about ascertaining what it is possible to do under the circumstances, but, without a minute's consideration, set up their Utopian standards of right, and at once proceed to bend everything in that direction. Should they deem it right to reverse the course of the Mississippi, we might almost expect to see them undertake the impossible task, careless of all disastrous consequences. They have wasted power by asking what ought to be done, instead of inquiring what can be done.

If ever this problem receives an accurate solution, it will come from viewing it physically rather than morally. As the bone and sinew of man is the stored energy of sunbeams, so property or capital is the same energy re-stored after being unlocked as work. As the former is the potential energy of physical life, so the latter is the potential energy of social life. Any attempt at viewing the matter by ignoring this law of the conservation of energy, which is at the foundation of social order, can only result in false opinions and lead to dangerous measures.[1] When men were savages, and bone and sinew ruled, he who had most physical power was chief. Now, a vaster magazine of energy is accumulated in capital, and whoever has most of it rules. This is but a plain statement of fact. The power is there lodged by the very constitution of society, and no attempts at realizing the dream of communism can wrest it away. What can the man of muscle do?

In early stages of human development, the accumulation of bodily vigor and strength was the main object of life. Natural and sexual selection conspired to pick the strongest, best-formed specimens, while driving the weak and worthless to the wall. Strategy soon competed with strength, and, when victor, intellect was picked with it. From among all the strategic devices of intellect property was selected as the fittest, and society became a necessity for its protection. As at first men found that such life as they sought could only exist when bodily waste was balanced or overbalanced by accumulation, so now we cannot long maintain physical health if nutrition fails to keep pace with waste. Some form of phthisis may take hold of us and increase the waste beyond the normal, or our supply of food may be withheld, and we die of inanition. Social life is subject to two just such sets of dangers. In a machine we have friction and interference answering to similar ideas. These must each be brought to the minimum if we would have things work smoothly.

Are working-men, as a class, frugal and provident? Do they curb self-gratification, and make present sacrifice for future advantage? How many mechanics or day-laborers calculate their annual waste of means on such unnecessary articles as tea, coffee, tobacco,

  1. When this was penned the writer did not suspect it would be so quickly verified.