Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/547

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engage itself, in a general and vague way, to give places or work to all who demand them, neither to the physician without patients, the advocate without causes, nor the poet without readers. It can no more make itself an ironmonger, a dealer in dress-goods, a furniture manufacturer, or a house-decorator. In short, it can not substitute itself for the individual, artificially create work for him, nor artificially continue the production of any article, whenever a suspension reveals the fact that production has been excessive, and ought to be arrested. The merely moral right of the indigent engenders, in respect to this matter, only a moral duty on the part of society, a combined duty of reparative justice and fraternity. Since, moreover, the demands of every duty should be fulfilled, so far as is possible, society ought progressively to secure the satisfaction of them by the means which it shall judge best. But it can not grant its assistance to healthy individuals except under determined conditions and by a reciprocal convention. It is a case of a contract imposing mutual obligations, all the clauses of which ought to be settled with care. Here, more than anywhere else, the right to assistance is limited in a thousand ways, not only by the rights of personal property, but also by the real resources of the states, by practical impossibilities, and finally by the consequences that would follow if we should erect it into an absolute and positive right. It would in that case not stop short of self-destruction. We should recollect that, in the question of reciprocal rights and duties, we have to consider the future as well as the present. In this point of view, we can say in truth with the Malthusians and the Darwinians that the increase of sustenance would not follow the increase of population. As Malthus shows, an absurd consequence is implied in acknowledging an indefinite and unlimited right to assistance and to work; it is, that the funds destined to support labor can be made to grow at will, and that an order of government or a tax, like Elizabeth's tax, is all that is needed to bring this about. It would not be more unreasonable to order that two ears of corn shall grow where the earth has heretofore produced but one. Canute did not arrogate a greater power over the laws of nature when he prohibited the waves from touching his royal feet. To say that we ought to furnish work to all who only ask to work, is really to say, in other words, that the forces dedicated to labor, in any country, are infinite, that they are not subject to any variation, and that the ability to give work and good wages to the working classes ought to remain absolutely the same, without regard to whether the resources of the country are rapidly or slowly progressive, stationary, or retrograde.

This assertion, therefore, Malthus concludes, with reason, contradicts the most simple and most evident principles of the tender and the demand, and includes by implication the absurd proposition that a limited territory can feed an unlimited population. The question of assistance is inseparable from that of subsistence and population;