Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/746

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hampered and delayed. There is another reason of a still more commanding importance which operates in the same direction with a still more signal force. It is that, at any given moment, when the legislator, or administrator, would otherwise most desire to govern with due regard to well-established principles dictated by abstract political science, he is imperatively urged on to the front, and impelled into action, by the pressing necessity of instantly choosing between a limited number of possible alternative courses. Most of all is this the case in what are sometimes called constitutionally-governed countries—that is, countries in which representative institutions have reached a tolerable degree of advancement, and political knowledge and interest are widely diffused. In these circumstances a spontaneous organization of political leaders and their respective followers into parties for the purpose of uniform and combined action is sure to have taken place.

The result is, that an artificial effort will be made, at each critical occurrence which seems to call for the intervention of the Government, to narrow the possible courses of action to a very few immediately intelligible expedients, recommended rather by their rough conformity to some pre-existing schemes or ideals in favor with the different contending parties than by their intrinsic harmony with scientific requirements. No doubt the party leader who is himself imbued with a scientific spirit, and is personally disposed to do as little violence as possible to his cultured instincts, will do his utmost to bring all his measures into the shape which his logical and historical training, applied to all the circumstances of the special case, leads him to desire. But action at once and without further delay is unavoidable. A decision can only be deferred at the cost either of letting go the opportunity for providing a remedy of some sort for a possibly crying abuse; or of openly confessing impotency; or of surrendering to others a leadership which, with all its demerits, is probably believed to be, on the whole, fraught with good rather than with evil. Thus the peremptoriness of political opportunities and the necessity of instant action withstand, in a country with free representative institutions, every effort to impart to political action through a long period a comprehensive, consistent, and scientific character.

It is no wonder if the same class of facts reacts on the intellectual conception of the position of Politics as a subject of study and of knowledge.

The topic is naturally relegated to the region of caprice and accident, or to that of tentative experiment and spasmodic contrivance. This intellectual consequence is intensified by the fact that all Governments—and not least those known at the present day as the freest and, on the whole, the soundest—are habitually made the arena of purely ambitious contention, of selfish aspiration, and even of corrupt conspiracies against the public well-being. The wider the territorial area