Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/747

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
727
NATURE AND LIMITS OF SCIENCE OF POLITICS.

of any particular Government, and the more complicated and extensive its essential mechanism, the more opportunity there is for the exhibition of personal or, at the most, of local self-seeking. So far as this prevails, Politics becomes degraded into a mere vulgar struggle for money, office, or power. All actual reference to scientific considerations is excluded. The tone of public thought and sentiment becomes proportionately infected, and all the claims which might otherwise be asserted on behalf of Politics to take its place, by the side of other sciences dealing with such moral elements as the human Will meet with a skeptical repudiation.

 

Where free representative institutions are not found, and absolutism of one type or another prevails, the way is more open for a deliberate choice of the policy to be pursued in any sudden emergency. Such a case has presented itself, again and again, on the occurrence of famines in British India. Could such a casualty occur without being long foreseen in a country enjoying a popular constitution, the question of remedies would be instantly debated in every kind of public assembly, and by all the organs of public opinion, with a ferment of party zeal which would daily gain in heat and vehemence, and would impel statesmen to select with over-much precipitation between the limited number of remedial measures which enjoyed, for one cause or another, the popular favor.

The legislation demanded in the case of a failure of the potato-crop in Ireland has more than once illustrated this position. One party advocates the institution of public works, of a purely wasteful or superfluous kind, on an enormous scale; another is in favor of indiscriminate out-door relief; a third recommends, with the late Lord George Bentinck, the construction at the public cost of railways, with the purpose at once of employing labor on a large scale and of distributing food. However much a judicious statesman may be opposed to all these views, yet for fear of being reduced to nullity, and of having to give place to opponents, he can only connect his own name with, and invite the adhesion of his followers to, what seems on the whole the least objectionable of the popular alternatives. The utmost he can do is to combine different courses in such a way as that some special evil of one may neutralize some greater evil of another, and to introduce modifications which may escape general attention, but which none the less go some way, at least, to qualify the mischievous operation of the scheme, a professed adoption of which can not be evaded.

It will depend, of course, very largely on the constitutional circumstances of the country how far, even in the case of a pressing emergency, the art of Politics may be made to comply with the requirements of scientifically ascertained laws. Where a large and promiscuous population has to be satisfied or must be appealed to by statesmen for political support, the measures must be instantly intelli-