Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/868

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
848
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

level of a society immersed in material interests and given over to the pursuit of wealth, is no doubt true, but it is a state of things to be deplored and to be withstood, rather than to be complacently accepted and applauded. Let men pursue science from whatever motive they will—all valid results are valuable—we only object to this formal surrender of the highest ground at a time and in circumstances which require that it should be steadfastly maintained. It is neither possible nor desirable to disconnect science from its useful applications, but as Goethe says, "the useful may be left to take care of itself"; there is no danger of its being neglected. Our objection is to this inaugurating something like a national policy of science, animated by the mercenary spirit which it has been the glory of science to have always resisted as the proper or highest motive of its cultivation.

 

 

HINDRANCES TO THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS.

We briefly notice, in its appropriate place, a new book having the title of the "Science of Politics," and we reprint a portion of its important preliminary chapter, designed to point out the nature and limits of this alleged science. The author shows the valid grounds upon which it rests, and the certainty of its future development; but he at the same time indicates very clearly the formidable difficulties which hinder, and will long continue to hinder, the recognition of politics as a regular branch of scientific inquiry.

And among these obstacles attention is called to one which seems singularly enough to be itself a product of political progress: it is that a conception of a scientific politics may be expected to meet with most resistance under governments theoretically most liberal and advanced. We should certainly anticipate that where there is the greatest intelligence, and the form of government is most popular, there would be the greatest tendency to the study of political institutions from a scientific point of view; and accordingly we might expect that the subject would be congenial to American students of political affairs. And yet it is probable that nowhere else will there be found so wide-spread and pronounced a skepticism in regard to it as in this country. If we could take the sense of the American Congress upon this point, who can doubt that its members would decide with the greatest unanimity that there is, and can be, no such science as that of which our author undertakes to lay down the elements? Nor can we for a moment expect that the law-makers in all our State Legislatures would disagree with such a congressional decision. So much, at any rate, may be assumed, that, whether or not there be such a thing as a possible or actual science of this kind, American politicians generally are profoundly ignorant of it, and will, moreover, have little interest to inquire seriously into its claims. Nor can we escape the conclusion that, of all classes of the community, none are so little concerned about politics, as a problem of principles, as the class of men who make politics a profession. This is a curious state of things in a country where we hear on every hand that intelligence is the first condition of the perpetuity of popular government. While intelligence is held to be so fundamental a necessity in this republic that the state actually assumes the duty and the responsibility of molding the minds and characters of its citizens into conformity with our political requirements, yet the idea that there is any science or fixed order of relations, or inevitable working of cause and effect, in the political sphere, will be generally scouted as chimerical.

What is the explanation of this anomalous state of things? The answer is, that the most popular forms of government engender the worst forms of poli-