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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/474

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
perfection of machinery—at that very time the number of women and children employed in factories rapidly increases; an unprecedented cheapness of all necessaries of life is coincident with an intensification of the bitter struggle for bread and shelter. It is a new form of slavery which, it seems to me, projects itself into view—universal slavery—not patriarchal, but mercantile. I get yearly more tired of what we call civilization. It seems to me a preposterous fraud. It does not give us leisure; it does not enable us to be clean except at a monstrous cost; it affects us with horrible diseases—like diphtheria and typhoid fever—poisoning our water and the air we breathe; it fosters the vicious classes—the politicians and the liquor-sellers—so that these grow continually more formidable, and it compels mankind to a strife for bread, which makes us all meaner than God intended us to be. Do you really think the "game pays for the candle"?

A review of the causes of the recent economic disturbances in which sympathetic sentiments are allowed to predominate, is not, however, what is needed for estimating their present and future influence; but rather a review which will array and consider the facts and the conclusions which can be fairly deduced from them, apart, if possible, from the slightest humanitarian predisposition. The surgeon's probe that trembles in sympathy with the quivering flesh into which it penetrates, is not the instrumentality best adapted for making a correct diagnosis.

In attempting such a review the first point worthy of attention is, that with the exception of a change unprecedented in modern times—in the relative values of the precious metals—all that has occurred differs from the world's past experience simply in degree and not in kind. We have, therefore, no absolutely unknown factors to deal with; and if the record of the past is not as perfect as could be desired—for it is only within a comparatively recent period that those exact statistics which constitute the foundations and absolute essentials of all correct economic reasoning have been gathered—it is, nevertheless, sufficiently so to insure against the commission of any serious errors in forecasting the future, of what in respect to industry and society is clearly a process of evolution. This evolution exists in virtue of a law of constant acceleration of knowledge among men of the forces of Nature, and in acquiring a capacity to use them for increasing or supplementing human effort, for the purpose of increasing and cheapening the work of production and distribution. There is, furthermore, no reason for doubting that this evolution is to continue, although no one at any one time can foretell what are to be the next phases of development, or even so much as imagine the ultimate goal to which such progress tends. The ignorance, prejudice, and selfishness of man may operate in the future, as in the past and at present, in obstructing this progress; but to entirely arrest it, or even effect a brief retrogression, would seem to be utterly impossible.[1]

  1. Those persons whose business renders them most conversant with patents, are the ones most sanguine, that nothing is likely to occur to interrupt or even check, in the immediate future, the progress of invention and discovery.