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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/651

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LAW AS A DISTURBER OF SOCIAL ORDER.

science has worked more marvelous changes than the generalization known as the persistency or indestructibility of force; yet in the moral and social worlds its teachings are almost entirely disregarded. In exerting force in any form, it must be applied to something, and, whenever or however applied, that something will react with a force equal to and in an opposite direction to that which is applied. The man who lifts a hundred pounds' weight, finds the weight pulls one hundred pounds upon his arm; the man who strikes a blow, receives upon his fist a shock of equal force to that which he imposes upon the body of his antagonist: should he miss his aim, the direct force would react in a pull upon the shoulder, and might result in the dislocation of the joint. One pushes against an object until red in the face, but the redness of face and exhaustion are not caused by the direct application of power; it is because the object reacts in resisting or pushing with a force just equal to that which is applied; and, but for this pulling and pushing in reaction, men could apply force without expending force, could accomplish work without exerting energy, both of which are contradictions of terms and absurdities.

Notwithstanding this invariable law of nature, legislative enactments are daily made providing for the exertion of social and moral forces, without one thought of the reaction which must inevitably follow; and I may here say that Nihilism and political disorders in Russia are the reaction due to laws which restrict political rights; the agrarian troubles in Ireland are the reaction due to its onerous land laws; while our industrial unrest is but the reaction due to legislative interference with natural industrial forces.

The mechanic in moving large bodies secures the aid of lever, screw, or inclined plane, and is obliged to apply as much energy as the body offers resistance. In mechanics the principle of the correlation and conservation of forces is always acknowledged and obeyed; hence the unerring certainty of performance and the stability of the vast and intricate structures of the age. When large bodies are to be moved, physical energy is applied in the form of great power at low speed; where parts are to be severed, or fracture is sought, or where molecular instead of molar energy is desired, it is obtained by impact at high velocity, as is instanced in the firing of projectiles against a vessel's armor-plating: the energy applied is exhausted in penetrating the armor and generating heat, instead of imparting motion to the vessel.

In the social no less than in the material world, force is indestructible, and in the latter the hostile meeting of two unyielding bodies in collision arrests the molar energy to reappear as molecular with its equivalent in heat. So, if two social bodies meet and