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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/69

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ALTRUISM ECONOMICALLY CONSIDERED.

self, but the victorious plaintiff has become a meaner man, and will bring new suits at the earliest opportunity; if not upon this, upon some other man whom he thinks he can browbeat, and there are plenty of lawyers who will help him do so. He who sells all he has and gives to the poor, may, if he is very badly eaten up with greed for money, discipline himself in the right direction, but in selling all he deprives himself of the means of self-support in sickness and endangers the care of his family. But all this subjective wrong might be perpetrated to curb a grasping spirit through the loss of property. That, however, which he had no right to do he has done. He has pauperized the poor. The evil inflicted upon scores, and perhaps hundreds, is in their lessening of self-respect, the cultivation of indolence, the enfeebling of their already weak determinations, the putting further away of that day when the poor shall be properly paid for their work, and the fostering of that reckless spirit, "The world owes me a living, and I am going to have it." If the next rich man does not sell out and distribute soon enough, they will thirst for his riches—perhaps for his blood. If some of his wealth is ill-gotten, as is the case with many rich men, they will consider it all so. In such soil the seeds of communism grow. The advocates of anarchy and the haters of government are found always among the poor.

Now note this most remarkable fact—that every single precept pointing to non-resistance and self-abnegation, while subjectively attractive, ignores the objective and ultimate effect; that is, they all seem to be of benefit to the doer, but make not an iota of discrimination as to the effect upon others; while, in fact, as history has shown, and as we are now beginning to know, both are injured; but the greatest harm is done to the supposed beneficiaries.

Self-abnegation is thus as far from virtue as selfishness. The golden mean lies between, where our egoism benefits us but does not sting another, and where our altruism benefits others in its ultimate effects without sapping their or our own welfare. Selfishness is short-sighted gratification of base impulses. Self-abnegation is short-sighted gratification of benevolent impulses. Both are impulsive, both are short-sighted, and both inflict evil upon others.

A more moderate and acceptable form of altruism goes under the names of charity and benevolence. They are also valuable in curbing the spirit of egoism, and have made many people, both givers and recipients, happy for the time being. "To do good and to distribute forget not, for with such offerings the Lord is well pleased." Again, no discrimination is made as to the objects of charity and of benevolence, nor as to the remote and real effects of such action. It seems to have been thus far assumed that no