Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/601

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of the land; though, it is not clear, if landlords were compensated, what they would gain by it beyond the creation of small fanners, the granting of allotments to agricultural or other laborers, as an occupation for slack times, all of which may be secured otherwise: so that it is not easy to forecast the resultant line of action of the working classes, more especially as the interests of the skilled and unskilled laborers are not always identical, however the desires for higher wages and fewer hours may be common to both.

Thus far as to the existing tendencies. As to the final goal, it is very difficult to say what it will be, or what the end in which society will rest (if, indeed, it ever attains to rest other than provisional equilibrium). And it is difficult because of the new and unforeseen factors that arise in the course of an everexpanding evolution which might upset our calculations. New factors, industrial, social, moral, religious; new physical discoveries, like steam or electricity, that might revolutionize industry; new moral or religious forces that might revolutionize manners and the scheme of life, and with it indirectly the distribution of wealth; and great physical discoveries and inventions affecting industry we may indeed certainly look for as in the normal course of evolution.

Society may, indeed, come to the collective ownership of land and capital, but it will not be for a long time; it may come to equality of material goods, but it will be at a time still more remote. On the other hand, the system of private property and freedom of contract may last indefinitely or forever; but, if it does, we may safely prophesy that it will be brought more in accordance with reason, justice, and the general good, and, though there be never equality of property, there will be a nearer approach to equality of opportunities, and a somewhat nearer approximation of the existing great extremes of fortune.

Eminent writers during the past hundred years have prophesied far more confidently as to the future: Karl Marx, as we have seen, that the concentration of capital in the hands of a few would lead, naturally, necessarily, and at no distant date, to their expropriation, and to a collectivist régime; and De Tocqueville, that society was being borne invincibly to a state of general equality of conditions, where the state would continallybecome more powerful. On the other hand, the sociologists, who, if their science were all that its name implies, should be able to forecast the future, "to look into the seeds of time and say which grains would grow and which would not," predict very differently: Comte, that the concentration of capital in ever fewer hands would and should lead definitely to the political rule of the capitalists, tempered by the counsel of positive philosophers, and that within a short space of time; while Herbert Spencer, as we have already seen, filled