Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/255

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

would suffice to settle this anti-poverty question could you but hammer this fact into men's minds. I have often wondered how men reconciled the idea of a divine and all-wise Providence with that startling phenomenon—viz., the prolificness of the ignorant and the sterility of the wise.

There are two pleas which reformers urge in justification of their claims: the one, what they call "natural" justice, founded upon the imaginary "natural rights" theory; the other, expediency.

Prof. Huxley, in one of his series of vigorous articles published in the Nineteenth Century Magazine recently, and to which I refer you, has exposed at length the utter baselessness of the theory of "natural rights." It was this doctrine that had most significance, and became most famous prior to and during the great French Revolution through the writings and teachings of Rousseau and other French economists. It had been evidently borrowed from the English philosophers by Rousseau, and from the Romans by them. It forms the basis in Progress and Poverty for the justification of Mr. George's remedy for poverty.

So far as rights go, the rights we prize so dearly are, in fact, artificial rights, not natural—man-made, granted and secured by society. The natural condition is slavery. The civilized, the artificial, is freedom; and the curses that still hang over society, checking progress, are the presence of "natural" feelings and instincts with which man is still endowed. The limit of freedom will be approached the further man gets away from his "natural state."

The question of expediency is a difficult one to determine. All social changes, arbitrarily arranged, work misfortune to some, and these would question the "expediency" of the change with perfect propriety. The "greatest good of the greatest number" is an extremely rough method to determine "expediency," for there would be coercion of the smaller number.

On what grounds, then, are social problems to be answered? "Natural rights" being mythical, "expediency" being often indeterminable, is there no ground upon which to decide what is best? I think so. The attractive force that has drawn so many of us to study these social questions—that, in fact, led the authors of the various schemes enumerated to devise them—is human affection. I believe that the ground, and the only one, upon which permanent results and the best can be built will be an ethical one.

The remedies prescribed for poverty, by both anarchists and socialists, are based upon the assumption that under certain conditions all men will act alike, a fallacy that scarcely needs exposing. Under socialism it is supposed that the state administration

vol. xlii.—16