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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/246

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

where such a quality is still required. The most civilized races are, of course, also the most formidable in war. But, if we take the opposite alternative, I must ask how any quality which really weakens the vitality of the race can properly be called moral? I should entirely repudiate any rule of conduct which could be shown to have such a tendency. This, indeed, indicates what seems to me to be the chief difficulty with most people. Charity, you say, is a virtue; charity increases beggary, and so far tends to produce a feebler population; therefore, a moral quality clearly tends to diminish the vigor of a nation. The answer is, of course, obvious, and I am confident that Prof. Huxley would so far agree with me. It is that all charity which fosters a degraded class is therefore immoral. The "fanatical individualism" of today has its weaknesses; but in this matter it seems to me that we see the weakness of the not less fanatical "collectivism."

The question, in fact, how far any of the socialistic or religious schemes of to-day are right or wrong, depends upon our answer to the question how far they tend to produce a vigorous or an enervated population. If I am asked to subscribe to General Booth's scheme, I inquire first whether the scheme is likely to increase or diminish the number of helpless hangers-on upon the efficient part of society. Will the whole nation consist in larger proportions of active and responsible workers, or of people who are simply burdens upon the real workers? The answer decides not only the question whether it is expedient, but also the question whether it is right or wrong, to support the proposed scheme. Every charitable action is so far a good action that it implies sympathy for suffering; but if it implies such want of prudence that it increases the evil which it means to remedy, it becomes for that reason a bad action. To develop sympathy without developing foresight is just one of the one-sided developments which fail to constitute a real advance in morality, though I will not deny that it may incidentally lead to an advance.

I hold, then, that the "struggle for existence" belongs to an underlying order of facts to which moral epithets can not be properly applied. It denotes a condition of which the moralist has to take account, and to which morality has to be adapted, but which, just because it is a "cosmic process," can not be altered, however much we may alter the conduct which it dictates. Under all conceivable circumstances, the race has to adapt itself to the environment, and that necessarily implies a conflict as well as an alliance. The preservation of the fittest, which is surely a good thing, is merely another aspect of the dying out of the unfit, which is hardly a bad thing. The feast which Nature spreads before us, according to Malthus's metaphor, is only sufficient for a limited number of guests, and the one question is how to select