Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/426

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
414
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ness, strict probity; shall men be expected to manifest these first of all with regard to a few things or to many things? Our author has a passing word for "natural monopolies," and deems it desirable that they be nationalized. In the current discussion of these monopolies land always figures as the chief, and the one way of escape from the evei'-increasing exactions of the landlord is declared to lie in his being superseded by the Government. Of a different stamp from the people who harbor this doctrine are the two million families in this country who have slipped from beneath the landlord's yoke, through the undramatic agency of the building association. Homely and humdrum enough is the virtue of thrift, but thrift and its fellow virtues of industry and sobriety mean trustworthiness. With its birth, and only with its birth, can the attack upon the obstacles to social reconstruction take heart of hope. In its hands self-help holds opportunities which, were they exhausted, would not simply contract the area for centralized sway, but incidentally prepare men to establish that sway in so far as it may be gainfully done.

Dr. Ward is too careful an observer to miss as a trait of the American public its distrust of governmental interference with individual activity. That distrust has not been unaffected by recent events. The Silver Purchase Act was an attempt to overrule the individual impulses of the people in a way which was to create for them new and gratuitous blessings as a community. At the date of its repeal the act had involved the nation in a loss of at least $400,000,000. This sum, vast as it is, forms after all but a solitary item in the cost of that more ambitious overruling of all for a few which masquerades as protection. In socialistic or, to adopt Dr. Ward's term, sociocratic legislation there ever lurks the danger that the interest of a band of manufacturers, mineowners, soldiers, or office-holders can be made to appear identical with that of all. Experience proves that legislators are apt to form a class apart, separated from the public in a fool's paradise of echo and subserviency, and with interests often opposed to those of the people whom they ostensibly represent. At Albany and Washington a minority of them cemented together by the pursuit of plunder have repeatedly defied a majority whenever that majority has lacked close regimentation.

Dr. Ward adduces examples of species which with swift pace have stridden ahead on the artificial withdrawal of competition; he fails to refer to cases more numerous still where the absence of competition has ended in the degeneracy which overtakes the parasite. In the author's own city of Washington attention last year was drawn, on the floor of Congress, to the waste of public money in the counting and recounting, the polishing and labeling the pebbles of science by officials in the borrowed garb of the geologist; and last spring Secretary Morton, in taking charge of the Department of Agriculture, found one of his first duties to lie in setting adrift the barnacles which in four short years had fastened themselves upon a single, and not particularly inviting, ship of state.

Modern Meteorology. By Frank Waldo. Contemporary Science Series. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 460. Price, $1.25.

The chief aim of this treatise is, in the words of the author, "to bring the reader into closer contact with the work which has been and is actually engaging the attention of working meteorologists rather than to present finished results." More than a third of the volume is devoted to descriptions of meteorological instruments and the methods of using them, with some account of certain meteorological laboratories. The details of equipment and routine of the observatory at Pawlowsk, Russia, are given with much fullness, and the author states that he knows of no similar account of the regular work of an observatory. A number of views of observatory buildings and their surroundings are presented, including several mountain observatories in the United States and Europe. The work of German meteorologists is given large space in this treatise. Thus the chapter on Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere is mainly a presentation of the ideas of Prof. von Bezold, as set forth in his several memoirs recently communicated to the Berlin Academy of Sciences. There is also a history of the various theories of general and secondary atmospheric circulation.