Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/864

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

easy answer. Referring to the position taken by Mr, Spencer that justice should, but that beneficence should not, be enforced, he asks why this should be, if the warrant for beneficence equally with that for justice lies, as Mr. Spencer seems to admit, in the public good. The answer we conceive is this: that while beneficence, wisely practiced, is a public benefit, the enforcing of it would not be a public benefit, inasmuch as it would tend to kill the sentiment itself. If, for example, the moment a beneficent action became possible for us some power should seize us and force us to a performance of the action, we can hardly imagine any other result than that the very instinct of beneficence would die out. Another answer is that whereas justice is essentially of the nature of non-interference, beneficence is essentially of the nature of interference. The motto of the one is "Hands off!" For the other we would have to coin the motto "Hands on!" Now, the difference between establishing in government the principle of "Hands off!" and establishing that of "Hands on I" is obvious. The former is not only workable, but is the necessary condition of all free individual effort; the latter is unworkable in any consistent manner, from its absolutely indefinite and unlimited character. If beneficence is to be enforced, where are we to begin and where can we possibly end? Again, imagine the effect on weak individuals of knowing that beneficence toward them will be enforced. What interest have they henceforth in ceasing to be weak? Finally, beneficence administered by the state is not beneficence in the true sense, and can have none of the effects of true beneficence; for the state can only properly take what it has a right to take and give what it has a right to give, and the beneficiaries in the case supposed would be quick to draw the inference that they were getting no more than their due. Thus would the limits of justice be obscured and social stability endangered. On many grounds, therefore, we think the distinction Mr. Spencer draws a sound one.




The report of the Library Committee of the Public Library of Cleveland, Ohio, for the year ended August 31st last, has come into our hands. Two remarks made in it have arrested our attention. One is to the effect that "it is a singular and deplorable fact that, of all the money so lavishly expended by the many rich men and women of Cleveland in various benevolent and charitable enterprises, not one cent has ever been given either toward the erection of a library building or to help to support the library." Elsewhere it is stated that "our library has never had the use of any money except such as came by taxation."

Well, whether or not there is anything "deplorable" in this, we can not say that we find the fact at all "singular." Taxation and benevolence are two things that do not naturally mingle. The Cleveland Public Library seems to have been in operation since 1869, and it has doubtless come to be looked upon as a department of the city government. Had taxation not been resorted to for the formation of a library, there is no knowing what private beneficence might not have done ere this. When the State takes up a function, it is a kind of hint to private enterprise to drop it. Why should a private individual subsidize a tax-supported library any more than a tax-supported post office?

The other remark above referred to is that "the plan of permitting free access of patrons to the shelves, adopted some time since with some misgivings, continues to give increased satisfaction to those using the library. . . . Not only," the report continues, "has this new method given great satisfaction to those desiring and drawing books from the library, but it has also enabled us to