Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/713

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THE result of the recent elections in Great Britain has given no little discouragement to the hopes of those who were looking to see a great increase in the socialistic element in the British House of Commons. It is clear that up to this date the British public is more interested in the definite and limited questions of so-called "practical politics" than in the vague and general schemes put forward for the improvement of the world on the lines of socialism. What the British public feels in regard to this matter is felt, we believe, by the great mass of every advanced community in the present day. When socialistic writers or orators descant on the evils of the existing condition of things, striking as they frequently do a true and generous note, the sympathy of many goes out to them; but it is a different thing when society is asked to commit its legislation to the hands of these eloquent declaimers. Even those who acknowledge that such men feel right, entertain very often grave doubts as to whether they see right—whether their views are practical, whether they have truly forecasted the results of the changes they would introduce, and whether their benevolent efforts, if power were intrusted to them, might not prove the ruin rather than the salvation of the state.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that all who can not see their way to support socialistic schemes, and who can not even share to the full socialistic sentiments, are either insensible to the evils, such as they are, of our social state, or unwilling to do all in their power to have those evils remedied. There is abroad in the world to-day a very general desire to see things made right and fair for the average of mankind and for all men, to have the general conditions of life improved, to have an abatement, on the one hand, of the senseless luxury of the wealthy class, and, on the other hand, a dignifying of the lot of the ordinary citizen. Things are to-day perceptibly moving in the direction of giving better conditions to the average man; but they might move more quickly if the average man would only stand more firmly on his rights, and prosecute them in a more intelligent manner. Whenever the state grants a public franchise, then is the time to make the best bargain possible for the citizens at large. But on what does the possibility of protecting the rights of the citizen in such matters depend? Manifestly, on there being in our legislative bodies men who will not traffic with rich corporations in the citizens 1 rights. Then on what does the presence of such men in the legislature depend? Now we come to it: the citizen has the composition of the legislature in his own hands, and it depends on him whether the making of the laws shall be intrusted to honorable or to dishonorable, to trustworthy or untrustworthy, men. One of two things: either representative institutions are a mockery and a fraud, or the mass of the citizens have it now in their power to protect their own interests so far as the whole public life of the state is concerned. How they have betrayed their own rights and privileges into the hands of tricksters, gulled by some party cry or swayed