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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/321

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AN OBJECT LESSON IN SOCIAL REFORM.

supplanting a "free" by a "paternal" government, which last in turn finds its highest expression in the enactment of sumptuary laws for the control by government of the private life of its citizens? All despotic power is alike in its nature; and, once indulged in, the results are always the same. Once let it be fully accepted as a legitimate feature of public policy that the great public power of taxation may be intrusted to individual hands for private purposes and the power of life and death will be promptly seized to make the former effective. Once confer upon government the power of dealing out wealth, and the day is not far distant when its recipients will control the Government, and by the use of money elect their magistrates and legislators to perpetuate this policy.

Had the framers of the Federal Constitution even so much as dreamed that the Government to be established under it would ever practically refuse to acknowledge any limitations on its right to interfere with the property of its citizens, would use the taxing power with undisguised intent for promoting private rather than public purposes, and would levy taxes to prevent the payment of taxes, the Constitution itself would never have been called into existence, and the great American Republic would never have had a history.[1]

 

AN OBJECT LESSON IN SOCIAL REFORM.
By FRANKLIN SMITH.

No error is more prevalent among intelligent and well-read people than that the social philosophy of Herbert Spencer has little or no practical application to the modern problems of social reform. So deep-rooted is this error that the ablest religious journal in the United States, which gives much attention to these problems, once advised him to throw it away. Because he does not favor recourse to the state for purposes outside of the maintenance of justice, it could not conceive that his social philosophy provided in a more effective way for the solution of social problems. By an account of a homely instance of the application of this philosophy, I purpose to show how practical it is in the ordinary as well as extraordinary affairs of life—how it has no rival in the important and beneficent work of bettering the condition of mankind. The instance to which I refer is the method adopted


  1. The economic student and writer (and indeed almost the only one) who has discussed this subject in the English language with originality and cogency that is most potent for conviction, is Mr. Theodore Bacon, of Rochester, N. Y., in an article contributed to the New-Englander in 1867, and to which the author acknowledges his indebtedness both in respect to ideas and language.