Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/685

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

man's right to his own, and made contracts for him that he would not have made for himself."

Not the slightest heed is given to the fundamental induction of social science that the advancement of civilization means the enlargement of individual freedom and the growth of moral control. So vast and complex is the machinery of modern industrialism that its management must be left to the people that have staked their fortunes and reputations upon its success. They alone possess the incentive to pursue the line of conduct that shall not evoke the censure of the community, and to make the changes in production and distribution that shall always be adjusted to varying needs and tastes. But the new theory of civilization is that the more enlightened a people become the more unfit they are to shape their own private conduct and to control their own private business. The corollary is that the only power competent to take charge of both and thus avert the untimely crack of doom is the one generated by those marvelous mechanisms of intrigue and corruption—the ballot box and party government. Contemptuous of the irrefutable statement of Buckle that "the best laws which have been passed have been the laws by which some former laws were repealed," legislators are reviving in the New World all the restrictions that crushed the individual and industry in the Old. Creating boards, superintendents, and commissions for almost every conceivable purpose, from the examination of barbers and plumbers to the control of insurance and railroad companies, they are subverting not only personal freedom but local self-government. "One may wonder," says Mr. Gamaliel Bradford in a letter to the Boston Herald, calling attention to this amazing reversion to the despotism of the past, "how many people are aware of the social revolution which is going on year by year at the statehouse; the steady undermining of the local self-government which has been the pride and boast of the State for more than two centuries; the process by which we are being drawn under the centralizing despotism of the Legislature exercised through commissions set up. . . at its pleasure. There are now thirty-four of these," he says, giving figures being rapidly duplicated in other States, "many having extensive executive powers and under no effective responsibility whatever." Like the legislatures themselves, they are new centers of intrigue, corruption, and despotism. Playing the role of the old court favorites, intrusted with some monopoly by a complaisant autocrat, they bestow privileges and suppress rights.

The form of property that has most frequently attracted the malign attention of the apostates of democracy is corporate property. Especially provocative of their philanthropy and greed have been those large combinations of capital known as trusts, which are now