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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/53

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WHAT IS SOCIAL EVOLUTION?

instrumental to social evolution, and that in the absence of processes facilitating social sustentation social evolution can not take place, no one could have gainsaid his conclusion. And if he had inferred that whoever improves these processes betters the conditions which favor social evolution, his inference would have been true. But this admission may be made without admitting that the men who directly or indirectly further sustentation, or who improve the quality of the social units, are the agents who determine and direct social evolution. An account of their doings in no way constitutes an account of that social transformation from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity, in which the evolution of a society essentially consists.

Moreover Mr. Mallock is justified in contending that the great man—discoverer, inventor, teacher, administrator, or other—may equitably receive all the reward which, under the principle of contract, flows to him as the result of his superiority; and that disregard of his claim by the mass of men is alike inequitable and ungrateful. This is the position I have myself taken, as witness the following:—

Even were an invention of no benefit to society unless thrown open to unbought use, there would still be no just ground for disregarding the inventor's claim; any more than for disregarding the claim of one who labors on his farm for his own benefit and not for public benefit. But as it is, society unavoidably gains immensely more than the inventor gains. Before he can receive any advantage from his new process or apparatus, he must confer advantages on his fellow men—must either supply them with a better article at the price usually charged, or the same article at a lower price. If he fails to do this, his invention is a dead letter; if he does it, he makes over to the world at large nearly all the new mine of wealth he has opened. By the side of the profits which came to Watt from his patents, place the profits which his improvements in the steam-engine have since brought to his own nation and to all nations, and it becomes manifest that the inventor's share is infinitesimal compared with the share mankind takes. And yet there are not a few who would appropriate even his infinitesimal share![1]

Had Mr. Mallock recognized the fundamental distinction I have pointed out between social sustentation, life, activity, enlightenment, etc., on the one hand, and the development of social structures on the other, his polemic against socialists and collectivists would have been equally effective, and he would not have entailed upon me an expenditure of time and energy which I can ill spare.—The Nineteenth Century.



  1. Justice, pp. 110, 111.