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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/613

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POLITICS AS A FORM OF CIVIL WAR.

sanction in the practice of politics. As long as the greater part of legislation and taxation has nothing whatever to do with government, properly speaking, politics can have no kinship with any pursuit held in esteem by men truly civilized. What it consists of may be reduced to a desperate and disgraceful struggle between powerful organizations, sometimes united, like the Italian condottieri and the Spanish brigands, in the form of "rings," to get control of the annual collection and distribution of one billion dollars, and to reap the benefits that grow out of the concession of privileges. The legislation placing this vast power in the hands of the successful combatants is only an incident of their work. It simply enables them under the form of law to seize the taxpayer, bind him like another Gulliver with rules and regulations, and to take from him whatever they please to promote their political ambition and private interests. From this point of view it is easy to see that politics has no more kinship with science or justice than pillage. Nor is it likely to make people more patriotic, high-minded, and benevolent than the rapacity of Robin Hood or Fra Diavolo.

However startling or repugnant may be this view, it is the only one that furnishes an adequate explanation of the practice of government as carried on in every democratic country in the world. The work of private business and philanthropy, the work in which modern democracies have come to be chiefly engaged, is not in itself productive of the ethics and evils of war. Contrary to the common belief, industrial competition, which is conducted by voluntary cooperation, tends to the supremacy of excellence, moral and material. In societies where civilization has made headway, a merchant or manufacturer does not seek to crush rivals by misrepresenting them or assailing them in other ways. His natural and constant aim is to have his goods so cheap and excellent that the public will patronize him rather than them. To be sure, the ethics of war often prevail in industrialism. They are not, however, one of its products; they are the fruits of militant ages and activities. But in political competition, which is coercive, the policy pursued is precisely the reverse. Not by proof of moral and material excellence does the politician establish his worth. Not by the superiority of his services or by his fidelity to obligations does he gain the esteem and patronage of the public. It is by the infliction of injury upon his rivals. He misrepresents them; he deceives them; he assails them in every way within his reach. When he triumphs over them he uses his power, not primarily for the benefit of the people whom he is supposed to serve, but to maintain his supremacy in order to pillage them. "Those who make war," says Machiavelli, whose famous book is a vade mecum for a modern politician as well as for an unscrupulous