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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/13

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THE REAL PROBLEMS OF DEMOCRACY.

Instead of being made more humane and sympathetic with every dollar he gives under compulsion to the poor and suffering, he becomes more hard-hearted and bitter toward his fellows. The notion that society, as organized at present, is reducing him to poverty and degradation takes possession of him. He becomes an agitator for violent reforms that will only render his condition worse. At the same time the people he aids come to regard him simply as a person under obligations to care for them. They feel no more gratitude toward him than the wolf toward the victim of its hunger and ferocity.

Akin to public charity are all those public enterprises undertaken to ameliorate the condition of the poor—parks, model tenement houses, art galleries, free concerts, free baths, and relief works of all kinds. To these I must add all those Federal, State, and municipal enterprises, such as the post office with the proposed savings attachment, a State system of highways and waterways, municipal water, gas and electric works, etc., that are supposed to be of inestimable advantage to the same worthy class. These likewise fill the heart of the American Philistine with immense satisfaction. Although he finds, by his study of pleasing romances on municipal government in Europe, that we have yet to take some further steps before we fall as completely as the inhabitants of Paris and Berlin into the hands of municipal despotism, he is convinced that we have made gratifying headway, and that the outlook for complete subjection to that despotism is encouraging. But it should be remembered that splendid public libraries and public baths, and extensive and expensive systems of highways and municipal improvements, built under a modified form of the old corvée, are no measure of the fellow-feeling and enlightenment of a community. On the contrary, they indicate a pitiful incapacity to appreciate the rights of others, and are, therefore, a measure rather of the low degree of civilization. It should be remembered also, especially by the impoverished victims of the delusions of the legislative philanthropist, that there is no expenditure that yields a smaller return in the long run than public expenditure; that however honest the belief that public officials will do their duty as conscientiously and efficiently as private individuals, history has yet to record the fact of any bureaucracy; that however profound the conviction that the cost of these "public blessings" comes out of the pockets of the rich and is on that account particularly justifiable, it comes largely out of the pockets of the poor; and that by the amount abstracted from the income of labor and capital by that amount is the sum divided between labor and capital reduced.