Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/666

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

says it "corresponds almost exactly with the increase of the number of commissions and departments. . . . These departments and commissions," he continues, "are largely for the purpose of extending social supervision and regulation over many things which, in the earlier days of our Commonwealth, were left to the localities or to self-regulation," Again he says: "The amount of State inspection has become very great, reaching out constantly over new fields, and employing in the aggregate an army of inspectors. . . . The system of laissez faire, which was the rallying cry of democracy and free government at the beginning of the century, has yielded gradually to a system of supervision and control which monarchies never attempted. . . . What our State has done in this line can not probably be undone," he says in a repetition of his warning, "but this tendency to expand and multiply and differentiate and segregate State supervision and regulation must cease, or the burden will soon become too grievous to be borne."

But there is no warrant for the assumption that the more civilized we are—that is, the greater our self-control—the more are we in need of inspection and regulation. Such an explanation of the enormous increase in public expenditure is worthless. The true explanation lies in the greed of politicians and the delusion of social reformers. To both of these causes must be attributed the evils that Mr. Roberts deplores. "The truth of history," he says, referring to the thirty-six new offices and commissions created since 1880, "compels the statement that it looks as if many of these creations were made not so much to satisfy a public want as to relieve a political situation." That is to say, they were designed to provide spoils for the insatiable maw of politicians. One of the most flagrant examples of this popular method of forwarding the beneficent work of civilization and hastening the dawn of the millennium is the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration, created in 1886. Up to the present year it has cost the taxpayers $195,828.57. For this expenditure little can be shown but a shelf full of reports seldom read, and a pigeon hole of vouchers for salaries never earned. With one of the former members of this board, who served thirteen years and received $39,000 for his able services, I am personally acquainted. Of my own knowledge, I can say that for nearly three years at least his duties as commissioner never interfered perceptibly with his duties as editor. That most of the other offices and commissions are equally worthless there can be no doubt. Altogether they have cost the State the startling sum of $31,768,899.85, and are increasing the public burdens at the rate of more than $1,000,000 a year. But their true character as asylums for decayed politicians, or as stepping stones for ambi-