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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/525

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521
ZOOLOGICAL LAWS

alone, for it may be that a certain proportion of them must be ascribed to middle-or upper-class parents. Of course these rude statistics must be corrected by others collected on a large scale all over the country before we can form a final judgment; but I believe that the evidence already to hand makes it improbable that more than a very limited percentage of the children of the working classes have the same ability as the average child of the middle classes.

In ancient days the chief end of the legislator was to produce a stalwart brood of citizens capable of bearing arms in defense of their country and advancing her material prosperity. Still more ought this to be the aim of our legislators to-day, for under modern conditions great masses of population are huddled together in a manner hardly known to ancient cities. To accomplish this great end, the legislator must not merely look to improved housing of the poor and the development of the physique of city populations. He must, as far as possible, conform to the principles of the stock-breeder, whose object is to rear the finest horses, cattle or sheep. Amongst wild animals nature selects the fittest for continuing the race, and the wise breeder simply aids nature by selecting still more carefully the best animals. The legislator, on his part, ought similarly to foster the increase of the best element in the state, and on the other hand discourage the multiplication of the worst. Yet in our community statesmen of both parties have adopted the very opposite policy. The children of the working classes are educated at the cost of the state, the offspring of the wastrels are given free meals, and already there are demands that they shall be clothed at the expense of the ratepayers, and that the parents shall even be paid for providing them with lodging. It is not impossible that before long these demands will be conceded by either party in the state. The heavy additional expense incurred in this policy falls upon the middle-class ratepayers and taxpayers, who have to feed, educate and clothe their own children at their own expense. I may be said that they can get free education for their children by sending them to the state schools; but this is to level down instead of to level up; for if they do so they will be lowering the general morale of their own class, the most priceless asset of the nation. The heavy burden of taxation entailed by this policy, falling as it does with special weight on the middle classes, renders it more difficult each year for the young men and the young women in that class to marry before thirty, for they naturally shrink from the expense of bringing up large or even moderate-sized families. We need not, then, wonder at the falling off in the rate of increase of the middle classes. Our legislators are bad stockmasters, for they are selecting to continue the race the most unfit physically and morally, whilst they discourage more and more the increase of what we have proved to be the outcome of a long process