Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/274

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one must ask what would be the advantage if wages were raised to the "American" standard while work would be provided for only a part of those seeking it. Increased wages of those at work would only increase the misery of those without it, by increasing the cost of living. To be satisfied respecting the relation of wages to cost, one need only compare the prices and wages of 1896 with those of 1910.

All of these suggestions ignore some essential elements of the problem. There can be no relief so long as the more or less incompetent and improvident class remains as the preponderating element in our urban population. It is well known that at present births are more numerous in the poorer than in the better parts of cities and that the more or less dependent class increases with great rapidity. As long as this condition continues all suggestions for improvement will be worthless. The first aim must be to prevent multiplication of the class born to poverty.

When one advocates restriction of marriage, he finds himself face to face with bitter opposition based partly on sentimental notions, partly on supposed religious grounds and partly on inherited conceptions. He is told that marriage is a sacred thing; that reproduction is one of life's great duties, for God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and to replenish the earth; and he is warned that by placing restrictions on marriage the community would encourage immorality.

The reference to Adam and Eve is hardly relevant to conditions of this day. If they were the only pair, they certainly had no reason to fear for the future; the world was theirs and there was ample provision for abundant progeny. They were in excellent physical condition and, being thoroughly repentent, they were well-fitted morally for parental responsibility. The plea that marriage is a sacred thing with which the state may not meddle is unimportant. The state does meddle and does regulate; even the Mosaic civil law regulated it; and the limit to which the state may go in regulation must be determined only by what is demanded for protection of the community. The plea that marriage is a sacred thing is made by the same pleaders who praise marriage as preventing "immorality"—not a very exalted conception of the purpose of marriage. But judging from reports of surgeons, there is no great room. for increase of the vice, euphemistically termed "immorality"; but even if there were, the community would not be responsible for the result, any more than it is responsible for burglary and theft because it recognizes individual ownership of property. On the other hand, by permitting practically unrestricted marriage, it is guilty of encouraging still greater evil, the growth of a shiftless, feeble class with tendency to criminal ways and with prospect of little happiness.

Much has been said and written recently in favor of large families