Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

officer has authority to receive payment for the care of patients in insane hospitals. It is sometimes claimed that by requiring such payment the benefit of State institutions could be extended to many who now languish in almshouses, and to many curable cases for whom there is now no room in these institutions.

The Feeble-minded.— The progress of science and the wider diffusion of general information have compelled a degree of recognition of the characteristics and needs of idiots and imbeciles, which begins. to find expression in legislation. The majority of the members of this helpless class are cared for at home. But adult idiots are permitted to go at large, like derelicts drifting in the channels of commerce, obstructing travel and endangering life. Recent legislation reveals a tendency to regard the feeble-minded as educable and capable of being qualified by suitable training for the ordinary pursuits of life. This is an error. But it should be the aim of every advanced Commonwealth to maintain at least a custodial department for the large number of imbecile youth who are organi-. cally incapable of being trained for competitive careers. The following States have provided special institutions for the care of the feeble-minded: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Kentucky, and Maryland. Proper subjects are sent from Delaware to the Pennsylvania State institution for idiots. Arizona commits idiots to her asylums for the insane. New York has à custodial home for unteachable idiots and an asylum for feebleminded women. Several State institutions maintain both educa

tional and custodial departments.

Epileptics. The epileptics have not yet come to be generally recognized as a distinct class. Many serious cases of epilepsy are treated in hospitals for the insane, where they are an alien element. Separate institutions for epileptics are maintained at State expense in Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts. Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California are moving in the same direction.

Inebriates. American legislation relating to inebriates touches the criminal law on one side and the pauper law at the other. Massachusetts in 1895 provided a State hospital for dipsomaniacs, the support of which is on the same basis as that of the State hospitals for the insane. In Vermont, inebriates may be committed to in

stitutions as insane. Pennsylvania permits the institution of county inebriate asylums in connection with county workhouses. Those must pay who are able to do so, but indigent inebriates committed by the court are supported at the cost of the county. The term of commitment is from six months to two years. In Michigan, judges may commit inebriates to some suitable institution for treatment for a period of thirty days,-- at the cost of the county, if indigent. In Wisconsin, inebriates and persons addicted to the use of opium, chloral, etc., may be treated at the cost of the county, provided that the expense of such treatment shall not exceed $130. Minnesota sets apart a ward for inebriates in a State hospital for the insane; and county judges may send drunkards to a Keeley institute, provided that the cost of treatment shall not exceed $100. In Kansas, drunkards are treated as if insane. In South Carolina, they may be admitted to the hospitals for the insane as pay patients only. In California, certain counties, having reserved lands, were authorized by an act passed in 1895 to establish county inebriate hospitals.

7. BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

The poor laws do not in all cases specifically provide for the burial of the poor, but attendance to this social duty is generally understood to be a legal function of overseers of the poor. "From the cradle to the grave!" A merciful State, whose statutes are an imperfect human attempt to imitate the divine mercy and sacrifice, guards and helps its weaker members, in response to a growing realization of the principle of a common brotherhood resting upon a common sonship of a Divine Father. The most tedious and technical legal details bear within them, therefore, a religious sig nificance.

THE ABOLITION OF POVERTY.

BY REV. S. S. CRAIG, CANADA.

In a social organization based on justice there would be only one class of people requiring charitable support; that is, those who are physically or mentally incapable of providing for their own needs. In society, however, as organized at the present time, there is another class claiming the sympathy of the charitably disposed. This is the class of people who, while able and willing to provide for themselves, are prevented from doing so by 'statutory enactment.

Can poverty be abolished? The second type of poverty can be abolished as sure as God is the author of this universe, and that as soon as men are willing to follow the light of easily accessible truth. And, as to the first type of poverty, it can be reduced to an insignificant minimum. The remedy for the obliteration of the second and the reduction of the first is not sentiment, but truth; not charity, but justice. The problem of poverty is thought by many to be incapable of solution. This is a great mistake. Looked at in the rough, I admit it does seem formidable; but, when reduced to its true proportions, it is vastly simplified. You will all agree to the following concessions; and, by doing so, we cut the problem down to the comprehension of a school-boy.

(1) It will be readily conceded by every intelligent person in this audience that existing poverty is not attributable to the "niggardliness of nature," to use the expression of J. S. Mill. Malthusianism is a back number. This concession brings the problem out of chaos, into cosmos.

(2) It will be granted that the poverty of to-day is not resultant from the inability of labor to produce wealth, provided it only is permitted to do so.

(3) It will be conceded that the poverty of to-day is not the result of a lack of industry on the part of those who are suffering. Labor is not refusing to go to work. It is clamoring, beseeching, praying God and man for an opportunity to work.

(4) It must also be conceded that, if the laboring classes as a whole got their rights in existing wealth, there would be little or no poverty among them; but there would be considerable poverty

among millionaires, bankers, money-lenders, legislators, political economists, lawyers, and conventional ecclesiastics.

(5) In seeking for a solution of the problem of poverty, it must be conceded that all men have an equal right to life. Mere sentiment, unsupported by hard facts, must be set aside as irrelevant. We must follow the path of enlightened reason, of eternal truth, and of unflinching justice. This means that, when legal rights come into conflict with moral rights, the former must go.

You see now to what small proportions our problem is actually reduced. We have granted God's provision and man's ability. How to bring God's provision and man's ability together is our simple task. God's provision is in the land. How can this provision for man's material wants be made accessible to labor? The first obstacle we meet here is the existing system of land tenure which permits private property in land. This is the devil's Gibraltar. That this iniquitous system keeps God's children from his rich provision for them is a fact clear to every observer. Sometimes the legal owner of land sees fit to keep his land entirely out of use, holding it for speculative purposes. At other times he will allow labor the use of his land on condition that it give him a share of the product, as when the Duke of Hamilton in Scotland gets a royalty of thirty-five cents on every ton of coal mined on his estate, while labor only gets eighteen cents. This system of absolute exclusion and of conditional use, as the landlord may please, is in direct violation of the purpose of God and of the moral law which embodies that purpose. I want to propose to-night a system of land tenure which will make it impossible for any man to hold land out of use which society requires, and which will make it impossible for any man to charge his fellows for the privilege of access to natural opportunities. We claim that all this and much more. would be accomplished by the simple act of taking land values from year to year for public uses. In other words, we propose to put economic rent in the public till, by taxing land values apart from improvements and remitting all other taxes. This system of taxation commends itself to every thinking man for the following reasons:

(1) Because it provides a method of meeting the expenses of government which will not require one dollar to be taken from labor or capital. The present method of taxation not only takes all the expenses of government from labor and capital, but a great deal more besides. Canadian labor and capital, and especially labor, in

order to provide the late government with a revenue of $38,000,000, was obliged to pay into the hands of monopolists $60,000,000; and the burden will be very little lighter under the present government. Land value is not produced by labor, but by the organization of society and increase of population. It is highest where population is densest, that is, in cities, and lowest where population is thinnest,— that is, in the country. This would greatly reduce the taxes paid by farmers as users of land, while as laborers and capitalists they would not pay a dollar.

(2) By giving to each man the full product of his labor and putting land values in the public till, we would preserve the balance between production and consumption which is the condition of the normal stability of prices and wages, and would place each of these in its proper category. Here lies a distinction which the current political economy does not properly recognize, as it reduces labor to a marketable commodity. Right here lies the immediate cause of "hard times," and consequently of involuntary idleness and poverty. By letting rent go to landlords and then raising a revenue by indirect taxes, you strike two fatal blows at the consumptive power of the masses; and this reacts on production, curtailing it in every direction. If twenty-five per cent. of the product of labor is confiscated by government for revenue and other purposes, this means that the consumptive power of labor is going to be reduced twenty-five per cent.; that is, that we shall have overproduction. The masses would like to wipe out the surplus, and thus keep up the demand for fresh goods; but they have been robbed by the government of the only means they had of making their desire effective. Thus, owing to so-called overproduction, which is really under-consumption, manufacturers begin to compete for orders, with the result that there is a fall in prices; and on the heels of this comes a fall in wages, still further reducing the consumptive power of labor. Hard times. become chronic, and poverty becomes prevalent. The cure is simple and infallible, the confiscation of rent. To neglect the restoration of the economic equilibrium by taxing rent to the full, and go on building tariff walls, bonusing railways, and subsidizing fast steamships, is simply to deceive the people and aggravate the disease.

[ocr errors]

(3) This method of raising a revenue conforms to all the requirements of the canons of taxation, while the present system violates every one of them.

« AnteriorContinuar »