But it may be objected by some that in providing those outlets for the destitute, we should in the end only aggravate the difficulty by enormously increasing the population. This reminds one of the gigantic folly of the miser with his hoards of gold. An amusing eastern anecdote is told of one who having gone two or three miles to say his prayers to a mosque suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to put out an oil lamp before leaving home. He at once retraced his steps and on reaching his house called out to the servant girl to be sure and put out the light. She replied that she had already done so, and that it was a pity he had wasted his shoe leather in walking back so far to remind her. To this he answered that he had already thought of this and had therefore taken off his shoes and carried them under his arm so as not to wear them out!
And here you have a wretched class of miserly so-called “economists” who are afraid to light their lamp, lest they should burn the oil, and who would rather sleep in the darkness, doing nothing, or break their necks fumbling about in their vain efforts to do little, when for a farthing dip they may put in hours of profitable toil! And when a shoe is provided for the swollen foot of a nation they are so afraid of wasting their shoe leather, that they would rather hobble about belamed with thorns, stones, heat, or cold, than lay out the little that is necessary to bring them so ample a return!
Each labourer represents to the state what the piece of gold is to the miser. He is the human capital of the nation and is capable of producing annual interest at the rate of at least a hundred per cent, if placed in sufficiently favourable circumstances. What folly is it then, nay what culpable negligence, nay what nothing short of criminality to sink this human gold in the bogs of beggary and destitution! Man is the most wonderful piece of machinery that exists in the world! The cleverest inventions of human science sink into insignificance in comparison with him! The whole universe is so planned that his services cannot be dispensed with and indeed he is at the same time the most beautiful ornament and the essential keystone of the entire fabric! The utmost that science itself can do is to increase his productive powers.
But the idea of dispensing with the service of a single human being, or of consigning him hopelessly to the perdition of beggary, destitution, famine and pestilence is the most stupendous act of folly conceivable. What should we think of a railway company that would shunt half its engines on to a siding and leave them to the destructive influence of rain and dust? And how shall we characterise the stupidity that shall shunt millions of serviceable human beings into circumstances of misery so appalling as well as of uselessness so entire, as those which we have endeavoured to picture? Why, here we have not even the decency of a siding! These wonderfully made semi-Divine human engines are suffered to obstruct the very main lines on which our expresses run, not only wrecked themselves, but the fruitful cause of wreckage to millions more!