What benefit can be derived from supporting the old, feeble, sick, criminal, insane, idiots and other State charges? This is not a hopeless question, in spite of the apparent parasitism. Labor unions demand that the criminal shall be supported by taxes, and shall not support themselves by work which competes with free labor. It is much more expensive to them, of course, as the taxes eventually are paid by the workmen of the country though ostensibly by the rich. All land and house taxes only raise rents; taxes on corporations, such as the Standard Oil, merely raise the price of oil and every one pays a trifle of the tax.
Civilized tribes which supported the aged must have been benefited by their mature judgment, experience and advice, and been better fitted for survival. So this load is necessary and beneficial. The sick and feeble must also come under this head for they not infrequently furnish better brains than the robust. The insane are really sick, and so frequently recover to become useful members that it is necessary to support them. Criminals also recover, that is, the young or "accidental" offenders. The tendency, of course, is toward life confinement for habitual criminals as cheaper and better for the race. Degeneration or even insanity itself is now being regarded as no excuse for crime - life imprisonment being ordered in asylums instead of prisons. Why not destroy these burdensome types? Society having evolved for the very purpose of life saving, it has quite naturally created the belief that human life is sacred. He who takes it wantonly must die, and such executions were formerly considered to be divinely ordered, though now they are looked upon as merely an effort to make life safe within the organism. The saving of criminals who have not done anything worse than offend against property is then quite natural, for it enhances the value of life. The law of mutual aid seems to be violated by our system of keeping the American Indians alive. We feed them, house them and clothe them, and are trying to raise them to a self-supporting basis in their civilized environment. It is doubtful whether we will succeed, for most of the tribes are not possessed of sufficient intelligence, and education never increases the size of the brain or the average intelligence. In like manner, through the efforts of a missionary, Dr. Sheldon Jackson* the Eskimo of Alaska have been preserved by means of reindeer, which he imported for them. Otherwise they would have perished as the white man had taken away their other food supplies. These people seem to be of no known use on earth, and might just as well have been permitted to die out by natural law, for they will be a burden to higher races for all time instead of an assistance. Yet it does seem that the trend of civilization is to try to get good out of everything. Barbarism destroys ruthlessly - civilization preserves all except that which is known to be harmful to higher man. It is quite likely that these lower types will, in time, be able to furnish society with necessaries of some kind - material or labor - and their preservation will prove to be the highest wisdom. But now and always they will be types kept alive by the intelligence of higher races and not by their own.
* The Technical World Magazine, Chicago, 1907.