It follows from all this that the interpretation of a statute must by no means of necessity remain the same forever. To speak of an exclusively correct interpretation, one which would be the true meaning of the statute from the beginning to the end of its days, is altogether erroneous. Such a view misapprehends the purpose of statutes; it deals with them as if they were instruments for understanding the nature of the world instead of means of conferrirg a benefit upon it. A statute, however, in truth is nothing but a way of bettering conditions, an instrument for attaining certain human ends, for promoting civilization, for repressing whatever factors are inimical to progress, and for developing the powers of the nation. It is an object of knowledge in so far only as it becomes necessary to recognize its quality of being a changeable and changing instrument of good, or in so far as it is a factor of social development which may have the intended effect on its opposite, and which we must understand in order to judge how and whether it serves its intended purpose. This should be recognized in interpreting a law. The same remedy is bound to have different effects according as there is a change in the circumstances of the times and the surrounding social conditions. To disregard such changes and to insist that a statute must continue to work as of old is like feeding a grown man on the same food as an infant. One might as well legislate for a nation with developed manufacturing industries in the same manner as for a strictly rural community,or recognize no difference between the dusk and the glare of the noonday light. By recognizing that interpretation may change with the times it is possible 'to give to statutes a certain elasticity, by which they may correspond with changing social requirements and continue to confer benefits on the community even after all the conditions have changed which originally brought about their adoption.
A statute, accordingly, is an instrument for producing beneficial results, and not a social phenomenon to be examined with a view to its truth or falsity. True or false are conceptions that have as little to do with laws as with sociological processes. Such processes take different forms in the various epochs of the history of a people. Just so a legal principle adopted by a people will have to take differing shapes in accordance with time and space. Not to recognize this, to think of a statute as a phenomenon the truth of which has to be sought, and to regard that truth as but a single deduction naturally flowing from the statute itself - all this, is what constitutes scholasticism. The scholastic thinks in terms of being about what should be conceived in terms of action. Instead of trying to find the most desirable effect he is trying to discover the correct effect. Instead of recognizing that there may be a variety of effective meanings he can see but one. That is analogous to insisting that the manners and customs of but a single nation can be the right ones.
Interpretation may change, and cannot but change. For instance, the interpretation of the French Code Civil has, within a hundred years, undergone many changes. All important events in the life of the nation have had their influence on giving direction to its interpretation. By the development of commerce and industry, rules which formerly nobody had ever thought or dreamt of, have arisen out of sections that had not been changed. Thus the whole law of unfair competition has grown out of two sections (sections 1382, 1383) to which originally nobody had been able to ascribe any such meaning.