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The Inhumanity of Socialism
The Case Against Socialism & A Critique of Socialism
Two papers, the First Read Before the League of the Republic at the University of California, December the Fifth, Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen, and the Second Read Before the Ruskin Club of Oakland, California, Some Years Earlier by
Edward F. Adams
"And finally, let each of us according to his ability and opportunity practice and inculcate respect for the law, the maintenance of order, regard for the rights of others, admiration for the successful, sympathy with the unfortunate, charity for all, hope for humanity, joy in the simple life and contentment therewith."
One might write continuously while he lived for or against Socialism and yet at the end of a long and misspent life have said nothing that others had not said before him.
Nevertheless, new generations come on and have to learn about Socialism as they learn about other things, for there always have been and always will be Socialists. It is a habit of mind which becomes fixed in a certain number of each generation; and succeeding generations seem to prefer fresh statements of the theory to the study of the ancient texts. Besides, Socialistic endeavor, while its ultimate object in all ages is the same, assumes different forms at different periods and is best dealt with in terms of the day.
I am opposed to Socialism because of its inhumanity; because it saps the vitality of the human race which has no vitality to spare; because it lulls to indolence those who must struggle to survive; because the theories of good men who are enthralled by its delusions are made the excuse of the wicked who would rather plunder than work; because it stops enterprise, promotes laziness, exalts inefficiency, inspires hatred, checks production, assures waste and instills into the souls of the unfortunate and the weak hopes impossible of fruition whose inevitable blasting will add to the bitterness of their lot.
Some years ago I was invited to dine with and address a charming group of Socialists comprising the Ruskin Club of Oakland. We had a joyful evening and I read to them "A Critique of Socialism" which forms the second part of this volume. It was published in 1905 by Paul Elder and Company, but almost the entire edition was burned in our great fire of 1906. As there are still inquiries for it, it is thought best to republish it. Obviously it was primarily intended to amuse my hosts, but there is some sense in it.
A few months ago I was asked to present "The Case Against Socialism" to the League of the Republic, an organization within the student body of the University of California, it being the last of a series in which a member of the Faculty of Stanford University and a much respected Socialist of the State took part, neither of whom, much to my regret, was I able to hear. What I said seemed to please some of the more vigorous non-Socialists present who thought it should be printed. Those who prefer pleasant reading should skip the "Case" and read the "Critique." Edward F. Adams
San Francisco, June Nineteen hundred and thirteen
The Case Against Socialism
The postponement of this address, which was to have been delivered two weeks ago, was a real disappointment to me for I did not then know that another opportunity would be arranged. As one approaches maturity, it becomes a joy to talk to a group of young people in the light of whose pleasant faces one seems to renew his own youth. Youth is the most precious thing there is - it knows so little it never worries.
It is difficult for me to be here at this hour of the day and it has been impossible for me to hear those who have preceded me in this course. What I have to say may therefore have too little relation to what has been presented from other points of view to be satisfactory in what seems to have been designed as a debate. Nor have I, in recent years, read much Socialistic or anti-Socialistic literature of which the world is full. From my point of view, as will presently be seen, perusal of this literature would be a waste of time for none of it that I have seen or heard of discusses what seems to me essential, but in saying this I must not be understood as disparaging either the sincerity or the ability of writers on this subject.
When I was more or less familiar with Socialistic controversy the Socialistic propaganda was devoted in different countries to the accomplishment of the immediate program which in the respective countries was considered the essential thing to be done next, very little being said about the ultimate end which it was hoped to reach in due time. Thus it happened that in some countries what was called the Socialistic agitation was directed to the accomplishment of what was already established by non-Socialists in other countries. That is doubtless so still. Those discussions do not interest me and I have not followed them and shall not discuss any of them here. I shall consider only the ultimate aims of theoretical Socialism and whether if accomplished they probably would or would not make for the general welfare and especially for the welfare of the least efficient.
The ultimate aim of Socialism is the nationalization of all land, industry, transportation, distribution and finance and their collective administration for the common good as a governmental function and under a popular government. It involves the abolition of private profit, rent and interest and especially excludes the possibility of private profit by increase of values resulting from increase or concentration of population. The majority of Socialists would reach this end gradually, by successive steps, and with compensation to existing owners. A violent minority would reach it per saltum, by bloodshed if necessary, and by confiscation - "expropriation" they call it. All alike conduct their propaganda by endeavoring to create or accentuate the class consciousness of manual workers who constitute the majority of human beings and whose condition, it is insisted, would be improved under a Socialistic regime. The violent wing promotes not merely class consciousness but class hatred.
I have no time to split hairs in this discussion and it may be assumed that I understand that Socialists do not expect to absolutely control all personal activity but would leave all persons free to pursue any vocation which they might desire and to have and hold whatever they may acquire by personal activity and enterprise so only that they make no profit on the work of another or absorb for their own use any gift of Nature. No Socialist that I know of has attempted to draw the exact line between activities to be wholly absorbed by the State and those which would be left to private enterprise. No wise Socialist I think - if there are wise Socialists - would attempt to draw such a line at present. There is a certain vagueness in the Socialists' presentation of their case.
And before we proceed further let us get rid of the intellectual fog which envelops and shelters the advocates of Socialism. It is the fog of humanitarianism. I see and hear no advocacy of Socialism whose burden is not the uplift of humanity. Now, humanitarianism is perhaps the most beautiful thing there is. There is no more ennobling and inspiring sentiment than desire for the uplift of our fellowmen; but it has no legitimate place in the discussion of Socialism. For an advocate of Socialism to even refer, in presenting his case, to humanitarian sentiment is to that extent to beg the question.
For if Socialism would improve the lot of mankind, or of the major portion of it, that settles the whole matter. The quicker we get to it the better. Opponents of Socialism insist that it would benefit nobody, and that as to the least efficient in whose behalf Socialistic doctrines are especially urged, it would be deadly. As to the strong or the fairly efficient we need not concern ourselves. They will get on anyhow. What it is important to consider is the probable condition of the less efficient, and especially the submerged class, under a Socialist regime. And consideration will be useful only if it is in cold blood, absolutely without sentiment, and especially without even sub-conscious assumption or imagination that the condition of the unfortunate, or less fortunate, would or would not be improved by Socialism, or whether mankind can or cannot be made happier by attempts to control economic conditions by interference with the natural working out of economic results as the resultant of opposing pressure of individual interests. And do not call me a brute if I reach the conclusion that human selfishness is the hope of the race.
Because selfishness inspires to energetic action which means the largest possible aggregate production which is the first essential prerequisite to abundance for all. It is useless to talk about better distribution until the commodities exist to be distributed. And there is no other such spur to production as the expectation of personal profit. The pieceworker with more satisfaction to himself and profit to the world will produce far more than he would turn out under a daily wage if his earnings are thereby increased. And there are no others who give so little for what they receive as those who work for the public.
The first count in the case against Socialism is that by making the majority of workers public servants without the stimulus of selfishness it would increase human misery by reducing the aggregate of production and therefore the possible per capita consumption.
That, however, is on the surface. Let us bore a little deeper toward the core of the subject. It is a fundamental fallacy of Socialism that all gain is the result of Labor and that therefore all gain belongs to Labor - the term "Labor" in practice meaning the great majority of laborers who are manual workers.
Of course Labor is essential to production - so is Capital, which we shall come to later - and as between two things, both essential, it is perhaps impossible to conceive of one or the other as superior.
But there is another element, also essential, but in a class so much above the other two essential elements, that it is not too much to say that without it there could be no production adequate to sustain for more than a brief time any great population. And that element is Brains. It is not to Labor but to the human intellect as developed in the
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