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- The Inhumanity of Socialism - 3/7 -
comprehend, and that high civilizations one after another have risen, flourished, faded and become extinct while yet our own world was young, and who shall say what is in store for our own civilization?
If this is gruesome why should one be asked to present a subject which cannot be adequately presented without showing what pygmies we are and how helpless in the grasp of an all-powerful Nature.
And the application of it all is that when Nature's sole and universal stimulus to progress is the love of self which she has implanted in every soul, it is folly to assume that we can better Nature's work by substituting for the universal stimulus to effort a more or less fleeting emotion which takes hold of but a very few and persists with but a still smaller number. Whatever scheme of collectivism we may establish, we know in advance that every member of the collective group will continuously strive to get for himself to the utmost limit regardless, if it could be discovered, of what is rightfully due. And a plan of Society which each member of Society is striving to subvert is doomed from its birth.
And the fourth count in the indictment of Socialism is that it is contradictory to Nature to such a degree as to make its permanence unthinkable because destructive not only of human comfort and happiness but of human life.
Expressed in briefest form the four counts are as follows:
I. Public servants produce less for consumption than private workers. Decrease of consumption means increase of human misery. Therefore, Socialism, making all of us public servants would increase human misery.
II. Brains, not Labor, creates the social dividend. Ability is demonstrated only under strenuous competition inspired by self-interest. Therefore, Socialism, excluding competition inspired by self-interest would obliterate the social dividend.
III. The accumulating man inspired by selfishness is essential to any social saving. Social saving is essential to the support of an increasing population. Therefore, Socialism by eliminating the Capitalist would make life impossible to many who now live.
IV. To fight Nature is to die. Socialism fights Nature. Therefore, Socialism would destroy the race.
It is a matter of premises, and I have already said that the premises in these syllogisms can neither be proved or disproved. People, I suppose, will continue to fight over them but I shall not. No human life is long enough and no human intellect strong enough to demonstrate or disprove any one of them. Experimentally mankind is always somewhere trying out one or the other of these postulates but success or failure only proves that they did or did not prove true in that particular case.
An underlying fallacy of Socialism is the concept that poverty or at least extreme poverty, can be banished from the world. It cannot. It is impossible for the effective to produce and save as fast as the ineffective will waste and destroy if they can get at it. No truth in the Bible is more profound than the saying: The poor ye have always with you."
The concept is based upon an unfounded belief in the competence of the average man. He is not nearly so competent an animal as he has taught himself to believe. We read our Nordau and with but the very slightest ability to judge what he says we declare him a libeler. We read our Le Bon and declare off-hand that it is absurd and wicked to say that the crowd has no more sense than a flock of sheep. When we hear of an alienist who cites the increase of murder, suicide and insanity as evidence that mankind is losing its mental balance, we declare that the man is crazy himself.
I do not say that such men are or are not right or anywhere near right in the views they express, but I do say that they are writing in cold blood in the light of a great deal of exact knowledge and certainly are much better judges of the truth in those matters than most of us who dispose of them so brusquely.
The fact is that man, like other animals, differs greatly in individual ability but he differs from other animals in that the difference between the most competent and the least competent is enormously greater than such difference in any other species. The highest type of man is almost Godlike in the scope and keenness of his intellect. The lowest type reaches depths of degradation not touched by any other animal. There is no degradation so utterly degraded as a degraded mind.
If you ask what all this has to do with Socialism, the reply is that it has everything to do with it. The sole object which I have in this address is to impress upon you the concept of man as an animal in the grip of an all-powerful Nature, and differing from other animals solely in his greater ability to dodge and evade, and so prolong the processes through which Nature will surely get him in the end; to conceive of him also as subject to the same law which enthralls other animals, whereby the fittest who demonstrate their fitness in the economic struggle shall survive while the least fit shall perish; to conceive of him as prepared and inspired for the struggle by the love of self which Nature has implanted in his soul in order that the race may endure to the utmost limit possible for it, by the survival of those having the greatest capacity for happiness.
And, having fixed this conception in your minds, form your own judgment of the probable outcome of a contest which would begin by eliminating from man the one principle - selfishness - through which he must survive if he survives at all.
Thus far, I have dealt with the subject in icy cold blood as a purely economic problem wholly excluding all considerations of humanity. It must be dealt with in that way if we are to deal with it intelligently. What must be will be, however dearly we may wish it otherwise. But we do not wish to go home with ice in our souls, and let us see if we cannot find some reflections more comforting. I am sure that we can.
I have said that humanitarianism has no legitimate place in economic discussion and it has not. But it has a very large place outside economic theory and often in contact with economic results.
There may be economic gains which ought to be and will be surrendered for social gains, as long as we can do it and live. A very reliable test of the prosperity of a Society is the extent to which it can without distress, surrender economic goods in exchange for social goods.
I have attacked Socialism, not Socialists. Multitudes of Socialists are most charming men and women, and the aspirations of pure Socialism are the noblest of which the human mind can conceive. How impossible they are of realization I think they are, I have endeavored to show. But there are individualists whose ideals are equally noble. Any conception that Socialists as a class are upon a higher ethical plane than individualists may be dismissed. Personally, I fear that at present the average ethical plane of Socialists is below that of opponents for the allurements of Socialistic theory have attracted to that cult a great number of the economically impotent, but nevertheless greedy, who know nothing and care less about Socialistic theory but lust for that which they have never earned. It is they who promote class hatred as well as class consciousness. They are an effective offset, morally, to the greedy and consciousless employers who nevertheless perform a useful economic function which the greedy among the Socialists do not.
But, my controversy at this time is not with them, but with the Socialistic idealists moved by the loftiest conception of the welfare of mankind and the most earnest desire to promote it. And now let us introduce somewhat of humanitarianism, which, while it has no place in economic theory, is that which most ennobles and beautifies human character. And here let me register my last attack upon Socialistic controversy, which is, that fundamentally it tends to degrade human character by adopting for, and applying to the manual workers of the world a contemptuous epithet. When Marx, if it was he, I am not sure, shouted: "Proletariat of all nations, unite" he said a very wicked thing. It is not my conception of the manual worker that he is a mere "child getter," but rather that he is as such, morally and socially the equal of any of us, from whose ranks there are continually emerging the leaders of thought, of discovery, of direction and of accumulation to whose abilities and activities all human progress is due, and I cannot hear without indignation suggestions from his own would-be leaders which impair his self-respect. I wish, for a concrete example, that the workingman should pay his poll tax and contribute to his occupational insurance with the rest of us, not to relieve Capital of a burden, but that the character of the working man himself may be strengthened by a conscious contribution to the upkeep of Society.
Our emotions are stronger than our reasoning powers, and as a matter of fact, collective human action is and during any period which we need consider will be controlled by humanitarian instincts and not by the rigidity of economic theory. Individually, we do and always shall, seek each his own particular interest. Collectively, we invariably consider the welfare of all. This has been particularly impressed on me during the last few years, during which I have presided over the deliberations of a large body of good citizens, probably about equally divided between the accumulating and non-accumulating classes. Whatever the individual practices and tendencies of the respective members, whenever after discussion the collective opinion is expressed on any social topic the vote is invariably substantially unanimous for that policy which those present believe will make for the general good. It is not true that the rich desire to oppress the poor. It is not true that there is any real conflict of interest between classes. It is true that there is a general desire for the general welfare. And it is also true that the general welfare will be surest and soonest attained by cooperation, and not conflict between classes, under the direction of those proved to be strongest and wisest.
I have said, and I am sure you must agree, that man economically differs from other animals mainly in his greater ability to evade the operation of Nature's own laws and to make use of the material resources and forces of Nature to assist him in so doing. And he does it mainly by collective action which is displayed most effectively and beneficently in those great economic organizations which we hate and stigmatize as "trusts" and which every one of us longs to get into as our best assurance of economic stability.
The problem is how to so regulate these economic regulators of Nature, that each shall get from their beneficent operation, not that which is his ethical due, for that we can never determine, nor would it be for the general welfare that each should receive his due, but that which each can receive without injury to Society.
It is certain that each will get less as the ages go by unless by our human ingenuity we can make production keep pace with population. At present, production greatly varies in different parts of the world, and the condition in each country is indicated by the amount of leisure possible to the average man. As population increases, leisure must decrease. If we work in a crowded community but eight hours per day, some will die among the weaker who would have lived if all had worked nine hours. The best index of the economic condition of any country is the amount of leisure which can be enjoyed by the average man without
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