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- The Inhumanity of Socialism - 5/7 -
theory of value has a single sound leg to stand on, and as for what he calls "surplus value," I doubt whether there be such a thing. At any rate he has not proved it, nor can it be proved, without taking into consideration the enormous number of industrial failures, as well as the more limited number of industrial successes - and there are no data for that purpose. I may also mention as what seems to me a fatal flaw in Socialistic philosophy, its concentration upon the conditions of Industrial Society, without adequate conception of a provision for the requirements of agriculture. Industrialism and commercialism are doubtless conveniences essential to our present civilization; but if every factory and all commerce were blotted from the earth the world would go right along, and when the necessary millions had perished in the adjustment, those remaining would be as happy as ever. Mankind adjusts itself to new environments very readily. We here in cities talking wisely on these things are wholly unnecessary. The farmer is essential, because without him we should starve. Nobody else is essential. We must not get the big-head. Economical farming on Socialistic methods is impossible, and any successful system of Social betterment must be based on the requirements of economical farming. Finally, to conclude this preliminary reconnaissance, the attitude of Socialism to religion is wholly unjustifiable. I am profoundly convinced that the groveling heathen, who in sincerity bows down to a "bloomin' idol made of mud," as Kipling puts it, has in him the propagation of a nobler and happier posterity than the most cultured cosmopolitan who is destitute of reverence. The Church and the Synagogue are the only existing institutions of modern Society which are engaged in the work of upbuilding and strengthening that rugged personal character which is the only sure foundation of any worthy civilization.
I do not discuss the fundamental Marxian propositions for two reasons. In the first place, it would be laborious beyond measure for me, and dreary beyond measure for you. For example, the bottom stone in the foundation of the sub-basement of the Marxian edifice is the proposition that the equation
X commodity A=y commodity B essentially differs from the equation
y Commodity B=X Commodity A.
Now, a discussion whether there is between these two equations a difference which it is Socially necessary to take account of, is a thing to be put into books where it can be skipped, and not imposed in cold blood even on intellectual enemies. Personally I do not believe there is, for I do not think that Social phenomena can be dealt with by the rigorous methods of mathematics. One can never be sure that the unknown quantities are all accounted for. But whether this or similar propositions are essential to the discussion of the theory of surplus value or not, I do not describe them because they are of no particular importance.
Socialism is not based upon the Marxian theory of value, but the Marxian theory of value was evolved in an endeavor to fix a scientific basis for a popular movement already fully under way. Socialism is not based on reason, but emotion; not on reflection, but desire; it is not scientific, but popular. If every Socialist on earth should concede that the Marxian theory of surplus value had been knocked into smithereens, it would have no more effect on the progress of Socialism than the gentle zephyr of a June day on the hide of a rhinoceros. Socialism must be attacked in the derived propositions about which popular discussion centers, and the assault must be, not to prove that the doctrines are scientifically unsound, but that they tend to the impoverishment and debasement of the masses. These propositions are three, and I lay down as my thesis - for I abhor defensive warfare - that
Rent is right, Interest is right, Profits are right,
and that they are all three ethically and economically justified, and are in fact essential to the happiness and progress of the race, and more especially to those who labor with their hands.
Now, first, rent: I confess that I have no patience with any one who claims, as an inherent right, the exclusive ownership of any part of the earth. He might as well claim ownership in a section of air. In this I am very certain that I have the hearty concurrence of every member of this Club. I am so sure of this, in fact, that I am going to make that assumption, in which we all agree, the starting point of a little dialogue, in which, after the manner of Plato, I will put Socrates at one end of the discussion, and some of his friends, whom we will suppose to be Phaedo, and Crito, and Simmias, and the rest at the other, and we will let Socrates and Phaedo carry on the conversation, which might run as follows:
SOCRATES - We are agreed, then, that no man has any right inherent in himself to the ownership of land.
PHAEDO - Certainly, we agree to that. Such a thing is absurd, for the earth is a gift to the human race, and not to particular men.
SOCRATES - I am glad that you think so, and am sure we shall continue to agree. And if no one man has any right to exclusive ownership of land, neither have any two men, since it is plain that neither could convey to himself and another any right which he did not possess, nor could two men together by any means get lawful title to what neither was entitled to hold.
PHAEDO - You are doubtless right, Socrates. I do not think any man could dispute that.
SOCRATES - And if neither one man nor two men can acquire lawful title to land, neither for the same reason could any number, no matter how great, acquire lawful title.
PHAEDO - That certainly follows from what we have already agreed to.
SOCRATES - And it makes no difference how small or how great a portion of land may be. No man and no number of men can acquire lawful ownership of it.
PHAEDO - That is also so plainly true that it seems hardly worth while to say it. It certainly makes no difference whether the land be a square furlong or a continent.
SOCRATES - As you say, Phaedo, that is very evident. The earth belongs to mankind, and all men are by nature sharers in its benefits.
PHAEDO - I trust that you will understand that I agree with you in that, and so make an end of it.
SOCRATES - It is perhaps best that we be very sure that we agree as we go on, so that if we should at any time disagree, we do not need to go far back to find where our difference began. The earth is the property of men in common, and each has an undivided share in its possession.
PHAEDO - That is another thing too plain to be disputed.
SOCRATES - And when men hold property in common, each has as much right to all parts of it as another.
PHAEDO - To be sure. I do not see why we need waste time in mentioning things so plain and so trivial.
SOCRATES - And when men own property they may do with it as they please, and property which men own jointly they may visit and remain upon, the one as much as the other.
PHAEDO - Unquestionably that is so, and we should do better to go to sleep in the shade somewhere, than to spend time in repeating things so simple.
SOCRATES - Be patient, Phaedo, and in time we may find somewhat wherein we do not so perfectly agree. But, whatever property men have the right to visit and remain upon, they are always free to use in common with their fellow owners.
PHAEDO - Certainly. Will you never, O Socrates, have done with this?
SOCRATES - And Chinamen, therefore, have full right to come and live in California.
PHAEDO (and the rest) - We will all see them in hell first.
And I am very certain that every Socialist in California will agree both with the premises and the conclusion.
But we might try another course of reasoning by which we may perhaps more easily reach the predetermined conclusion, and we will let the same parties carry on the dialogue, which is a most delightful way of reasoning when, as in the case of Plato and myself, the same person conducts both sides of the discussion. It might run in this way:
PHAEDO - We have come, Socrates, to discuss with you, if you will permit us, the question of the ownership of land. Crito and Hippias and myself and others were considering that subject the other day, and we were not able to agree. Hippocrates, whom you know, has lately returned from the region of Mount Olympus, and as he was hunting one day on the lower slopes of the mountain, he came, haply, upon a beautiful vale, fertile and well watered, wherein was no habitation or sign of man. The soft breezes blew gently over the rich green plain whereon the red deer grazed peacefully and turned not at his approach. And when Hippocrates returned from his hunt he found upon inquiry that no man of the region knew of that vale or had ever heard thereof. So, as he had marked the entrance thereto, he returned thither with the intent to remain there for a space. And remaining there through the warm summer he fenced in the vale and the deer in it, and built him a house, and remained there a full year. But certain concerns of his family at that time constrained Hippocrates to return to Athens, and since he can no more live in his vale he offered to sell it to Hipparchus for a talent of silver for a place to keep summer boarders. And Hipparchus was content; but when they repaired to the Demosion to exchange the price for the deed, Hippocrates was unable to produce any parchment showing his title to the vale. And when he was unable to do that, Hipparchus would not pay down his silver, until he could make further inquiry. The next day, we all, meeting at the house of Phidias, fell to debating whether Hippocrates owned the land and could sell it to Hipparchus. And some said one thing and some another, and in the end we agreed that when some of us were next together, we would go to the house of Socrates, and if he were content, we would discuss the matter with him. And today happening to so meet we have come to you, Socrates, and would be glad to hear whether you think Hippocrates owns that vale, and may sell it or no.
SOCRATES - You are very welcome, Phaedo, and your friends, and as for the matter you name, I shall be glad to talk of it with you and see if we can come to some understanding of it. But before we can proceed in the discussion, it will be necessary to find some starting point upon which we can all agree, because until we agree, at the beginning, upon some one thing pertaining to the matter, as certain and not to be doubted, discussion is useless, but if we can find such a thing, which none of us doubt, we may be able to make something of the matter. I
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