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- The Inhumanity of Socialism - 7/7 -


PHAEDO - There can be no doubt of it whatever.

SOCRATES - And Chinese may keep Americans out of China.

PHAEDO - That is another story. One must never let his logic get the better of him.

And so we might play with these great subjects forever, with reasoning as leaky as a sieve, but good enough to catch the careless or the untrained.

One of the most interesting lectures which I ever listened to was one before the Economic League of San Francisco on the "Dialectics of Socialism." The lecturer was a very acute man, who would not for one moment be deceived by the sophistry of my Socrates and Phaedo, but, who, himself, made willing captives of his hearers by similar methods. I was unable to hear all his address, but when I reluctantly left, it appeared to me that he was expecting to prove that Socialism must be sound philosophy because it was contradictory to all human observation, experience, judgment and the dictates of sound common sense - and his large audience was plainly enough with him.

The dialectics of the schoolmen or their equivalent are useless in Social discussion. Social phenomena do not lend themselves to the rigorous formulas of mathematics and logic, for the human intellect is unable to discern and grasp all the factors of these problems. My travesty of Plato was intended to illustrate the difficulty of close reasoning on such topics.

Neither, on the other hand, are we to blindly follow the impulses of emotion which lead us to jump at a conclusion, support it with what reason we can, but reach it in any event. Emotion is the source of Social power, but power unrestrained and undirected is dangerous. Energy created by the sight of distress must be controlled by reason or it will not relieve distress. And by reason I do not mean Social syllogisms, of whose premises we are always uncertain, but conclusions half unconsciously formed in the mind as the result of human experience operating on human feeling - the practical wisdom which we call common sense. Human conduct, individual and aggregate, must be regulated and determined by the consensus of the judgment of the wisest made effective through its gradual acceptance as the judgment of the majority. Private ownership of land, with its accompanying rent, is justified, not by an imaginary inherent right in the individual, which has no real existence and so cannot be conveyed, but because the interests of Society require the stimulus to effort which private ownership and private ownership only can give. And here I shall leave this point without the further illustration and elaboration with which I could torment you longer than you could keep awake. And with the other two points I will confine myself to the most condensed forms of statement.

Interest - Socialists and non-Socialists agree that what a man makes is his. Socialists and I agree that every man is entitled to his just share of the Social dividend. I believe, and in this I suppose the Socialists would agree with me, that when a man gets his annual dividend he may use it, or keep it for future use. If, while he does not use his dividend, or the product of his labor, he permits others to use it to their profit, it seems to me that he is entitled to some satisfaction in compensation for his sacrifice. I believe it to the interest of Society that he have it. By individual thrift Society accumulates, and it is wise to encourage thrift.

If I build a mill and, falling sick, cannot use it, it is fair that he who does use it shall pay me for my sacrifice in building it. If I forego possible satisfactions of any kind, those whom I permit to enjoy them should recompense me. And that is interest. Its foundation as a right rests not only on those natural sentiments of justice with which the normal man everywhere is endowed and behind which we cannot go, but on the interest of Society to encourage the creation of savings funds to be employed for the benefit of Society.

Profits - Private profit is far less a private right than a public necessity. Its absence would involve a waste which Society could not endure. With individual operations controlled by fallible men enormous waste is inevitable. It is essential to Society that this waste be minimized. No industrial or commercial enterprise can go on without risk. Profit is the compensation for risk. One of the things which I believe, but which cannot be proved, is that from the dawn of history losses to individuals by which Society gained have exceeded profits to individuals, and the excess of these losses is the Social accumulation, increased, of course, by residues left after individuals have got what they could. Whitney died poor, but mankind has the cotton-gin. Bell died rich, but there is a profit to mankind in the telephone. Socialists propose to assume risks and absorb profits. I do not believe Society could afford this. I am profoundly convinced that under the Socialist program the inevitable waste would be so enormously increased as to result in disaster approaching a Social cataclysm. This is an old argument whose validity Socialists scout. Nevertheless I believe it sound. The number of these whose intellectual and physical strength is sufficient for the wisest direction of great enterprises is very small. Some who are interested in our great industrial trusts are said to carry heavy insurance on the life of Mr. Morgan, lest he die and leave no successor. If the natural ability is found its possessor will probably lack the knowledge which Mr. Morgan[4] has accumulated, and in the light of which he directs his operations. It is essential that great operations - and the business of the future will be conducted on a great scale - be directed by great wisdom and power. The possessors of high qualities we now discover by the trying-out process. They can be discovered in no other way, and great effort can be secured only by the hope of great reward. Until human nature changes we can expect nothing different. Socialism implies popular selection of industrial leadership. Wherever tried thus far in the world's history there has usually been abject failure. The mass can choose leaders in emotion but not directors of industry. The selection of experts by the non-expert can be wise only by accident. If the selection is not popular, then Socialism is tyranny, as its enemies charge. If it be popular, or in so far as it is popular, direction is likely to fall to the great persuaders and not to the great directors. Never did a "peoples party" yet escape the control of the unscrupulous. No political movements result in so much political and Social rascality as so-called popular movements originated by earnest and honest men. I see no reason to suppose that the Socialistic direction of industrial affairs in any city would be directed from any other source than the back rooms of the saloons where political movements are now shaped. If the Socialistic program were to go into effect tomorrow morning there would be here tonight neither lecturer nor audience. The good dinner would remain untasted in the ovens. Every mortal soul of us would be scooting from one Social magnate to another to assure that we were on the slate for the soft jobs and that nobody was crowding us off. I have no faith in human nature except as it is constantly strengthened and purified by struggle. That struggle is an irrepressible conflict existing in all nature, and from which man cannot escape. It is better for mankind that it go on openly and in more or less accord with known rules of warfare than in the secret conspiring chambers of the class which in the end controls popular movement. All serious conflict involves evil, but it is also strengthening to the race. I wish misery could be banished from the world, but I fear that it cannot be so banished. I have little confidence in human ability to so thoroughly comprehend the structure and functions of the Social body as to correctly fortell the steps in its evolution, or prescribe constitutional remedies which will banish Social disease. If I were a Social reformer - and were I with my present knowledge still an ingenuous youth in the fulness of strength with my life before me I do not know that I would not be a Social reformer - I would profess myself a Social agnostic, and prosecute my mission by the methods of the opportunist. I would endeavor to direct the Social ax to the most obvious and obtrusive roots of the Social evil, and having removed them and watched the result, would then determine what to do next. Possibly I would endeavor to begin with the abolition of wills and collateral inheritance, and so limiting direct inheritance that no man able to work should escape its necessity by reason of the labor of his forefathers. I might say that I recognized the vested rights of the Astors to the soil on Manhattan Island, but that I recognized no right as vested in beings yet unborn. I might say that it was sufficient stimulation and reward for the most eminent Social endeavor to select, within reason, the objects of public utility to which resulting accumulations should be applied and to superintend during one's lifetime their application to those purposes. I might think in this way, and might not, were I an enthusiastic Social reformer in the heyday of youth, but it appears to me now that at any rate we shall make most progress toward ultimate universal happiness if we recognize that out of the increasing strenuousness of our conflict there is coming constantly increasing comfort and better division thereof, and if we direct that portion of our energies which we devote to the service of mankind toward such changes in the direction of the Social impulse as can be made without impairing the force of the evolutionary movement, rather than to those which involve the reversal of the direction of the force with the resulting danger of explosion and collapse.

[4] This was written and originally printed long before the death of Mr. Morgan, but there is a general feeling that he has left no successor of his caliber.

Here ends The Inhumanity of Socialism, being two papers - The Case Against Socialism and A Critique of Socialism - By Edward F. Adams. Published by Paul Elder and Company at their Tomoye Press, in the city of San Francisco, and seen through the press by John Swart, in the month of June, Nineteen Hundred & Thirteen


The Inhumanity of Socialism - 7/7

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