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Title: Socialism
Author: Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873
Language: English
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  SOCIALISM.


  BY
  JOHN STUART MILL.


  _Reprinted from the Fortnightly Review._


  CHICAGO.
  BELFORDS, CLARKE & CO.
  MDCCCLXXIX.



  MANUFACTURED _BY_
  DONOHUE
  HENNEBERRY.
  _CHICAGO, ILL._



PRELIMINARY NOTICE.


It was in the year 1869 that, impressed with the degree in which, even
during the last twenty years, when the world seemed so wholly occupied
with other matters, the socialist ideas of speculative thinkers had
spread among the workers in every civilized country, Mr. Mill formed
the design of writing a book on Socialism. Convinced that the
inevitable tendencies of modern society must be to bring the questions
involved in it always more and more to the front, he thought it of
great practical consequence that they should be thoroughly and
impartially considered, and the lines pointed out by which the best
speculatively-tested theories might, without prolongation of suffering
on the one hand, or unnecessary disturbance on the other, be applied
to the existing order of things. He therefore planned a work which
should go exhaustively through the whole subject, point by point; and
the chapters now printed are the first rough drafts thrown down
towards the foundation of that work. These chapters might not, when
the work came to be completely written out and then re-written,
according to the author's habit, have appeared in the present order;
they might have been incorporated into different parts of the work. It
has not been without hesitation that I have yielded to the urgent wish
of the editor of this Review to give these chapters to the world; but
I have complied with his request because, while they appear to me to
possess great intrinsic value as well as special application to the
problems now forcing themselves on public attention, they will not, I
believe, detract even from the mere literary reputation of their
author, but will rather form an example of the patient labor with
which good work is done.

                                                    HELEN TAYLOR.

  _January, 1879._



SOCIALISM.



INTRODUCTORY.


In the great country beyond the Atlantic, which is now well-nigh the
most powerful country in the world, and will soon be indisputably so,
manhood suffrage prevails. Such is also the political qualification of
France since 1848, and has become that of the German Confederation,
though not of all the several states composing it. In Great Britain
the suffrage is not yet so widely extended, but the last Reform Act
admitted within what is called the pale of the Constitution so large a
body of those who live on weekly wages, that as soon and as often as
these shall choose to act together as a class, and exert for any
common object the whole of the electoral power which our present
institutions give them, they will exercise, though not a complete
ascendency, a very great influence on legislation. Now these are the
very class which, in the vocabulary of the higher ranks, are said to
have no stake in the country. Of course they have in reality the
greatest stake, since their daily bread depends on its prosperity. But
they are not engaged (we may call it bribed) by any peculiar interest
of their own, to the support of property as it is, least of all to the
support of inequalities of property. So far as their power reaches, or
may hereafter reach, the laws of property have to depend for support
upon considerations of a public nature, upon the estimate made of
their conduciveness to the general welfare, and not upon motives of a
mere personal character operating on the minds of those who have
control over the Government.

It seems to me that the greatness of this change is as yet by no means
completely realized, either by those who opposed, or by those who
effected our last constitutional reform. To say the truth, the
perceptions of Englishmen are of late somewhat blunted as to the
tendencies of political changes. They have seen so many changes made,
from which, while only in prospect, vast expectations were
entertained, both of evil and of good, while the results of either
kind that actually followed seemed far short of what had been
predicted, that they have come to feel as if it were the nature of
political changes not to fulfil expectation, and have fallen into a
habit of half-unconscious belief that such changes, when they take
place without a violent revolution, do not much or permanently disturb
in practice the course of things habitual to the country. This,
however, is but a superficial view either of the past or of the
future. The various reforms of the last two generations have been at
least as fruitful in important consequences as was foretold. The
predictions were often erroneous as to the suddenness of the effects,
and sometimes even as to the kind of effect. We laugh at the vain
expectations of those who thought that Catholic emancipation would
tranquilize Ireland, or reconcile it to British rule. At the end of
the first ten years of the Reform Act of 1832, few continued to think
either that it would remove every important practical grievance, or
that it had opened the door to universal suffrage. But five-and-twenty
years more of its operation had given scope for a large development of
its indirect working, which is much more momentous than the direct.
Sudden effects in history are generally superficial. Causes which go
deep down into the roots of future events produce the most serious
parts of their effect only slowly, and have, therefore, time to become
a part of the familiar order of things before general attention is
called to the changes they are producing; since, when the changes do
become evident, they are often not seen, by cursory observers, to be
in any peculiar manner connected with the cause. The remoter
consequences of a new political fact are seldom understood when they
occur, except when they have been appreciated beforehand.

This timely appreciation is particularly easy in respect to tendencies
of the change made in our institutions by the Reform Act of 1867. The
great increase of electoral power which the Act places within the
reach of the working classes is permanent. The circumstances which
have caused them, thus far, to make a very limited use of that power,
are essentially temporary. It is known even to the most inobservant,
that the working classes have, and are likely to have, political
objects which concern them as working classes, and on which they
believe, rightly or wrongly, that the interests and opinions of the
other powerful classes are opposed to theirs. However much their
pursuit of these objects may be for the present retarded by want of
electoral organization, by dissensions among themselves, or by their
not having reduced as yet their wishes into a sufficiently definite
practical shape, it is as certain as anything in politics can be, that
they will before long find the means of making their collective
electoral power effectively instrumental to the proportion of their
collective objects. And when they do so, it will not be in the
disorderly and ineffective way which belongs to a people not
habituated to the use of legal and constitutional machinery, nor will
it be by the impulse of a mere instinct of levelling. The instruments
will be the press, public meetings and associations, and the return to
Parliament of the greatest possible number of persons pledged to the
political aims of the working classes. The political aims will
themselves be determined by definite political doctrines; for politics
are now scientifically studied from the point of view of the working
classes, and opinions conceived in the special interest of those
classes are organized into systems and creeds which lay claim to a
place on the platform of political philosophy, by the same right as
the systems elaborated by previous thinkers. It is of the utmost
importance that all reflecting persons should take into early
consideration what these popular political creeds are likely to be,
and that every single article of them should be brought under the
fullest light of investigation and discussion, so that, if possible,
when the time shall be ripe, whatever is right in them may be adopted,
and what is wrong rejected by general consent, and that instead of a
hostile conflict, physical or only moral, between the old and the new,
the best parts of both may be combined in a renovated social fabric.
At the ordinary pace of those great social changes which are not
effected by physical violence, we have before us an interval of about
a generation, on the due employment of which it depends whether the
accommodation of social institutions to the altered state of human
society, shall be the work of wise foresight, or of a conflict of
opposite prejudices. The future of mankind will be gravely imperilled,
if great questions are left to be fought over between ignorant change
and ignorant opposition to change.

And the discussion that is now required is one that must go down to
the very first principles of existing society. The fundamental
doctrines which were assumed as incontestable by former generations,
are now put again on their trial. Until the present age, the
institution of property in the shape in which it has been handed down
from the past, had not, except by a few speculative writers, been
brought seriously into question, because the conflicts of the past
have always been conflicts between classes, both of which had a stake
in the existing constitution of property. It will not be possible to
go on longer in this manner. When the discussion includes classes who
have next to no property of their own, and are only interested in the
institution so far as it is a public benefit, they will not allow
anything to be taken for granted--certainly not the principle of
private property, the legitimacy and utility of which are denied by
many of the reasoners who look out from the stand-point of the working
classes. Those classes will certainly demand that the subject, in all
its parts, shall be reconsidered from the foundation; that all
proposals for doing without the institution, and all modes of
modifying it which have the appearance of being favorable to the
interest of the working classes, shall receive the fullest
consideration and discussion before it is decided that the subject
must remain as it is. As far as this country is concerned, the
dispositions of the working classes have as yet manifested themselves
hostile only to certain outlying portions of the proprietary system.
Many of them desire to withdraw questions of wages from the freedom of
contract, which is one of the ordinary attributions of private
property. The more aspiring of them deny that land is a proper subject
for private appropriation, and have commenced an agitation for its
resumption by the State. With this is combined, in the speeches of
some of the agitators, a denunciation of what they term usury, but
without any definition of what they mean by the name; and the cry does
not seem to be of home origin, but to have been caught up from the
intercourse which has recently commenced through the Labor Congresses
and the International Society, with the continental Socialists who
object to all interest on money, and deny the legitimacy of deriving
an income in any form from property apart from labor. This doctrine
does not as yet show signs of being widely prevalent in Great Britain,
but the soil is well prepared to receive the seeds of this
description which are widely scattered from those foreign countries
where large, general theories, and schemes of vast promise, instead of
inspiring distrust, are essential to the popularity of a cause. It is
in France, Germany, and Switzerland that anti-property doctrines in
the widest sense have drawn large bodies of working men to rally round
them. In these countries nearly all those who aim at reforming society
in the interest of the working classes profess themselves Socialists,
a designation under which schemes of very diverse character are
comprehended and confounded, but which implies at least a remodelling
generally approaching to abolition of the institution of private
property. And it would probably be found that even in England the more
prominent and active leaders of the working classes are usually in
their private creed Socialists of one order or another, though being,
like most English politicians, better aware than their Continental
brethren that great and permanent changes in the fundamental ideas of
mankind are not to be accomplished by a _coup de main_, they direct
their practical efforts towards ends which seem within easier reach,
and are content to hold back all extreme theories until there has been
experience of the operation of the same principles on a partial scale.
While such continues to be the character of the English working
classes, as it is of Englishmen in general, they are not likely to
rush head-long into the reckless extremities of some of the foreign
Socialists, who, even in sober Switzerland, proclaim themselves
content to begin by simple subversion, leaving the subsequent
reconstruction to take care of itself; and by subversion, they mean
not only the annihilation of all government, but getting all property
of all kinds out of the hands of the possessors to be used for the
general benefit; but in what mode it will, they say, be time enough
afterwards to decide.

The avowal of this doctrine by a public newspaper, the organ of an
association (_La Solidarite_ published at Neuchatel), is one of the
most curious signs of the times. The leaders of the English
working-men--whose delegates at the congresses of Geneva and Bale
contributed much the greatest part of such practical common sense as
was shown there--are not likely to begin deliberately by anarchy,
without having formed any opinion as to what form of society should be
established in the room of the old. But it is evident that whatever
they do propose can only be properly judged, and the grounds of the
judgment made convincing to the general mind, on the basis of a
previous survey of the two rival theories, that of private property and
that of Socialism, one or other of which must necessarily furnish most
of the premises in the discussion. Before, therefore, we can usefully
discuss this class of questions in detail, it will be advisable to
examine from their foundations the general question raised by
Socialism. And this examination should be made without any hostile
prejudice. However irrefutable the arguments in favor of the laws of
property may appear to those to whom they have the double prestige of
immemorial custom and of personal interest, nothing is more natural
than that a working man who has begun to speculate on politics, should
regard them in a very different light. Having, after long struggles,
attained in some countries, and nearly attained in others, the point at
which for them, at least, there is no further progress to make in the
department of purely political rights, is it possible that the less
fortunate classes among the "adult males" should not ask themselves
whether progress ought to stop there? Notwithstanding all that has been
done, and all that seems likely to be done, in the extension of
franchises, a few are born to great riches, and the many to a penury,
made only more grating by contrast. No longer enslaved or made
dependent by force of law, the great majority are so by force of
poverty; they are still chained to a place, to an occupation, and to
conformity with the will of an employer, and debarred by the accident
of birth both from the enjoyments, and from the mental and moral
advantages, which others inherit without exertion and independently of
desert. That this is an evil equal to almost any of those against
which mankind have hitherto struggled, the poor are not wrong in
believing. Is it a necessary evil? They are told so by those who do not
feel it--by those who have gained the prizes in the lottery of life.
But it was also said that slavery, that despotism, that all the
privileges of oligarchy were necessary. All the successive steps that
have been made by the poorer classes, partly won from the better
feelings of the powerful, partly extorted from their fears, and partly
bought with money, or attained in exchange for support given to one
section of the powerful in its quarrels with another, had the strongest
prejudices opposed to them beforehand; but their acquisition was a sign
of power gained by the subordinate classes, a means to those classes of
acquiring more; it consequently drew to those classes a certain share
of the respect accorded to power, and produced a corresponding
modification in the creed of society respecting them; whatever
advantages they succeeded in acquiring came to be considered their due,
while, of those which they had not yet attained, they continued to be
deemed unworthy. The classes, therefore, which the system of society
makes subordinate, have little reason to put faith in any of the maxims
which the same system of society may have established as principles.
Considering that the opinions of mankind have been found so wonderfully
flexible, have always tended to consecrate existing facts, and to
declare what did not yet exist, either pernicious or impracticable,
what assurance have those classes that the distinction of rich and poor
is grounded on a more imperative necessity than those other ancient and
long-established facts, which, having been abolished, are now condemned
even by those who formerly profited by them? This cannot be taken on
the word of an interested party. The working classes are entitled to
claim that the whole field of social institutions should be
re-examined, and every question considered as if it now arose for the
first time; with the idea constantly in view that the persons who are
to be convinced are not those who owe their ease and importance to the
present system, but persons who have no other interest in the matter
than abstract justice and the general good of the community. It should
be the object to ascertain what institutions of property would be
established by an unprejudiced legislator, absolutely impartial between
the possessors of property and the non-possessors; and to defend and to
justify them by the reasons which would really influence such a
legislator, and not by such as have the appearance of being got up to
make out a case for what already exists. Such rights or privileges of
property as will not stand this test will, sooner or later, have to be
given up. An impartial hearing ought, moreover, to be given to all
objections against property itself. All evils and inconveniences
attaching to the institution in its best form ought to be frankly
admitted, and the best remedies or palliatives applied which human
intelligence is able to devise. And all plans proposed by social
reformers, under whatever name designated, for the purpose of attaining
the benefits aimed at by the institution of property without its
inconveniences, should be examined with the same candor, not prejudged
as absurd or impracticable.


SOCIALIST OBJECTIONS TO THE PRESENT ORDER OF SOCIETY.

As in all proposals for change there are two elements to be
considered--that which is to be changed, and that which it is to be
changed to--so in Socialism considered generally, and in each of its
varieties taken separately, there are two parts to be distinguished,
the one negative and critical, the other constructive. There is,
first, the judgment of Socialism on existing institutions and
practices and on their results; and secondly, the various plans which
it has propounded for doing better. In the former all the different
schools of Socialism are at one. They agree almost to identity in the
faults which they find with the economical order of existing society.
Up to a certain point also they entertain the same general conception
of the remedy to be provided for those faults; but in the details,
notwithstanding this general agreement, there is a wide disparity. It
will be both natural and convenient, in attempting an estimate of
their doctrines, to begin with the negative portion which is common to
them all, and to postpone all mention of their differences until we
arrive at that second part of their undertaking, in which alone they
seriously differ.

This first part of our task is by no means difficult; since it
consists only in an enumeration of existing evils. Of these there is
no scarcity, and most of them are by no means obscure or mysterious.
Many of them are the veriest commonplaces of moralists, though the
roots even of these lie deeper than moralists usually attempt to
penetrate. So various are they that the only difficulty is to make any
approach to an exhaustive catalogue. We shall content ourselves for
the present with mentioning a few of the principal. And let one thing
be remembered by the reader. When item after item of the enumeration
passes before him, and he finds one fact after another which he has
been accustomed to include among the necessities of nature urged as
an accusation against social institutions, he is not entitled to cry
unfairness, and to protest that the evils complained of are inherent
in Man and Society, and are such as no arrangements can remedy. To
assert this would be to beg the very question at issue. No one is more
ready than Socialists to admit--they affirm it indeed much more
decidedly than truth warrants--that the evils they complain of are
irremediable in the present constitution of society. They propose to
consider whether some other form of society may be devised which would
not be liable to those evils, or would be liable to them in a much
less degree. Those who object to the present order of society,
considered as a whole and who accept as an alternative the possibility
of a total change, have a right to set down all the evils which at
present exist in society as part of their case, whether these are
apparently attributable to social arrangements or not, provided they
do not flow from physical laws which human power is not adequate, or
human knowledge has not yet learned, to counteract. Moral evils and
such physical evils as would be remedied if all persons did as they
ought, are fairly chargeable against the state of society which admits
of them; and are valid as arguments until it is shown that any other
state of society would involve an equal or greater amount of such
evils. In the opinion of Socialists, the present arrangements of
society in respect to Property and the Production and Distribution of
Wealth, are as means to the general good, a total failure. They say
that there is an enormous mass of evil which these arrangements do not
succeed in preventing; that the good, either moral or physical, which
they realize is wretchedly small compared with the amount of exertion
employed, and that even this small amount of good is brought about by
means which are full of pernicious consequences, moral and physical.

First among existing social evils may be mentioned the evil of
Poverty. The institution of Property is upheld and commended
principally as being the means by which labor and frugality are
insured their reward, and mankind enabled to emerge from indigence.
It may be so; most Socialists allow that it has been so in earlier
periods of history. But if the institution can do nothing more or
better in this respect than it has hitherto done, its capabilities,
they affirm, are very insignificant. What proportion of the
population, in the most civilized countries of Europe, enjoy in their
own persons anything worth naming of the benefits of property? It may
be said, that but for property in the hands of their employers they
would be without daily bread; but, though this be conceded, at least
their daily bread is all that they have; and that often in
insufficient quantity; almost always of inferior quality; and with no
assurance of continuing to have it at all; an immense proportion of
the industrious classes being at some period or other of their lives
(and all being liable to become) dependent, at least temporarily, on
legal or voluntary charity. Any attempt to depict the miseries of
indigence, or to estimate the proportion of mankind who in the most
advanced countries are habitually given up during their whole
existence to its physical and moral sufferings, would be superfluous
here. This may be left to philanthropists, who have painted these
miseries in colors sufficiently strong. Suffice it to say that the
condition of numbers in civilized Europe, and even in England and
France, is more wretched than that of most tribes of savages who are
known to us.

It may be said that of this hard lot no one has any reason to
complain, because it befalls those only who are outstripped by others,
from inferiority of energy or of prudence. This, even were it true,
would be a very small alleviation of the evil. If some Nero or
Domitian was to require a hundred persons to run a race for their
lives, on condition that the fifty or twenty who came in hindmost
should be put to death, it would not be any diminution of the
injustice that the strongest or nimblest would, except through some
untoward accident, be certain to escape. The misery and the crime
would be that they were put to death at all. So in the economy of
society; if there be any who suffer physical privation or moral
degradation, whose bodily necessities are either not satisfied or
satisfied in a manner which only brutish creatures can be content
with, this, though not necessarily the crime of society, is _pro
tanto_ a failure of the social arrangements. And to assert as a
mitigation of the evil that those who thus suffer are the weaker
members of the community, morally or physically, is to add insult to
misfortune. Is weakness a justification of suffering? Is it not, on
the contrary, an irresistible claim upon every human being for
protection against suffering? If the minds and feelings of the
prosperous were in a right state, would they accept their prosperity
if for the sake of it even one person near them was, for any other
cause than voluntary fault, excluded from obtaining a desirable
existence?

One thing there is, which if it could be affirmed truly, would relieve
social institutions from any share in the responsibility of these
evils. Since the human race has no means of enjoyable existence, or of
existence at all, but what it derives from its own labor and
abstinence, there would be no ground for complaint against society if
every one who was willing to undergo a fair share of this labor and
abstinence could attain a fair share of the fruits. But is this the
fact? Is it not the reverse of the fact? The reward, instead of being
proportioned to the labor and abstinence of the individual, is almost
in an inverse ratio to it: those who receive the least, labor and
abstain the most. Even the idle, reckless, and ill-conducted poor,
those who are said with most justice to have themselves to blame for
their condition, often undergo much more and severer labor, not only
than those who are born to pecuniary independence, but than almost any
of the more highly remunerated of those who earn their subsistence;
and even the inadequate self-control exercised by the industrious poor
costs them more sacrifice and more effort than is almost ever required
from the more favored members of society. The very idea of
distributive justice, or of any proportionality between success and
merit, or between success and exertion, is in the present state of
society so manifestly chimerical as to be relegated to the regions of
romance. It is true that the lot of individuals is not wholly
independent of their virtue and intelligence; these do really tell in
their favor, but far less than many other things in which there is no
merit at all. The most powerful of all the determining circumstances
is birth. The great majority are what they were born to be. Some are
born rich without work, others are born to a position in which they
can become rich _by_ work, the great majority are born to hard work
and poverty throughout life, numbers to indigence. Next to birth the
chief cause of success in life is accident and opportunity. When a
person not born to riches succeeds in acquiring them, his own industry
and dexterity have generally contributed to the result; but industry
and dexterity would not have sufficed unless there had been also a
concurrence of occasions and chances which falls to the lot of only a
small number. If persons are helped in their worldly career by their
virtues, so are they, and perhaps quite as often, by their vices: by
servility and sycophancy, by hard-hearted and close-fisted
selfishness, by the permitted lies and tricks of trade, by gambling
speculations, not seldom by downright knavery. Energies and talents
are of much more avail for success in life than virtues; but if one
man succeeds by employing energy and talent in something generally
useful, another thrives by exercising the same qualities in
out-generalling and ruining a rival. It is as much as any moralist
ventures to assert, that, other circumstances being given, honesty is
the best policy, and that with parity of advantages an honest person
has a better chance than a rogue. Even this in many stations and
circumstances of life is questionable; anything more than this is out
of the question. It cannot be pretended that honesty, as a means of
success, tells for as much as a difference of one single step on the
social ladder. The connection between fortune and conduct is mainly
this, that there is a degree of bad conduct, or rather of some kinds
of bad conduct, which suffices to ruin any amount of good fortune; but
the converse is not true: in the situation of most people no degree
whatever of good conduct can be counted upon for raising them in the
world, without the aid of fortunate accidents.

These evils, then--great poverty, and that poverty very little
connected with desert--are the first grand failure of the existing
arrangements of society. The second is human misconduct; crime, vice,
and folly, with all the sufferings which follow in their train. For,
nearly all the forms of misconduct, whether committed towards ourselves
or towards others, may be traced to one of three causes: Poverty and
its temptations in the many; Idleness and _desoeuvrement_ in the few
whose circumstances do not compel them to work; bad education, or want
of education, in both. The first two must be allowed to be at least
failures in the social arrangements, the last is now almost universally
admitted to be the fault of those arrangements--it may almost be said
the crime. I am speaking loosely and in the rough, for a minuter
analysis of the sources of faults of character and errors of conduct
would establish far more conclusively the filiation which connects them
with a defective organization of society, though it would also show the
reciprocal dependence of that faulty state of society on a backward
state of the human mind.

At this point, in the enumeration of the evils of society, the mere
levellers of former times usually stopped; but their more far-sighted
successors, the present Socialists, go farther. In their eyes the very
foundation of human life as at present constituted, the very principle
on which the production and repartition of all material products is now
carried on, is essentially vicious and anti-social. It is the principle
of individualism, competition, each one for himself and against all the
rest. It is grounded on opposition of interests, not harmony of
interests, and under it every one is required to find his place by a
struggle, by pushing others back or being pushed back by them.
Socialists consider this system of private war (as it may be termed)
between every one and every one, especially fatal in an economical
point of view and in a moral. Morally considered, its evils are
obvious. It is the parent of envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness; it
makes every one the natural enemy of all others who cross his path, and
every one's path is constantly liable to be crossed. Under the present
system hardly any one can gain except by the loss or disappointment of
one or of many others. In a well-constituted community every one would
be a gainer by every other person's successful exertions; while now we
gain by each other's loss and lose by each other's gain, and our
greatest gains come from the worst source of all, from death, the death
of those who are nearest and should be dearest to us. In its purely
economical operation the principle of individual competition receives
as unqualified condemnation from the social reformers as in its moral.
In the competition of laborers they see the cause of low wages; in the
competition of producers the cause of ruin and bankruptcy; and both
evils, they affirm, tend constantly to increase as population and
wealth make progress; no person (they conceive) being benefited except
the great proprietors of land, the holders of fixed money incomes, and
a few great capitalists, whose wealth is gradually enabling them to
undersell all other producers, to absorb the whole of the operations of
industry into their own sphere, to drive from the market all employers
of labor except themselves, and to convert the laborers into a kind of
slaves or serfs, dependent on them for the means of support, and
compelled to accept these on such terms as they choose to offer.
Society, in short, is travelling onward, according to these
speculators, towards a new feudality, that of the great capitalists.

As I shall have ample opportunity in future chapters to state my own
opinion on these topics, and on many others connected with and
subordinate to them, I shall now, without further preamble, exhibit
the opinions of distinguished Socialists on the present arrangements
of society, in a selection of passages from their published writings.
For the present I desire to be considered as a mere reporter of the
opinions of others. Hereafter it will appear how much of what I cite
agrees or differs with my own sentiments.

The clearest, the most compact, and the most precise and specific
statement of the case of the Socialists generally against the existing
order of society in the economical department of human affairs, is to
be found in the little work of M. Louis Blanc, _Organisation du
Travail_. My first extracts, therefore, on this part of the subject,
shall be taken from that treatise.

    "Competition is for the people a system of extermination. Is the
    poor man a member of society, or an enemy to it? We ask for an
    answer.

    "All around him he finds the soil preoccupied. Can he cultivate
    the earth for himself? No; for the right of the first occupant
    has become a right of property. Can he gather the fruits which
    the hand of God ripens on the path of man? No; for, like the
    soil, the fruits have been _appropriated_. Can he hunt or fish?
    No; for that is a right which is dependent upon the government.
    Can he draw water from a spring enclosed in a field? No; for the
    proprietor of the field is, in virtue of his right to the
    field, proprietor of the fountain. Can he, dying of hunger and
    thirst, stretch out his hands for the charity of his
    fellow-creatures? No; for there are laws against begging. Can
    he, exhausted by fatigue and without a refuge, lie down to sleep
    upon the pavement of the streets? No; for there are laws against
    vagabondage. Can he, dying from the cruel native land where
    everything is denied him, seek the means of living far from the
    place where life was given him? No; for it is not permitted to
    change your country except on certain conditions which the poor
    man cannot fulfil.

    "What, then, can the unhappy man do? He will say, 'I have hands
    to work with, I have intelligence, I have youth, I have
    strength; take all this, and in return give me a morsel of
    bread.' This is what the working-men do say. But even here the
    poor man may be answered, 'I have no work to give you.' What is
    he to do then?"

       *       *       *       *       *

    "What is competition from the point of view of the workman? It
    is work put up to auction. A contractor wants a workman: three
    present themselves.--How much for your work?--Half-a-crown; I
    have a wife and children.--Well; and how much for yours?--Two
    shillings: I have no children, but I have a wife.--Very well;
    and now how much for you?--One and eightpence are enough for me;
    I am single. Then you shall have the work. It is done; the
    bargain is struck. And what are the other two workmen to do? It
    is to be hoped they will die quietly of hunger. But what if they
    take to thieving? Never fear; we have the police. To murder? We
    have got the hangman. As for the lucky one, his triumph is only
    temporary. Let a fourth workman make his appearance, strong
    enough to fast every other day, and his price will run down
    still lower; then there will be a new outcast, a new recruit for
    the prison perhaps!

    "Will it be said that these melancholy results are exaggerated;
    that at all events they are only possible when there is not work
    enough for the hands that seek employment? But I ask, in answer,
    Does the principle of competition contain, by chance, within
    itself any method by which this murderous disproportion is to be
    avoided? If one branch of industry is in want of hands, who can
    answer for it that, in the confusion created by universal
    competition, another is not overstocked? And if, out of
    thirty-four millions of men, twenty are really reduced to theft
    for a living, this would suffice to condemn the principle.

    "But who is so blind as not to see that under the system of
    unlimited competition, the continual fall of wages is no
    exceptional circumstance, but a necessary and general fact? Has
    the population a limit which it cannot exceed? Is it possible
    for us to say to industry--industry given up to the accidents of
    individual egotism and fertile in ruin--can we say, 'Thus far
    shalt thou go, and no farther?' The population increases
    constantly: tell the poor mother to become sterile, and
    blaspheme the God who made her fruitful, for if you do not, the
    lists will soon become too narrow for the combatants. A machine
    is invented: command it to be broken, and anathematize science,
    for if you do not, the thousand workmen whom the new machine
    deprives of work will knock at the door of the neighboring
    workshop, and lower the wages of their companions. Thus
    systematic lowering of wages, ending in the driving out of a
    certain number of workmen, is the inevitable effect of unlimited
    competition. It is an industrial system by means of which the
    working-classes are forced to exterminate one another."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "If there is an undoubted fact, it is that the increase of
    population is much more rapid among the poor than among the
    rich. According to the _Statistics of European Population_, the
    births at Paris are only one-thirty-second of the population in
    the rich quarters, while in the others they rise to
    one-twenty-sixth. This disproportion is a general fact, and M.
    de Sismondi, in his work on Political Economy, has explained it
    by the impossibility for the workmen of hopeful prudence. Those
    only who feel themselves assured of the morrow can regulate the
    number of their children according to their income; he who lives
    from day to day is under the yoke of a mysterious fatality, to
    which he sacrifices his children as he was sacrificed to it
    himself. It is true the workhouses exist, menacing society with
    an inundation of beggars--what way is there of escaping from the
    cause?... It is clear that any society where the means of
    subsistence increase less rapidly than the numbers of the
    population, is a society on the brink of an abyss....
    Competition produces destitution; this is a fact shown by
    statistics. Destitution is fearfully prolific; this is shown by
    statistics. The fruitfulness of the poor throws upon society
    unhappy creatures who have need of work and cannot find it; this
    is shown by statistics. At this point society is reduced to a
    choice between killing the poor or maintaining them
    gratuitously--between atrocity or folly."[1]

So much for the poor. We now pass to the middle classes.

    "According to the political economists of the school of Adam
    Smith and Leon Say, _cheapness_ is the word in which may be
    summed up the advantages of unlimited competition. But why
    persist in considering the effect of cheapness with a view only
    to the momentary advantage of the consumer? Cheapness is
    advantageous to the consumer at the cost of introducing the
    seeds of ruinous anarchy among the producers. Cheapness is, so
    to speak, the hammer with which the rich among the producers
    crush their poorer rivals. Cheapness is the trap into which the
    daring speculators entice the hard-workers. Cheapness is the
    sentence of death to the producer on a small scale who has no
    money to invest in the purchase of machinery that his rich
    rivals can easily procure. Cheapness is the great instrument in
    the hands of monopoly; it absorbs the small manufacturer, the
    small shopkeeper, the small proprietor; it is, in one word, the
    destruction of the middle classes for the advantage of a few
    industrial oligarchs.

    "Ought we, then, to consider cheapness as a curse? No one would
    attempt to maintain such an absurdity. But it is the specialty
    of wrong principles to turn good into evil and to corrupt all
    things. Under the system of competition cheapness is only a
    provisional and fallacious advantage. It is maintained only so
    long as there is a struggle; no sooner have the rich competitors
    driven out their poorer rivals than prices rise. Competition
    leads to monopoly, for the same reason cheapness leads to high
    prices. Thus, what has been made use of as a weapon in the
    contest between the producers, sooner or later becomes a cause
    of impoverishment among the consumers. And if to this cause we
    add the others we have already enumerated, first among which
    must be ranked the inordinate increase of the population, we
    shall be compelled to recognize the impoverishment of the mass
    of the consumers as a direct consequence of competition.

    "But, on the other hand, this very competition which tends to
    dry up the sources of demand, urges production to over-supply.
    The confusion produced by the universal struggle prevents each
    producer from knowing the state of the market. He must work in
    the dark, and trust to chance for a sale. Why should he check
    the supply, especially as he can throw any loss on the workman
    whose wages are so pre-eminently liable to rise and fall? Even
    when production is carried on at a loss the manufacturers still
    often carry it on, because they will not let their machinery,
    &c., stand idle, or risk the loss of raw material, or lose their
    customers; and because productive industry as carried on under
    the competitive system being nothing else than a game of chance,
    the gambler will not lose his chance of a lucky stroke.

    "Thus, and we cannot too often insist upon it, competition
    necessarily tends to increase supply and to diminish
    consumption; its tendency therefore is precisely the opposite
    of what is sought by economic science; hence it is not merely
    oppressive but foolish as well."

       *       *       *       *       *

    "And in all this, in order to avoid dwelling on truths which
    have become commonplaces, and sound declamatory from their very
    truth, we have said nothing of the frightful moral corruption
    which industry, organized, or more properly speaking,
    disorganized, as it is at the present day, has introduced among
    the middle classes. Everything has become venal, and competition
    invades even the domain of thought.

    "The factory crushing the workshop; the showy establishment
    absorbing the humble shop; the artisan who is his own master
    replaced by the day-laborer; cultivation by the plow superseding
    that by the spade, and bringing the poor man's field under
    disgraceful homage to the money-lender; bankruptcies multiplied;
    manufacturing industry transformed by the ill-regulated
    extension of credit into a system of gambling where no one, not
    even the rogue, can be sure of winning; in short a vast
    confusion calculated to arouse jealousy, mistrust, and hatred,
    and to stifle, little by little, all generous aspirations, all
    faith, self-sacrifice, and poetry--such is the hideous but only
    too faithful picture of the results obtained by the application
    of the principle of competition."[2]

The Fourierists, through their principal organ, M. Considérant,
enumerate the evils of the existing civilisation in the following
order:--

1. It employs an enormous quantity of labor and of human power
unproductively, or in the work of destruction.

    "In the first place there is the army, which in France, as in
    all other countries, absorbs the healthiest and strongest men, a
    large number of the most talented and intelligent, and a
    considerable part of the public revenue.... The existing state
    of society develops in its impure atmosphere innumerable
    outcasts, whose labor is not merely unproductive, but actually
    destructive: adventurers, prostitutes, people with no
    acknowledged means of living, beggars, convicts, swindlers,
    thieves, and others whose numbers tend rather to increase than
    to diminish....

    "To the list of unproductive labor fostered by our state of
    Society must be added that of the judicature and of the bar, of
    the courts of law and magistrates, the police, jailers,
    executioners, &c.,--functions indispensable to the state of
    society as it is.

    "Also people of what is called 'good society'; those who pass
    their lives in doing nothing; idlers of all ranks.

    "Also the numberless custom-house officials, tax-gatherers,
    bailiffs, excise-men; in short, all that army of men which
    overlooks, brings to account, takes, but produces nothing.

    "Also the labors of sophists, philosophers, metaphysicians,
    political men, working in mistaken directions, who do nothing to
    advance science, and produce nothing but disturbance and sterile
    discussions; the verbiage of advocates, pleaders, witnesses, &c.

    "And finally all the operations of commerce, from those of the
    bankers and brokers, down to those of the grocer behind his
    counter."[3]

Secondly, they assert that even the industry and powers which in the
present system are devoted to production, do not produce more than a
small portion of what they might produce if better employed and
directed:--

    "Who with any good-will and reflection will not see how much the
    want of coherence--the disorder, the want of combination, the
    parcelling out of labor and leaving it wholly to individual
    action without any organization, without any large or general
    views--are causes which limit the possibilities of production,
    and destroy, or at least waste, our means of action? Does not
    disorder give birth to poverty, as order and good management
    give birth to riches? Is not want of combination a source of
    weakness, as combination is a source of strength? And who can
    say that industry, whether agricultural, domestic,
    manufacturing, scientific, artistic, or commercial, is organized
    at the present day either in the state or in municipalities? Who
    can say that all the work which is carried on in any of these
    departments is executed in subordination to any general views,
    or with foresight, economy, and order? Or, again, who can say
    that it is possible in our present state of society to develop,
    by a good education, all the faculties bestowed by nature on
    each of its members; to employ each one in functions which he
    would like, which he would be the most capable of, and which,
    therefore, he could carry on with the greatest advantage to
    himself and to others? Has it even been so much as attempted to
    solve the problems presented by varieties of character so as to
    regulate and harmonize the varieties of employments in
    accordance with natural aptitudes? Alas! The Utopia of the most
    ardent philanthropists is to teach reading and writing to
    twenty-five millions of the French people! And in the present
    state of things we may defy them to succeed even in that!

    "And is it not a strange spectacle, too, and one which cries out
    in condemnation of us, to see this state of society where the
    soil is badly cultivated, and sometimes not cultivated at all;
    where man is ill lodged, ill clothed, and yet where whole masses
    are continually in need of work and pining in misery because
    they cannot find it? Of a truth we are forced to acknowledge
    that if the nations are poor and starving it is not because
    nature has denied the means of producing wealth, but because of
    the anarchy and disorder in our employment of those means; in
    other words, it is because society is wretchedly constituted and
    labor unorganized.

    "But this is not all, and you will have but a faint conception
    of the evil if you do not consider that to all these vices of
    society, which dry up the sources of wealth and prosperity, must
    be added the struggle, the discord, the war, in short under many
    names and many forms which society cherishes and cultivates
    between the individuals that compose it. These struggles and
    discords correspond to radical oppositions--deep-seated
    antinomies between the various interests. Exactly in so far as
    you are able to establish classes and categories within the
    nation; in so far, also, you will have opposition of interests
    and internal warfare either avowed or secret, even if you take
    into consideration the industrial system only."[4]

One of the leading ideas of this school is the wastefulness and at the
same time the immorality of the existing arrangements for distributing
the produce of the country among the various consumers, the enormous
superfluity in point of number of the agents of distribution, the
merchants, dealers, shopkeepers and their innumerable, employés, and
the depraving character of such a distribution of occupations.

    "It is evident that the interest of the trader is opposed to
    that of the consumer and of the producer. Has he not bought
    cheap and under-valued as much as possible in all his dealings
    with the producer, the very same article which, vaunting its
    excellence, he sells to you as dear as he can? Thus the interest
    of the commercial body, collectively and individually, is
    contrary to that of the producer and of the consumer--that is to
    say, to the interest of the whole body of society.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "The trader is a go-between, who profits by the general anarchy
    and the non-organization of industry. The trader buys up
    products, he buys up everything; he owns and detains everything,
    in such sort that:--

    "1stly. He holds both Production and Consumption _under his
    yoke_, because both must come to him either finally for the
    products to be consumed, or at first for the raw materials to be
    worked up. Commerce with all its methods of buying, and of
    raising and lowering prices, its innumerable devices, and its
    holding everything in the hands of _middle-men_, levies toll
    right and left; it despotically gives the law to Production and
    Consumption, of which it ought to be only the subordinate.

    "2ndly. It robs society by its _enormous profits_--profits
    levied upon the consumer and the producer, and altogether out of
    proportion to the services rendered, for which a twentieth of
    the persons actually employed would be sufficient.

    "3rdly. It robs society by the subtraction of its productive
    forces; taking off from productive labor nineteen-twentieths of
    the agents of trade who are mere parasites. Thus, not only does
    commerce rob society by appropriating an exorbitant share of the
    common wealth, but also by considerably diminishing the
    productive energy of the human beehive. The great majority of
    traders would return to productive work if a rational system of
    commercial organization were substituted for the inextricable
    chaos of the present state of things.

    "4thly. It robs society by the _adulteration_ of products,
    pushed at the present day beyond all bounds. And in fact, if a
    hundred grocers establish themselves in a town where before
    there were only twenty, it is plain that people will not begin
    to consume five times as many groceries. Hereupon the hundred
    virtuous grocers have to dispute between them the profits which
    before were honestly made by the twenty; competition obliges
    them to make it up at the expense of the consumer, either by
    raising the prices as sometimes happens, or by adulterating the
    goods as always happens. In such a state of things there is an
    end to good faith. Inferior or adulterated goods are sold for
    articles of good quality whenever the credulous customer is not
    too experienced to be deceived. And when the customer has been
    thoroughly imposed upon, the trading conscience consoles itself
    by saying, 'I state my price; people can take or leave; no one
    is obliged to buy.' The losses imposed on the consumers by the
    bad quality or the adulteration of goods are incalculable.

    "5thly. It robs society by _accumulations_, artificial or not,
    in consequence of which vast quantities of goods, collected in
    one place, are damaged and destroyed for want of a sale. Fourier
    (Th. des Quat. Mouv., p. 334, 1st ed.) says: 'The fundamental
    principle of the commercial systems, that of _leaving full
    liberty to the merchants_, gives them absolute right of property
    over the goods in which they deal: they have the right to
    withdraw them altogether, to withhold or even to burn them, as
    happened more than once with the Oriental Company of Amsterdam,
    which publicly burnt stores of cinnamon in order to raise the
    price. What it did with cinnamon it would have done with corn;
    but for the fear of being stoned by the populace, it would have
    burnt some corn in order to sell the rest at four times its
    value. Indeed, it actually is of daily occurrence in ports, for
    provisions of grains to be thrown into the sea because the
    merchants have allowed them to rot while waiting for a rise. I
    myself, when I was a clerk, have had to superintend these
    infamous proceedings, and in one day caused to be thrown into
    the sea some forty thousand bushels of rice, which might have
    been sold at a fair profit had the withholder been less greedy
    of gain. It is society that bears the cost of this waste, which
    takes place daily under shelter of the philosophical maxim of
    _full liberty for the merchants_.'

    "6thly. Commerce robs society, moreover, by all the loss,
    damage, and waste that follows from the extreme scattering of
    products in millions of shops, and by the multiplication and
    complication of carriage.

    "7thly. It robs society by shameless and unlimited
    _usury_--usury absolutely appalling. The trader carries on
    operations with fictitious capital, much higher in amount than
    his real capital. A trader with a capital of twelve hundred
    pounds will carry on operations, by means of bills and credit,
    on a scale of four, eight, or twelve thousand pounds. Thus he
    draws from capital _which he does not possess_, usurious
    interest, out of all proportion with the capital he actually
    owns.

    "8thly. It robs society by innumerable _bankruptcies_, for the
    daily accidents of our commercial system, political events, and
    any kind of disturbance, must usher in a day when the trader,
    having incurred obligations beyond his means, is no longer able
    to meet them; his failure, whether fraudulent or not, must be a
    severe blow to his creditors. The bankruptcy of some entails
    that of others, so that bankruptcies follow one upon another,
    causing widespread ruin. And it is always the producer and the
    consumer who suffer; for commerce, considered as a whole, does
    not produce wealth, and invests very little in proportion to the
    wealth which passes through its hands. How many are the
    manufactures crushed by these blows! how many fertile sources of
    wealth dried up by these devices, with all their disastrous
    consequences!

    "The producer furnishes the goods, the consumer the money. Trade
    furnishes credit, founded on little or no actual capital, and
    the different members of the commercial body are in no way
    responsible for one another. This, in a few words, is the whole
    theory of the thing.

    "9thly. Commerce robs society by the _independence_ and
    _irresponsibility_ which permits it to buy at the epochs when
    the producers are forced to sell and compete with one another,
    in order to procure money for their rent and necessary expenses
    of production. When the markets are overstocked and goods cheap,
    trade purchases. Then it creates a rise, and by this simple
    manoeuvre despoils both producer and consumer.

    "10thly. It robs society by a considerable _drawing off_ of
    _capital_, which will return to productive industry when
    commerce plays its proper subordinate part, and is only an
    agency carrying on transactions between the producers (more or
    less distant) and the great centres of consumption--the
    communistic societies. Thus the capital engaged in the
    speculations of commerce (which, small as it is, compared to the
    immense wealth which passes through its hands, consists
    nevertheless of sums enormous in themselves), would return to
    stimulate production if commerce was deprived of the
    intermediate property in goods, and their distribution became a
    matter of administrative organization. Stock-jobbing is the most
    odious form of this vice of commerce.

    "11thly. It robs society by the _monopolising_ or buying up of
    raw materials. 'For' (says Fourier, Th. des Quat. Mouv., p. 359,
    1st ed.), 'the rise in price on articles that are bought up, is
    borne ultimately by the consumer, although in the first place by
    the manufacturers, who, being obliged to keep up their
    establishments, must make pecuniary sacrifices, and manufacture
    at small profits in the hope of better days; and it is often
    long before they can repay themselves the rise in prices which
    the monopoliser has compelled them to support in the first
    instance...."

    "In short, all these vices, besides many others which I omit,
    are multiplied by the extreme complication of mercantile
    affairs; for products do not pass once only through the greedy
    clutches of commerce; there are some which pass and repass
    twenty or thirty times before reaching the consumer. In the
    first place, the raw material passes through the grasp of
    commerce before reaching the manufacturer who first works it up;
    then it returns to commerce to be sent out again to be worked up
    in a second form; and so on until it receives its final shape.
    Then it passes into the hands of merchants, who sell to the
    wholesale dealers, and these to the great retail dealers of
    towns, and these again to the little dealers and to the country
    shops; and each time that it changes hands, it leaves something
    behind it.

    "... One of my friends who was lately exploring the Jura, where
    much working in metal is done, had occasion to enter the house
    of a peasant who was a manufacturer of shovels. He asked the
    price. 'Let us come to an understanding,' answered the poor
    laborer, not an economist at all, but a man of common sense; 'I
    sell them for 8_d._ to the trade, which retails them at 1_s._
    8_d._ in the towns. If you could find a means of opening a
    direct communication between the workman and the consumer, you
    might have them for 1_s._ 2_d._, and we should each gain 6_d._
    by the transaction.'"[5]

To a similar effect Owen, in the _Book of the New Moral World_, part
2, chap. iii.

    "The principle now in practice is to induce a large portion of
    society to devote their lives to distribute wealth upon a large,
    a medium, and a small scale, and to have it conveyed from place
    to place in larger or smaller quantities, to meet the means and
    wants of various divisions of society and individuals, as they
    are now situated in cities, towns, villages, and country places.
    This principle of distribution makes a class in society whose
    business is to _buy from_ some parties and to _sell to_ others.
    By this proceeding they are placed under circumstances which
    induce them to endeavor to buy at what appears at the time a low
    price in the market, and to sell again at the greatest permanent
    profit which they can obtain. Their real object being to get as
    much profit as gain between the seller to, and the buyer from
    them, as can be effected in their transactions.

    "There are innumerable errors in principle and evils in practice
    which necessarily proceed from this mode of distributing the
    wealth of society.

    "1st. A general class of distributers is formed, whose interest
    is separated from, and apparently opposed to, that of the
    individual from whom they buy and to whom they sell.

    "2nd. Three classes of distributers are made, the small, the
    medium, and the large buyers and sellers; or the retailers, the
    wholesale dealers, and the extensive merchants.

    "3rd. Three classes of buyers thus created constitute the small,
    the medium, and the large purchasers.

    "By this arrangement into various classes of buyers and sellers,
    the parties are easily trained to learn that they have separate
    and opposing interests, and different ranks and stations in
    society. An inequality of feeling and condition is thus created
    and maintained, with all the servility and pride which these
    unequal arrangements are sure to produce. The parties are
    regularly trained in a general system of deception, in order
    that they may be the more successful in buying cheap and selling
    dear.

    "The smaller sellers acquire habits of injurious idleness,
    waiting often for hours for customers. And this evil is
    experienced to a considerable extent even amongst the class of
    wholesale dealers.

    "There are, also, by this arrangement, many more establishments
    for selling than are necessary in the villages, towns, and
    cities; and a very large capital is thus wasted without benefit
    to society. And from their number opposed to each other all over
    the country to obtain customers, they endeavor to undersell each
    other, and are therefore continually endeavoring to injure the
    producer by the establishment of what are called cheap shops and
    warehouses; and to support their character the master or his
    servants must be continually on the watch to buy bargains, that
    is, to procure wealth for less than the cost of its production.

    "The distributers, small, medium, and large, have all to be
    supported by the producers, and the greater the number of the
    former compared with the latter, the greater will be the burden
    which the producer has to sustain; for as the number of
    distributers increases, the accumulation of wealth must
    decrease, and more must be required from the producer.

    "The distributers of wealth, under the present system, are a
    dead weight upon the producers, and are most active demoralisers
    of society. Their dependent condition, at the commencement of
    their task, teaches or induces them to be servile to their
    customers, and to continue to be so as long as they are
    accumulating wealth by their cheap buying and dear selling. But
    when they have secured sufficient to be what they imagine to be
    an independence--to live without business--they are too often
    filled with a most ignorant pride, and become insolent to their
    dependents.

    "The arrangement is altogether a most improvident one for
    society, whose interest it is to produce the greatest amount of
    wealth of the best qualities; while the existing system of
    distribution is not only to withdraw great numbers from
    producing to become distributers, but to add to the cost of the
    consumer all the expense of a most wasteful and extravagant
    distribution; the distribution costing to the consumer many
    times the price of the original cost of the wealth purchased.

    "Then, by the position in which the seller is placed by his
    created desire for gain on the one hand, and the competition he
    meets with from opponents selling similar productions on the
    other, he is strongly tempted to deteriorate the articles which
    he has for sale; and when these are provisions, either of home
    production or of foreign importation, the effects upon the
    health, and consequent comfort and happiness of the consumers,
    are often most injurious, and productive of much premature
    death, especially among the working classes, who, in this
    respect, are perhaps made to be the greatest sufferers, by
    purchasing the inferior or low-priced articles.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "The expense of thus distributing wealth in Great Britain and
    Ireland, including transit from place to place, and all the
    agents directly and indirectly engaged in this department, is,
    perhaps, little short of one hundred millions annually, without
    taking into consideration the deterioration of the quality of
    many of the articles constituting this wealth, by carriage, and
    by being divided into small quantities, and kept in improper
    stores and places, in which the atmosphere is unfavorable to the
    keeping of such articles in a tolerably good, and much less in
    the best, condition for use."

In further illustration of the contrariety of interests between person
and person, class and class, which pervades the present constitution
of society, M. Considérant adds:--

    "If the wine-growers wish for free trade, this freedom ruins the
    producer of corn, the manufacturers of iron, of cloth, of
    cotton, and--we are compelled to add--the smuggler and the
    customs' officer. If it is the interest of the consumer that
    machines should be invented which lower prices by rendering
    production less costly, these same machines throw out of work
    thousands of workmen who do not know how to, and cannot at once,
    find other work. Here, then, again is one of the innumerable
    _vicious circles_ of civilisation ... for there are a thousand
    facts which prove cumulatively that in our existing social
    system the introduction of any good brings always along with it
    some evil.

    "In short, if we go lower down and come to vulgar details, we
    find that it is the interest of the tailor, the shoemaker, and
    the hatter that coats, shoes, and hats should be soon worn out;
    that the glazier profits by the hail-storms which break windows;
    that the mason and the architect profit by fires; the lawyer is
    enriched by law-suits; the doctor by disease; the wine-seller by
    drunkenness; the prostitute by debauchery. And what a disaster
    it would be for the judges, the police, and the jailers, as well
    as for the barristers and the solicitors, and all the lawyers'
    clerks, if crimes, offences, and law-suits were all at once to
    come to an end!"[6]

The following is one of the cardinal points of this school:--

    "Add to all this, that civilisation, which sows dissension and
    war on every side; which employs a great part of its powers in
    unproductive labor or even in destruction; which furthermore
    diminishes the public wealth by the unnecessary friction and
    discord it introduces into industry; add to all this, I say,
    that this same social system has for its special characteristic
    to produce a repugnance for work--a disgust for labor.

    "Everywhere you hear the laborer, the artisan, the clerk
    complain of his position and his occupation, while they long for
    the time when they can retire from work imposed upon them by
    necessity. To be repugnant, to have for its motive and pivot
    nothing but the fear of starvation, is the great, the fatal,
    characteristic of civilised labor. The civilised workman is
    condemned to penal servitude. So long as productive labor is so
    organized that instead of being associated with pleasure it is
    associated with pain, weariness and dislike, it will always
    happen that all will avoid it who are able. With few exceptions,
    those only will consent to work who are compelled to it by want.
    Hence the most numerous classes, the artificers of social
    wealth, the active and direct creators of all comfort and
    luxury, will always be condemned to touch closely on poverty and
    hunger; they will always be the slaves to ignorance and
    degradation; they will continue to be always that huge herd of
    mere beasts of burden whom we see ill-grown, decimated by
    disease, bowed down in the great workshop of society over the
    plow or over the counter, that they may prepare the delicate
    food, and the sumptuous enjoyments of the upper and idle
    classes.

    "So long as no method of attractive labor has been devised, it
    will continue to be true that 'there must be many poor in order
    that there may be a few rich;' a mean and hateful saying, which
    we hear every day quoted as an eternal truth from the mouths of
    people who call themselves Christians or philosophers. It is
    very easy to understand that oppression, trickery, and
    especially poverty, are the permanent and fatal appanage of
    every state of society characterized by the dislike of work,
    for, in this case, there is nothing but poverty that will force
    men to labor. And the proof of this is, that if every one of all
    the workers were to become suddenly rich, nineteen-twentieths of
    all the work now done would be abandoned."[7]

In the opinion of the Fourierists, the tendency of the present order
of society is to a concentration of wealth in the hands of a
comparatively few immensely rich individuals or companies, and the
reduction of all the rest of the community into a complete dependence
on them. This was termed by Fourier _la jeodalite industrielle_.

    "This feudalism," says M. Considérant, "would be constituted as
    soon as the largest part of the industrial and territorial
    property of the nation belongs to a minority which absorbs all
    its revenues, while the great majority, chained to the
    work-bench or laboring on the soil, must be content to gnaw the
    pittance which is cast to them."[8]

This disastrous result is to be brought about partly by the mere
progress of competition, as sketched in our previous extract by M.
Louis Blanc; assisted by the progress of national debts, which M.
Considérant regards as mortgages of the whole land and capital of the
country, of which "les capitalistes prêteurs" become, in a greater and
greater measure, co-proprietors, receiving without labor or risk an
increasing portion of the revenues.


THE SOCIALIST OBJECTIONS TO THE PRESENT ORDER OF SOCIETY EXAMINED.

It is impossible to deny that the considerations brought to notice in
the preceding chapter make out a frightful case either against the
existing order of society, or against the position of man himself in
this world. How much of the evils should be referred to the one, and
how much to the other, is the principal theoretic question which has
to be resolved. But the strongest case is susceptible of exaggeration;
and it will have been evident to many readers, even from the passages
I have quoted, that such exaggeration is not wanting in the
representations of the ablest and most candid Socialists. Though much
of their allegations is unanswerable, not a little is the result of
errors in political economy; by which, let me say once for all, I do
not mean the rejection of any practical rules of policy which have
been laid down by political economists, I mean ignorance of economic
facts, and of the causes by which the economic phenomena of society
as it is, are actually determined.

In the first place it is unhappily true that the wages of ordinary
labor, in all the countries of Europe, are wretchedly insufficient to
supply the physical and moral necessities of the population in any
tolerable measure. But, when it is further alleged that even this
insufficient remuneration has a tendency to diminish; that there is,
in the words of M. Louis Blanc, _une baisse continue des salaires_;
the assertion is in opposition to all accurate information, and to
many notorious facts. It has yet to be proved that there is any
country in the civilized world where the ordinary wages of labor,
estimated either in money or in articles of consumption, are
declining; while in many they are, on the whole, on the increase; and
an increase which is becoming, not slower, but more rapid. There are,
occasionally, branches of industry which are being gradually
superseded by something else, and, in those, until production
accommodates itself to demand, wages are depressed; which is an evil,
but a temporary one, and would admit of great alleviation even in the
present system of social economy. A diminution thus produced of the
reward of labor in some particular employment is the effect and the
evidence of increased remuneration, or of a new source of
remuneration, in some other; the total and the average remuneration
being undiminished, or even increased. To make out an appearance of
diminution in the rate of wages in any leading branch of industry, it
is always found necessary to compare some month or year of special and
temporary depression at the present time, with the average rate, or
even some exceptionally high rate, at an earlier time. The
vicissitudes are no doubt a great evil, but they were as frequent and
as severe in former periods of economical history as now. The greater
scale of the transactions, and the greater number of persons involved
in each fluctuation, may make the fluctuation appear greater, but
though a larger population affords more sufferers, the evil does not
weigh heavier on each of them individually. There is much evidence of
improvement, and none, that is at all trustworthy, of deterioration,
in the mode of living of the laboring population of the countries of
Europe; when there is any appearance to the contrary it is local or
partial, and can always be traced either to the pressure of some
temporary calamity, or to some bad law or unwise act of government
which admits of being corrected, while the permanent causes all
operate in the direction of improvement.

M. Louis Blanc, therefore, while showing himself much more enlightened
than the older school of levellers and democrats, inasmuch as he
recognizes the connection between low wages and the over-rapid
increase of population, appears to have fallen into the same error
which was at first committed by Malthus and his followers, that of
supposing that because population has a greater power of increase than
subsistence, its pressure upon subsistence must be always growing more
severe. The difference is that the early Malthusians thought this an
irrepressible tendency, while M. Louis Blanc thinks that it can be
repressed, but only under a system of Communism. It is a great point
gained for truth when it comes to be seen that the tendency to
over-population is a fact which Communism, as well as the existing
order of society, would have to deal with. And it is much to be
rejoiced at that this necessity is admitted by the most considerable
chiefs of all existing schools of Socialism. Owen and Fourier, no less
than M. Louis Blanc, admitted it, and claimed for their respective
systems a pre-eminent power of dealing with this difficulty. However
this may be, experience shows that in the existing state of society
the pressure of population on subsistence, which is the principal
cause of low wages, though a great, is not an increasing evil; on the
contrary, the progress of all that is called civilization has a
tendency to diminish it, partly by the more rapid increase of the
means of employing and maintaining labor, partly by the increased
facilities opened to labor for transporting itself to new countries
and unoccupied fields of employment, and partly by a general
improvement in the intelligence and prudence of the population. This
progress, no doubt, is slow; but it is much that such progress should
take place at all, while we are still only in the first stage of that
public movement for the education of the whole people, which when more
advanced must add greatly to the force of all the two causes of
improvement specified above. It is, of course, open to discussion what
form of society has the greatest power of dealing successfully with
the pressure of population on subsistence, and on this question there
is much to be said for Socialism; what was long thought to be its
weakest point will, perhaps, prove to be one of its strongest. But it
has no just claim to be considered as the sole means of preventing the
general and growing degradation of the mass of mankind through the
peculiar tendency of poverty to produce over-population. Society as at
present constituted is not descending into that abyss, but gradually,
though slowly, rising out of it, and this improvement is likely to be
progressive if bad laws do not interfere with it.

Next, it must be observed that Socialists generally, and even the most
enlightened of them, have a very imperfect and one-sided notion of the
operation of competition. They see half its effects, and overlook the
other half; they regard it as an agency for grinding down every one's
remuneration--for obliging every one to accept less wages for his
labor, or a less price for his commodities, which would be true only
if every one had to dispose of his labor or his commodities to some
great monopolist, and the competition were all on one side. They
forget that competition is a cause of high prices and values as well
as of low; that the buyers of labor and of commodities compete with
one another as well as the sellers; and that if it is competition
which keeps the prices of labor and commodities as low as they are, it
is competition which prevents them from falling still lower. In truth,
when competition is perfectly free on both sides, its tendency is not
specially either to raise or to lower the price of articles, but to
equalize it; to level inequalities of remuneration, and to reduce all
to a general average, a result which, in so far as realized (no doubt
very imperfectly), is, on Socialistic principles, desirable. But if,
disregarding for the time that part of the effects of competition
which consists in keeping up prices, we fix our attention on its
effect in keeping them down, and contemplate this effect in reference
solely to the interest of the laboring classes, it would seem that if
competition keeps down wages, and so gives a motive to the laboring
classes to withdraw the labor market from the full influence of
competition, if they can, it must on the other hand have credit for
keeping down the prices of the articles on which wages are expended,
to the great advantage of those who depend on wages. To meet this
consideration Socialists, as we said in our quotation from M. Louis
Blanc, are reduced to affirm that the low prices of commodities
produced by competition are delusive and lead in the end to higher
prices than before, because when the richest competitor has got rid of
all his rivals, he commands the market and can demand any price he
pleases. Now, the commonest experience shows that this state of
things, under really free competition, is wholly imaginary. The
richest competitor neither does nor can get rid of all his rivals, and
establish himself in exclusive possession of the market; and it is not
the fact that any important branch of industry or commerce formerly
divided among many has become, or shows any tendency to become, the
monopoly of a few.

The kind of policy described is sometimes possible where, as in the
case of railways, the only competition possible is between two or
three great companies, the operations being on too vast a scale to be
within the reach of individual capitalists; and this is one of the
reasons why businesses which require to be carried on by great
joint-stock enterprises cannot be trusted to competition, but, when
not reserved by the State to itself, ought to be carried on under
conditions prescribed, and, from time to time, varied by the State,
for the purpose of insuring to the public a cheaper supply of its
wants than would be afforded by private interest in the absence of
sufficient competition. But in the ordinary branches of industry no
one rich competitor has it in his power to drive out all the smaller
ones. Some businesses show a tendency to pass out of the hands of many
small producers or dealers into a smaller number of larger ones; but
the cases in which this happens are those in which the possession of a
larger capital permits the adoption of more powerful machinery, more
efficient by more expensive processes, or a better organized and more
economical mode of carrying on business, and thus enables the large
dealer legitimately and permanently to supply the commodity cheaper
than can be done on the small scale; to the great advantage of the
consumers, and therefore of the laboring classes, and diminishing,
_pro tanto_, that waste of the resources of the community so much
complained of by Socialists, the unnecessary multiplication of mere
distributors, and of the various other classes whom Fourier calls the
parasites of industry. When this change is effected, the larger
capitalists, either individual or joint stock, among which the
business is divided, are seldom, if ever, in any considerable branch
of commerce, so few as that competition shall not continue to act
between them; so that the saving in cost, which enabled them to
undersell the small dealers, continues afterwards, as at first, to be
passed on, in lower prices, to their customers. The operation,
therefore, of competition in keeping down the prices of commodities,
including those on which wages are expended, is not illusive but real,
and, we may add, is a growing, not a declining, fact.

But there are other respects, equally important, in which the charges
brought by Socialists against competition do not admit of so complete
an answer. Competition is the best security for cheapness, but by no
means a security for quality. In former times, when producers and
consumers were less numerous, it was a security for both. The market
was not large enough nor the means of publicity sufficient to enable a
dealer to make a fortune by continually attracting new customers: his
success depended on his retaining those that he had; and when a dealer
furnished good articles, or when he did not, the fact was soon known
to those whom it concerned, and he acquired a character for honest or
dishonest dealing of more importance to him than the gain that would
be made by cheating casual purchasers. But on the great scale of
modern transactions, with the great multiplication of competition and
the immense increase in the quantity of business competed for, dealers
are so little dependent on permanent customers that character is much
less essential to them, while there is also far less certainty of
their obtaining the character they deserve. The low prices which a
tradesman advertises are known, to a thousand for one who has
discovered for himself or learned from others, that the bad quality of
the goods is more than an equivalent for their cheapness; while at the
same time the much greater fortunes now made by some dealers excite
the cupidity of all, and the greed of rapid gain substitutes itself
for the modest desire to make a living by their business. In this
manner, as wealth increases and greater prizes seem to be within
reach, more and more of a gambling spirit is introduced into
commerce; and where this prevails not only are the simplest maxims of
prudence disregarded, but all, even the most perilous, forms of
pecuniary improbity receive a terrible stimulus. This is the meaning
of what is called the intensity of modern competition. It is further
to be mentioned that when this intensity has reached a certain height,
and when a portion of the producers of an article or the dealers in it
have resorted to any of the modes of fraud, such as adulteration,
giving short measure, &c., of the increase of which there is now so
much complaint, the temptation is immense on these to adopt the
fraudulent practises, who would not have originated them; for the
public are aware of the low prices fallaciously produced by the
frauds, but do not find out at first, if ever, that the article is not
worth the lower price, and they will not go on paying a higher price
for a better article, and the honest dealer is placed at a terrible
disadvantage. Thus the frauds, begun by a few, become customs of the
trade, and the morality of the trading classes is more and more
deteriorated.

On this point, therefore, Socialists have really made out the
existence not only of a great evil, but of one which grows and tends
to grow with the growth of population and wealth. It must be said,
however, that society has never yet used the means which are already
in its power of grappling with this evil. The laws against commercial
frauds are very defective, and their execution still more so. Laws of
this description have no chance of being really enforced unless it is
the special duty of some one to enforce them. They are specially in
need of a public prosecutor. It is still to be discovered how far it
is possible to repress by means of the criminal law a class of
misdeeds which are now seldom brought before the tribunals, and to
which, when brought, the judicial administration of this country is
most unduly lenient. The most important class, however, of these
frauds, to the mass of the people, those which affect the price or
quality of articles of daily consumption, can be in a great measure
overcome by the institution of co-operative stores. By this plan any
body of consumers who form themselves into an association for the
purpose, are enabled to pass over the retail dealers and obtain their
articles direct from the wholesale merchants, or, what is better (now
that wholesale co-operative agencies have been established), from the
producers, thus freeing themselves from the heavy tax now paid to the
distributing classes and at the same time eliminate the usual
perpetrators of adulterations and other frauds. Distribution thus
becomes a work performed by agents selected and paid by those who have
no interest in anything but the cheapness and goodness of the article;
and the distributors are capable of being thus reduced to the numbers
which the quantity of work to be done really requires. The
difficulties of the plan consist in the skill and trustworthiness
required in the managers, and the imperfect nature of the control
which can be exercised over them by the body at large. The great
success and rapid growth of the system prove, however, that these
difficulties are, in some tolerable degree, overcome. At all events,
if the beneficial tendency of the competition of retailers in
promoting cheapness is fore-gone, and has to be replaced by other
securities, the mischievous tendency of the same competition in
deteriorating quality is at any rate got rid of; and the prosperity of
the co-operative stores shows that this benefit is obtained not only
without detriment to cheapness, but with great advantage to it, since
the profits of the concerns enable them to return to the consumers a
large percentage on the price of every article supplied to them. So
far, therefore, as this class of evils is concerned, an effectual
remedy is already in operation, which, though suggested by and partly
grounded on socialistic principles, is consistent with the existing
constitution of property.

With regard to those greater and more conspicuous economical frauds,
or malpractices equivalent to frauds, of which so many deplorable
cases have become notorious--committed by merchants and bankers
between themselves or between them and those who have trusted them
with money, such a remedy as above described is not available, and the
only resources which the present constitution of society affords
against them are a sterner reprobation by opinion, and a more
efficient repression by the law. Neither of these remedies has had any
approach to an effectual trial. It is on the occurrence of
insolvencies that these dishonest practices usually come to light; the
perpetrators take their place, not in the class of malefactors, but in
that of insolvent debtors; and the laws of this and other countries
were formerly so savage against simple insolvency, that by one of
those reactions to which the opinions of mankind are liable,
insolvents came to be regarded mainly as objects of compassion, and it
seemed to be thought that the hand both of law and of public opinion
could hardly press too lightly upon them. By an error in a contrary
direction to the ordinary one of our law, which in the punishment of
offences in general wholly neglects the question of reparation to the
sufferer, our bankruptcy laws have for some time treated the recovery
for creditors of what is left of their property as almost the sole
object, scarcely any importance being attached to the punishment of
the bankrupt for any misconduct which does not directly interfere with
that primary purpose. For three or four years past there has been a
slight counter-reaction, and more than one bankruptcy act has been
passed, somewhat less indulgent to the bankrupt; but the primary
object regarded has still been the pecuniary interest of the
creditors, and criminality in the bankrupt himself, with the exception
of a small number of well-marked offences, gets off almost with
impunity. It may be confidently affirmed, therefore, that, at least in
this country, society has not exerted the power it possesses of making
mercantile dishonesty dangerous to the perpetrator. On the contrary,
it is a gambling trick in which all the advantage is on the side of
the trickster: if the trick succeeds it makes his fortune, or
preserves it; if it fails, he is at most reduced to poverty, which was
perhaps already impending when he determined to run the chance, and
he is classed by those who have not looked closely into the matter,
and even by many who have, not among the infamous but among the
unfortunate. Until a more moral and rational mode of dealing with
culpable insolvency has been tried and failed, commercial dishonesty
cannot be ranked among evils the prevalence of which is inseparable
from commercial competition.

Another point on which there is much misapprehension on the part of
Socialists, as well as of Trades Unionists and other partisans of
Labor against Capital, relates to the proportions in which the produce
of the country is really shared and the amount of what is actually
diverted from those who produce it, to enrich other persons. I forbear
for the present to speak of the land, which is a subject apart. But
with respect to capital employed in business, there is in the popular
notions a great deal of illusion. When, for instance, a capitalist
invests £20,000 in his business, and draws from it an income of
(suppose) £2,000 a year, the common impression is as if he was the
beneficial owner both of the £20,000 and of the £2,000, while the
laborers own nothing but their wages. The truth, however, is, that he
only obtains the £2,000 on condition of applying no part of the
£20,000 to his own use. He has the legal control over it, and might
squander it if he chose, but if he did he would not have the £2,000 a
year also. As long as he derives an income from his capital he has not
the option of withholding it from the use of others. As much of his
invested capital as consists of buildings, machinery, and other
instruments of production, are applied to production and are not
applicable to the support or enjoyment of any one. What is so
applicable (including what is laid out in keeping up or renewing the
buildings and instruments) is paid away to laborers, forming their
remuneration and their share in the division of the produce. For all
personal purposes they have the capital and he has but the profits,
which it only yields to him on condition that the capital itself is
employed in satisfying not his own wants, but those of laborers. The
proportion which the profits of capital usually bear to capital itself
(or rather to the circulating portion of it) is the ratio which the
capitalist's share of the produce bears to the aggregate share of the
laborers. Even of his own share a small part only belongs to him as
the owner of capital. The portion of the produce which falls to
capital merely as capital is measured by the interest of money, since
that is all that the owner of capital obtains when he contributes
nothing to production except the capital itself. Now the interest of
capital in the public funds, which are considered to be the best
security, is at the present prices (which have not varied much for
many years) about three and one-third per cent. Even in this
investment there is some little risk--risk of repudiation, risk of
being obliged to sell out at a low price in some commercial crisis.

Estimating these risks at 1/3 per cent., the remaining 3 per cent. may
be considered as the remuneration of capital, apart from insurance
against loss. On the security of a mortgage 4 per cent. is generally
obtained, but in this transaction there are considerably greater
risks--the uncertainty of titles to land under our bad system of law;
the chance of having to realize the security at a great cost in law
charges; and liability to delay in the receipt of the interest even
when the principal is safe. When mere money independently of exertion
yields a larger income, as it sometimes does, for example, by shares
in railway or other companies, the surplus is hardly ever an
equivalent for the risk of losing the whole, or part, of the capital
by mismanagement, as in the case of the Brighton Railway, the dividend
of which, after having been 6 per cent. per annum, sunk to from
nothing to 1-1/2 per cent., and shares which had been bought at 120
could not be sold for more than about 43. When money is lent at the
high rates of interest one occasionally hears of, rates only given by
spend-thrifts and needy persons, it is because the risk of loss is so
great that few who possess money can be induced to lend to them at
all. So little reason is there for the outcry against "usury" as one
of the grievous burthens of the working-classes. Of the profits,
therefore, which a manufacturer or other person in business obtains
from his capital no more than about 3 per cent. can be set down to the
capital itself. If he were able and willing to give up the whole of
this to his laborers, who already share among them the whole of his
capital as it is annually reproduced from year to year, the addition
to their weekly wages would be inconsiderable. Of what he obtains
beyond 3 per cent. a great part is insurance against the manifold
losses he is exposed to, and cannot safely be applied to his own use,
but requires to be kept in reserve to cover those losses when they
occur. The remainder is properly the remuneration of his skill and
industry--the wages of his labor of superintendence. No doubt if he is
very successful in business these wages of his are extremely liberal,
and quite out of proportion to what the same skill and industry would
command if offered for hire. But, on the other hand, he runs a worse
risk than that of being out of employment; that of doing the work
without earning anything by it, of having the labor and anxiety
without the wages. I do not say that the drawbacks balance the
privileges, or that he derives no advantage from the position which
makes him a capitalist and employer of labor, instead of a skilled
superintendent letting out his services to others; but the amount of
his advantage must not be estimated by the great prizes alone. If we
subtract from the gains of some the losses of others, and deduct from
the balance a fair compensation for the anxiety, skill, and labor of
both, grounded on the market price of skilled superintendence, what
remains will be, no doubt, considerable, but yet, when compared to the
entire capital of the country, annually reproduced and dispensed in
wages, it is very much smaller than it appears to the popular
imagination; and were the whole of it added to the share of the
laborers it would make a less addition to that share than would be
made by any important invention in machinery, or by the suppression of
unnecessary distributors and other "parasites of industry." To
complete the estimate, however, of the portion of the produce of
industry which goes to remunerate capital we must not stop at the
interest earned out of the produce by the capital actually employed in
producing it, but must include that which is paid to the former owners
of capital which has been unproductively spent and no longer exists,
and is paid, of course, out of the produce of other capital. Of this
nature is the interest of national debts, which is the cost a nation
is burthened with for past difficulties and dangers, or for past folly
or profligacy of its rulers, more or less shared by the nation itself.
To this must be added the interest on the debts of landowners and
other unproductive consumers; except so far as the money borrowed may
have been spent in remunerative improvement of the productive powers
of the land. As for landed property itself--the appropriation of the
rent of land by private individuals--I reserve, as I have said, this
question for discussion hereafter; for the tenure of land might be
varied in any manner considered desirable, all the land might be
declared the property of the State, without interfering with the right
of property in anything which is the product of human labor and
abstinence.

It seemed desirable to begin the discussion of the Socialist question
by these remarks in abatement of Socialist exaggerations, in order
that the true issues between Socialism and the existing state of
society might be correctly conceived. The present system is not, as
many Socialists believe, hurrying us into a state of general indigence
and slavery from which only Socialism can save us. The evils and
injustices suffered under the present system are great, but they are
not increasing; on the contrary, the general tendency is towards their
slow diminution. Moreover the inequalities in the distribution of the
produce between capital and labor, however they may shock the feeling
of natural justice, would not by their mere equalisation afford by any
means so large a fund for raising the lower levels of remuneration as
Socialists, and many besides Socialists, are apt to suppose. There is
not any one abuse or injustice now prevailing in society by merely
abolishing which the human race would pass out of suffering into
happiness. What is incumbent on us is a calm comparison between two
different systems of society, with a view of determining which of them
affords the greatest resources for overcoming the inevitable
difficulties of life. And if we find the answer to this question more
difficult, and more dependent upon intellectual and moral conditions,
than is usually thought, it is satisfactory to reflect that there is
time before us for the question to work itself out on an experimental
scale, by actual trial. I believe we shall find that no other test is
possible of the practicability or beneficial operation of Socialist
arrangements; but that the intellectual and moral grounds of Socialism
deserve the most attentive study, as affording in many cases the
guiding principles of the improvements necessary to give the present
economic system of society its best chance.


THE DIFFICULTIES OF SOCIALISM.

Among those who call themselves Socialists, two kinds of persons may
be distinguished. There are, in the first place, those whose plans for
a new order of society, in which private property and individual
competition are to be superseded and other motives to action
substituted, are on the scale of a village community or township, and
would be applied to an entire country by the multiplication of such
self-acting units; of this character are the systems of Owen, of
Fourier, and the more thoughtful and philosophic Socialists generally.
The other class, who are more a product of the Continent than of Great
Britain and may be called the revolutionary Socialists, propose to
themselves a much bolder stroke. Their scheme is the management of the
whole productive resources of the country by one central authority,
the general government. And with this view some of them avow as their
purpose that the working classes, or somebody in their behalf, should
take possession of all the property of the country, and administer it
for the general benefit.

Whatever be the difficulties of the first of these two forms of
Socialism, the second must evidently involve the same difficulties and
many more. The former, too, has the great advantage that it can be
brought into operation progressively, and can prove its capabilities
by trial. It can be tried first on a select population and extended to
others as their education and cultivation permit. It need not, and in
the natural order of things would not, become an engine of subversion
until it had shown itself capable of being also a means of
reconstruction. It is not so with the other: the aim of that is to
substitute the new rule for the old at a single stroke, and to
exchange the amount of good realised under the present system, and its
large possibilities of improvement, for a plunge without any
preparation into the most extreme form of the problem of carrying on
the whole round of the operations of social life without the motive
power which has always hitherto worked the social machinery. It must
be acknowledged that those who would play this game on the strength of
their own private opinion, unconfirmed as yet by any experimental
verification--who would forcibly deprive all who have now a
comfortable physical existence of their only present means of
preserving it, and would brave the frightful bloodshed and misery that
would ensue if the attempt was resisted--must have a serene confidence
in their own wisdom on the one hand and a recklessness of other
people's sufferings on the other, which Robespierre and St. Just,
hitherto the typical instances of those united attributes, scarcely
came up to. Nevertheless this scheme has great elements of popularity
which the more cautious and reasonable form of Socialism has not;
because what it professes to do it promises to do quickly, and holds
out hope to the enthusiastic of seeing the whole of their aspirations
realised in their own time and at a blow.

The peculiarities, however, of the revolutionary form of Socialism
will be most conveniently examined after the considerations common to
both the forms have been duly weighed.

The produce of the world could not attain anything approaching to its
present amount, nor support anything approaching to the present number
of its inhabitants, except upon two conditions: abundant and costly
machinery, buildings, and other instruments of production; and the
power of undertaking long operations and waiting a considerable time
for their fruits. In other words, there must be a large accumulation
of capital, both fixed in the implements and buildings, and
circulating, that is employed in maintaining the laborers and their
families during the time which elapses before the productive
operations are completed and the products come in. This necessity
depends on physical laws, and is inherent in the condition of human
life; but these requisites of production, the capital, fixed and
circulating, of the country (to which has to be added the land, and
all that is contained in it), may either be the collective property of
those who use it, or may belong to individuals; and the question is,
which of these arrangements is most conducive to human happiness. What
is characteristic of Socialism is the joint ownership by all the
members of the community of the instruments and means of production;
which carries with it the consequence that the division of the produce
among the body of owners must be a public act, performed according to
rules laid down by the community. Socialism by no means excludes
private ownership of articles of consumption; the exclusive right of
each to his or her share of the produce when received, either to
enjoy, to give, or to exchange it. The land, for example, might be
wholly the property of the community for agricultural and other
productive purposes, and might be cultivated on their joint account,
and yet the dwelling assigned to each individual or family as part of
their remuneration might be as exclusively theirs, while they
continued to fulfil their share of the common labors, as any one's
house now is; and not the dwelling only, but any ornamental ground
which the circumstances of the association allowed to be attached to
the house for purposes of enjoyment. The distinctive feature of
Socialism is not that all things are in common, but that production is
only carried on upon the common account, and that the instruments of
production are held as common property. The _practicability_ then of
Socialism, on the scale of Mr. Owen's or M. Fourier's villages, admits
of no dispute. The attempt to manage the whole production of a nation
by one central organization is a totally different matter; but a mixed
agricultural and manufacturing association of from two thousand to
four thousand inhabitants under any tolerable circumstances of soil
and climate would be easier to manage than many a joint stock company.
The question to be considered is, whether this joint management is
likely to be as efficient and successful as the managements of private
industry by private capital. And this question has to be considered in
a double aspect; the efficiency of the directing mind, or minds, and
that of the simple workpeople. And in order to state this question in
its simplest form, we will suppose the form of Socialism to be simple
Communism, _i.e._ equal division of the produce among all the sharers,
or, according to M. Louis Blanc's still higher standard of justice,
apportionment of it according to difference of need, but without
making any difference of reward according to the nature of the duty
nor according to the supposed merits or services of the individual.
There are other forms of Socialism, particularly Fourierism, which do,
on considerations of justice or expediency, allow differences of
remuneration for different kinds or degrees of service to the
community; but the consideration of these may be for the present
postponed.

The difference between the motive powers in the economy of society
under private property and under Communism would be greatest in the
case of the directing minds. Under the present system, the direction
being entirely in the hands of the person or persons who own (or are
personally responsible for) the capital, the whole benefit of the
difference between the best administration and the worst under which
the business can continue to be carried on accrues to the person or
persons who control the administration: they reap the whole profit of
good management except so far as their self-interest or liberality
induce them to share it with their subordinates; and they suffer the
whole detriment of mismanagement except so far as this may cripple
their subsequent power of employing labor. This strong personal motive
to do their very best and utmost for the efficiency and economy of the
operations, would not exist under Communism; as the managers would
only receive out of the produce the same equal dividend as the other
members of the association. What would remain would be the interest
common to all in so managing affairs as to make the dividend as large
as possible; the incentives of public spirit, of conscience, and of
the honor and credit of the managers. The force of these motives,
especially when combined, is great. But it varies greatly in different
persons, and is much greater for some purposes than for others. The
verdict of experience, in the imperfect degree of moral cultivation
which mankind have yet reached, is that the motive of conscience and
that of credit and reputation, even when they are of some strength,
are, in the majority of cases, much stronger as restraining than as
impelling forces--are more to be depended on for preventing wrong,
than for calling forth the fullest energies in the pursuit of ordinary
occupations. In the case of most men the only inducement which has
been found sufficiently constant and unflagging to overcome the
ever-present influence of indolence and love of ease, and induce men
to apply themselves unrelaxingly to work for the most part in itself
dull and unexciting, is the prospect of bettering their own economic
condition and that of their family; and the closer the connection of
every increase of exertion with a corresponding increase of its
fruits, the more powerful is this motive. To suppose the contrary
would be to imply that with men as they now are, duty and honor are
more powerful principles of action than personal interest, not solely
as to special acts and forbearances respecting which those sentiments
have been exceptionally cultivated, but in the regulation of their
whole lives; which no one, I suppose, will affirm. It may be said that
this inferior efficacy of public and social feelings is not
inevitable--is the result of imperfect education. This I am quite
ready to admit, and also that there are even now many individual
exceptions to the general infirmity. But before these exceptions can
grow into a majority, or even into a very large minority, much time
will be required. The education of human beings is one of the most
difficult of all arts, and this is one of the points in which it has
hitherto been least successful; moreover improvements in general
education are necessarily very gradual because the future generation
is educated by the present, and the imperfections of the teachers set
an invincible limit to the degree in which they can train their pupils
to be better than themselves. We must therefore expect, unless we are
operating upon a select portion of the population, that personal
interest will for a long time be a more effective stimulus to the most
vigorous and careful conduct of the industrial business of society
than motives of a higher character. It will be said that at present
the greed of personal gain by its very excess counteracts its own end
by the stimulus it gives to reckless and often dishonest risks. This
it does, and under Communism that source of evil would generally be
absent. It is probable, indeed, that enterprise either of a bad or of
a good kind would be a deficient element, and that business in general
would fall very much under the dominion of routine; the rather, as the
performance of duty in such communities has to be enforced by external
sanctions, the more nearly each person's duty can be reduced to fixed
rules, the easier it is to hold him to its performance. A circumstance
which increases the probability of this result is the limited power
which the managers would have of independent action. They would of
course hold their authority from the choice of the community, by whom
their function might at any time be withdrawn from them; and this
would make it necessary for them, even if not so required by the
constitution of the community, to obtain the general consent of the
body before making any change in the established mode of carrying on
the concern. The difficulty of persuading a numerous body to make a
change in their accustomed mode of working, of which change the
trouble is often great, and the risk more obvious to their minds than
the advantage, would have a great tendency to keep things in their
accustomed track. Against this it has to be set, that choice by the
persons who are directly interested in the success of the work, and
who have practical knowledge and opportunities of judgment, might be
expected on the average to produce managers of greater skill than the
chances of birth, which now so often determine who shall be the owner
of the capital. This may be true; and though it may be replied that
the capitalist by inheritance can also, like the community, appoint a
manager more capable than himself, this would only place him on the
same level of advantage as the community, not on a higher level. But
it must be said on the other side that under the Communist system the
persons most qualified for the management would be likely very often
to hang back from undertaking it. At present the manager, even if he
be a hired servant, has a very much larger remuneration than the other
persons concerned in the business; and there are open to his ambition
higher social positions to which his function of manager is a
stepping-stone. On the Communist system none of these advantages would
be possessed by him; he could obtain only the same dividend out of the
produce of the community's labor as any other member of it; he would
no longer have the chance of raising himself from a receiver of wages
into the class of capitalists; and while he could be in no way better
off than any other laborer, his responsibilities and anxieties would
be so much greater that a large proportion of mankind would be likely
to prefer the less onerous position. This difficulty was foreseen by
Plato as an objection to the system proposed in his Republic of
community of goods among a governing class; and the motive on which he
relied for inducing the fit persons to take on themselves, in the
absence of all the ordinary inducements, the cares and labors of
government, was the fear of being governed by worse men. This, in
truth, is the motive which would have to be in the main depended upon;
the persons most competent to the management would be prompted to
undertake the office to prevent it from falling into less competent
hands. And the motive would probably be effectual at times when there
was an impression that by incompetent management the affairs of the
community were going to ruin, or even only decidedly deteriorating.
But this motive could not, as a rule, expect to be called into action
by the less stringent inducement of merely promoting improvement;
unless in the case of inventors or schemers eager to try some device
from which they hoped for great and immediate fruits; and persons of
this kind are very often unfitted by over-sanguine temper and
imperfect judgment for the general conduct of affairs, while even when
fitted for it they are precisely the kind of persons against whom the
average man is apt to entertain a prejudice, and they would often be
unable to overcome the preliminary difficulty of persuading the
community both to adopt their project and to accept them as managers.
Communistic management would thus be, in all probability, less
favorable than private management to that striking out of new paths
and making immediate sacrifices for distant and uncertain advantages,
which, though seldom unattended with risk, is generally indispensable
to great improvements in the economic condition of mankind, and even
to keeping up the existing state in the face of a continual increase
of the number of mouths to be fed.

We have thus far taken account only of the operation of motives upon
the managing minds of the association. Let us now consider how the
case stands in regard to the ordinary workers.

These, under Communism, would have no interest, except their share of
the general interest, in doing their work honestly and energetically.
But in this respect matters would be no worse than they now are in
regard to the great majority of the producing classes. These, being
paid by fixed wages, are so far from having any direct interest of
their own in the efficiency of their work, that they have not even
that share in the general interest which every worker would have in
the Communistic organization. Accordingly, the inefficiency of hired
labor, the imperfect manner in which it calls forth the real
capabilities of the laborers, is matter of common remark. It is true
that a character for being a good workman is far from being without
its value, as it tends to give him a preference in employment, and
sometimes obtains for him higher wages. There are also possibilities
of rising to the position of foreman, or other subordinate
administrative posts, which are not only more highly paid than
ordinary labor, but sometimes open the way to ulterior advantages. But
on the other side is to be set that under Communism the general
sentiment of the community, composed of the comrades under whose eyes
each person works, would be sure to be in favor of good and hard
working, and unfavorable to laziness, carelessness, and waste. In the
present system not only is this not the case, but the public opinion
of the workman class often acts in the very opposite direction: the
rules of some trade societies actually forbid their members to exceed
a certain standard of efficiency, lest they should diminish the number
of laborers required for the work; and for the same reason they often
violently resist contrivances for economising labor. The change from
this to a state in which every person would have an interest in
rendering every other person as industrious, skilful, and careful as
possible (which would be the case under Communism), would be a change
very much for the better.

It is, however, to be considered that the principal defects of the
present system in respect to the efficiency of labor may be corrected,
and the chief advantages of Communism in that respect may be obtained,
by arrangements compatible with private property and individual
competition. Considerable improvement is already obtained by
piece-work, in the kinds of labor which admit of it. By this the
workman's personal interest is closely connected with the quantity of
work he turns out--not so much with its quality, the security for
which still has to depend on the employer's vigilance; neither does
piece-work carry with it the public opinion of the workman class,
which is often, on the contrary, strongly opposed to it, as a means of
(as they think) diminishing the market for laborers. And there is
really good ground for their dislike of piece-work, if, as is alleged,
it is a frequent practice of employers, after using piece-work to
ascertain the utmost which a good workman can do, to fix the price of
piece-work so low that by doing that utmost he is not able to earn
more than they would be obliged to give him as day wages for ordinary
work.

But there is a far more complete remedy than piece-work for the
disadvantages of hired labor, viz., what is now called industrial
partnership--the admission of the whole body of laborers to a
participation in the profits, by distributing among all who share in
the work, in the form of a percentage on their earnings, the whole or
a fixed portion of the gains after a certain remuneration has been
allowed to the capitalist. This plan has been found of admirable
efficacy, both in this country and abroad. It has enlisted the
sentiments of the workmen employed on the side of the most careful
regard by all of them to the general interest of the concern; and by
its joint effect in promoting zealous exertion and checking waste, it
has very materially increased the remuneration of every description of
labor in the concerns in which it has been adopted. It is evident that
this system admits of indefinite extension and of an indefinite
increase in the share of profits assigned to the laborers, short of
that which would leave to the managers less than the needful degree of
personal interest in the success of the concern. It is even likely
that when such arrangements become common, many of these concerns
would at some period or another, on the death or retirement of the
chief's pass, by arrangement, into the state of purely co-operative
associations.

It thus appears that as far as concerns the motives to exertion in the
general body, Communism has no advantage which may not be reached
under private property, while as respects the managing heads it is at
a considerable disadvantage. It has also some disadvantages which seem
to be inherent in it, through the necessity under which it lies of
deciding in a more or less arbitrary manner questions which, on the
present system, decide themselves, often badly enough but
spontaneously.

It is a simple rule, and under certain aspects a just one, to give
equal payment to all who share in the work. But this is a very
imperfect justice unless the work also is apportioned equally. Now the
many different kinds of work required in every society are very
unequal in hardness and unpleasantness. To measure these against one
another, so as to make quality equivalent to quantity, is so difficult
that Communists generally propose that all should work by turns at
every kind of labor. But this involves an almost complete sacrifice of
the economic advantages of the division of employments, advantages
which are indeed frequently over-estimated (or rather the counter
considerations are under-estimated) by political economists, but which
are nevertheless, in the point of view of the productiveness of labor,
very considerable, for the double reason that the co-operation of
employment enables the work to distribute itself with some regard to
the special capacities and qualifications of the worker, and also that
every worker acquires greater skill and rapidity in one kind of work
by confining himself to it. The arrangement, therefore, which is
deemed indispensable to a just distribution would probably be a very
considerable disadvantage in respect of production. But further, it is
still a very imperfect standard of justice to demand the same amount
of work from every one. People have unequal capacities of work, both
mental and bodily, and what is a light task for one is an
insupportable burthen to another. It is necessary, therefore, that
there should be a dispensing power, an authority competent to grant
exemptions from the ordinary amount of work, and to proportion tasks
in some measure to capabilities. As long as there are any lazy or
selfish persons who like better to be worked for by others than to
work, there will be frequent attempts to obtain exemptions by favor or
fraud, and the frustration of these attempts will be an affair of
considerable difficulty, and will by no means be always successful.
These inconveniences would be little felt, for some time at least, in
communities composed of select persons, earnestly desirous of the
success of the experiment; but plans for the regeneration of society
must consider average human beings, and not only them but the large
residuum of persons greatly below the average in the personal and
social virtues. The squabbles and ill-blood which could not fail to be
engendered by the distribution of work whenever such persons have to
be dealt with, would be a great abatement from the harmony and
unanimity which Communists hope would be found among the members of
their association. That concord would, even in the most fortunate
circumstances, be much more liable to disturbance than Communists
suppose. The institution provides that there shall be no quarrelling
about material interests; individualism is excluded from that
department of affairs. But there are other departments from which no
institutions can exclude it: there will still be rivalry for
reputation and for personal power. When selfish ambition is excluded
from the field in which, with most men, it chiefly exercises itself,
that of riches and pecuniary interest, it would betake itself with
greater intensity to the domain still open to it, and we may expect
that the struggles for pre-eminence and for influence in the
management would be of great bitterness when the personal passions,
diverted from their ordinary channel, are driven to seek their
principal gratification in that other direction. For these various
reasons it is probable that a Communist association would frequently
fail to exhibit the attractive picture of mutual love and unity of
will and feeling which we are often told by Communists to expect, but
would often be torn by dissension and not unfrequently broken up by
it.

Other and numerous sources of discord are inherent in the necessity
which the Communist principle involves, of deciding by the general
voice questions of the utmost importance to every one, which on the
present system can be and are left to individuals to decide, each for
his own case. As an example, take the subject of education. All
Socialists are strongly impressed with the all-importance of the
training given to the young, not only for the reasons which apply
universally, but because their demands being much greater than those
of any other system upon the intelligence and morality of the
individual citizen, they have even more at stake than any other
societies on the excellence of their educational arrangements. Now
under Communism these arrangements would have to be made for every
citizen by the collective body, since individual parents, supposing
them to prefer some other mode of educating their children, would
have no private means of paying for it, and would be limited to what
they could do by their own personal teaching and influence. But every
adult member of the body would have an equal voice in determining the
collective system designed for the benefit of all. Here, then, is a
most fruitful source of discord in every association. All who had any
opinion or preference as to the education they would desire for their
own children, would have to rely for their chance of obtaining it upon
the influence they could exercise in the joint decision of the
community.

It is needless to specify a number of other important questions
affecting the mode of employing the productive resources of the
association, the conditions of social life, the relations of the body
with other associations, &c., on which difference of opinion, often
irreconcilable, would be likely to arise. But even the dissensions
which might be expected would be a far less evil to the prospects of
humanity than a delusive unanimity produced by the prostration of all
individual opinions and wishes before the decree of the majority. The
obstacles to human progression are always great, and require a
concurrence of favorable circumstances to overcome them; but an
indispensable condition of their being overcome is, that human nature
should have freedom to expand spontaneously in various directions,
both in thought and practice; that people should both think for
themselves and try experiments for themselves, and should not resign
into the hands of rulers, whether acting in the name of a few or of
the majority, the business of thinking for them, and of prescribing
how they shall act. But in Communist associations private life would
be brought in a most unexampled degree within the dominion of public
authority, and there would be less scope for the development of
individual character and individual preferences than has hitherto
existed among the full citizens of any state belonging to the
progressive branches of the human family. Already in all societies the
compression of individuality by the majority is a great and growing
evil; it would probably be much greater under Communism, except so far
as it might be in the power of individuals to set bounds to it by
selecting to belong to a community of persons like-minded with
themselves.

From these various considerations I do not seek to draw any inference
against the possibility that Communistic production is capable of
being at some future time the form of society best adapted to the
wants and circumstances of mankind. I think that this is, and will
long be an open question, upon which fresh light will continually be
obtained, both by trial of the Communistic principle under favorable
circumstances, and by the improvements which will be gradually
effected in the working of the existing system, that of private
ownership. The one certainty is, that Communism, to be successful,
requires a high standard of both moral and intellectual education in
all the members of the community--moral, to qualify them for doing
their part honestly and energetically in the labor of life under no
inducement but their share in the general interest of the
association, and their feelings of duty and sympathy towards it;
intellectual, to make them capable of estimating distant interests and
entering into complex considerations, sufficiently at least to be able
to discriminate, in these matters, good counsel from bad. Now I reject
altogether the notion that it is impossible for education and
cultivation such as is implied in these things to be made the
inheritance of every person in the nation; but I am convinced that it
is very difficult, and that the passage to it from our present
condition can only be slow. I admit the plea that in the points of
moral education on which the success of communism depends, the present
state of society is demoralizing, and that only a Communistic
association can effectually train mankind for Communism. It is for
Communism, then, to prove, by practical experiment, its power of
giving this training. Experiments alone can show whether there is as
yet in any portion of the population a sufficiently high level of
moral cultivation to make Communism succeed, and to give to the next
generation among themselves the education necessary to keep that high
level permanently If Communist associations show that they can be
durable and prosperous, they will multiply, and will probably be
adopted by successive portions of the population of the more advanced
countries as they become morally fitted for that mode of life. But to
force unprepared populations into Communist societies, even if a
political revolution gave the power to make such an attempt, would end
in disappointment.

If practical trial is necessary to test the capabilities of Communism,
it is no less required for those other forms of Socialism which
recognize the difficulties of Communism and contrive means to surmount
them. The principal of these is Fourierism, a system which, if only as
a specimen of intellectual ingenuity, is highly worthy of the
attention of any student, either of society or of the human mind.
There is scarcely an objection or a difficulty which Fourier did not
forsee, and against which he did not make provision beforehand by
self-acting contrivances, grounded, however, upon a less high
principle of distributive justice than that of Communism, since he
admits inequalities of distribution and individual ownership of
capital, but not the arbitrary disposal of it. The great problem which
he grapples with is how to make labor attractive, since, if this
could be done, the principal difficulty of Socialism would be
overcome. He maintains that no kind of useful labor is necessarily or
universally repugnant, unless either excessive in amount or devoid of
the stimulus of companionship and emulation, or regarded by mankind
with contempt. The workers in a Fourierist village are to class
themselves spontaneously in groups, each group undertaking a different
kind of work, and the same person may be a member not only of one
group but of any number; a certain minimum having first been set apart
for the subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable
or not of labor, the society divides the remainder of the produce
among the different groups, in such shares as it finds attract to each
the amount of labor required, and no more; if there is too great a run
upon particular groups it is a sign that those groups are
over-remunerated relatively to others; if any are neglected their
remuneration must be made higher. The share of produce assigned to
each group is divided in fixed proportions among three elements--labor,
capital, and talent; the part assigned to talent being awarded by the
suffrages of the group itself, and it is hoped that among the variety
of human capacities all, or nearly all, will be qualified to excel in
some group or other. The remuneration for capital is to be such as is
found sufficient to induce savings from individual consumption, in
order to increase the common stock to such point as is desired. The
number and ingenuity of the contrivances for meeting minor
difficulties, and getting rid of minor inconveniencies, is very
remarkable. By means of these various provisions it is the expectation
of Fourierists that the personal inducements to exertion for the public
interest, instead of being taken away, would be made much greater than
at present, since every increase of the service rendered would be much
more certain of leading to increase of reward than it is now, when
accidents of position have so much influence. The efficiency of labor,
they therefore expect, would be unexampled, while the saving of labor
would be prodigious, by diverting to useful occupations that which is
now wasted on things useless or hurtful, and by dispensing with the
vast number of superfluous distributors, the buying and selling for the
whole community being managed by a single agency. The free choice of
individuals as to their manner of life would be no further interfered
with than would be necessary for gaining the full advantages of
co-operation in the industrial operations. Altogether, the picture of a
Fourierist community is both attractive in itself and requires less
from common humanity than any other known system of Socialism; and it
is much to be desired that the scheme should have that fair trial which
alone can test the workableness of any new scheme of social life.[9]

The result of our review of the various difficulties of Socialism has
led us to the conclusion that the various schemes for managing the
productive resources of the country by public instead of private
agency have a case for a trial, and some of them may eventually
establish their claims to preference over the existing order of
things, but that they are at present workable only by the _élite_ of
mankind, and have yet to prove their power of training mankind at
large to the state of improvement which they presuppose. Far more, of
course, may this be said of the more ambitious plan which aims at
taking possession of the whole land and capital of the country, and
beginning at once to administer it on the public account. Apart from
all consideration of injustice to the present possessors, the very
idea of conducting the whole industry of a country by direction from a
single centre is so obviously chimerical, that nobody ventures to
propose any mode in which it should be done; and it can hardly be
doubted that if the revolutionary Socialists attained their immediate
object, and actually had the whole property of the country at their
disposal, they would find no other practicable mode of exercising
their power over it than that of dividing it into portions, each to be
made over to the administration of a small Socialist community. The
problem of management, which we have seen to be so difficult even to a
select population well prepared beforehand, would be thrown down to be
solved as best it could by aggregations united only by locality, or
taken indiscriminately from the population, including all the
malefactors, all the idlest and most vicious, the most incapable of
steady industry, forethought, or self-control, and a majority who,
though not equally degraded, are yet, in the opinion of Socialists
themselves as far as regards the qualities essential for the success
of Socialism, profoundly demoralised by the existing state of society.
It is saying but little to say that the introduction of Socialism
under such conditions could have no effect but disastrous failure, and
its apostles could have only the consolation that the order of society
as it now exists would have perished first, and all who benefit by it
would be involved in the common ruin--a consolation which to some of
them would probably be real, for if appearances can be trusted the
animating principle of too many of the revolutionary Socialists is
hate; a very excusable hatred of existing evils, which would vent
itself by putting an end to the present system at all costs even to
those who suffer by it, in the hope that out of chaos would arise a
better Kosmos, and in the impatience of desperation respecting any
more gradual improvement. They are unaware that chaos is the very most
unfavorable position for setting out in the construction of a Kosmos,
and that many ages of conflict, violence, and tyrannical oppression
of the weak by the strong must intervene; they know not that they
would plunge mankind into the state of nature so forcibly described by
Hobbes (_Leviathan_, Part I. ch. xiii.), where every man is enemy to
every man:--

    "In such condition there is no place for industry, because the
    fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the
    earth, no navigation, no use of the commodities that may be
    imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of
    moving and removing such things as require much force, no
    knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts,
    no letters, no society; and, which is worst of all, continual
    fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary,
    poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

If the poorest and most wretched members of a so-called civilised
society are in as bad a condition as every one would be in that worst
form of barbarism produced by the dissolution of civilised life, it
does not follow that the way to raise them would be to reduce all
others to the same miserable state. On the contrary, it is by the aid
of the first who have risen that so many others have escaped from the
general lot, and it is only by better organization of the same process
that it may be hoped in time to succeed in raising the remainder.


THE IDEA OF PRIVATE PROPERTY NOT FIXED BUT VARIABLE.

The preceding considerations appear sufficient to show that an entire
renovation of the social fabric, such as is contemplated by Socialism,
establishing the economic constitution of society upon an entirely new
basis, other than that of private property and competition, however
valuable as an ideal, and even as a prophecy of ultimate
possibilities, is not available as a present resource, since it
requires from those who are to carry on the new order of things
qualities both moral and intellectual, which require to be tested in
all, and to be created in most; and this cannot be done by an Act of
Parliament, but must be, on the most favorable supposition, a work of
considerable time. For a long period to come the principle of
individual property will be in possession of the field; and even if in
any country a popular movement were to place Socialists at the head of
a revolutionary government, in however many ways they might violate
private property, the institution itself would survive, and would
either be accepted by them or brought back by their expulsion, for the
plain reason that people will not lose their hold of what is at
present their sole reliance for subsistence and security until a
substitute for it has been got into working order. Even those, if any,
who had shared among themselves what was the property of others would
desire to keep what they had acquired, and to give back to property in
the new hands the sacredness which they had not recognised in the old.

But though, for these reasons, individual property has presumably a
long term before it, if only of provisional existence, we are not,
therefore, to conclude that it must exist during that whole term
unmodified, or that all the rights now regarded as appertaining to
property belong to it inherently, and must endure while it endures. On
the contrary, it is both the duty and the interest of those who derive
the most direct benefit from the laws of property to give impartial
consideration to all proposals for rendering those laws in any way
less onerous to the majority. This, which would in any case be an
obligation of justice, is an injunction of prudence also, in order to
place themselves in the right against the attempts which are sure to
be frequent to bring the Socialist forms of society prematurely into
operation.

One of the mistakes oftenest committed, and which are the sources of
the greatest practical errors in human affairs, is that of supposing
that the same name always stands for the same aggregation of ideas. No
word has been the subject of more of this kind of misunderstanding
than the word property. It denotes in every state of society the
largest powers of exclusive use or exclusive control over things (and
sometimes, unfortunately, over persons) which the law accords, or
which custom, in that state of society, recognizes; but these powers
of exclusive use and control are very various, and differ greatly in
different countries and in different states of society.

For instance, in early states of society, the right of property did
not include the right of bequest. The power of disposing of property
by will was in most countries of Europe a rather late institution; and
long after it was introduced it continued to be limited in favor of
what were called natural heirs. Where bequest is not permitted,
individual property is only a life interest. And in fact, as has been
so well and fully set forth by Sir Henry Maine in his most instructive
work on Ancient Law, the primitive idea of property was that it
belonged to the family, not the individual. The head of the family had
the management and was the person who really exercised the proprietary
rights. As in other respects, so in this, he governed the family with
nearly despotic power. But he was not free so to exercise his power as
to defeat the co-proprietors of the other portions; he could not so
dispose of the property as to deprive them of the joint enjoyment or
of the succession. By the laws and customs of some nations the
property could not be alienated without the consent of the male
children; in other cases the child could by law demand a division of
the property and the assignment to him of his share, as in the story
of the Prodigal Son. If the association kept together after the death
of the head, some other member of it, not always his son, but often
the eldest of the family, the strongest, or the one selected by the
rest, succeeded to the management and to the managing rights, all the
others retaining theirs as before. If, on the other hand the body
broke up into separate families, each of these took away with it a
part of the property. I say the property, not the inheritance, because
the process was a mere continuance of existing rights, not a creation
of new; the manager's share alone lapsed to the association.

Then, again, in regard to proprietary rights over immovables (the
principal kind of property in a rude age) these rights were of very
varying extent and duration. By the Jewish law property in immovables
was only a temporary concession; on the Sabbatical year it returned to
the common stock to be redistributed; though we may surmise that in
the historical times of the Jewish state this rule may have been
successfully evaded. In many countries of Asia, before European ideas
intervened, nothing existed to which the expression property in land,
as we understand the phrase, is strictly applicable. The ownership was
broken up among several distinct parties, whose rights were determined
rather by custom than by law. The government was part owner, having
the right to a heavy rent. Ancient ideas and even ancient laws limited
the government share to some particular fraction of the gross produce,
but practically there was no fixed limit. The government might make
over its share to an individual, who then became possessed of the
right of collection and all the other rights of the state, but not
those of any private person connected with the soil. These private
rights were of various kinds. The actual cultivators or such of them
as had been long settled on the land, had a right to retain
possession; it was held unlawful to evict them while they paid the
rent--a rent not in general fixed by agreement, but by the custom of
the neighborhood. Between the actual cultivators and the state, or the
substitute to whom the state had transferred its rights, there were
intermediate persons with rights of various extent. There were
officers of government who collected the state's share of the produce,
sometimes for large districts, who, though bound to pay over to
government all they collected, after deducting a percentage, were
often hereditary officers. There were also, in many cases village
communities, consisting of the reputed descendants of the first
settlers of a village, who shared among themselves either the land or
its produce according to rules established by custom, either
cultivating it themselves or employing others to cultivate it for
them, and whose rights in the land approached nearer to those of a
landed proprietor, as understood in England, than those of any other
party concerned. But the proprietary right of the village was not
individual, but collective; inalienable (the rights of individual
sharers could only be sold or mortgaged with the consent of the
community) and governed by fixed rules. In mediæval Europe almost all
land was held from the sovereign on tenure of service, either military
or agricultural; and in Great Britain even now, when the services as
well as all the reserved rights of the sovereign have long since
fallen into disuse or been commuted for taxation, the theory of the
law does not acknowledge an absolute right of property in land in any
individual; the fullest landed proprietor known to the law, the
freeholder, is but a "tenant" of the Crown. In Russia, even when the
cultivators of the soil were serfs of the landed proprietor, his
proprietary right in the land was limited by rights of theirs
belonging to them as a collective body managing its own affairs, and
with which he could not interfere. And in most of the countries of
continental Europe when serfage was abolished or went out of use,
those who had cultivated the land as serfs remained in possession of
rights as well as subject to obligations. The great land reforms of
Stein and his successors in Prussia consisted in abolishing both the
rights and the obligations, and dividing the land bodily between the
proprietor and the peasant, instead of leaving each of them with a
limited right over the whole. In other cases, as in Tuscany, the
_metayer_ farmer is virtually co-proprietor with the landlord, since
custom, though not law, guarantees to him a permanent possession and
half the gross produce, so long as he fulfils the customary conditions
of his tenure.

Again: if rights of property over the same things are of different
extent in different countries, so also are they exercised over
different things. In all countries at a former time, and in some
countries still, the right of property extended and extends to the
ownership of human beings. There has often been property in public
trusts, as in judicial offices, and a vast multitude of others in
France before the Revolution; there are still a few patent offices in
Great Britain, though I believe they will cease by operation of law on
the death of the present holders; and we are only now abolishing
property in army rank. Public bodies, constituted and endowed for
public purposes, still claim the same inviolable right of property in
their estates which individuals have in theirs, and though a sound
political morality does not acknowledge this claim, the law supports
it. We thus see that the right of property is differently interpreted,
and held to be of different extent, in different times and places;
that the conception entertained of it is a varying conception, has
been frequently revised, and may admit of still further revision. It
is also to be noticed that the revisions which it has hitherto
undergone in the progress of society have generally been improvements.
When, therefore, it is maintained, rightly or wrongly, that some
change or modification in the powers exercised over things by the
persons legally recognised as their proprietors would be beneficial to
the public and conducive to the general improvement, it is no good
answer to this merely to say that the proposed change conflicts with
the idea of property. The idea of property is not some one thing,
identical throughout history and incapable of alteration, but is
variable like all other creations of the human mind; at any given time
it is a brief expression denoting the rights over things conferred by
the law or custom of some given society at that time; but neither on
this point nor on any other has the law and custom of a given time and
place a claim to be stereotyped for ever. A proposed reform in laws
or customs is not necessarily objectionable because its adoption would
imply, not the adaptation of all human affairs to the existing idea of
property, but the adaptation of existing ideas of property to the
growth and improvement of human affairs. This is said without
prejudice to the equitable claim of proprietors to be compensated by
the state for such legal rights of a proprietary nature as they may be
dispossessed of for the public advantage. That equitable claim, the
grounds and the just limits of it, are a subject by itself, and as
such will be discussed hereafter. Under this condition, however,
society is fully entitled to abrogate or alter any particular right of
property which on sufficient consideration it judges to stand in the
way of the public good. And assuredly the terrible case which, as we
saw in a former chapter, Socialists are able to make out against the
present economic order of society, demands a full consideration of all
means by which the institution may have a chance of being made to work
in a manner more beneficial to that large portion of society which at
present enjoys the least share of its direct benefits.


THE END.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Louis Blanc, "Organisation du Travail," 4me edition, pp. 6, 11,
53, 57.

[2] See Louis Blanc, "Organisation du Travail," pp. 58-61, 65-66, 4me
edition. Paris, 1845.

[3] See Considérant, "Destinée Sociale," tome i. pp. 35, 36, 37, 3me
ed. Paris, 1848.

[4] See "Destinée Sociale," par V. Considérant, tome i. pp. 38-40.

[5] See Considérant, "Destinée Sociale," tome i. pp. 43-51, 3me.
edition, Paris, 1848.

[6] Considérant, "Destinée Sociale," tome i., pp. 59, 60.

[7] Considérant, "Destinée Sociale," tome i., pp. 60, 61.

[8] Considérant, "Destinée Sociale," tome i., p. 134.

[9] The principles of Fourierism are clearly set forth and powerfully
defended in the various writings of M. Victor Considérant, especially
that entitled _La Destinée Sociale_; but the curious inquirer will do
well to study them in the writings of Fourier himself; where he will
find unmistakable proofs of genius, mixed, however with the wildest and
most unscientific fancies respecting the physical world, and much
interesting but rash speculation on the past and future history of
humanity. It is proper to add that on some important social questions,
for instance on marriage, Fourier had peculiar opinions, which,
however, as he himself declares, are quite independent of, and
separable from, the principles of his industrial system.

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