« AnteriorContinuar »
of a great business, conducted—all by public officials—for profit? Has individualism no more objection than socialism to the continued government ownership of deposits of oil, gas, phosphate rock, and of coal beds of incalculable value, all to be held in trust for the people and worked under leases that control the methods of exploitation, the conditions of the workmen, the royalties to be paid into the public treasury, and, perhaps, the prices to be charged the consumer? Is the whole policy of the conservation of natural resources as presented by its authors an incarnation of individualism, or is it a member of the great socialist family, simply washed and dressed and adopted into a respectable household?
We have nothing to do here with the political consequences of the correct labeling of political measures. Even if we agree as economists upon definitions which will help to clear our own thought and will aid college students to be intellectually honest, we cannot enact, and we would not if we could, any pure politics law which would compel the correct and honest labeling of party proposals and protect the public from misbranded goods.
Perhaps, as Professor Henry W. Farnam suggested in his address to the Association for Labor Legislation at the Atlantic City meeting, some new term is needed to designate the policy which is neither individualistic nor socialistic, the new type which has already developed between the two old well marked species, a hybrid with characteristics derived from both parents, each of which claims it for its own, to both of which it is a beautiful child, and neither of which is willing to forego the claims of parenthood.
If a new term be adopted, New Nationalism as suggested by Mr. Croly in "The Promise of American Life", Meliorism, Insurgency, or what not, economists will be justified in asking for an exact definition of its content. If political philosophies and economic doctrines merge into each other like the colors of the rainbow, passing from revolutionary red right through to royal violet without perceptible break, then straight thinking and intellectually honest politics are hardly attainable.
Pending the presentation of such a term, acceptably defined, I see no more hopeful prospect than to disinfect the term socialism of the virulent germs with which unauthorized persons have impregnated it; and then to give socialism the same impartial, impersonal investigation to which chemists subject a new food, or a fresh carbon compound which promises an easier life for man
CARL E. PARRY: The drift of my remarks is to be along the line of a plea for scientific modesty. I find that students come into my classes with more confidence in the conception of socialism they happen to have than is at all justified; about the first thing I have to do is to shatter this confidence, by pointing out competing conceptions, and attacking the very idea that any definition of socialism can be adequate. So I insist, from the very first, that no one can have a very adequate conception of socialism who has not formed the personal acquaintance of some real socialists. I find this procedure makes everybody more tolerant, less cocksure, and more appreciative of the human characteristics of socialism, such as optimism, love of justice, human brotherhood, and so forth, which no abstract definition can even suggest.
But of course articulate thought and intelligent discussion cannot proceed without some attempt at definition; all that I wish to emphasize here is that a definition should know, and hold, its place. My own practice is to adhere closely to the rule that the purpose in hand dictates the definition. Thus economics, for its own purposes, will interest itself chiefly in the economic doctrines of socialism; sociology with such matters as its doctrine of class consciousness, and of the functions of the institution of the state; and philosophy, perhaps, with its ethical aspects, or its philosophy of history. For each of these purposes it is legitimate to adopt a different definition of socialism, stressing the aspect under discussion. I cannot see why any one science should have the right to dictate to another, much less to the world at large, just what shall be meant by such a term as socialism.
As a matter of fact, I do not make much use of the term myself; it carries too many meanings to be available for scientific use. I prefer to speak of "the orthodox socialist theory of value", "socialist tactics", "the ideal socialistic state", "the prevailing attitude of the socialists toward business competition", and other terms describing more accurately exactly what I wish to discuss. I believe that as economists, in this and other ways, we should practice the scientific modesty I have mentioned; that we should consciously realize that it is only on such matters as the validity of the labor theory of value, or the alleged law of
unlimited concentration of capital, or the probable relative productivity of a socialistic organization of industry, that we speak with authority. Outside the rather narrow limits set by our science, we should speak, if we speak at all, with extreme conservatism—always reminding the public that they must not attach any special authority to our pronouncements. For instance, the materialistic philosophy of history is a larger subject than any one science will care to handle alone; perhaps it lies in the province of philosophy to speak on it with authority—certainly an economist should not complacently settle the question, offhand, without realizing what a perilous path he is treading. And it seems to me, also, that the desirability of a socialistic organization of society, whatever that may mean, is something upon which an economist, in his professional capacity, has no right to dogmatize. He has done his full duty, for instance, when he makes such a conclusion as this: "In respect to productive efficiency, such an organization does not (or does, as he may conclude) hold out so much promise as the prevailing economic system." And for the purpose of drawing such conclusions as these I believe a special terminology, such as I have suggested, is more serviceable than one centering about an attempt to define "socialism" itself.
B. H. HIBBARD: If, as was held by Locke, argument is to disappear in definition, the need for a definition of socialism can hardly be called in question, since the argument is assuming formidable proportions. Besides, socialism cannot be ignoredwith 40 per cent of the German voters casting a Socialist ballot; with the French and Belgian scarcely less numerous and gaining every year; with the English Socialists quiet at present, but threatening and even likely to show immense voting strength on slight provocation; with a 4 per cent showing in our own country, and an occasional case of 10 per cent or more for a state; with several members each biennium in state legislatures, and now a congressman-with all of this evidence of organized persistency and strength it is surely worth while to spend a little time in coming as nearly as possible to an understanding of what it is all about.
In the first place what sort of a definition may be hoped for? Manifestly it should be one of as wide acceptability as possible, since anything short of wide acceptability leaves the great ma
jority of those interested attacking or advocating the plan without a mutual agreement of what is wanted on either side. Hence the definition must not attempt to go into detail; it cannot show the color of hair and eyes and the texture of the skin like a Dürer portrait; nor yet must it be as uncertain and hazy as the impressionistic productions of some modern artists. We do not want to see an aura, consisting of a curiously blended color spot within the field of vision, as do the followers of a certain new philosophy when looking at a man. Nor, again, can we hope to have this vision so clear and detailed that every feature and line shall be as distinct as the face of a living person at close range; the one is impossible, the other useless. We are of necessity undertaking to picture a scene at long range, and yet if we can get the same angle of vision we shall probably agree fairly well as to leading, outstanding characteristics. Socialism must be defined on the basis of a few fundamentals, and the future must be trusted for a closer view.
In seeking for a definition it will hardly do to go to the extreme opponents of socialism, for they will make it obnoxious; nor may we take the version of ardent supporters, for they will make it too attractive. Opponents seldom take much trouble to understand a case in all phases, while friends lose balance because of enthusiasm. We cannot accept the definition of our strenuous ex-President since he has evidently taken small pains to acquaint himself with the subject; we cannot take the view of the man now in the highest office since it is altogether nebulous. We cannot use the version of the Republican platform of 1908 for it is a begging of the question; nor that of the Democratic platform of the same year, for it is a plea of not guilty to an indictment. We cannot accept the view of Karl Marx since in his zeal to make it consistent and scientific he included too much, yet Bellamy was far more at fault in omitting the premises and giving the conclusions.
It would seem, then, that the definition must be given by those who view the subject dispassionately, and at the same time seriously, if we are to have a definition useful to any considerable number. Out of the many attempts to define socialism, Professor Ely in his book on "Socialism and Social Reform" seems to have been among the most successful, though out of his four elements the first two appear to contain the basis of the proposition, while the last two are corollaries. Socialism means the social, col
lective, common, ownership and management of the great material instruments of production. Just what is to be understood by the term "great" is no doubt open to discussion, but it must include the material basis by which one set of men get the advantage of their fellows in the fight for existence. Clearly the railroads, the mines, the power sites, belong to this class; it is not clear that garden tools, or the garden itself, or a small farm, must be so included. That, under this definition, the great manufacturing establishments must come into public hands is beyond dispute, but it may well be contended that individual shops, repair outfits, homes, and a multitude of forms of private property may remain private.
Transitions from one social order to another are seldom appreciated by the people concerned at the time of the change. The domestic system of manufacture was in full swing in England in the early eighteenth century; a century later the industrial régime was on, yet the people of the time did not know what was happening. So if socialism comes it will not be by might or by power; it will creep upon us unawares and we shall some day look back and see that the age of capitalism has been supplanted. When the opportunity of exploiting the common citizen through the fortunate possession of natural resources is past, when lines of transportation are in the hands of the people, when the laborers—and we are nearly all laborers-have a real voice in determining the basis of distributing the product, this will be a different industrial order, which may as well be called socialism as by any other name. However, if the good results here alluded to can be accomplished without taking from private hands the main mass of material goods, then individualism and not socialism will best characterize the arrangement, and social reform will designate the nature of the change. But, just as the machine age leaves a vast amount of work to be done by hand, so a socialistic age may leave a vast amount of private property and private enterprise. It is the question of which shall play the grand role.
FRANK A. FETTER: Mr. Martin has quoted in part from my reply to his inquiry. I there distinguished several concepts of socialism and of individualism, for each may be thought of as (1) a general principle of social action, (2) a habitual attitude toward social problems, (3) a group of persons or a political