Laurence Gronlund.

The coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism online

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lective control of the Telegraph system, or communal
control of the coal-business) and then stop there, will not
solve the question at all. These measures, standing alone, will
be almost worthless to the working-classes. They will ben-
efit the small number employed in these enterprises; they
may benefit all by the resulting public improvements, but they
will not help the great body of the workers in any material
respect, for to the same extent, that the price of their neces-
saries of life and rents may fall, their wages are sure to come
down. That is the final answer to George's proposition. Even
if he could possibly persuade the Social organism by his in-
sinuating periods to swallow his medicine, she woidd not be
a bit less restless than before. That child, the New Social Or-
der, is going to be born.

•• But whence will your Commonwealth take the money to
indemnify the present owners?"

Oh! that matter of compensation will not worry us so very
much. Socialists, indeed, claim, that it is Society, to whom
our Plutocrats owe all their wealth, and that, therefore. So-
ciety has the right at any moment to take it back Besides—
a fact to which we already have once called attention — Society
has never yet compensated the laboring classes when their in-
terests have been sacrificed to the gain of their fellow-citizens
and posterity, as they have repeatedly been during this ecu-


tury by the introduction ot new machinery and the adoption
of new inventions. But they are, also, ready to admit, that,
if our Plutocrats are willing peaceably to give up their posses-
sions to the Commonwealth, they ought to be fairly compen-
sated, on the sole grouud that these possessions were acquired
by the sanction of Society. But what of that?

All the wealth of the country in the year 1SS0 is estimated
at 640.000,000,000. Much of that is composed of speculative, un-
real, values. All that Socialists wish to expropriate, is only
the most important instruments of production, a fractional
part of that wealth. If, now, this nation could spend six
thousand million of dollars to deliver a foreign race out of
slavery, could it not spend, say, twenty thousand millions of
dollars to make all its citizens free? Compare such a debt with
the incumbrances of so many modern wars, waged in the in-
terests of a few persons or of a small class, and remember,
that in this case the consideration will be bequeathed with the
debt ; for the land and machinery will remain intact, or rather
will multiply itself in course of a few generations. On this
point we shall have more to say in the next chapter.

But should our Plutocracy choose to make the Revolution
a violent one, then — we suppose they will be dispossessed with-
out compensation. Eead histoiy, and you will find, that the
dominant class has furnished us with plenty ol precedents.

The various privileges of the nobles and clergy were "prop-
erty ;" they are so no longer. Germany, italj r , Spain, and
France have repeatedly confiscated the estates of nobility and
clergy. England has done the same thing with the soil of
Ireland. It is worth while for capitalists to bear in mind Carl-
yle*s words: " Who can be hood-winked into believing that
loyalty to the money-bag is nobler than loyalty to nobles and
clergy?" But we need not go away from home: our country
confiscated the slaves of the South \ that is a splendid precedent
for us.

" But it is certainly granted, that Government never can do
ousiness as well as private individuals, simply because the
latter are personally interested in their affairs."

This is decidedly not granted. It is only a commonplace,


manufacture 1 to order by interested parties; a stigma, ingen-
iously fastened on State-activity by individuals who profit by
the absence of it. The fact, that our government carries a
letter for us promptly and safely across the continent for two
cents ; the fact that the English telegraph service sends a des-
patch to any part of the United Kingdom for twenty five cents;
the fact, that the Belgian railway management only charges
thirty-six cents for every thirty miles, these prove, that the
State, even as now constituted, can and does manage national
interests better than any private, parties could do it. Or, to
clinch our argument: suppose a proposition was submitted to
the people to relegate our mail-service back to private corpor-
ations, can any sane man doubt, that it would be overwhelm-
ingly defeated, even if all Star-route frauds were brought to

There is one particular State-activity that has proved the
eminent fitness of the State to direct the work of Societ} r —
and that is its scientitic labors. Look at the exceptional ef-
ficiency of our Coast-Survey, Light-IIouse-Service, the labors
of the Naval Observatory, Signal Service, Patent Office, Ge-
ological Surveys .

And, in point of fact, is the management of any of our big
corporations better entitled to be called management by the
'* persons interested, "' than the administration of a public of-
fice? The State can evidently be far more efficient than the
most efficient private company to-day, simply because it
will have in its service the best capacities that the country
contains, and can organize the greatest possible Division of

"But what an unbearable omnipotent centralization! Un-
bearable to a degree unheard of before in history. Your Com-
monwealth will have the supreme power without appeal, to
domineer over all the social and industrial interests of the
country at its pleasure, even to the extent of saying how many
hours a man shall work or how much money he may earn,
That is a tyranny, a slavery, that certainly will never be sub-
mitted to by the strong individuality of our people 1 . And what
an enormous crowd of officials? If corruption is now every*


where cropping out in our Civil Service how will it be when
that service is increased a thousandfold?"

One thing at a time, friend, though it is very well to have
these objections noticed. Civil Service increased, you say.
Then yon are truly nearsighted. What else are now our mer-
chants, our foremen, oui superintendents, our bank-presidents,
cashiers — yes., and all our workers but persons who serve ws,
or pretend to serve us; what else but functionaries of Society.
though they are so Li a private capacity? Is there not an im-
mense number of men now, occupying private positions in-
tent only on their interests or the interests of their employers
and yet to all intents and purposes officials of Society? The only
change, then which our Commonwealth will bring about in
that respect, is to change these private functionaries into public
officials, but far from increasing the "Civil Service," this
change will, actually, vastly decrease the number of those
who now spend their time as mere overseers, managers or

And why should a change from private into public function-
aries tend to make these officials corrupt? Public Service al-
ways lends dignity to the servant, and if our Civil Service is
corrupt, it is evidently due to the uncertain tenure and the
fact that political adventurers have the inside track. If /. i.
the Gas Trust of Philadelphia is poorly managed, it is only
because it is used for political purposes. But politicians
will not have much to say under the New Order, as we shall
see later on.

And centralization I Well, what of it? There are reople
who pronounce that word with unaffected horror, as if it sig-
nified something exceedingly execrable. And yet every healthy
man is an instance of the most perfect centralization in his
own person. Indeed, the moment that perfect centralization
ceases, suffering is the result. And as with the human organ-
ism, so with the social organism. Division of Labor demands
centralization or anarchy is the result.

We, however, can very well appreciate the cause of that
outcry. The centralization of industries that we witness around
us is not altogether good; our monopolies arc not altogether


good tilings — that is exactly what we took pains to show in
our second chapter — for the simple reason that they are cen-
tered in private, irresponsible individuals, bent only on private
gain. And so whenever any one advocates the centralization
of industrial or political activities in the State, everybody
thinks of the present State, which, as we have seen, is as yet
only the representative of certain classes ; eveiybody thus has
in mind a private party, a power outside of the people.

It is no wonder that people shudder at the thought of giv-
ing unlimited, supreme control over all our social, political
and industrial affairs to a lot of politicians of the sort that now
sit in Washington and our State-capitals and rule us. They
think of the princes of the Middle Ages who arbitrarily inter-
fered with and domineered over the private affairs of their sub-
jects and imagine that Socialists propose to introduce similar
tyranny on a far greater scale. This must also have been in
George's mind, when he wrote : 4i it is evident that whatever
savors of regulation and restriction is in itself bad," for he
certainly cannot mean that order and method are bad.

It must therefore be borne in mind, that we contemplate the
fully developed State; the State that has incorporated in itself
not only all social activities, but also the whole population ; the
State where every citizen is a part of the Administration, not
in a Pickwickian sense as now, but a real, integral part, per-
forming his share of it in the place where he is put ; a State
where, according to our definition, every one is a public func-
tionary, where therefore all State-help is really and truly Self-

Such a State, of course, will require quite other machinery
than any present State has got, and perhaps it is difficult to
grasp the idea of such a State, without considering the kind
of machinery that will be necessary to work it; but that we
in ust defer till the eighth chapter.

In order, however, to dispel the notion that centralization of
all social activities in the Cooperative Commonwealth implies
any domineering whatever or anything whatever analogous
to the arbitrary interference of medieval princes, we shall call
attention to the parallel hetween that normal State and a hu-


man organism. The latter possesses a central regulative sys-
tem, which, is not the man, but quite distinct from the man:
which is but an organ, on a footing with the other organs, in
like manner the normal State will po.ssess its central regulative
system and will exactly thereby distinguish itself from the
present State, which has no such system or a but very, very
imperfect one. But this regulative system will not be the State,
but simply an organ, on a footing with the other organs : the
associated workers of each branch of industry or social activity.
It will, we suppose, ha re three essential functions: that of be-
ing Chief Superintendent, Chief Statistician and Arbitrator. Each
of the other organs may manage their own affairs, subject simp-
ly to the supervisory control of what we, temporarily, call the
central regulative organ. That is the Socialist idea.

Suppose/, i. the cotton-workers to control the whole manu-
facture of cotton. They settle among themselves the rate of
remuneration which shall be paid to unskilled labor and to the
various grades of skilled labor; they, further, calculate for
themselves how much labor will be embodied in their products
and from these data the remuneration to be paid to each work-
er is a simple matter of figures.

Hut the prices of the products is a matter that vitally con-
cerns the whole people; wherefore, most naturally, the cen-
tral regulative organ will claim the right to have the annual
price-list laid before it for its approval.

The rate of remuneration and the hours of labor of these
cotton-workers, on the other hand, only concern these work-
ers themselves. There need be no fear, that they will not be
able to settle these matters among themselves, for if they do
not come to an agreement they will have to starve. It will
not pay to "strike" in the Coming Commonwealth and there
will be no reason for striking. Moreover, if any of the work-
ers should feel himself aggrieved by the action of his fellows*
there will be the recourse to the Courts of the country left him ;
that is, recourse to the central regulative organ as Arbitrator.

With such an arrangement we fail to see where the ""unbear-
able" centralization will come in. Will it not rather be au
ideal sort of self-government?


Now wo can see why Socialists put such a value on Trades-
Unions as they do. It is not that these Unions are always
models of associations — though even the most faulty unions are
better in every way than no unions ; — it is not that they always
materially benefit their members, but that these Unions are
destined to form the skeletons of these industrial departments
of the future of which we, in another chapter, shall- have more
to say. Especially will these Unions prove invaluable during
the transition period. In places where they are well organized
and embrace all the best workers of the trade, they may, on
the establishment of the Cooperative Commonwealth, take
possession of the industrial plant of their trade and go right
to work as if they never had known any other arrangement.
And that the artizans of England are already thus strongly
organized is just a reason why we should think, that England
may be nearer the realization of Socialism than is generally
supposed. Organization is only second to sound ideas.

" But, then, don't you know the Malthusian law? Don't
you know, that if your Commonwealth succeed as you expect;
if four hours of daily labor will provide the laborer and his
family with all comforts, that then this country will very soon
not have standing room for its population? Do you not
know, that your Commonwealth cannot last a generation, un-
less it commands its people when to marry and how many
children they may have?"

Yes, Socialists know Malthus very well, that English cler-
gyman, himself the father of not less than eleven children,
who told the poor, that they have themselves to thank for
their miseries, because, forsooth, the}' marry too early, and
beget too many children ! But they also know that this doc-
trine of his is a vicious monstrosity, hatched in the saloons of
tne wealthy and flattering to the conscience of the ruling class-
es and that therefore it has been so widely accepted. Just as
well say, that if you crowd millions of people into a city and
besiege it for months, that it, also, is Nature's fault, when
they die of starvation and plagues.

No, neither England nor Ireland had at the time of Mal-
thus or has had at any time since too large a population. It


may be safely said, on the contrary, that Great Britain even
now has too small a population for a really high civilization.
If the smart fellows of the Stone Age had been Malthusians
and had been able to prevent increase of population beyond
the supply of the then existing caves, we never should have
had brown-stone-fronts or architects.

Again, it is not true that the better fed and better off peo-
ple are, the more they will propagate. The reverse is the fact.
Jlopeless poverty makes men reckless and only intent on ani-
mal gratifications. Facts prove that the increise of any class
is in inverse ratio to its social position and wealth.

In England it is a matter of common observation that the
families of the nobility and gentry constantly tend to die out.
Here in our country it is even so. In the beginning of this
century families with from ten to fifteen children each were
not rare in New England ; now one with more than six is found
only among the poor. In the Cooperative Commonwealth
there will rather be reason to fear that the population will
tend to decrease than that it will ever be too redundant.

The best service that Henry George has rendered to Social-
ism with his " Progress and Poverty" is, that he has laid bare
the utter absurdity of the Malthusian philosophy. All we
now have to do, when any body brings it forward as an ob-
jection, is to tell him to go and study the second Book of his

If the misery of the world were caused by overpopulation,
as Malthus would have it, then, indeed Socialism, or any oth-
er progressive movement, would be a Utopia. Fortunately the
reverse is true : it is

Misery that causes Overpopulation,



"The principal narrowness of Political Economists is that
of regarding their present experience of mankind as of univer-
sal validity, mistaking temporary phases of human character
for human nature itself.'" — Auguste Comte.

" The hest state of human nature is that in which, while no
one is poor, no one desires to he richer, nor has any reason ro
fear being thrust hack by the efforts of others to push them-
selves forward." — John Mill.

'• The citizens of a large nation, industrially organized, have
reached their possible ideal of happiness, when the producing,
distributing and other activities are, such, that each citizen
finds in them a place for all his energies and aptitudes, while
he obtains the means of satisfying all his desires.'' — Herbert

Political Economy pretends to be a science. Proudhon, on
the other hand, remarks that the merit of Malthus — not dreamt
of by his admirers — is that he has reduced Political Economy
to an absurdity. When we think of the dogma of the " wages-
fund," which, divided by the number of laborers, is said to
determine the current rate of wages. Proudhon's observation
must strike us as pat. A philosophy which turns the labor-
question into a question in long division is certainly a counter-
feit-science. But if legitimate Political Economy be a science.


It is at all events a very modern science. "VVe do not find a trace
or promise of it in the former historical periods as we do of
the other sciences. Like Athene it came into the world sud-
denly and full-Hedged about 100 years ago. Curiously enough
nobody seems ever to have asked for the reason for this phe-
nomenon, and vet there must be a reason for it. We think
we have found it in the fact that Political Economy concerns
itself with the production and distribution of wealth under the
v tge-system, exclusively ' for this explanation of course, includes
that it would have no raison d'etre — no reason for being — under
a system of slavery or serfage. But in order to maintain the
nimbus of a ••science" it has to inculcate that this Wage-
System is a permanent system, the normal condition of effect-
ive production, and thus it has come to pass that a philosophy
which was legitimate if it limited itself to its proper sphere:
that of explaining the working of the present system, has been
prostituted by being made to justify the present social ar-
rangements, as having universal validity.

But if. as we maintain, this wage-system is nothing but a
temporary phase of the evolution of Society, then it follows
that Political Economy is destined to be superceded by a new
philosophy, a true science, as soon as the new conditions arise.
Under Social-Cooperation we shall have a perfectly different
Philosophy of the Production and Distribution of wealth,
which we, not inaptly, may call Social Economy.

But do not for a moment suppose that we here intend to
elaborate that new science, we are all of us too much the chil-
dren of our own age to make such an attempt. Yet we also
know that both Americans and Englishmen cannot be expected
to cooperate consciously with the natural development of the
New Social Order before they have learned to know its lead-
ins: features and have found them on the whole desirable. Such
an attitude is decidedly commendable, but may easily degener-
ate into a disposition to propound conundrums, and. such we
are not disposed to try to solve. ,

Do not forget, that Socialists are not willing to be taken for
architects, lie is a bad architect who cannot plan the building
he is required to erect, to the nicest details ; who is unable to


tell the size of this drawing-room, or the exact location of
that closet. Do not demand such details from us.

Rather may we liken ourselves to naturalists: a botanist
ought t<> be able to tell what plant will develop out of a cer-
tain seed, but he ca:mot tell how many leaves it will have.

And in like manner we ought to be able to indicate the
most striking economic consequences which with logical ne-
cessity will flow from collective control of the instruments of

We can say, that Interest, Profit and Rent, being nothing
but the spoils which private monopoly of the instruments of
production at present enables individuals to exact, will be-
come things of the past, as soon as the Commonwealth takes
possession of the whole industrial and agricultural plant.

Interest will, for the first time in human history, be given a
fatal blow. All laws against Usury have proven worse than
useless. When under the Roman Uepublie Usury was punished
with death, it flourished the most — at the rate of a hundred
percent. We have already seen, how in this capitalist era the
taking of interest has become a normal and legitimate feature
of our system, c* en one of ''the inalienable Rights of Man,"
in Bentham's words, All Usury-laws limiting the rate of in-
terest are set at defiance, simply because they clash with the
prevailing mode of doing business.

The Coming Commonwealth will be the effective destroyer
of both Interest and Usury. For when all enterprises have
been taken in hand by Society, Wealth will no longer be used
— and consequently will no longer be borrowed — as Capital;
in the words of our previous definition: it can no longer be
'•employed productively, with a view to profit." Thus with
the reason for it, with its raifton tVetre, Interest itself will ce:,'se
to be legitimate. Interest and Usury will once more be con-
vertible terms; that is, it will become, as of old, infamous to
charge interest for sums of money loaned to persons in em-
barrassed eircumstanees. And who wiil need to be in such cir-

As a matter of course, that which now is called Profit will
disappear. It will be added to the reward of Labor.


Bent as Rent, as a tribute levied by individual monopolists of
land, will be no more. All land used for agricultural or in-
dustrial purposes, will have become a part of the collective
plant. Land used by citizens for homes or other private pur-
poses will yield rent or taxes — whatever you choose to call
it — to the Commonwealth; which rent will probably be regu-
lated by Demand and Supply, for there is no reason, why the
more desirable sites should not then as now be the more val-

The Commonwealth will derive whatever revenues it needs
for collective purposes from two sources : Rent and. probably
a percentage on every article sold, added to the cost of pro-
duction, which then will mean, what u Cost of production"
should even now always, but does not always, mean: the
Value of the article, the sum total of Labor embodied in it.
Everybody will thus bear his share of the public charges in
proportion to his consumption. And his consumption wii£
in all likelihood be pretty nearly equal to his income. He
will not be able very well to go beyond his income, as is so
frequently the case now — by-the-way. this system of ** living
upon credit" is responsible for a very large proportion of the
miseries by which modern society is afflicted ; — and he will be
at least, under very great temptation to spend all he earus.
It will be public policy to encourage him in doing so. It is
not tor the individual citizen to save, but for Society. The
best interests of Society require that a taste for comforts and
enjoyments should be widely diffused and, if possible, inter-
woven with national habits and prejudices, as Me Culloch re-

From this it will appear, that the Cooperative Common-
wealth will have an immense advantage over all modern States
in the matter of taxation. Not alone, that assessors and tax-
gatherers will be dispensed with; that there will be no possi-
bility of evading one's contribution to the collective expenses;

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 11 of 23)