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principally for the benefit of the individual captains of
industry. Although all useful members of the community
collectively contribute to the so-called national wealth,
only a comparatively small number of individuals share
in it. In short, although the production of wealth is prac-
tically socialistic, its distribution is entirely individualistic.

And this contradiction between the modern methods
of production and distribution is the only real issue be-
tween the individualist and the socialist in the domain of
economic discussion.

The beneficiaries of the present system of wealth dis-


tribution have a very obvious material interest in main-
taining it, and there never was a ruling class that did not
have the abundant support of scientific and ethical theories
to justify it in the continued enjoyment of its privileges.
In the present case this function is being performed by
the school of " individualistic" philosophers and moralizers.

The socialists, on the other hand, consider the present
system of individual appropriation of social wealth as
an anachronism, a survival of a past economic order, and
a disturbing factor in the process of social, economic and
ethical progress.

The main object of socialism is to adjust the principles
of wealth distribution to those of production — to make
the one as social and general in function and effect as the
other already is.

The Individual under Socialism

The commonest of all objections to the socialist ideal
is that a state of socialism would endanger individual
liberty. From such unimaginative novelists as Eugen
Richter ^ and David M. Parry ,^ whose conceptions of the
socialist commonwealth are those of the modern factory
regulations extended to the scope of a national order, up
to the thinker of the keenness of mind and universality
of knowledge of Herbert Spencer who asserts that "all
socialism implies slavery," ^ all bourgeois philosophers
seem to take it for granted that mankind is to-day enjoy-
ing a large measure of individual freedom and that social-
ism would greatly curtail if not entirely suppress it.

' " Sozialdemokratische Zukunftsbilder."

^ "The Scarlet Empire," Indianapolis, 1906.

3 "The Coming Slavery."


The socialists deny both assertions with equal emphasis.

Under our present system of economic dependence and
struggles, individual liberty is but a fiction. The very
small "leisure class," i.e., the class of persons enjoying
a workless and ample income and entirely removed from
active participation in the industrial, professional, com-
mercial and financial strife, no doubt enjoy considerable
individual liberty, but for all other strata of modern society
that liberty does not exist.

The v\^orkingmen, the largest class of the population,
are anything but free: their work and their pleasures,
their dress and their dwellings, their mode of life and their
habits, are forced on them by their economic condition.

"Not as an exception, but universally," says Mr. H. D.
Lloyd, ^ "labor is doing what it does not want to do, and
not getting what it wants or needs. Laborers want to
work eight hours a day; they must work ten, fourteen,
eighteen. . . . They want to send their children to school ;
they must send them to the factory. They want their
wives to keep house for them; but they too must throw
some shuttle or guide some wheel. They must work
when they are sick; they must stop work at another's
will ; they must work life out to keep life in. The people
have to ask for work, and then do not get it. They have
to take less than a fair share of the product ; they have to
risk life, limb or health — their own, their wives', their
children's — for others' selfishness or whim."

Nor is the workingman alone deprived of individual
liberty under present conditions. The toiling farmer bur-
dened by mortgages and oppressed by the railroad com-

* Quoted in Richard T. Ely's "Socialism and Social Reform," pp.
209, 210.


panics, the professional man dependent on private and
unregulated calls for his services, and the small business
man struggling against odds to maintain his "independ-
ence," they are all tied to a routine of life and action not
voluntarily chosen, but inexorably imposed on them by
the economic exigencies of their business pursuits and

And even the "povi^erful" and v^^ealthy, the heads of
the modern industrial structure, are anything but free:
their v^ealth as live, active, investment-seeking capital,
dominates them and suppresses their individual volition ;
they are the slaves of their wealth rather than its masters.

All these purely economic checks on individual liberty
must of necessity be greatly palliated, if not entirely re-
moved, in a socialist community, for the system of socialism
implies primarily a state of greater economic security and
industrial equality.

"But," it is asked, "assuming that socialism v^ould
remove some of the elements operating to-day against the
full exercise of the freedom of the individual, would it not
create new and more formidable restraints upon liberty?
Under the present regime the individual has some say in
the choice of his occupation and the mode of exercising
his trade or calling; under socialism, on the other hand,
the state would be the sole employer, and would determine
for every citizen what, where and how he should work;
would not the citizen thus become the slave of the

This argument, so frequently urged against socialism,
contains two fundamental errors: it assumes that a so-
cialist state may be a power independent of and opposed
to the body of individuals composing it, and that in a sys-


tern of socialism, all industries must be concentrated in
and controlled by the national government or " state."

The basic principle of every socialist community must
be its democratic administration : the socialist state will
assume such concrete form, powers and functions as the
majority of citizens, unbiased by conflicting class interests,
will freely choose to confer on it, and it is not at all reason-
able to suppose that these citizens will deliberately encase
themselves in an iron cage of rigid laws and rules of their
own making.

Much more likely the men who will have the framing of
the political and industrial system of a socialist common-
wealth, will take ample care of their own individual free-

Nor is there any reason to suppose that under socialism
"the state" would be the sole employer. Socialism im-
plies the collective ownership of the social tools of produc-
tion, and the collective management of industries based
upon the use of social tools. Does that necessarily
imply state ownership and management? By no means.
Certain industries are even to-day organized on a national
scale, and may be best managed or controlled as state
functions; others come more appropriately within the
scope of the municipal administration, others still may be
most efficiently managed by voluntary cooperative asso-
ciations with or without state control, while a variety of
industries of an individual nature, such as the various
arts and crafts, must of necessity remain purely individual
pursuits. The phantom of the "despotic state" has taken
such a strong hold of the minds of our social philosophers
trained in the individualistic school of thought, that even
writers like Professor Richard T. Ely, of whose candor


and analytical powers there can be no doubt, and who is by
no means unsympathetic to socialism, is not quite free from
the fear of it. "Even," says Professor Ely, "if the func-
tions of government should be reduced to the lowest forms
compatible with socialism, those in whose hands were
centered political and economic control would have tre-
mendous power, however they might be selected or ap-
pointed. Nor can we forget the possibilities of combina-
tions between different parties for certain purposes. It
would, under socialism, be quite possible for two or three
parties to act together as sometimes they do now. The
frequent assertion that the Democratic and Republican
parties have acted together in New York City to control
the civil service, seems to be well founded ; and it is quite
conceivable that two or three parties might act together
to promote the interests favorable to a few leaders, and to
keep down, if not persecute, obnoxious persons." ^

In voicing these apprehensions Professor Ely uncon-
sciously transfers present conditions into an order of things
in which the very causes of such conditions are altogether
lacking. Political parties are the creatures and tools of
class interests, and "the interests favorable to a few
leaders" which he mentions, are the economic interests of
the class or group of men represented in politics by those
leaders. Modern party politics is, as we shall attempt
to show in a later chapter, a manifestation of the capital-
ist mode of production and of the economic struggle of the
classes, and must disappear with the abolition of the present
economic order.

Under socialism there can be no party politics, in the
present sense, and whatever abuses may develop in the

' Richard T. Ely, "Socialism and Social Reform," pp. 212, 213.


administration of the state or the industries, can be only
casual, based on inexperience or error of judgment of the
community or on personal incompetence, malice or am-
bition of the responsible officers, and in either case they
can be more readily remedied than in a state in which such
abuses have their roots in the very foundation of the in-
dustrial organization of society.

On a par with the assertion that socialism would be fatal
to individual liberty is the kindred claim that socialism
would destroy the individuality of man. The "dead level
of intellectual equality and homogeneity" under socialism
is a specter almost as terrifying to the good "individualist"
as the phantom of socialist slavery. And it is fully as
unreal. For if any industrial system tends to destroy
the individuality of men, it is not the proposed system of
socialism, but our present economic order. The aggre-
gation of millions of workingmen in the modern industrial
centers, employed under similar conditions, tied everlast-
ingly to the same monotonous machine work, dwelling in
the same uniform tenements and leading the same stereo-
typed bleak existence, tends to turn them into one undis-
tinguishable, homogeneous mass, dressing, talking, looking
and thinking substantially alike. The men of our active
upper classes, all engaged in the same all-absorbing pursuit
of wealth by the same methods and under the same con-
ditions, and our leisure classes sorely tried by the rigid rules
of conventional etiquette, and tied to a blase life of uniform
and tiring social functions, fashionable sports and pre-
scribed recreations, develop a different but not less homo-
geneous nor more attractive type. This natural uniform-
ity of type within the different social classes is accompanied
by a sort of artificial uniformity produced by the present


economic conditions operating in a more indirect manner.
" One has only to look on whilst the sons of the nouveaux
riches spend their money," remarks Mr. Macdonald, "or
whilst the crowds which our industrial quarters have dis-
gorged enjoy themselves, to appreciate the meaningless
monotony of our pleasure. From our furniture, made by
the thousand pieces by machine, to our religion, stereo-
typed in set formulas and pursued by clockwork methods,
individuality is an exceptional characteristic." ^

"Our standard of decency in expenditure," observes
Professor Veblen, "as in other ends of emulation, is set by
the usage of those next above us in reputability; until, in
this way, especially in any community where class distinc-
tions are somewhat vague, all canons of respectability and
decency, and all standards of consumption, are traced
back by insensible gradations to the usages and habits
of thought of the highest social and pecuniary class — the
wealthy leisure class." ^

And Mr. Vail expresses the same idea when he says:
"The tendency toward uniformity is due to the lack of
equality in economic conditions. The inferior classes
strive to imitate the superior classes in order to avoid an
apparent social inferiority. The result is, society is con-
tinually run in the same groove. On the other hand, any
system which would tend to decrease economic inequality
would tend to kill imitation. Just in proportion as men
become equal, they cease to gain by imitating each other.
It is always among equals that we find true independence."^

' J. Ramsay Macdonald, "Socialism and Society," London, 1905,
p. 7.

2 Thorstein Veblen, "The Theory of the Leisure Class," New York,
1905, p. 104.

^ Charles H. Vail, "Principles of Scientific Socialism," p. 227.



The Essence and Scope of Ethics

The branch of social philosophy known as Ethics pre-
sents itself to us in a dual aspect. Theoretical or scien-
tific ethics aims to ascertain the principles and true mean-
ing of "right and wrong" in human conduct. Practical
or applied ethics seeks to draw concrete conclusions from
the knowledge so gained, and to base on it a code of " right "
conduct for the practical guidance of mankind. Scien-
tific ethics takes cognizance of actions and relations as they
are, while practical ethics considers them as they ought to
be. And it is largely on account of this dual character
of ethics that the standard definitions of the term present
such a striking divergence. Some of the writers on the
subject have attempted to cover both aspects of ethics
in one definition, while others either give separate defini-
tions for each, or emphasize only one side, entirely ignoring
the other. ^

But whether ethics be considered as a science or as an

* The following are among the better-known definitions of ethics,
both as a science and an art : —

Professor John Dewey in the Encyclopedia Americana: "Ethics is that
branch of human conduct which is concerned with the formation and use
of judgments of right and wrong, and with the intellectual, emotional,
and executive or overt phenomena which are associated with such judg-
ments, either as antecedents or consequents."

Francis L. Patton in Syllabus of Ethics: "Ethics is the science that
offers a rational explanation of Right ness and Oughtness; and that deals



art, all authorities agree that in either case it is concerned
with "right" or "good" human conduct. That is, how-
ever, as far as the agreement goes. The more fundamental
problems of the kind of human conduct properly coming
within the sphere of ethics, and of the adoption of a uni-
versally valid standard of "right and wrong" or "good
and bad" in such conduct, is still the subject of much

It is pretty generally agreed that the conduct of which
ethics takes cognizance is not the conduct of associated
human beings acting as such (for that properly belongs to

with the Life of free personal beings under these conceptions, considering
it as related to an Ideal or norm of Excellence, conformity to which is

Harald Hoffding in Ethik: "A scientific system of Ethics endeavors
to discover in accordance with what principles we direct our life, and to
secure for these, when ascertained, greater clearness and inner harmony."

Ethics is considered as a critical science only, in the following defini-
tions: —

Herbert Spencer in Data of Ethics: "Morality is the science of right
conduct, and has for its object to determine how and why certain modes
of conduct are detrimental, and certain other modes beneficial."

New International Encyclopedia: "Ethics is the voluntary conduct of
a self-conscious person, in so far as that action is amenable to a standard
of obligation imposed on him by social influence or by a supreme plan of
life that draws its material from society."

The following definitions deal with ethics as a constructive art:- — •

Henry Sidgwick in The Methods of Ethics: "By 'methods of ethics'
is meant any rational procedure by which we determine what individual
human beings ' ought ' or what it is ' right ' for them to do, or to seek to
realize by voluntary action."

Jeremy Benthain: "Ethics is the art of directing men's action to the
production of the greatest possible quantity of happiness."

American Encyclopedia: "Ethics is the principle which prescribes
what ought to take place in human conduct."

Webster's Dictionary : "Ethics is a system of rules for regulating the
actions and manners of men in society."


the domain of politics), but the conduct of the individual.
At the same time, however, it is not all individual human
conduct that falls within the sphere of ethics. " Conduct"
has been aptly defined by Herbert Spencer as "acts ad-
justed to ends," ^ and it is very obvious that within the
scope of his biological functions and even in his intellectual
life and social relations man performs daily numerous acts
fully adjusted to ends which have no ethical implications.
To be ethical or unethical, human actions must have some
bearing on beings other than the actor himself; they must
be tested by their social effects. A number of authorities
extend the operation of ethics to conduct towards one's
self and one's fellow-men; philosophers of the theological
school include conduct towards God within the purview
of ethics, while the thinkers of the evolutionary biological
school, with Spencer at the head, classify ethical conduct
as conduct towards self, offspring and race. But on closer
examination, it will be found that the addition of all factors
other than the purely social factor, is meaningless or con-
fusing. Ethics remains indifferent to the conduct of the
individual towards himself, so long as that conduct does
not directly or indirectly affect the well-being of his fellow-
men or of the human race. When an individual wastes
his physical or mental resources in a manner calculated
to cripple his own life without, however, involving the well-
being of other individuals, we call his conduct improvident
or unwise, and only when he abuses his own body in a
manner likely to injure his offspring or to enfeeble or
degenerate the race, do we call him immoral. Similarly,
we consider an individual immoral if he is in the habit of
transgressing those religious precepts which happen to be

* "Data of Ethics," New York, 1893, p. 5.


in accord with the generally accepted secular notions of
"right" or "good" in social conduct, but if he neglects
to comply with certain prescribed religious observances
which have no bearing on the well-being of his fellow-men,
we merely call him irreligious. And finally the conduct
of the indi^'idual towards his offspring is no more than a
special phase of his conduct towards his fellow-men or
his race.

Without fear of serious contradiction we may, therefore,
define ethics as the science or art of "right" individual
conduct of men towards their fellow-men.

A much greater uncertainty and divergence of views con-
front us when we attempt to discover the meaning of the
term "right" as applied to human conduct in the various
philosophical systems of ethics. As a matter of fact,
there is no code of morality universally recognized and
conformed to by all mankind at all times. Human
actions which are condemned as atrocious by some
races under some circumstances, are sanctioned and even
praised by other races and under other circumstances.
Under normal conditions civilized men consider the act
of deliberate murder as the most revolting and heinous of
crimes, but in war the same act is glorified by them as one
of greatest virtue, while among the food-lacking tribes of
cannibals, it is considered as an indifferent act of common-
place household economy. Other offenses against the
person, and still more so offenses against property, have
received even more varying estimates at different periods
of human history and from dift'erent portions of the human
race, while the astounding changes of the social standards
of sex morality with time and place, are familiar to every
student of sociology and reader of descriptive travel.


And still the fundamental precepts of morality arc
by no means an arbitrary figment of the human brain.
For the epoch and place in which they prevail they have
universal validity, and even their modifications from time
to time and variations from place to place will always be
found to have legitimate reasons and realistic roots in the
conditions of such times and places. If there are no
absolute standards of right and wrong, there certainly
must be relative standards of right and wrong at every
given time and place, and these relative standards, further-
more, must have some common principle determining
their formation. What are those standards, and what is
that principle? These are the main questions which
exercised the minds of the early founders of the science of
ethics and which still constitute the brunt of discussions
of the modern moral philosophers. And it is largely
the difference in the answers to these questions which
separates the numerous existing ethical systems from each

The theological school of thinkers, of which St. Augus-
tine, the mediaeval monk Ambrose and especially Thomas
Aquinas are the classical exponents, and which still has
numerous and vigorous adherents, assumes that there is
a universal and supreme standard of right and wrong.
That standard is the divine command which has been
given to all mankind and is expressed in the holy scriptures.
In particular instances that command is to be ascertained
by revelation or by interpretation and application of the
general rules obtained from texts of scripture and by
analogical inferences from scriptural examples. Any
departure from that command as so interpreted by in-
dividuals or whole races is merely evidence of apostasy.


In this theory ethics is practically synonymous with

Closely cognate with the theological system of ethics,
but considerably secularized, is the doctrine of Natural
Laws first developed into a comprehensive system by
Hugo Grotius and followed by many modern writers,
principally in England. That school, like the theological
school, recognizes an absolute and universal standard of
right and wrong in human conduct, but in distinction to
the theological school it bases that standard not on a divine
command but on "the essential nature of man." Accord-
ing to Grotius and his followers there are implanted in the
human being certain notions of right and wrong which
form a part of his very existence and which are as unalter-
able and true as the truths of mathematics. The test and
the proof of such truths is their universal acceptance by
human societies. In conformity with this conception the
writers of that school have evolved a code of ethics based
entirely on the fundamental notions of morality prevailing
among the civilized nations of their times.

Barely distinguishable from the juridical school of
Natural Laws is the philosophical school of Intuitionalism.
This school, which may claim Socrates and Plato for its
founders, has in more recent times had many brilliant ex-
ponents and defenders in the field of philosophic thought,
chief among them being Kant and Wliewell. According
to the intuitional doctrine the sense of duty is innate in
every normal human being and its commands and prin-
ciples are known to them by intuition and without the aid
of any process of reasoning or demonstration. This doc-
trine is developed with the greatest elaborateness by Kant,
who distinguishes between the world of "phenomena," or


objects as they appear to us through our limited senses and
powers of perception, and the world of "noumena," the
real world of objects as they exist regardless of our per-
ception of them (Die Dinge an sich). The sense of duty
is one of such "noiimena." It manifests itself to us in a
greater or smaller degree according to the development of
our powers of perception, but it has an absolute and real
existence outside of our perceptions.

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