« НазадПродовжити »
its relatiass of ambitimes, but also
the hoarding of riches, but also against the gratification of a large class of ambitions common to the very rich; but that in its relation to society it is, if accepted as the mode of social improvement, the gospel of patronage. Society, in its institutions of relief and of culture, in its improvements and refinements, would become the object of the bounty of the few, and rightly so, as Mr. Carnegie argues, because the rich benefactor can do better for the community than it would or could do for itself. Just as formerly it was contended that political power should be in the hands of the few, because it would be better administered, so now it is contended – I quote Mr. Carnegie's words, slightly transferring them, but not changing their meaning — that “the millionaire is intrusted for the time being with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, because he can administer it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself.” This, of course, if accepted and carried out in any complete way, becomes patronage.
Probably, however, the first criticism which would be passed upon this scheme is, that it could not be carried out to any such degree as to produce any appreciable effect in the way of social relief. The preaching of this gospel might be expected to reach the consciences and hearts of the few, perceptibly increasing the amount of public benefactions, and very likely resulting in the organization of societies, like that which Mr. Gladstone proposes to revive, for cultivating the spirit of giving according to the increase of income. But it would manifestly fail to reach the much greater amount of irresponsible and really dangerous wealth. It would fall upon deaf ears as it addressed itself to the ambitious, the selfish, the profligate, — the really dangerous classes in modern society.
And it is hardly to be expected that the appeal would have the same effect upon those without as upon those within Mr. Carnegie's own class of millionaires. Mr. Carnegie represents the self-made type, the type of bold, shrewd, masterful, and withal generous and public-spirited self-made rich men. Those, on the other hand, who represent inherited wealth seldom possess precisely these personal qualities, while they are usually possessed of quite different ambitions. He might have the honorable ambition to found a house. They are under conventional bonds to perpetuate their inheritance, an obligation which fails only under the incapacity to fulfill it, or under those temptations to vice which betray it.
1 A similar society, known as the Christian Stewards' League, with headquarters at Chicago, has already been organized in this country.
But, allowing that the scheme is more practicable than it seems, then the criticism follows, to which I have referred, that to the degree in which it becomes successful it amounts to patronage ; and, in the long run, society cannot afford to be patronized. It is better for any community to advance more slowly than to gain altogether by gifts rather than, in large part, by earnings. Within proper limits, the public is advantaged by the gifts of the rich, but if the method becomes the accepted method, to be expected and relied upon, the decline of public self-respect has begun. There is a public public spirit to be cherished as well as a private public spirit.
But these criticisms do not reach the heart of the matter. They do not run as deep as the current thought. That, as I have intimated, is growing more and more intent upon one inquiry, Why should there be this vast amount of wealth in the hands of the few? The question is not, How shall private wealth be returned to the public ? but, Why should it exist in such bewildering amounts? Mr. Carnegie's gospel is really a belated gospel. It comes too late for a social remedy. What it does accomplish is to call attention to the fact of the enormous surplus of private wealth. The honest and courageous endeavor of a millionaire to return his fortune to society, and his call to his fellow-millionaires to do likewise, brings them, as a class, before the public, and puts the public upon a reckoning of the volume of wealth in their hands. Consciously or unconsciously, Mr. Carnegie has hit upon the great object-lesson in our economic civilization. It is not pauperism, conspicuous and grievous as that is, but the concentration of wealth. The most striking, and in many ways the most startling, feature of the economic situation is, not that the poor are growing poorer, — that I doubt, except with those too low for computation,' — but that the rich are becoming so very rich. The question before us, be it remembered, is not that of capital, or of
· 1 I believe that Mr. Carnegie is right in denying Mr. Hughes's application of the dictum of Mr. Henry George, “that, whatever may be thought of Mr. Henry George's doctrines and deductions, no one can deny that his facts are indisputable, and that Mr. Carnegie's progress' is accompanied by the growing 'poverty' of his less fortunate fellow-countrymen.” — The Nineteenth Century, March, 1891, pp. 367–370.
Mr. Carnegie has, however, been grossly misled in accepting the United States Census Report for 1880 as to the number of paupers in the whole country. The estimate is ridiculously low, as may be seen by comparison with the State Reports, or with authenticated statements in the Reports of Boards of Charities and Corrections.
VOL. XV.— NO. 90.
corporate wealth, or of ordinary private wealth, but of extreme riches in the hands of the few, — the enormous concentration of wealth.
Let me call up one or two facts as a reminder of the proportion in which wealth is held in private fortunes. The concentration of landed wealth in England has been for a long time a conspicuous fact. But it is fast losing its prominence through the increase of wealth in other interests. The income from landed property in 1862 was 601 millions; in 1889, was 581 millions. The income from trade, in 1862, was 182 millions; in 1889, was 336 millions. Yet, under this change in the sources of wealth, the proportion of wealth in the hands of the few remained practically unchanged. It is estimated that two thirds of the property of England is still owned by one thirtieth of the population.
Applying the same methods of computation as are in use in England to this country, with such modifications as may be gained from ascertained facts, it is estimated that two thirds of the property of the United States is in the hands of one seventieth of the population. It also seems safe to assume that more than one half of the wealth of the country is in possession of less than fifty thousand families. Calculations with reference to particular families, like those made by Mr. Thomas G. Shearman, in “ The Forum,” may be in some instances inaccurate, without affecting the general aggregate.
The force of this reminder of the present and increasing concentration of wealth in England and America is intensified by one or two other facts bearing upon the character and use of a portion of this immense surplus. One fact is that of the growing amount of wealth in the form of demoralizing capital. The
1 In the general calculation which Mr. Shearman made (The Forum, November, 1889), based on the census of 1880, he distributed one half the wealth of the country as follows :
200 persons or families owned 20,000,000 each.
“ 10,000,000 « 1.000 "
" 5,000,000 “ 2,000 " " " 2,500,000 “ 6,000 €
“ 1,000,000 15,000 "
" 500,000 € This was evidently a rough attempt to grade the private wealth of the country. But, in The Forum for January, 1891, Mr. Shearman claims the substantial accuracy of his estimates, affirming that errors of under-statement have been discovered which largely counterbalance all over-statements, and instancing the fact that there are at least seventy American estates which average $35,000,000 each.
amount invested in the liquor traffic is the most evident example, of which it may be said that the whole sum is practically a corruption fund, to be used as the exigencies of the business may demand. A second fact is that of the growing amount of irresponsible wealth, wealth that is in the hands of those who are incapable of its proper management as capital, but who may control it to private ends. I refer now especially to property left in large estates to women, a large per cent. of which becomes the object of cupidity to adventurers and fortune-hunters. Some two years ago my attention was called, by an eminent lawyer who had a large knowledge of estates, to the fact that one of the chief signs which marked the corruption of the Roman Commonwealth, namely, the transfer of great fortunes to women, who became for this reason the prey of designing men, was repeating itself in a very noticeable way in this country. I attempt no comparison of the amount of inherited wealth which is passing through this medium into the hands of foreign profligates, measured by the sums devised for charitable purposes, but evidently the amount is large and increasing.
The criticism which has been offered upon the “Gospel of Wealth,” viewed as a method of social relief, supplemented by the facts presented showing the concentration of wealth, may suggest to some of my readers the direct question, What do you propose? I reply at once, that the fact that I have taken issue with Mr. Carnegie's method of relief does not necessitate on my part the proposal of another gospel with like confidence and fervor. I disclaim any obligation resting upon those who criticise to construct. The desire to ameliorate the social condition, by carefully devised theories or by philanthropic efforts, belongs to us all as good citizens. But the critical function belongs especially to those who are striving to fulfill their office as ethical or religious teachers. And it is the last function to be relinquished or exchanged in times of great constructive and speculative energy like the present. The ethical test must be applied constantly and unsparingly to all social theories.
Take, for example, the attitude of moral and religious teachers towards socialism. The betterment of outward condition, the change of environment upon which socialism insists, appeals at once to the sympathy of all who have at heart the improvement of their kind. But, however sympathetic may be one's disposition, the question must be faithfully put, Is the betterment of condition
sought in the
cannot be too easily acce That will depen
sought in the interest of character or regardless of character ? The assumption cannot be too easily accepted that improved character will follow improved condition. That will depend altogether upon the insistence which is placed upon character as the end and object of changed condition. The moral result will not follow of itself. It must be provided for in the very process. The ethical questioning, therefore, which has begun to arrest the hitherto materialistic development of socialism, is thoroughly wholesome. It is in the interest of socialism. For whatever success is to attend the socialistic theory will depend ultimately upon what socialism actually holds of moral, not simply of material, improvement. Any changes which may take place from individualistic to socialistic methods will take place because they ought to, — ought, I mean, economically, which in the present instance is the same as saying ought ethically. We are not to expect that at some given date society will give individualism notice to move out with its institutions and machinery, and sommon socialism to move in with its institutions and machinery. Society is too far advanced for that kind of experimentation. It is, indeed, liable to sudden movements, to some political or financial coup d'état, but the great social conditions of the future, whatever they may be, will come because they have earned the moral right to be. The justification of social change, the inward necessity of social progress, is the ethical principle, which in the last analysis is justice. That we must believe if we believe in progress. That we have the right to believe from the testimony of history.
But while disclaiming the necessity of advancing or of advocating any theory of social relief because of the criticism which has been ventured, I desire to call attention briefly to certain tendencies, of an ethical motive and character, which are operating to prevent the further concentration of wealth, or to recover to society so much of wealth as may now be wrongfully or wastefully in the possession of the few.
One of the most marked tendencies, which has in it the greatest promise in practical results, is the present ethical tendency of political economists. The ethical advance in political economy has been marked by the change of subject upon which emphasis has been placed, upon the change, that is, from production to distribution, and still later to consumption. The change began with the bold assertion of John Stuart Mill, that the same nonmoral laws which govern production do not govern distribution,