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wage-receiver is one of business exclusively. Gifts belong to an absolutely different category. Very mischievous consequences would result from confounding any form of charity with wages. They are intrinsically different in nature, as well as in all the ideas and principles associated with them.
Under the institution of property adopted by every nation in the world, the fact of the want of property places the labouring class, over against capitalists, as a body of men seeking to earn their livelihood by working for an employer. Without employment from those who possess capital, they would be in danger of starvation. On the other hand, the capitalists are under a correspond. ing necessity of offering reward to persuade men to work for them. Without labourers, unless they cease to be capitalists and become labourers themselves, their capital would perish, and they would be brought within the same danger as unemployed labourers. The need of each other exists on both sides. But the employers are few and the labourers a multitude; the capitalists have means, the labourers possess fewer resources. If accident, or want of work, or scarcity of food supervene, the danger falls on the workmen far more swiftly than on the capitalist. His wealth interposes a delay before starvation can reach him. The labourers in the day of distress are driven to competing with another for employment; they may beat each other down to a minimum of wage. The capitalist, on the other hand, in most great trades is subject to equally severe competition; but ruin never appears to be upon ^m so visibly as upon the labourer. Such is the process 'which social life is worked amongst most nations. It is obvious that it must often give rise to situations which cannot fail to excite dissatisfaction as well as sympathy.
It cannot be considered a matter for wonder, if the feelings of suffering or jealous men and the thought of educated minds have prompted the inquiry whether this division into employers with and labourers without wealth is the necessary or the desirable form of industrial life on earth. Ideas have been generated, strongly characterised by what has been called the socialistic type, which proclaim that a far wiser and a more human structure can, and consequently ought to be given to these relations of men to each other in meeting • the common need they have of one another for sustaining life and developing progress. They take their stand on declarations of positive right. Labour, they truly affirm, is the condition on which every want is supplied; hence they deduce the principle that no man is, or can be, authorised to enjoy without labouring. Inherited wealth is a violation of the rights of others. It confers a power of enjoyment which can find no justification. Those who make the wealth alone possess the right to have it. Wealth not earned by work is spoliation; it is taken away by the force of what is called law from its rightful owner. If labourers refused to work for the rich, the rich would be compelled to earn their livelihood by toil like other mortals, and the fundamental law of human nature would be obeyed. If the rich refuse to do justice to the poor, then the law of the State is bound to enforce natural right, and to set up national workshops for the support of the poor out of the public taxes. Others with irresistible logic pursue this line of thought to its necessary consequence. "Property is theft!" cries
M. Proudhon. There can be no such thing as property without violation of a right of which every man carries the unchallengable title in his own heart. Property belongs to all. Human nature forbids poverty so long as there is anything to divide. Men must work in common, and share its products in common.
These claims take us out of the domain of Political Economy; they send us to the higher authority of political philosophy. The answer to them is simple and decisive; they are founded on pure illusions. Such a thing as an absolute definite right, belonging to a man personally, which cannot be taken from him, even by the law of his nation, except by a deed of force and violence, equivalent in nature to murder, does not exist. "Man was born to live in society," said Aristotle, and that fact is supreme over his whole being. He must live in combination with others.
Against the supreme control in all things of that society of which he forms a part, a man can plead no absolute title or right which that society must respect, whatever may be his opinion as to its fitness or desirableness. No man can say to the State to which he belongs—" I claim, on the ground of personal right given to me by the Creator, to do this, and I forbid you to do that in respect of me." Every man is embodied in his own people; he must share their fortunes and be involved in their acts; and their acts are finally and necessarily determined by the will of the whole society as expressed by its laws.
Every man has lived his life on earth under the
minion of these laws ever since the world began, law of the nation has always, and ever will, dispose of everything within it. Even his own body absolutely belongs to no man. In many of the most civilised nations he is taken away from his home, and made to expose himself to wounds and death, whatever may be his own feelings. He can plead no right to prevent such a seizure of his person. He is told—Salus populi suprema lex. This very expression is only a manner of declaring that society is supreme over everything. Such language as public policy, the good of the people, public duty, proclaims the same idea. Man is a member of a society and must obey it, not because it wields the power of the sword, but because it is constituted, by the very nature of human life, the final ruler in all things.
But, it will be said, this is to surrender man's life to the dominion of force. In the last resort it is so. Every people on earth have so acted. But does, then, might make right? God forbid! For then—human life would not be worth the having. The very question itself reveals a power distinct from force which comes to the protection of human existence, and raises a strength powerful enough to control force. This power reviews and judges, and though lodged in the weakness of each individual human breast, is able to modify and conquer -mere might. This force is moral feeling, the sense of right and wrong, the perception and the acknowledgment of the supremacy of what is morally and reasonably fitting and proper. This sense of right exists in every individual human being, and it possesses an authority over the mind and conscience which no mere might can destroy- Every man can judge the law for himself, whether its commands are right or wrong, and the collective judgment of many men becomes public opinion. To that public opinion all civil power is ultimately amenable; and it may be strong enough to overthrow, by revolution, a form of government which outrages the general feeling. This public opinion— which is nothing more than the judgments of a number of individual men—becomes the will of society; and then it is only a question of physical strength whether it can assert itself against the power that rules. As nations advance in moral and intellectual progress, every government is made to feel that it must take into account the public feeling of the people. It cannot escape the danger of being challenged whether the rulers or public opinion express the true will of society. The measures and the action of what is called the State cannot escape the criticism, and possibly the insurrection of those who are subject to it.
The liberty of uttering these criticisms, and thereby combining many individuals into a collective force, has been the object of incessant assaults from those who wielded civil power: it has been restrained by every form of violence. Nevertheless civilisation progresses, and with it the ability to think and to judge, as also the power of exercising that ability. No institution is, or ought to be, exempt from such revision. Communism is entitled to declare that property is a mischievous institution, and to call for its abolition. But it cannot do this on the ground of a simple declaration that property is forbidden by nature independently of all examination of its merits. Communism is bound to persuade society that property is inexpedient or injurious to the happiness of mankind. A
•mmunist cannot say to society that "its will to have