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My dear John, the middleman's work, so far from being the most valuable of the three, is actually worse than useless.
The middleman in fact does nothing but keep up the price of fish and keep down the rate of wages by his exorbitant profits.
Put the case to yourself thus. Suppose you were contractor, or caterer, for the supply of food to an entire town. Would you pay a man £2,000 a year for simply ordering other men to send telegrams to local agents to buy fish on the beach? I don't think you would. Being a hard-headed person, you would pay a clerk the current rate of wages to do all that, and so would save at least £1,800 a year. You would see then, in a moment, that the middleman was a mere snatcher of profits, taking from the producer with one hand and from the consumer with the other.
All employers of labor, all rich men, except the money-lenders and the landlords, are middlemen. They are all useless incumbrances, getting rich upon the labor of others.
There are three chief kinds of middlemen:
1. The idle capitalist, who pays men to work for him, and pays managers to direct them, but never works himself,
2. The busy capitalist, who pays men to work for him, and himself directs and manages the sale of what they make.
3. The capitalistic worker, or inventor, who has invented some new process or machine, and who employs other men to make or work the patent.
The first of these men is worse than useless. The second is, or might be, useful, but is almost always very much overpaid. The third is sometimes an evil, sometimes a good, ought always to be valuable to any nation, and is the only kind of capitalist with any pretense of a right to his riches. His case we must consider very carefully.
When I said in “The Pope's Socialism” that no man ever became rich by his own industry, the inventor was instanced against me by some of my readers.
They could not sëe that a man who made a fortune out of an invention did not grow rich by his own industry. Yet the fact is very clear,
We will suppose that you, John Smith, of Oldham, invent a new kind of loom, which will do twice as much work as any other kind of loom now known.
You patent that loom, and for twenty-one years exact a royalty upon every such loom that is made. Thus you grow rich.
Do you grow rich by your own industry? By your own unaided industry? Is all the machine your own invention? Does no other man's hand help you in the getting of your riches?
If you consider, you will find that you owe your invention to a
legion of dead and nameless men; and your wealth to a legion of poor workers of your own time.
First. Your loom contains wheels, and shafts, and pinions, and is worked by steam. Did you invent the wheel? discover steam? No. They were there ready to your hand, invented, like the hammer and the file you used, and the principles of mechanics by which you worked, by men long dead; by men without whose labors your wonderful invention had never been.
But, again, of what is your loom made? Of iron, of copper, of steel, of timber and many other materials. But you are uot a miner, nor a puddler, nor a joiner, nor a smith or molder.
So that to invent your machine you borrow from the dead; and to make it you must get the help of the living.
And when it is made. Will it fetch a fortune? Not at all. To make a fortune out of your machine you must make others, or get them made. You cannot make them. If you did you would not grow rich, for it would take you years and years to make but a few.
Therefore you get other men to make them, other men to seli them, other men to work them, and get others to buy the cloth they weave, and you take the profit.
Do you call that getting rich by your own unaided industry? I don't. I call it taking a selfish advantage of your own good fortune and the necessity of your fellow creatures.
You will understand that I do not blame you. In a time of competition it behooves every man to look after himself. If I invented a machine I should take the royalty on the patent, and use it as best I might.
But it would be far better for me, and for the world, if I was not compelled to take it; but might give my talents freely to mankind without danger of being branded as a pauper, or left to die in a ditch as a reward.
You will often hear it said that socialists are dishonest men, who wish to take the wealth of others and enjoy it themselves. John, that is a lie. It is a wilful, wicked lie, deliberately uttered by robbers who wish to hold fast to the spoil they have taken from the poor.
Socialism is terribly just, implacably honest. It is so honest that I doubt whether you can so much as look at the light of its honesty without blinking; although you are a fairly honest man, John Smith, as times go. But let me give you an idea of what I consider the very root principle of all socialism, and of all democracy.
This is the principle that there is no such thing as personal
independence in human affairs. Man is a unit of society, and owes not only all that he possesses, but all that he is, to other men,
Yes. Just as no man can have a right to the land, because no man makes the land, so no man has a right to his self, because he did not make that self.
Men are made what they are by two forces, heredity and envi. ronment. That is to say, by “breed" and the conditions of life.
Take a new-born babe-a Shakespeare or a Stevenson-and put it down upon an uninhabited island and it will perish of hunger. Set a savage to suckle it, and it will grow up a savage.
Your intellect and character are at birth what your forefathers made them. And the intellects and characters of your forefathers were what their forefathers and their own surround. ings made them.
After birth, you become just what your circumstances and the people around you, acting upon your peculiar character and intellect, may make you.
Born among sots and thieves, and reared among them, you will almost certainly become a sot and a thief. Born and reared among thugs, you would have learned and grown to delight in murder.
Whatsoever you are, you are what your forefathers, your circumstances, and your companions, have made you. You did not make yourself; therefore you have no right to yourself. You were made by other men; therefore to those other men you are indebted for all you are, and socialism, with its awful justice, tells you that you must pay the debt.
Allow me to illustrate this position by using myself as an example. I am a writer. I write a story, and I sell it to the public. Suppose I can, by the sale of many copies, secure a large sum of money. Am I justified in calling that money mine; in asserting, as so many men do assert, that I have earned the money by my own industry and talent, and that therefore it belongs to me alone, by right? I don't know what you think, John Smith, but I know that I have not done that work without help, and that in justice I must pay back to all men what they have lent me.
What have they lent me? They lent me all that I have and all that I am.
Who taught me to read, and to write ? Who suckled me, nursed me, clothed me, fed me, cured me of my fevers and other ailings? Where did I get my ideas, my thoughts, my power, such as it is, of literary arrangement, form and style ?
I tell you frankly that I don't know. What do I owe to Solomon, to Shakespeare, to Rabelais, to Carlyle, to Dickens; to a hundred other writers? What do I owe to personal friends; to schoolmasters, to the people I have rubbed shoulders and touched hands with all these years? What do I owe to the workshop, to the army, to the people of the inns, the churches, the newspaper offices, the markets, and the slums? I don't know. I can only tell you that these people have made me what I am and have taught me all I know.
Nay, could I even write a story, after all my learning and being and suffering, if I had not fellow creatures to write about? Could I have written “The Ramchunders," if I had not served with soldiers; or " My Sister," if there had been no unfortunate, desperate women in our streets ?
All I know, all that even a great writer knows of art or human nature, has been learned from other men. Now I tell you, practical John, that I am in the debt of my instructors. Indeed you would see clearly enough that if Mr. Luke Fildes, the artist, engaged a man to sit as model for his “Casuals,” he ought to pay that man his wages. And why should not Charles Dickens pay the models for his article on Tramps ? I owe a debt, then, to the living and the dead.
You may say that I cannot pay the dead. But suppose the dead have left heirs! Likely enough they have left heirs. And socialism, with its awful justice, tells me that the claims of those heirs are binding on me.
Or there may be a will. Let us instance a case of this. To none, in my peculiar mental make up, am I more indebted than to Jesus Christ. Well, he left a will. His will expressly bids me treat all men as brothers. And to the extent of my indebtedness to Christ am I bound to pay all men, his heirs. And even after all these debts are considered, I, the arıthor of a poor little tale, am still in the same position as the inventor of the loom, for I cannot so much as get a copy printed without the aid of myriads of living workmen and of dead inventors.
The pen I write with, the paper I write upon, the types, the press, the engine, the trains, the printer, the carrier, the shopman, even the poor little bare-footed newsboy in the streets, are all necessary to my “greatness,” to my “fame,” to my "wealth." And, after all, suppose no one would buy my book or read it! Who does buy it? Who reads it? Men and women I never saw. And who taught them to read? For to those teachers also I owe something
Now, after all that, don't you think, I should be a most ungrateful and conceited prig if I had the impudence to hold up my face and say “alone I did it"?
Here is a drawing. It represents a tree by a river. An apple has fallen from the tree and a monkey wishes to get the apple.' But he cannot reach it. Another monkey tries, but he cannot reach it. Then a third monkey comes and plucks the apple out of the water.
Now, if that third monkey, who reached the water over the bodies, and by the aid of the other two, were to claim the whole of the apple as his! would you call that fair ?
It is just as unfair as it is for an author or an inventor to claim fame and fortune as tha just reward of “his own industry and talent." Think of these things. They may not strike youas “practical,” but they are true.
INDUSTRIAL COMPETITION. Competition gluts our markets, enables the rich to take advantage of the necessities of the pour, makes each man snatch the bread out of his neighbor's mouth, converts a nation of brethren into a mass of hostile isolated, units, and
finally involves capitalists and laborers in one common ruin.-Greg.,
Now, my friend, pull yourself together, and remember that you are a practical, hard-headed man. I want to ask you some questions.
Of a country where the idle men were rich, and the industrious men poor, where men were rewarded not for usefulness or goodness, but for successful selfishness, would you not say that its methods were unjust and that its government was bad?