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the institution of property" cannot stand against his declaration of natural law.
We now return to Political Economy. Tried at the bar of reason, on its merits, Communism, as a system which rejects property, cannot maintain itself. The universality of the existence of property in every age and every land, throughout the varied .history of the human race is by itself alone decisive. The instinct thus revealed is proved to be rooted in the very essence of human nature. The baby clutches the toy as his own. I made it and it is mine, is a sentiment which asserts property in every human soul. Those who demand that those only who make should possess—that labour is the sole title to possession—stand plainly on the principle of property. Thus pure Communism has arrayed against it an irresistible weight of natural authority. It is incompatible with the distinctive characteristics of humanity as revealed by universal history. If the system it inculcates is examined, the grounds for its condemnation will be apparent. Supposing every man to have been set to labour, how are the products to be distributed? In a village community, living in independent isolation, the task would be comparatively easy. When agriculture and the lowest arts only are practised, equality of labouring and sharing might be adjusted. But such a society would obtain necessaries and enjoyments only on the lowest scale. The great results of civilisation would be wanting. Is it credible that men would consent to persist in such a system as bringing them higher happiness than the method of property—so natural to their instinct, and, as shown by experience, so full of progress?
But when Communism approached the large groups of human beings called nations, to carry out its doctrines would be hopeless. Under the system of No Property all men become equal. It is impossible to believe that the masses endowed with muscular strength would endure any other mode of division than equal shares of the things produced for equal measured labour. All must work equally hard, and every one must have exactly the same share of the food and other things made. On the basis of equal work done, the bodily strong—and they are the multitude—would endure no other rule, in a nation constructed on the principle of No Property. But how would it fare, then, with those whose bodies might be incapable of what is understood as hard work, and yet had those qualities of mind which are indispensable for giving its highest efficiency to labour. How would work of mind be dealt with? how measured against the labour of the navvy and the miner? Upon what principle would mental work be called forth?
This difficulty is fatal to Communism without property; it could not solve the problem, except by violating its fundamental principle. How is it possible to procure thinking and its results except by reward? A labourer might be ordered to dig a definite piece of ground on the condition of his receiving his share of the common stock of things at evening; but how is the quantity of thinking to be specified and measured, which should give brain work its title to the common share? How is a day's work of thinking to be prescribed in the morning, and by what rule is it to be measured at night, to learn whether it has been done? It is impossible to procure thinking and its results except by reward—if the thinkers got no more in any case than the hodmen, they would think little and think badly, and the cry would arise that they had not earned their share of the common stock. If, on the other hand, good mental work was brought out by reward, as the only possible method of procuring it, then the door of Communism has been forced. Property, in the shape of a greater share, has gained an entrance. Those who have peculiar qualities become able to appropriate to themselves larger shares than those less highly endowed, and Property becomes master of the nation. Pure Communism is an impossibility; and were it possible, it would end in a distribution of wealth measured by mechanical work done. The navvy with strong muscles would accomplish in an hour what would require five for the man of cultured mind; he would work two hours a day and have all the remainder of his time for idleness. The man of refinement would be compelled to work ten, and would receive at the end the same necessaries and comforts as the navvy. Upon what principle the disagreeable offices would be allotted to workmen is hard to conceive.
Nor is this all that would result from pure Communism. Were it ever established, it would be fatal to the growth of civilisation and to the higher interests of the human race. The motive to make the effort to improve would be attacked at its very core. That impulse to exertion for the sake of the reward it brings, which is so deeply implanted in the human soul, and which has made the nations of the world what they are to-day, would be so weighted as to lose its force. Progress would be nipped in the bud, for progress rests on industry and effort, and industry on the advantages it gathers up and the sense of the moral and material improvement it imparts. To act and make efforts under the impelling force of hope of a higher standard of life and well-being to be achieved is the most powerful, the only main force from which all personal and social advancement springs. A personal motive for exertion to every labourer, of whatever kind he be, is, by the law of man's being, the one necessary condition of human progress.
But Socialism—or, if the expression may be allowed, un-pure Communism—stands on quite other ground. It is entitled to make claims on behalf of any class of society to which respectful consideration is due. But this recognition is subject to one imperative condition. The construction of new organisations must be claimed on their merits, and their merits alone. All claims of absolute natural right are inadmissible, as non-existent. Every man is authorised to make comments and suggestions on his relations with his fellow-men, with whom he is grouped in a nation; but he is not empowered to demand anything for himself on the authority of his own consciousness. Such language as, I am a man, therefore I have a right to own a piece of land, is purely visionary. A man may explain and urge; but society alone is the sole arbiter of what is to be instituted. The life, whether of individuals or nations, abounds in imperfections and suffering; but it is also ever susceptible of improvement. Every class, as well as every single mind, may have ameliorations to suggest, carrying weight from special experience or other grounds. It would be as unjust as it would be
impolitic not to acknowledge that the Socialists often point to undeniable evils, and tender proposals whose aim must be admitted to be legitimate. They have the clearest right to urge their views; let their advice be calmly refuted or accepted.
For the most part, the proposals emanating from Socialistic quarters have been more political than economical. When eminent writers urge that the fruits of labour shall belong to the labourer alone, and work shall be imposed upon all—that the rich sluggard shall cease to exist,—that special taxes shall be placed on land—that land shall be the exclusive property of the State, and all rents paid into the Exchequer—that interest on money borrowed shall be forbidden—that there shall be no such thing as one's country, but that all shall be formed into one universal cosmopolitan community—that there shall be no masters and no wages, nothing but proprietors—that these proprietors shall be the whole community, who shall regulate the distribution of wealth upon their own ideas and shall appoint officers to judge who are the deserving and who are not, who shall receive more and who less—when such things are proposed in the name of incontestable principles, it is clear that new constructions of society, new modes of associated life, new positions of human beings towards one another, in a word new political revolutions, are demanded. Economical truth is not thought of here; its teaching is held not to deserve notice, much less refutation. If the new ideal organisations lead to a diminution of the general wealth of society, what matters it? The social gain, the raised mode of life for all, the personal dignity