Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/355
PROBLEMS OF PROPERTY. 343
ation, which is fast revolutionizing British retail trade, but which is very slowly attacking the pressing problem of production. We can only expect the conflict of capital and labor to cease when labor, by thrift, has saved capital and participates in profits. To begin co-oper- ative production, only picked men can be useful, for, in the present condition of workingmen, there is not generally diffused the intelli- gence and character necessary to selecting proper leaders and trusting them.
The difficulties of co-operation are the main difficulties attending the reforms of property. No laws or methods tending to replace a millionaire by ten men of a tenth his fortune may touch the question of how extreme poverty among the masses is to cease. The elevation of the poor chiefly depends upon themselves, upon their intelligence, their ascertaining the real conditions of life by a sensible plan of edu- cation, and then fulfilling those conditions by hard work and self-re- straint. No people that spend $600,000,000 a year on drink can excite much sincere pity for their poverty. No people who marry without regard to their ability to maintain wives and children can look for substantial aid from Legislatures. Leclair, the house-painter of Paris, has demonstrated that honesty and forbearance are all that are needed, under available direction, for workmen to appropriate the profits they so heartily grudge their employers. Evidences abound that, when the time comes that workmen are fit for co-operation, able men from among their ranks will take their places at the head of manufacturing associations, and therefore the deprivations which are suffered by the present systems of employing labor await abolition with the develop- ment of conscience and intelligence among the toilers.
The material gain achievable by directly interesting workmen in the results of their labor must soon be expected to awaken among both employers and employed a desire to test, on a large scale, the partnership plan so eloquently advanced by Mr. Holyoake and others. If the profits now appropriated by the heads of great companies and firms are felt to be more than just, the moral condition which makes the profits so great is one which it lies with the contributors them- selves to lift and improve.
Formal methods of dealing with the problems of property may be expected to do much less to equalize disparities of fortune than an im- provement in social morality throughout all classes of the people. The great monopolists derive much of the strength of their position from a debased public sentiment, which condones their methods and admires their success. Often the shippers who complain against the tyranny of a great steamship or railroad line themselves practice rules similar to those against which they cry out ; they take advantage of scarcity at times an artificially created scarcity to extort extra prof- its ; and, as a railroad monopoly makes its traffic bear all it will, the little monopolist, lh the shape of manufacturer or trader, makes his