Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/305

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



JANUARY 1887




WHAT MAKES THE RICH RICHER AND THE POOR POORER.

By Professor WILLIAM G. SUMNER.

KARL MARX says, "An accumulation of wealth at one pole of society indicates an accumulation of misery and overwork at the other."[1] In this assertion, Marx avoids the very common and mischievous fallacy of confusing causes, consequences, and symptoms. He suggests that what is found at one pole indicates, or is a symptom of what may be found at the other. In the development of his criticisms on political economy and the existing organization of society, however, Marx proceeds as if there were a relation of cause and effect in the proposition just quoted, and his followers and popularizers have assumed as an indisputable postulate that the wealth of some is a cause of the poverty of others. The question of priority or originality as between Marx, Rodbertus, and others is at best one of vanity between them and their disciples,[2] but it is of great interest and importance to notice that the doctrine that wealth at one pole makes misery at the other is the correct logical form of the notion that progress and poverty are correlative. This doctrine rests upon another and still more fundamental one, which is not often formulated, but which can be detected in most of the current socialistic discussions, viz., that all the capital which is here now would be here under any laws or institutions about property, as if it were due to some independent cause; and that some have got ahead of others and seized upon the most of it, so that those who came later have not been able to get any. If this notion about the source of capital is not true, then wealth at one pole cannot cause poverty at the other. If it is

  1. "Das Capital," I, 671.
  2. On this question see Anton Menger, "Das Recht auf den vollen Arbeitaertrag," Stuttgart, 1886. This writer traces back for a century the fundamental socialistic notions. He aims to develop the jural as distinguished from the economic aspect of socialism.