The economic utility of the various modes of compounding capital exemplified in our modern industrial life is clearly recognized by Mr. Spencer. By the use of these methods stagnant capital has almost disappeared. Liberty of combination is asserted, subject to due responsibility of the individual shareholder. No sympathy is expressed with the prevalent indiscriminate denunciation of corporations and trusts. Possibly Mr. Spencer does not fully realize the extent to which such combinations may become a menace to the liberty of the small tradesman, the purity of legislation, and the just requirements of public service. He doubtless thinks that such evils would be self-corrective, as in the case of the various "bubble enterprises" which have been fostered under capitalistic auspices. He sees the utility of such combinations in promoting serviceable industrial enterprises, and affirms their superiority to state action in the advancement of the common weal.
The greatest interest of the reader will, probably center in the closing chapters on co-operation, socialism, and the probable trend of industrial evolution in the near future. Mr. Spencer's general attitude toward these questions is well known; but he has never stated his convictions more lucidly nor with equal calmness and poise of judgment. Nor has he before presented so clearly the ripe fruit of his own mature reflection as to the ideal relation of the laborer to the product of his industry.
"Social life in its entirety is carried on by co-operation," Mr. Spencer declares. The earliest modes of conscious industrial co-operation are closely allied to similar united action for militant purposes. All modes of industrial alliance which are enforced by the state must partake strongly of the militant spirit, inhibit individual freedom, and restrain true progress along normal lines of social evolution.
The word "co-operation" is now commonly used in a restricted sense to distinguish a special form of social and industrial life. In those methods of adjusting the interests of capital and labor generally known as "profit- sharing," Mr. Spencer sees some advantages joined with serious defects. He regards them as unnecessarily complicated, difficult of comprehension by employees, and therefore not likely to prove ultimately satisfactory to them. They are based on the system of wage-labor, and this is defective in that it does not proportion the reward of services to their quality and amount. "So long as the worker remains a wage-earner the marks of status do not wholly disappear. For so many hours daily he makes over his faculties to a master. . . . He is temporarily in the position of a slave, and his overlooker stands in the position of a slave-driver." An ideal system will assure rewards proportionate to activities and a direct interest of the worker in the enterprise which he is developing. Socialism, whether voluntary or compulsory, violates the first of these conditions, tends to undermine family life, and is essentially militant in its social ideal. "People who, in their corporative capacity, abolish the natural relation between merits and benefits, will presently be abolished themselves."
All co-operative enterprises involving wage-service imply the defects inherent in the wage system, and can only partially remedy its inequities. A self-governing body of workers paid according to the piece-work system, and sharing profits or losses in a like ratio, constitutes the ideal of future industrial evolution. The practicability of such a system depends wholly on character: "The best industrial institutions are possible only with the