Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/353

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341
PROBLEMS OF PROPERTY.

tenure. In Java the Dutch Government leases plantations to a vast extent, and the plan works well there.

In Germany, the agitation against the existing laws and privileges of property has taken the form of socialism; the schemes of thinkers and closet-students have been popularized by press and platform until now the Socialistic party sends a large representation to the Reichstag, pressing measures upon the Government which a generation ago would have been deemed revolutionary. Much heated discussion has recently taken place in the national Legislature on the proposal that the Government should undertake the manufacture of tobacco; and if the state should manufacture tobacco acceptably and economically, why not cotton and wool? The beaucracy and strong paternal Government of Germany perform so many functions left in England and the United States to private enterprise, that the people in times of business depression look to the Administration for measures of relief instead of to their own efforts.

It seems to me that socialism is an evidence of the constantly rising dislike among the masses to the main advantages of competition and new business economies being enjoyed by the small class of capitalists. How far state control may allowably be invoked as a remedy in fields wherein individual exertions have been employed is a question warmly debated. One school of thinkers, led by Spencer and Bastiat, hold to laissez faire, and wish the operations of government confined to the narrowest limits—the maintenance of order and the enforcing of contracts—leaving individuals the utmost scope to think, express themselves, and act; the opposite school, among whom as an able exponent may be named Mr. Cairnes, hold that individuals, while following what they believe to be their interests, may not conceive their interests truly or in relations harmonizing with the general good, and that therefore some general control by the community of the actions of its several classes and members is most desirable for the correction of such practices and pursuits as are inimical to the whole body of the people, though pleasant or profitable to a few. This is said by Mr. Cairnes and others, not in advocacy of the general state direction of industry, but only in qualification of the sweeping theory that individuals, each doing his own work for its own reward, or seeking his pleasure in his own way, unconsciously contributes to the highest well-being of the community. Mr. Cairnes thinks the individual in society should be like a musician, who, in playing his part, looks chiefly to his own score, but occasionally glances at the central conductor so as to keep proper time with his fellows.

State socialism is not a living question in Great Britain or America; in Great Britain, however, the Government has notably added to its functions of late years: it has absorbed the telegraph service and the savings-banks into x the post-office, and there is some expectation that the railways may also come under Government control. Mr. Brassey