Evolution Of Society
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There is a Social Ideal which is possible to attain and which seems logically and historically inevitable in the natural, regular process of evolution.
This Social Ideal may be stated thus :
Society is the domain of regular, natural Forces. These Forces should be estimated, comprehended and controlled by the combined intelligence and will of a majority of the people interested. The benefits derived from Social Forces, which have been secured by a minority, should be resumed by the majority and relatively equalized to all the people. Majorities may be unjust, but minorities cannot be trusted with arbitrary power.
Society is an aggregation of individuals; and, there is no adequate social philosophy or government that does not recognize its mission to secure the greatest freedom and highest opportunity for each individual. The very apparent difficulty is to adjust matters in which the interests of individuals conflict, or appear to conflict. This is an inspiring theme, and the intelligent, harmonious adjustment of these seeming conflicts is worthy of our best efforts. If the principles involved could be clearly stated, much would be accomplished toward establishing the welfare of society and, consequently, the good of the individual members. However, it is important to recognize that intellectual and moral development must be more fully realized before people will adopt principles which do not appear to them to be' sufficiently individualistic. It is one thing to know what is for the welfare of society; it is quite another to convince an individual that his own good consists in promoting social welfare; and it is still another to convince him that his own apparent interests should be legally restricted if they conflict with those of a larger number.
Each individual instinctively prefers taking his chances in a society governed by its present chaotic ideas of Ethics, if he could only gain the power to secure what he desires. However, each individual wishes to have restrained those who mistreat him. Therefore, society's rights and duties are clearly indicated. That none may suffer injustice, all must be protected.
It has been thoroughly demonstrated that cooperation is more profitable than competition. Hence, the immense growth in the formation of stock companies and "holding companies" which combine various enterprises. There is no possibility of destroying these "Trusts," simply because the principle on which they are organized is right and more powerful than unrestricted competition. The shortest way out, and the way which the evolution of industry is taking, is for more and more people to own the Trusts.
The power and beauty of cooperation are being demonstrated on a large scale, and thus the evolution of industry is forcing Ethics upon us. There are many other steps to be taken before an ethical basis, or full cooperation, is secured. The next important steps are the mental ones.
Then come the moral steps—the conforming of conduct to knowledge.
It is more difficult to establish confidence in ethical principles than it is to define them. Practically, many people do not seem to have confidence in equity, justice, right, equality and fraternity, and therefore there has been very little effort, comparatively, to define them. But the mental steps lead to the moral conclusions. When ethical principles are clearly defined, people will learn how to secure their own highest good and best welfare. This is one fact which inspires hope even in the midst of the present disregard of Ethics in modern business.
So long as people lack confidence in the principles of equity, justice, right, equality and fraternity, just so long will the present strife, with its entailed wretchedness for the less intelligent members, pervade the social body.
An organism is an individual, unified life, and Society is not an organism. But it should become a scientific and ethical organization in order to secure the welfare of the whole and of its individual members. This organization depends upon the general intelligence of many members, and not upon the particular intelligence of a Life Element. While Society cannot be properly called an organism, the associations of its members must be harmonic to secure, the highest individual success.
It is difficult to discover a modern work containing more short-sighted, serious and lamentable errors than Social Evolution by Benjamin Kidd. As an example of this, take the following statement quoted from the chapter entitled No Rational Sanction for Progress:
"The central fact with which we are confronted in our progressive societies is, therefore, that the interests of the social organism and those of the individuals composing it at any time are actually antagonistic; they can never be reconciled; they are inherently and essentially irreconcilable."
Mr. Kidd might just as truly and as reasonably have said :
The interests of my physical body and the members composing it are actually antagonistic; they can never be reconciled; they are inherently and essentially irreconcilable.
Such a statement would be no more an evident absurdity than the one which he did make. It shows an utter lack of knowledge of and confidence in the actual evolutionary principles. In fact, Mr. Kidd's whole false system of interpretation is caused by the attempt to apply one phase of animal life, "The Struggle for Existence," to society without any regard for the additional elements which differentiate human life from animal existence.
After a long life devoted to the principle of evolution, even Huxley lamented the past without faith in the continuity of progress. Nevertheless, it only requires observation of a longer period of time to perceive that evolution is nature's method for securing genuine progress. The other phases may confuse the observer for a time, but actual results are convincing. When we see enough of the process, we are content to abide the results.
When it is perceived that cooperation is much more productive than competition, one of the first ethical lessons is learned. All along the line of individual interests, faith in mutual efforts is being inculcated through experience. The principle of cooperation will be appreciated when it is clearly perceived by Society :
1. That all rational individuals desire food, clothing and shelter with comforts and pleasures.
2. That men, women and children are entitled to an ample supply of necessaries and comforts, if they are willing to do their share of the labor of production and distribution.
3. That by combined effort enough can be secured for all, with a minimum expenditure of time and life-force.
4. That when all are sure of obtaining the means of a happy life, each one is secure.
The plainest fact in the evolution of industry is the ability with modern machinery to produce sufficient for the needs of all. It would seem very easy, from a mechanical standpoint, to organize large industries in such a way that poverty might be removed. Suppose that for ten years, all the skill and ability of the people of the United States should be employed in manufacturing necessaries and comforts with a view to equitable distribution among all those who were willing to do their share of the work. Does anyone claim that the whole country could not be filled with comfortable homes?
If the Industrial Forces were scientifically organized and using modern machinery to the limit of capacity, poverty could be abolished and everybody would have enough of the necessaries and comforts of life. What then is the secret of the widespread poverty in the midst of unutilized resources? It is in the inequality of distribution caused by lack of scientific, equitable organization of industry.
The most useful members of society do not get their proportion of the riches obtained from natural resources, manufacturing and commerce. The system of distribution is really the cause of insufficient production of the necessaries of life. This last statement will now be demonstrated :
The prosperity of the workers depends upon the proportion of their product, or its equivalent, which they can buy with their wages. If the mass of the people had more money to spend, more goods would be manufactured. Take the producing class collectively, the workers of the nation; they do not buy more because the wages they receive do not equal the selling-price of the goods they have produced. An addition has been made to the cost of production as a whole, in order that dividends may be paid to those whose surplus "capital" has been invested in business.
The amount paid to stockholders for dividends represents the amount by which the selling price is increased over the amount which has been paid to the producers collectively, including all who do useful mental and manual work. As their wages and salaries equal only a portion of the selling-price of the goods they produced, the workers cannot buy the whole of their own products. The addition to cost, which is represented by dividends, is not expended for products of labor by the stockholders because their number is so small that they can actually use only a limited proportion of such products; but the larger proportion of their dividends is invested in stocks, bonds and real estate at fictitious values which are created by a false system of economics (chiefly by over-capitalization of industries and by misappropriated mineral and land values). Consequently, a large proportion of our products must be sold in foreign markets, if dividends are to continue and production is to go on.
Our foreign market is necessarily restricted. For, when foreign laborers are deprived of wages through lack of demand for their own products, the limit of their purchasing power is soon reached.
(Equality of imports with exports is a different matter. The interests of the people of all lands are identical and can be secured and sustained by cooperation. Goods which are not needed at home may, of course, be exchanged profit-ably with other nations, and the amount of such equitable exchange is enormous. This equality of imports with exports represents mutual benefits to the consumers in all countries thus engaged in equitable exchange. But when goods which the producers need for themselves are sold abroad, it is evident that injustice is practised by a shrewd minority against those whose labors produced the goods.)
Thus, although the Trusts are now over-laden with orders, the industrial forces of our modern commercial world are not organized to their full productive capacity for fear of so-called "over-production" with its resultants of trade depression, idle factories, and unemployed men, women and children. When the excess above home consumption cannot be sold in foreign markets, which is the partial relief at the present time, there is a diminishing of production. Hence, we now have limited production through fear of glutted markets. What is called "over-production" is in reality under-consumption.
The natural reward of the laborer is the result of his labor. This axiomatic principle applied to modern social labor would give the laborer the equivalent of his proportion of the joint product, and consequently far more than the most skillful one could earn alone. Admitting the difficulty of deciding this exact value under the conditions of modern production and exchange, nevertheless this principle applied would give abundance to the workers and stop enormous dividends paid to idle stockholders. This would not represent deprivation of welfare, for unearned money is a curse. People who get unearned money take it from those who have earned it but who do not get it.
A revision of the estimation of the claims of Capital is now being made by Society. The Capital which an individual earns and saves is his, but no man by his own labor alone can do much more than sustain life. Then the Capital which is gained by monopoly of natural re-sources, or by organization of Social Forces, is a social product and Society can resume its ownership at any time. Capital has no power to create dividends. Labor alone can do that.
(Let us stop long enough in the argument to state that the so-called "Middle Class," those who have saved money and invested it, who have labored hard to make money in order to become "independent," are deserving of the utmost respect. At the present time they are also deserving of sympathy for they are being relentlessly crushed by "the Money Power" in the consolidation of industries. It is folly to suppose that "the Working Class" will ever organize industries or governments. All social revolutions are led by men who are above the average in intelligence and industrial capacity. However, the middle classes and those above the average in intelligence and capacity will not advocate radical changes until they have been still further crushed by "the Money Power." Then "the Middle Class" will make further concessions to "the Working Class" in order to secure their support against "the Money Power.")
Superior shrewdness in manipulating markets and taking advantage of other people's ignorance and helplessness do not constitute any better title than the exploded "divine right of kings." The ability to conquer others by superior brain power constitutes no better title in equity than a bigger biceps or the possession of a club or revolver.
It is now being discerned that brain power must be limited in its operations in Stock Exchanges and Legislatures, just as muscular power has been, by enforced consideration for the rights of those who cannot compete with giants. Right laws must be passed and enforced by Society for the protection of the masses who have not the shrewdness of the few. Greater changes will be made in the future than have been made in the past; and for this, the past furnishes ample encouragement.
There are visible today strong and noteworthy attempts to inaugurate into governments the ideal principle at the beginning of this chapter. These are organizations full of purpose. Many people are growing to believe that the time has come for a deliberate, conscious attempt of Society to govern ifs own business affairs just as an intelligent individual would.
In the present stage of ethical development, it is not considered unlawful or dishonorable for those who have the necessary skill and power to take possession of much more than they need or can use. However, there is some hope that this low standard may be outgrown.
If our ethical standards of "success" should become so changed that our "Captains of Industry" should become enthusiastic with the possibility of so organizing industry on scientific principles as to divide the results equitably among the workers engaged therein, the whole prospect and future of the nation would be transformed.
If the financial giants who now rule the country industrially do not allow more social control of Economic Forces they will be pushed aside just as the ruling class has been in previous crises. It is altogether probable that they will make concessions as rapidly as they are forced to do so.
In order to discontinue the selfish appropriation of national resources by a minority, the majority must organize to meet the changed methods of the ruling class. Ecclesiastical and Military Governments have been over-thrown. The Feudal System gave place to Trade. At present, Trade rules all modern nations. But even Trade must give way before the increasing demands of Human Life. Thus Society advances through successive political and industrial revolutions. These revolutions become more and more peaceful in their outward manifestations.
The ruling class in every epoch has always been a shrewd minority. History proves that there has never been an hereditary ruling class which did not eventually abuse its power Hence, one factor of evolution and progress. After one ruling class has been dethroned and a different stage of progress inaugurated, another ruling class has proved its superiority by mastering the new conditions and dominating the masses.
But how does a minority invariably become the railing class? It must be because of superior abilities of the necessary peculiar kind. Society's problem, then, is to secure the services of the superior individuals in the organization of Social Forces, without allowing them to monopolize the results nor to dominate social welfare. In the crude ways which History reveals, something of this end has been secured through a succession of revolutions.
Equality of natural endowments and acquired attainments is impossible. Inequality is nature's rule. This insures variety. It also makes cooperation more desirable for it combines diversified talents in one pursuit. But equality of opportunity is quite another thing. In order to secure the benefits of individual contributions to social organization, every person must be free to discover, to manifest, and to cultivate his own endowment of faculties, capacities and powers. Under equality of opportunity, natural inequalities of capacities and talents will be known and utilized in the social organization.
However, equality of opportunity cannot be secured without combined efforts. Society must free the individual. For, until the Social Forces are intelligently organized, individuals cannot free themselves from the harmful results of the selfish domination of a small ruling class.
The next regular steps in social evolution are toward more democracy. Progress thereto seems slow, but it is inevitable. An Industrial Republic is the logical sequence to a Political Republic. In one view people are not ready for it until they can organize it; but there are no arguments against the institution of an hereditary monarchy that are not equally applicable against the institution of an hereditary money power.
Ethics must govern business to the extent of securing equitable mutual benefits, or universal prosperity will never be secured. The perpetual welfare of any society depends upon the welfare of each member being made possible where there is individual effort. Individual desires, social forces and economic necessity will teach men brotherhood at some future stage in evolution. To this end the control of all governments, including the government of industry, must pass into the hands of the majority of those interested. Whether this control should be national, state, or local will be made manifest as Society evolves.
To invent a scheme for control would be useless. To study the natural evolution of Social Forces and to cooperate so as to make the transitions as rapid and as painless as possible, is the mission of intelligent Sociologists. The number of intelligent Sociologists is limited only by the number of intelligent people. May that number increase