Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/203

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

chance, therefore, has no moral quality or value; the moral question is: what will be done with it? Hence the fallacy of all the captivating suggestions about ethics in economic or other strictly impersonal social forces. The moral relations are in the personal domain.

Capital has no moral quality; it is a chance, a power, an opportunity. Capital means tools, weapons, food, etc. A pistol has no moral quality; it can be used for good or for ill, as men count good and ill. The same may be said of an axe, a spade, or a locomotive; it may also be said of food, for a man possessing a store of energy derived from food may spend it in benefit or in mischief. Food furnishes energy to a laborer or a murderer indifferently; the morals are in the man, not in the bread; they go with the intelligence, or with the intelligent responsibility, and turn on the question: what will he do with it?

All capital, therefore, is power; it furnishes a chance to do something. It brings with itself, however, the double possibility as to the use to which it will be put. The man who has tools, weapons, or food, is able to accomplish far more in any direction in which he determines to apply it than the man who has no capital; but then the question how he will use it has become so much the more serious; his power for mischief is enhanced just as much as his power for good. As to himself, the chance is no less serious; he has power to make far more of himself than if destitute of capital, and he has power to hurry himself to personal ruin and destruction so much the faster.

The same may be said of education. The moralists have never been satisfied with the old adage that knowledge is power. They felt the lack of the moral element in it, that is to say, they felt the lack of the element