Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/210

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
184
EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

we hear meets this argument on a completely even footing and concedes all its effect; the declaimers do not see it, because they have not thought out the matter as well as the old slaveholders had. In fact, there is an indisputable element of truth in it, which is this: liberty of labor is not a social finality. It is not a definitive solution of the social organization, but only alters the forms of the problems; it alters nothing of the social forces. It sets free some personal interests which were not free before, and in so far it adds to the internal warfare and confusion of society. It does sharpen and intensify the competition of life. The struggle of the forces rises in intensity, develops more and more heat, puts stronger and stronger strain upon political institutions, subjects the sober sense, the high self-control of men to severer tests, demands more intelligent power of criticizing dogmas and projects. The men who supposed that, under liberty, they were going to soar away from irksome limitations of earthly life, find that, though the restraints have changed their form, they are as heavy as ever.

The master of a slave or serf secured the subject person against all the grossest calamities of human life; but he made the slave pay him a high insurance rate for that security. The master carried all personal and social risk for the slave. This element of risk is one of the leading phenomena of social organization. In a barbarous society, where there is scarcely any organization, each person carries it for himself, and it produces no social problem, because, so long as it turns out well for the individual, he makes no complaint. When it goes against him he perishes. It is with advancing organization that the risk element becomes distinctly differentiated, becomes an element of status or contract,