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ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

By the side of economic effort there always go questions of policy about which the producers must agree if they are to work with success. According to present-day systems, the questions of policy are put under the control of a set of men other than the producers—the politicians and statesmen. My optimism in regard to the economic outlook is equaled only by my pessimism about the political outlook. I will not venture to say that the relation between economics and politics is the greatest problem of the present moment, but it is a very great question, and it is to that that I invite your attention.

Let us note at once that it is not a new question; it is as old as the simplest forms of political organization. In the simplest agriculture the workmen cannot manage their own industry; they need to be told by their chiefs when to sow and when to harvest. The simplest organization is regulated by the political heads, and by them the trading is done, or expeditions are organized to go and get supplies. When irrigation is necessary, public control becomes necessary for more important reasons. There must be co-operation on a grand scale and the different steps must be brought into due relation. Ultimate success for all depends on the knowledge and good judgment with which these questions of policy are decided.

In our own society the legislator is needed to give to customs and usages definite form and sanction. He becomes the guardian of public or common interests, especially in regard to franchises, privileges, and compulsory powers. Here the delicacy of his function becomes apparent, for he creates and grants privileges and overrides private rights and individual will in the name of a public interest. It is necessary that he should do so—we do not see how the public necessity and convenience can be served without giving this power to the legislature.