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THE POWER AND BENEFICENCE OF CAPITAL

[1899]

Some years ago I listened to an address by a social agitator who said: "I can get along with anybody in my audiences except these mean, stingy, little fellows who have saved up a few hundred dollars in the savings bank and then have borrowed enough more to build a little house of two tenements, one of which they rent. When I begin to talk about interest, and rent, and Henry George, they get up and go out by the whole seat-full at a time." The statement was the most eloquent recognition I ever heard of the power and beneficence of capital. It has always remained in my memory as a confession by an opponent of the education effected by savings and of the benefit conferred on society by savings banks. I make it the text for the remarks which I will address to you on this occasion.

We hear a great deal in these days about social discontent. It seems to be taken for granted that discontent is a sufficient proof of grievance which third parties are bound to take cognizance of and redress. It might be argued with far greater plausibility that discontent is a proof of prosperity. If you look around the world today you will find that discontent is greatest where the chances are greatest. A man who has never had anything or a chance to get anything is not discontented; he rests contented with what he has always been accustomed to. Let him enjoy an opportunity and win something and the effect will be to excite his wish to win more. There is