Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/597

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

knell of capitalist property will sound, the expropriators will be expropriated." But we can now see that Marx mistook the course of the industrial evolution, and that he prophesied without due allowance for other facts and forces that might check, or cross, or turn the tendency he thought he had divined.

According to Cairnes also, as we have seen, the tendency is to "an increased inequality in distribution. The rich will grow richer, the poor, at least relatively, poorer." And he recommends to the latter co-operative production as their sole hope. Now, Cairnes's mistake was the less excusable, as he wrote at a time (1874) when the tendency to great individual accumulation had received a check, and there were statistics available that might have tested his deduction. And, in fact, all that his argument really proves is that the class receiving interest (and occasionally wages of management, in addition to interest) tends to get a larger part of the produce than the class that lives by hired wages, or, as he puts it, that the wages fund tends to lag behind the other parts into which capital is divided. This last, if true, would still be a sufficiently serious thing, though Mr. Giffen, the eminent statistician, denies its truth; but, true or not, it is a quite different thing from the increasing concentration of wealth in individual hands, which Cairnes appears, in the above quotations, to think implied in it; that one class, and a large class, tends to get a somewhat larger share than another and a much larger class would not be a desirable thing if it could be prevented; it would scarcely be an argument for a total change in our industrial system, as desired by Cairnes, still less for the further social and political changes desired by advanced socialists.

According to Comte also (writing in 1850), the tendency was to the greater concentration of capital in the hands of individual capitalists; he thought the tendency a good one; far from desiring to thwart it by human volitions, he affirmed that the tendency would necessarily and beneficially lead to a more pronounced capitalism instead of to socialism, and with the capitalists ruling in the political as well as the industrial sphere so differently did the philosophers forecast the future from the same assumed tendency.

Now, if the tendency were really to the concentration of capital in ever fewer hands, with a mighty mass of ill-paid and discontented workers, and with no great middle class lying between, then indeed the transition to socialism more or less complete would be much easier to accomplish, and in some shape it would probably come; at least it would be easier to expropriate a comparative few; it would be almost impossible to prevent it, the forces of might and justice added to envy being adverse, and with no mediating middle class. Both might and morality would

�� �