EIGHTY years ago in America the feeling was becoming general that the age of competition was past, and that a new social and industrial era was about to begin. Benjamin Franklin held that if every man and every woman should work for three hours a day at something useful, poverty would be banished, and each one might spend every afternoon of his days and the whole afternoon of his life amid the consolations of philosophy, the charms of literature, or the delights of social intercourse. In the words of Robert Dale Owen: "Every one looked forward to the time when riches, because of their superfluity, would cease to be the end and aim of man's thoughts, plottings, and lifelong strivings; when the mere possession of wealth would no longer confer distinction—any more than does the possession of water—than which there is no property of greater worth."
William Maclure, a wise man and a learned geologist in those days, refused to invest money in the city of Philadelphia, giving as a reason that "land in cities can no longer rise in value. The community system must prevail, and in the course of a few years Philadelphia must be deserted, and those who live long enough may come back here and see the foxes looking out of the windows."
It is not strange, therefore, that Robert Owen, of Lanark, fresh from contact with the reforms in the Old World, and full of projects for the development of the New, found in William Maclure an ardent disciple and active co-worker.
Owen and Maclure did not overestimate the power of co-operation in the struggle of humanity with Nature, but they did overlook the fundamental law of Nature that co-operation means working together, and equality of reward must imply some degree of equality of effectiveness. "The fatal error" of the New Harmony Community, according to Robert Dale Owen, lay in their failure to recognize this law. No "industrial experiment," he continues to say, "can succeed which proposes equal remuneration to all men, the diligent and the dilatory, the skilled artisan and the common laborer, the genius and the drudge. . . . Such a plan of remunerating all alike will ultimately eliminate from a cooperative association the skilled and industrious members, leaving an ineffective and sluggish residue, in whose hands the experiment will fail, both socially and pecuniarily." In other words,
- So far as I know, Dr. Richard Owen, of New Harmony, was not related to the famous comparative anatomist in London who bore the same name.