namely, the amelioration of men from the abuses of irresponsible power. And what prodigies of power the captains of industry have now become! Not a king among the Stuarts or the Hanovers has held such powers. And yet, in the industrial government of the enlightened world to-day, these powers are above every government, imperial or republican, far above the puny power of the masses, and in the hands of stock gamblers who, under the glamour of a rising or falling market, can not govern their own miserable passions.
I do not hope to change any views you may have deliberately reached, even on a subject which calls for frequent modification of the smaller details of its statement. But I hope I may ask you to correct in any way you may find convenient my conclusions if they seem wrong in respect to the relation of socialism with competition. The advance of socialism in the last five years throughout the enlightened world has been so great as to call for careful examination by all thinkers, so that if its teachings are wise and just they may be hastened to power, otherwise that they may be insured their merited fall. Very sincerely yours,
|David J. Lewis.|
|Cumberland, Md., July 15, 1898.|
WE print in our correspondence column a courteous letter from Mr. David J. Lewis, of Cumberland, Md., who writes to say that, though a socialist, he approves of the position taken in our recent article on Competition and the Golden Rule, and that modern socialism, by which he understands the replacing of privately owned by publicly owned capital in the production of wealth, does not involve the cessation of competition. This, of course, is a question which we did not raise in the article referred to: we merely sought to meet the a priori objection to competition contained in the declaration often made that, if the Golden Rule is right, competition must be wrong. We are quite prepared to believe that competition will prove to be an indestructible element of human life, and that, though temporarily driven out by the pitchfork of socialistic legislation, it will, like Nature, fly back at the first chance.
Our correspondent's position, we confess, is one which we find it a little difficult to understand. He speaks of the social ownership of capital and the elimination of rent, interest, and profit, but says that these I things would not do away with the wage system, or with the gaining of immensely more money by the more capable members of the community than by the less capable. There will be Edisons under the new system who, just as at present, will have vast advantages over then "poorly equipped competitors." Only—this we infer—they will have to work strictly for wages, and can never exploit their own inventions or become employers of labor. When the people take possession of the private capital now employed in industry and commerce, they will simply complete that emancipation, the first step in which was to displace monarchical and aristocratic by democratic institutions. Henceforth capital will never compete with capital, because all capital will be under one ownership; but individuals will go on competing with individuals for the largest shares obtainable from the common fund.
All this may make a harmonious system in the mind of our correspondent, but to us it presents great incongruities. We find it difficult to realize the Edisons in harness; and we fear it might not be easy to persuade the "poorly equipped moral,