Open main menu

Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/17

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

quality which we in America have christened "smartness," takes a man from the ranks of the non-owners and makes him a member of the upper tenth. The smart man can make a shrewd bargain, he can foresee the fluctuations in the market, he knows a thousand ways of getting the better of his adversaries in the game known as business competition, he has a keen understanding of certain elementary truths about men and things, and is able to see a little further into the future than other people. Smartness, in the business sense, may be defined as the sum of those qualities that enable a man to get hold of a share of wealth-producing wealth, to enter the owning class.

"What is the point of this argument?" the defender of the status quo might ask; "so long as a man keeps the law, hasn't he a right to all the wealth he can get?"

But our philosopher is looking at the question from another point of view. He is interested in a larger justice than is involved in the mere obeying of existing laws: it is his business to examine those laws by the standards of abstract right and the advantage of the community as a whole.

Is the division of wealth just, then? Does it, in other words, go to the people who have earned it? If we are to answer "yes" to this question, we must be able to show that the mere fact of owning wealth contributes in some way to the growth of that wealth, because we have seen that it is the ability to become an owner of wealth, and