Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/July 1882/Problems of Property



THE problems of property form an interesting department of social science. They involve questions as to the growth and distribution of wealth, the province of government with respect thereto, and similar inquiries scarcely susceptible of treatment by formal scientific methods. Still, the subject is one of sufficient importance to warrant a brief sketch of it appearing in the magazine which was the first to give the American public a scientific exposition of the principles of sociology.

The institution of property is, in many quarters of the world, finding active criticism. German and French socialism, Russian nihilism, the Irish Land League, and weighty utterances by the leaders of thought in Europe and America, all declare that the institution of property requires reconsideration and reform. It is very commonplace, indeed, to say that respect for the rights of property insures the chief stimulus to industry, intelligence, and thrift; yet, in the complexity of modern life, the distribution of wealth has become so unequal that discussion of how justice may be feasibly and safely introduced into the laws and customs affecting property is of urgent importance. The natural differences among men in the way of aptitude and ability are always wide enough to cause a variety in human fortunes sufficiently trying to the less capable classes of mankind, were there at work no other cause for disparity in worldly success. When, however, in addition to having to accept the smaller reward in the smaller sphere, the man of but moderate or little ability has to suffer the restrictions which come from the artificial enactments of law and society, discontent easily takes root in his heart and flourishes.

The spur to the accumulation of wealth is undoubtedly sharpened by the power of bequeathing one's possessions to one's family and friends; yet it is this power of bequest, gradually increased through the centuries to its present breadth, which furnishes the most difficult part of the problem of property. Re-enforced in Great Britain by the laws of entail and primogeniture, it has led to the concentration in the hands of a few of a large proportion of the entire wealth of the country. The heirs of unearned lands, houses, and funds are without the healthy natural spur to useful work which universal experience declares necessity to furnish; and subtile moral poison is distributed through society when, as in Great Britain, long trains of bequest bestow the choicest estates and social positions in the realm upon a few individuals through the mere accident of birth. When merit and the means of enjoyment are so often unrelated, as we see them in Great Britain, there is valid ground for complaint and a plain source of envy on the part of the millions apportioned to toil, while some have unearned luxury and ease. Is it right that, because a man, centuries ago, was successful in battle or a favorite of his king, or generations ago was engaged in lucrative trade and thus gathered possessions together, his posterity should be maintained for indefinite time by the working world? And is it right that his descendants should reap richer and richer rewards, as years roll by, from the increase in value conferred upon their estates as the surrounding population grows more numerous and advances in intelligence and industry? Why should books and inventions, which are peculiarly the creations of a man, be so imperfectly protected, and only confer rights terminable in a few years, when rights in ordinary property are so nearly absolute? Such are the questions which are being put to the political economists and legislators of to-day, and their just and peaceful solution will demand a wisdom and forbearance which we may be disappointed in expecting.

The most patent evils with which the institution of property is commonly charged are those connected with land, and here it is that the agitation for property reform has usually begun. The researches of Sir Henry Maine and M. Laveleye show that the primitive cultivation of land was communal. Such still is the Russian mir and Swiss Allmend. Under communal systems every child born upon the land was guaranteed subsistence, and wide disparity in fortune between individual and individual was scarcely possible, so that pauperism was unknown. How the communal systems gave birth to our existing methods of individual possession M. Laveleye tells in an interesting way in his work on "Primitive Property." The practical fact which concerns us is that, among civilized nations individual property is established and is held to need reform. The change from communal and clan ownership of land to the tenure of recent times has been attended by a gradual divorce of the responsibility which formerly attached to land-owning; if the responsibility now exists at all, it does so as a moral feeling which may be neglected with no legal penalty and often no social odium. The Duchess of Sutherland could banish the occupants from the estates which their ancestors had tilled for centuries, and convert the land into pastures, yet legal resource there was none. A sybarite Marquis of Hertford could live in Paris for thirty years together, with an income of ninety thousand pounds, and dismiss without a reply a deputation of his Irish tenants petitioning for assistance in building a much-needed railway. Could the original founders of the two families thus unworthily represented have treated their retainers and tenantry thus haughtily and unjustly, and not suffer for it? I think not. The rules of property, devised with a limited glance into future time, and with no expectation of the vast strides in population and wealth which the world has made during the past century, have had very awkward strains put upon them—strains which they were not originally expected or intended to bear. The rise of manufacturing towns and the drift of the rural population to the cities have conferred upon land-owners an immense multiplication of their fortunes, and made the incomes of many of them aggregate sums far beyond the legitimate demand of mortal, and this to the plain deprivation of the public.

Mark, too, the influence of the landlord in legislation. Note the privilege which attends his claims even in America.

In Great Britain in 1692 the tax on land was one fifth of its annual value, now it is about one fifth of that fraction. Landlords have thus grossly evaded their fair share of taxation. And note what horrid suffering and violences, often unpardonable, have been necessary to give Ireland such measure of land-reform as she enjoys to-day. The agitation against primogeniture and entail grows constantly in force in Great Britain, and the reform begun in Ireland and hastened there by differences in race and religion between landlords and tenants must of its justice spread to the sister island in time.

The complaint against property has, I think, been unduly directed against land, perhaps because land used to be the chief form of wealth. Real estate may present the most evident cases of abused privilege, but the main social difficulty, it appears to me, is the undue accumulation of wealth of any kind. The land of the world is certainly limited in quantity, but so are other forms of wealth: houses, mills, machinery, railways, and merchandise—all these, though vast in amount, are something short of infinite; and while land, as in America, is freely exchangeable for these other things, no special harm attaches to undue possession of it. And if it be said that these other things differ from land in that they can be indefinitely increased in amount, such an increase may be fairly compared with the settlement of barren territory in old countries, or of virgin soil in new. The forms of wealth other than land, while practically quite as limited in quantity, are quite as necessary to human life, so that, in their arguments against excessive holding of land, political economists have perhaps paved the way for a more radical discussion of the rights of property than they ever anticipated.

No landlords have ever been more oppressive to a community, or levied more odious exactions, than the merchants and speculators who in the United States corner coal or pork, or the manufacturers who, secure in a close, protected market, combine to extort from consumers an exorbitant price for oil and chemicals. Canadian cotton-mills, which before the rise in the tariff, effected in 1878, were paying about eight per cent in dividends annually, since then have earned double and treble such profits at the public expense. The broad question of property, not the narrow one of land, is up for discussion, and it can not be dismissed with inadequate treatment. At the dawn of the present manufacturing era, in the days of Watt and Arkwright, about a century ago, there was a hope widely prevalent that the conquered forces of nature, acting through the ingenious machinery and processes so rapidly brought forth at that time, would greatly improve the lot of the poor. That hope, so creditable to the hearts of the men who entertained it, remains unfulfilled. The poor, it may be admitted, have been improved in condition, but have they proportionately shared in the enormous aggregate increase of national wealth? The development of the past century's manufacturing and trading industry in the existing moral and social circumstances has been attended by the constantly growing contrast between colossal fortunes on the one hand and the earning of a mere livelihood on the other. The masses toil as hard as ever, for all the steam-engines, the railways, and complicated machinery applied to every form of industry. The chief result, and certainly an unsatisfactory one, is that the luxury of a few increases. Within recent years palace-building has begun in America, and sums have been lavished upon the homes of railroad and mining kings to an extent equal to the making cheerful and wholesome whole quarters of cities occupied by the squalid tenements of toilers. With industry highly specialized, and becoming more and more so year by year; with the web of a credit competition continually increasing in complexity and liability, leading to panics more severe with every recurrence, there is manifest danger to property—danger, because these stresses of business entail suffering beyond description among the working-classes, and, under some sharp distress, they may make a savage and ill-considered attack on capital. Let Pittsburg and Baltimore justify the assertion.

Popular discontent has in all ages been a dangerous thing, but how much more so than ever now, when a numerical majority—that is, the poor—control legislation, elect the executive, and levy taxes! In the last analysis the rights of property depend upon the popular will, and the people can readily modify existing rights in what they may take to be the general good. Fourier and Saint-Simon did not speak to a nation enjoying universal suffrage, nor were Utopias ever before 'preached to men who might practically attempt their establishment. The wide diffusion of popular knowledge through the schools, the press, and the platform, in these latter days, has made the discussion of such questions as that before us very general and very earnest. Workingmen's newspapers of wide circulation debate the pros and cons of the land and other problems fearlessly and with much good sense. The extension of the suffrage and the progress of political reform have taken such subjects out of the small circle where only speculative thinkers used to discuss them, and brought them home to the great masses of the working population, into whose hands the reins of legislation must more and more directly come. Trades-unions have made workmen sensible of the power of union and organization, and the benefits they have derived from their combinations have led to a wide-spread capacity for acting in concert scarcely known among them until this generation.

While in England and on the Continent of Europe property is much more unequally held than in America, it is evident that there are forces at work in the New World which are creating problems similar to those in the Old. Competent observers declare that wealth is passing more and more into the hands of the wealthy, the manners of the wealthy class are improving—they are gradually becoming an aristocracy in all but name; and, as the societies of the older cities become more and more cultivated, I think we may see a large proportion of wealthy families retaining their possessions for generations as they do abroad. It used to be thought that the sons or grandsons of rich Americans could be relied upon to give back to the community their inherited wealth through demoralization and incompetence; but that reliance is proved baseless in a noteworthy proportion of cases in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Fifty years ago the wealthiest man in America had a fortune of ten millions, let us say; now, the wealthiest citizen of the United States has a fortune estimated at from' ten to fifteen times as much; and the proportionate increase in the extent of fortunes of the second and third magnitude has been similar. Has the wealth of the average citizen increased in anything like this degree? And such democratic social intercourse as we possess has its dangers—the intermingling in society in this country of people comparatively poor with those comparatively rich implants in those of restricted incomes a desire to live expensively, which would less often be the Case were class lines as distinctly drawn here as they are across the Atlantic.

Into the question of the social advantages to a community of a very wealthy and leisured class I do not enter, but in passing would note that perhaps the worthiness and manliness, as a rule, of the British aristocracy have done very much toward their privileges being respected in these times of radicalism. And contrariwise, the sharpest disgust against property has been expressed in the democratic far West, where refinement unpossessed of wealth jostles with the coarse ostentation of the bonanza kings.

The conquest of the weak by the strong, which must date from the very dawn of trade as from the first morning of life, has. been more remarkable than ever within the last generation or two. The new methods of rapid or instantaneous communication bring vast commercial fields under the scrutiny of the keenest business intellects, and the local knowledge of the small trader is overborne in competition by the capital, adroitness, or unscrupulousness of his metropolitan adversary. Modern business economy favors vast organizations which absorb feeble competitors, and convert men who were independent principals into the servants of a master-will, whether controlling an individual firm or a corporation.

The danger to the public interest in the growth of great monopolizing companies is proved in the case of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which had nominally a capital of eighty million dollars a year ago, upon which it had to pay dividends. Nearly fifty-five of the eighty millions was, however, fictitious stock—water, in the language of Wall Street (see "North American Review," March, 1881). In the "Atlantic Monthly" for March, 1881, it is stated that the Standard Oil Company refines nineteen twentieths of the coal-oil of the United States, and robs the public of eight and three quarter cents per gallon by its monopolizing control. And what makes the abuses of property so difficult of legislative reform is that monopolists in their schemes avail themselves of business rules which, in their ordinary working, are legitimate, and can not be safely interfered with. If a Legislature enacts that a company shall not divide more than ten per cent annually as profit, that company is sold out to another, and both of them can pay dividends up to ten per cent. Competition is abolished by exercise of the right of purchase and sale, whereby competing railway, steamboat, or telegraph lines may be controlled by a single capitalist or syndicate; the operation being aided by banking facilities whereby stocks can be pledged as collateral security for loans equal to eighty or ninety per cent of their market value. The presidents and directors of great companies who organize such operations, and who have at all times special and early information of the influences likely to affect the value of their stocks, either directly or through agents, and the margin system, frequently add large sums to their fortunes at the expense of ignorant shareholders. The ordinary operator in Wall Street loses simply because he plays against men whose dice are loaded. The tendency to corporate and wholesale management so plain in the vast enterprises of the country is manifest in the less noticeable. In the Western States the factory-system has invaded the corn-fields: grand culture, as it is called, has come into vogue; large capital, elaborate steam-machinery, and regiments of laborers, are cultivating the soil, and not scores of independent families with their personal interests and all the healthy influences of an independent, self-reliant struggle. In manufacturing and trading, as well as in farming, the strong large companies and houses are absorbing the weaker, and the fortunate ones who head the movement tend to become proportionately fewer as the process goes on. Every child now born into the world's theatre finds most of the best seats taken, and a good many of the second best. In all this I think there is danger, for which it is becoming necessary that preventives were thoughtfully sought.

Without deliberately facing the problem of have and want, there has been for ages a lurking, unconscious impression abroad that the differences in human fortunes are apt to injuriously widen—that the very poor have a moral claim upon the rich; that somehow, if human affairs were once to be placed on a basis of right, there would be none very poor, and so roundabout justice has for long been calling itself charity. The English poor-laws, dating from Elizabeth, which guarantee the natives of a parish support by the parish, is the most noteworthy example of this. Perhaps the next most striking example is our modern state education, which goes beyond the enforcing on a parent of bis child's education—as it enforces its provision of food, clothes, and shelter—and, as it seems that these latter expenses are all the parent can usually bear, the child of the poor man is sent to school chiefly at the charge of the rich and well-to-do. The attempt at rectifying, however crudely, somewhat of the current social injustice, reconciles many to the measure who would otherwise oppose it on the high grounds of liberty and the inviolable responsibility which should remain with a parent—for why should bread not be given to the children by the state as well as books?

Besides public-school education, there have been many commendable attempts within recent years at reducing the glaring inequalities of fortune so common and so undesirable. Public parks, libraries, museums, picture-galleries, and hospitals have been established with public funds for the popular good; and wealthy men have given large gifts to them, recognizing the responsibility of riches and doing something for the toilers who have brought their accumulations together. Yet if we are to expect more of justice in the institution of property as time goes on, we may expect to see the circle of charity recede as opportunities for its exercise diminish.

Having briefly and very imperfectly stated some of the evils which attend {he present methods of distributing and accumulating property, let us proceed to glance at the principal remedies suggested for their correction. The formal proposals for the righting of the wrongs of property have begun usually with land. In Great Britain not only reformers and philosophers, but parliamentary commissioners have again and again pronounced against the laws and customs of primogeniture and entail. These laws and customs are held to lead to unduly large estates—estates so vast as to be unwieldy in management, interposing factors and stewards too often between landlord and tenant; these vast estates yield incomes culpably great and so enormous that their recipients are often indifferent to improvements in farming in comparison with proprietors of small farms, and much land is wasted by being held for mere sport. When the holder of an entailed estate quarrels with his heir, the land suffers, that the personal property which may be freely bequeathed may be increased. Such quarrels, if we are to follow the experience of common life, are usually due in part to qualities in the heir which would make him less worthy of the estate than some relative or kinsman to whom the holder might bequeath it were he free to use his judgment.

Mr. Kinnear, who has written a most sensible book on the subject of property in land, argues convincingly that the diffusion of property rather than its aggregation is desirable, holding that nationally property will be found to be accumulated more rapidly in the former case than in the latter, while at the same time comfort and content will be more common. He speaks from wide experience in Great Britain, France, and the Channel Islands. Mr. Kinnear suggests that there be limits placed to the amount bequeath able to an individual, so that very large estates may become divided. In common with the majority of competent observers, he prefers the French tenure of small parcels of land to the British tenure of great estates, but he regards the French compulsory division of the bulk of a property at a father's death among his children as wrong: were the father free to will to whom he pleased, the moral effect would be beneficial.

Children grow disobedient and unfilial when they know they can not be set aside. And speaking of wills, the custom of making what should be naturally one of the saddest events in life the occasion of coming into a father's estate is severely commented upon by the supporters of Russian and other communal systems of tenure. In the Russian mir, when a young man becomes of age, he enters into the enjoyment of a share in the common estate, and the effects of this difference are said to be observable in the stronger family feelings which the Russian peasantry cherish in comparison with their Western brethren.

The sad experience of King Lear and the painful presence of the gaping heir are both avoided by those sensible men of wealth who are their own executors to as great an extent as may consist with the reserve of a personal competence.

The individual holding of land as in France, Germany, England, and America, has been opposed by a great many thinkers and popular leaders. The chief objection lodged against it has been that land, being as absolutely necessary to human subsistence as air and water, it should be as free from monopoly as these; for as the accumulations of a single holder go on there is risk of his being able to drive people forth where monopolists like himself do not exist, or, in conjunction with other such monopolists, order people off the face of the earth!

The second objection made to the present nearly absolute holding of real estate is that, particularly in America, and in Great Britain during the past century, the growth of population, the advance of manufacturing towns, and general progress in trade and commerce, have had the effect of enormously enhancing the value of land, increasing rents, without owners having given the community any equivalent whatever. Now, this unearned increment, as it is called, has bestowed upon some British noblemen and American land-owners many millions of value conferred by the mass of the people. This evident injustice is especially pressing in America, where there can be no doubt that, if the tenure of land remains as it is, the value of land apart from the improvements which labor may effect upon it, will be multiplied greatly within a century. Various remedies have been proposed to correct the evil.

The nationalization of land as suggested by Mr. Herbert Spencer has special reference to the United Kingdom. He would have the Government buy all the land from its owners at current market rates, and let it on competition. Mr. Fawcett, in his criticism of this suggestion, estimates the value of British lands and houses, apart from mines and railways, at £4,500,000,000. This enormous sum exceeds by six times the British national debt, and the raising of so large a sum as a loan in purchase would probably enhance the rate of interest one per cent beyond its present rate, and beyond the present rate of return received as rent. An annual deficit of £50,000,000 is calculated as the probable result of carrying out the proposal. Besides the special value attaching to individual possession, a value forming part of the current prices of land would be abolished when nationalization took place, and purely economic rents, minus the expense of an objectionable government control, would form the revenue to be credited against the interest on the purchase-money.

One of the leading pleas for nationalization of the land is the deprivation suffered by those who own none; but could not complaint be directed with equal propriety against lessors by all other citizens who would have to accept subleases? The sole benefit that could be hoped for from this scheme of nationalization would be the absorption in coming time of the appreciation in value due to increased density of population and other causes. This appreciation, if it takes place at all in the generations of the near future, is not likely to be other than moderate in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Henry George, of San Francisco, in his striking book, "Progress and Poverty," advocates much more heroic treatment of the evil of unearned increment. The constantly increasing tax of landlords, as tenants multiply and advance in industry, he regards as the main reason why a wedge seems to be dividing more and more widely the rich and poor. In his distant State he has seen land taken up by speculators and held untilled for years, that it might advance in value by immigration—settlers by such action being far too widely scattered for their private good or the general welfare of the State. Taking the ground of natural right, and following Quesnay and others, Mr. George declares that except in the improvements due to labor no man can have a valid title to any part of the earth's surface. He therefore proposes a tax on real estate which shall be equal to its rental as unimproved land. In defense of this virtual confiscation in its results, he declares his opinion to be that his tax would render any other unnecessary, so that, in exemption from duties and other government levies, property holders would receive a considerable palliative for the loss caused them by his discovery of the invalidity of their titles. The owners of town and city lots whereon buildings exist, and owners of improved farms, would retain the whole value of buildings and improvements, so as to be left with a large proportion of their former wealth. Objections bristle on all sides against Mr. George's proposal. First, he takes no note of the pretty general diffusion of real estate among the American people, property which all except a few of the whole population regard as real and substantial in a special sense. The confiscation of land, in past years freely exchangeable for other property and not generally held to-day by the enjoyers of very much unearned increment, would be resented by the common sense of the people; and the conscience of the needy classes, once weakened as to the validity of the tenure of one kind of property, might, under pressure of want in a commercial panic, indiscriminately attack all.

Most of us feel that the millionaires have too much even for their own good, yet any confiscation which might begin by depleting plethoric purses might end by larceny from very slender ones; and a movement ostensibly begun on grounds of public justice might, by additions of envy and the spirit of common theft, degenerate into wholesale pillage. Besides, how could a government like that of the United States be trusted with so vast and difficult a business as assessing all the land within its borders at its value—that is, at its market price, minus improvements? But the injustice of unearned increment in land remains with us still, and makes us wish that in America, on original settlement, the leasing for. long terms had been established instead of absolute sale or gift by the Government; and also directs attention to the advisability of taxing the increase of value in land due to advancing population, say to the extent of one half such increase, in cases of depreciation just rebate being made. Some perception of the evils which Mr. George has beheld and would endeavor to correct, led a few years ago to the forming in Melbourne, Australia, of a land reform society, which intended to urge on the Government the plan of leasing its lands instead of selling them to men who were reproducing in the colony some of the worst features of the English land tenure. In Java the Dutch Government leases plantations to a vast extent, and the plan works well there.

In Germany, the agitation against the existing laws and privileges of property has taken the form of socialism; the schemes of thinkers and closet-students have been popularized by press and platform until now the Socialistic party sends a large representation to the Reichstag, pressing measures upon the Government which a generation ago would have been deemed revolutionary. Much heated discussion has recently taken place in the national Legislature on the proposal that the Government should undertake the manufacture of tobacco; and if the state should manufacture tobacco acceptably and economically, why not cotton and wool? The beaucracy and strong paternal Government of Germany perform so many functions left in England and the United States to private enterprise, that the people in times of business depression look to the Administration for measures of relief instead of to their own efforts.

It seems to me that socialism is an evidence of the constantly rising dislike among the masses to the main advantages of competition and new business economies being enjoyed by the small class of capitalists. How far state control may allowably be invoked as a remedy in fields wherein individual exertions have been employed is a question warmly debated. One school of thinkers, led by Spencer and Bastiat, hold to laissez faire, and wish the operations of government confined to the narrowest limits—the maintenance of order and the enforcing of contracts—leaving individuals the utmost scope to think, express themselves, and act; the opposite school, among whom as an able exponent may be named Mr. Cairnes, hold that individuals, while following what they believe to be their interests, may not conceive their interests truly or in relations harmonizing with the general good, and that therefore some general control by the community of the actions of its several classes and members is most desirable for the correction of such practices and pursuits as are inimical to the whole body of the people, though pleasant or profitable to a few. This is said by Mr. Cairnes and others, not in advocacy of the general state direction of industry, but only in qualification of the sweeping theory that individuals, each doing his own work for its own reward, or seeking his pleasure in his own way, unconsciously contributes to the highest well-being of the community. Mr. Cairnes thinks the individual in society should be like a musician, who, in playing his part, looks chiefly to his own score, but occasionally glances at the central conductor so as to keep proper time with his fellows.

State socialism is not a living question in Great Britain or America; in Great Britain, however, the Government has notably added to its functions of late years: it has absorbed the telegraph service and the savings-banks into x the post-office, and there is some expectation that the railways may also come under Government control. Mr. Brassey believed that much waste of capital would have been prevented had Government controlled the English railways from their inception; unnecessary duplicate lines would not have been built, and their heavy cost in construction and maintenance would have been saved. Some forms of industry, like railway transportation, where free competition can be seen to lead to public waste, would seem to come appropriately under state control, provided that, as in Great Britain and Germany, the Government is administered honestly and intelligently. Advocates of state-controlled industry point to the danger, particularly in America, of railroad and similar monopolies robbing the people, but the people are not yet satisfied that their risks are not less as matters stand than if Washington officials bought supplies, constructed timetables, and engaged the servants. Mr. Albert Fink, railroad commissioner, in ability and character the chief American authority in railroad questions, gave before the Committee on Commerce in Washington, last March, some very interesting explanations of the difficulties of railroad management. He showed that the intricacies of the business were plainly beyond the mastery of a government board, and he attributed the sources of such valid complaints as are made against railroads to their lack of mutual co-operation and good faith. He suggests the appointment of a commission to investigate the facts adduced in substantiation of complaints against railroads; such a commission, at the close of its labors, to recommend, if it thought fit, the establishment of a permanent commission for the best devisable supervision by the state of railroad transportation. Mr. Fink stated that a board of arbitration among the railroads themselves, with power to enforce agreements and maintain good faith, would abolish the main evils which beset the business. He drew attention to the fact that, while agitators desire to reduce the earnings of the few roads in the Union which pay more than the ordinary return upon investments to that rate, they are not desirous of making up from the public treasury the deficits met with in operating many of the lines of great public utility.

Modern business is unquestionably, in important departments, passing from individual to corporate management, particularly as the art of conducting companies becomes better understood year by year. Town and city corporations in Great Britain have long since absorbed with advantage the business of water-supply, and have, within recent years, successfully undertaken the manufacture and supply of gas; and why, if ten men agree to conduct a business, may not ten thousand, or the large majority of voters in a town, or, for that matter, in a country, resolve themselves into a company, if they think there are good prospects of profit ahead, and conduct any business whatever? Experience alone can decide whether the expectation of profit is baseless or not.

Less ambitious than state socialism, and more practical, is co-operation, which is fast revolutionizing British retail trade, but which is very slowly attacking the pressing problem of production. We can only expect the conflict of capital and labor to cease when labor, by thrift, has saved capital and participates in profits. To begin co-operative production, only picked men can be useful, for, in the present condition of workingmen, there is not generally diffused the intelligence and character necessary to selecting proper leaders and trusting them.

The difficulties of co-operation are the main difficulties attending the reforms of property. No laws or methods tending to replace a millionaire by ten men of a tenth his fortune may touch the question of how extreme poverty among the masses is to cease. The elevation of the poor chiefly depends upon themselves, upon their intelligence, their ascertaining the real conditions of life by a sensible plan of education, and then fulfilling those conditions by hard work and self-restraint. No people that spend $600,000,000 a year on drink can excite much sincere pity for their poverty. No people who marry without regard to their ability to maintain wives and children can look for substantial aid from Legislatures. Leclair, the house-painter of Paris, has demonstrated that honesty and forbearance are all that are needed, under available direction, for workmen to appropriate the profits they so heartily grudge their employers. Evidences abound that, when the time comes that workmen are fit for co-operation, able men from among their ranks will take their places at the head of manufacturing associations, and therefore the deprivations which are suffered by the present systems of employing labor await abolition with the development of conscience and intelligence among the toilers.

The material gain achievable by directly interesting workmen in the results of their labor must soon be expected to awaken among both employers and employed a desire to test, on a large scale, the partnership plan so eloquently advanced by Mr. Holyoake and others. If the profits now appropriated by the heads of great companies and firms are felt to be more than just, the moral condition which makes the profits so great is one which it lies with the contributors themselves to lift and improve.

Formal methods of dealing with the problems of property may be expected to do much less to equalize disparities of fortune than an improvement in social morality throughout all classes of the people. The great monopolists derive much of the strength of their position from a debased public sentiment, which condones their methods and admires their success. Often the shippers who complain against the tyranny of a great steamship or railroad line themselves practice rules similar to those against which they cry out; they take advantage of scarcity—at times an artificially created scarcity—to extort extra profits; and, as a railroad monopoly makes its traffic bear all it will, the little monopolist, in the shape of manufacturer or trader, makes his customers pay him as much as he can, when circumstances give him the power of demanding unusual prices. An elevation in social morality would make conduct of this kind less common than it is, and would inevitably have some influence in restraining the greed of great monopolies. In America, with its limited past, wealth has an excessive social power, its pursuit is the business of nearly all the strongest intellects, and its marvelous growth in the country at large from year to year constantly tends to make it a more and more decided object of ambition. The ideal of a vast number of the people is wealth, and scarcely any price is thought too great to pay for it. If any improvement of this ideal is possible, it lies with teachers of morality and right thinking to effect it. Whether on the school-rostrum or the platform, in the pulpit or the editorial chair, or, above all, in the home, the aim of life should be taught to lie rather in the development of heart and conscience than in the accumulation of vast estates—more in the growth of honor and manliness than in the growth of those arts which gather wealth but stunt and paralyze the faculties of true enjoyment. The low idea of the subordination of life to the means of living is at the root of most of the problems of property. One of the chief impulses in the pursuit of wealth is the desire of obtaining public admiration and applause; if these are intelligently awarded much will be done to curb the unscrupulousness of those who gather together a great deal more than they can enjoy, in some cases heaping up sums far outbulking the accumulations of any previous age. And much will be done toward making efficient, in the prevention or punishment of the abuses of great properties, such legislation as may be applicable.