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SOCIALISM AT THE HELM.
We were glad of the opportunity a few weeks ago to congratulate our Socialist friends upon the fortunate current of events in England, where in five years forty socialistic laws have gone into operation. It cannot fail to be a consolation to them that their schemes, utterly divested of reason, and repugnant to right, should at least display the stern virtue of physical reality. And when others, like To-DAY, arrogantly assume to level at triumphant Socialism the finger of scorn, the champions of that false creed may well stand speechless and motionless, as they do, pointing only in reply the finger of pride (or even a thumb) at the accomplished facts of Socialism.
Now let them strike an attitude before the Fifty-first Congress of the United States, still in the midst of its first session. To discover how great is the debt of gratitude they owe to this illustrious body for the advancement of their cause, let them only contrast its vast ingenuity with the puny feats of some of its predecessors. It is yet too soon to speak of the number of laws which will be passed by the Fifty-first Congress, so the contrast may be confined to the numbers of bills introduced. In the Thirtyeighth Congress, for example, the number of bills introduced in the House was 812, and in the Senate, 485. In the Thirty-ninth Congress the numbers were respectively 1,234 and 635. In the present Senate there have been introduced over 4,000 bills and in the House over 11,000. The population of the country in the meanwhile has doubled, and the number of bills in Congress has been multiplied by twelve! The session has now lasted nearly nine months, occupying the time of 414 men. Yet, lamentable to relate, only a small part of American human affairs is now under the inspection and regulation of Congress. To this must be added the State legislatures; but even then there remains a perfectly appalling number of acts which men are still free to do or not as they choose. How many legislators, working how many
months in the year, will succeed in bringing these within the range of inspection and under the heel of regulation? When a mere trifle of inspection and regulation, relatively, such as we have now, drafts off over 300,000 men to inspect and regulate the rest, how many will be drafted off when the ideal of Socialism has been attained?
vances the aggressions become less and less direct and glaring. In this country a man's life is tolerably safe from any arbitrary exercise of governmental power, and the grossest violations of personal liberty, as imprisonment, can be made only by due process of law. The aggressions made by the Government are mostly in minor matters, as when regulations are made in cities in accordance with which men must build houses; or are indirect, as when monopolies are supported or assisted. These aggressions are tolorated at present partly because men's conception of personal liberty has not yet fully developed, partly because their intelligence has not developed sufficiently to enable them to perceive just when and how they are aggressed upon,
GOVERNMENT AND CRIME.
What the Government can not and does not do is
to prevent crime. Murder, rape, arson, and burg- partly because their morality has not suffilary flourish. Twentieth Century.
ciently developed to make them unwilling to aggress upon others, or to see others treated unjustly. A gradual improvement is perceptible; in England no such arbitrary commitments to the Tower and executions as were common in the days of the Stuarts would be tolerated now; while in this country we may hope that, as a man's life is now safe from arbitrary action on the part of the Government, so, in the future, his property and the exercise in minor ways of his personal liberty will be safe from assaults by Congress, State Legislatures, and Municipal Governments.
It is really not open to question that less. crimes are committed than would be committed if governments did not exist — that many men are restrained from "murder, rape, arson, and burglary" by the fear of imprisonment or hanging who would not be restrained by conscience. The absolute necessity for some agency to repress antisocial actions more effective than the resistance which each individual is able to offer when they are committed against him personally is very well shown in new societies, such as were some of our Western States a few years ago. There voluntary associations were at first formed for the repression of such acts. Such associations very readily
Attend to these Congresses and Legislatures. Not any one of them proposes to double the number of office-holders at once. But addition will prove as effective for increasing the incubus of officialism as multiplication.
Very true, the Government cannot prevent crime, but the real question is, does Government have a tendency to prevent crime. The existence of a Government not necessarily of the present one with its abuses is justified if less crimes are committed by reason of it. The complaint against Government that it leaves undone, the things which it ought to do, and does the things which it ought to leave undone is perfectly sound; but it does not follow that government should therefore be entirely abolished. Because a thing is subject to grave abuses is not always sufficient reason for doing away with it altogether. A communication in another column takes the ground that governments were devised and perpetuated by men for purposes of aggression. But men are at least as eager not to be aggressed upon as they are to aggress upon others, and it seems more likely that they would combine for the former purpose than for the latter.
This is chiefly what governments pretend to be combinations to prevent aggression, both from external enemies and from members within the society. Governments have been and are now largely used for purposes of aggression, but as civilization ad
become associations for aggression instead of for defence, as instance, the White Caps, of Indiana. Many anti-social actions, as theft and fraud, would be directly profitable to the individual if they were not punished, and so natural selection as far as it acts upon individuals has not much tendency to cause the disappearance of such actions. Natural selection is able to act upon societies, however, and cause those societies to disappear in which crime is most plentiful. The fact that the prevalence of crime produces weakness in the society is one of the causes why Government exists, notwithstanding its short comings and the unwarranted aggressions to which it gives rise.
The desideratum seems to be not to abolish government altogether, but to do away with its abuses, to confine its aggressions within the narrowest possible bounds, and to render it as efficient as may be in performing its necessary duties. As human nature is not yet perfect, it is futile to hope that a perfect government can be constructed out of this imperfect humanity. The most that can be expected is that the Government shall represent a fair average of the humanity, and that part which is concerned with the administration of justice probably does represent a fair average; that part which is concerned with the excessive action, the abuses of Government, from the ward boss to the wire puller at a national convention or in Congress, probably falls below a fair average. The average character of humanity can be raised in two ways: by the general progress of the race, and by segregating and eliminating the worst specimens. The first, which is by far the most important, nature must be trusted to take care of; the second, men themselves may achieve.
PROGRESS OR CHANGE?
The marvellous efficacy attributed to the action of political forces is shown almost daily by the things sought to be accomplished by these forces. Every society which
seeks to bring about some reform is almost sure to conclude, sooner or later, that the most effective way to work is to make its influence felt in politics. A few men have sought to make a machine the motion of which should be perpetual; but practically all men are now, and always have been, seeking to make the machine of government perpetually produce good and abolish evil. "The world," says Montaigne," is incapable of curing itself. It is so impatient of what burdens it that it thinks only of how it shall rid itself of the burden, without inquiring at what price. A thousand examples show us that it cures itself; ordinarily, at its own cost. The getting rid of the present evil is not cure, unless there be a general amendment of condition. Good does not immediately succeed evil. One evil, and a worse, may follow another, like Caesar's assassins, who brought the republic to such a pass that they had reason to repent the meddling with it." Most men are fully persuaded that the world can never reform itself; but if the government, will only take the matter in hand, the evils will be cured forthwith. And then there are some who wish to reform the govern
All progress is change of some kind; but something more than change is necessary. It is as important to hold fast that which is good as to acquire new good or abolish evil. It is perhaps well that there should be a division of labor in the work of progress, that some men should be strongly impressed with the evil of the present order of things, and animated with an intense desire for change, while others discern clearly the good in the present order, and are very earnest in preserving it. Even those who most freely abandon themselves to their imagination, and mix promises of liberty with the despotism of Utopias, which they would impose upon nations under pretext of enfranchising them, are by no means wholly mischievous. The visionary schemes which they propose must be brought to the test of conservative crit
icism, and their criticism of the things to which the conservatives cling so tenaciously is not without value. Neither conservatism nor the force which makes for change is by itself able to produce the best result, but, each being corrected by the other, when they exist in the right proportion their resultant is true progress.
As with individuals, so in a less degree with nations, during youth the forces producing change predominate, and the forces which resist change increase with age. This is seen by comparing older nations with younger ones, and in this country by comparing the older with the younger parts. The West is less conservative and more progressive, at any rate more ready for changes, than the East. This readiness is just now exhibiting itself in a striking form among a class which is usually the most conservative part of the population, — the farmers.
The life of the farmer is isolated, dull, and monotonous. His lack of converse with other men makes him deficient in adroitness in business dealings. He is unable to follow the causes which depress the price of his produce, and is thus easily persuaded that he, who makes the wealth of the country, is tricked out of his proper share by combinations of designing speculators. To belong to a church and support it by his purse, to belong to a party and support it by his vote, seem to him the duty of a good citizen. The isolation and monotony of his life render him at the same time tenacious of the ideas which he has and somewhat inaccessible to new ones. After his allegiance has once been secured by a political party, he is the easiest sort of voter to retain, the most to be depended upon. As a consequence, his interests have received less consideration than those of other classes. In one kind of public questions he feels a very intense. interest and has very strong convictions, namely, those relating to what he regards as monopolies, railroads and banks. - It seems likely to be demonstrated that a
party is able to alienate him from itself by going contrary to his convictions on those questions. The life he leads has a tendency to keep him from feeling a desire to co-operate with others engaged in the same occupation, and makes it difficult for him to form societies. The spirit of the day for combination, however, which is manifested by almost all other classes, capitalists, working-men, traders, and those following professions, has at last reached him, and he, equally with the rest, sees in political action the readiest means of accomplishing what he desires.
The Farmer's Alliance was, according to a long editorial in the New York Evening Post, first organized in Texas nearly twenty years ago, as a purely philanthropic society. "To labor for the education of the agricultural classes in the science of economic government in a strictly non-partisan spirit"; "to develop a better state mentally, morally, socially, and financially"; "to suppress personal, local, sectional, and national prejudices, all unhealthy rivalry, and all selfish ambition," - these are some of the quotations made from its declaration of principles. The Alliance has grown, during the last few years very rapidly, — until now it extends over nearly the whole country. Partly, doubtless, in consequence of its size, partly owing to the curious and striking results of its economic investigations, it has abandoned its intention of steering clear of politics, and it will, according to the Florida Times-Union, be represented by thirty members in the next House of Representatives.
There can be no reasonable doubt that the tariff legislation for the last thirty years has affected agriculture injuriously; by it the farmer has been prevented from buying in the cheapest market. He has sent a portion of his wheat to Europe, but instead of being allowed to expend the money received for European goods, be has been obliged to pay it to the domestic manufacturer for a smaller quantity of generally inferior American goods. The
price of what he has to sell is determined by what his produce will bring in the markets of the world; the price of what he has to buy is artificially raised by the tariff. Legislation, in discriminating in favor of the manufucturer, has turned out to be discriminating against the farmer, and farming has become the most unprofitable of all kinds of industry. It took the farmers a long time to perceive this, largely because the question got mixed with politics, and they were blinded by their party prejudice; but they are beginning to perceive it now. The Alliance platforms in Nebraska, Missouri, and Minnesota all recognize with more or less clearness that the tariff is to a great extent responsible for the continued depression of agriculture; while a branch of the Alliance in Illinois demands that articles the manufacture of which is under the control of a trust or combine be permitted to enter the ports of the United States free of duty until the trust is broken."
That a class of men who perceive that they are aggressed upon by the action of government should not exert what political power they possess to resist the aggression is not to be expected or desired. It is only a question of time when the whole class of farmers will perceive how they are affected by the tariff, because this is a tolerably simple question in its general aspect, and the senses of men are keen to perceive what is for their material advantage. Some other very strange economic theories which obtain widely with the Alliance have a tendency to prevent members from fully realizing this. The most striking of these theories is that the national banks are chiefly responsible for the poverty and distress of the farmers throughout the United States. They know that the banks issue money, and that sometimes the bank-notes are retired from circulation. In this way, according to the theory, the banks control the amount of money circulating in the country, and so can manipulate prices to their own advan
tage, because, when the amount of circulation is great, prices are high, and when it is small, they are low. This theory was prominent during the days of the Greenback party, though there has always been more or less opposition to banks. From this theory comes the universal demand of the Alliance for the extinction of the national banks; from it, too, comes the notion that the issue of more money would be a remedy for the low prices of farm produce and would enable the farmer to pay off his mortgage and make him prosperous. The increased amount of currency should be secured by the unlimited coinage of silver on an equality with gold," and by a government issue of enough paper money," full legal tender for all debts public and private," to make the total circulation fifty dollars per capita, says the Alliance, in Nebraska; in other States the proper amount per capita is not determined.
The railroads are blamed by farmers in the West, who have corn to sell, for the low price, and by farmers in the East, who buy corn, for the high price. The remedy is for the Government to own the railroads and telegraph lines and furnish transportation at cost.
These are the two most widespread, I might say the universal, delusions of the Alliance, and they are shared by many farmers who are not members. There is little hope that a man once possessed of them will ever recover, because to be posessed of them presupposes an amount and kind of ignorance that is not likely to be dissipated in a lifetime. They have their root partly in the jealousy and suspicion with which the farmer regards people engaged in business, who are, it must be