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The Rich are growing richer, and the Poor poorer.

"It is one of the most melancholy features in the social state of this country, that while there was a decrease in the consuming powers of the people, and while there was an increase in the privations and distress of the laboring class and operatives, there was at the same time a constant accumulation of wealth in the upper classes, and a constant increase of capital." WILLIAM E. GLADSTONE.

The third Postulate of Socialism is that under the capitalistic system, the rich are growing richer, and the poor poorer. Laborers, however, are better off than formerly. The absolute condition of the poor is not here in question; but the relative rate of material progress between the rich and poor. The words of Rodbertus are, "As the productivity of social labor increases, the wages of the laboring classes constitute an ever-decreasing portion of the national product."


Marx states the Postulate more fully thus: "With the continually decreasing number of the magnates of capitalism, who usurp and monopolize all the advantages of the changed form of production, there is an accompanying increase in the mass of misery, of oppression, of bondage, of degradation, of exploitation."2 Increasing millions of laborers, not yet Socialists, believe this to be true. The evil is regarded not as incidental, which a little social tinkering can remedy, but as inherent in the capitalistic system.

Socialism, therefore, would take the beast and cut off its tail immediately behind its ears. The essential features of this systen are Private Capital, Freedom of Contract, and Free Competition.

The first condition of freedom of contract, is freedom not to contract. Practically there can be no freedom of contract between the weak and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the dependent employee and the independent employer. It is free only in the sense in which the contract of capitulation between Lee and Grant was free.

Cold and hunger affect freedom of contract as a pistol in

1 As quoted in " French and German Socialism" (Ely), p. 161.
2 Ibid., p. 177.

the hands of a highwayman affects his proposal to his victim, who, under the circumstances, gladly embraces the opportunity to accept it.

In this Postulate it is not intended to assert the absolute condition of either the rich or the poor, but only their relative condition. Confusion has resulted from not observing this distinction.

We repeat that in the charge that the rich are growing richer, and the poor poorer, it is not the absolute but the relative condition of the two classes that is intended.

It will be admitted that this is a tremendous indictment against the existing order. Is it true? Most writers agree that labor has some cause of complaint against capital; there is wrong somewhere.

Let us consider the grounds on which this Postulate rests and the objections to it.

1. The Concentration of Wealth. There are seventy persons in our country with a total of $2,700,000,000, or $31,500,000 each; 30 others are worth upwards of $30,000,000 each; 25,000 persons own one-half the national wealth, or one-seventeenth of the population owns twothirds of it.


If the present accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few continues, the "United states of America will be substantially owned by less than 50,000 persons" within 30 years.1 The case is even worse in Great Britain. income of the United Kingdom is now (1880) a thousand millions pounds annually. This enormous fortune has been accumulated so rapidly, that if Great Britain had started from nothing fifty years ago, and progressed at the rate of the recent annual increment of her wealth, she would have now not far from her present income. 'While we have been advancing with this portentous rapidity,' says Mr. Gladstone, 'America is passing us by in a canter'" 2

2. The testimony of Political Economists is important on this point. Professor R. T. Ely, in describing the rise 1 Thomas G. Sherman," Forum," November, 1889. 2 "Labor" (Cook), p. 16.

of the fourth estate (wage-workers), says, "The weak and needy had as never before lost all connection with the strong and powerful. . . . The capitalist grew richer, and among the higher classes of society luxury and extravagance increased. The laborer, noticing all this, asked himself if his lot had in any way improved. He was inclined

to deny that it had. . . . The rich were becoming richer; and it was thought the poor were becoming poorer.”1

Dr. Strong furnishes valuable testimony on this subject. "There is,' says the eminent Professor Cairnes, 'a constant growth of the national capital, with a nearly equally constant decline in the proportion of capital which goes to support productive labor,' and this can result, he points out, only in ‘a harsh separation of classes, combined with those glaring inequalities in the distribution of wealth which most people will agree are among the elements of our instability. Unequal as is the distribution of wealth already in this country (England), the tendency of industrial progress on the supposition that the present separation between industrial classes is maintained is towards an inequality greater still. The rich will be growing the richer and the poor at least relatively poorer.'

"Professor Henry Carter Adams says that 'the benefits of the present civilization are not impartially distributed, and that the laborer of to-day, as compared with the nonlaboring classes, holds a relatively inferior position to that maintained in former times.

"The laborer himself interprets this to mean that the principle of distribution which modern society has adopted is unfair to him.' Is it strange that working men should agree with such conclusions of political economists? "2

3. The Gulf between Social Classes is widening. The evils of the industrial differentiation of the people extend most unhappily to all social relations. Class distinctions are growing in spite of the equalizing tendencies of democratic institutions, and in spite of the noble and often heroic efforts of Christianity and philanthropy.

1 "French and German Socialism," pp. 7-9.

2 "Our Country," pp. 103, 104.

The meetings and feasting of the rich become more and more exclusive. Their children are taught in the private school, or by private tutors, to prevent contamination by poorer children made of inferior clay. In the social circle caste is king, and in the church are gathered the well-to-do, who, while asking the question how to reach the masses, abate not one jot or tittle of that mammonistic pride and vanity which precisely answers the questions how not to reach them.


The spirit that in Boston within forty-five years has deprived a certain district with an increasing but poorer population of nine churches and is now causing the tenth to seek a more "desirable" field is fairly representative, not of Christianity, but of the church. All this widening of class lines is undemocratic as well as unchristian. If this tendency goes on in our country, till society is permanently divided into hostile camps with a haughty plutocracy on the one side and an angry proletarian class on the other, then will come the severest test to our republican institutions.

We do not despair of the republic; but we are not sanguine enough to believe that it will survive the segregation of wage-workers into a permanent hereditary class, without property and hopeless.

4. The relative Condiion of Laborers in England is worse than in feudal times. Of industrial classes in England, Thorold Rogers, one of the foremost political economists of England, says, "It is in vain to rejoice over the aggregate of our prosperity, and to forget that great part of the nation has no share in its benefits. It may be that the wisdom of our forefathers was accidental; it is certain that society was divided by less sharp lines and was held together by common ties in a far closer manner, in the times which it has been my fortune to study (the Middle Ages) than it is now. The feudal system of the Middle Ages was one of mutual interest; its theory of property involved far more exacting duties than modern rights ever acknowledged, or remember, or perhaps know." 2 1 "Congregationlist," August, 1888.

2 As quoted in "French and German Socialism" (Ely), p. 5.

Here, from an unexpected source, and with no intent to indorse Socialism, we come upon facts that furnish a solid foundation for its Postulate, that under the capitalistic system, the rich are growing richer, and the poor poorer.

5. Industrial Dependence Impoverishes the Laborer. The deterioration of the laborer's condition must, with exceptions that are only temporary, increase pari passu with his increasing dependence.

The concentration of capital, the swallowing-up of small industries, the use of machinery, the minute subdivision of labor, all tend to destroy the independence of the individual laborer. In the presence of the great corporation, he has less and less to say about the details of his work or the amount of his wages.

All these are fixed by arbitrary, ex parte rules and regulations, which under the system are legitimate and even necessary, however socially unjust in themselves. The laborer is more and more regarded as an inferior and his labor as a pure commodity. This labor, owing to competition, he is under an increasing pressure to sell.

"Wages," says Mr. Mill, "are likely to be high where none are compelled by necessity to sell their labor." 1

The opposite is equally true; that is, in proportion as the sale of labor is compulsory wages will be low. As certain, therefore, as that the tendency of industrial conditions renders the laborer more dependent, so certain is it that the laboring poor must grow relatively poorer.

6. In Cities especially Poverty Deepens as Wealth Increases. The increasing poverty and misery of American cities, rendering large masses, if not a majority of citizens, helpless and hopeless, is an evil so portentous that our wisest statesmen stand aghast before it.

There is no surer evidence of degrading poverty than overcrowding in wretched tenement houses. "No city in the world suffers so deeply from this evil as New York. Twenty-two thousand dwellings are supposed to shelter over one-third of its population, and from these crowded stalls come over fifty-three per cent of the city's dead. . . .

1 As quoted in "The Wage Question " (Walker), p. 348.

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