Puslapio vaizdai

feudal lordship meant a loss of some of the older liberties but it was followed by security and social order and, because of these, an increased production. The enclosure of the common lands of England in the eighteenth century threw many thousands of families into acute economic distress but at the same time it increased the agricultural productiveness of the whole country. The use of steam and machinery in the period of the Industrial Revolution caused an immense shifting of the population from country to city and from one part of England to another and a most painful transformation of their habit of living, but it also brought about a hitherto unknown abundance and cheapness of machine-made goods, created the present standard of living, and made possible the most rapid increase of human population that the world has ever known. Whatever may be the case in the future, history shows us that up till now private property has been the most dynamic stimulus to production, the best means of utilizing capital with a view to the satisfaction of our growing wants. The chief incentive to hard work, to watchful care and to the intelligent avoidance of waste and destruction is actual ownership of property or the prospect of such ownership. If human beings were angels, they might do their best without the stimulus of self-interest, but, as they are now, the appeal to self-interest is essential. Both history and social psychology justify the statement that, over any long period of time and in the normal circumstances of life, self-interest is the most powerful motive to industry, if we mean by self-interest, not only the individual's interest in himself, but also his interest in his family, his church, his club, and all the other institutions with which his self becomes strongly identified. If this statement seems to place too lowly an estimate on the moral nature of man, we may reassure ourselves by remembering that the moralizing of life does not mean the destruction of self-interest, but the identification of the self with all society and that he who begins with a narrow and isolated self may end with a social self to which no person's interest is foreign.

The moral justification of private property, then, is twofold: first, every human being has a right to become a person if he can, and the possession of property is a means necessary

to such realization; second, society's first interest is the abundant production of economic goods, and private property, thus far, has been the greatest incentive to the putting forth of economic energy. These two motives are not the same, indeed they often conflict, but both must be measurably satisfied if society is to be stable and if the economic wants of the community are to be met. The right to own property, to sell it or lease it, to bequeath it or give it away, has been recognized and sanctioned by society, after much hesitation and experimentation, because it has been progressively discovered that such private ownership has best advanced the interests that the individual and the group have considered to be of most immediate concern. Those interests may have been less ideal than the moralist could desire. The interests of justice and mercy and beauty and religion may have been sacrificed often for the sake of large production and a stable social order. But at least it may be said that when society sanctioned private property, it did so because it felt that its own interests were best guaranteed by such action. Society recognized the advantage of private ownership to the individual but, in sanctioning it, it was thinking more of the social than of the individual significance of such ownership.

If society sanctions private property because of its social utility, it would seem to follow that when any form of private property loses its social utility or becomes a positive disutility, it is the right and duty of society to withdraw its sanction from that particular form. Society has already done so on more than one occasion. It no longer sanctions private property in human beings or in public highways. In irrigated countries, individual rights are strictly subordinated to the rights of the community. In the United States in recent years all properties used for the production and sale of intoxicating liquors have, through the eighteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution, lost the social sanction for such uses. And yet the exercise of this power, the actual withdrawal of the social sanction from certain forms of private property, has always met with obstacles, theoretical and practical. The necessities, utilities and medicines of one period become the shackles, the burdens and the poisons of another period.

For example, it was inevitable that the framers of the Federal Constitution should embody in it the ideas of private property which were current in the most thoughtful circles of the time and should try to rally to its support the classes most interested in a stable social order, namely, the propertyholders. The conception of the right of property which was then in vogue in progressive circles in Europe as in America, was a highly individualistic one but nevertheless at the time it was not without a sound moral basis. Thinking men claimed that property was a moral right because it assured to the worker the product of his toil. Property at that time was menaced by the fiscal policy of governments and the surviving usages from the old feudal system. Hence in defending the rights of property the French philosophers and the English liberals were, whether consciously or not, championing the cause of the farmer, the merchant, the master craftsman and the productive classes generally. They taught that without security of property wealth could not be produced. They knew nothing of our modern industrial plutocracy, for, before the Industrial Revolution and the coming of the great machineindustry, the simple property which then existed was widely distributed and was everywhere regarded rather as an instrument of production, as an aid to creative work than as an instrument of exploitation or a mere source of income. For this reason, their conception of the right of property, though individualistic in its form of statement, was sound at the core. Indeed it was little more than the truism that, if people are to be fed and clothed and housed, their access to and use of the instruments of production must be guaranteed to them. It was this individualistic idea of private property that was current when the Federal Constitution was framed and, as ex-President Hadley of Yale says, it shaped that document so that it gives a place of power and privilege or, to use his own words, 'an almost impregnable constitutional position', to property. Almost every State constitution and every bill of rights formulates the doctrine that private property is a natural right. Even the slave-holders of the South were able to appeal to that doctrine as a reason why they should be upheld by the State in their ownership of slaves.

But in the course of one hundred and thirty years great changes in the distribution of property have taken place. The age of colossal machine-industry lies behind us. Wealth is now concentrated in the hands of a few hundreds of thousands of people in every industrial country. Capital is often thought of less as a means of production than as a source of income. Ownership and use are often divorced. Ownership rather than service has become in many countries the badge of social status. Many of the monopolistic industries have from time to time developed an absolutistic attitude towards the community and the State as though they had forgotten that all forms of property must have the social sanction behind them if they are to endure. In a word, the connotation of the word 'property' is very different to-day from what it was when the Constitution was written. It suggests colossal aggregations of wealth in monopolistic trusts which are sometimes almost powerful enough to defy the Government; it suggests wealth which is not actively used in production by its owners but passively enjoyed, now and then in cultural leisure, but only too often in extravagance, luxury and licentious abandon; it suggests an underground political influence which corrupts statesmen and legislatures in order to defeat hostile legislation or to pass legislation suited to its purpose. None of these meanings, I venture to say, was present to the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they gave property its privileged position. While they stressed the natural right of the individual to property and said nothing of its social sanction, the thought of that sanction cannot have been absent from their minds. Like the European thinkers who were then stressing the same idea, they simply took for granted that the owner of property would use it in ways that would increase the general welfare. They could not and did not foresee all the developments that property would undergo in the nineteenth century. It is fair to believe that it was owing to their lack of foresight rather than to their deliberate intention that, as a great American, ex-President Hadley of Yale, said in his Ford lectures at Oxford, 'the governmental means provided for the control or limitation of private property are weaker in America than in European countries.'

The most urgent need of the hour, then, so far as the defence of private property is concerned, is a re-emphasizing in the public mind of the social character of property. What may have been implied but is not clearly stated in the constitutional documents must be made explicit. Every intelligent person, surely, is dimly aware, in the less active part of his mind, that his property-rights, which are guaranteed to him by the State, were also granted to him by the State. The State's right of 'eminent domain', that is, its right to appropriate (with compensation) the private property of any citizen to public purposes, ought alone to show him that. But this half-conscious knowledge of the social sanction must be thought out anew by the general public. We must learn that a 'right' is not some entity thrust into the social order from the outside nor some quality which belongs to the individual in his isolation from society (for individuality and sociality can no more be separated than the inside and outside of the same object) but, as Professor Jenks says, 'a power enforced by public sentiment past or present.' We must remind ourselves again and again that the living source of law and right is the social conscience and that when the social conscience is fully aroused as, for example, against slavery or the liquor traffic, it refuses to be controlled by past sentiment even when embodied in the Constitution but amends or supplements the Constitution so as to 'effectuate its own purposes for the general welfare. We must read aright the significance of the growing use of the police-power by the Supreme Court which has in its jurisdiction the status of private property through its function as judge of the constitutionality of any given law affecting property-right. That police-power has been defined by Professor Ely as 'the power of the courts to interpret the concept property and, above all, private property, and to establish its meets and bounds' and, to support this definition, we may quote the statement of Justice Holmes of the Supreme Court: "The police-power extends to all the great public needs. It may be put forth in aid of what is sanctioned by usage or held by the prevailing morality or the strong and preponderant opinion to be greatly and immediately necessary to the public welfare."

« AnkstesnisTęsti »