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THE MORAL ASPECTS
By SIDNEY BALL, M.A,
St. John's College, Oxford.
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LONDON : THE Fabjan Society, 3 Clement's Inn, STRAND, W.C. PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 1896. THIRD REPRINT February 1908.
THE MORAL ASPECTS OF SOCIALISM.*
Socialism and Character. MODERN SOCIALISM, or Collectivism, is often regarded as a typical expression of the neglect, or even the denial, of the principle that in social reform character is “the condition of conditions." At first sight, it seems true that character has not been put in the foreground of Socialist discussion : its emphasis appears to be laid almost exclusively on machinery, on a reconstruction of the material conditions and organization of life. But machinery is a means to an end, as much to a Socialist as to anyone else ; and the end, at any rate as conceived by the Socialist, is the development of human power and capacity of life. The quarrel with Socialists cannot be, then, that they mistake the means for the end, but either that they take a low or narrow view of human nature, or that the means they suggest will lower rather than raise the scale of human life.
The Evolution in Modern Socialism. It is important that we should realize the nature of the develop. ment which has been at work in the conception of Socialism. If Socialism repeats itself, it repeats itself with a difference. If we fairly compare the Socialism of the earlier with that of the latter part of the century, we shall find that, however much they have in common, there is a sense in which the conception of Socialism is entirely modern. Socialism would not be the vital thing it is, if it remained unaffected by the development of social and industrial experience, and the general progress of scientific thought. The context is different, and even when the language is the same, the meaning is changed.t The claim of modern Socialism to be "scientific” may be just or not, but it means by “scientific" such an economy as shall be on a line with the modern scientific treatment and conception of life. Its dominating idea is that of conscious selection in social life, or of the expression of practical economics in terms of quality of life. From the point of view of its alleged indifference to character, the aims of modern Socialism may be described as an endeavor to readjust the machinery of industry in such a way that it can at once depend upon and issue in a higher
• Reprinted (by permission) from the International Journal of Ethics, April, 1896, with some omissions and additions.
† To give one example. State Socialism means one thing to , German, another to an Englishman; and one thing to an Englishman of Adam Smith's time, and another to an Englishman of our own time: the State, in the latter context, mans the community democratically organized for collective purposes, whether parochially, locally, or nationally.
kind of character and social type than is encouraged by the conditions of ordinary competitive enterprise. If it does, in a sense, want to make things easier, it is only for the worker, and not for the idler ; and the problem with which it is concerned is not primarily a more or less of enjoyment, but a more or less of opportunity for development of character and individuality. Its criterion of economic machinery is simply-does it or does it not make for a greater amount and quality of life and character ?
The older Socialism rested upon such ideas as “the right to live," “the right to work," " payment according to needs," the denial of “the rent of ability,' "expropriation without compensation," “minimizing” or “materializing" of wants—all ideas of retrogressive rather than of progressive" selection." But it would not be too much to say that all these ideas are either silently ignored or expressly repudiated by modern Socialism. The “ideology" of the older Socialists has given way to a deliberately, and in some ways rigidly, scientific treatment of life. Modern Socialism recognizes the baws of social growth and development in setting itself against catastrophic impossibilism and the manufacture of mechanical Utopias; it recognizes the moral continuity of society in its consideration for vested interests; it does not base industrial organization on “the right to work” so much as on the right of the worker, not on "payment according to needs" so much as "payment according to services "; it recognizes the remuneration of ability, provided that the ability does not merely represent a monopoly of privileged and non-competitive advantage ; it is aware of the utility of capital, without making the individualist's confusion between the employment of capital and the ownership of it, between the productive and proprietary classes; it is not concerned about the inequality of property, except so far as it conflicts with sound national economy; it does not desire so much to minimize as to rationalize wants, and attaches the utmost importance to the qualitative development of consumption; and, finally, not to enumerate more distinctly economic developments, it recognizes “the abiding necessity for contest, competition, and selection," as means of development, when it presses for such an organization of industry as shall make selection according to ability and character the determining factor in the remuneration of labor.
Socialism and Competition. So far from attempting to eliminate “competition " from life, it endeavors to raise its plane, to make it a competition of character and positive social quality. The competition which takes the form not of doing one's own work as well as possible, but of preventing any one else from doing the same work—the form of competition, that is, in which the gain of one man is the loss of another-is of no social value. The only competition that can advance individual or social life is simply a corollary of co-operation ; it implies the recognition of a common good and a common interest which gives to our “individual ” work its meaning, its quality, and its value ; and the