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E. WORKMEN'S SICKNESS, ACCIDENT, AND
INVALID INSURANCE IN GERMANY AND
It is the purpose of this volume to point out what seem to be certain faults in present social and industrial conditions, and to suggest how these faults might be corrected in some measure by a system of compulsory state insurance. It is believed that the policy indicated might result in mitigating poverty, in allaying social unrest, and in contributing to a higher degree of industrial peace.
During the past century great labor-saving inventions, the application of steam and electricity to machinery, resulting in the so-called factory system, have completely transformed the industrial world. Laws, customs, and methods adapted to the old order of things have frequently proved entirely unsuited to the new. But the immense progress made in the arts and sciences has found no counterpart in the laws and customs which that progress demanded. We often discard the machine that is five or ten years old for something
better, but we are content to live under laws and practices which have remained almost unchanged for three hundred years and which have little to commend them except their antiquity. In the world of mechanics, of manufactures, of physical science, and of commerce, the inventive mind is constantly on the alert to discover better, simpler, more economical or more effective methods, while the legislator boasts of treading in antiquas vias, as if it were a virtue and as if there were no unexplored regions in the field of social or political science, no discoveries to be made, no reforms to be achieved.
There is a principle underlying this discussion which is briefly comprehended in the maxim that every man is entitled to a living, or, stated in other words, that he is entitled to a living wage for his labor. This right has been called a natural, a political, an ethical right. For our purposes it is immaterial what name is given to it; it is sufficient that we recognize it universally, not only in theory but in practice. If a man's life is sacred, if he is not to be stricken down by the assassin, so his right to a living shall be guarded - he shall not be allowed to starve. The right to life and the right to a living are not to be distinguished. “He that taketh away his neighbor's living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the
laborer of his hire is a bloodshedder.” i This may be applicable not merely to an individual, but to a condition of society or to a defective industrial system. This right has been asserted frequently and emphatically by the highest authorities. According to Cardinal Manning, it is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that the right of man to subsistence is prior to the rights of property. Leo XIII declared that it was “a dictate of nature more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man that remuneration must be enough to support the wage-earner in reasonable and frugal comfort,”; and Montesquieu maintained that the state owes to all of its citizens an assured subsistence and a mode of life consistent with health.: To Carlyle it seemed a platitude of a world in which all working horses could be well fed and innumerable working men should die starved." Malthus, on the other hand, foresaw for the near future the superfluous man for whom no cover should be laid at nature's mighty feast, whom she should tell to begone.
If all comers, whether by immigration or by 1 Ecclesiasticus, xxxiv, 12.
? Rerum Novarum. Allocutiones, vol. iv, p. 200. Official translation.
• Esprit de Lois, liv. 23, ch. 29. “L'Etat, qui doit à tous les citoyens une subsistance assurée, la nourriture, un vêtement convenable, et un genre de vie qui ne soit point contraire à la santé.”
• Past and Present.