truth is, however, that every man is a natural born
laborer, and idleness is an unhappy disease. It is as
natural and inevitable for man to work as it is for
him to eat or sleep. In fact, the one is only the reflex
action of the other; we receive constant nourishment
and daily recuperation, and we live under an iron necessity
to set free the accumulated energy which rest and food
produce. It is inevitable that we should hate many kinds
of work-work for which we are unfitted; but it is more
inevitable that we should enjoy work of some kind.
it were permitted to the professional mind to have opinions
on practical matters, I believe I should think of the
strike (or of all strikes) somewhat as follows:
the first place, the present strike, for all its wastefulness,
is productive of one priceless good; it has shown people
the absurdity and moral wrong in private ownership of
natural monopolies. Is it not the limit of perversity?
Here is the delightful spectacle of a great nation,
with boundless resources in so necessary an article
as coal, hampered and annoyed by the obstinate wrangling
between an obstinate clique of powerful capitalists
on one side and a band of discontented hirelings on
the other. And while these two factions, each absolutely
selfish, are holding their squabble week after week,
the people must go in want of coal! The position is
intolerable, and a poetic justice would send the delinquents
quickly packing about their business, and hand over
the coal fields to state ownership.
justice, however, is slow, and is only wrought out through
the tardy and difficult acts of men as they gradually
come to apprehend the finest demands of ethics and to
shape their conduct accordingly.
mine owners and operators are not particularly blameworthy.
They are human, like the rest of us. They are men of
absolute business integrity. At least, one may assume
that much of any prominent American, without knowing
him personally at all. They want all they can get lawfully,
according to the rules of commercial honor and usage.
They are acting quite within their rights, and are no
more to be held in obloquy than the rest of us. The
trouble is that the great industrial game of modern
civilization is run on principles that are morally rotten.
Because it does not recognize right and wrong as absolute
standards of conduct. Because it has superceded one
false conception of life- the conception which said,
"Might makes right," and has set up in its
place another equally false, the ideal which says, "Shrewdness
makes right." But right and wrong are not matters
that can be governed by shrewd and clever self-interest,
any more than they can be regulated by brute strength.
They are matters of the heart; they always have been
so, and always will be as long as the world lasts. And
any form of civilization which is built on a moral judgement
is bound to fail, as all its predecessors have failed
before it. In our systems of ethics we have had the
wit to perceive the significance of moral ideals and
to declare them necessary and inviolable. In "practical
life," however, as we fatuously call it, we have
been content to maintain the old cut-throat system of
ethics which we inherit from the beasts below us.
yet one must always be careful not to rail against things
as they are. Let us acknowledge they are bad and manfully
attempt to right them. It seems to me that the wealthy
people are really as quite as great sufferers from the
social evils as the poor are, only their woes are not
so apparent. The poor suffer from atrophy of the body;
the rich suffer from atrophy of the soul.
I think we all acknowledge that every man has a right
to work. But he also has a right to which custom does
not recognize at all; that is, the right to the fruit
of his work. Under present conditions no matter how
hard a workman may toil, no matter how eminently skilful
he may be, he is only permitted to retain as much of
the wealth he produces as will enable him to live and
go on working. The landlord and the usurer get the rest.
is true of all men who earn a living. The landlord and
the capitalist are very often perhaps, usually workmen,
too, and earn a good living, as they should. But they
make more then they earn; and this is wrong because
it is made out of the earnings of other men-workmen-without
the workmen's consent.
the interests of labor and capital are not diverse,
they are one. Both classes are bent on the production
of wealth. Neither can do a thing without the assistance
of the other. They must work by a compact. And yet the
proceeds of their joint efforts are not divided according
to any mutual agreement. For one party to the compact
takes everything and allows the other party a starvation
wage. To the simple-hearted intelligence this seems
a monstrous iniquity. I believe that it is so. Surely
every man is entitled to his shall of the wealth of
the community in proportion to the value and difficulty
of the service he renders to that community. Certainly
the unintelligent workman cannot expect an equal share
with his skilful fellow. But their shares should differ
in proportion to their skill, not in proportion to their
chicanery. Capital has to employ labor; it also employs
the laborers. But labor, quite as truly, has to employ
capital. Why doesn't it employ the capitalists?
we shall not have any better state of affairs until
we have more honest capitalists and more intelligent
workmen-men who will refuse to live on the earnings
of others, and men who will refuse to work slavishly
for the benefit of others. Until we reach such a grade
of intelligence and honesty the more strikes we have