Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Fallacy of Socialism by Guy Morrison Walker 1921

The Fallacy of Socialism by Guy Morrison Walker 1921

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“The essential weakness of Socialism is that in destroying the incentive for improvement and progress, it destroys the possibility of improving the condition of the ignorant and mediocre and that in its efforts to cheat extraordinary ability out of a fair compensation, it robs itself of all benefit that it would derive from the exercise of the gifts of its most intelligent individuals.

Practically every law that has been passed in response to popular clamor against wealth has been to declare criminal some practice that was economically sound and morally just in an effort to handicap the efficient and economical operations of able men and give the incompetent, the little and the mean, an opportunity to live off the necessities of the poor.

Whether the law of competition be good or evil, it is here. Evolution is competition. We must recognize it and adjust ourselves to it. To attack wealth is to attack thrift. Equality is found only among savages."

In Praise of Guy Morrison Walker, excerpted from the Kentucky Law Journal 1922:

There was a time when a brave heart was needed to champion the cause of labor. Today organized labor has become a mighty force, emphatic in its demands, and of sufficient numerical power to enforce its determinations.

The modern iconoclast defends wealth. Such a stand denotes at least originality of thought. For that reason, aside from the merit of his work, Guy Morrison Walker's, "The Things That Are Caesar's" is especially interesting.

Most of us are surfeited with labor propaganda. Laborers, toilers ourselves, we are full of the food of our own thoughts. Compelled to work for our daily bread, taught to envy the holders of money bags, it is difficult for us to see the capitalist's side of the labor question. To such as we, Guy Morrison Walker's defense of wealth presents a new angle to an old problem, a clear challenge to thought and reflection. We may not agree with the book in its entirety; we must agree that it is timely, convincing, and absorbingly interesting.

The author has written a strong preface. He admits the difficulties in the path of one who would approach the problem of capital and labor. It is universal, omnipresent, and as yet unsolved. But the author believes he has found the solution and with the conviction of one who, as he says, "writes between successive operations with the fear of approaching death" he seeks to speak nothing but the truth. He asks us to consider his work in the nature of a dying declaration.

The book opens with a study of the beginning of wealth. Two men of the Stone Age kill, divide, and devour a wild fawn. One, gorged to capacity, seeks a nearby stream, drinks, and sleeps. The other, with the memory of his two-day hunger still upon him, hides the offal of his share in a neighboring tree-fork. Two days later, unfortunate in their search for game, they seek the scene of their former killing. As the older man, who has saved a portion of his meat, ravenously devours it, the younger begs for a share. "Give me half of the meat that you have saved and when my hunger is satisfied and my strength renewed, I will go hunting and give you half of my next kill." But the older man continues to satisfy his hunger. When he has finished, he pushes over the remainder of the meat to the younger man and strikes a bargain on these terms.

"The saving of the uneaten portion of the fawn was the beginning of wealth, and the use of it to save the starving young man, the beginning of capitalism, while the hunting of the younger hunter to repay the debt he owed to the older, who had fed him when he was starving, was the beginning of the wage system."

Thus did man begin to lay up the surplus of today's labor for tomorrow's rainy day. Gradually men found that by saving the fruits of summer, they could escape the pangs of hunger in winter, that by simple inventions, they could lessen their labors, that by increased exertion at certain seasons, they could have leisure at other times for study, thought, and pleasure.

But a certain part of the population of every tribe lived from hand to mouth, from day to day, from meal to meal. They accumulated no surplus. And they envied their betters. One man wanted the wealth that belonged to another. The same inequalities are with us today.

The author takes as his major premise the proposition that wealth is created "not by labor but by brains." "Social philosophers have ignored the most extraordinary thing that makes for human inequality and that is, the diversity of ability and quality in the human mind."

The most graphic illustration in the whole book is under this topic. The building of the tunnel under the Hudson is cited. A New York newspaper sent a reporter there to write a story of the work. "It was curious," he says, "to note the purely mechanical stroke of the crowbar and shovel, the workmen simply went faithfully through the motions that they were hired to make, not one of them worked as if he had an interest in the job, yet not one was lazy or shirking. The engineers, however, showed the intensest interest, a nervous, high-strung devotion, as if brain and heart were all in the enterprise." Not an ounce of energy did the laborers expend in thinking! The brains of the engineers were on fire! The most valuable element in the accumulation of wealth is not labor but brains.

The book throws aside the modern doctrine of socialistic, community wage systems, where each man works for a like wage, like hours, at a common speed, and reiterates the old doctrine of competition.

"Whether the law of competition be good or evil, it is here. Evolution is competition. We must recognize it and adapt ourselves to it. The law of competition has operated and will continue to operate to insure the survival of those who have best developed the habits of work."

The author closes with a pertinent question, "What did ignorance and poverty ever produce?" Wealth builds our railroads, erects our factories, it won the late war. It is the surplus laid aside by the provident of the race. It prevents famine and preserves stability. It insures progress!

What is the hope of Labor? What is the author's solution to the problem? Walker believes that Labor should create a surplus. Labor should add interest, education, and above all brains to its physical tasks. Laborers should not be automatons but thinking, planning, creators of wealth, always saving a surplus, that they too may become capitalists, each in his own ability.

The book is a notable achievement in a needed line of thought. It can be read in two hours; it will be remembered a [hundred years from now].

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