Some may claim that the security of property has now fulfilled its mission; that we can safely allow the principle to decay in order to concentrate our attention upon the task of establishing non-propertied rights. But let us remember that we are not removed from barbarism by the length of a universe. The crust of orderly civilization is deep under our feet: but not six hundred years deep. The primitive fires still smoke on our Mexican borders and in the Balkans. And blow holes open from time to time through our own seemingly solid crust—in Colorado, in West Virginia, in the Copper Country. It is evidently premature to affirm that the security of property has fulfilled its mission.
The question at issue, is not, however, the rights of property against the rights of man—or more honestly—the rights of labor. The claims of labor upon the social income may advance at the expense of the claims of property. In the institutional struggle between the propertied and the propertyless, the sympathies of the writer are with the latter party. It is his hope and belief that an ever increasing share of the social income will assume the form of rewards for personal effort.
But this is an altogether different matter from the crushing of one private property interest after another, in the name of the social welfare or the social morality. Such detailed attacks upon property interests are, in the end, to the injury of both social classes. Frequently they amount to little more than a large loss to one property interest, and a small gain to another. They increase the element of insecurity in all forms of property; for who shall say which form is immune from attack? Now it is the slum tenement, obvious corollary of our social inequalities; next it may be the marble mansion or gilded hotel, equally obvious corollaries of the same institutional situation. Now it is the storage of meat that is under attack; it may next be the storage of flour. The fact is, our mass of income yielding possessions is essentially an organic whole. The irreproachable incomes are not exactly what they would be if those subject to reproach did not exist. If some property incomes are dirty, all property incomes become turbid.