We may safely assume that, however much this action may have lightened Miss Addams’s conscience, it did not lighten the burden of debt upon the farmer, or make the periodic interest payments less painful, and it certainly did put them to the trouble and contingent expenses of a new mortgage. The moral burden was shifted, to the ease of the philanthropist, and this seems to exhaust the sum of the good results of one well intentioned deed. Do they outweigh the bad ones?
So, doubtless, there are among our friends persons who, upon proof that factories in which they have been interested pay starvation wages, have withdrawn their investments. And others who, stumbling upon a state legislature among the productive assets of a railway corporation, have sold their bonds and invested the proceeds elsewhere. It is a modern way of obeying the injunction, “Sell all thou hast and follow me.” And not a very painful way, since the irreproachable investments pay almost, if not quite, as well as those that are suspect.
It is not, however, impossible to conceive of a property owner driven from one position to another, in order to satisfy this new requirement of the social conscience, without ever finding peace. Miss Addams put the money withdrawn from those hideous farm mortgages into a flock of “innocent looking sheep.” Alas, they were not so innocent as they seemed. “The sight of two hundred sheep with four rotting hoofs each was not reassuring to one whose conscience craved economic peace. A fortunate series of sales of mutton, wool and farm enabled the partners to end the enterprise without loss.” Sales of mutton? Let us hope those eight hundred infected hoofs are well printed on the butcher’s conscience.
And the net result of all these moral strivings? The evil investments still continue to be evil, and still yield profits. Doubtless they rest, in the end, upon less sensitive consciences. Marvellous moral gain!
We are bound to the wheel, say the sociological fatalists. All our efforts are of no avail; the Wheel revolves as it was destined. Not so. Our strivings for purity in investments, puny as may be their results in the individual instance, may compose a sum that is imposing in its effectiveness. How their influence may be exerted will best appear from an analogy.