This essentially personal character of wealth must affect the views of those who would attack what are called the inordinate fortunes. I hold no brief for or against the multi-millionaire. In many cases I believe his wealth is as personal, assimilated and legitimate as is the average moderate fortune. In many cases too, I know that such gigantic wealth is in fact the product of unfair craft and favoritism, is to that extent unassimilated and illegitimate. Yet admitting the worst of great fortunes, I think a prudent and fair minded man would hesitate before a general programme of expropriation. He would consider that in many cases the common weal needs such services as very wealthy people render, he would reflect on the practical benefits to the world, of the benevolent enterprises for education, research, invention, hygiene, medicine, which are founded and supported by great wealth. In our time The Rockefeller Institute will have stamped out that slow plague of the south, the hook worm. To the obvious retort that the government ought to do this sort of thing, the reply is equally obvious, that historically governments have not done this sort of thing until enlightened private enterprise has shown the way. Our prudent observer of mankind in general, and of the very rich in particular, would again reflect that, granting much of the socialist indictment of capital as illgained, common sense requires a statute of limitations. At a certain point restitution makes more trouble than the possession of illegitimate wealth. Debts, interest, and grudges cannot be indefinitely accumulated and extended. It is the entire disregard of this simple and generally admitted principle that has marred the socialist propaganda from the first. From the point of view of fomenting hatred between classes, to make every workingman regard himself as the residuary legatee of all the grievances of all workingmen, at all times, may be clever tactics, it is not a good way of making the workingman see clearly what his actual grievance and expectancy of redress are in his own day and time.
With increasingly heavy income and inheritance taxes, the very rich will have to reckon. Yet the multi-millionaire’s evident utility as the milch cow of the state, will cause statesmen, even of the anti-capitalistic stamp, to waver at the point where the cow threatens to dry up from over-milking. If the case, then, for utterly despoiling the harmful rich, is by no means clear, the prospect for the harmless rich may be regarded as fairly favorable. For the moment, caught between the headiness of working folk, the din of doctrinaires, and the wiles of corporate activity, the lot of the middling rich is not the most happy imaginable. But they seem better able to weather these flurries than the windy, cloud-compelling divinities of the hour. From the survival of the middling rich, the future common weal will be none the worse, and it may even be better.