A Critical Examination of Socialism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 284 pages of information about A Critical Examination of Socialism.
in its premises, is stultified by its logical consequence; since the same principle on which we are urged as a sacred duty to take the income in question away from its present possessors, would forbid our allowing it to pass into the possession of anybody else.  In short, if continued daily labour, or else the exercise of invention, or some other form of ability, at some period of their lives by persons actually living, constitutes in justice the sole right to possession, the human race as a whole has no right to profit by any productive effort on the part of past generations; but each generation ought, so far as is practicable, to start afresh in the position of naked savages.  The fact that nobody would maintain a fantastic proposition like this is sufficient to show that, on the tacit admission of everybody, it is impossible to attack interest by insisting on any abstract distinction between incomes that are earned and unearned, and treating the latter as felonious, while holding the former sacred.  It is equally true, however, that on such grounds alone it is no less impossible to defend interest than to attack it; and here we arrive at what is the real truth of the matter—­namely, that in cases like the present the principles of ideal justice do not, indeed, give us false guidance, but give us no guidance at all, unless we take them in connection with the concrete facts of society, and estimate social arrangements as being either right or wrong by reference to the practical consequences which do, or which would result from them.

The practical aspects of the question we will discuss in the following chapter.



If we reconsider what we have seen in the last chapter, we shall realise that the moral or theoretical attack on interest, as income which is unjustifiable because it has not been personally earned, is, when tested by the logic of those who make it, an attack, not on interest itself, but on bequest; and that such is the case will become even more evident when we see what the theory comes to, as translated into a practical programme.

The majority of those who attack interest to-day, no matter whether in other respects they are advocates of socialism or opponents of it, agree in declaring that what a man has personally produced he has a perfect right to enjoy and spend as he pleases.  The only right they deny to him is the right to any further products which, before the capital has been spent by him, may result from the productive use of it.  Now, the practical object with which this restriction is advocated is to render impossible, not accumulations of wealth (for these are recognised as legitimate when the reward of personal talent), but merely their perpetuation in the hands of others who are economically idle.  So far, therefore, as this practical object

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A Critical Examination of Socialism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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