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INDIVIDUALISM v. SOCIALISM., Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement
INDIVIDUALISM v. SOCIALISM.
TO THK KDITOB. Sir,—l have to thank you for your interesting report of the lecture given by the Rev. J. Gibb on 'The Moralisation of Wealth.' I think tho Social Reform Association is to be commended for inducing some thoughtful and intelligent men to consider and to give utterance tc their reflections on a few of the graver and moro important social and political problems that are pressing for satisfactory solution. One may not always agree with their conclusions, but the publicity given to their careful and intelligent thought upon such subjects cannot fail to extend the habit of thoughtful reflection, and this of itself in a community where universal suffrage almost prevails is of great value. It is possible that had the full text of Mr Gibb's lecture been before me, or had I heard it delivered, I would be in a better position to make a few remarks of a friendly critical nature. In either case I might not have to complain of the very indeterminate nature of the conclusions at which he arrived on the profound problem of establishing a " modus vivendi between capital and labor." It is manifestly impossible for one in a newspaper letter to do more than touch the fringe of the subject he treated so boldly and exhaustively. He Bays there is a remedy for the evils engendered by the working out of the principle of self-Intereßt; but beyond stating the broad Christliko truth that the remedy lay in "Every man for all men; every man his brother's keeper," he giver, very wavering and feeble indications how he would get this truth brought into actual practice. He wavers between "grandmotherly legislation," as would be exhibited in " the interference of the State between the capitalist and the laborer," and " the deepening of the sense of responsibility for the common welfare in the minds of all men." He is feeble in the faith that for every great occasion in the affairs of humanity there never fails the man or set of men fitted for the work of meeting the needs of progression. He is, in fact, a pessimist. He would anticipate the millennium, when the brotherhood of man will bo universally acknowledged, by the legislative interference of men who in their corporate capacity of legislators are but the reflex of the people, and therefore guided by the current sentiments and principles of the mass, Make the tree good and the fruit will be good ; and that means if all men were imbued and actuated by Christlike principles we would have a perfect social state. Mr Gibb does, indeed, say that he trusts more to this implantation and practice of the Gospel rule of " loving one's neighbor as oneself" for a brighter and happier day in our social organisation than in State interference. But ho would in his impatience invoke the aid of the State to do a great many things that all history proves are better left to the inexorable laws of supply and demand, and to that change of inherent principle in mankind which it is the duty of the moral reformer and the church to effect. Mr Gibb is, as he says, "no socialist," and he declares that
" individualism haft had its day''and Was "bondehiaea by the w&rld as Utterly in; adequate of itself to furnish " a ablution how to reconcile capital and labor, What then is Mr Gibb ? But ho unhesitatingly denounces "individualism," and herein. 1 deem him to bo in error. For the fact ia this maligned social principle has never had a fair trial. He says truly that it had its origin in the revolution effected in industrial pursuits by the " steam-engine of James Watt" and Smith's ' Wealth of Nations,' a book that forever established industrial freedom; yet he overlooks the all important truth that it commenced its reign upon tho rotten foundation of the evil dregs of the feudal and military systems that had prevailed in Great Britain for centuries—drags which in these colonies have been fatally imported to perpetuate the noxious results now beginning to manifest themselves even in New Zealand. Mr Gibb cannot surely bo ignorant of the fact that the great sources of production—nay, of life itself—were monopolised by a few fortunate individuals, who, by force, robbery, or other ignoble means, had secured them on a title legally, but not righteously, indefeasible and inalienable from themselves and families. Men were, and are, born into the world without access or right to their share of the "common gifts and energies of Naturesoil, water, air, sunshine; and to the common stock of raw material stone, wood, coal, metal." In other words, that true individualism cannot possibly exist or be fairly tested until " landed property " including in that absurd term all above and below the soil—has been made the property of tho nation and not of private individuals. How long will it be before our philosophers and statesmen will recognise that the common and limited stocks of land and raw material can never be property in the true sense of the word i Herein lies the fallacy underlying the condemnation of individualism, that somehow or other by kingly State interference and regulations the earth, with its stored-up deposits of raw materials and with its capabilities of sustaining man, has been portioned out to a few monopolists, and they can and do exact a bitter toll of rent from their less fortunate fellowcreatures. The nationalisation of all raw material, including land, may now be almost unattainable in Great Britain with the complicated interests that have been created during centuries ; but it is for ever to bo regretted that in these colonies we should blindly have followed in the wake of wicked and effete privileges of feudality, and withoat the dntics connected with its earlier form of protection to the poor and the defence of the country. Mr Gibb suggests that it would be well in London and elsewhere to expend money in building better house? for the denizens of the slums; but, supposing that the Duke of Westminster refused to sell, or would sell only at impossible prices—what, then, would become of the philanthropists and their kind projects ? There are various other ideas and statements I would like to combat, but your space will not permit now. In concluding, I take leave, however, to doubt whether a "kind" and indulgent (as she always is) "grandmother" is better for a child than a parent who is guided by a stern sense of duty, and leaves it to develop energy and self-reliance, instead of being pampered and spoiled by gifts and good things dropped into its mouth. lam a decided opponent to " grandmotherly legislation," for New Zealand is becoming enervated and otherwiso injured by the miserable coddling of Parliament given to enterprises that can be more safely and permanently established by individual energies.—l am, etc., J.C. Oamaru, September 3.
INDIVIDUALISM v. SOCIALISM., Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement
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