In his lecture on Social Ethics last evening, Professor Peabody said he should discuss all questions as to the practicability of the various schemes proposed to remedy existing social evils, and should consider just what sort of men each scheme would produce if it were carried out successfully. All such schemes are primarily moral protests, therefore it is just to put them to a moral test.
The system of free competition we have today is essentially a system of war, and it produces in men the qualities of solidness. Some of the leaders in industry have all the courage of action, alertness of stategy, and farsightedness in planning, that great commanders in war possess; but, as truly, some of the leaders are thoroughly unscrupulous, with nerves and consciences equally hardened. Indeed if a successful financier is a man of light character, it is more accident than a natural result of the standard of trade. And beyond this, the masses are sifted down, made machines of, told to follow and obey, and thus the best that is in them is never given a chance to express itself.
In a communistic society, the individual drops out of sight. Man has but few wants, of those wants he is totally secure. The spur of action is gone, the need for creative genuis is no longer felt, and we have a quiet submissive sort of beings, with ideas much in the same mould and with originality effaced.
Anarchy means freedom run wild. Every man has liberty, but it is the liberty of a savage. He makes no attempt to find his place in the social organism, but casting aside all balance and conservatism, has no thought for anything but his own will.
The impulses to evil would be restrained not a little by successful socialism, but in the operation many impulses to do good would also be checked. Socialism would necessitate a different human nature, one in which compulsion would not be necessary to keep all men to their work, and in which personal ambition need not be considered.
Professor Peabody said he did not claim that because some business would be carried on successfully, all business would, but where co-operation has been successful, there we find a class of men we can well admire. It brings out the business abilities of the plain people, and teaches them loyalty, patience, and sagacity. It makes the men whole and alive, and yet working for the common good.
Closely connected with the ethics of the labor question, is the ethics of wealth. The army of the unemployed includes not only the very poor, but the very rich, and the latter class is the more dangerous because it excites the laboring class to revolt. Either wealth must show that it is of some great use to the commonwealth, or, showing no reason for its existence, it must lose that existence.