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The trend of modern social evolution has experienced a great change in the last generation. The laissez-faire doctrine and the highly developed individualism of 30 years ago have given way to a new conception of society. Already gaining headway before the war, it has now expanded into the greatest force in human relations. There is no more certain sign on earth than the modern tendency toward a more communistic and socialistic organization of every nation's life.
The industrial revolution brought with it large-scale production and great centralization of industry. Its whole development has meant the sacrifice of small business and the elimination of competition. The ordinary laborer today lives through a daily routine of minute detail. His life is but a process of repetition of some small industrial function. And on the other side, the great monopolies of production have grown up and have seemed to make the system of private property but an instrument of the fortunate. It is under such conditions that social discontent has demanded a new order. With the increasing power of universal suffrage and education there can be but little question that great changes are in store for the immediate future.
There are, moreover, definite and tangible examples of this modern evolution. The first remedy for restricting monopoly is public regulation. During the last decades it has entered every sphere of industrial life. Unfortunately it has not worked well, and has been a serious menace to progress. The tendency of such control is almost without exception to crush private ownership. The railroads illustrate only too well how government supervision squeezes industry until it is no longer worth while for individuals to conduct it. At such a point economic organization evolves into public ownership, as it has done in the past and as it will doubtless continue to do. It is very possible that there may be some form of public control which is compatible with private ownership. This much is certain, however, that government regulation as we know it is not that form. The industrial system of today is an evolution from competition to monopoly to public ownership.
In other ways the development is equally clear. Taking into consideration human failings and realizing that human nature cannot change in a night, it is nevertheless scarcely too much to say that the selfish individualism of the past is giving way, in part at least, to a broader sense of altruism. Men today are beginning to care more about the well-being of their fellows. They are establishing means of recreation, industrial insurance and institutions for the betterment of the ordinary lot. The doctrine of allowing every man to shift for himself is a thing of the past.
And lastly the state itself is undergoing a revolution. The entire trend of modern legislation is that paternal, if you will, but better, humanitarian regard for society as a whole. The state is coming to realize the definite and every increasing part it must play in every individual's life.
It is from the combination of these factors that we must see that socialism has passed beyond the realm of theory and has become a movement. Though there are many who believe it a step backward, there are no men, however, who can afford to disregard it as the creation of rattle-brain theorists. There are great changes in the air which will mean a new society. They may be socialistic and they may be evolutions which will stop far short of that goal. But they are changes which must enlist the active thought of every man who will aid in creating the organization of the future. Socialism is a goal toward which modern society is slowly but distinctly moving.
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