Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

very dining-house some forty years ago. Once more you must
remember that there is recognized no sort of difference between
the dignity of the different sorts of work required by the nation.
The individual is never regarded, nor regards himself, as
the servant of those he serves, nor is he in any way dependent
upon them. It is always the nation which he is serving. No
difference is recognized between a waiter's functions and those
of any other worker. The fact that his is a personal service is
indifferent from our point of view. So is a doctor's. I should as
soon expect our waiter today to look down on me because I
served him as a doctor, as think of looking down on him because
he serves me as a waiter."

After dinner my entertainers conducted me about the building,
of which the extent, the magnificent architecture and
richness of embellishment, astonished me. It seemed that it was
not merely a dining-hall, but likewise a great pleasure-house and
social rendezvous of the quarter, and no appliance of entertainment
or recreation seemed lacking.

"You find illustrated here," said Dr. Leete, when I had
expressed my admiration, "what I said to you in our first
conversation, when you were looking out over the city, as to the
splendor of our public and common life as compared with the
simplicity of our private and home life, and the contrast which,
in this respect, the twentieth bears to the nineteenth century. To
save ourselves useless burdens, we have as little gear about us at
home as is consistent with comfort, but the social side of our life
is ornate and luxurious beyond anything the world ever knew
before. All the industrial and professional guilds have clubhouses
as extensive as this, as well as country, mountain, and seaside
houses for sport and rest in vacations."

NOTE. In the latter part of the nineteenth century it became a
practice of needy young men at some of the colleges of the country
to earn a little money for their term bills by serving as waiters on
tables at hotels during the long summer vacation. It was claimed,
in reply to critics who expressed the prejudices of the time in
asserting that persons voluntarily following such an occupation could
not be gentlemen, that they were entitled to praise for vindicating,
by their example, the dignity of all honest and necessary labor.
The use of this argument illustrates a common confusion in thought
on the part of my former contemporaries. The business of waiting
on tables was in no more need of defense than most of the other
ways of getting a living in that day, but to talk of dignity attaching
to labor of any sort under the system then prevailing was absurd.
There is no way in which selling labor for the highest price
it will fetch is more dignified than selling goods for what can be got.
Both were commercial transactions to be judged by the commercial
standard. By setting a price in money on his service, the worker
accepted the money measure for it, and renounced all clear claim
to be judged by any other. The sordid taint which this necessity
imparted to the noblest and the highest sorts of service was
bitterly resented by generous souls, but there was no evading it.
There was no exemption, however transcendent the quality of
one's service, from the necessity of haggling for its price in the
market-place. The physician must sell his healing and the apostle
his preaching like the rest. The prophet, who had guessed the
meaning of God, must dicker for the price of the revelation, and the
poet hawk his visions in printers' row. If I were asked to name the
most distinguishing felicity of this age, as compared to that in which
I first saw the light, I should say that to me it seems to consist in
the dignity you have given to labor by refusing to set a price upon
it and abolishing the market-place forever. By requiring of every
man his best you have made God his task-master, and by making
honor the sole reward of achievement you have imparted to all
service the distinction peculiar in my day to the soldier's.

Chapter 15

When, in the course of our tour of inspection, we came to the
library, we succumbed to the temptation of the luxurious leather
chairs with which it was furnished, and sat down in one of the
book-lined alcoves to rest and chat awhile.[3]

[3] I cannot sufficiently celebrate the glorious liberty that reigns
in the public libraries of the twentieth century as compared with
the intolerable management of those of the nineteenth century,
in which the books were jealously railed away from the people, and
obtainable only at an expenditure of time and red tape calculated
to discourage any ordinary taste for literature.

"Edith tells me that you have been in the library all the
morning," said Mrs. Leete. "Do you know, it seems to me, Mr.
West, that you are the most enviable of mortals."

"I should like to know just why," I replied.

"Because the books of the last hundred years will be new to
you," she answered. "You will have so much of the most
absorbing literature to read as to leave you scarcely time for
meals these five years to come. Ah, what would I give if I had
not already read Berrian's novels."

"Or Nesmyth's, mamma," added Edith.

"Yes, or Oates' poems, or `Past and Present,' or, `In the
Beginning,' or--oh, I could name a dozen books, each worth a
year of one's life," declared Mrs. Leete, enthusiastically.

"I judge, then, that there has been some notable literature
produced in this century."

"Yes," said Dr. Leete. "It has been an era of unexampled
intellectual splendor. Probably humanity never before passed
through a moral and material evolution, at once so vast in its
scope and brief in its time of accomplishment, as that from the
old order to the new in the early part of this century. When men
came to realize the greatness of the felicity which had befallen
them, and that the change through which they had passed was
not merely an improvement in details of their condition, but the
rise of the race to a new plane of existence with an illimitable
vista of progress, their minds were affected in all their faculties
with a stimulus, of which the outburst of the mediaeval renaissance
offers a suggestion but faint indeed. There ensued an era of
mechanical invention, scientific discovery, art, musical and literary
productiveness to which no previous age of the world offers
anything comparable."

"By the way," said I, "talking of literature, how are books
published now? Is that also done by the nation?"


"But how do you manage it? Does the government publish
everything that is brought it as a matter of course, at the public
expense, or does it exercise a censorship and print only what it

"Neither way. The printing department has no censorial
powers. It is bound to print all that is offered it, but prints it
only on condition that the author defray the first cost out of his
credit. He must pay for the privilege of the public ear, and if he
has any message worth hearing we consider that he will be glad
to do it. Of course, if incomes were unequal, as in the old times,
this rule would enable only the rich to be authors, but the
resources of citizens being equal, it merely measures the strength
of the author's motive. The cost of an edition of an average book
can be saved out of a year's credit by the practice of economy
and some sacrifices. The book, on being published, is placed on
sale by the nation."

"The author receiving a royalty on the sales as with us, I
suppose," I suggested.

"Not as with you, certainly," replied Dr. Leete, "but nevertheless
in one way. The price of every book is made up of the cost
of its publication with a royalty for the author. The author fixes
this royalty at any figure he pleases. Of course if he puts it
unreasonably high it is his own loss, for the book will not sell.
The amount of this royalty is set to his credit and he is
discharged from other service to the nation for so long a period
as this credit at the rate of allowance for the support of citizens
shall suffice to support him. If his book be moderately successful,
he has thus a furlough for several months, a year, two or three
years, and if he in the mean time produces other successful work,
the remission of service is extended so far as the sale of that may
justify. An author of much acceptance succeeds in supporting
himself by his pen during the entire period of service, and the
degree of any writer's literary ability, as determined by the
popular voice, is thus the measure of the opportunity given him
to devote his time to literature. In this respect the outcome of
our system is not very dissimilar to that of yours, but there are
two notable differences. In the first place, the universally high
level of education nowadays gives the popular verdict a conclusiveness
on the real merit of literary work which in your day it
was as far as possible from having. In the second place, there is
no such thing now as favoritism of any sort to interfere with the
recognition of true merit. Every author has precisely the same
facilities for bringing his work before the popular tribunal. To
judge from the complaints of the writers of your day, this absolute
equality of opportunity would have been greatly prized."

"In the recognition of merit in other fields of original genius,
such as music, art, invention, design," I said, "I suppose you
follow a similar principle."

"Yes," he replied, "although the details differ. In art, for
example, as in literature, the people are the sole judges. They
vote upon the acceptance of statues and paintings for the public
buildings, and their favorable verdict carries with it the artist's
remission from other tasks to devote himself to his vocation. On
copies of his work disposed of, he also derives the same advantage
as the author on sales of his books. In all these lines of
original genius the plan pursued is the same to offer a free field
to aspirants, and as soon as exceptional talent is recognized to
release it from all trammels and let it have free course. The
remission of other service in these cases is not intended as a gift
or reward, but as the means of obtaining more and higher
service. Of course there are various literary, art, and scientific
institutes to which membership comes to the famous and is
greatly prized. The highest of all honors in the nation, higher
than the presidency, which calls merely for good sense and
devotion to duty, is the red ribbon awarded by the vote of the
people to the great authors, artists, engineers, physicians, and
inventors of the generation. Not over a certain number wear it at
any one time, though every bright young fellow in the country
loses innumerable nights' sleep dreaming of it. I even did

"Just as if mamma and I would have thought any more of you
with it," exclaimed Edith; "not that it isn't, of course, a very
fine thing to have."

"You had no choice, my dear, but to take your father as you
found him and make the best of him," Dr. Leete replied; "but as
for your mother, there, she would never have had me if l had
not assured her that I was bound to get the red ribbon or at least
the blue."

On this extravagance Mrs. Leete's only comment was a smile.

"How about periodicals and newspapers?" I said. "I won't
deny that your book publishing system is a considerable
improvement on ours, both as to its tendency to encourage a real
literary vocation, and, quite as important, to discourage mere
scribblers; but I don't see how it can be made to apply to
magazines and newspapers. It is very well to make a man pay for
publishing a book, because the expense will be only occasional;
but no man could afford the expense of publishing a newspaper
every day in the year. It took the deep pockets of our private
capitalists to do that, and often exhausted even them before the
returns came in. If you have newspapers at all, they must, I
fancy, be published by the government at the public expense,
with government editors, reflecting government opinions. Now,
if your system is so perfect that there is never anything to
criticize in the conduct of affairs, this arrangement may answer.
Otherwise I should think the lack of an independent unofficial
medium for the expression of public opinion would have most
unfortunate results. Confess, Dr. Leete, that a free newspaper
press, with all that it implies, was a redeeming incident of the
old system when capital was in private hands, and that you have
to set off the loss of that against your gains in other respects."

"I am afraid I can't give you even that consolation," replied
Dr. Leete, laughing. "In the first place, Mr. West, the newspaper
press is by no means the only or, as we look at it, the best
vehicle for serious criticism of public affairs. To us, the
judgments of your newspapers on such themes seem generally to
have been crude and flippant, as well as deeply tinctured with
prejudice and bitterness. In so far as they may be taken as
expressing public opinion, they give an unfavorable impression
of the popular intelligence, while so far as they may have
formed public opinion, the nation was not to be felicitated.
Nowadays, when a citizen desires to make a serious impression
upon the public mind as to any aspect of public affairs, he comes
out with a book or pamphlet, published as other books are. But
this is not because we lack newspapers and magazines, or that
they lack the most absolute freedom. The newspaper press is
organized so as to be a more perfect expression of public opinion
than it possibly could be in your day, when private capital
controlled and managed it primarily as a money-making business,
and secondarily only as a mouthpiece for the people."

"But," said I, "if the government prints the papers at the
public expense, how can it fail to control their policy? Who
appoints the editors, if not the government?"

"The government does not pay the expense of the papers, nor
appoint their editors, nor in any way exert the slightest influence
on their policy," replied Dr. Leete. "The people who take the
paper pay the expense of its publication, choose its editor, and
remove him when unsatisfactory. You will scarcely say, I think,
that such a newspaper press is not a free organ of popular

"Decidedly I shall not," I replied, "but how is it practicable?"

"Nothing could be simpler. Supposing some of my neighbors
or myself think we ought to have a newspaper reflecting our
opinions, and devoted especially to our locality, trade, or profession.
We go about among the people till we get the names of
such a number that their annual subscriptions will meet the cost
of the paper, which is little or big according to the largeness of
its constituency. The amount of the subscriptions marked off the
credits of the citizens guarantees the nation against loss in
publishing the paper, its business, you understand, being that of
a publisher purely, with no option to refuse the duty required.
The subscribers to the paper now elect somebody as editor, who,
if he accepts the office, is discharged from other service during
his incumbency. Instead of paying a salary to him, as in your
day, the subscribers pay the nation an indemnity equal to the
cost of his support for taking him away from the general service.
He manages the paper just as one of your editors did, except that
he has no counting-room to obey, or interests of private capital
as against the public good to defend. At the end of the first year,
the subscribers for the next either re-elect the former editor or
choose any one else to his place. An able editor, of course, keeps
his place indefinitely. As the subscription list enlarges, the funds
of the paper increase, and it is improved by the securing of more
and better contributors, just as your papers were."

"How is the staff of contributors recompensed, since they
cannot be paid in money?"

"The editor settles with them the price of their wares. The
amount is transferred to their individual credit from the guarantee
credit of the paper, and a remission of service is granted the
contributor for a length of time corresponding to the amount
credited him, just as to other authors. As to magazines, the
system is the same. Those interested in the prospectus of a new
periodical pledge enough subscriptions to run it for a year; select
their editor, who recompenses his contributors just as in the
other case, the printing bureau furnishing the necessary force
and material for publication, as a matter of course. When an
editor's services are no longer desired, if he cannot earn the right
to his time by other literary work, he simply resumes his place in
the industrial army. I should add that, though ordinarily the
editor is elected only at the end of the year, and as a rule is
continued in office for a term of years, in case of any sudden
change he should give to the tone of the paper, provision is
made for taking the sense of the subscribers as to his removal at
any time."

"However earnestly a man may long for leisure for purposes of
study or meditation," I remarked, "he cannot get out of the
harness, if I understand you rightly, except in these two ways you
have mentioned. He must either by literary, artistic, or inventive
productiveness indemnify the nation for the loss of his services,
or must get a sufficient number of other people to contribute to
such an indemnity."

"It is most certain," replied Dr. Leete, "that no able-bodied
man nowadays can evade his share of work and live on the toil of
others, whether he calls himself by the fine name of student or
confesses to being simply lazy. At the same time our system is
elastic enough to give free play to every instinct of human nature
which does not aim at dominating others or living on the fruit of
others' labor. There is not only the remission by indemnification
but the remission by abnegation. Any man in his thirty-third
year, his term of service being then half done, can obtain an
honorable discharge from the army, provided he accepts for the
rest of his life one half the rate of maintenance other citizens
receive. It is quite possible to live on this amount, though one
must forego the luxuries and elegancies of life, with some,
perhaps, of its comforts."

When the ladies retired that evening, Edith brought me a
book and said:

"If you should be wakeful to-night, Mr. West, you might be
interested in looking over this story by Berrian. It is considered
his masterpiece, and will at least give you an idea what the
stories nowadays are like."

I sat up in my room that night reading "Penthesilia" till it
grew gray in the east, and did not lay it down till I had finished
it. And yet let no admirer of the great romancer of the twentieth
century resent my saying that at the first reading what most
impressed me was not so much what was in the book as what
was left out of it. The story-writers of my day would have
deemed the making of bricks without straw a light task compared
with the construction of a romance from which should be
excluded all effects drawn from the contrasts of wealth and
poverty, education and ignorance, coarseness and refinement,
high and low, all motives drawn from social pride and ambition,
the desire of being richer or the fear of being poorer, together
with sordid anxieties of any sort for one's self or others; a
romance in which there should, indeed, be love galore, but love
unfretted by artificial barriers created by differences of station or
possessions, owning no other law but that of the heart. The
reading of "Penthesilia" was of more value than almost any
amount of explanation would have been in giving me something
like a general impression of the social aspect of the twentieth
century. The information Dr. Leete had imparted was indeed
extensive as to facts, but they had affected my mind as so many
separate impressions, which I had as yet succeeded but imperfectly
in making cohere. Berrian put them together for me in a

Chapter 16

Next morning I rose somewhat before the breakfast hour. As I
descended the stairs, Edith stepped into the hall from the room
which had been the scene of the morning interview between us
described some chapters back.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, with a charmingly arch expression, "you
thought to slip out unbeknown for another of those solitary
morning rambles which have such nice effects on you. But you
see I am up too early for you this time. You are fairly caught."

"You discredit the efficacy of your own cure," I said, "by
supposing that such a ramble would now be attended with bad

"I am very glad to hear that," she said. "I was in here
arranging some flowers for the breakfast table when I heard you
come down, and fancied I detected something surreptitious in
your step on the stairs."

"You did me injustice," I replied. "I had no idea of going out
at all."

Despite her effort to convey an impression that my interception
was purely accidental, I had at the time a dim suspicion of
what I afterwards learned to be the fact, namely, that this sweet
creature, in pursuance of her self-assumed guardianship over me,
had risen for the last two or three mornings at an unheard-of
hour, to insure against the possibility of my wandering off alone
in case I should be affected as on the former occasion. Receiving
permission to assist her in making up the breakfast bouquet, I
followed her into the room from which she had emerged.

"Are you sure," she asked, "that you are quite done with those
terrible sensations you had that morning?"

"I can't say that I do not have times of feeling decidedly
queer," I replied, "moments when my personal identity seems an
open question. It would be too much to expect after my
experience that I should not have such sensations occasionally,
but as for being carried entirely off my feet, as I was on the point
of being that morning, I think the danger is past."

"I shall never forget how you looked that morning," she said.

"If you had merely saved my life," I continued, "I might,
perhaps, find words to express my gratitude, but it was my reason
you saved, and there are no words that would not belittle my
debt to you." I spoke with emotion, and her eyes grew suddenly

"It is too much to believe all this," she said, "but it is very
delightful to hear you say it. What I did was very little. I was
very much distressed for you, I know. Father never thinks
anything ought to astonish us when it can be explained scientifically,
as I suppose this long sleep of yours can be, but even to
fancy myself in your place makes my head swim. I know that I
could not have borne it at all."

"That would depend," I replied, "on whether an angel came
to support you with her sympathy in the crisis of your condition,
as one came to me." If my face at all expressed the feelings I had
a right to have toward this sweet and lovely young girl, who had
played so angelic a role toward me, its expression must have been
very worshipful just then. The expression or the words, or both
together, caused her now to drop her eyes with a charming

"For the matter of that," I said, "if your experience has not
been as startling as mine, it must have been rather overwhelming
to see a man belonging to a strange century, and apparently a
hundred years dead, raised to life."

"It seemed indeed strange beyond any describing at first," she
said, "but when we began to put ourselves in your place, and
realize how much stranger it must seem to you, I fancy we forgot
our own feelings a good deal, at least I know I did. It seemed
then not so much astounding as interesting and touching beyond
anything ever heard of before."

"But does it not come over you as astounding to sit at table
with me, seeing who I am?"

"You must remember that you do not seem so strange to us as
we must to you," she answered. "We belong to a future of which
you could not form an idea, a generation of which you knew
nothing until you saw us. But you belong to a generation of
which our forefathers were a part. We know all about it; the
names of many of its members are household words with us. We
have made a study of your ways of living and thinking; nothing
you say or do surprises us, while we say and do nothing which
does not seem strange to you. So you see, Mr. West, that if you
feel that you can, in time, get accustomed to us, you must not be
surprised that from the first we have scarcely found you strange
at all."

"I had not thought of it in that way," I replied. "There is
indeed much in what you say. One can look back a thousand
years easier than forward fifty. A century is not so very long a
retrospect. I might have known your great-grand-parents. Possibly
I did. Did they live in Boston?"

"I believe so."

"You are not sure, then?"

"Yes," she replied. "Now I think, they did."

"I had a very large circle of acquaintances in the city," I said.
"It is not unlikely that I knew or knew of some of them. Perhaps
I may have known them well. Wouldn't it be interesting if I
should chance to be able to tell you all about your great-grandfather,
for instance?"

"Very interesting."

"Do you know your genealogy well enough to tell me who
your forbears were in the Boston of my day?"

"Oh, yes."

"Perhaps, then, you will some time tell me what some of their
names were."

She was engrossed in arranging a troublesome spray of green,
and did not reply at once. Steps upon the stairway indicated that
the other members of the family were descending.

"Perhaps, some time," she said.

After breakfast, Dr. Leete suggested taking me to inspect the
central warehouse and observe actually in operation the machinery
of distribution, which Edith had described to me. As we
walked away from the house I said, "It is now several days that I
have been living in your household on a most extraordinary
footing, or rather on none at all. I have not spoken of this aspect
of my position before because there were so many other aspects
yet more extraordinary. But now that I am beginning a little to
feel my feet under me, and to realize that, however I came here,
I am here, and must make the best of it, I must speak to you on
this point."

"As for your being a guest in my house," replied Dr. Leete, "I
pray you not to begin to be uneasy on that point, for I mean to
keep you a long time yet. With all your modesty, you can but
realize that such a guest as yourself is an acquisition not willingly
to be parted with."

"Thanks, doctor," I said. "It would be absurd, certainly, for
me to affect any oversensitiveness about accepting the temporary
hospitality of one to whom I owe it that I am not still awaiting
the end of the world in a living tomb. But if I am to be a
permanent citizen of this century I must have some standing in
it. Now, in my time a person more or less entering the world,
however he got in, would not be noticed in the unorganized
throng of men, and might make a place for himself anywhere
he chose if he were strong enough. But nowadays everybody is a
part of a system with a distinct place and function. I am outside
the system, and don't see how I can get in; there seems no way
to get in, except to be born in or to come in as an emigrant
from some other system."

Dr. Leete laughed heartily.

"I admit," he said, "that our system is defective in lacking
provision for cases like yours, but you see nobody anticipated
additions to the world except by the usual process. You need,
however, have no fear that we shall be unable to provide both a
place and occupation for you in due time. You have as yet been
brought in contact only with the members of my family, but you
must not suppose that I have kept your secret. On the contrary,
your case, even before your resuscitation, and vastly more since
has excited the profoundest interest in the nation. In view of
your precarious nervous condition, it was thought best that I
should take exclusive charge of you at first, and that you should,
through me and my family, receive some general idea of the sort
of world you had come back to before you began to make the
acquaintance generally of its inhabitants. As to finding a function
for you in society, there was no hesitation as to what that
would be. Few of us have it in our power to confer so great a
service on the nation as you will be able to when you leave my
roof, which, however, you must not think of doing for a good
time yet."

"What can I possibly do?" I asked. "Perhaps you imagine I
have some trade, or art, or special skill. I assure you I have none
whatever. I never earned a dollar in my life, or did an hour's
work. I am strong, and might be a common laborer, but nothing

"If that were the most efficient service you were able to render
the nation, you would find that avocation considered quite as
respectable as any other," replied Dr. Leete; "but you can do
something else better. You are easily the master of all our
historians on questions relating to the social condition of the
latter part of the nineteenth century, to us one of the most
absorbingly interesting periods of history: and whenever in due
time you have sufficiently familiarized yourself with our institutions,
and are willing to teach us something concerning those of
your day, you will find an historical lectureship in one of our
colleges awaiting you."

"Very good! very good indeed," I said, much relieved by so
practical a suggestion on a point which had begun to trouble me.
"If your people are really so much interested in the nineteenth
century, there will indeed be an occupation ready-made for me. I
don't think there is anything else that I could possibly earn my
salt at, but I certainly may claim without conceit to have some
special qualifications for such a post as you describe."

Chapter 17

I found the processes at the warehouse quite as interesting as
Edith had described them, and became even enthusiastic over
the truly remarkable illustration which is seen there of the
prodigiously multiplied efficiency which perfect organization can
give to labor. It is like a gigantic mill, into the hopper of which
goods are being constantly poured by the train-load and shipload,
to issue at the other end in packages of pounds and ounces,
yards and inches, pints and gallons, corresponding to the
infinitely complex personal needs of half a million people. Dr.
Leete, with the assistance of data furnished by me as to the way
goods were sold in my day, figured out some astounding results
in the way of the economies effected by the modern system.

As we set out homeward, I said: "After what I have seen
to-day, together with what you have told me, and what I learned
under Miss Leete's tutelage at the sample store, I have a
tolerably clear idea of your system of distribution, and how it
enables you to dispense with a circulating medium. But I should
like very much to know something more about your system of
production. You have told me in general how your industrial
army is levied and organized, but who directs its efforts? What
supreme authority determines what shall be done in every
department, so that enough of everything is produced and yet no
labor wasted? It seems to me that this must be a wonderfully
complex and difficult function, requiring very unusual endowments."

"Does it indeed seem so to you?" responded Dr. Leete. "I
assure you that it is nothing of the kind, but on the other hand
so simple, and depending on principles so obvious and easily
applied, that the functionaries at Washington to whom it is
trusted require to be nothing more than men of fair abilities to
discharge it to the entire satisfaction of the nation. The machine
which they direct is indeed a vast one, but so logical in its
principles and direct and simple in its workings, that it all but
runs itself; and nobody but a fool could derange it, as I think you
will agree after a few words of explanation. Since you already
have a pretty good idea of the working of the distributive system,
let us begin at that end. Even in your day statisticians were able
to tell you the number of yards of cotton, velvet, woolen, the
number of barrels of flour, potatoes, butter, number of pairs
of shoes, hats, and umbrellas annually consumed by the nation.
Owing to the fact that production was in private hands, and
that there was no way of getting statistics of actual distribution,
these figures were not exact, but they were nearly so.
Now that every pin which is given out from a national warehouse
is recorded, of course the figures of consumption for any
week, month, or year, in the possession of the department of
distribution at the end of that period, are precise. On these
figures, allowing for tendencies to increase or decrease and for
any special causes likely to affect demand, the estimates, say for a
year ahead, are based. These estimates, with a proper margin for
security, having been accepted by the general administration, the
responsibility of the distributive department ceases until the
goods are delivered to it. I speak of the estimates being furnished
for an entire year ahead, but in reality they cover that much time
only in case of the great staples for which the demand can be
calculated on as steady. In the great majority of smaller
industries for the product of which popular taste fluctuates, and
novelty is frequently required, production is kept barely ahead of
consumption, the distributive department furnishing frequent
estimates based on the weekly state of demand.

"Now the entire field of productive and constructive industry
is divided into ten great departments, each representing a group
of allied industries, each particular industry being in turn
represented by a subordinate bureau, which has a complete record of
the plant and force under its control, of the present product, and
means of increasing it. The estimates of the distributive department,
after adoption by the administration, are sent as mandates
to the ten great departments, which allot them to the subordinate
bureaus representing the particular industries, and these set
the men at work. Each bureau is responsible for the task given it,
and this responsibility is enforced by departmental oversight and
that of the administration; nor does the distributive department
accept the product without its own inspection; while even if in
the hands of the consumer an article turns out unfit, the system
enables the fault to be traced back to the original workman. The
production of the commodities for actual public consumption
does not, of course, require by any means all the national force
of workers. After the necessary contingents have been detailed
for the various industries, the amount of labor left for other
employment is expended in creating fixed capital, such as
buildings, machinery, engineering works, and so forth."

"One point occurs to me," I said, "on which I should think
there might be dissatisfaction. Where there is no opportunity for
private enterprise, how is there any assurance that the claims of
small minorities of the people to have articles produced, for
which there is no wide demand, will be respected? An official
decree at any moment may deprive them of the means of
gratifying some special taste, merely because the majority does
not share it."

"That would be tyranny indeed," replied Dr. Leete, "and you
may be very sure that it does not happen with us, to whom
liberty is as dear as equality or fraternity. As you come to know
our system better, you will see that our officials are in fact, and
not merely in name, the agents and servants of the people. The
administration has no power to stop the production of any
commodity for which there continues to be a demand. Suppose
the demand for any article declines to such a point that its
production becomes very costly. The price has to be raised in
proportion, of course, but as long as the consumer cares to pay it,
the production goes on. Again, suppose an article not before
produced is demanded. If the administration doubts the reality
of the demand, a popular petition guaranteeing a certain basis
of consumption compels it to produce the desired article. A government,
or a majority, which should undertake to tell the people,
or a minority, what they were to eat, drink, or wear, as I
believe governments in America did in your day, would be regarded
as a curious anachronism indeed. Possibly you had reasons
for tolerating these infringements of personal independence,
but we should not think them endurable. I am glad you
raised this point, for it has given me a chance to show you how
much more direct and efficient is the control over production
exercised by the individual citizen now than it was in your day,
when what you called private initiative prevailed, though it
should have been called capitalist initiative, for the average
private citizen had little enough share in it."

"You speak of raising the price of costly articles," I said. "How
can prices be regulated in a country where there is no competition
between buyers or sellers?"

"Just as they were with you," replied Dr. Leete. "You think
that needs explaining," he added, as I looked incredulous, "but
the explanation need not be long; the cost of the labor which
produced it was recognized as the legitimate basis of the price of
an article in your day, and so it is in ours. In your day, it was the
difference in wages that made the difference in the cost of labor;
now it is the relative number of hours constituting a day's work
in different trades, the maintenance of the worker being equal in
all cases. The cost of a man's work in a trade so difficult that in
order to attract volunteers the hours have to be fixed at four a
day is twice as great as that in a trade where the men work eight
hours. The result as to the cost of labor, you see, is just the same
as if the man working four hours were paid, under your system,
twice the wages the others get. This calculation applied to the
labor employed in the various processes of a manufactured article
gives its price relatively to other articles. Besides the cost of
production and transportation, the factor of scarcity affects the
prices of some commodities. As regards the great staples of life,
of which an abundance can always be secured, scarcity is
eliminated as a factor. There is always a large surplus kept on
hand from which any fluctuations of demand or supply can be
corrected, even in most cases of bad crops. The prices of the
staples grow less year by year, but rarely, if ever, rise. There are,
however, certain classes of articles permanently, and others
temporarily, unequal to the demand, as, for example, fresh fish
or dairy products in the latter category, and the products of high
skill and rare materials in the other. All that can be done here is
to equalize the inconvenience of the scarcity. This is done by
temporarily raising the price if the scarcity be temporary, or
fixing it high if it be permanent. High prices in your day meant
restriction of the articles affected to the rich, but nowadays,
when the means of all are the same, the effect is only that those
to whom the articles seem most desirable are the ones who
purchase them. Of course the nation, as any other caterer for the
public needs must be, is frequently left with small lots of goods
on its hands by changes in taste, unseasonable weather and
various other causes. These it has to dispose of at a sacrifice just
as merchants often did in your day, charging up the loss to the
expenses of the business. Owing, however, to the vast body of
consumers to which such lots can be simultaneously offered,
there is rarely any difficulty in getting rid of them at trifling loss.
I have given you now some general notion of our system of
production; as well as distribution. Do you find it as complex as
you expected?"

I admitted that nothing could be much simpler.

"I am sure," said Dr. Leete, "that it is within the truth to say
that the head of one of the myriad private businesses of your
day, who had to maintain sleepless vigilance against the fluctuations
of the market, the machinations of his rivals, and the
failure of his debtors, had a far more trying task than the group
of men at Washington who nowadays direct the industries of
the entire nation. All this merely shows, my dear fellow, how
much easier it is to do things the right way than the wrong. It is
easier for a general up in a balloon, with perfect survey of the
field, to manoeuvre a million men to victory than for a sergeant
to manage a platoon in a thicket."

"The general of this army, including the flower of the manhood
of the nation, must be the foremost man in the country,
really greater even than the President of the United States," I

"He is the President of the United States," replied Dr. Leete,
"or rather the most important function of the presidency is the
headship of the industrial army."

"How is he chosen?" I asked.

"I explained to you before," replied Dr. Leete, "when I was
describing the force of the motive of emulation among all grades
of the industrial army, that the line of promotion for the
meritorious lies through three grades to the officer's grade, and
thence up through the lieutenancies to the captaincy or foremanship,
and superintendency or colonel's rank. Next, with an intervening
grade in some of the larger trades, comes the general
of the guild, under whose immediate control all the operations
of the trade are conducted. This officer is at the head of the
national bureau representing his trade, and is responsible for its
work to the administration. The general of his guild holds a
splendid position, and one which amply satisfies the ambition of
most men, but above his rank, which may be compared--to
follow the military analogies familiar to you--to that of a
general of division or major-general, is that of the chiefs of the
ten great departments, or groups of allied trades. The chiefs of
these ten grand divisions of the industrial army may be compared
to your commanders of army corps, or lieutenant-generals,
each having from a dozen to a score of generals of separate guilds
reporting to him. Above these ten great officers, who form his
council, is the general-in-chief, who is the President of the
United States.

"The general-in-chief of the industrial army must have passed
through all the grades below him, from the common laborers up.
Let us see how he rises. As I have told you, it is simply by the
excellence of his record as a worker that one rises through the
grades of the privates and becomes a candidate for a lieutenancy.
Through the lieutenancies he rises to the colonelcy, or superintendent's
position, by appointment from above, strictly limited
to the candidates of the best records. The general of the guild
appoints to the ranks under him, but he himself is not
appointed, but chosen by suffrage."

"By suffrage!" I exclaimed. "Is not that ruinous to the
discipline of the guild, by tempting the candidates to intrigue for
the support of the workers under them?"

"So it would be, no doubt," replied Dr. Leete, "if the workers
had any suffrage to exercise, or anything to say about the choice.
But they have nothing. Just here comes in a peculiarity of our
system. The general of the guild is chosen from among the
superintendents by vote of the honorary members of the guild,
that is, of those who have served their time in the guild and
received their discharge. As you know, at the age of forty-five we
are mustered out of the army of industry, and have the residue
of life for the pursuit of our own improvement or recreation. Of
course, however, the associations of our active lifetime retain a
powerful hold on us. The companionships we formed then
remain our companionships till the end of life. We always
continue honorary members of our former guilds, and retain the
keenest and most jealous interest in their welfare and repute in
the hands of the following generation. In the clubs maintained
by the honorary members of the several guilds, in which we
meet socially, there are no topics of conversation so common as
those which relate to these matters, and the young aspirants for
guild leadership who can pass the criticism of us old fellows are
likely to be pretty well equipped. Recognizing this fact, the
nation entrusts to the honorary members of each guild the
election of its general, and I venture to claim that no previous
form of society could have developed a body of electors so
ideally adapted to their office, as regards absolute impartiality,
knowledge of the special qualifications and record of candidates,
solicitude for the best result, and complete absence of self-

"Each of the ten lieutenant-generals or heads of departments
is himself elected from among the generals of the guilds grouped
as a department, by vote of the honorary members of the guilds
thus grouped. Of course there is a tendency on the part of each
guild to vote for its own general, but no guild of any group has
nearly enough votes to elect a man not supported by most of the
others. I assure you that these elections are exceedingly lively."

"The President, I suppose, is selected from among the ten
heads of the great departments," I suggested.

"Precisely, but the heads of departments are not eligible to the
presidency till they have been a certain number of years out of
office. It is rarely that a man passes through all the grades to the
headship of a department much before he is forty, and at the
end of a five years' term he is usually forty-five. If more, he still
serves through his term, and if less, he is nevertheless discharged
from the industrial army at its termination. It would not do for
him to return to the ranks. The interval before he is a candidate
for the presidency is intended to give time for him to recognize
fully that he has returned into the general mass of the nation,
and is identified with it rather than with the industrial army.
Moreover, it is expected that he will employ this period in
studying the general condition of the army, instead of that of the
special group of guilds of which he was the head. From among
the former heads of departments who may be eligible at the
time, the President is elected by vote of all the men of the
nation who are not connected with the industrial army."

"The army is not allowed to vote for President?"

"Certainly not. That would be perilous to its discipline, which
it is the business of the President to maintain as the representative
of the nation at large. His right hand for this purpose is the
inspectorate, a highly important department of our system; to
the inspectorate come all complaints or information as to defects
in goods, insolence or inefficiency of officials, or dereliction of
any sort in the public service. The inspectorate, however, does
not wait for complaints. Not only is it on the alert to catch and
sift every rumor of a fault in the service, but it is its business, by
systematic and constant oversight and inspection of every branch
of the army, to find out what is going wrong before anybody else
does. The President is usually not far from fifty when elected,
and serves five years, forming an honorable exception to the rule
of retirement at forty-five. At the end of his term of office, a
national Congress is called to receive his report and approve or
condemn it. If it is approved, Congress usually elects him to
represent the nation for five years more in the international
council. Congress, I should also say, passes on the reports of the
outgoing heads of departments, and a disapproval renders any
one of them ineligible for President. But it is rare, indeed, that
the nation has occasion for other sentiments than those of
gratitude toward its high officers. As to their ability, to have risen
from the ranks, by tests so various and severe, to their positions,
is proof in itself of extraordinary qualities, while as to faithfulness,
our social system leaves them absolutely without any other
motive than that of winning the esteem of their fellow citizens.
Corruption is impossible in a society where there is neither pov-
erty to be bribed nor wealth to bribe, while as to demagoguery
or intrigue for office, the conditions of promotion render
them out of the question."

"One point I do not quite understand," I said. "Are the
members of the liberal professions eligible to the presidency?
and if so, how are they ranked with those who pursue the
industries proper?"

"They have no ranking with them," replied Dr. Leete. "The
members of the technical professions, such as engineers and
architects, have a ranking with the constructive guilds; but the
members of the liberal professions, the doctors and teachers, as
well as the artists and men of letters who obtain remissions of
industrial service, do not belong to the industrial army. On this
ground they vote for the President, but are not eligible to his
office. One of its main duties being the control and discipline of
the industrial army, it is essential that the President should have
passed through all its grades to understand his business."

"That is reasonable," I said; "but if the doctors and teachers
do not know enough of industry to be President, neither, I
should think, can the President know enough of medicine and
education to control those departments."

"No more does he," was the reply. "Except in the general way
that he is responsible for the enforcement of the laws as to all
classes, the President has nothing to do with the faculties of
medicine and education, which are controlled by boards of
regents of their own, in which the President is ex-officio chairman,
and has the casting vote. These regents, who, of course, are
responsible to Congress, are chosen by the honorary members of
the guilds of education and medicine, the retired teachers and
doctors of the country."

"Do you know," I said, "the method of electing officials by
votes of the retired members of the guilds is nothing more than
the application on a national scale of the plan of government by
alumni, which we used to a slight extent occasionally in the
management of our higher educational institutions."

"Did you, indeed?" exclaimed Dr. Leete, with animation.
"That is quite new to me, and I fancy will be to most of us, and
of much interest as well. There has been great discussion as to
the germ of the idea, and we fancied that there was for once
something new under the sun. Well! well! In your higher
educational institutions! that is interesting indeed. You must tell
me more of that."

"Truly, there is very little more to tell than I have told
already," I replied. "If we had the germ of your idea, it was but
as a germ."

Chapter 18

That evening I sat up for some time after the ladies had
retired, talking with Dr. Leete about the effect of the plan of
exempting men from further service to the nation after the age
of forty-five, a point brought up by his account of the part taken
by the retired citizens in the government.

"At forty-five," said I, "a man still has ten years of good
manual labor in him, and twice ten years of good intellectual
service. To be superannuated at that age and laid on the shelf
must be regarded rather as a hardship than a favor by men of
energetic dispositions."

"My dear Mr. West," exclaimed Dr. Leete, beaming upon me,
"you cannot have any idea of the piquancy your nineteenth
century ideas have for us of this day, the rare quaintness of their
effect. Know, O child of another race and yet the same, that the
labor we have to render as our part in securing for the nation the
means of a comfortable physical existence is by no means
regarded as the most important, the most interesting, or the
most dignified employment of our powers. We look upon it as a
necessary duty to be discharged before we can fully devote
ourselves to the higher exercise of our faculties, the intellectual
and spiritual enjoyments and pursuits which alone mean life.
Everything possible is indeed done by the just distribution of
burdens, and by all manner of special attractions and incentives
to relieve our labor of irksomeness, and, except in a comparative
sense, it is not usually irksome, and is often inspiring. But it is
not our labor, but the higher and larger activities which the
performance of our task will leave us free to enter upon, that are
considered the main business of existence.

"Of course not all, nor the majority, have those scientific,
artistic, literary, or scholarly interests which make leisure the one
thing valuable to their possessors. Many look upon the last half
of life chiefly as a period for enjoyment of other sorts; for travel,
for social relaxation in the company of their life-time friends; a
time for the cultivation of all manner of personal idiosyncrasies
and special tastes, and the pursuit of every imaginable form of
recreation; in a word, a time for the leisurely and unperturbed
appreciation of the good things of the world which they have
helped to create. But, whatever the differences between our
individual tastes as to the use we shall put our leisure to, we all
agree in looking forward to the date of our discharge as the time
when we shall first enter upon the full enjoyment of our
birthright, the period when we shall first really attain our
majority and become enfranchised from discipline and control,
with the fee of our lives vested in ourselves. As eager boys in
your day anticipated twenty-one, so men nowadays look forward
to forty-five. At twenty-one we become men, but at forty-five we
renew youth. Middle age and what you would have called old
age are considered, rather than youth, the enviable time of life.
Thanks to the better conditions of existence nowadays, and
above all the freedom of every one from care, old age approaches
many years later and has an aspect far more benign than in past
times. Persons of average constitution usually live to eighty-five
or ninety, and at forty-five we are physically and mentally
younger, I fancy, than you were at thirty-five. It is a strange
reflection that at forty-five, when we are just entering upon the
most enjoyable period of life, you already began to think of
growing old and to look backward. With you it was the
forenoon, with us it is the afternoon, which is the brighter half
of life."

After this I remember that our talk branched into the subject
of popular sports and recreations at the present time as com-
pared with those of the nineteenth century.

"In one respect," said Dr. Leete, "there is a marked difference.
The professional sportsmen, which were such a curious feature
of your day, we have nothing answering to, nor are the prizes for
which our athletes contend money prizes, as with you. Our
contests are always for glory only. The generous rivalry existing
between the various guilds, and the loyalty of each worker to his
own, afford a constant stimulation to all sorts of games and
matches by sea and land, in which the young men take scarcely
more interest than the honorary guildsmen who have served
their time. The guild yacht races off Marblehead take place
next week, and you will be able to judge for yourself of the
popular enthusiasm which such events nowadays call out as
compared with your day. The demand for `panem ef circenses'
preferred by the Roman populace is recognized nowadays as a
wholly reasonable one. If bread is the first necessity of life,
recreation is a close second, and the nation caters for both.
Americans of the nineteenth century were as unfortunate in
lacking an adequate provision for the one sort of need as for the
other. Even if the people of that period had enjoyed larger
leisure, they would, I fancy, have often been at a loss how to pass
it agreeably. We are never in that predicament."

Chapter 19

In the course of an early morning constitutional I visited
Charlestown. Among the changes, too numerous to attempt to
indicate, which mark the lapse of a century in that quarter, I
particularly noted the total disappearance of the old state prison.

"That went before my day, but I remember hearing about it,"
said Dr. Leete, when I alluded to the fact at the breakfast table.
"We have no jails nowadays. All cases of atavism are treated in
the hospitals."

"Of atavism!" I exclaimed, staring.

"Why, yes," replied Dr. Leete. "The idea of dealing punitively
with those unfortunates was given up at least fifty years ago, and
I think more."

"I don't quite understand you," I said. "Atavism in my day
was a word applied to the cases of persons in whom some trait of
a remote ancestor recurred in a noticeable manner. Am I to
understand that crime is nowadays looked upon as the recurrence
of an ancestral trait?"

"I beg your pardon," said Dr. Leete with a smile half
humorous, half deprecating, "but since you have so explicitly
asked the question, I am forced to say that the fact is precisely

After what I had already learned of the moral contrasts
between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, it was
doubtless absurd in me to begin to develop sensitiveness on the
subject, and probably if Dr. Leete had not spoken with that
apologetic air and Mrs. Leete and Edith shown a corresponding
embarrassment, I should not have flushed, as I was conscious I

"I was not in much danger of being vain of my generation
before," I said; "but, really--"

"This is your generation, Mr. West," interposed Edith. "It is
the one in which you are living, you know, and it is only because
we are alive now that we call it ours."

"Thank you. I will try to think of it so," I said, and as my eyes
met hers their expression quite cured my senseless sensitiveness.
"After all," I said, with a laugh, "I was brought up a Calvinist,
and ought not to be startled to hear crime spoken of as an
ancestral trait."

"In point of fact," said Dr. Leete, "our use of the word is no
reflection at all on your generation, if, begging Edith's pardon,
we may call it yours, so far as seeming to imply that we think
ourselves, apart from our circumstances, better than you were. In
your day fully nineteen twentieths of the crime, using the word
broadly to include all sorts of misdemeanors, resulted from the
inequality in the possessions of individuals; want tempted the
poor, lust of greater gains, or the desire to preserve former gains,
tempted the well-to-do. Directly or indirectly, the desire for
money, which then meant every good thing, was the motive of
all this crime, the taproot of a vast poison growth, which the
machinery of law, courts, and police could barely prevent from
choking your civilization outright. When we made the nation
the sole trustee of the wealth of the people, and guaranteed to
all abundant maintenance, on the one hand abolishing want,
and on the other checking the accumulation of riches, we cut
this root, and the poison tree that overshadowed your society
withered, like Jonah's gourd, in a day. As for the comparatively
small class of violent crimes against persons, unconnected with
any idea of gain, they were almost wholly confined, even in your
day, to the ignorant and bestial; and in these days, when
education and good manners are not the monopoly of a few, but
universal, such atrocities are scarcely ever heard of. You now see
why the word `atavism' is used for crime. It is because nearly all
forms of crime known to you are motiveless now, and when they
appear can only be explained as the outcropping of ancestral
traits. You used to call persons who stole, evidently without any
rational motive, kleptomaniacs, and when the case was clear
deemed it absurd to punish them as thieves. Your attitude
toward the genuine kleptomaniac is precisely ours toward the
victim of atavism, an attitude of compassion and firm but gentle

"Your courts must have an easy time of it," I observed. "With
no private property to speak of, no disputes between citizens
over business relations, no real estate to divide or debts to
collect, there must be absolutely no civil business at all for them;
and with no offenses against property, and mighty few of any
sort to provide criminal cases, I should think you might almost
do without judges and lawyers altogether."

"We do without the lawyers, certainly," was Dr. Leete's reply.
"It would not seem reasonable to us, in a case where the only
interest of the nation is to find out the truth, that persons
should take part in the proceedings who had an acknowledged
motive to color it."

"But who defends the accused?"

"If he is a criminal he needs no defense, for he pleads guilty in
most instances," replied Dr. Leete. "The plea of the accused is
not a mere formality with us, as with you. It is usually the end of
the case."

"You don't mean that the man who pleads not guilty is
thereupon discharged?"

"No, I do not mean that. He is not accused on light grounds,
and if he denies his guilt, must still be tried. But trials are few,
for in most cases the guilty man pleads guilty. When he makes a
false plea and is clearly proved guilty, his penalty is doubled.
Falsehood is, however, so despised among us that few offenders
would lie to save themselves."

"That is the most astounding thing you have yet told me," I
exclaimed. "If lying has gone out of fashion, this is indeed the
`new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness,'
which the prophet foretold."

"Such is, in fact, the belief of some persons nowadays," was
the doctor's answer. "They hold that we have entered upon the
millennium, and the theory from their point of view does not
lack plausibility. But as to your astonishment at finding that the
world has outgrown lying, there is really no ground for it.
Falsehood, even in your day, was not common between gentlemen
and ladies, social equals. The lie of fear was the refuge of
cowardice, and the lie of fraud the device of the cheat. The
inequalities of men and the lust of acquisition offered a constant
premium on lying at that time. Yet even then, the man who
neither feared another nor desired to defraud him scorned
falsehood. Because we are now all social equals, and no man
either has anything to fear from another or can gain anything by
deceiving him, the contempt of falsehood is so universal that it
is rarely, as I told you, that even a criminal in other respects will
be found willing to lie. When, however, a plea of not guilty is
returned, the judge appoints two colleagues to state the opposite
sides of the case. How far these men are from being like your
hired advocates and prosecutors, determined to acquit or convict,
may appear from the fact that unless both agree that the
verdict found is just, the case is tried over, while anything like
bias in the tone of either of the judges stating the case would be
a shocking scandal."

"Do I understand," I said, "that it is a judge who states each
side of the case as well as a judge who hears it?"

"Certainly. The judges take turns in serving on the bench and
at the bar, and are expected to maintain the judicial temper
equally whether in stating or deciding a case. The system is
indeed in effect that of trial by three judges occupying different
points of view as to the case. When they agree upon a verdict,
we believe it to be as near to absolute truth as men well can

"You have given up the jury system, then?"

"It was well enough as a corrective in the days of hired
advocates, and a bench sometimes venal, and often with a tenure
that made it dependent, but is needless now. No conceivable
motive but justice could actuate our judges."

"How are these magistrates selected?"

"They are an honorable exception to the rule which discharges
all men from service at the age of forty-five. The President of the
nation appoints the necessary judges year by year from the class
reaching that age. The number appointed is, of course, exceedingly
few, and the honor so high that it is held an offset to the
additional term of service which follows, and though a judge's
appointment may be declined, it rarely is. The term is five years,
without eligibility to reappointment. The members of the
Supreme Court, which is the guardian of the constitution, are
selected from among the lower judges. When a vacancy in that
court occurs, those of the lower judges, whose terms expire that
year, select, as their last official act, the one of their colleagues
left on the bench whom they deem fittest to fill it."

"There being no legal profession to serve as a school for
judges," I said, "they must, of course, come directly from the law
school to the bench."

"We have no such things as law schools," replied the doctor
smiling. "The law as a special science is obsolete. It was a system
of casuistry which the elaborate artificiality of the old order of
society absolutely required to interpret it, but only a few of the
plainest and simplest legal maxims have any application to
the existing state of the world. Everything touching the relations
of men to one another is now simpler, beyond any comparison,
than in your day. We should have no sort of use for the
hair-splitting experts who presided and argued in your courts.
You must not imagine, however, that we have any disrespect
for those ancient worthies because we have no use for them.
On the contrary, we entertain an unfeigned respect, amounting
almost to awe, for the men who alone understood
and were able to expound the interminable complexity of the
rights of property, and the relations of commercial and personal
dependence involved in your system. What, indeed, could possibly
give a more powerful impression of the intricacy and
artificiality of that system than the fact that it was necessary to
set apart from other pursuits the cream of the intellect of every
generation, in order to provide a body of pundits able to make it
even vaguely intelligible to those whose fates it determined. The
treatises of your great lawyers, the works of Blackstone and
Chitty, of Story and Parsons, stand in our museums, side by side
with the tomes of Duns Scotus and his fellow scholastics, as
curious monuments of intellectual subtlety devoted to subjects
equally remote from the interests of modern men. Our judges are
simply widely informed, judicious, and discreet men of ripe years.

"I should not fail to speak of one important function of the
minor judges," added Dr. Leete. "This is to adjudicate all cases
where a private of the industrial army makes a complaint of
unfairness against an officer. All such questions are heard and
settled without appeal by a single judge, three judges being
required only in graver cases. The efficiency of industry requires
the strictest discipline in the army of labor, but the claim of
the workman to just and considerate treatment is backed by
the whole power of the nation. The officer commands and the
private obeys, but no officer is so high that he would dare display
an overbearing manner toward a workman of the lowest class. As
for churlishness or rudeness by an official of any sort, in his
relations to the public, not one among minor offenses is more
sure of a prompt penalty than this. Not only justice but civility
is enforced by our judges in all sorts of intercourse. No value of
service is accepted as a set-off to boorish or offensive manners."

It occurred to me, as Dr. Leete was speaking, that in all his
talk I had heard much of the nation and nothing of the state
governments. Had the organization of the nation as an industrial
unit done away with the states? I asked.

"Necessarily," he replied. "The state governments would have
interfered with the control and discipline of the industrial army,
which, of course, required to be central and uniform. Even if the
state governments had not become inconvenient for other reasons,
they were rendered superfluous by the prodigious simplification
in the task of government since your day. Almost the sole
function of the administration now is that of directing the
industries of the country. Most of the purposes for which
governments formerly existed no longer remain to be subserved.
We have no army or navy, and no military organization. We
have no departments of state or treasury, no excise or revenue
services, no taxes or tax collectors. The only function proper of
government, as known to you, which still remains, is the
judiciary and police system. I have already explained to you how
simple is our judicial system as compared with your huge and
complex machine. Of course the same absence of crime and
temptation to it, which make the duties of judges so light,
reduces the number and duties of the police to a minimum."

"But with no state legislatures, and Congress meeting only
once in five years, how do you get your legislation done?"

"We have no legislation," replied Dr. Leete, "that is, next to
none. It is rarely that Congress, even when it meets, considers
any new laws of consequence, and then it only has power to
commend them to the following Congress, lest anything be
done hastily. If you will consider a moment, Mr. West, you will
see that we have nothing to make laws about. The fundamental
principles on which our society is founded settle for all time the
strifes and misunderstandings which in your day called for

"Fully ninety-nine hundredths of the laws of that time concerned
the definition and protection of private property and the
relations of buyers and sellers. There is neither private property,
beyond personal belongings, now, nor buying and selling, and
therefore the occasion of nearly all the legislation formerly
necessary has passed away. Formerly, society was a pyramid
poised on its apex. All the gravitations of human nature were
constantly tending to topple it over, and it could be maintained
upright, or rather upwrong (if you will pardon the feeble
witticism), by an elaborate system of constantly renewed props
and buttresses and guy-ropes in the form of laws. A central
Congress and forty state legislatures, turning out some twenty
thousand laws a year, could not make new props fast enough to
take the place of those which were constantly breaking down or
becoming ineffectual through some shifting of the strain. Now
society rests on its base, and is in as little need of artificial
supports as the everlasting hills."

"But you have at least municipal governments besides the one
central authority?"

"Certainly, and they have important and extensive functions
in looking out for the public comfort and recreation, and the
improvement and embellishment of the villages and cities."

"But having no control over the labor of their people, or
means of hiring it, how can they do anything?"

"Every town or city is conceded the right to retain, for its own
public works, a certain proportion of the quota of labor its
citizens contribute to the nation. This proportion, being assigned
it as so much credit, can be applied in any way desired."

Chapter 20

That afternoon Edith casually inquired if I had yet revisited
the underground chamber in the garden in which I had been

"Not yet," I replied. "To be frank, I have shrunk thus far
from doing so, lest the visit might revive old associations rather
too strongly for my mental equilibrium."

"Ah, yes!" she said, "I can imagine that you have done well to
stay away. I ought to have thought of that."

"No," I said, "I am glad you spoke of it. The danger, if there
was any, existed only during the first day or two. Thanks to you,
chiefly and always, I feel my footing now so firm in this new
world, that if you will go with me to keep the ghosts off, I
should really like to visit the place this afternoon."

Edith demurred at first, but, finding that I was in earnest,
consented to accompany me. The rampart of earth thrown up
from the excavation was visible among the trees from the house,
and a few steps brought us to the spot. All remained as it was at
the point when work was interrupted by the discovery of the
tenant of the chamber, save that the door had been opened and
the slab from the roof replaced. Descending the sloping sides of
the excavation, we went in at the door and stood within the
dimly lighted room.

Everything was just as I had beheld it last on that evening one
hundred and thirteen years previous, just before closing my eyes
for that long sleep. I stood for some time silently looking about
me. I saw that my companion was furtively regarding me with an
expression of awed and sympathetic curiosity. I put out my hand
to her and she placed hers in it, the soft fingers responding with
a reassuring pressure to my clasp. Finally she whispered, "Had
we not better go out now? You must not try yourself too far. Oh,
how strange it must be to you!"

"On the contrary," I replied, "it does not seem strange; that is
the strangest part of it."

"Not strange?" she echoed.

"Even so," I replied. "The emotions with which you evidently
credit me, and which I anticipated would attend this visit, I
simply do not feel. I realize all that these surroundings suggest,
but without the agitation I expected. You can't be nearly as
much surprised at this as I am myself. Ever since that terrible
morning when you came to my help, I have tried to avoid
thinking of my former life, just as I have avoided coming here,
for fear of the agitating effects. I am for all the world like a man
who has permitted an injured limb to lie motionless under the
impression that it is exquisitely sensitive, and on trying to move
it finds that it is paralyzed."

"Do you mean your memory is gone?"

"Not at all. I remember everything connected with my former
life, but with a total lack of keen sensation. I remember it for
clearness as if it had been but a day since then, but my feelings
about what I remember are as faint as if to my consciousness, as
well as in fact, a hundred years had intervened. Perhaps it is
possible to explain this, too. The effect of change in surroundings
is like that of lapse of time in making the past seem remote.
When I first woke from that trance, my former life appeared as
yesterday, but now, since I have learned to know my new
surroundings, and to realize the prodigious changes that have
transformed the world, I no longer find it hard, but very easy, to
realize that I have slept a century. Can you conceive of such a
thing as living a hundred years in four days? It really seems to
me that I have done just that, and that it is this experience
which has given so remote and unreal an appearance to my
former life. Can you see how such a thing might be?"

"I can conceive it," replied Edith, meditatively, "and I think
we ought all to be thankful that it is so, for it will save you much
suffering, I am sure."

"Imagine," I said, in an effort to explain, as much to myself as
to her, the strangeness of my mental condition, "that a man first
heard of a bereavement many, many years, half a lifetime
perhaps, after the event occurred. I fancy his feeling would be
perhaps something as mine is. When I think of my friends in
the world of that former day, and the sorrow they must have felt
for me, it is with a pensive pity, rather than keen anguish, as of a
sorrow long, long ago ended."

"You have told us nothing yet of your friends," said Edith.
"Had you many to mourn you?"

"Thank God, I had very few relatives, none nearer than
cousins," I replied. "But there was one, not a relative, but dearer
to me than any kin of blood. She had your name. She was to
have been my wife soon. Ah me!"

"Ah me!" sighed the Edith by my side. "Think of the
heartache she must have had."

Something in the deep feeling of this gentle girl touched a
chord in my benumbed heart. My eyes, before so dry, were
flooded with the tears that had till now refused to come. When
I had regained my composure, I saw that she too had been
weeping freely.

"God bless your tender heart," I said. "Would you like to see
her picture?"

A small locket with Edith Bartlett's picture, secured about my
neck with a gold chain, had lain upon my breast all through that
long sleep, and removing this I opened and gave it to my
companion. She took it with eagerness, and after poring long
over the sweet face, touched the picture with her lips.

"I know that she was good and lovely enough to well deserve
your tears," she said; "but remember her heartache was over long
ago, and she has been in heaven for nearly a century."

It was indeed so. Whatever her sorrow had once been, for
nearly a century she had ceased to weep, and, my sudden passion
spent, my own tears dried away. I had loved her very dearly in
my other life, but it was a hundred years ago! I do not know but
some may find in this confession evidence of lack of feeling, but
I think, perhaps, that none can have had an experience
sufficiently like mine to enable them to judge me. As we were
about to leave the chamber, my eye rested upon the great iron
safe which stood in one corner. Calling my companion's attention
to it, I said:

"This was my strong room as well as my sleeping room. In the
safe yonder are several thousand dollars in gold, and any amount
of securities. If I had known when I went to sleep that night just
how long my nap would be, I should still have thought that the
gold was a safe provision for my needs in any country or any
century, however distant. That a time would ever come when it
would lose its purchasing power, I should have considered the
wildest of fancies. Nevertheless, here I wake up to find myself
among a people of whom a cartload of gold will not procure a
loaf of bread."

As might be expected, I did not succeed in impressing Edith
that there was anything remarkable in this fact. "Why in the
world should it?" she merely asked.

Chapter 21

It had been suggested by Dr. Leete that we should devote the
next morning to an inspection of the schools and colleges of the
city, with some attempt on his own part at an explanation of
the educational system of the twentieth century.

"You will see," said he, as we set out after breakfast, "many
very important differences between our methods of education
and yours, but the main difference is that nowadays all persons
equally have those opportunities of higher education which in
your day only an infinitesimal portion of the population enjoyed.
We should think we had gained nothing worth speaking of, in
equalizing the physical comfort of men, without this educational

"The cost must be very great," I said.

"If it took half the revenue of the nation, nobody would
grudge it," replied Dr. Leete, "nor even if it took it all save a
bare pittance. But in truth the expense of educating ten thousand
youth is not ten nor five times that of educating one
thousand. The principle which makes all operations on a large
scale proportionally cheaper than on a small scale holds as to
education also."

"College education was terribly expensive in my day," said I.

"If I have not been misinformed by our historians," Dr. Leete
answered, "it was not college education but college dissipation
and extravagance which cost so highly. The actual expense of
your colleges appears to have been very low, and would have
been far lower if their patronage had been greater. The higher
education nowadays is as cheap as the lower, as all grades of
teachers, like all other workers, receive the same support. We
have simply added to the common school system of compulsory
education, in vogue in Massachusetts a hundred years ago, a half
dozen higher grades, carrying the youth to the age of twenty-one
and giving him what you used to call the education of a
gentleman, instead of turning him loose at fourteen or fifteen
with no mental equipment beyond reading, writing, and the
multiplication table."

"Setting aside the actual cost of these additional years of
education," I replied, "we should not have thought we could
afford the loss of time from industrial pursuits. Boys of the
poorer classes usually went to work at sixteen or younger, and
knew their trade at twenty."

"We should not concede you any gain even in material
product by that plan," Dr. Leete replied. "The greater efficiency
which education gives to all sorts of labor, except the rudest,
makes up in a short period for the time lost in acquiring it."

"We should also have been afraid," said I, "that a high
education, while it adapted men to the professions, would set
them against manual labor of all sorts."

"That was the effect of high education in your day, I have
read," replied the doctor; "and it was no wonder, for manual
labor meant association with a rude, coarse, and ignorant class of
people. There is no such class now. It was inevitable that such a
feeling should exist then, for the further reason that all men
receiving a high education were understood to be destined for
the professions or for wealthy leisure, and such an education in
one neither rich nor professional was a proof of disappointed
aspirations, an evidence of failure, a badge of inferiority rather
than superiority. Nowadays, of course, when the highest education
is deemed necessary to fit a man merely to live, without any
reference to the sort of work he may do, its possession conveys
no such implication."

"After all," I remarked, "no amount of education can cure
natural dullness or make up for original mental deficiencies.
Unless the average natural mental capacity of men is much
above its level in my day, a high education must be pretty nearly
thrown away on a large element of the population. We used to
hold that a certain amount of susceptibility to educational
influences is required to make a mind worth cultivating, just as a
certain natural fertility in soil is required if it is to repay tilling."

"Ah," said Dr. Leete, "I am glad you used that illustration, for
it is just the one I would have chosen to set forth the modern
view of education. You say that land so poor that the product
will not repay the labor of tilling is not cultivated. Nevertheless,
much land that does not begin to repay tilling by its product was
cultivated in your day and is in ours. I refer to gardens, parks,
lawns, and, in general, to pieces of land so situated that, were
they left to grow up to weeds and briers, they would be eyesores
and inconveniencies to all about. They are therefore tilled, and
though their product is little, there is yet no land that, in a wider
sense, better repays cultivation. So it is with the men and
women with whom we mingle in the relations of society, whose
voices are always in our ears, whose behavior in innumerable
ways affects our enjoyment--who are, in fact, as much conditions
of our lives as the air we breathe, or any of the physical
elements on which we depend. If, indeed, we could not afford to
educate everybody, we should choose the coarsest and dullest by
nature, rather than the brightest, to receive what education we
could give. The naturally refined and intellectual can better
dispense with aids to culture than those less fortunate in natural

"To borrow a phrase which was often used in your day, we
should not consider life worth living if we had to be surrounded
by a population of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated
men and women, as was the plight of the few educated in your
day. Is a man satisfied, merely because he is perfumed himself, to
mingle with a malodorous crowd? Could he take more than a
very limited satisfaction, even in a palatial apartment, if the
windows on all four sides opened into stable yards? And yet just
that was the situation of those considered most fortunate as to
culture and refinement in your day. I know that the poor and
ignorant envied the rich and cultured then; but to us the latter,
living as they did, surrounded by squalor and brutishness, seem
little better off than the former. The cultured man in your age
was like one up to the neck in a nauseous bog solacing himself
with a smelling bottle. You see, perhaps, now, how we look at
this question of universal high education. No single thing is so
important to every man as to have for neighbors intelligent,
companionable persons. There is nothing, therefore, which the
nation can do for him that will enhance so much his own
happiness as to educate his neighbors. When it fails to do so, the
value of his own education to him is reduced by half, and many
of the tastes he has cultivated are made positive sources of pain.

"To educate some to the highest degree, and leave the mass
wholly uncultivated, as you did, made the gap between them
almost like that between different natural species, which have no
means of communication. What could be more inhuman than
this consequence of a partial enjoyment of education! Its universal
and equal enjoyment leaves, indeed, the differences between
men as to natural endowments as marked as in a state of nature,
but the level of the lowest is vastly raised. Brutishness is
eliminated. All have some inkling of the humanities, some
appreciation of the things of the mind, and an admiration for
the still higher culture they have fallen short of. They have
become capable of receiving and imparting, in various degrees,
but all in some measure, the pleasures and inspirations of a refined
social life. The cultured society of the nineteenth century
--what did it consist of but here and there a few microscopic
oases in a vast, unbroken wilderness? The proportion of individuals
capable of intellectual sympathies or refined intercourse, to
the mass of their contemporaries, used to be so infinitesimal as
to be in any broad view of humanity scarcely worth mentioning.
One generation of the world to-day represents a greater volume
of intellectual life than any five centuries ever did before.

"There is still another point I should mention in stating the
grounds on which nothing less than the universality of the best
education could now be tolerated," continued Dr. Leete, "and
that is, the interest of the coming generation in having educated
parents. To put the matter in a nutshell, there are three main
grounds on which our educational system rests: first, the right of
every man to the completest education the nation can give him
on his own account, as necessary to his enjoyment of himself;
second, the right of his fellow-citizens to have him educated, as
necessary to their enjoyment of his society; third, the right of the
unborn to be guaranteed an intelligent and refined parentage."

I shall not describe in detail what I saw in the schools that
day. Having taken but slight interest in educational matters in
my former life, I could offer few comparisons of interest. Next to
the fact of the universality of the higher as well as the lower
education, I was most struck with the prominence given to
physical culture, and the fact that proficiency in athletic feats
and games as well as in scholarship had a place in the rating of
the youth.

"The faculty of education," Dr. Leete explained, "is held to
the same responsibility for the bodies as for the minds of its
charges. The highest possible physical, as well as mental, development
of every one is the double object of a curriculum which
lasts from the age of six to that of twenty-one."

The magnificent health of the young people in the schools
impressed me strongly. My previous observations, not only of
the notable personal endowments of the family of my host, but
of the people I had seen in my walks abroad, had already
suggested the idea that there must have been something like a
general improvement in the physical standard of the race since
my day, and now, as I compared these stalwart young men and
fresh, vigorous maidens with the young people I had seen in the
schools of the nineteenth century, I was moved to impart my
thought to Dr. Leete. He listened with great interest to what I

"Your testimony on this point," he declared, "is invaluable.
We believe that there has been such an improvement as you
speak of, but of course it could only be a matter of theory with
us. It is an incident of your unique position that you alone in the
world of to-day can speak with authority on this point. Your
opinion, when you state it publicly, will, I assure you, make a
profound sensation. For the rest it would be strange, certainly, if
the race did not show an improvement. In your day, riches
debauched one class with idleness of mind and body, while
poverty sapped the vitality of the masses by overwork, bad food,
and pestilent homes. The labor required of children, and the
burdens laid on women, enfeebled the very springs of life.
Instead of these maleficent circumstances, all now enjoy the
most favorable conditions of physical life; the young are carefully
nurtured and studiously cared for; the labor which is required of
all is limited to the period of greatest bodily vigor, and is never
excessive; care for one's self and one's family, anxiety as to
livelihood, the strain of a ceaseless battle for life--all these
influences, which once did so much to wreck the minds and
bodies of men and women, are known no more. Certainly, an
improvement of the species ought to follow such a change. In
certain specific respects we know, indeed, that the improvement
has taken place. Insanity, for instance, which in the nineteenth
century was so terribly common a product of your insane mode
of life, has almost disappeared, with its alternative, suicide."

Chapter 22

We had made an appointment to meet the ladies at the
dining-hall for dinner, after which, having some engagement,
they left us sitting at table there, discussing our wine and cigars
with a multitude of other matters.

"Doctor," said I, in the course of our talk, "morally speaking,
your social system is one which I should be insensate not to
admire in comparison with any previously in vogue in the world,
and especially with that of my own most unhappy century. If I
were to fall into a mesmeric sleep tonight as lasting as that other
and meanwhile the course of time were to take a turn backward
instead of forward, and I were to wake up again in the nineteenth
century, when I had told my friends what I had seen,
they would every one admit that your world was a paradise of
order, equity, and felicity. But they were a very practical people,
my contemporaries, and after expressing their admiration for the
moral beauty and material splendor of the system, they would
presently begin to cipher and ask how you got the money to
make everybody so happy; for certainly, to support the whole
nation at a rate of comfort, and even luxury, such as I see around
me, must involve vastly greater wealth than the nation produced
in my day. Now, while I could explain to them pretty nearly
everything else of the main features of your system, I should
quite fail to answer this question, and failing there, they would
tell me, for they were very close cipherers, that I had been
dreaming; nor would they ever believe anything else. In my day,
I know that the total annual product of the nation, although it
might have been divided with absolute equality, would not have
come to more than three or four hundred dollars per head, not
very much more than enough to supply the necessities of life
with few or any of its comforts. How is it that you have so much

"That is a very pertinent question, Mr. West," replied Dr.
Leete, "and I should not blame your friends, in the case you
supposed, if they declared your story all moonshine, failing a
satisfactory reply to it. It is a question which I cannot answer
exhaustively at any one sitting, and as for the exact statistics to
bear out my general statements, I shall have to refer you for them
to books in my library, but it would certainly be a pity to leave
you to be put to confusion by your old acquaintances, in case of
the contingency you speak of, for lack of a few suggestions.

"Let us begin with a number of small items wherein we
economize wealth as compared with you. We have no national,
state, county, or municipal debts, or payments on their account.
We have no sort of military or naval expenditures for men or
materials, no army, navy, or militia. We have no revenue service,
no swarm of tax assessors and collectors. As regards our judiciary,
police, sheriffs, and jailers, the force which Massachusetts alone
kept on foot in your day far more than suffices for the nation
now. We have no criminal class preying upon the wealth of
society as you had. The number of persons, more or less
absolutely lost to the working force through physical disability,
of the lame, sick, and debilitated, which constituted such a
burden on the able-bodied in your day, now that all live under
conditions of health and comfort, has shrunk to scarcely perceptible
proportions, and with every generation is becoming more
completely eliminated.

"Another item wherein we save is the disuse of money and the
thousand occupations connected with financial operations of all
sorts, whereby an army of men was formerly taken away from
useful employments. Also consider that the waste of the very
rich in your day on inordinate personal luxury has ceased,
though, indeed, this item might easily be over-estimated. Again,
consider that there are no idlers now, rich or poor--no drones.

"A very important cause of former poverty was the vast waste
of labor and materials which resulted from domestic washing
and cooking, and the performing separately of innumerable
other tasks to which we apply the cooperative plan.

"A larger economy than any of these--yes, of all together--is
effected by the organization of our distributing system, by which
the work done once by the merchants, traders, storekeepers, with
their various grades of jobbers, wholesalers, retailers, agents,
commercial travelers, and middlemen of all sorts, with an
excessive waste of energy in needless transportation and
interminable handlings, is performed by one tenth the number of
hands and an unnecessary turn of not one wheel. Something of
what our distributing system is like you know. Our statisticians
calculate that one eightieth part of our workers suffices for all
the processes of distribution which in your day required one
eighth of the population, so much being withdrawn from the
force engaged in productive labor."

"I begin to see," I said, "where you get your greater wealth."

"I beg your pardon," replied Dr. Leete, "but you scarcely do as
yet. The economies I have mentioned thus far, in the aggregate,
considering the labor they would save directly and indirectly
through saving of material, might possibly be equivalent to the
addition to your annual production of wealth of one half its
former total. These items are, however, scarcely worth mentioning
in comparison with other prodigious wastes, now saved,
which resulted inevitably from leaving the industries of the
nation to private enterprise. However great the economies your
contemporaries might have devised in the consumption of
products, and however marvelous the progress of mechanical
invention, they could never have raised themselves out of the
slough of poverty so long as they held to that system.

"No mode more wasteful for utilizing human energy could be
devised, and for the credit of the human intellect it should be
remembered that the system never was devised, but was merely a
survival from the rude ages when the lack of social organization
made any sort of cooperation impossible."

"I will readily admit," I said, "that our industrial system was
ethically very bad, but as a mere wealth-making machine, apart
from moral aspects, it seemed to us admirable."

"As I said," responded the doctor, "the subject is too large to
discuss at length now, but if you are really interested to know
the main criticisms which we moderns make on your industrial
system as compared with our own, I can touch briefly on some of

"The wastes which resulted from leaving the conduct of
industry to irresponsible individuals, wholly without mutual
understanding or concert, were mainly four: first, the waste by
mistaken undertakings; second, the waste from the competition
and mutual hostility of those engaged in industry; third, the
waste by periodical gluts and crises, with the consequent
interruptions of industry; fourth, the waste from idle capital and
labor, at all times. Any one of these four great leaks, were all the
others stopped, would suffice to make the difference between
wealth and poverty on the part of a nation.

"Take the waste by mistaken undertakings, to begin with. In
your day the production and distribution of commodities being
without concert or organization, there was no means of knowing
just what demand there was for any class of products, or what
was the rate of supply. Therefore, any enterprise by a private
capitalist was always a doubtful experiment. The projector
having no general view of the field of industry and consumption,
such as our government has, could never be sure either what the
people wanted, or what arrangements other capitalists were
making to supply them. In view of this, we are not surprised to
learn that the chances were considered several to one in favor of
the failure of any given business enterprise, and that it was
common for persons who at last succeeded in making a hit to
have failed repeatedly. If a shoemaker, for every pair of shoes he
succeeded in completing, spoiled the leather of four or five pair,
besides losing the time spent on them, he would stand about the
same chance of getting rich as your contemporaries did with
their system of private enterprise, and its average of four or five
failures to one success.

"The next of the great wastes was that from competition. The
field of industry was a battlefield as wide as the world, in which
the workers wasted, in assailing one another, energies which, if
expended in concerted effort, as to-day, would have enriched all.
As for mercy or quarter in this warfare, there was absolutely no
suggestion of it. To deliberately enter a field of business and
destroy the enterprises of those who had occupied it previously,
in order to plant one's own enterprise on their ruins, was an
achievement which never failed to command popular admiration.
Nor is there any stretch of fancy in comparing this sort of
struggle with actual warfare, so far as concerns the mental agony
and physical suffering which attended the struggle, and the
misery which overwhelmed the defeated and those dependent on
them. Now nothing about your age is, at first sight, more
astounding to a man of modern times than the fact that men
engaged in the same industry, instead of fraternizing as comrades
and co-laborers to a common end, should have regarded each
other as rivals and enemies to be throttled and overthrown. This
certainly seems like sheer madness, a scene from bedlam. But
more closely regarded, it is seen to be no such thing. Your
contemporaries, with their mutual throat-cutting, knew very well
what they were at. The producers of the nineteenth century were
not, like ours, working together for the maintenance of the
community, but each solely for his own maintenance at the expense
of the community. If, in working to this end, he at the
same time increased the aggregate wealth, that was merely
incidental. It was just as feasible and as common to increase
one's private hoard by practices injurious to the general welfare.
One's worst enemies were necessarily those of his own trade, for,
under your plan of making private profit the motive of production,
a scarcity of the article he produced was what each
particular producer desired. It was for his interest that no more
of it should be produced than he himself could produce. To
secure this consummation as far as circumstances permitted, by
killing off and discouraging those engaged in his line of industry,
was his constant effort. When he had killed off all he could, his
policy was to combine with those he could not kill, and convert
their mutual warfare into a warfare upon the public at large by
cornering the market, as I believe you used to call it, and putting
up prices to the highest point people would stand before going
without the goods. The day dream of the nineteenth century
producer was to gain absolute control of the supply of some
necessity of life, so that he might keep the public at the verge of
starvation, and always command famine prices for what he
supplied. This, Mr. West, is what was called in the nineteenth
century a system of production. I will leave it to you if it does
not seem, in some of its aspects, a great deal more like a system
for preventing production. Some time when we have plenty of
leisure I am going to ask you to sit down with me and try to
make me comprehend, as I never yet could, though I have
studied the matter a great deal how such shrewd fellows as your
contemporaries appear to have been in many respects ever came
to entrust the business of providing for the community to a class
whose interest it was to starve it. I assure you that the wonder
with us is, not that the world did not get rich under such a
system, but that it did not perish outright from want. This
wonder increases as we go on to consider some of the other
prodigious wastes that characterized it.

"Apart from the waste of labor and capital by misdirected
industry, and that from the constant bloodletting of your
industrial warfare, your system was liable to periodical convulsions,
overwhelming alike the wise and unwise, the successful
cut-throat as well as his victim. I refer to the business crises at
intervals of five to ten years, which wrecked the industries of the
nation, prostrating all weak enterprises and crippling the strongest,
and were followed by long periods, often of many years, of
so-called dull times, during which the capitalists slowly regathered
their dissipated strength while the laboring classes starved
and rioted. Then would ensue another brief season of prosperity,
followed in turn by another crisis and the ensuing years of
exhaustion. As commerce developed, making the nations mutually
dependent, these crises became world-wide, while the
obstinacy of the ensuing state of collapse increased with the area
affected by the convulsions, and the consequent lack of rallying
centres. In proportion as the industries of the world multiplied
and became complex, and the volume of capital involved was
increased, these business cataclysms became more frequent, till,
in the latter part of the nineteenth century, there were two years
of bad times to one of good, and the system of industry, never
before so extended or so imposing, seemed in danger of collapsing
by its own weight. After endless discussions, your economists
appear by that time to have settled down to the despairing
conclusion that there was no more possibility of preventing or
controlling these crises than if they had been drouths or hurricanes.
It only remained to endure them as necessary evils, and
when they had passed over to build up again the shattered
structure of industry, as dwellers in an earthquake country keep
on rebuilding their cities on the same site.

"So far as considering the causes of the trouble inherent in
their industrial system, your contemporaries were certainly correct.
They were in its very basis, and must needs become more
and more maleficent as the business fabric grew in size and
complexity. One of these causes was the lack of any common
control of the different industries, and the consequent impossibility
of their orderly and coordinate development. It inevitably
resulted from this lack that they were continually getting out of
step with one another and out of relation with the demand.

"Of the latter there was no criterion such as organized
distribution gives us, and the first notice that it had been
exceeded in any group of industries was a crash of prices,
bankruptcy of producers, stoppage of production, reduction of
wages, or discharge of workmen. This process was constantly
going on in many industries, even in what were called good
times, but a crisis took place only when the industries affected
were extensive. The markets then were glutted with goods, of
which nobody wanted beyond a sufficiency at any price. The
wages and profits of those making the glutted classes of goods
being reduced or wholly stopped, their purchasing power as
consumers of other classes of goods, of which there were no
natural glut, was taken away, and, as a consequence, goods of
which there was no natural glut became artificially glutted, till
their prices also were broken down, and their makers thrown out
of work and deprived of income. The crisis was by this time
fairly under way, and nothing could check it till a nation's
ransom had been wasted.

"A cause, also inherent in your system, which often produced
and always terribly aggravated crises, was the machinery of
money and credit. Money was essential when production was in

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest