A Basic Principle of Social Welfare, Saints’ Herald Vol. 82 pg. 1091, August 27th, 1935.
“From every man according to his capacity and to every man according to his needs,” has, I think, been accepted as expressing in sloganized form the objective of our social reform based on Christian fraternity. It might be necessary to add that surplus must be placed for the benefit and blessing of the group.
It is generally to be observed that men differ in creative or productive power, as well as manifesting great differences in desiring to hold, retain, or store the excess over or above needs. That this is Divinely recognized is easily deductible from the parables of Jesus, particularly that of the talents and the one of the man and his barns.
The varying capacities or faculties in men to produce above needs, together with (again in varying degrees) the tendency to store or accumulate, doubtless constitute the origin of the rights of property – the right to reserve for self the benefits or fruits of productive or creative faculties.
For a people, nation, or group, to increase in wealth there must be encouragement and protection of these varying faculties, and opportunity for their exercise. There are doubtless stimuli to the exercise of these faculties other than appeal to self-serving interests; but it is quite evident that to protect these faculties after they have been uncovered and stimulated is a function of government in the interests of progress. And because these faculties exist in varying degrees, the protection thereof will give rise to the possession of property in differing degrees and kinds in turn has definite influence upon attitude and sentiment of the possessors, as well as of those not possessing such advantages. Thus a line of cleavage appears, and society is broken into different interests and parties.
James Madison, a former president of the United States, in a paper appearing in the tenth number of the Federalist, tersely and yet comprehensively sets out the resulting governmental problem in the following clear cut language:
“The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”
Every nation has definitely and to any great extent grown in prosperity and the accumulation of goods has experienced the growing difficulty of passing legislation which will compromise the attitudes of the factions, and keep peace. The course of history seems to justify the belief that all nations sooner or later develop war between the classes so differentiated.
Perhaps America is close to troublous times on this very score. “Take from the rich,” “swat the rich,” “tax the rich” are all terms not infrequently heard, and even the “New Deal” is apparently endeavoring to find some way of redistributing wealth more equitably.
So long as industry and economical activities are based on individual contributions resulting from appeal to self-rewards – permitting persons to keep the whole and the results of such endeavor – there is certain to be a widening of the chasm between the classes unless there can be a just and equitable way of “sharing wealth.” That this can be brought about by extortion is quite to be doubted. The day of Robin Hood is past, and his realm was always narrowly limited.
But there is a way in which the varying faculties of men can be encouraged to maximum achievement and those possessed of superior talent or faculty kept at peace with those less favored in faculty and possession. To bring this way into play at lease two things must be accomplished, viz. – shift the criterion of success from mere accumulation of wealth to that of contribution to social welfare, and to create the desire to function in the exercise of faculty to maximum extent on the basis of fraternity or recognition that a brother’s good is parallel to and co-extensive with self interests and welfare.
And I am still a strong believer in the idea that such an appeal to man will preserve individual initiative and even enhance it, and that in such contribution there will come even greater joy to the possessor of talent or faculty than under the self-serving dynamic.
The need in redistributing wealth to preserve peace and promote larger humanitarian interests is to socialize surplus, not on the basis of extortion but on that of voluntary surrendering surplus in the interests of common good and preservation and advancement of fraternity.
“From every man according to his capacity and to every man according to his needs,” because it is right, because God wills it, because each is his brother’s keeper to the extent of his capacity, and because in a society so organized and functioning there will be greater happiness, more peace, and class friction will be reduced to a minimum if not eradicated.
And that is the Zionic idea and our goal.
Onward to Zion!
Social Mindedness, Saints’ Herald Vol. 83, Pg. 836, July 7th, 1936
The first president of the United States, Washington, had the faculty of condensing into terse form some of his obervations on politics and sound government. He was ever alert to the interests of the Government he was instrumental in establishing, and deeply concerned about its preservation. I present herewith a quotation from Washington which I commend to the careful reading and meditation of those who are concerned about the solidarity of the church. Social mindedness is needed, and provincialism is closely akin to selfishness. Fraternity prompts consideration for the welfare of others; and community interests to be placed first needs a larger vision and soul expansion than to see self-needs. And inter-community welfare needs still larger vision. To see Zion we must have such vision.
Here is the quotation. I call attention particularly to the fourth essential Washington sets out:
“There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an independent power: first, an indissoluble union of the States under one federal head; Second, a sacred regard to public justice; Third, the adoption of a proper peace establishment; and Fourth, the prevalance of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies; to make those mutual concessions, which are requisite to the general prosperity; and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantage to the interest of the community.