The decree of a coercive tribunal would not need to conform to the true standard of wages, the final productivity of social labor. It would introduce into distribution a genuinely arbitrary element, with a very large ultimate power to pervert the natural system.
The first issue to be settled is whether socialism has a right to exist Are its allegations concerning the present system true? Is industry proceeding on a principle of fraud? I wish to test the power of recent economic theory to give an exact answer to this question.
The limit is not as narrow as it might be. I do not claim for this action, as it now goes on, an ideal degree of efficiency. What I do claim is that this type of competition already reveals its nature and its ultimate power to hold seeming monopolies in check.
We cannot afford to have any large section of the business world in doubt whether they have broken the laws or not, and we cannot let the laws become a dead letter through vagueness. In this view it is clear that an administrative commission can render invaluable service.
Experience alone can give a final answer. The knowledge gained in a few years by a commission of the kind suggested would be worth more than volumes of mere assertions and contradictions.
Dull would be the man who should merely tolerate this plan of social industry. Weak would be the position of him who should take an apologetic tone in defending it, or present its claims in a merely negative way, by exposing the evils and perils of the socialistic plan.
If a man were living in isolation his income would be literally his product. Make him the monarch and owner of an island, and the fruits that he raises and the clothing that he makes constitute, in themselves, his income. This ceases to be true when trading begins.
Socialism appeals to better classes and has far more strength. Attack the state and you excite feelings of loyalty even among the disaffected classes; but attack the industrial system and appeal to the state, and you may have loyalty in your favor.
If the adjustment made by a court can be accepted or not, it will be refused whenever the men can gain more by continuing the strike, with whatever of violence that involves.
The market tends to pay as a wage what an individual laborer is worth. But the case last studied suggests the question how accurately the law operates in practice. May it not be an honest law, but be so vitiated in its working as to give a dishonest result?
When we say that the persistence of competition is ensured by fate, we mean that individual freedom is so guaranteed. The one thing to which fate binds us is liberty.