Had there been any existent vital and energetic institution left in Society after the Reformation for the use of small property in coordinated form-that is, in combination, so that the average man's holding could be put to useful purpose in company with the holdings of a great number of other men of his own sort, the new evils would not have arisen.
The smaller man approaching our modern banking system, which controls all issue of credit and therefore pretty well all our industrial and commercial activities, is not what the controllers of that credit call "interesting." He borrows with difficulty and upon high terms, and must pledge security out of all proportion to that which his richer rival has to put down.
Capitalism had arisen through the misuse and exaggeration of certain rights, notably the right of property - the basis of economic freedom - and the right of contract, which is one of the main functions of economic freedom. Therefore, even under Capitalism, so long as the old principles were remembered it was possible to recall the principles whereby Society had once been sane and well ordered.
The worship of the nation has been able to make men tolerate under its authority what they could never have tolerated from princes: a submission to rule, which, through sumptuary laws on food and drink, through conscription, through a cast-iron system of compulsory instruction for all on State ordered lines, and through a State examination at the gate of every profession, has almost killed the citizen's power to react upon that which controls him, and has almost destroyed that variety which is the mark of life.
There is already something like a Jewish monopoly in high finance... here is the same element of Jewish monopoly in the silver trade, and in the control of various other metals, notably lead, nickel, quicksilver. What is most disquieting of all, this tendency to monopoly is spreading like a disease.
Even if the wealth and power be well distributed throughout a community, its members will not be happy unless they are inwardly so, and obviously where the distribution is bad, where the few have a vast superfluity and the many are consumed by anxiety or want, or where a few controllers can exercise their will over the many, society has failed, even though its total wealth and power be increased.
Consider in what way the industrial system developed upon capitalist lines. Why were a few rich men put with such ease into possession of the new methods? Why was it normal and natural in their eyes and in that of contemporary society that those who produced the new wealth with the new machinery should be proletarian and dispossessed?
Such are the mass of the supporters of either party. They derive their political opinions originally from some family tradition or some fanciful preference, but they back them with all the passion of sportsmen. In a vague subconscious way they know it is a game, but they happen to enjoy playing the game.
But if we are to retain freedom, then we can only do so by keeping the determining mass of the citizens the possessors of property with personal control over it, as individuals or as families. For property is the necessary condition of economic freedom in the full sense of that term. He that has not property is under economic servitude to him who has property, whether the possessor of it be another individual or the State.
Put you hand before your eyes and remember, you that have walked, the places from which you have walked away, and the wilderness into which you manfully turned the steps of your abandonment ... It is your business to leave all that you have know altogether behind you, and no man has eyes at the back of his head - go forward.
Communism worked honestly by officials devoid of human frailties and devoted to nothing but the good of its slaves, would have certain manifest material advantages as compared with a proletarian wage-system where millions live in semi-starvation, and many millions more in permanent dread thereof. But even if it were administered thus Communism would only produce its benefits through imposing slavery.
The society of Christendom and especially of Western Christendom up to the explosion, which we call the Reformation, had been a society of owners: a Proprietarial Society. It was one in which there remained strong bonds between one class and another, and in which there was a hierarchy of superior and inferior, but not, in the main, a distinction between a restricted body of possessors and a main body of destitute at the mercy of the possessors, such as our society has become.
... But as a Godless greed pursued its career from excess to excess, it provoked a sort of twin hostile brother, equally Godless, born in the same atmosphere of utter disregard for the foundational virtues of humility and charity. This hostile twin brother of Capitalism was destined to be called Communism, and is today setting out to murder its elder.
In the midst of all these innumerable forms of a common protest and universal ill-ease there has grown up one definite body of doctrine whose adherents are called Communists and who desired the total subversion of what had been, hitherto unquestioned among civilized European men, the general doctrines of property and individual freedom.
Let us then repeat and firmly fix this main point: the evil, the root evil, of that to which the term Capitalism has come to be applied, is neither its functioning for profit nor its dependence upon legally protected private property; but the presence of a Proletariat, that is of men possessing political freedom, but dispossessed of economic freedom, and existing in such large numbers in any community as to determine the tone of all that community.
Great artistic talent in any direction... is hardly inherent to the man. It comes and goes; it is often possessed only for a short phase in his life; it hardly ever colors his character as a whole and has nothing to do with the moral and intellectual stuff of the mind and soul. Many great artists, perhaps most great artists, have been poor fellows indeed, whom to know was to despise.
To control the production of wealth is to control human life itself. To refuse man the opportunity for the production of wealth is to refuse him the opportunity for life; and, in general, the way in which the production of wealth is by law permitted is the only way in which the citizens can legally exist.
Economic freedom is in our eyes a good. It is among the highest of temporal goods because it is necessary to the highest life of society through the dignity of man and through the multiplicity of his action, in which multiplicity is life. Through well-divided property alone can the units of society react upon the State. Through it alone can a public opinion flourish. Only where the bulk of the cells are healthy can the whole organism thrive.
I am a Catholic. As far as possible I go to Mass every day. This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!
In the same way the eminence attaching to the mere possession of great wealth disappoints us nine times out of ten, especially if the wealth has been accumulated rapidly. For great wealth is accumulated rapidly by cunning or chance, or a mixture of the two. Cunning has nothing to do with high qualities; it is rather a presumption against them; while chance has nothing to do with them either. Therefore it is that men are always complaining after meeting So-and-so, that he seemed to be astonishingly stupid, though he made a million in ten years and started as a pauper.