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“But”—some of your friends may say—“look well at the advantages of this state force. See how many good things come to you by taking money out of the pockets of others. Would the rich man continue to serve your needs, if you had not got your hands upon him, and held him powerless under your taxation system? No! He would be only too glad to find an escape from it. Keep then your close grips upon him, now that you once hold him in it; and by more and more skillful and searching measures relieve him of what you want so much, and what is merely superfluous to him. Why spare your beast of burden? What is the use of your numbers, of your organizations, of the all-powerful vote, that can alone equalize conditions, making the poor man rich, and the rich man poor, if you are tempted to lay the useful weapon of force aside? Force in the old days was used against you; it is your turn now to use force, and spare not. Think well of what the vote can do for you. There lies the true magician's wand. You want pensions, provi- sion for old age and sickness, land, houses, a minimum wage, lots and lots of education, breakfast and dinner for the children who go to school, scholarships for the clever pupils, libraries, museums, public halls, national operas, amusements and recreations of all kinds, and many another good thing which you will easily enough discover when you once begin to help yourselves—for, as the French say, the appetite comes with the eating; and there stand the richer classes with their laden pockets, only encumbered with the wealth that, if they knew it, they would be better without, defenseless, comparatively few and weak, with no power to stand against the resistless vote, if you once turn your strength to good account and learn how to organize your numbers for the great victory. Of course they will give you excellent reasons why you should keep your hands off them, and let them go free. Don't be fooled any longer by mere words. Force rules everything in this world; and today it is at last your turn to use force, and enter into possession of all that the world has to offer.”
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We show you the better way. We ask you to renounce this old, weary, hopeless way of force, ever tearstained and bloodstained, which has gone on so long under emperors and autocrats and governing classes, and still goes on today amongst those who, while they condemn emperors and autocrats, continue to walk in their footsteps, and understand and love liberty very little more than those old rulers of an old world. We bid you ask yourselves—What is all our boasted civilization and gain in knowledge worth to us, if we are still, like those who had not attained to our civilization and knowledge, to hunger for power, still to cling to the ways of strife and bitterness and hatred, still to oppress each other as in the days of the old rulers? Don't be deceived by mere words and phrases. Don't think that everything was gained when you got rid of autocrat and emperor. Don't think that a change in the mere form—without change in the spirit of men—can really alter anything, or make a new world. A voting majority, that still believes in force, that still believes in crushing and ruling a minority, can be just as tyrannous, as selfish and blind, as any of the old rulers. Happy the nation that escapes from autocrat, from emperor, and from its bureaucratic tyrants; but that is only the beginning of the new good life; that counts only for the first steps in the true path. When that is done, the true goal has still to be won, the great lesson still remains to be learned. The old curse, the old sorrow, did not simply lie in the heart of autocrat and emperor; it lay in the common desire of men to rule and possess for their own advantage the minds and bodies of each other. It is that fatal, deluding desire which even yet today prevents our realizing the true and happy life. As a writer has well said—many nations have been powerful, but has any one of them found the true life—as yet? It is this vainest of all vain desires that we have to renounce, trample upon, cast clean out of our hearts, if we are to win the better things. We have to learn that our systems of force destroy all the great human hopes and possibilities; that as long as we believe in force there can be no abiding peace or friendship between us all; that a half-disguised civil war will forever smolder in our midst; that each half of the nation must live, as it were, sword in hand, ever watching the other half, and given up, as we said, to suspicion and dread and hatred, knowing that, if once defeated in the great contest, its own deepest belief and interests will be roughly set aside and trampled on; that it must accept the hard lot of the conquered, kneeling down in the dust and submitting to whatever its opponents choose to decree for it; that it will have no rights of its own; no rights over its own life, over its own actions and property; no share in the common country, no share in the guidance of its fortunes; no voice in the laws passed; it will be a mere helpless crowd, defranchised, and decitizenized, a degraded and subject race, bound to do the hard bidding of its conquerors. Can you for a single moment believe that the subjecting of others in this conqueror's and conquered fashion is the true end of our existence here, the true fulfilling of man's nature, with all its great gifts and hopes and aspirations?
I have dwelt at some length on this question of force, because it is , by which socialism has to be tried. Socialism undertakes to save the world from all its sorrows by a greatly extended use of force, a use of force, far exceeding the force which even emperors and despotic governments employ; and what the philosophical and literary defenders of socialism—I do not mean the mere promisers of prize money—have to do is to convince us first of all that force is a right weapon in itself—that we are morally justified in using it against each other; and second, that it is likely—as far as we can judge by past experience—when applied in this new universal fashion, to make men better and happier. Socialism intends to found itself upon force; and therefore we stand upon the threshold, and call upon it, before it goes any further, to justify force. Does Mr. Hobson do this? Does he lay any moral foundations for the use of force? Does he satisfy us that three men may rightly do whatever they please with the minds, bodies and property of two men? Does he satisfy us that the three men can produce any lawful commission for saying to the two men: “Henceforth your faculties belong to us and not to you; henceforth you are forbidden to employ those faculties for your own advantage, and in such fashion as you choose; henceforth they are to be employed for what we are pleased to call the public good.” In another paper, I hope to follow Mr. Hobson's argument, and see how far it is suited to remove the hesitations and scruples of those who believe that every man and woman is the true owners of his or her own faculties, and that every forcible annexation of these faculties by others has prevented the world from discovering the ways of true happiness.