Philosophical Tests Of Socialism -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:265 (Jan 1910)
Article: Philosophical Tests Of Socialism
Author: James Lindsay

Philosophical Tests Of Socialism

Reverend James Lindsay

There can be no possible doubt as to the reactionary character of the movement called Socialism: it is really a return to feudal economics, — serfdom under a democratic government — fostered by the political and social ferment of our time. Perhaps the most legitimate aspect of this reactionary character of Socialism is to be found in its opposition to the results of Ricardo and the Manchester School, with their straining to the utmost the distinction between ethics and economics. Interests were supposed to be the basis of economics, and the only springs of human conduct, to the neglect of that modifying power of sympathy with others, to which Adam Smith had directed attention. This we say, although Smith’s attempt to resolve morality into sympathy was more ingenious than successful. The difference between wealth — whose science was political economy — and conduct — of which ethics is the science — was assumed to be so great that the two sciences were treated as lacking mutual relations.

There is, of course, an abstract and scientific sense, in which that is true, but the fallacy lies in taking the distinction in too absolute a sense. This divorce between economics and ethics has been left behind, and these are now taken to be different sides of the same problem. If political economy were immune from ethical questioning and criticism, this would mean the strange liberty for man that, in the use of economic laws, he

need not be troubled by conscience. Change of economic system is the demand of present-day Socialism, wherein the range of personal activity will be contracted, and institutional activity be enlarged. But there can be no doubt that personal values are those which are in need of being emphasized. Individualism and Socialism are, however, both modes of looking at things, and hence Socialism is apt to lack coherency of system. The value of the claim of moderate Socialism that it is no stereotyped dogma or system, but a regulative idea of the industrial organization — an economic type of organization whose principle is pliable and always changing by needful adaptations to environment — may be easily gauged, when it is said, in the same breath, that the ideal will be always more exacting. The effect of such exacting ideal on the dogma and the outer organization is not difficult to guess. The frankness of the confession of moderate Socialism to always more rigid and exacting ideal is commendable, but its reputation for reasonableness and plasticity must thereby suffer. Rae has put the matter plainly when he has said that contemporary Socialism has, for its first object, the conquest of the powers of the State, such Socialism having discar...

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