Elements of Socialism: A Text-Book

By John Spargo; George Louis Arner | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIX
THE SOCIALIST STATE--ECONOMIC

Introductory: Socialism is sometimes objectively defined as "the social ownership and control of all the means of production and exchange." According to this definition, there could be no possibility of any form of private property except in goods used in direct consumption, and even the apportionment of these must be controlled by some social authority--presumptively the State--in which the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange is vested.

To state this proposition clearly is to reveal its absurdity. Every simple tool would have to be made collective property. It is perfectly evident that the millions of Socialists throughout the world are not trying to bring about public ownership of hand-saws, spades, market-baskets and wheel-barrows, all of which are means of production or exchange. Even if such a thing were otherwise conceivable, it would involve such a bureaucratic form of government as not even the most fanciful of the writers of anti-Socialist fiction have devised. There must be something wrong with our definition, then. Of this we may be assured, in the first place because no considerable number of rational beings could seriously desire the government to own and control all things which under any circumstances could be used as means of production or exchange, even if it were possible to draw a hard and fast line between consumption goods and production goods. In the second place, it would be impossible to rouse the citizens of any State or city to rebel against the private ownership of hand-saws or market-baskets in sufficient numbers to bring about their ownership by the collective authority, the State or the city.

The essential principles of Socialism: If we turn back to Chapter I, and compare the definition there given with the

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