Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

24
CONCERN OF THE CONFER
ENCE WITH REFORM

IS IT TOO BOLD a paradox to say that, while the revolutions of 1688, 1775 and 1792: liberated man, the revolution of our day in the world's best progress has again enslaved him?1

The independence and unplanned, unregimented, freedom of action of its rich and powerful members is not the test of a free society. . . . [It] will be found in the scope of right and privilege preserved to, and possessed by, its weakest elements. . . .2

It was inevitable that a body such as the membership of the National Conference, whose paramount object was to search for the causes of human ills, should be concerned with the economic conditions of the age. Paine, the first one to be elected to the presidency from outside the membership of boards of charities, himself a successful businessman, placed responsibility for the economic suffering of society on the unrestrained pursuit of the profit motive, or, as he put it, because business is run on the principle of "charging all the traffic will bear." Eleven years later, Edward T. Devine, whose training was in theoretical economics, was more specific in his analysis. He followed the same theory, however, when he charged that back of each one of the evils is some group which profits by exploitation: "Housing reform would be easier than it is . . . if there were not strong pecuniary interests at stake . . ." Child labor would come to an end in a twelvemonth if there were no money to be

____________________
1
Robert Treat Paine, in his presidential address at the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1895.
2
A. Delafield Smith, Assistant General Counsel of the Federal Security Agency, at the National Conference of Social Work, 1946.

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