From the Depths: The Discovery of Poverty in the United States

By Robert H. Bremner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
The Common Welfare

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the fax greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.

ADAM SMITH, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Justice is what we want, not patronage and condescension and pitiful helpfulness....Every one of the great schemes of social uplift which are now so much debated by noble people amongst us is based, when rightly conceived, upon justice, not upon benevolence. It is based upon the right of men to breathe pure air, to live; upon the right of women to bear children, and not to be overburdened so that disease and breakdown will come upon them; upon the right of children to thrive and to grow up and be strong; upon all these fundamental things which appeal, indeed, to our hearts, but which our minds perceive to be part of the fundamental justice of life.

WOODROW WILSON, The New Freedom.


Two Kinds of Voluntarism

T HROUGHOUT most of the first three decades of the twentieth century organized labor, as represented by the American Federation of Labor, was in certain respects even more devoted to the theory of laissez faire than organized business. Samuel Gompers could, and frequently did, denounce governmental "intermeddling" in economic affairs with all the vehemence of a self-made industrialist. But while businessmen were willing to employ the machinery of government for the advancement of their own interests, Gompers advised workingmen to abstain from the debili-

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