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What is Man? And Other Essays from Project Gutenberg
3. It is another feature of the modern industrial system that, like every high organization, it requires men of suitable ability and skill at its head. The qualities which are required for a great banker, merchant, or manufacturer are as rare as any other great gifts among men, and the qualities demanded, or the degree in which they are demanded, are increasing every day with the expansion of the modern industrial system. The qualities required are those of the practical man, properly so called: sagacity, good judgment, prudence, boldness, and energy. The training, both scientific and practical, which is required for a great master of industry is wide and various. The great movements of industry, like all other great movements, present subordinate phenomena which are apparently opposed to, or inconsistent with their great tendencies and their general character. These phenomena, being smaller in scope, more directly subject to observation and therefore apparently more distinct and positive, are well calculated to mislead the judgment, either of the practical man or of the scientific student. In nothing, therefore, does the well-trained man distinguish himself from the ill-trained man more than in the balance of judgment by which he puts phenomena in their true relative position and refuses to be led astray by what is incidental or subsidiary. If, now, the question is asked, whether we have produced a class of highly trained men, competent to organize labor, transportation, commerce, and banking, on the scale required by the modern system, as rapidly as the need for them has increased, I believe no one will answer in the affirmative.
Now, if we have state regulation, what is always forgotten is this: Who pays for it? Who is the victim of it? There always is a victim. The workmen who do not defend themselves have to pay for the inspectors who defend them. The whole system of social regulation by boards, commissioners, and inspectors consists in relieving negligent people of the consequences of their negligence and so leaving them to continue negligent without correction. That system also turns away from the agencies which are close, direct, and germane to the purpose, and seeks others. Now, if you relieve negligent people of the consequences of their negligence, you can only throw those consequences on the people who have not been negligent. If you turn away from the agencies which are direct and cognate to the purpose, you can only employ other agencies. Here, then, you have your Forgotten Man again. The man who has been careful and prudent and who wants to go on and reap his advantages for himself and his children isarrested just at that point, and he is told that he must go and take care of some negligent employees in a factory or on a railroad who have not provided precautions for themselves or have not forced their employers to provide precautions, or negligent tenants who have not taken care of their own sanitary arrangements, or negligent householders who have not provided against fire, or negligent parents who have not sent their children to school. If the Forgotten Man does not go, he must hire an inspector to go. No doubt it is often worth his while to go or send, rather than leave the thing undone, on account of his remoter interest; but what I want to show is that all this is unjust to the Forgotten Man, and that the reformers and philosophers miss the point entirely when they preach that it is his duty to do all this work. Let them preach to the negligent to learn to take care of themselves. Whenever A and B put their heads together and decide what A, B and C must do for D, there is never any pressure on A and B. They consent to it and like it. There is rarely any pressure on D because he does not like it and contrives to evade it. The pressure all comes on C. Now, who is C? He is always the man who, if let alone, would make a reasonable use of his liberty without abusing it. He would not constitute any social problem at all and would not need any regulation. He is the Forgotten Man again, and as soon as he is brought from his obscurity you see that he is just that one amongst us who is what we all ought to be.
What Is Man? And Other Essays | Open Library
The summer of 1841 was marked by intense distress in Pennsylvania. A table of the best investment stocks of Philadelphia shows a shrinkage between August, 1838, and August, 1841, from sixty million to three and one-half millions. The wages class was exposed to the bitterest poverty and distress. The Pennsylvanians attributed the trouble to the want of a protective tariff. For a time, in the autumn, the Relief notes seemed to act beneficially. The banks took them and they circulated at par with the rest of the state currency. In January, 1842, the Girard Bank failed, and about the same time the Pennsylvania and three others less important, and by March a crisis was reached worse than anything which had preceded. A bill was suddenly passed by the legislature commanding immediate resumption. An amendment was proposed that the banks should no longer be bound to receive the Reliefnotes, although the state should do so. The amendment was afterwards withdrawn, but the Relief notes were ruined. They fell, some to seventy-five and some to fifty in state currency and then became merchandise, after six months and three days of use. Capital was now not to be had at four per cent per month, but this bankruptcy had cleared the situation. The eleven banks which had not failed agreed to resume on March 18. The exchanges with New York turned in favor of Philadelphia. The years 1842 and 1843 were years of great depression. The banks throughout the west and south were liquidating, after which they either perished or resumed. From 1843 a new sound and healthy development of industry and credit began. The recovery, however, was very slow, and banks sprang up again sooner and faster than anything else.
This is certainly a melancholy story of the way in which people who enjoy the most exceptional chances of wealth and prosperity can squander them by ignorance of political economy and recklessness in political management. Banks were regarded as means of borrowing capital, not as institutions for lending it. If there was anywhere a group of needy speculators, they secured a bank charter, elected themselves directors, gave their notes for the stock, printed a lot of bank notes, loaned the notes to themselves, andwent out and with the notes bought the capital they wanted. Bank after bank failed with an immense circulation afloat and no assets but the notes of its directors, who had failed too. When the United States had thirty or forty millions surplus on hand and these banks could get the custody and handling of it for an indefinite period, because the country had no need for it, it can readily be understood why banks multiplied. The banks were encouraged to lend this deposit freely to the public, which they were by no means loath to do, for that was the only way to gain a profit on it. They lent it, not once but two or three times over. The New York bank commissioners pointed out the danger of a system in which the borrower came directly into contact with the bank which issued the currency. If a man was eager to borrow and pay high interest and the bank had only to print the notes to accommodate him, there was every stimulus to over-issue. If the borrower engaged in any enterprise he raised the price of everything he bought. When he became engaged in his enterprise and wanted more capital, he went back to the bank more eager and more ready to pay high interest than ever, and the operation was repeated. In 1836, on the top of the inflation, the rates for money were twelve and fifteen per cent throughout the year, with a very tight money market. The banks and the business community could not throw the blame on each other. They stimulated each other and went on in their folly hand in hand. The penalties, however, were not fairly distributed. The banks “suspended,” as they called it; that is, when asked to pay their debts, they said they would not; and they enjoyed a complete immunity in this respect, while people outside who could not pay had to fail.
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Before quitting the subject, I desire to point out its relation to one other matter, that is, to morals, or manners. It is a common opinion that the higher man attains, the freer he becomes. A moment's reflection will show that this is not true — but rather quite the contrary. The rowdy has far less restraints to consider than the gentleman. “Noblesse oblige” was perverted in its application, perhaps, before the Revolution, but it contains a sound principle and a great truth. The higher you go in social attainments, the greater will be the restraints upon you. The gait, the voice, the manner, the rough independence, of one order of men is unbecoming in another. Education above all brings this responsibility. Discipline in manners and morals does not belong to the specific matter of education, but it follows of itself on true education. The educated man must work by himself without any overseer over him. He finds his compulsion in himself and it holds him to his task longer and closer than any external compulsion.
This brings me then to speak of the real scope and advantage of a disciplinary education. A man who has enjoyed such an education has simply had his natural powers developed and reduced to rule, and he has gained for himself an intelligent control of them. Before an academical audience it is not necessary for me to stop to clear away the popular notions about untutored powers and self-made men. It is enough to say that the “self-made” man is, by the definition, the first bungling essay of a bad workman. An undeveloped human mind is simply a bundle of possibilities. It may come to much or little. If it is highly trained by years of patient exercise, judiciously imposed, it becomes capable of strict and methodical action. It may be turned to any one of a hundred tasks which offer themselves to us men here on earth. It may have gained this discipline in one particular science or another, and it may have special technical acquaintance with one more than another. Such will almost surely be the case, but there is not a more mistaken, one-sided, and mischievous controversy than that about science which should be made the basis of education. Every science has, for disciplinary purposes, its advantages and its limitations. The man whois trained on chemistry will become a strict analyst and will break up heterogeneous compounds of all kinds, but he will be likely also to rest content with this destructive work and to leave the positive work of construction or synthesis to others. The man who is trained on history will be quick to discern continuity of force or law under different phases, but he will be content with broad phases and heterogeneous combinations such as history offers, and will not be a strict analyst. The man who is trained on mathematics will have great power of grasping purely conceptional relations, or abstract ideas, which are, however, most sharply defined; but he will be likely to fasten upon a subordinate factor in some other kind of problem, especially if that factor admits of more complete abstraction than any of the others. The man who is trained on the science of language approaches the continuity and development of history with a guiding thread in his hand, and his comparisons, furnishing stepping-stones now on the right and now on the left, lead him on in a course where induction and deduction go so close together that they can hardly be separated; but the study of language again always threatens to degenerate into a cram of grammatical niceties and a fastidiousness about expression, under which the contents are forgotten. Now, in individual affairs, family, social, and political affairs, all these powers of mind find occasion for exercise. They are needed in business, in professions, in technical pursuits; and the man best fitted for the demands of life would be the man whose powers of mind of all these diverse orders and kinds had all been harmoniously developed. How shallow then is the idea that education is meant to give or can give a mass of monopolized information, and how important it is that the student should understand what he may expect and what he may not expect from his education. As your education goes on, you ought to gain in your power ofobservation. Natural incidents, political occurrences, social events, ought to present to you new illustrations of general principles with which your studies have made you familiar. You ought to gain in power to analyze and compare, so that all the fallacies which consist in presenting things as like, which are not like, should not be able to befog your reason. You ought to become able to recognize and test a generalization, and to distinguish between true generalizations and dogmas on the one hand, or commonplaces on another, or whimsical speculations on another. You ought to know when you are dealing with a true law which you may follow to the uttermost; when you have only a general truth; when you have an hypothetical theory; when you have a possible conjecture; and when you have only an ingenious assumption. These are most important distinctions on either side. Some people are affected by a notion, fashionable just now, that it belongs to culture never to go too far. Mr. Brook, in “Middlemarch,” you remember, is a type of that culture. He believed in things up to a certain point and was always afraid of going too far. We have a good many aspirants after culture nowadays whose capital consists in a superficial literary tradition and the same kind of terror of going too far. They would put a saving clause in the multiplication table, and make reservations in the rule of three. On the other hand, we have those who can never express anything to which they are inclined to assent without gushing. A simple opinion must be set forth in a torrent fit to enforce a great scientific truth. One is just as much the sign of an imperfect training as the other, and you meet with both, as my description shows, in persons who pride themselves on their culture. I will not deny that they are cultivated; I only say that they are not well disciplined, that is, not well educated.
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