Banking and Currency
INTEREST, DIVIDENDS AND RENTS.
The greatest of all the present social burdens is the excessive interest, dividends and rent charges levied on us by those who control centralized capital. It may seem to those possessing great wealth that they are vested with the right to levy for its use whatever toll they please upon the plain people. What they do levy makes it evident that they think the people owe them more than it is possible for us to pay.
I shall not question the present extent of the individual ownership of capital, even though I might do so (in a degree) considering the present methods of obtaining it. But I do now question the methods of its present use. I concede that everyone has a right to the products of his energy, properly applied, and also to a reasonable compensation for the same, but, I deny that anyone has any right to prevent such an organization of society as will prohibit those who possess the present wealth of the world from charging for its use a toll that is measured by monopoly regulation, and increased more and more as the necessity of the people increases, and the grasp of the monopolies tightens into a strangle-hold.
Everyone should realize that it is not possible for us to secure absolute justice in all practical dealings, and that there will be more or less inequality under any condition that man can establish. But that fact does not justify our support of practices that, by their natural application, make a few men immensely wealthy, create many parasites, and make industrial slaves of the masses. Our present system does all of that by its very nature. By that I mean that the law as it now stands and is interpreted by the courts and legislatures, forces that condition upon us and the manner in which commerce and speculation go on forces the people into unfavorable conditions even more rapidly than if the letter of the law were followed.
Government is properly the framing of rules of conduct that aid in rendering the results of transactions entered into by the people more advantageous, and not in fostering monopolies as it now does. But the present social belief seems to be that Government should support the capitalists in the collection of interest, dividends, and rent charges which are so excessive that they cannot be collected except by an excessive reduction of the compensation made to those rendering useful services, and increasing the hours of labor for the producers. The use of this false system is undermining the strength of our nation and will ultimately destroy it, unless we substitute a true economic one. If interest, dividends, and rents were based on the economic savings of those to whom they are paid, or on capital acquired in a just and proper manner, there would be no dangerous accumulation. A few do save and secure interest on some part of their actual earnings, but the general public does not save anything on which to collect either interest or dividends.
It does not seem credible that the farmer, the wage earner, and others should continue to perform useful services, when they know (at the same time) that that part of the product which is the result of their work, but in excess of their pay, and a proper compensation to the employer, forms dead capital on which they and their children will be taxed in the future by a geometrical progression of accumulated profits which will add to their daily burdens and force them and their children to continue living a life of poverty. Does it seem possible that such a condition is supported by the laws of our land and the decrees of our courts ? Look at the great combinations of wealth, commonly known as trusts. They are the logical effects of the geometrical progression of interest, dividends and rents, all of which result in a greater and greater centralization of material wealth to be possessed by those same trusts. They are our masters now by virtue of the practice of that rule, and will continue to be so just as long as we allow the present practices to continue. They are the fruits resulting from the peoples toil and accumulated by the wealth absorbers who, by the rules of government and practice in business, possess the privilege of taxing all of the people. It is virtually the same system that prevails in England. In 1823 the land in England was owned by 165,000 people. One-half of the land in the whole kingdom is now owned by less than fifteen persons. Less than a dozen persons in our own country dominate its finances. It is easy to understand how that is possible if one seeks carefully to get a correct understanding of the rules by which society is governed.
How does it happen that the legislatures and the courts have the right to measure the servicesthat is, the use of dead propertywith a more important scale than it measures the services of living persons ? It is not because of dishonesty, but it is because the legislatures and the judges, who are men like ourselves, have failed lamentably to see whither we would be carried by such doctrines. But the light of a new day has broken, and the meaning is clear. Who shall say that, understanding, we will permit the practice to go on indefinitely ? Who will deny our right to protect ourselves from such a system ? We absolutely know that no people can (on the past and present basis) produce so-called capital and centralize it in individual ownership, along with the right of the owners to tax us by the rule of geometrical progression of accumulative interest, dividends, and rents, without making of us a nation of insolvents and creating a condition of poverty for all men. Most men are in a condition of poverty now. Also, we absolutely know that the trusts, as a result of the centralizing of the control of the industrial agencies and material resources, operated in connection with their juggling of credits and money, have made us dependent upon the trusts for employment. This is the industrial slavery that the capitalistic interests prefer to chattel slavery. If we were chattel slaves they would have to care for us in sickness and old age, whereas now they are not concerned with us except for the time during which we work for them.
Knowing these facts, will the people continue to remain in such a state of bondage ? Certainly not ? The trusts have taught us the principle of combination. If it is good and profitable for the trusts, it is good and profitable for the people. It would be better to have one great trust created by all of the people for their common benefit than to have our actions controlled by several trusts operated for the individual benefit of a few persons. We must make a choice and either accept absolute Socialism or establish Individualism with opportunity for all. For one or the other we are bound to stand, or we shall all fall.
THE CAPITALISTS DEMAND A SOCIALISM OF DOLLARS, THEY TO OWN THEMIN OTHER WORDS, A MONEY TRUST, AND THEREFORE THEY ARE OPPOSED TO THE PEOPLE BECOMING SOCIALISTS IN THEIR OWN RIGHT. The trusts will maintain the first and prevent the latter if they can do so. Let us understand this clearly. The capitalists all denounce the existence of socialistic tendencies of whatever kind, if they are held by the majority of the people. But they are socialists themselves, as their absolute control of concentrated capital will show. They form combinations and operate them for their joint advantage. Yes, that is socialism operated in the interests of the selected few. Socialism for them means their absolute control of the material products resulting from the toil of the people, the right to charge for the use of this material and to make of us industrial slaves. They are practical socialists in the interests of the few. But, they are filled with shivering horrors when the people suggest the practice of socialism by themselves, for themselves.
Would it not be more desirable and much more practical for the general welfare of the people to have socialism include all of us than it is to permit the trusts to adopt and practice a form of socialism for themselves alone ? Notwithstanding that, I do not advocate socialism in the entire sense in which that term is commonly understood. Ordinarily, one can attend to his own affairs with less waste to himself than there would be if his business was everybodys business. I believe that the individual can do his own life work, and secure his fortune, better than the state could do it for him, provided that the state had reasonable laws and regulations to govern in the interests of all the people. I believe that with the human brain, and the inclinations of the people generally as we find them now, we can be assured of greater progress under the influence of individual incentive than would be probable if property were made a common stock held in trust for all. Theoretically, socialism is beautiful. Theoretically I believe in it, and I would prefer that it should be in actual operation rather than that the present methods of commerce, business, and general practices should continue.
No one doubts that socialism will take the place of the trusts and other selfish organizations now existing if we do not adopt methods by which the people generally shall be able to reap more benefit from their own well-directed energies. The Socialists are seeking to give better results to humanity as a whole, and if that can be accomplished through the establishment of socialism more satisfactorily than by any other system, the Socialists certainly ought to win. We cannot continue to allow the mental and physical state of society to be the basis on which are issued the stocks, bonds, and other securities for which we are taxed. That is, we cannot permit our good will, our inclinations, and desires, nor our dire necessities to be taken advantage of for the purpose of selfish promotion in stocks, bonds and securities.
The one objection most commonly heard in opposition to socialism is that too many persons would shirk their duties, and that others who were active and willing would be forced to do more work than it was their duty to perform. That cannot be urged as a legitimate objection and sufficient to cause us to reject Socialism in favor of our present system, because under the present system there are more idlers, and others who are supported by the sweat of others toil, than could possibly exist under any other system, unless we were to accept a state of anarchy which would require no system at all. But we now have a worse affliction than idlers. We have the greedy trusts, and they are operating under conditions that enable them to appropriate the products of our industry and create wealth which is concentrated into the hands of a few who not only levy a most burdensome toll on the present generation, but possess the legal privilege and, apparently, the opportunity to enforce the same conditions upon future generations. The idlers die and cease to be a further burden, but it is not so with the trusts. They continue. The remedy for our social evils does not consist so much in changing the system of government as it does in increasing the general intelligence of the people so that they may learn how to govern.
The only excuse for government is the facility it affords the citizens for securing advantages that operate for the common welfare, which could not be obtained with the same degree of equability through independent individual action. In no case has government so signally neglected its function as in its failure to issue money and control the charges made for its use. Banks and individuals have been permitted to set up a system for financial action which is supported by credits and the products of the peoples industries. Through its use they are enabled to collect exorbitant dividends, interest, and profits on what they do not produce.
From the testimony given by George F. Baker (President of the First National Bank of New York City) before the committee appointed to investigate the Money Trust, we learn that the operations of a single bank produced, in fifty years, profits equal to $86,000,000, or 172 times its original capital. If that bank continues to do business and is allowed to pile up profits in that geometrical progression, it alone, in less than 100 years, will extort from the people all of their property, andthat bank is but one of the 30,000 banks operating on an uneconomic system.
The total capitalization (which includes surplus and undivided profits) of 30,000 banks in 1913, was considerable over $4,000,000,000 and dividends compounded on that sum, as is the custom of banks, will, if allowed to do so by the indifference of the people to their own rights, consume the balance of the nations wealth.
The accumulated holdings of all the trusts that centralize wealth would immensely reduce the time it will take for the interest and dividends on these holdings to absorb all of our present property, and all of what we earn in the future, except what is required to be left to enable us to eke out a bare subsistence.
But, notwithstanding the community of interest existing between the trusts in order that they may uphold the system that enables them to PAY the LEAST price for wages, farm and other products, and to sell their own services and resell the products controlled by them at the HIGHEST available price, they compete with each other in their efforts to secure the most of our earnings. So, you see, there is competition even between the trusts, and this competition is resulting in their absorption of each other. Anyone with a little imagination and reasoning power can look ahead and see what would be the outcome of that competition if the interests are allowed to carry it to its finish. It is utterly impossible for us to become independent as a nation as long as we are subservient to the present system of excessive interest, dividend, and rent charges,toll on dead capital. I call attention to the power of a single dollar, and then I ask you to multiply the power of the ONE DOLLAR by the billions that are controlled by a few hundred financial wizards. Here is the table for a single dollar :
The following table, compiled by the Librarian of Congress, illustrates the power of money to enrich the owner through interest accumulations :
One dollar loaned for 100 years at compound interest at3% per annum would amount to. ........ $ 19.25
6% .................................... 340.00
8% .................................. 2,203.00
10% ................................ 13,508.00
12% ................................ 84,075.00
18% ............................ 15,145,007.00
24% ......................... 2,651,798,404.00
We must bear in mind that there is no difference in principle and final result between interest, dividends, and rents, when the latter are compounded on the capital basis.
It is easily apprehended that the banking institutions alone, by the geometrical progression of accumulation of interest, dividends, and profits, would if left free to do so, take the most of our earnings and property holdings and utterly exhaust our means. We will also find that the time that will be required to complete this legalized plunder is still further reduced when we take into consideration the fact that the principal stockholders make more profits outside of the banks than they obtain from dividends paid directly to them by the banks.
But it is not necessary for us to wait for the banks alone to absorb our property and collect the greater part of our daily earnings, because there are other great aggregations of centralized capital. The railways alone are valued at more than a dozen billions of dollars, and by a decree of the court (not yet overruled, April, 1913) it has been decided that 7% is a reasonable profit for them, and you will find that if this 7% were to be compounded for a generation and a half it would consume all of the property in existence exclusive of its own, and even if the rate were to be reduced to 6%, or even 5%, it would only postpone the day of reckoning. Thus, you see, we have another claimant for our earnings besides the banksnamely, the railroads.
But even these two are not all. We have the Standard Oil Company and its subsidiaries, the Supreme Court decision notwithstanding. There is also the Steel Company and its subsidiaries, the Tobacco Company, the Sugar Company, and various other companies and their affiliations, each of which possesses vast capital so centralized that each separate trust, by the geometrical progression in accumulated interest, dividends, and profits, will require only time in which to consume our present property, as well as our accruing earnings, and, if we allow it, force upon us a state of bankruptcy, because the geometrical progression is impossible to be carried out without so doing. Regardless of this fact, we still have the absurdity of our courts holding that a certain percentage should be a reasonable profit and anything less unfair. If this law were enforced it would ultimately create abject slaves and bankrupts of our children, and we, the parents, should be made to work toward that end. What do you think of that for a democratic government such as ours is supposed to be ? Are you going to rest content and permit the Political bosses to continue running our government for us ? They have had all the pastplenty of time, I am sureto remedy such evils. But the story is not yet one-tenth told.
The several trusts cannot, of course, absorb all, but after legally (and otherwise) seizing the principal part of our earnings, they swallow up the smaller of their own kind. The big fishes eat the little ones. As a result, the trusts become less and less in number, but their holdings become greater and greater, the same as the number and holdings of the English landowners. The Government has given its support to the banks by delegating to them the power to issue a substitute for money, and besides that advantage they are depositories for the cash of the people, with which they command a large credit. As a consequence, they have had the inside track in this unequal commercial struggle and they are now largely the masters of business, with the results which I have described.
That is why all of the great trust builders have themselves become bankers. They bought up the larger banks, and control, by a community of interest, most of the smaller ones, as well as influence them all. As late as 1912 James J. Hill absorbed great banking interests in the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He testified before the Money Trust investigating committee that he is a director in three of the greatest banks in New York City, Chicago and St. Paul. I consider Mr. Hill a great, as well as a good man, from the viewpoint of the social order of things that has existed during most of the time in which he has been doing his great constructive work.
We cannot criticize him for the work that he has done, but we should feel that we ourselves are to blame for having allowed the continuance of that system under which he and a few of his associates have been permitted to accumulate so great a part of the result of our earnings. If we had had a proper system, Mr. Hill would have fitted into that as a great constructor. He would have worked with the tools at hand. All great men do. There are other wealthy men of whom we could say the same as we do of Mr. Hill. It is the system to which we should give our first attention and not the men.
The part of the press controlled by the trusts tells us that the corporate stocks are owned by the peoplewidows, orphans, etc.and that he who attacks the present system is an enemy to these. It is wonderful how the trusts can find excuses for everything that they do and endeavor to support their system by such sophistry. They stated through the press that the stockholders in these interests number many thousands, and it would seem that they intended to convey to us thereby the idea that we, the people, possess the stack. Some families own stocks in, possibly, as many as a thousand companies. Some individuals own stocks in hundreds, and all of these persons are counted in the total number of stockholders as many times as they own stock in different companies. How many of us own corporate stock of any kind ? There are approximately 94,000,000 people in the United States, and there are but a few thousand stockholders with holdings large enough so that the dividends they secure are not assessed back to them in the increased cost of living as a result of this infernal geometrical progression of excessive interest, dividends, and profits, most of which ultimately goes to the big fellows. It is not distributed back to the people, as they attempt to make us believe. Only a small part of it is.
Ex-President Taft suggested to us, through the medium of a speech, that these things would adjust themselves by the deaths of the holders, and the distribution of the property to their heirs and legatees. He could not have given serious thought to that statement, because we can easily understand that once these things have grown up out of certain conditions they will not disappear as long as those same conditions exist. Besides, even if things were to correct themselves in some unnameable future generation, that fact is not sufficient for the present generation. We have a right to the advantages which God has created for the use of all mankindand right now. What fools we have been for permitting a few money wizards to use our dire necessities, and our desires for the conveniences and reasonable luxuries of life as a basis for capitalization,capital on which we must pay interest and dividends to them without any degree of proportion to the true value of the services they render. If we continue to be a government by partyinfluenced by boss politics and political factions-and allow them to make the laws as we have been doing in the past, we shall be slow in overcoming this one-sided affair.
In a speech made by Vice-President Marshall, in April, 1913, at a New York meeting, is to be found the following statement :
Suppose a Governor and a General Assembly in the State of New York should repeal the statute of descents for real and personal property and the statute with reference to the making of will on their death, how much vested interest would any relative have in the property which fell from their nerveless hands at the hour of dissolution ? The right to inherit and the right to devise are neither inherent nor constitutional, but on the contrary, they are simply privileges given by the state to its citizens.
The Vice-President is absolutely correct. But even if the laws of inheritance were abolished, it would not affect the system by which great fortunes are accumulated. Carnegie, the Rockefellers, the late Jay Gould, E.H. Harriman and J.P. Morgan, and the most of those who have individually amassed wealth by the hundreds of millions, began with little or nothing in the way of capital, except their ability, and the system which permitted their enormous accumulations. As I have already said, it is the system that deprives the plain people of the profits resulting from their work, and gives it to the class of men mentioned. It ought to be of comparatively little satisfaction to this generation to let the system remain unaltered and calmly sit back and allow these enormous fortunes to be accumulated. It is undoubtedly true that the present possessors, if the laws of devise and inheritance were abolished, would dispose of most of it as they wished while still living, but there would be a new set on hand to rob our children. I do not, however, understand that Vice-President Marshall suggested the possibility of abolishing the inheritance laws as a remedy for the social evils complained of.
There is one class of property, however, that I have not mentioned thus far. This is the farm interests. These are the greatest of any single property interest, but these holdings are at the present time diffused among millions of holders, but a geometrical progression of interest, dividends, and profits, in favor of the farmers has never been decreed by the courts. They are not permitted to add interest as a part of the price for which they sell the products of their farms. They must take their chances with the sun, rains and storms, and no court decree has given to them profits commensurate with the risks as it has to the railroads and other trusts. The farmer, like the wage earner, lives but to be fleeced by the beneficiaries of the present system. The two, the farmer and the wage earner, support the whole burden of a system which leads continually to immense wealth for the few and bankruptcy or poverty for the rest of us. Farm property has been subject to the highest rates of interest, while all the great industrial properties have been used as a basis for comparatively low rates of interest when money has been loaned on them.
Therefore I repeat my earlier statement, that the only excuse for government is the facility it affords its citizens for securing advantages that operate for the common welfare, which could not be secured with the same degree of equability through independent individual action.
Instead of that our government, which is of our own creation, has insured to the banks and other trusts a system which renders it easy for them to oppress the masses. It enables the few to live as non-producers and exorbitant spenders, while almost the entire burden falls on the rest of us. Such a condition is impossible of long tolerance by the proud, honest and intelligent citizens of our country. We must seek for a remedy.