Voluntary Socialism

A SKETCH (1896)

by Francis Dashwood Tandy (1867-1913)


VS-Intro.1 It is not necessary in the present day to begin a book on social reform with a long and wearying demonstration of the fact that something is radically wrong with existing industrial conditions. The panic of 1893, the subsequent depression of trade and the tremendous conflicts between capital and labor have emphasized it more forcibly than the longest array of statistics. Even the recent writings of orthodox economists, striving as they do to bolster up the present system, admit that that system is producing very bad results. Their sole argument seems to be that it is better to submit to the present injustice, than to try remedies which are likely to prove worse than the disease. Assuming, then, that the present system is bad, it becomes important to discover where the evil lies. When this is done, some clear idea will be gained of the direction true reform should take, and all proposed changes can be intelligently judged.
VS-Intro.2 In order to fully understand social questions, it is necessary at the outset to have a clear idea of the laws of development – how this world became what it is, how human beings think and act and how society is organized. By comparing the results of these investigations, perhaps some guiding principle may be found, which will indicate the lines upon which the ideal state of society must be based.
VS-Intro.3 So widespread is the existence of a sickly sentimentalism, that it is necessary for everyone to be on his guard against it, before undertaking any sociological enquiry. A sympathy for the poverty and wretchedness of others is a very good thing and often stimulates people to strive to better social conditions. But it must not be permitted, as it so often us, to influence the reasoning of the economist. Human beings are very complex creatures, possessed of many emotions and motives for action, all of which must be duly taken into account. But the philosopher who is analysing human nature, must raise himself above the influence of those emotions and regard his subjects as calmly as if he himself had not the misfortune to be one of their number.
VS-Intro.4 The etiquette of the medical profession forbids a doctor to practice on any member of his immediate family. Perhaps the origin of this custom may be found in the supposition that a man’s sympathies are liable to be too active under such circumstances, and so interfere with the full play of his reasoning faculties. What would we say of a surgeon, whose sentimental objection to amputating an arm, cost the patient his life? This is practically the position taken by the multitude of dilettante reformers, who shrink from the application of scientific principles to human society, because they appear cruel and repulsive to their narrow vision. The true student must put all such sentimentalism from him and approach the subject in a purely dispassionate manner.

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