Thoughts on economics and liberty

The brilliant refutation of socialism in 1909 by George B. Hugo

In 1909 a debate occurred in Massachusetts on the topic of socialism as documented in the book, Socialism, the Creed of Despair.

George Hugo refuted socialism. Two extracts:


Socialism is a menace to modern civilization. Why ?
(1) Because it is a step backward,—retrogression.
(2) It would destroy man’s power of individual choice.
(3) It would relieve man from the personal responsibility and moral obligation which he owes his fellow-man.
(4) It would reduce man to the status of an automaton.
(5) It would destroy Free Will, the foundation of moral accountability to God. [Applause.]
(6) Because it is an economic fallacy and a spiritual delusion.


And now, Mr. Carey, I have prepared twenty questions that I want to ask you. I don’t expect that you are going to remember them, so I have put them on cards, numbered from one to twenty, and I don’t propose that you shall dodge them.
(1) How will the Co-operative Commonwealth determine the income of each worker?
(2) ‘Will each worker, skilled or unskilled, receive the same income?
(3) If all receive the same rate of compensation, will not such a system forever rob the superior workers of a part of their superior ability?
(4) And will not this conflict with the oft-repeated assertion of Socialists that the workers will receive the full product of their toil?
(5) If each worker should receive the full product of his toil, who will support the vast horde of non-productive workers?
(6) And, if each worker received the full product of his toil, some will have large incomes, others small; and will not this be economic inequality?
(7) As the capabilities of the workers will differ under Socialism, just as they now differ in our socialistic public school system, how and in what way will it be possible to determine the true value of each worker’s toil?
(8) How much more should a college professor receive than a railway brakeman?
(9) If we are to reduce the working time to four hours per day under Socialism, as Socialists assert, will it not require the services of 1,500,000 more railway workers to perform the same service that 1,300,000 now perform? And will not this cost the nation $800,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 annually more than the present labor cost for our transportation?
(10) Would not coal and everything else cost double if we reduced the working time to four hours a day?
(11) Then how about the non-productive workers,—i.e., the strictly government officials? Will it not require the service of a million boards of arbitration and several million book-keepers to keep track of the hours, income, skill, etc., of each worker, in order to determine whether the Socialist nation is robbing somebody or paying too much to somebody? And who but the workers, the real toilers, will pay all these bills ?
(12) If we are now able to produce only $650 per worker per year by working eight to ten hours per day, how will we produce $2,000 per worker per year by working four hours per day? How are you Socialists going to get possession of all the land, railroads, business blocks, church and school properties, machinery, etc.? Will the Socialists confiscate or purchase all capital now used in production and exchange?
(13) Will the man who invents a machine worth millions to society be paid a life income (a new form of royalty) or how will he be rewarded?
(14) Is it not true that of the 1,500 million people on earth no two are alike? One man is a success, the other a failure. One is industrious, the other a spendthrift. One sober, the other a drunkard. Will the industrious, sober, and saving man be willing to divide with and help to support the lazy man, the drunkard, and the spendthrift ?
(15) What will you Socialists do with the farming lands and the five million owners of these lands? Will you divide the land into five, ten, or fifty acre tracts and parcel it out to each farmer, and will each farmer be compelled to account to the State for what he raises? Will the intelligent farmer receive the same income as the ignorant farmer? Will an account be kept of what each farmer produces and the quality ? If so, will it not require an army of expert book-keepers to see that each farmer gets the full reward of his labor ? Or will the Socialist State farm the lands in large tracts, with Socialist farm bosses and Socialist farm hands?’
And which will you be, Mr. Carey, a boss or a farm hand? [Laughter and applause.]
(16) As farmers now work with the best machinery and produce an average of $700 per capita per year, will it not require the services of twice as many farmers to produce the same amount of farm wealth if we reduce the working time one-half ? Or will not food cost double what it now costs?
(17) Will the single man be compelled to labor as many hours as a married man with six children, or how will you arrange this?
(18) If the single man had less work, that is a soft snap” compared with the family man, would not most men desire to remain single? And would not this policy destroy the family, the best institution known to the human race?
(19) Will the great inventor, the great writer, and the great organizer be rewarded for their superior service to society, and who will determine what and how much such reward should be? If highly rewarded, will you not soon produce the same economic inequality that now exists? Or, if all are to be placed on the same equality,—and that is just what Socialism will do,—will it not destroy all ambition, remove all incentive? Will not the race degenerate?
(20) Is not Socialism, after all, a fantastic dream, utterly impossible and impracticable? And can any sane man suppose that the great mass of the sane men will ever vote for such a system? [Applause.]


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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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