What is socialism? - The spread of socialism throughout the world during the past generation, with its doctrines and claims so out of harmony with the established order of things, is the most striking sopial phenomenon of the time. Socialism is claiming the attention of many of the most thoughtful people, though giving their attention to the movement does not imply that they are giving it their support. They believe, however, that sooner or later the socialistic question must be decided one way or another; and for that reason they, as members of society, desire to act as intelligently as possible when that time comes. As students of economic questions we too should learn something about the demands of socialism, its program of action, the arguments of its supporters, and finally about the social conditions out of which it has grown.
Socialism, in brief, is a program which calls for the socialization of the instruments of production; that is, a program which demands that the state alone shall own the instruments of production. Under socialism there would be no professional enterprisers and no capitalists. Some socialists would also abolish private property in land, though this doctrine is not now universally held. Since there are to be neither enterprisers nor capitalists, it naturally follows that under socialism the shares that now emerge in the form of profits and interest would go to the workers in the form of increased wages. For that reason socialism is best treated as a problem of distribution, though by its very nature the first changes in a state passing to socialism would be made in production. We must exercise care in this connection to rid our minds of the common fallacy that socialism means a redistribution of property so that all the members of society may have exactly the same amount of wealth. Unfortunately, some of the more radical socialists themselves have created this wrong impression by their intemperate assertions.
The abolition of profits and interest, and perhaps of rent, does not imply that all of the members of a socialistic state are to be equally wealthy. It merely means that there will be no opportunity for investment, and no opportunity to serve as a private enterpriser. Wealth may he accumulated and inherited, and enterprising skill may be utilized by the state and rewarded accordingly. Under socialism no great leisure class will be possible; that is, every one will labor. Tasks will be apportioned according to strength and ability and rewarded according to need. Socialists lay the blame for our industrial ills, such as unemployment and crises, to the present system of industry. They insist that in a socialist state everybody will be employed; and that production will be nicely adjusted to need.