« PreviousContinue »
COMMENTS ON ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF LEASE PLAN
This arrangement gave promise of providing the church with sufficient power so that “apostates” could not do serious harm. The extreme bitterness of many of those who left the church in this early period was probably the reason why this “leasing system” was worked out. But the departure from the plan contained in the Doctrine and Covenants of deeding inheritances, is a much bigger one than those who brought it about probably realized. The Doctrine and Covenants plan specifies that the ownership of the stewardships shall be in the hands of the stewards and of their children after them. This lease plan places the ownership of all the property, personal and real, in the church. The stewards become but leasees of church property. The loss of economic motives is by no means small in the lease arrangement. The ownership of land and of property has ever had a strong appeal to the average man. It has operated as a powerful incentive and as an increasing stimulant in getting the world's work done. After all, it must be remembered that it is in the character and the efficiency of the world's work that the well-being of the world, in its material aspects, resides. Present experience teaches that the main springs of progress are found in individual initiative and in private property. The lease plan completely ignores these two fundamental elements in the success of capitalism.
However much capitalism needs strengthening at the center, in order that a certain amount of central planning and central direction may be brought to bear in eliminating maladjustment, it can never be said that it has not found and lodged great responsibility on the real cornerstone of economic progress; namely, the individual man. Because of having found and made
. use of this firm foundation, it has become one of the greatest educational and civilizing forces that have ever operated in human affairs.
A plan which involves the transfer of owner ship of all property to a church cr to any organization, and makes of the individual only a cog in a great machine is neither educational in tendency, attractive in promise, nor productive in its actual workings. It is idle to claim that a failure of such attempts is due to the selfishness and lack of idealism in those who have made the effort. The failure lies in the plan itself. However great the failure may be, it is well merited. Ill-considered idealism does not make for progress, neither does foolish altruism lead to a spirit of genuine liberality and brotherly consideration. The United Order of the Doctrine and Covenants has never yet been tried out by the Mormon church. Fortunately, in its respect for
i See Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 51:3-5; also Sec. 83:3-5; also Sec. 104:22, etc. 1 It is also to be remembered that the lease plan made it much easier for the church to maintain equality. A deeded inheritance might become, for various reasons, much more valuable than another one. The difficulty involved here, however, is a small one, in the writer's opinion, compared with the difficulties inherent in the lease plan.
fundamental economic motives, it is unquestionably altogether superior to those plans which have been tried. In it the steward is a real factor in economic affairs, as he must be and should be in any plan which succeeds. In the plans which have been tried the individual is of trifling importance. It is reported that Brigham Young once said: “When I find a man who is better able to take care of my property than I am, I will turn it over to him, but not before." Not only should the steward own and control that property which is needed for the support of himself and family, but he should have his full share in the control and direction of the surplus on which depends a higher standard of life in the future, not only for himself and family, but also for each of the other families in the Order. In such an arrangement there is plenty of room for the exercise of generosity and for the growth of that big spirit which comes from service, for by turning in a generous surplus from his stewardship he genuinely benefits every family in the order. There is here combined the motives of self-interest and of group interest, in a practical manner. Why should not these two motives, thus brought together, exercise a strong appeal to energetic action?
Self-interest is generally admitted, even by the historical school of economic writers, to be the most sustained and the most powerful of motives which operate in the economic field. It causes the industrious to work early and late, the laggard to do as much as he does, the efficient to add to his efficiency, the careless to be less so, the planner to perfect his system, and the worker to add to his zeal. It has made blind men out of the clear-sighted, cripples out of the able bodied, and charity mongers out of those who might be engaged in a better cause. Good and bad things alike it accomplishes, but above all it makes the world go around. Without it no plan of industrial organization has yet met with success.
Nor should self-interest be looked upon as an inferior motive. For be it remembered, a very chief object of life is the improvement of man's individual powers and of the conditions which surround him. To disparage the divine spark which urges him to a bigger, stronger, richer life is to fail to recognize one of the great essentials of progress. In no sense is the desire for self-improvement incompatible with a desire for the improvement of others. On the contrary, the existence of such a desire in an individual should suggest to him a kindly interest in such desires in others. An economic system which gives large place to self-interest, but at the same time gives continued opportunity to assist others, is apt to be founded on solid principles.
Why Joseph Smith should have consented to church ownership of all property with a leasing system for the stewards in direct opposition to revelation “Fifty-one” which was to serve as an example to Bishop Partridge in establishing United Order units, is a matter for conjecture. The stress of a most bitter persecution, stirred up in part by apostates, must have had strong influence'. Possibly, not being of a very practical financial bent himself, he did not appreciate that so important a change was being made. Which of his advisers was responsible for the plan, is unknown. Most certainly it was not the leaders at Independence, for they were already complaining of "monarchial" power. Was it Sidney Rigdon? One can only surmise. Whoever it was, started an economic device which tended to make the church everything and the stewards nothing. One is reminded of the medieval effort to make God so great that no mortal could comprehend Him. The whole spirit of Mormonism revolts against such a plan. Mormonism exalts the individual as no other religion does. It gives him a pre-existence and concedes to him an immortal, uncreated entity, of like kith and kin to that which God possesses. Christ is believed to be an Elder Brother, and through Him, it is held, Godship may be obtained. Churches are but instrumentalities to serve and help man, and the whole program of salvation is wound about this central consideration: the education, the growth, the progress of the children of God. "For," says the God of Mormonism, “this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the eternal life and immortality of man." The leasing plan would have stunted growth, starved initiative, and dwarfed individuality. No wonder it did not prove popular with the Mormon people and no wonder difficulties arose at Independence.
On the other hand, deed ownership of inheritances, coupled with a high development of democratic control over matters properly coming under local autonomy, such as control over the Order Officers, the common treasury, into which the surplus goes, and the rules governing admission to the Order, are not only in harmony with the spirit of Mormon philosophy and the United Order "revelations” themselves, but also embody genuine Americanism, incorporate correct principles of practical education and make certain that the system will be reared on sound economic foundations.
Sufficient has probably been said to show how superior in the preservation of adequate motives was the proposed arrangement of deeding to the steward his inheritance, in comparison with the leasing plan. Likewise, and for the same reasons, democratic control over the treasury and over the appointment and removal of Order officers is of the greatest importance as is also such control over the regulations which govern the admittance of new members to the Order. If these powers be adequately vouchsafed to the stewards, and there is nothing in the Doctrine and Covenants' plan which is out of harmony with such an arrangement, the plan becomes a very unique, attractive, and promising one.
1 New features of the United Order were developing during the whole period at Independence. Machinery that would give democratic controi over the treasury was not developed, probably due to the fact that little or no surplus emerged. It is vital that the United Order should be considered a growing, plan and a constitution which cannot be amended. Joseph Smith so considered it and it is evident from his prediction concerning the “one mighty and strong" that important features concerning the order were yet to come.
REGULATING THE GATHERING
It will be well to keep in mind as this chapter proceeds, the fact that the United Order is a plan which requires a redistribution of wealth, a leveling down that there might be a leveling up. It will be clear, on reflection, that there will be little hope for the United Order, or any other like plan, to succeed if a fair proportion of people of wealth do not become members of it, for under modern conditions capital is essential to successful production. One of the great accomplishments of Capitalism is that it has been able, in ever-growing quantity, to increase capital by the aid of which man has constantly increased his power to produce goods that satisfy his needs. If the United Order is to be expected to compete successfully with capitalism, it should have an equal amount of capital to begin with; hence the necessity of inducing men of means to cast in their lot with the group which is to put the system into operation. Men of wealth have a distinct viewpoint. Many of this class are not lacking in generosity, nor in willingness to sacrifice their personal interests in a cause which gives promise of genuinely increasing the welfare of the masses. But constituting as they do the class that has succeeded, wealthy men feel that they know something about the conditions that make for success. Experience has taught them:
That reasonable certainty and definiteness about conditions that are to maintain is essential. Capitalism accomplishes this by means of laws guaranteeing the ownership and regulating the disposal of private property. Since the government has always, in the main, upheld these legal guarantees, men have confidence and work with a will to accumulate for the benefit of themselves and their families. Thus, through this definiteness, one of the main springs to successful production, private initiative, is genuinely reached. Take away this definiteness and no matter how good intentions may be, production will fall off in an amazing manner. Russia's recent experience is a gigantic example. The fact that the United Order was not complete, and that Joseph Smith was continuing to receive revelations which more fully organized the plan but which also specified what was to be done with Order funds, made for uncertainty. As a matter of fact, there was very little revelation which was concerned with the expenditure of funds; and it is a noteworthy fact that Joseph Smith remained away from Independence, in order, no doubt, that the people of Independence should be as free as possible in working out the sys