Capitalism and socialism in the face of ethics
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30


First edition: Gebethner and Wolf, Kraków 1927, reprint: Adam Heydel, Liberalizm i etatyzm, Ośrodek Myśli Politycznej, Kraków 2012.






One of my friends from Kraków, a man of high intellectual culture, and at the same time a sceptic to his core (I have already mentioned that he is from Kraków), smiled when I quoted the title of my article and asked if ethics in absolute terms is a thing at all. Isn’t ethics a product of cultural and social life, changing depending on one or another nature of such life, isn’t it simply an expression of life interests of classes or social groups ruling at a given moment?

These few questions asked in passing show best what kind of issues are hidden at the bottom of these mysterious depths that we call life or social system, ethics, or justice, merit and reward, or guilt and punishment.

I am aware of these issues but I skip them deliberately. They all reach into metaphysics, so they cannot be solved by thoughts only. Only believes can settle them. Thought can narrowly and correctly formulate them at most. But even just a strict approach to these issues, which I am about to discuss, requires a tedious scientific effort. As a result, it cannot bring anything that would interest the wider circles of non-specialists.

In this draft, I set myself another task. I want to present in a few words a modest and unassuming first projection of thoughts that seem to me to be the starting point for reflections on this basic problem in our culture.

In order to communicate with the reader, I will try to show in the simplest way possible where I see the ethical problems of economic life. I believe that not everything in our economic life is as it should be. I know that I will eat dinner today, but I also know a couple of houses next to me, or maybe even next door, there are people who will not eat dinner. I know that I have a warm and clean bed, but I know that there are those who spend the night huddled on a hard bench in coldness and dampness. I know that there are parents who bring up their children in a healthy way, but there are also those who will have to look helplessly at the children withering and dying out in front of their eyes. In a professional medical and statistical work, I read that atrophy is almost exclusively the cause of death of more affluent people, while tuberculosis and pneumonia, that take away young people who are capable of working, are the working class diseases.[1].

I know it is not right. But this is not all. There are doubts at every step. For the money I earn, I buy a painting, and the old seamstress who sews in my house returns to the distant suburbs on a cold night, shivering in her summer coat full of holes, because the money she earned from me is not enough for warm clothes. I give the dinner leftovers to my favourite dog, and hundreds of school children cannot understand what they are learning because they are starving. Where are the limits to which I am allowed to extend my consumption? Could there be something more innocent than buying a painting, going to a concert, having a dog? Moreover, can culture develop without consumption going beyond the limits of satisfying the most immediate needs? And yet... There is more. Mr. X., Mr. Y. or Mr. Z. do not do any harm to anyone, they are very good, nice even. They spend their time in a harmless way. One of them loves travelling, the second one hunts and rides horses, and the third one artistically furnishes his vast apartment. None of them work. And at the same time, a talented and hard-working student cannot finish university, because he has nowhere to live, he cannot maintain his health by going to the countryside, he cannot specialize in anything because he cannot afford to go abroad.

Enough of these banal examples. We all know that these problems exist. We all try to solve them in our own circle. People of less sensitive and socialized nature are able to close their eyes on them. Those of more affectionate nature engage in charity. Subjectively, this can be enough for both of them. Of course, it does not remove evil objectively. What is more, it does not remove the feeling bothering the entire society that it is not right. Even the toughest person who does not feel pity seems to be aware that it should be different; the most compassionate one has a clear conscience only when it comes to themselves. No one is sure about social balance. Not only because they are not sure of the balance of power, but also because they have often stopped being sure of their right. This crisis of the moral foundations of social life is undoubtedly one of the most chaotic features of the present moment. It is also a great danger to the future of our culture. Doubt is promoted by philosophy, literature, press, cinema. Doubt is paralyzed by the thought: “Their (possessing classes) whole habit of thought becomes timid, since they dread being forced to acknowledge that their position is indefensible.”[2] Doubt is related to the system in which we live. Doubt pushes numerous young people into the embrace of the opposite system.

I want to address the question how guilty of the things not being the way they should be the capitalist system is, and to what extent the socialism can help.

When I talk about “capitalist system” I mean a system of economic relations that comes with full development of the consequences following the private property law. The concept of “socialism” is harder to define, since the name functions for a whole range of trends and diverse programs. When using this word, I mean a system in which the means of production have been socialized and in which the economic equalization of individuals is sought. This corresponds to the collectivism program, it is also a minimum contained in an even broader program of communist reform. The latter strive in principle to socialize all goods, not only the means of production. The program, which I call socialism, thus corresponds to the vast majority of the modern socialist camp. On the other hand, it is this program, and not the program of integral communism, that has undergone certain attempts to materialize[3]. Finally, it is in clear contradiction to the capitalist system with which other socialist directions (socialism, syndicalism) can be partially reconciled.

That is why, in order to discuss the problem of morality of the opposing regimes, I am taking this concept of the fundamental transformation of economic life as the basis for reflection, and omit the compromise programs of amendments and additions.

In order to start this discussion, we need to become more aware of what is wrong. The facts that concern the social conscience can be divided into three groups.

The first group is the phenomena of poverty. The second is the fact of the inequality of material conditions. The third includes cases of inadequacy of effort and output, and the retribution given in return.





The first category of phenomena does not raise any doubts: poverty is a phenomenon which deeply offends moral sense. Poverty is not only the fainting from hunger, the feverish chills of a freezing person, but also vegetation on the border of the physiological minimum of making a living. Apart from the physiological ones, people always have the mental needs as well. Whoever, therefore, has nothing more than the ability to keep their body alive, who can barely satisfy their needs of a hungry and freezing animal, lives on an inhumane level. Poverty should be removed from the world. But how?

Two postulates put forward economic and social programs: improvement of production and improvement of the distribution of goods.

The former means striving to increase the total amount of wealth, the latter aims at levelling the differences in the wealth of individuals. It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to implement both of these postulates simultaneously. The natural development of economic life does not lead directly to the improved distribution of income. We can approach this goal by coercion and pressure applied on economic life. This pressure, however, constraints its development and weakens the productive capacity of the economy. And we must remember that the equalization of differences in wealth itself does not lead to the permanent removal of poverty. This can only be achieved by the full bloom of economic life. Although economic development does not directly bring equal wealth of individuals, it is undoubtedly associated with the democratization of wealth. Differences remain even with the great wealth of society, but they start at a much higher level. Therefore, the problem of fighting poverty lies in the first line towards the issue of expanding production. The 19th century, which created great capitalist fortunes, was also the age of a serious increase in the living standard of the poorest masses. The percentage ratio of poverty in rich and poor countries at the moment also clearly indicates that the fading of poverty is the result of great production. The fact that putting the emphasis on the improvement of the distribution of social income alone does not protect us from poverty, can be best exemplified by a simple equation: calculations show that the annual income per capita in Poland amounts to 250-300 zlotys. In the United States, individual’s income is 10 times higher. If we bring the distribution of income in Poland to the point that the income of all Polish residents will be equal, each of us will be able to consume goods equal to 20-25 zlotys per month. It is clear that currently (considering children, the elderly, the unemployed), there are many people who do not even have such an income. It is clear that even such miserable living as that which one could have for 1 zloty a day would mitigate their hunger. But this is not the removal of poverty, but rather bringing down the whole society to its level. It is different in the United States. There, with levelling out the wages, there are over 200 zlotys per head per month; it is not poverty anymore (even for the US conditions). But this level of income is gained by the huge production of American society.

Therefore, the demand to remove poverty is conditioned by the vitality of the economic system. It is only in a viable economic organism that ethics can be implemented. The attitude of the capitalist system and the socialist program to the postulate of improving the division is known. The capitalist system is synonymous with giving up all further reaching interventions within this field. The postulate of levelling out the income is the central issue of socialism. Stating this difference, however, does not entitle us, as it results from the previous observations, to grant superiority to one system or the other in relation to the postulate of removing poverty until we consider the decisive fact of vitality and economic efficiency of these two regimes. What can we say about it?

We know the capitalist system. We know that it has become the basis for the economic development of the world, especially that it gave mankind the unprecedented power and prosperity of Europe in the nineteenth century. Together with favourable natural conditions (large natural resources, sparse population, high level of technology), it completely removes unjust poverty in the United States. It is undoubtedly the basis for the slow recovery of the world's prosperity in the post-war period. By itself, it is probably not enough to remove poverty in general, but it gives us one necessary condition to remove it: it somehow protects against general deficiency. In a word, the capitalist system has shown its vitality – we can prove that empirically – we also understand it logically if we go deep into the basics of economic life.

Things look different with socialism. Logically – building an economy on its premises is probably not excluded, but it is undoubtedly very difficult. It requires more from the culture and character of individuals. Empirically, we know very little about it. Everything we know is completely negative. The existence of several dozen (about 70) communist associations in America, modelled on Cabet’s Icaria or Owen’s New-Harmony, cannot be considered an argument for its viability. These associations, if not falling apart, they economically vegetate rather than thrive. Those, which have managed to survive more than 100 years, owe it to a series of specific conditions: they are very small (100 people each on average), they consist of affluent individuals (average assets per person, not a family, is about $ 4,000), and what is the most important, they are enlivened by a sectarian-religious spirit which gives them a completely unique psychological basis that is impossible to extend to all humanity. It would be equally difficult to justify the success of socialism or even communism, like in the Catholic monasteries.

The socialism (not communism) has undergone only one serious test – in Russia. In the Soviet Republic, there were actual attempts on a large scale and in a normal society, to socialize the means of production and eliminate the wealth. It must be said that socialism in Russia has gone bankrupt irrevocably. It led to a complete ruin of the industry (it reduced its production to 17% of the pre-war state), the condition of the agriculture was significantly damaged (production dropped to 40% of pre-war productivity), it also forced its creators to abruptly abandon this system. It is true that since then Russia has been growing economically. It is probably developing not as quickly and has not yet reached the level of which the official Bolshevik optimism assures us. However, the progress is clear. But those who would like to draw their arguments in favour of claiming the vitality of socialism, should be asked: what would happen without NEP? We must remember that NEP does not equal socialism. It is sufficient to recall that, according to the essentially socialist principles, Russia was to function without private trade and without money, without credits or banks, without private wage labour, without prices, therefore, without interest rate and without pay (instead of the wages, the state would be supporting the workers, the so-called “paek”) – it is enough to point out that all these phenomena of economic life exist on a large scale in present Russia – to realize the entire range of the return to capitalism, which Russia has experienced since that time.

What has been left of the socialism principles?

It is true that the big industry is nationalized. But the attitude of this state production to the consumer and the worker is no different from the attitude of the capitalist producer to their employees and customers. Industry is not working “to meet social needs”, but to make profits. It sells not to those who have needs, but to those who will pay more. The worker is allotted wages (working mostly in a piecework system) and strives to ensure that the amount of the wages does not destroy the profitability of enterprises. In other words, the purely capitalist economic calculation and the principle of detailed payment have squeezed in everywhere. The mainspring of pursuit of profit runs the whole economic life.

It has been experimentally confirmed that “With the help of Marx's doctrines, it is impossible to build a single locomotive”, as one of the Russian Marxists wrote in 1921.

Socialism in Russia has been liquidated, and during the period when it was a ruling system, it failed. These are facts. Their theoretical explanation is not difficult.

This is how the Russian economist Prokopowicz, emphasizes them[4]: “The principles of the Soviet economy in the socialist period were reduced to the economic calculation on three levels of production; they led to: 1) the breaking off of the relationship between the labour output of the worker and the quantity of goods they received in exchange; 2) breaking of the balance between the sum of values produced by a given economic workshop and the sum of costs, and 3) the establishment of a nationwide plan of “purely material nature” of production, i.e. striving to produce as many goods as possible, without looking at the costs of their production. Indeed, the communist principle: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”, which people have tried to implement in so many different forms breaks off completely with the weight of the benefits and losses that each individual carries within themselves. The second, collectivist principle: taking away all accumulated stocks of capital from individuals, paralyzed all economic progress. “Communism – as demonstrated by the example of Soviet Russia – is primarily a denial of all effectiveness.”[5].

Since then, as we know, Russia has changed a lot. We can see all the fundamental phenomena of the private economy in Russia. There is trade and money, there are prices and wages and profits. The principle of levelling of wages has long been abandoned. The differences between the wages of the lower- and higher-category workers are as great as anywhere in the world. Private capitalization turns out to be a worthy recommendation, and even more recently – worthy of state care. Russia has returned to the earth from the utopian nebulae.

But – some might say – Russia is not a capitalist state in the true meaning of the word. Probably. State capitalism in Russia takes the place of great private capital. It is always closer to the program and ideals of socialism.

Or maybe in such a system, the phenomena of poverty are less vivid and frequent? One would expect this. Such illusions could be experienced even by those who do not believe in the development and viability of such an economy. If not the postulate of production, then maybe the postulate of a just distribution of wealth is managed there better than in capitalist societies?

It must be made clear that such assumptions are a complete illusion. Russia, despite the improvement of its economic situation, is still a country of grinding poverty.

Here is what Rene Fülöp-Miller, the author of the work called Geist und Gesicht des Bolschevismus says about it[6]: “The number of paupers and the poor on the streets of Moscow continues to grow indefinitely, and today it exceeds all figures that can be calculated. Beggars entangle our life with a network: every manifestation of the existence of this city and its inhabitants. Every street, every square is full with beggars; they cling to the lapels of every movement. Let a vehicle stop anywhere, and you will see the stereotypical crippled begging hand reaching out. Someone is buying a newspaper, and suddenly an inevitable quiet voice of a starving child who begs for bread appears. Whether you get on the tram, leave the house, arrive at or leave the train station, sit on the bench, make stop on your way, or are in a hurry running your errands: everywhere, there is a beggar on the street, they lift their lifeless face and a stump, blocking the way with their legless body. A beggar suppresses the life of Moscow at every step; you cannot move forward, get in, get out, come, go, sit without being constantly hit by dominating poverty. (…) Poverty exists and it is victorious over all attempts to control it. (…) Communist regime has gained the privilege of such a development of the organization of poverty as never seen before anywhere else in the world.”

This is all about Moscow, the capital, where the facades of the Soviet buildings are being painted with bright colours with such indefatigable energy! What must be happening in the background, behind the scenes of a brilliant mise en scène. Poverty, the inhuman poverty continues to exist. Will it be removed from Soviet Russia in the future, or at least eased? The hopes for this are rather low. Russia, with its current system, has no views of successful development. One can artfully and convincingly prove theoretically that there are no logical obstacles for state capitalism to develop successfully. Undoubtedly. You can do it at editorial desks, and even in scientific laboratories. Such evidence can litter one’s head and disturb the theoretical worldview. However, it will not survive in the face of the vulgar, simple fact: Russian state-owned production is not capable of competing with the production of even the lowest-level capitalist countries. It has no makings of vitality, and thus it will not remove the phenomenon of poverty.

But, when speaking of contemporary Russia, we have departed too far from our actual issues. Let's get back to them by concluding that poverty can be soothed only by the lush economic development, and that socialism has never given us any guarantee that it is capable of ensuring such development. Quite the opposite, all the arguments it provides turn against it.

Capitalism has not removed the poverty by itself, but it can provide the necessary, though insufficient, condition to ease poverty – the economic prosperity. Capitalism turns out to be a tool for fighting poverty which is better than socialism. I do not want to say that it is a perfect tool. Whoever wants to fight poverty, however, has no choice but to use it. At the same time, they should remember that it does not deal with all the ethical problems of economic life. The remarkable economic development in this system is achieved at the expense of phenomena that raise serious moral doubts. Some of them are inseparable from capitalism: “the inequality of the distribution of wealth was exactly what enabled this enormous accumulation of permanent wealth and technical improvements that distinguished this century (the 19th century) from all the others. This is where the main justification for the capitalist system lies.”[7] Indeed, the development of wealth is associated with capitalism, the alleviation of poverty is associated with the development of wealth. The postulate of removing poverty justifies capitalism morally. Let us see if other ethical postulates do not tell us to condemn it.




The second group of facts disturbing our moral sense consists of the phenomena of inequality of property and income. In addition to poverty, this great scarcity, in which life becomes a torment, we find widespread differences in wealth. Some “do not know what to do with money”, live in excess and bland boredom, others lack the money to meet the most justified needs. They cannot brighten, add splendour or sweeten the nagging worry of everyday life with anything.

It is clear that this state also raises doubts, irritates our conscience, causes jealousy, in other word, introduces an element of anxiety into social relations.

The practical removal of inequalities of wealth is not difficult. All you have to do is divide the assets and give everyone equal parts. You can then keep this levelling out in a state roughly equivalent to ideal equality with the appropriate pressure on some (e.g. taxes), and subsidies for others.

Should it be done?

When considering the problems of poverty, I took the position that the levelling of assets should not be implemented. By hampering economic development, it would make it difficult to remove, or at least ease, poverty. However, you can take a different ethical stand. It can be argued that the removal of inequality is a moral postulate of greater importance than the removal of poverty. This is the way justice is often understood. “Justice would be secured if all were equally unhappy, as well as if all were equally happy,” says Bertrand Russel[8]. One could go even further and ask if people's happiness is not about equality?

I want to discuss these ethical arguments. The issue we need to face is: Are economic inequalities between people wrong? Should we strive to remove them? I want to narrow down my field of thought as much as possible. Therefore, I skip moments that are only indirectly related to this issue – all further political and social as well as cultural and educational consequences of the discussed system of relations. I do not deny that there are phenomena that are further consequences of economic inequality that raise serious doubts. From the point of view of a sociologist-politician, philosopher of culture, educator, you can, of course, question the moral advantage of great fortunes and income. It is obvious to ask whether they are not as dangerous and demoralizing as poverty. It seems that people are not meant to live in extreme conditions. Just how narrow the range of temperature, in which the living organism can develop healthily, is; just how the moderate climate turned out to be the best underlayer for the development of culture, similarly, moderate wealth, allowing to satisfy the cultural needs, but not completely liberating from work is likely to guarantee moral health of people. This was perfectly expressed by one of the doctors, saying: “Wealth is not only harmful to rich people who live following the example of the poor – in moderation and work”.[9]. – It is all true. But the above discussion is of rather political and social nature, in the most specific sense of the word, rather than strictly ethical. Let us suspend these issues temporarily and return to the core of the problem. The question is whether and to what extent the inequality of property and income is permissible, not because of its further effects, but in terms of direct justice.

Let us consider more closely the stand on this matter taken by both opposing camps, capitalism and socialism. As we know, capitalism takes the position that a free-trade economic system, based on private property law, distributes wealth among individuals in a fair way. Therefore, the program of artificial levelling of property and income is rejected. The socialist camp, on the contrary, unanimously condemns the current system of distribution of wealth and wants to rebuild it. In relation to the division key, we encounter two fundamentally different postulates within this camp. Collectivism considers it advisable to allot individuals certain quantity of goods corresponding to their work, communism throws the slogan of distributing goods not in relation to the work of the individual, but according to their needs. All branches of socialism seek to compensate for differences in the economic position of individuals. The “economic equalization program” is recognized by theorists as “the proper matrix of socialist doctrines.”[10].

Is there any contradiction between this program and the division rules mentioned above? What is the relationship between these principles and the postulate of economic equality? To what extent can they eliminate economic inequality after being applied in life?

The principle “to each according to his needs” obviously does not lead to equality if it is used by individuals. If (and this is exactly what communism means) it is used by the organization through coercion, it will not be implemented at all, because it is impossible to set standards that correspond to the subjective needs of individuals. Besides, this principle, by completely breaking the relationship between the production of individuals and their participation in the wealth created is, of course, so absurd in practice that it can be omitted. It will not be the thing that brings economic equality to life. It also has little in common with that postulate in ethical terms. It is simply a utopian pium desiderium, which, if realized, would lead to paradise on earth, which, however, does not take into account the basic economic fact: the unlimited human needs and the scantiness of goods and production forces. Attempts to use it would do nothing more than spread laziness and idleness over society as a whole. Idleness – this is the only need that we would really satisfy.

The second principle, collectivism (to each according to his work), is more important. This principle can be applied in practice in a better or worse way. Does it lead to economic equality? At one point, the economic equalization is undoubtedly closer. Its application, connected with the socialization of production tools, makes private capitalization impossible. Capitalization, on the other hand, is one of the basic factors of economic inequality. Thus, this principle hinders the emergence of large differences in property. However, does it also remove the possibility of serious differences in income? It depends on how we capture the work phenomenon. If, by work, we mean effort, displeasure associated with gainful activity, then undoubtedly the income of individuals would have to be largely equated. The limits of effort (i.e. subjective pain) are relatively narrow. I do not think that the abilities of individuals (apart from exceptions) could be too divergent in this respect. Some people can probably bear several times more effort than others – but no more. The situation looks different when it comes to the efficiency of their work. Efficiency, the ability to achieve useful results, providing services and creating objects that are needed or desired by others are almost incomparable. Edison's inventions, Matejko’s painting talent, or Kiepura’s voice – cannot be replaced or distributed to the work units of thousands of poor technicians, poor painters, singers without a voice. The same surely applies to all even the most “economic” work departments. In the system of private property, payment for work applies to the needs of individuals, to free competition; this results in huge inequalities in income. Can they be reduced by introducing a different payment system? Socialism proposes a planned system of retribution from the society understood as a whole.

The basic difficulty in implementing this plan is the incommensurability of results using the help of any scheme, contrary to the opposite claims of socialism. If, however, we omitted this consideration and assumed per maxime inconcessum, that it is possible to set up approximate norms of social value of work results and, by applying these standards, to measure the value of work per hours – even then the payment for labour would have to be so unequal that the economic equivalence of individuals would be impossible. Distribution of income according to the value of the results does not lead to equality. Should we not base the amount of effort – on the cost, and in the language of economists, on the “disutility” of work?

Such a distribution of wealth would eliminate differences resulting from the innate abilities of individuals, and lead to the removal of the so-called “personal pensions”. Would it be ethically justified? The answer is not easy.

From the point of view of the individual, it may seem justifiable for society to make up for the unpleasantness, expense of energy, the destruction of health that accompanied their work. Is this position acceptable for the society understood as a whole? Is the society supposed to pay for individual’s losses or reward for the services rendered? When considering economic phenomena, we do not face a problem that is unfamiliar to other areas of social life. We find a close analogy in the assessment of merits and rewards granted to individuals for their uneconomical work. Distinctions, orders, titles, life pension – this is payment provided by the public. For what? Is it for the merit understood as the sum of suffering and unpleasantness of the individual? This element is included in the deliberations in the slightest extent. A pen-pusher who, with great hardship and effort, has been writing out for several dozen years, can hope for a humble badge of honour at most. An artist or scholar whose work caused bliss, an inventor whom one moment of inspiration or chance let make an excellent discovery – they can reach for the highest honours, and the underestimation of their merit by the society is met with indignation of public opinion. If even the subjective effort is taken into account, it always plays a secondary role. The decisive factors are: talent, inventiveness, creativity, everything that is not a moral merit of the individual.

All these problems with the prize have an interesting analogy in the negative qualifications of human acts: in the field of punishment.

The retribution theory known in the theory of criminal law would be fairly similar to the rewarding not for the effort, but for the outcome of the work. It told to punish for the harm done to the public, not caring about the intention of the culprit. Today's criminal law theory is moving further away from this position, demanding consideration of the intention (intentional or unintentional fault?), taking into account the moments changing the responsibility of the culprit (environment, education, intellectual level, etc.) – this to a certain extent corresponds to taking into account the moments of personal merit, effort etc. when rewarding individuals. Nevertheless, the very principle of injustice cannot be replaced by another one that takes into account only the personal guilt of the culprit.[11].

If this is not possible in terms of offenses, then it is even more impossible to think of a similar system of rewards for positive actions.

Indeed, an attempt to equalize the innate differences and reward effort instead of performance would lead to severe losses from the general social point of view. It would induce all of the more outstanding individuals to be inactive. With the current state of science, the effort could only be measured by time. Under these conditions, the only benefit of more talented individuals would be that they would work less at the same time, receiving a “laziness pension”. However, even if we assume that the development of psychotechnics, etc. will remove this hitch, we must recognize that the principle of payment for effort, not for the result, is not acceptable from the point of view of the benefits of society. After all, it would lead to à rebours selection, removing the greater talents. It is not possible to apply it in the same way just like it is impossible to classify students only according to their diligence, bypassing their abilities. Such selection, whether in school or in social and economic life, would lead to the reign of “nerds” with the greatest damage to culture.

So much for work. We cannot forget that work is not the only factor in multiplying wealth. The others are completely immeasurable:

Neither justice nor regard for social utility can, therefore, lead to the use of complete levelling of income. “Absolute equality of incomes... would indeed be a typical application of the shallow precept: fiat justicia, ruat coelum[12]

Another principle, only partly overlapping with the principle of equality, is at the forefront of ethical issues in economic life.

Walras says that society should give the individual equal initial conditions, the individual should strive to gain inequality of position[13]. This apparent aristocracy is just a well-understood democracy. All interests of culture, its durability and development are related to the fact that creative and talented individuals find a proper life position, reward and retribution.

The adequacy of retribution from society for the results of work, not for the pain and individual cost, is therefore the prime ethical postulate. A system that can provide such adequacy is a fair system. Those who receive little in such a system – the incapable and unskilled workers – may then have only their fate to blame, or themselves. Social devices are just.





A pupil at school who has learned a lesson gets a good note, a person who has rendered great service to the public obtains honours and is surrounded by the recognition of general public, a criminal who has committed a crime receives a punishment. These are the various ways in which we try to bring about justice. Such justice seems to us the more accurate, the more adequate the reward or punishment to the merit or guilt. The retribution in economic life should be expressed in returning the equivalent of the services provided by the individual (You have given wealth in the amount of N, you receive wealth in the amount of N).[14].

In order to realize who deserves to receive the wealth and in what amount on the basis of this principle, it needs to be established first who produces wealth and in what amounts. The most common answer to this question is that wealth is produced through physical work. This view is rooted in the old conviction that the essence of economic goods is in their material form. Political economy is slowly moving away from this position. Today, we understand wealth as a group of usable items, regardless of their more or less material form. From this moment, it is easier for us to free ourselves from the suggestion moving the physical work and the physiological effort to the front of the factors of wealth, moreover, sometimes leading to the recognition of such work as the only source of wealth. In this form, this theory occurs most often in the socialist camp.

I do not want to say that socialism does not take into account other factors of wealth. It is possible that such outline presents this view as a vulgar caricature of the philosophy of economic socialism. You can probably find in it an understanding of economic productivity as well as intellectual work. This view, however, undoubtedly dominates in the policy of socialism and in the popular understanding of its recommendations. Even in theory, the role of physical labour is certainly unduly emphasized. Rodbertus, less popular than Marx, but an interesting theoretician of socialism, clearly rejected spiritual work as the basis for the value of goods. He knew, of course, that it was a necessary component of production, but he thought that mental energy is inexhaustible and that, consequently, it should not be included in the economic calculation, in contrast to the human physical energy wearing out in the process of production. This problem is less clear in Marx’s theory, but this writer was also influenced by the naïve materialist view of production of the classics of economics (it was known that, according to Adam Smith, only work producing permanent – material – objects was productive) and undoubtedly overestimated the economic significance of physical work.

Finally, similar views prevail in the syndicalist camp. “While from the sentences scattered around in various works (of this) movement, it can be concluded that the term (producer) ... means only physical workers. Sorel... clearly states that any work that is neither manual nor auxiliary in relation to it – will be a luxurious activity in the future society.”[15].

It is impossible to agree with this approach.

The role of consciousness is fundamental in any, even the most mechanized, human work. It is enough to imagine a worker who has gone crazy and instead of putting coal into a railway wagon, they start spreading it around themselves, using the same amount of physical energy as before, to realize that such work will have a completely different economic meaning from the purposeful work, guided by attention and awareness. The role of consciousness and spiritual creativity is, of course, decisive in production anywhere where problems simpler than the last one apply. As Böhm-Bawerk rightly says, in order to extract coal from the ground, it is not enough to dig for it, it is still necessary to show where to dig. This can only be done by an engineer, not a physical worker.

The more the job of a worker becomes simplified and mechanized in modern production, the greater the share of purely spiritual work in productivity. Spiritual effort, embedded in devices, machines, scientific organization of work, is simply decisive for the amount of wealth acquired. It is safe to say that 90% of contemporary wealth owes its existence to the effort of the spirit – intellectual work.

What is more, it is understood that a whole array of completely non-economic jobs that have nothing to do with the technical background of production, such as state organization, are also an indispensable condition for this wealth. A striking example of the direct significance of organizational and social work is given by Othmar Spann in his Fundamentals of Economics. Leave, he says, the treasures of nature, workshops and factories, soil and population where they belong, and instead transfer the German officials, judges, and teachers to Russia (pre-war Russia), and the Russian bureaucracy to Germany, and then answer the question whether the wealth of these two countries will remain in the same relationship as before: won’t Germany become poorer, and Russia get richer?

Only in this contect is where the importance of spiritual effort and spiritual creativity gains sufficient clarity in economic life. It is only with such an extension of the concept of work that one can agree it is the primary source of wealth.

At the same time, all the wrongfulness of the slogans become clear to us, the slogans cast by all the branches of socialism, and implemented in the “heroic” era by Bolshevism; the slogans of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the governments of “peasants and workers”, the fight against “beloruchki” (people who do not work physically), lowering the wages of engineers to the level of wages of a simple worker, allotting of one-bedroom apartments to doctors in Russia, in other terms, treating intellectual workers as parasites of economic life. In the face of all the facts, it is difficult to understand that the thought of the decisive meaning of physical work for the development of wealth obscured the reality of economists for so long.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that poets and philosophers were intuitively closer to the truth:

“You must work”, the voice exclaims,

Not by the sweat on your hand or your back

(as this is not where the work begins)

You must work by the sweat on you brow.


“Gather all economists” and ask them where a castaway will start.

The sweat on his hands or arms will not be enough:

...the beginning, the first letter of work

Not what your real school is spreading today

- both shallow as well as insincere

You must always work by the sweat on you brow.[16]


And this is how a philosopher and sociologist puts it: “It is easy to refute the claim that physical work, by transforming natural objects into objects of human use, was a producer of values,” says Florian Znaniecki.[17]. “Physiological energy is natural energy, just like the mechanical energy of a flowing river. (…) The natural energy of the human body itself has to be changed into value, just as the natural energy of coal becomes a value only when the mental activity makes it a means of production. (...) The only producer of values made with the help of the human body or a steam engine is mental activity.”

Work understood in such a way – human work in all its forms, but spiritual work in the first place, is the fundamental basis of wealth. However, it is not its only factor.

A producer of wealth can produce a lot, but they can consume even more – then they cause damage to society. They can balance their achievements and consumption – their participation in the enrichment of society is then equal to zero, and last but not least, they can consume less than they produce. Only then they are an economically active factor in society: they increase the totality of social wealth. They do so if they save – if they capitalize.

The importance of saving in the development of wealth, obvious for an impartial observer, was negated by socialist doctrine. Two moments prevented proper assessment of the role of savings: above all, the materialistic attitude, treating wealth as the sum of material objects and production as a technical and physical influence on the outside world. This is what, by tightening the notion of production to work and only physical work, allowed to ironically ask the supporters of this doctrine how one can produce something without doing anything, while behaving passively. It was joined by the entanglement of the problem of complicity in the multiplication of wealth with the issue of merit.

If saving does not necessarily have to be associated with distress, with labour analogous to the unpleasantness of work, then the right of the equivalent was denied to those who raised social wealth in this way. This is where the mischievous literary images of the capitalists, sitting on their sacks of gold, as ascetics suffering for the good of humanity came from. A proper understanding of the psychological basis of savings becomes possible only against the background of the appropriate concept of work. If we assume that work in any form, as a deliberate coordination of human efforts, is an active factor in the development of wealth – then it will not seem unlikely that purposeful subordination of consumption to the development of wealth could not be a second factor in enriching individuals and society. From this perspective, people appear to be opposed to the surroundings. They capture from the stream of events flowing around them all that may be useful to them (work) and preserve, secure, transfer future acquired goods for the future (saving). Maximum output and minimum losses is the basic principle of the economy. However, we need to remember that economic life develops over time. Therefore, it is better to say: maximum output and minimum losses in a given period of time. With such outlining of the economy's postulate, both factors: work (maximum output) and economy (minimum losses and minimum consumption), appear as having equal rights. Savings understood in this way, although not related to the “sweat on your hand”, is a psychological effort, it is the mastery of immediate needs for the future. It becomes a matter of character, just like the ability to work. In this light, we can understand economic activity as the struggle of deliberate effort with nature: a) with external nature, b) with the internal human nature. Both work and savings are such a battle against two fronts.

And from this point of view (i.e. the point of view of the victim), it is not difficult to defend the merits of saving. However, we have moved this point of view into the background, focusing attention on the issue of service rendered to others. Such a service is undoubtedly in savings and capitalization.

Work and saving are therefore two major enrichment factors, so those who work or save have the right to an equivalent. They have the right to dispose of what they have obtained and preserved in one way or another.

We cannot forget that there is a third way to enrich the individual, not related to work or saving. It occurs in a wide variety of forms. Generally, we can call it prosperity. It is most often the result of waves of economic life, which present individuals with the opportunity to achieve benefits, not related to their effort, or at least that is often disproportionate to their efforts. These benefits are called pensions. The sudden emergence of a new need, a change in fashion, a rapid increase in population in a certain area, etc., they all create “favourable opportunities” for certain groups of producers to become rich “beyond merit”. Such opportunities, stemming from a privileged economic position at some point, may be more or less permanent. In general, they are eliminated and compensated by free competition, which brings back the benefits gained by individuals to the same level. Complete removal of these accidental and undeserved benefits is not possible in the private property regime. But favourable waves are usually followed by adverse ones, just like high tide is followed by low tide, and in the long run, justice is done.

The system of private property distributes the payment for work according to the usefulness of such work. We have seen that this is the only system that can be adopted. It provides an individual with the opportunity to use the capital accumulated by them, through savings and capital – it is right and, from the point of view of successful economic development, appropriate. In this system, finally, free competition compensates for undeserved profits from the momentary prosperity. The discussion so far shows that the capitalist system guarantees justice, giving the producers of wealth fair retribution.

There is, however, one point in the capitalist system that provides individuals with stable prosperity that resists all the levelling forces of economic life. This point should be seen as the Achilles’ heel of the capitalist system. It is closely related to the current form of ownership.

Let me remind you of Ford's property right formula: ownership does not mean anything else but the fact that “when a man has earned his bread, he has a right to that bread”, which, according to him, corresponds to the “you shall not steal” commandment, it is a reward for work and a man who “did nothing to contribute to social well-being should not take anything". It is not difficult to notice that in our economic life we still have to deal with situations in which a man has not given anything to society and receives greater or smaller, sometimes huge, benefits from it. These situations are associated with inheritance. The inheritance law ensures that those privileged by fate experience a lasting prosperity that leads to a disturbance in justice in the distribution of property and income. It gives this uneven start, which prevents the right outcome of life professions. What is more, in the long run, the basic inadequacy of effort and reward is exacerbated. It is obvious that it is easier to increase larger assets, so that the merit of their further multiplication is not proportional to the results.

The abolition of the right of inheritance would be a full rehabilitation of the capitalist system in the face of ethics. This is certainly the most morally justified out of the postulates of Karl Marx's “Communist Manifesto”. This thought remains one of the points of the socialist program. The writers and philosophers, who are close to this camp, defend it meaningly. “La racine de l’abus, c’est l’héritage”, says Barbusse[18]. “La transmission des biens et des pouvoirs, quels qu’ils soient, des morts à leurs descendants n’est pas conforme à la raison et à la morale... Chacun doit occuper dans la destinée commune une situation due à ses oeuvres et non au hazard”. Barbusse describes the inheritance law as “a monstrous law of the dead” and although all such feelings, deeply rooted in us by tradition, rebel against these ruthless words, there is no denying their consequences and the convincing power. This is what one of the earliest philosophers of contemporary England says about inheritance law: “Inheritance, which is the source of the greater part of the unearned income in the world, is regarded by most men as a natural right. (…) But neither the right to dispose of property by will, nor the right of children to inherit from parents has any basis outside the instincts of possession and family pride.”[19].

But it is not only writers and philosophers, not only people close to the socialist worldview, who point to the right of inheritance as the institution which opposes justice most – of all the facts of economic life. The most prominent among contemporary economists emphasize this clearly. Taussig, an American economist, believes that the influence of inheritance on the injustice of the distribution of wealth is enormous. Irving Fisher points out that both wealth and poverty is handed down from generation to generation due to this law. Cannan is also critical about inheritance.

Let us skip all non-economic considerations for a moment, which have their weight and must be included as a significant item in the final account, there is no denying. Within economic problems, let us limit ourselves to considering them only in terms of viewing morality. Every unprejudiced mind must agree with the views of these thinkers. This is where the harm is rooted, nowhere else.




So should the right of inheritance should be abolished? Is it possible to promote such a social reform program?

The theory of economics acts against it with a whole battery of serious arguments. It shows that the accumulation of wealth is a necessary condition for the well-being of future generations. It indicates that we owe this accumulation to a spring of profit-seeking, that this spring works reliably only where the ability to hand down the achievements to children is assured without reservations.

It is easy to come to the conclusion that we are here faced with the most fundamental antinomy between moral postulates and postulates of wealth growth, that exists in economic life in general. It may seem that this contradiction is incompatible. It would seem than one should choose: justice or a successful economic development. And yet human thought is tempted to solve this complicated issue theoretically.

An Italian economist, Rignano, in his work called Un socialismo in accordo colla dottrina economica liberale[20] mentions a thought that, if we ignore the practical difficulties that are associated with its implementation – from a logical point of view, solves all these problems without fault[21]. Rignano suggests that the right to transfer one’s property to children should be limited to that part of the property that was created or added to the estate inherited (whether through work or savings). The rest (the property inherited from the ancestors) should not be passed on to children and should be recognized by the state with the help of appropriate taxation. In this way, the spring of efforts to increase the property on account of the future of children, would not only not be weakened, but its effect would be significantly intensified. Such inheritance law would force every father of family to work and save; the rush to the accumulation of capital, this essential condition for economic development would be preserved then. On the other hand, this kind of inheritance law would satisfy the ethical postulate of the adequacy of property and merit, if not entirely, then to a high degree at least. It is true that children of parents who were economically active would benefit from bonuses this way, from “forums” to children of those who did not manage to increase their wealth, but they would also have to give a report to the society on the “talents” that they were given. Such a privilege (how limited in relation to those that we can see today) would probably be beneficial from the point of view of social utility, as it would push forward the children of gifted people, which undoubtedly would put forward people that are more valuable – as a result of inheriting these abilities. The injustice of current relations would be greatly mitigated. Idleness and wastage would be limited only to the few most reckless individuals. It is true that there are very few wasteful individuals in today's society as well. Storing the estate in its entirety – handing it down to children intact – is a widely recognized moral imperative. Restraint in spending, saving, consumption not exceeding the income is a dominant fact. However, it is different when it comes to the active side of business.

The obligation to earn a living by work or savings is certainly less widely recognized. Rich people, protected by the work of previous generations, people who are sure that they can hand down their estate to their children, rarely work hard economically. This would have to be fundamentally changed when applying the inheritance law suggested by Rignano. “The heirs of the greatest fortunes would have to roll up their sleeves if we were to tell them: watch out, out of the wealth you inherited, you will be allowed to leave only a small fraction for children, maybe even nothing, but a huge part of the things you will gather by yourselves can be handed down to your children” (Rignano). Work and savings would dominate all economic life without exception. It would be a deep moralization of this life. Finally, the demand of the equalization of assets and income, that I deemed wrong when put forward in absolute terms I considered wrong, which, however, in comparison with the present relations has a certain moral justification – and this postulate would also be implemented to a large extent in the Rignano system. Inequality of wealth would get closer to the inequality of services provided. Thus, the huge differences in property resulting from the accumulated wealth of past generations, and not from the merits of the individual – these differences would cease to exist. We should pay attention to the analogy that exists between this draft economic system and the development line in the field of rewarding intangible services. It used to be common to award individuals with hereditary privileges (nobility, titles). Today, the rule is to reward with dictions, limited to the individual who really has the merits. Orders, personal titles, these are the modern forms of distinguishing outstanding people.[22]. It is impossible to deny these ways to differentiate individual members of society being justified. The demand for the creation of the elite and the organization of the hierarchy clearly require this. On the other hand, there are no ethical arguments defending the former principle of hereditary rewards, which were later used by morally illegitimate individuals.

Doesn’t the Rignano’s program, however, including the cut-down of the right of ownership, violate the very principle of this right? Is such a transformation of this law, recognized as sanctity and the foundation of civilization, acceptable? One can undoubtedly be said here: the right of private property has changed many times over the course of history and there is no evidence that its present form is the only and final one. In Roman antiquity, “the family estate consists of two masses: familia and pecunia. Pecunia was from the very beginning the individual property of a particular member of the family, familia was originally a common property of the whole family”[23]. Property law used to extend to people; in the middle ages, it was allowed to have churches as private property. Some groups of people (slaves) could not use their property rights at all. However, it was not only the extent of property rights to property rights that has changed over the centuries, it was not only the boundaries of the group of people entitled to own ownership that has changed. The content of this right is changing as well. This right of ownership, which was included in the constitutions of states formed or rebuilt after the European war, has little in common in its content with the old Roman principle “utendi et abutendi”. The former “dominus et haeres”, once an autocratic master “on his own” is now limited by many, far-reaching ties. Property is not considered an absolute right. Conversely, the need to justify this law on the grounds of social utility has been reaffirmed. This right is protected by law only to the extent that it is exercised as a social function. In this way, it is clearly approaching the legal structures of the 19th century, extending quasi-property to such products of human activity as works of art, literature, science, or inventions[24].

All these “property-like rights” " differ from the right of ownership from the Justinian code in that they are limited by certain duties due to social utility (e.g. the obligation to carry out a patented invention), and above all, in that they are limited to several decades. At this point, the Rignano project would be a further assimilation of the right of ownership to rights to ideal goods. The inventor has the right to their invention for a limited period of time. Why – asks Rignano – shouldn’t we apply the same principle to whoever accumulates wealth by work or savings? The scholar suggest, therefore, the introduction of a temporary patent for the accumulation of capital, “un brevet d'accumulation à durée temporaire”. However, the time limitation would not refer to the passage of time in the strict sense of the word, but to the number of hands (generations) which the inherited property goes through.

Rignano realizes that the radical application of his principle would be dangerous, like any coup in social life. That is why he designs the tempering of the principle itself. It is to be implemented by taxation of inheritance that “progressive in time”[25]. In this form, entering into the right of private property does not seem to be more drastic than any other form of tax. Hugh Da1ton[26] calls the Rignano’s project “exceedingly suggestive and highly original”[27]. The Rignano’s concept corresponds to contemporary legal-political and civilist thought. The same current of thought becomes popular among economists. Cannan predicts that “the institutions of property and inheritance will be narrowed in scope”. Professor Ely believes that modifications in the treatment of donations and inheritance are the great global movement of the current century and that they are not given enough attention.

You do not need to point your finger at the obvious practical difficulties of carrying out this plan. They are very large, but it is difficult to prove that they cannot be overcome. It is clear that any inheritance tax, and therefore the Rignano tax as well, can be evaded by donation. However, tax experts know well from experience that in practice, only a fraction of estates avoid taxation this way. Technical difficulties in repayment of tax can be easily removed by crediting it, for example, in the form of a mortgage on immovable property.

Small property, which due to being small are difficult to enlarge, would have every moral right to be exempted from this inheritance tax up to a certain limit. A serious practical difficulty arises for people who devote themselves to uneconomical professions (politics, science, etc.). The privilege of handing down the intact inherited property to children should be associated with some merits in this field, with some public offices. Work in the field of ideal values undoubtedly has the right to be treated equally with services to society in the economic field.

However, the most serious objection to the Rignano’s program is that by giving more and more wealth to the state, it slowly leads to nationalization of goods, to socialism.

        Whoever is convinced of the superiority of the private economy cannot consider such turn of events desirable. True, the pace of the arrival of socialism would be slow in this case and the nature of transformation of the system would be evolutionary. Both the speed of the arrival of nationalization and its range would be highly dependent on the rate of individual achievements. If the population numbers did not change, and the average individual increased their assets (by capitalization) in the amount of 21/3% per annum – so as to earn 100% in 30 years of productive life – the property remaining today in the hands of individuals would still remain private, with an ever greater mountain of state property would grow right next to it. At a lower rate of accumulation, private property would not only decrease relatively, but also in absolute figures. At a higher one, its sum could increase. Too many conditions determine the real possibilities of accumulation and its size, for me to be able to get into the prognosis of one or another turn of events.

Moreover, this is not a place to discuss whether the state could not reimburse individuals with their contribution in the form of public utilities, communication, etc. Could Rignano's inheritance tax could replace current taxes and to what extent? Finally, couldn’t the state release the accumulated wealth into the hands of the private economy in the form of leases? Maintaining, if not private ownership in its entirety, then at least private enterprises seems a necessity to me.

I do not take upon myself to respond to these accusations and questions. I do not know if Rignano's plans can be implemented fully. I am convinced, however, that they indicate the right direction of economic and social reform. Dalton suggests, based on the Rignano’s principles, to replace the current distribution of income (funded and non-funded, i.e., flowing from property and flowing from work[28], with a division into three classes: 1) income from work, 2) income earned by a given individual, 3) income from property inherited. He wants to adjust the scale of taxation to this division. Income from inherited property would be the most highly taxed one, while income derived directly  prom paid work would have the lowest taxes.

This is one of the modifications resulting from the careful application of the right principle. You can probably find more of them. It would be a doctrinaire against all difficulties to carry out a “princip”, as the Russian would say. However, it would be blind to not see that at the end of this faraway road the sun of justice shines.

To enter this path is to approach economic justice. It is necessary to move so slowly and carefully when heading for the ideal so as not to get stuck in the ruins of the building in which we are living today.

We cannot introduce morality in our economic life in one go. None of the two contradictory regimes is a recipe for introducing the “kingdom of God” on Earth.

Discovering where the right source of what should not exist is, pointing the way, and slowly eliminating the evil, while taking care to not ruin the cultural and material values we have – that is all we can do.




We already know that the reform of the inheritance law in the spirit of Rignano would remove the main moral evil – inadequacy of the retribution for merit – from economic life. It would bring the inequality of estates would to the right limits. Introduced in a society with a large supply of wealth, it would not exacerbate – and could even reduce poverty by forcing everyone to work hard. In this way, the most important ethical postulates would be realized. There would be justice in economic life. We know, however, that this will not happen anytime soon. The right of private property, in a form similar to today's, will long continue to regulate the relations of distribution of goods and inadequacy of benefits to merit, the unjustified differences in property and poverty will survive many more generations.

From the point of view of the benefits of culture, it is impossible to wish for a too intense acceleration of this evolutionary process. “Even in the richest societies, there is a need for a significant increase in productive forces before the point is reached where an approximately equal distribution of income and a large overall reduction in subjective costs will ensure a sufficiently high level of economic well-being according to today's recognized reasonable standards”, says Dalton.[29]. Let us not forget that this is not a conservative’s perspective, it is not a defender of the bourgeois world, but the secretary, the chief ideologist and the “spiritus movens” of the Labour Party. A Western-European-style radical. “In the richest societies, there must be a significant increase in production” before the level of wealth is reached, where justice can be implemented, not paper, but real justice, associated with prosperity, well-being and culture, and not general poverty.

“In the richest societies” – let us remember that members of the richest society are ten times richer than we are. Let us give priority to them in transforming the system, and work ourselves to reduce this difference in the level of wealth that separates us from them.

Let us remember that, apart from purely economic reasons, other general cultural ones also require us to be careful in carrying out the reconstruction of our social life. Let us not forget that the continuity of culture is all the more important, the greater the differences between the level of civilization of individual social classes. The protection of this continuity in the form of inheritance law is more important in Poland than in the countries of widely dispersed and democratized education and culture.

Finally, let us remember that the span between poverty and the greatest wealth is much smaller in Poland than in the economically developed countries.

Dalton, a member of Labour Party, considers a decrease of one million pounds sterling to be “immoderate” – he believes that larger decrease should not be allowed[30]. This radical would not have much in our country if he wanted to confiscate surpluses of inheritance exceeding the value of 45 million zlotys. In a country where a member of the relatively wealthiest class – the average landowner – has income equal to the salary of a factory worker at Ford at most, and the general has half of this amount, in such a country the problems of levelling do not come to the forefront of a reform plan.

Is my conclusion, therefore, is a to call to resign ourselves to the evil that I tried to emphasize? No. I conclude by pointing to the necessary fight against evil, that should be ranked properly. The greatest evil is poverty –everywhere and at any times. Poverty is especially our par excellence Polish evil, as a derivative of general deficiencies. It is not possible to remove it through basic changes of the system, but through changing the attitude of individuals to economic tasks, through understanding that business activity is an ethical postulate.

Boy said that an average educated person: a doctor, a lawyer, a French writer is usually a shopkeeper's son, and a caretaker’s grandson – an average Polish intellectual prides himself that his father “owned a village” and his grandfather, oh! the grandfather had like 10 farms. This is one of the brightest syntheses of our economic history and our economic psychology. We are a society of wastrels, and what is even worse, we are proud of it. It needs to change. We have to become a society of the new rich, following the example of the West, and we must understand that this is our ethical duty.

Our own possessing classes should be the first to understand it. “Capitalist classes were allowed to call the best piece of the cake their property, they were allowed to theoretically consume this piece under a silent, hidden condition that they consumed very little of it in practice. The obligation to save has become nine tenths of virtue, and the growth of the cake has been the subject of a true religion. (...) The society worked not for the small pleasures of today, but for securing the future and improving the race – in a word, for “progress”[31]. Under this condition, the poor classes accepted the capitalist system in the 19th century. According to Keynes, their patience decreased after the war. The greater requirements – not only from the point of view of ethics, but also from the point of view of safe future – should be imposed on the possessing classes today. They need to understand that efficient work and saving is their duty. They must not forget that “Ce n’est que si on travaille plus que le travail consommé qu’on devient créditeur de la société et c’est avec cet excès qu’on peut jusqu’à un certain point diminuer la dette qui résulte de la consommation.”[32].

All of us are constantly using the work of thousands of people. We are free to use it if we create greater values with our work. This is the moral dimension of the duty of work, and at the same time the ethically acceptable limits of our consumption. I skip the issue of charity, which in the face of disasters, disabilities, old age, and illness, has the deepest moral justification, but which must be a matter of the individual's own discretion. Objectively, apart from work, everyone is obliged to save their money – it is the normalization of consumption, so that it is limited to the size that is necessary to sustain and develop the creative forces of the individual.[33].

These boundaries are extendable and are individually very different. It is impossible to determine the universally binding maximum of consumption. An artist, a leader in practical life, a man being a leader in the field of thought or opinion, they all need a proper environment, entertainment and changing experiences to maintain their creative powers. Theatre, travel, sports – all this can be accommodated in a consumption justified by work. Balance and moderation should be on everyone’s mind must have everyone in his conscience. The essence of things is that consumption is not the ultimate goal in itself, but a way to enhance creativity and efficiency. Not a factor in the destruction of character and abilities, but a construction force it is the efficiency in consumption.

The boundaries are extendable. It is true. But with this solution, a man who does not work will not find any justification for his consumption. “He has the right to starve to death,” says Ford. The moral strength of the principle lies in the severity of this solution.

Under these conditions, the accumulation of capital may develop and grow. Any sum of goods, deducted from direct consumption and intended for further production, is not only the protection of future years and future generations at the expense of the moment – it also satisfies the hunger and cold of paupers at the expense of reducing the wealth of the rich. The increase in production is a reduction in prices, and the increase in the amount of wages is, therefore, not the absolute reduction of consumption, but its democratization.

As this society is being permeated with this ideology, as the savings accumulate, there will be an increase in general well-being and poverty will be reduced.

And then – the time will come to take the next steps on the path of moralizing economic life.

[1]Half of the dead in the suburbs of Kraków die of tuberculosis. In Ludwinów, almost all deaths in 1900 are due to the above causes.” (Mieczysław Hamburger: Śmiertelność z gruźlicy i zapalenia płuc w Krakowie, Warsaw, 1926, pp. 13, 18 and others).

[2] Bertrand Russel: Principles of social reconstruction (p. 128).

[3] The name of the Bolsheviks: “All-Russian Communist Party” is, as we know, very recent, and it was only after the revolution (in 1919) that it replaced the former “Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.” Certain facts in the life of Bolshevism were of a communist nature (confiscation of furniture and other consumer goods, a system of workers' wages). However, they generally carried out a program of collectivism, not communism.


[4] S. N. Prokopowicz: Oczerki choziajstwa sowieckoj Rosii (Berlin 1923).

[5] Prokopowicz, l. c.

[6] Wien, 1926 (p. 490).

[7] Keynes: The economic consequences of the peace.

[8] op. cit. p. 129.

[9] From the medical point of view, there are some interesting analogies between wealth and poverty. Tuberculosis and venereal diseases are diseases of both paupers and the richest classes.

[10] A. Krzyżanowski: Socjalizm a prawo natury, p. 8.

[11] I owe the explanation of a number of points regarding the views of criminal law theorists on this matter to Dr Władysław Wolter, Associate Professor at Jagiellonian University.

[12] Dalton, The inequality of incomes (II ed., London 1925, p. 21).

[13] Theorie générale de la Société.


[14] We encounter a certain difficulty when implementing this principle. It cannot be argued that Josephine Baker gives the society more economic value than Curie-Skłodowska, and yet the economic reward she gets is undoubtedly greater. The discrepancies between what the masses want and what presents significant value to society are inevitable. The role of the level out is to equalize these differences.

[15] Stanisław Świaciewicz: Psychiczne podłoże produkcji w ujęciu Jerzego Sorela, Kraków 1926 (p. 24).

[16] C. K. Norwid: Praca.

[17] Upadek cywilizacji zachodniej, p. 32.

[18] Clarté.

[19] Bernard Russel: op. cit. p. 127.

[20] Issued in 1902.

[21] This thought, not developed in a whole program – like with Rignano’s – was already denounced by Huet in Règne Social du Christianisme (1853).

[22] In Germany, the issue of restoring nobility and titles is being discussed. However, they are still supposed to be of a personal nature – non-hereditary.

[23] Dr Franciszek Bossowski: Ze studiów nad pierwotnym testamentem rzymskim.

[24] Compare articles on rights of ownership in new constitutions in Ankieta o konstytucji by Wł. L. Jaworski (Fenichel and Heydel).

[25] Rignano gives an example of the following progression: property inherited from father, when being an inheritance in the next generation is taxed in 1/3, and being handed down to grandchildren – in 2/3, with the third inheritance – in its entirety.

[26] Cannan's successor in the main Department of Economics at the London School of Economics.

[27] Op. cit., p. 133, let me mention (out of vanity) that in a discussion with prof. Krzyżanowski I came up with the same idea – 17 years after Rignano...

[28] Funded income would often be taxed higher.

[29] op. cit. p. 14.

[30] op. cit. p. 329 and 341.

[31] Keynes, op. cit. p. 19 – 20.

[32] Effertz: Antagonismes économiques, p. 290.

[33] I also skip the issues of social protection, insurance, etc., whose legitimacy cannot be questioned within reasonable limits.

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