Page images

type, simple, effective community organization for buying and selling. Everybody involved is personally concerned in the conduct of the business. Every division of profits saved is an object-lesson in economics; every meeting of stock-holders is an object-lesson in sociology. There is hope for democratic civilization in such organization.

However, communities like this are rare in the United States, not from any logical necessity, but because of psychological reasons. When one hears of new potatoes being sold by the Long Island producer at twenty-five cents a barrel, and resold to the consumer in New York City, only a few miles away, at thirty cents for a small basket, or when one hears of apples rotting on the ground on farms a few miles from Boston, and the same quality of apples selling to the consumer in Boston at fancy prices, one is apt to jump to the conclusion that there must be some simple and effective device for preventing such appalling commercial incongruities. But there is not, and never has been, any such device. Successful coöperative effort involves a combination of several equally necessary factors. As I have said before, the most important of these factors are psychological.

If the people in a given community have the coöperative spirit, if they appreciate the permanent economic benefits as well as the temporary financial benefits to be derived from coöperation, and if they are interested in the social and moral benefits that are certain to come in the train of a coöperative movement, their chances of success are excellent. If to this appreciation of the higher possibilities involved in a genuine coöperative movement there be added the element of determination or a willingness, when necessary, as it sometimes is necessary, to sacrifice temporary personal advantage to permanent personal and community well-being, the movement has a vastly better chance of


For a year and a half the Department of Agriculture has been carrying on the most scientific and painstaking first-hand

study of the coöperative movement ever undertaken in the United States. While the department's investigations are not yet complete, certain basic facts stand out in clear relief:

First, there are certain vitally important things that a coöperative marketing. society can do for its members better than they can do for themselves. It can assemble berries, garden produce, or whatever its specialty may be, in sufficiently large quantities to have them properly graded and shipped in refrigerated car-load lots by freight instead of by express, and at a comparatively slight cost it can make it worth while for some first-class distributing and selling agency to dispose of them at top prices.

Second, necessity, which is the mother of invention, is also, in the vast majority of cases, the mother of coöperation. Experience shows that as long as farmers are able to make a fairly good profit marketing their own products they are inclined to go it alone. Serious financial difficulties usually have to be experienced before they become convinced that going it alone is not good business.

Third, coöperation is not a magical word that transmutes stupidity and inefficiency into success. Business ability is as essential to successful coöperative effort as to any other form of business enterprise.

Fourth, the surest road to success for a coöperative marketing organization is along the line of a highly specialized business handled as well as is humanly possible. A coöperative society that does a general business is apt, with fatal results, to neglect necessary details in the handling of perishable commodities.

Fifth, small coöperative societies which do not do a large enough business to enable them to employ skilful marketing agents at terminal points generally find it hard sledding unless they are able to connect up with some central coöperative selling agency such as the Ozark Fruit Growers Association and allow it to distribute and sell their produce for them.

Sixth, lack of sufficient capital has been.

a prolific source of danger and disaster to coöperative associations. It is a serious blunder to attempt to start a coöperative enterprise without sufficient permanent capital to see the infant society successfully through its teething period; moreover, members must be willing to allow the association a reasonable commission or expense assessment, in order that it may thrive and develop properly and provide a reserve fund against lean years.

Seventh, very few States in the Union have satisfactory laws providing for the organization of coöperative societies. This is a serious handicap to the coöperative movement, and one which the Federal department is doing its utmost to remedy. For more than a year our experts have been working in conjunction with economists, lawyers, and coöperative managers from the different States in the Union in an attempt to draw up a model state law providing for the incorporation of coöperative societies on a sound financial basis.

While detailed figures are not yet available as to the extent of the coöperative movement among American farmers, it is probably safe to say that despite all the handicaps of the past, cooperative agricultural organizations in this country are doing over a billion dollars' worth of business a year. Manifestly this is only a beginning, as the movement in the United States is still in its infancy; but I think it will be generally recognized that it is a lusty infant, possibly an infant Hercules.

In the past farmers have regarded cooperation as merely a means of protection from the wiles of the middleman, but it is destined to be something of vastly greater moment than that. By means of coöperative effort the farmer not only can protect himself from the superior business ability of sinister business organizations, but, what is of greater importance, can increase his own efficiency enormously both as a scientific farmer and as a business manager, to the ultimate benefit of every one concerned.

Moreover, before the farmers in the country or the business men in the towns

can obtain the maximum benefit from our improved agricultural methods, farmers and business men must learn to coöperate for their mutual advantage. There are some farmers to whom this will sound like advising the lamb to lie down with the lion. They will have a fear that in case it is done, it will not be long before the lamb will be inside the lion. Indeed, for a long time there has been a wide-spread suspicion on the part of the farmer that the city business man regarded the farmers very much as the farmers regard their sheep, as creatures to be sheared, and occasionally even to be skinned. In the past this suspicion has not been without foundation, but the more enlightened among our business men are coming to see that their future welfare is indissolubly bound up with the welfare of the farmer, and that it is not only good morals, but good business, to help the farmer not only to make a scientific success of crop production, but to make as well a business success of crop disposition.

That there are and will continue to be middlemen who are unscrupulous can be taken for granted, that there are and will continue to be farmers who are likewise minded is beyond dispute; but that the more intelligent business men and farmers are rapidly learning that they have more. interests in common than interests that conflict no longer admits of a doubt. The progress toward closer coöperation between the farmer and the business man depends more largely than upon any other single factor upon the attitude taken by the business man toward the farmer in this better farming movement. If the business man will recognize that this movement for the new agriculture is primarily a farmer's movement, and that the business man can help and not hinder this movement only in so far as he learns to play second fiddle to the farmer, to back up the farmer, to offer the farmer advice and assistance, without in any way attempting to control the farmer or the farmer's organization, then rapid progress can be made. If, however, the business man attempts to get control of this move

ment and exploit it by any political or business manipulation, and attempt to dictate who the officers of farm organizations shall be or what their policies shall be, they will cut off the limb on which they are sitting.

It is obvious that in the near future the farmers are going to do coöperatively a number of things which to-day are done for them by the business men of the towns. The movement in this direction is inevitable and irresistible. It is every day gaining in momentum. The wise business

man will recognize this fact and trim his sails accordingly. If he is engaged in an elevator business or a creamery business, and it becomes apparent that the farmers of the neighborhood are about to assume that function of the community, he will do well to say frankly to them: "If you think you can handle this business better and more economically than I can, I will sell it to you in a friendly way. There are plenty of other places where I can utilize my capital and trained business ability advantageously." That will be good business, for it is folly to fight the inevitable.

If the business men will take this attitude, they and the farmers will prosper in the future as neither of them has prospered in the past, and the entire nation will prosper with them. I have spoken to bodies of business men in a number of our States, and I find that more and more this reasonable and sympathetic spirit is gaining headway among them. They recognize that if the American people pull together, there will be prosperity enough to go around; but that if we squabble and squirm, each one striving for a mean personal advantage at the expense of his fellows and the community in general, there will be very little real and abiding prosperity for anybody.

There has been circulated a deal of eloquent misinformation as to the supposed identity of interest between various commercial and industrial groups-between the farmer and the railroads, for example, or the farmer and the banks, the stockyards and various other corporate interests

with which of necessity he must do business. That there is a community of interest between the farmer and these interests does not admit of a doubt, but that there is an identity of interest does not follow. After the farmer, the railroad, the bank, the commission man, the storekeeper, have worked together for their common advantage as far as they know how in the light of the old ideals, there is still left a twilight zone of opportunity where some men by stealth or craft can still profit at the expense of others. It is this commercial war zone that the spirit of coöperation is gradually encroaching


The supposition that natural economic law will prevent all illegitimate profits is one of the strangest delusions ever harbored in the minds of intelligent men. Despite economic laws, reinforced by man-made laws, the cunning and unscrupulous sometimes gain larger profits than do men who conduct their business in a strictly legitimate way. If a man's controlling ambition in life is to pile up unearned millions regardless alike of private rights and public welfare, one could not truthfully tell him that the quickest way to the realization of this sordid dream always lies along the paths of legitimate. business enterprise. We may as well recognize frankly and fully the wide gulf that yawns between men who are trying to earn money and men who are trying by hook or crook to possess themselves of money that other men have earned.

The paramount issue before the American people to-day is not the tariff or corporation control or any of those other political or economic problems which newspapers and politicians discuss glibly; the real issue is not political or even economic. It is moral.

Is the individual citizen willing to produce all the wealth he acquires and to work and vote to render it impossible henceforth for any one, by any financial hocus-pocus, to acquire wealth that others. have produced? That 's the issue. Along that line will be fought the battle for control of that twilight zone in business

where "dog eats dog" is still too often the rule. When a coherent and masterful majority of our people "gets" the full significance of this issue and insists that he who produces more than he acquires is a public benefactor, but that he who acquires more than he produces is an economic parasite, then means will be found of ridding our civilization of the predatory business type, and of giving each person the full product of his toil of brawn or brain. It is to this end that all the beneficent social forces of our day are trending.

Regulated competition is unquestionably better than irresponsible and uncontrolled competition. Moreover, by the slow, sure means of experience, Federal and state control of business is becoming at once more elastic and more effective. But no perfecting of the mechanism of such control can ever overcome the inherent limitations of this method of promoting social and economic justice. To realize the higher possibilities of civilization fuller recourse must be had to the principle of coöperation.

As far back as history goes we find civilization developing as fast as and no faster than men have developed the capacity to work together with their fellowmen to a common end. The day of hybrid, involuntary cooperation by means of slavery, serfdom, or economic exploita

tion is past. As President Wilson has indicated, the time is ripe for a coöperation that is not exclusive or oppressive, but rather inclusive and beneficent, founded on the principle of the open door, and dispensing its profits among all who participate in its activities according to the measure of such participation.

Manifestly, one of the best ways to develop this spirit of coöperation during our present transition period is for the business man and the farmer to get together in spirit and in purpose, to forget old antagonisms, and, as far as possible, to infuse into the present era something of the creative, beneficent spirit of the future. Thus the business man who is on the square and anxious for better things should not only refuse to make common cause with business men who stand for the ethics of the jungle, but should line up actively with like-minded men among all classes of his fellow-citizens in an endeavor to bring about a general realization of the fact that our maximum of national efficiency and prosperity can come only when every citizen, business man as well as farmer or wage-earner, is able to feel that his success will be in proportion not to his craft and Machiavellian ability to outwit and spoil his fellow-men, but rather in proportion to the intelligence, determination, and industry that he puts into productive work.

[blocks in formation]



Author of "Krujer Hobbs"

Illustrations by Walter J. Enright

T 'S not that people change," said Peters, suddenly; "they just look at life. one day with what painters call a fresh eye and see for the first time real values and proportions." He flung this at me with violence, as if he were called upon to contradict a very stupid remark of mine. We had been sitting on the narrow balcony of my fourteenth-story hotel room, smoking in silence for an hour or more.

There was nothing at that height to break the sweeping line of the Palisades. to the west of us but one tall building, topped by a water-tank, on spidery legs, as black as a witches' caldron against the sky. And between the thicket of chimneystacks below and the bluffs beyond, the dim river lay like mist in a valley.

"It is n't always a great experience. Love or anguish does n't necessarily do the trick," he went on savagely. "Often it's a thing that touches us only remotely; some one else's tragedy-not close enough for us to see distinctly. Well, we follow it up, and squint our eyes trying to get the focus. Suddenly we see it plain, and we see life, too, for the first time since we were born."

He pointed to the west, where Venus shone, a white point pricked in a sky deeply and luminously blue. "I've a case in mind now. I never look at the stars without thinking of an hour in a kitchen-a kitchen in Gramercy Park it was. I had gone down to the north shore one hot glittering day last June, with a crowd of acquaintances, for an affair rather inappropriately called a housewarming. It was the usual sort of thing-music, a marquee on the lawn for dancing, pretty women in sharply tinted gowns, food, and clamor. I was n't amused. I was irritated by the too-muchness of the whole place; the house was too big, the verandas

were too wide, the drives too broad. Certainly too much of everything for this middle-aged, childless couple who had opened their doors to a multitude.

"One hates spaciousness that 's meant to be impressive. If a family decides to make the driveway large enough for the big car to pass the pony-cart comfortably, the result is somehow all right. But that sort of thing

"I was dragged about to inspect stables and dairies, squash-courts and tenniscourts, and finally the swimming-pool, where I eluded the party. This imitationmarble pool was filled with water as green as if it had been colored, was flanked by pseudo-Greek benches and stupid little trees in tubs, poor shrubs, box or privet or what-not. Cropped in the form of cheeses and cones, they looked as if they'd come out of molds; as if they 'd been so cruelly used that they'd not dare to send out another shoot as long as they lived. And all this, mind you, within plain sight of the good salt sea.

"Well, we all know which is the pet god of this age: here was a new and costly temple, and now his votaries were going through noisy rites, bowing the knee before Henrietta's black bath-room, with its sunken tub and dolphin faucets; uttering shrill pæans in the living-room, which was full of the poisonous colors the new decorators are using.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »