“Our” Laws

Our Laws

the series of articles on The Science of Social Service now running in the Public promise to be interesting and instructive. At a restaurant two friends are having an after-dinner chat—musing over the question of how they got the dinner. In this way all the intricacies of the exchange of service from many to one and from one to many are clearly brought to light. When the talk turns to the question of payment for dinner, Mr. Post is delightfully lucid. He says:

How did we get the money? You must answer that question yourself, for you paid our dinner check. If you picked somebody’s pocket for it, you haven’t paid for our dinner,—not in the great round up or equilibrium of social service,—even though Joseph is satisfied. The man you robbed, and not you, has in that case involuntarily paid for two dinners he hasn’t had. And it is much the same—don’t be startled—if the money was part of your income from royalties for that Pennsylvania coal deposit in which you have an interest. For don’t you see that you can no more pay for dinners with coal royalties than with money picked from somebody’s pocket? You render no service to anybody by giving miners permission to work natural coal deposits. Why not? Because neither you nor anyone from whom you get title made these coal deposits. You might as well think you were rendering human service by permitting your fellow-men to breathe God’s air as by permitting them to dig God’s coal. So far as the equilibrium of social service is concerned, it doesn’t make a particle of difference whether you paid for our dinner with money picked from a pocket against the law, or extorted from coal miners according to law.

Now, this would never do for a University Extension Course in Economics.

When he touches upon the question of responsibility, however, Mr. Post becomes both respectable and illogical. He says:

Of course, if you paid for our dinner with coal royalties, the fault is no more yours than mine and Joseph’s and the miners’ and all the rest, for allowing our laws to give an institutional advantage to you.

So, when one commits a crime by means of an instrument, the responsibility is not especially his, nor does it belong to the persons who provide the instrument. The fault is equally the victim’s, and yours and mine, for allowing this instrument to be what it is! A man is to be held accountable, not for what he does, but for what others do!

Here is a case where Nothing and Something are identical.

Fred Schulder.