President Frederick Madison Smith: Socialist

“The Church and Economics”, Saints Herald 80-16:483, April 19th, 1933

“The Church and Economics”, Saints Herald 80-16:483, April 19th, 1933

In Time, issue of April 3 last, under the heading “Religion” and caption “Holy Years,” comment is made upon the “holy years” or Jubilees, regularly proclaimed every twenty-five years by the Catholic Church, and two good reasons pointed out why the “Energetic Pius XI” is fortunately situated for calling a holy year observance, with all of which there might be found agreement among those acquainted with the historical roots of Catholicism and present tendencies; but in commenting upon the admirable background furnished by the depression for renewal of age-old attacks by all churches upon Mammon, the writer makes a comment which ‘should be challenged. He says:

“Only the Roman Catholic Church may be said to have an official attitude on ‘Economics.’ This attitude, based on Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), the Statesman-Pope, Pius XI, has elaborated in many a pronouncement. Denouncing communism, rejecting Socialism, chiding Capitalism, finding Syndicalism (the Fascist type of government-in-business) too powerfully concentrated, Pius XI has come out for: minimum-wage laws; old-age pensions; private property, even a ‘modest fortune’ for workers; government regulation of business; cooperation between Capital and Labor in some form of local unit resembling the medieval guild. Without anywhere attempting to promote these ideas by direct political action, and without reducing them to concrete proposals, Pius XI has offered them to the world as supreme economic wisdom, divinely inspired and backed by the sublime authority of God’s earthly vicar.”

In commenting thus the writer in Time has overlooked several important things. It is not true that the Catholic Church is the only one with an “attitude” on economics; for though we are small comparatively the Latter Day Saint Church has for a hundred years had a definite “attitude” on economics. What is more we have had a program along the lines of which we have suggested approach be made to the solution of the problems presented and methods by which social progress could and can be made as well as better economic conditions established in industry have been suggested.

In Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, and Syndicalism, good is to be found though much of their teachings may be undesirable; hence rather than denouncing Communism, rejecting Socialism, chiding Capitalism, and finding Syndicalism too “powerfully concentrated,” the task of the Christian church is to find and preserve, and vitalize the good in all these doctrines and catch them up in some form of social order in which these good things shall be correlated and coordinated in a social program of reform. Minimum-wage laws, old-age pensions, government regulation of business, and revival of the medieval guild are all palliative merely, and do not strike at the root of our trouble at all. What the church must stand for is the institution of Christian principles in industry. The leaven needed to “leaven the whole lump” is the doctrine of stewardships, as inculcated by the Master and exemplified by the apostles when the people “continued daily in the temple, and ate their meat in gladness.”

At the base of this doctrine is the consciousness of our relationship to God which carries fraternity into business as well as into social amenities. This means religious motivation. And our church has stood for a social order in which the dynamic of industrial and political activation shall be on the basis of brotherly love rather than the aggrandizement of selfish interests. When men can be found working at wealth production for the mere love of contributing to the common weal, the question of a minimum wage will become merely incidental; old-age pension laws will not be needed, for the care of the dependents will automatically be found from the communized surpluses consecrated by the stewards. The amassing of large individual “fortunes” will stop right at the point where these fortunes cease to be used for common good. All above needs and just wants being consecrated to the group will automatically protect against the evils of large fortunes in the hands of persons not dominated by the desire to serve common ends, and will automatically answer the question of law governing the inheriting of large fortunes.

The doctrine of stewardships will make governmental regulation of business unnecessary, and will insure the cooperation of Capital and Labor; and this without revival of medieval guilds. For when laborers and capitalists begin working with the goal being the common good rather than aggrandizement of selfish interests, their common interests, because of having a common goal, form a basis on which they freely cooperate, and adjustment of differences becomes easy.

Time should know there is at least one church which not only has an economic “attitude” but an economic and social program as well. And we are sure that our doctrine of stewardships, once made operative in a community, will help solve the various problems above mentioned.

But this requires a deep religious motivation as a social dynamic, which will place the devotees of that religion under the impulsion of right doing because the welfare of the group demands it. This impulsion will not be found in laws governing wages, or regulating business but from the greater and divine law of love, where love of God and love of neighbor will go hand in hand, thus giving parallel direction to the social forces now so badly set awry and running counter by the disrupting forces of selfishness. It is socializing and industrializing the Christian religion. Perhaps it were better to say, it is Christianizing industry and economics.

And it can be done by inculcating and practicing the doctrine of stewardships. 

“A Basic Principle of Social Welfare”, Saints’ Herald Vol. 82-35:1091, August 27th, 1935.

“From every man according to his capacity and to every man according to his needs,” has, I think, been accepted as expressing in sloganized form the objective of our social reform based on Christian fraternity. It might be necessary to add that surplus must be placed for the benefit and blessing of the group.

It is generally to be observed that men differ in creative or productive power, as well as manifesting great differences in desiring to hold, retain, or store the excess over or above needs. That this is Divinely recognized is easily deductible from the parables of Jesus, particularly that of the talents and the one of the man and his barns.

The varying capacities or faculties in men to produce above needs, together with (again in varying degrees) the tendency to store or accumulate, doubtless constitute the origin of the rights of property – the right to reserve for self the benefits or fruits of productive or creative faculties.

For a people, nation, or group, to increase in wealth there must be encouragement and protection of these varying faculties, and opportunity for their exercise. There are doubtless stimuli to the exercise of these faculties other than appeal to self-serving interests; but it is quite evident that to protect these faculties after they have been uncovered and stimulated is a function of government in the interests of progress. And because these faculties exist in varying degrees, the protection thereof will give rise to the possession of property in differing degrees and kinds in turn has definite influence upon attitude and sentiment of the possessors, as well as of those not possessing such advantages. Thus a line of cleavage appears, and society is broken into different interests and parties.

James Madison, a former president of the United States, in a paper appearing in the tenth number of the Federalist, tersely and yet comprehensively sets out the resulting governmental problem in the following clear cut language:

“The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”

Every nation has definitely and to any great extent grown in prosperity and the accumulation of goods has experienced the growing difficulty of passing legislation which will compromise the attitudes of the factions, and keep peace. The course of history seems to justify the belief that all nations sooner or later develop war between the classes so differentiated.

Perhaps America is close to troublous times on this very score. “Take from the rich,” “swat the rich,” “tax the rich” are all terms not infrequently heard, and even the “New Deal” is apparently endeavoring to find some way of redistributing wealth more equitably.

So long as industry and economical activities are based on individual contributions resulting from appeal to self-rewards – permitting persons to keep the whole and the results of such endeavor – there is certain to be a widening of the chasm between the classes unless there can be a just and equitable way of “sharing wealth.” That this can be brought about by extortion is quite to be doubted. The day of Robin Hood is past, and his realm was always narrowly limited.

But there is a way in which the varying faculties of men can be encouraged to maximum achievement and those possessed of superior talent or faculty kept at peace with those less favored in faculty and possession. To bring this way into play at lease two things must be accomplished, viz. – shift the criterion of success from mere accumulation of wealth to that of contribution to social welfare, and to create the desire to function in the exercise of faculty to maximum extent on the basis of fraternity or recognition that a brother’s good is parallel to and co-extensive with self interests and welfare.

And I am still a strong believer in the idea that such an appeal to man will preserve individual initiative and even enhance it, and that in such contribution there will come even greater joy to the possessor of talent or faculty than under the self-serving dynamic.

The need in redistributing wealth to preserve peace and promote larger humanitarian interests is to socialize surplus, not on the basis of extortion but on that of voluntary surrendering surplus in the interests of common good and preservation and advancement of fraternity.

“From every man according to his capacity and to every man according to his needs,” because it is right, because God wills it, because each is his brother’s keeper to the extent of his capacity, and because in a society so organized and functioning there will be greater happiness, more peace, and class friction will be reduced to a minimum if not eradicated.

And that is the Zionic idea and our goal.

Onward to Zion!

“Social Mindedness”, Saints’ Herald Vol. 83-27:836, July 7th, 1936

The first president of the United States, Washington, had the faculty of condensing into terse form some of his obervations on politics and sound government. He was ever alert to the interests of the Government he was instrumental in establishing, and deeply concerned about its preservation. I present herewith a quotation from Washington which I commend to the careful reading and meditation of those who are concerned about the solidarity of the church. Social mindedness is needed, and provincialism is closely akin to selfishness. Fraternity prompts consideration for the welfare of others; and community interests to be placed first needs a larger vision and soul expansion than to see self-needs. And inter-community welfare needs still larger vision. To see Zion we must have such vision.

Here is the quotation. I call attention particularly to the fourth essential Washington sets out:

“There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an independent power: first, an indissoluble union of the States under one federal head; Second, a sacred regard to public justice; Third, the adoption of a proper peace establishment; and Fourth, the prevalance of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies; to make those mutual concessions, which are requisite to the general prosperity; and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantage to the interest of the community.