The Problem of incentive

The Problem of incentive: If this be true, the main problem of property is a psychological one. The old system has passed because the spread of education made it impossible to utilize the motives which were sufficient for its functioning a half-century ago. Largely it was built upon fear, and systems built upon fear bear the marks of impermanence upon their face.

Pioneers like Owen and Marx called what Mr. Shaw has termed the “moral bluff ” of capitalism in the heyday of its success in the passage of years there are few men conscious of themselves to whom their lessen has not been brought home. Is it likely that an order founded upon the principles here discussed will be more adequate than its predecessor.

That depends for the most part, on the degree to which it can secure the happiness of the average worker. It frankly abandons the profit-making motive as an incentive to the best work. It makes difficult, and, for all save a tiny fraction, even impossible, the accumulation of a large fortune. It was the Operation of both those incentives that made for the success of the capitalism of the nineteenth century.

That and a certain relentlessness were the chief characteristics of its zenith. For there were few the felt, as William Morris did, “ashamed when I have thought , of the contrast between my happy working hours and the unpraised, unrewarded, monotonous drudgery which most men are condemned to.” Protests like those of Carlyle and Ruskin, pictures like that in Disraeli’s Sybil, the unforgettable bitterness of the working-class autobiographies in the hungry forties, did not avail to arrest what seemed the irresistible tide of capitalist prosperity. Is a change so vast as that here implied simply a frank acceptance of impossibilist idealism ?

Broadly speaking, the answer depends on fewer considerations than it has been customary to call into account. Much, I think, will result from the fact that a source of poison has been removed from the body economic. To make the worker feel that those who are paid a must work that they may be paid is already to make it plain that industry is not the slave of unearned increment. The abolition of a parasitic class cannot but be attended by good.

It is more likely than any single source of invention to secure that full-hearted co-operation on the part of the rank and file which is the real road to an increase in productivity. For, after all, the sense of injustice acts as an inhibition fatal to the doing of one’s best. It corrodes both the mind and the heart.

It secures imitation that is the more deadly because it is so often unconscious. Men not seldom begin to work badly from anger, and continue to work badly because anger freezes into indifference. The most fertile source of anger we can at least avoid by the permeation of industry with a just and discernible purpose.

But we have not merely to win the worker’s moral consent. We have also to secure his continuous interest. We cannot do that in the way William Morris desired, by the surrender of large-scale industry and its replacement by the individual craftsman who is an artist vindicating his personality. But there is still much that we can do. The education of the worker will contribute a meaning to his performance. In knowing the life about him, he will cease to be transcended by his machine.

We can discover by research into the fatigue Of monotony ways of removing the main causes which deaden interest in work. We can, by the decentralization of the factory-group find that number with which ,a man should work from which there develops ease of intercourse.

That quality is often seen in the “chapels ” of the printing trade, it is the basis of the regimental platoon, it is the reason why the small common-room of a college at Oxford or Cambridge is so much more successful as a stimulus to effort than the vast faculty of a modern especial an American, university.

Team-work in such a way, becomes real, and develops the ride and self-sacrifice and initiative which are so obviously lacking in the present order. What we call corporate personality , is born, and a man merges himself in its spin as the sailor becomes intimate with the qualities of his ship. By the creation in industry of self-government we shall build institution’s through which the worker can feel that he is directly related to the center of control.

He will have the means of that “freedom” at hand which the Stoics understood so well-the provision of avenues through which internal spontaneity may find expression and, where it seems fruitful, response. Just as respect for law among the poor comes so largely from the knowledge that even the humblest may have his day in court, so will willingness to work come from the knowledge that the worker may penetrate to the seat-of power.

That has been, also, one of the great sources of trade-union authority the knowledge that the vast organ at the center is instinct with his own will and his own purpose. He is offered, further, a wage that permits of self-respect because it is built on needs that have been measured in the terms of his citizenship. Above all, perhaps, he will have a leisure that his education, on the one hand, and the new atmosphere of equality, upon the other, will  translate, if he so will, into a new dignity and a new creativeness.

He has had few of these things in the old order he has had none of them richly yet all of them are intimately related to the things which build his humanity. It does not seem excessive to have faith that, as, they come to function, they Will make of industry a branch of true citizenship.

It is not, as Mr. Tawney has said, a Change of human nature that is required So much as the emphasis of elements in human nature that are now ignored. Will this new motivation appeal to the brain-worker in industry, as I have argued that it is likely to appeal to the manual worker ? I see no reason why that should not be the case. Nothing is involved in such a transformation as would be likely to degrade his position. And, often enough, his position is degrading now.

The clerk, the commercial traveler, the insurance agent, are not only in the mass paid salaries which hardly. if at all, distinguish them from the skilled artisan, but their  life is a harassing struggle to keep up pathetic appearances on inadequate means.

They are continually called upon for tasks which honorable or humane man would shrink from performing and they must, for their livelihood’s sake, obey the crack of the whip. They see the ambitions they have cherished realized by others, not seldom by uncritical favor or simple nepotism.

Because as a rule, gentility has prevented them from organizing, they have been unable, like the mine managers until these last days, to develop either corporate feeling or adequate self-protection. They have “been judged, not by the values they can create, but by the profits they can earn. They have been subordinates to their employers, while they have been task-masters to their subordinates. They have been, in the mass, a proletariat in all but name.

Their tendency is more and more to recognize their common interest with the manual workers, and, as a result, to make common cause with them and, as notably with the engineering profession in America, they have begun to protest against the waste and degradation of the present system.

What is their probable position in a functional society? They will exercise the power that is relevant to the function they perform. They will exercise their special technique as that is discovered to have purpose relationships to the end in view.

They would give orders, as now but their orders would be born of principle. They would submit, as now, to their superiors, but their superiors would be men co-operating with them in a common task and exercising authority by virtue of rational qualification.

They would improve their positions by a performance related to a social value which benefited the Community of which, they were a part, instead of a pecuniary profit which is not necessarily related to any save private good. They would not be paid vast incomes, like the handful of rich brain-workers in modern industry but their remuneration would be built upon their ability and their function, and they would enjoy security of tenure. And they, like the manual worker, would have the means at the disposal to make their views heard where they desire them to count and to prevail.

There is, I think, ample reason to believe that these motives would be adequate to call from the brain-worker the best of which he is capable. The professionalization of industry is likely to make an instinctive appeal to his sense of his craft. It has proved adequate for the army and navy,adequate for teachers and doctors, adequate for the public services in their varied forms.

The desire to distinguish himself in the service of the State  is, as Lord Haldane has said, as potent a motive  with the brain-worker as the desire to make a fortune. “If he thinks he will be recognized,” Lord Haldane adds, “because of his public spirit and his devotion to his duty, that public spirit and devotion to duty will make him do anything there is no sacrifice of himself he will not make.”

That will always be true of the maxi who feels that he has important work to perform. There will, doubtless, remain many who will work only for the satisfaction of material appetite, as there will be many manual workers to whose best side these motives will not appeal. Any system of organization is fortunate that secures half the result it desires. But those who have seen the devotion and energy of the best elementary teachers, and have realized the difficulties against which they have been contending, will have a sense of the possibilities involved in this experiment.

We cannot abolish selfishness or slackness in any society merely by reorganizing these institutions by which it is dominated, but we can at least so reorganize them that the minds of men are turned towards the qualities we need, We can offer the prospect of service to great ends in the faith that the higher the ideal, the more lofty will be the performance. Those who saw the armies on the battlefield will believe that our faith is reasonable.