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Nothing can preserve the integrity of contact between individuals, except a discretionary authority in the state to revise what has become intolerable. The powers of uninterrupted usury are too great. If the accretions of vested interests were to grow without mitigation for many generations, half the population would be no better than slaves to the other half.
We handed the most important belongings of our people – the railroads and the banks – to aliens who 2000 years ago had turned the temple into a house of usury. Back then there was a man who had the bravery to drive out these scoundrels with a whip! If today a national socialist is seen with such a temple-whip, he’s thrown into jail.
But this is not a world of free freights. One pays according to an iron schedule–for every strength the balanced weakness; for every high a corresponding low; for every fictitious god-like moment an equivalent time in reptilian slime. For every feat of telescoping long days and weeks of life into mad magnificent instants, one must pay with shortened life, and, oft-times, with savage usury added.
But though Usury is in itself immoral, and justly condemned by every ethical code, its chief and worst defect in the particular case we are now examining, the growth of Capitalism and its increasing proletariat, is the centralization of irresponsible control over the lives of men: the putting power over the proletariat into the hands of a few who can direct the loans of currency and credit without which that proletariat could not be fed and clothed and maintained in work.
Coupled with Usury, Unrestricted Competition destroys the small man for the profit of the great and in so doing produces that mass of economically unfree citizens whose very political freedom comes in question because it has no foundation in any economic freedom, that is, any useful proportion of property to support it. Political freedom without economic freedom is almost worthless, and it is because the modern proletariat has the one kind of freedom without the other that its rebellion is now threatening the very structure of the modern world.
Why, when the economist gives advice to his society, is he so often cooly ignored? He never ceases to preach free trade, and protectionism is growing in the United States. He deplores the perverse effects of minimum wage laws, and the legal minimum is regularly raised each 3 or 5 years. He brands usury laws as a medieval superstition, but no state hurries to repeal its law.
The free-trade idea, logically applied, will abolish usury; and with usury will disappear the chief bone of contention between labor and capital. But, just at this point, free-traders go over to the enemy; and many writers on political economy, in flat contradiction of the essential principles of that science, have made elaborate arguments to prove self-government in finance, impossible! What shall we think of men who, having dethroned kings, demolished popes, destroyed slave oligarchies and assailed tariff monopoly, advise submission to the most oppressive and dishonest of despotisms, Usury?
It will probably surprise many who know nothing of Proudhon save his declaration that ‘property is robbery’ to learn that he was perhaps the most vigorous hater of Communism that ever lived on this planet. But the apparent inconsistency vanishes when you read his book and find that by property he means simply legally privileged wealth or the power of usury, and not at all the possession by the labourer of his products.