What We Have Lost
The death of J. Pierpont Morgan has raised again the old cry of the ‘”self-made man,” and we have been shown how, by his own unaided efforts, he had amassed millions.
J.P. cannot claim the doubtful credit of having started as a bootblack, yet (says the “Daily Chronicle”) “it would scarcely be correct, though his father left him £2,000,000 and a well established banking business in New York and London, to say that he was not a self-made man.”
However apparent it may be that the man has no actual dealings with the production of wealth, yet we are continually told, even at this late hour, that the millionaire, though he starts life with a million or two, is self-made!
The “great” John D. is claimed as a self-made man (with the possible exception of his digestive organs), despite his confession that he is right out of touch with the concern from which he draws his millions, and that he has not been in his office for years.
So with the late J.P.M., for the ” Daily Chronicle” tells us “he hated details” and left such things to his partners. A sound judge ! Morgan, like all modern millionaires, was a financier, and knew nothing of wealth production. He was merely an astute gambler, who had plenty of cash and some “luck.” He had that quality, too, to which Joseph Lyons attributes his success —the ability to find clever men to work for him. ” No one knew better how to pick a lieutenant.” That is the business—get other people to do the work and then show your ability in collecting works of art, and in other ways spending the money as it comes in.
It is this fact that gives such a smashing blow to the anti-Socialist argument that the personal supervision of the capitalist is necessary for success. The small, personally-conducted business is just the concern that is being crushed out—to make room for the giant trust and combine. It is easily seen why this is so. The larger concern, which employs a “lieutenant,” gives him a .greater amount of work to do ; gives him the opportunity to organise on a large scale, so reducing management expenses. Raw materials are more cheaply obtained ; middlemen are eliminated. The cost of distribution, too, is reduced, and the larger concern is able to introduce huge mechanical contrivances, and so dispense with the highly priced labour necessary to the smaller trader.
The small trader who conducts his own business is rapidly being driven out of the market by the cheaper article of the combine, and he is compelled to accept the management of a department of the trust for a wage in order to live.
As industry becomes more and more centralised, so the uselessness of the capitalist becomes more and more apparent. Industry is not run by the Morgans and the Rockefellers. Wealth is not made on the Stock Exchange, though even there the removal of “the money king” had ‘”exceedingly little effect . . . either in London or New York.”
This “multi-millionaire” who, with G. F. Baker, was reputed to control 16 per cent, of the wealth of the United States, passes away, and not one cent of his income ceases to roll in ; not a wheel in all the great industries ceases to turn —wealth is produced as rapidly without this “great” financier as with him.
It drives home again the lesson that it is the worker who produces the wealth. It is the wage-earners who, with their blood and sweat, build up the vast fortunes of the Stock Exchange gamblers. The blood of the Pittsburg miners is the foundation of Morgan’s ill-gotten gains, and the slaving multitudes of American workers have been sped and sweated, maimed and murdered, in order to produce an income for idle parasites to enjoy.
Could anything be plainer ? Is there any useful function performed by the capitalist that could not be done by the working class ?
It is obvious—the reply is in the negative.