But the social ideal has closer applications to us. We must all live, but we have not all equal control of the means of subsistence, nor equal opportunities to create them. We have not all first-hand access to the soil; and we are dependent not only on those who cultivate it, but on those who, in whatever way, get control of its products. We want not only food, but clothing, shelter, means of comfort, even of luxury ; for in the economical sense all is counted luxury that delights the eye, that quickens the intelligence, that develops the higher parts of our being. Every man has in him the possibilities of a more than merely material existence. Food, clothing, shelter, are after all but a scaffolding, on which the nobler house of the soul is to be reared. But owing to varying circumstances and varying natural abilities, one part of the community comes to be dependent on the other for the supply of its physical and higher necessities. In a word, there arises the relation of employer and employed. This is not the original relation, which was rather that of master and slave, but it is that which now well-nigh universally prevails in civilized countries. Can we hesitate to say that the principle of the social ideal has an application here; that in industry, in business of every kind, we should not use any man as means to our ends merely, but should also regard him as an end in himself ? I can see no reason for making the exception. I know I may seem to contradict the ordinary principles of business; I know the maxim is that every one must look out for himself. But I must dissent from such a maxim ; for though in form it is perfectly true, and every one must look out for himself, the negative that lurks behind it is a lying negative, for that I am not bound to look out for another is false. It was a specious excuse for that sin that had " the primal eldest curse upon it; " it is a denial of the social bond; it hides that spirit which if it had unrestricted course, and were not checked by selfish prudence, would make an anarchy of social life. Yet I would not have an air of harshness in saying this. I would not speak in my own name; but I would rather call up the procession of weary, toil-worn faces, of bowed forms, of stunted figures, starting in the earliest beginnings of human history and not failing down to the present day, who have toiled and stitched and hammered and dug and delved and sweat for man, and bid this long procession, this unbroken array, plead for me. Ah ! their words, nay, their speechless entreaties, their dumb and reproachful looks are more moving, more eloquent, than can possibly be any words of mine. They say, they mean, though they could hardly distinctly explain to you, that there was something in them which never had a chance to grow ; that though now and then they caught a glimpse of the light, and knew it by the joy it gave them, the darkness was ever shutting down upon them, till at last they did not know whether there was any light more ; that their whole existence was spent in getting the means for further existence; that they knew that what they produced went somewhere, but it was not to them, save to enable them to continue the weary round; that they knew that great things were in the world, that great deeds were doing, but that they had no part or share in them, and they could only pray the gods to give them grace to bear, for to enjoy was evidently not allowed them.
Ah! is there a sadder thought in the world than that of the waste of the possibilities that are thrown into it ? Happy is he who never had this reflection in looking back upon his own life, but happier still he who has never been the cause of such reflections or of such a fact in another! There is no need of waste. I speak not, of course, of the order of Nature, but of the order of human life, over which we have control. It is not the gods who decree it, but we who permit, nay, who cause it; every failure to act according to the principle of the ideal which we are considering, is a permitting, a virtual causing, of such a waste. I know the employer gives his workmen wages; but what determines the rate of wages that he pays ? If his motive is profit, and he proceeds according to business principles, he gives only so much wages as he must give in order to gain that profit. If the workmen simply want or demand more, he does not need to give more; only when they are in a situation virtually to force him to give more, will he do so. In a word, he considers simply his own ends, and uses others merely as means to those ends. Of course, it is understood that in so speaking I have not in mind any individual man or, men, but simply men so far as actuated by business motives. It is a principle I have in mind, — a principle contradictory to the principle of the social ideal.
Sometimes one may hear the commercial estimate of workmen expressed in the most outspoken and unhesitating manner. " Will any business man," said the president of a horse-car company, in Boston, a few years ago, "tell me the difference between buying labor and buying hay, grain, horses, and other supplies ? " And I think the answer must be given that there is no difference, from the purely business standpoint. If the employer has only his own ends in view, what difference can it make to him what the means are by which the ends are reached ? A machine in a factory is just as good as a man, perhaps as a dozen men, viewed merely as so much muscular force and skill; and the purely business manufacturer will have machines just as fast as he can get them, for in fact they require no wages at all. He may use machines, and the finer and more ingenious they are the better; and he may treat them as he likes. He may make fire, wind, steam, water, all the forces of Nature, his servants. Yes, he may harness the beasts of the field, and make them to do his bidding; for I join in that old sentiment of human dignity which finds all that is not moral and rational to be rightfully tributary to man. But when he touches another human being this whole order of subordination ceases, and he dares not, — in the name of the Highest Law, I say it, he dares not, — make him a mere tool or servant for himself. Bather must he say, " Together we stand, together we win whatever recompense for our toil we do win ; and though I, as the leader in the enterprise, have the right to the leader's honor, and to the leader's share of the recompense ; and though, as I undertake the task, you must submit to my directions, and not I to yours, — you are my fellow-soldier, and not a hireling; I am, at best, your captain, not your master, in the inarch of industry".