In this changing world radical and reformative measures of many sorts are offered and are introduced as prevalent methods fail or collapse. With the exception of consumer cooperation, these measures propose to attain their desirable ends by methods different from the ends themselves. They seek to obtain justice and utopian results by voting, by the general strike, by taxing, by sabotage, by collapse of industry, and by war. But none of these is an end itself. In the practice of none of these are people trained to administer affairs of society in a more equitable way. These methods provide little experience that is useful in manufacturing, distributing, or doing the things that need to be done to supply the wants of the people.
Socialism, which claims to be a preventive of war, would change the political and economic system chiefly by voting at political elections. But going to the polls and voting for politicians does not train people to administer a socialist state or to run industries. I was in the House of Parliament in Belgium on an occasion after World War I, when socialist political leaders told me they were afraid to win the next national election because the people would expect the leaders to give them socialism, and it could not be done. When socialists have had a majority and have controlled governments in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland, and England, socialism has not been established. The socialists are not trained to administer industries in the interest of the people. Communists are less competent. Capitalists are more competent than either because they have experience and are doing the job. The communist plan of killing off opposition by the millions, in order to have no one to argue against the plan, and of destroying superior people by the millions, with the hope that the inferior shall be saluted as the best, are measures of indirection.
The single tax method, which would revolutionize the world by changing the method of taxation used by political governments, does not teach people to administer government nor industry in the changed world. It trains them to vote for single tax legislation at political elections. The same with other movements for changing the world's ways. These movements possess definite merits, but they proceed by indirection. Cooperation represents direct action. Militarists would win peace by preparing for war; cooperators would win peace by preparing for peace.
Cooperation has nothing to do with these obverse methods. It puts in operation the same means to attain the end as the end itself. The cooperative society, or the cooperative democracy, is to be attained by building cooperative society. People begin in a small way and build precisely what will be in operation in a large way as they promote their cooperative organizations. The means are the same as the end. From the smallest beginning, they are training themselves to administer economic and social affairs of the ultimate society toward which they are moving. They train as they grow. They can grow no faster than they can educate and train themselves to control and administer their affairs. They are learning by practice how to do things that society needs to have done, and these are not to be learned by voting, nor writing, nor speaking, nor taxing, nor striking, nor by making war. The people are suffering for want of things, and cooperators are learning, by doing, how to produce and distribute these things and how to make their books balance.
The cooperative method, representing direct action, appeals to the practically minded who understand direct ways of getting results. This leaves out the rich who illustrate the thesis that, if a man wants to make a living he must work for it, but if he wants to make a fortune he must think up something else. Cooperation does not much attract the academic intellectuals. They are found patronizing profit business while they occupy themselves talking and writing about its wickedness and about other schemes of social betterment not visible to the eye. To go into cooperation means to put up some money, to be concerned for goods on the shelves and delivering milk and bread on time, to wrap up packages, to make change at the cash register, to keep things clean, and to carry on business. These are all mundane and material duties. Many well-meaning people prefer to think of such things as functions for a future utopia; but they do not want to be bothered with them now--talking and voting are easier. There is also danger of a cooperative business failing. There is the reproach that goes with failure. It is more comfortable not to take such chances, but to work instead for some noble scheme that can not fail--because it does not exist. The stubborn facts of everyday life are less romantic than the dreams.
Cooperation is a practical way toward a stabilized as well as a friendly society. It is practical rather than theoretical. It demonstrates its capacity for success. And a stabilized society which has no traffic with contentious methods as a means of winning its ends, offers much to the cause of peace. Cooperation refutes the idea of using evil means to attain good ends. Its methods are virtuous. Its aims are virtuous. Virtuous ends are best gained by virtuous means. Democracy is best achieved by practicing democracy. Cooperation is best reached by cooperative methods. Peace is best secured by peaceful ways.