Under the prevalent profit system, industrial countries must export their surplus product. The present century has witnessed the conflict for control of the seas in the interest of export trade. Great Britain won against Germany in the World War of 1914. This was largely a contest for trade areas for the sake of profits. A similar conflict goes on locally between business concerns competing for the same trade. Animosities among merchants, manufacturers, and undertakers--all competing for business--constitute the local training for international wars. It is often ruthless. It is sometimes called cut-throat. It constitutes the constant war, of which the forceful clashes of arms are only resultant manifestations.
It is shown that, when people unite cooperatively to supply their needs, friendship instead of hostility is engendered. Genuine cooperative societies do not compete with each other to get business. This is because their purpose is to serve and not to make profits. Cooperative societies which are neighbors, or which serve the same community, either unite and form one society, or if they continue with their identity, they federate together in the same larger organization to cooperate with one another for their mutual advantage. It is to the interest of cooperative societies to cooperate just the same as individuals. Cooperative societies unite with other cooperative societies to form leagues and wholesales for the sake of mutual services. People unite in the interest of their common cause. Cooperation is a continuous and expanding evolution of forces in the interest of peace.
Economic competition for jobs does prevail in cooperative societies among individuals, as it does in profit business. This is because individuals work for wages and profits. In an ideal society, in which individuals are not wage earners but in which each receives from the society what he wants and needs, competition for jobs does not prevail. Primitive agricultural families, communal fraternities, colonies in which all own in common and all work for the common good, and certain religious brotherhoods are free from the competitive struggle among individuals. This means they represent an economic way which does not breed the personal hostilities which when expanded to international dimensions spell war. War has its beginning in the hearts of individuals. When the world is composed of peaceful individuals, it will be composed of peaceful nations.
The price and profit system of business breeds hostilities between competing individuals and between competing nations. It raises prices faster than consumers can raise money to buy. The prevalent profit motive in business demands scarcity for its success. When things are plentiful price drops and business becomes depressed. If people can get easy access to any needful commodity, supplied by the profit method, the price is depressed and the business tends to operate at a loss and to fail. When oranges are so plentiful that people might enjoy an abundance of orange juice, easy access to this food has to be stopped, and oranges are dumped on the ground to rot until scarcity prevails. In one month over 100,000,000 sacks of coffee were burned in Brazil. Fruit companies have dumped cargoes of bananas in the sea to promote scarcity. In Alaska, 400,000 cases of salmon were destroyed at one time. Over 1,000,000 sheep were killed in Australia and buried. Catches of fish are thrown back in the sea. Potatoes and other vegetables are dumped on the ground to rot. While this is being written the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture is authorizing the destruction of 25,000,000 bushels of potatoes, and potatoes are being imported into the U. S. from Canada and other countries.
Officially the United States Department of Agriculture is controlling production of crops and curtailing the raising of livestock in order to produce scarcity to keep up prices in the interest of farmers' income. If scarcity of foods can not be maintained, agriculture as a profit business fails, people leave the farms, and production diminishes. This is precisely what is taking place. It makes for confusion, business turmoil, and social discontent. Absence of stability makes people ready for war. Production, except that owned by consumers and conducted for consumers, is profit business and subject to the same rules that govern all manufacturing business.
In the field of profit business the effort to maintain scarcity defeats its own ends. It results in reduction of wages and depression of earning power among those who do the essential work of production. This means depression in purchasing power among the consumers. The profit method works in a vicious circle which is disrupting an economic system. The economy of scarcity is failing. People are not supplied. The neglect of the interest of consumers is leading toward a disordered economy. And this disorder breeds war.
On the other hand, even now, for the majority of people, profit business provides them with livelihood, supplies their wants, and makes possible such civilization as prevails. Under its sway the world has made its greatest advancement. This does not mean that profit capitalism is responsible for these benefits; but it does mean that it has been associated with them and has made its contribution to their attainment.
The methods of profit business entail secrecy, concealment, and misrepresentation. These are practiced in business and in the political field where business is served and promoted. Competing business must conceal from other business what it is doing and how it is doing it. Lying and fraud are characteristic activities of diplomatic service. The United States maintains an iron curtain in its Army and Navy where no citizen is permitted to know of the fabulous expenditures for things never to be used. The state department in every country operates in secrecy. Cooperative business, on the other hand, is transacted openly. There are no secret sessions. Stockholders have access to books and information. Meetings are held openly. Congresses of national organizations and of the International Alliance are congresses of delegates but visitors are welcome and always present. These visitors include enemies of cooperation who often go from these meetings, misrepresent and distort what they have seen and heard. None of these congresses holds secret sessions or has secret committees. Members have access to everything that transpires, excepting in instances of rare necessity. Profit business and political governments dare not follow these practices.
As a result of violation of natural social laws and the suffering which it entails, people are thinking about these problems. One of the great discoveries has been the discovery of the consumer. People are thinking more and more in consumer terms. This brings them presently to the cooperative movement, which represents the consumers in action applying themselves to just these problems, and putting into operation an economic system which is based on abundance instead of scarcity. When the consumers' interests are the objects of industry, business is advantaged by abundance. Profits, which require scarcity, are no longer the aim. The aim is to get things and services; and they can best be gotten when they are plentiful. Where industry is owned and controlled by the consumers in their own interest and for the sole purpose of supplying themselves, all the inducements are to produce in abundance. This means not only more things for consumers to enjoy, it also means more employment. But employment is not the object. If the people can produce the things they need by the expenditure of little work, so much the better for the people. More things and more leisure are a basis upon which civilization must be built. It certainly can not be built upon fewer things and more work.
The service motive, it is believed by some, may be applied by the state going into business and producing without profit for the use of its citizens. This is theory. In Russia it is failing. There the government has become the one big capitalist, exploiting workers on the one hand and consumers on the other hand in the interest of a privileged class, the officials. Profits are made in lieu of taxes. In the cooperative movement, the service motive, based on the economy of abundance, is succeeding. The meaning of this success to the cause of peace is obvious.
We have seen that the service motive in business in the interest of consumers tends to draw people together in friendship, while the profit motive tends toward hostilities. Local hostility among tradesmen means quarreling, backbiting, slander, and racketeering. The same competition between businesses of different nations leads to war. Perhaps the breaking down of the profit system is salutary. Happily the process is slow. Chaos never prevails everywhere at the same time. Fortunately, the world exhibits areas of progress and reconstruction as well as areas of disorder. When war prevails, there are fortunately nations which are not at war. These nations look on, as does the individual spectator viewing a brawl between men. The one who participates in peace instead of war is in a position to contemplate the advantages of the peaceful position.
A principle in the cooperative movement is that of unlimited membership. A cooperative society must admit anyone as a member who wants to join, with the single exception of the person who would enter the society to do it harm. Not religion, race, politics, or other classification, can reject an applicant for membership. This means not only that the hand of friendship is held out to all, but it means unlimited issuance of stock. This tends to keep stock at par and prevent speculation and price fluctuations. A limited amount of common stock only can be bought by each member. The stock of the member who retires is bought back at par.
Political governments can not afford to invite into their citizenship all who would come; for one reason because of the economic struggle for the profits of business going on within their borders. The labor market is a competitive business, and labor must be kept scarce in order to keep up the price. Trade-unions in the United States have been responsible for laws excluding craftsmen of other countries whose admission to this country would be of benefit to themselves and to consumers who need their services. This exclusion has been for the sake of making labor scarce in order to make it expensive. Limitation of the number of doctors and other workers prevails for the same reason--and with the same disadvantages to the consumers. Exclusiveness, discriminations, and separating people is a part of the introduction to war. All this may be necessary in a competitive economy. But it does create international animosities. The urge to scarcity is not found in the cooperative society. A common form of organization which invites all people into its membership has peace-promoting qualities.