Chapter V


Moral and progressive forces in many fields, not necessarily allied with cooperation, give support to the cooperative idea. Political parties, such as the Democratic, Republican, Socialist, and so on, put in their platforms a plank endorsing cooperation. Educational bodies adopt resolutions expressing approval of the cooperative movement. Magazines and publications of opinion give it wide publicity. Colleges and universities offer courses on this subject in their departments of economics and sociology and encourage governments to provide bureaus for the promotion of cooperation. Some of the more progressive States in the United States have set up agencies for teaching cooperation and are publishing useful literature on the subject. In many primary schools, children have been encouraged by teachers to organize themselves into cooperative societies. There are several thousand in the schools of France. Some schools in the United States have such societies. Small children, thus organized, conduct their little stores and supply themselves with paper, pencils, chocolate, and other juvenile needs. Some conduct credit unions and make loans of five, ten, and even twenty-five cents to members. I have seen such organizations in operation and have been impressed with their possibilities for peace. These children have their meetings, make their reports and conduct their affairs with the punctilious observances of larger businesses. They are learning how to conduct business for the service of one another. The socializing process going on in many governments provides examples of nonprofit business and of services conducted in the public interest. This sets people thinking about the nonprofit possibilities of useful enterprises. The great dams and hydroelectric power plants set up by the United States Government have made it possible for consumers to get electricity at low cost. In many of the areas, the people have organized themselves into consumer electric supply cooperatives, purchase current at wholesale from the Government, and distribute it to their members at great saving. Soldiers have seen stores run by the Army for the good of the soldiers and have been caused to contrast such stores with those run for the good of merchants. The multitude of nonprofit services exhibited in divers fields condition thoughtful minds to the cooperative way of supplying needs.

The United States Government in many of its departments makes studies, issues advice, publishes literature, and loans money in the interest of cooperative societies. Governors of several States in the United States have advocated that the people learn how to supply their needs by the cooperative method of business. A Governor of the State of Vermont has written a book in which he devotes a chapter to cooperation, and in which he discusses cooperative organizations as the practical alternatives to the socialistic regimentation which threatens the world. All this springs from thinking in the interest of the common good, which is inspired by the desire to find means to relieve prevalent distress and help people solve their economic and social problems. It springs also from a humanitarian and moral urge. We shall see that many governments maintain bureaus and even departments for promotion of cooperation. The provinces of Saskatchewan and of Newfoundland in Canada each has a Department of Cooperation with a Minister of Cooperation in the Cabinet.

When we come to agencies which profess to be concerned especially with promoting moral life and the best relations among people, here we see a growing interest in cooperation. Christian churches and organizations for ethical culture are increasingly associating themselves with the cooperative movement. While these groups can not officially, excepting in rare instances, participate in actual organization and conduct of cooperative societies, still they do to a considerable extent express themselves as sympathetic. The Methodist, Episcopal, and Unitarian churches, especially in their official assemblies have passed resolutions expressing approval of cooperation and advising their members to inform themselves on this subject. The Federal Council of Churches in America has a committee devoted to the study of cooperation and encouragement of its promotion in church bodies. Church periodicals publish articles on cooperation. While all this is largely in the field of academic discussion, and while these bodies themselves can rarely enter into practical application of cooperative methods, still this attitude of friendliness and approval on the part of the churches carries with it weight, and helps to break down prejudice against cooperation which organized profit business creates. Also, an increasing number of church bodies are passing resolutions against war. A few churches whose membership does not consist of people engaged in competitive business, that would come in conflict with cooperative business, openly promote cooperation. This is the case in some farm communities and in parishes of poor people. The Catholic church in such communities has done much. It was this church that gave encouragement to the credit union movement; its parishioners were the first organizers of credit unions on the American continent. They continue to promote this cause. While the church itself as an organization can not conspicuously promote cooperation in a practical way in action, because of its dependence upon profit business for its support, still individual communicants of the church, inspired and encouraged by the church, are everywhere seen as promoters and active participants in cooperative business. A cooperative society of which I was a member held its business, educational, and propaganda meetings in a church. This is a common practice in the United States. The Young Men's Christian Association and the Young Women's Christian Association lend their buildings for cooperative purposes.

The peace implications in all this reside in the fact that these organizations theoretically are moral agencies and are devoted to the promotion of better human relations, among which is the promotion of peace. Talk in favor of any cause promotes that cause, because it sets people thinking. And while these organizations themselves may not be able to act in the interest of the cause, the free individuals whom they influence may and do. Individuals inspired by these theoretical moral impulses are actively functioning as members of cooperative societies, although most members are inspired by economic advantage. The most important force for virtue with which cooperation works, and the organization which should be most devoted to the promotion of peace, is the home. The activities of the consumers' cooperative movement are addressed especially to this institution. Other social and economic forces are concerned with other fields as objects of their endeavors. They are addressed to the farm and getting money for its crops, to the mill, the work-shop, the pay of labor, and the marts of trade where profits are made. But consumers' cooperation is addressed to the consumption of things and the place where things are enjoyed in their consumption. This revolves around the home.

The home and the family are expressions of democracy. Here nurture and interest of children are supreme. This is the institution from which the consumers' cooperative society gets its model and plan. The cooperative is but an enlargement of the best ideals of the family principles carried into the economic field--a community of consumers, each serving each; a body of servers, each helping the others to get what they need. The first cooperative society was the family. In time it went into consumers' controlled production. The family garden was the first consumers' controlled factory. The motive of production was not profit to be gotten by selling to somebody else, but it was for the direct consuming service of the workers who cultivated the garden. The consumers' cooperative movement is calling the world back to this simple and friendly principle animating production and distribution. It adds to the ancient simplicity all the devices which science and the arts have created through the ages, to the end that the needs of the consumer may be supplied more effectively and with less labor. It exemplifies an economic system in which society is benefited by use of labor-saving methods. In the cooperative democracy these devices do not make for unemployment and its attendant distress, but for more abundant supply of things and more leisure for human beings in which to enjoy their abundance.

It is natural that a movement which now has grown to embrace twenty-five percent of the population of the world, and which is concerned especially for the home and family, should make its contribution toward preservation of these institutions. But these people are not the affluent class. Their consumption represents only about one-tenth of the things consumed. Their spending power is comparatively low. Still they represent a potent force. The business of these cooperative societies makes the home life more possible. In Great Britain, for example, the L25,000,000 surplus saving accruing from the L400,000,000 of business of the cooperatives increased the purchasing power of these members just so much, and made just that contribution to things these families might enjoy. It is seen in better food, clothing, furniture, and housing.

The home and family are suffering decay under the prevalent system. The very conditions which conduce to war are part of this system and the disintegrations that accompany it. Improvement of home conditions and the making of employment more secure are the contributions of cooperation to the saving of the family, which should be a bulwark of peace.