Friday, October 27, 2006

"Try one of mine."

R.E. Smith Jr. writes from a pro-capitalism and anti-socialism stance in today's The American Thinker, and he makes extensive use of G.K. Chesterton to support his anti-socialism argument.

I'm reminded of G. K. Chesterton's disdain for collectivists in an essay he wrote in a London socialist weekly, the New Age, in 1908. Chesterton was a prolific English writer well known as a poet, novelist, critic, journalist and essayist. He had no love for modern industrialism, but even less for collectivism. His essay was titled: "Why I Am Not a Socialist."

In a debate with socialists Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Belford Bax, he wrote that he was depressed by the "future happiness" promised by socialist idealism. Chesterton said that most collectivist utopias "consist of the pleasure of sharing." He admitted there is satisfaction in sharing, such as gathering nuts from a tree or visiting a museum. But he preferred the pleasure of giving and receiving.

Giving, he said, is the opposite of sharing. Utopian sharing, he argued, is based on the abhorrent idea that there is no private property.

Chesterton used the analogy of two men sharing a box of cigars. He didn't want that. Rather, he wished that each man might give the other a cigar from his own box. Socialist "eloquence," he said, never recognizes the ideal of "gifts and hospitalities" in its visions of the collectivist state. Their proposals may be appealing, but the "spirit" of their unfulfilled ideals becomes impractical. Ironically, they forget human needs.

G. K. Chesterton put stock in what he called "common people." He believed that individualists promoting industrialism – at that time in Manchester, England – placed an "imposition" on these people (he wrote romantically of simpler, earlier lifestyles).  But he also believed that the people, though they may vote for socialists because they want something, detested the "sentiment and general ideal of socialism" as a worse infliction, imposed by "a handful of decorative artists, Oxford dons and journalists.."

[R.E. Smith Jr., Resisting Socialism, Then and Now , The American Thinker, 27 Oct 2006]

"May I smoke?" [asked Syme] "Certainly!" said Gregory, producing a cigar-case.  "Try one of mine."
[G.K. Chesterton. The Man Who Was Thursday]

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