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The Forgotten Man (William Graham Sumner 1840-1910)
The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C's interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man. For once let us look him up and consider his case, for the characteristic of all social doctors is, that they fix their minds on some man or group of men whose case appeals to the sympathies and the imagination, and they plan remedies addressed to the particular trouble; they do not understand that all the parts of society hold together, and that forces which are set in action act and react throughout the whole organism, until an equilibrium is produced by a re-adjustment of all interests and rights. They therefore ignore entirely the source from which they must draw all the energy which they employ in their remedies, and they ignore all the effects on other members of society than the ones they have in view. They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and, forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion - that the State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man.

The friends of humanity start out with certain benevolent feelings toward "the poor," "the weak," "the laborers," and others of whom they make pets. They generalize these classes, and render them impersonal, and so constitute the classes into social pets. They turn to other classes and appeal to sympathy and generosity, and to all the other noble sentiments of the human heart. Action in the line proposed consists in a transfer of capital from the better off to the worse off. Capital, however, as we have seen, is the force by which civilization is maintained and carried on. The same piece of capital cannot be used in two ways. Every bit of capital, therefore, which is given to a shiftless and inefficient member of society, who makes no return for it, is diverted from a reproductive use; but if it was put into reproductive use, it would have to be granted in wages to an efficient and productive laborer. Hence the real sufferer by that kind of benevolence which consists in an expenditure of capital to protect the good-for-nothing is the industrious laborer. The latter, however, is never thought of in this connection. It is assumed that he is provided for and out of the account. Such a notion only shows how little true notions of political economy have as yet become popularized. There is an almost invincible prejudice that a man who gives a dollar to a beggar is generous and kind-hearted, but that a man who refuses the beggar and puts the dollar in a savings bank is stingy and mean. The former is putting capital where it is very sure to be wasted, and where it will be a kind of seed for a long succession of future dollars, which must be wasted to ward off a greater strain on the sympathies than would have been occasioned by a refusal in the first place. Inasmuch as the dollar might have been turned into capital and given to a laborer who, while earning it, would have reproduced it, it must be regarded as taken from the latter. When a millionaire gives a dollar to a beggar the gain of utility to the beggar is enormous, and the loss of utility to the millionaire is insignificant. Generally the discussion is allowed to rest there. But if the millionaire makes capital of the dollar, it must go upon the labor market, as a demand for productive services. Hence there is another party in interest - the person who supplies productive services. There always are two parties. The second one is always the Forgotten Man, and any one who wants to truly understand the matter in question must go and search for the Forgotten Man. He will be found to be worthy, industrious, independent, and self-supporting. He is not, technically, "poor" or "weak"; he minds his own business, and makes no complaint. Consequently the philanthropists never think of him, and trample on him.
One walks into the local library, scans the book sale shelf and sees the "Liberty Fund" imprint on one spine: . As this publisher seems almost incapable of bringing out an uninteresting book, one thumbs through the text: On Liberty, Society, and Politics: The Essential Essays of William Graham Sumner. Who?
Sumner, William Graham (InfoPlease)

Sumner, William Graham, 1840Ð1910, American sociologist and political economist, b. Paterson, N.J., grad. Yale, 1863, and studied in Germany, in Switzerland, and at Oxford. He was ordained an Episcopal minister and from 1872 was professor of political and social science at Yale. In economics he advocated a policy of extreme laissez-faire, strongly opposing any government measures that he thought interfered with the natural economics of trade. As a sociologist he did valuable work in charting the evolution of human customs--folkways and mores. He concluded that the power of these forces, developed in the course of human evolution, rendered useless any attempts at social reform. He also originated the concept of ethnocentrism, a term now commonly used, to designate attitudes of superiority about one's own group in comparison with others. His major work was Folkways (1907).
A trailblazer in: American economics, a free marketeer and free trader; Social Darwinism; sociology; anti-Imperialism; academic reform; etc.? This is a guy you want to know more about, no?

So one buys the book for a dollar and heads for the Internet. Turns out there's more than a little by and about him available on-line. Here's some of the book's introduction, by Robert C. Bannister, which, happily, is on-line:
Many critics quoted a few phrases concerning "fittest" and "unfittest" as the sum of his social thought. Focusing on his views of government and the economy, most failed to place his work within the broader context of the effort of several generations of American intellectuals to ground morals and public policy in science rather than Protestant Christianity. A member of the "generation of 1840" who initiated this change, Sumner shared in this enterprise with the sociologist Lester Ward and the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., among others, even though he did not share their politics. As these intellectuals debated the meaning of science, the charge of misapplied Darwinism (including the epithet "social Darwinist"), as I have argued in Social Darwinism: Science and Myth (1979), was essentially a battle strategy, more caricature than accurate characterization. Critics also assumed that Sumner's ideas remained unchanged throughout his career. Quotations from lectures of the 1870s or from Folkways became interchangeable evidence of a monolithic ideology.

Whatever the reasons, the resulting image of Sumner seriously misrepresents him. Although he launched his career in a decade with more than its share of corruption and fraud--the scandals of the Grant presidency and New York's Tweed Ring, the financial buccaneering of Jay Gould, the "corrupt bargain" that gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency in 1876--he was no less a critic of these developments than were the self-styled "reformers" whose proposals, in his view, only compounded the problems. During the 1880s and 1890s, he continued to defend free markets, individual enterprise, and the accumulation of capital. But he was acutely aware of mounting problems, from the rise of plutocracy (defined broadly as the influence of wealth on politics) to the excesses of consumerism and of democracy. The United States was entering its "glory days," he lamented shortly before his death, referring to the "corruption and extravagance which ultimately have ruined all the republics of the past." In sounding these warnings, he seemed to his admirers to be the epitome of the "old Roman," a defender of the republican tradition of the Founders, not the business "hireling" or the spirit of individualism past.
Sumner's "conservatism" was accordingly complex. As he moved from clergyman to sociologist, he struggled to reconcile two contradictory impulses: a desire for organic community, historical continuity, and traditional values as antidote to unfettered individualism and materialistic progress; and a commitment to individual freedom that fueled this progress. Complicating this dilemma was the specter of cultural relativism wherein all truth appeared relative to conditions. In freeing the individual from past custom and tradition, cultural relativism appeared to rule out any common standard for individual behavior or public policy. In his early sermons, Sumner confronted these issues in repeated attempts to balance "tradition" and "progress." In Folkways, he discussed them in terms of the relation between the "mores" and "science," the former the encoded customs and traditions that shape all human activity, the latter the objective attitude that allows limited escape from them.

In this quest, Sumner's conception of science was crucial. Since the 18th century, science had been seen as a means of freeing humanity from the burdens of the past, while providing for one or another type of social engineering. Inspired by Darwin, many of Sumner's contemporaries found in evolution the basis for an instrumental view of reason that justified governmental activism and a relativism that rejected established institutions and beliefs. Sumner, in contrast, distinguished the "methods" of science from its "speculations," viewing the former in terms of the narrowly inductive procedures of what American intellectuals of his generation termed "Baconian" science (dubiously claiming lineage from the celebrated 17th century English scientist Francis Bacon). Science, so viewed, was not some "ism," but a matter-of-factness that stressed classification over hypothesis. The property of a relatively small minority ("the classes"), the scientific attitude, as Sumner's biographer Donald Bellomy has put it, allowed "a critical, scientific, and modernized elite [to] modify and correct traditional attitudes."

Although on the surface Sumner shared his generation's faith in science, he thus diverged from a majority of his fellow social scientists in rejecting the notion that science taught a conception of truth as merely a consensus of trained observers. Sumner's "expert" was not a credentialled member of a social scientific community that drew up social blueprints to meet changing conditions--the model that was increasingly in American sociology in the decades after Sumner's death. Rather, he was the tough-minded individual who viewed current mores objectively in the light of history. In grasping the essence behind appearance, science provided an absolute standard for individual behavior and social policy, and hence an escape from a debilitating relativism and moral anarchy.

Sumner defended private property, individual enterprise, and laissez faire. But he was not therefore an uncritical "apologist" for American business. Rather he joined a tradition of American thinkers who championed republicanism against democracy, hard work and self-denial over material luxury, and public good over individual gratification. Unlike the Founding fathers, Sumner grounded his conservatism, not in the classical Republicanism of Greece or Rome, but in scientific method and an ethos of professionalism that sought in discipline, denial, and detachment the equivalents, as it were, of public virtue. Although some contradictions remained, he thus took more seriously than many of his contemporaries the problems of change and tradition, cultural relativism and common standards, that continue to dominate our discourse more than a century later.
The great conservative struggle is over how to balance the good of personal liberty against the evil of extreme individualism. The quest of modernist conservatism is to find a grounding for absolutes in science rather than God. Here's a guy who was chin-deep in both struggles over a hundred years ago. Assuming that this has all piqued your interest too, see the links below for more.

UPDATE: AMAGI: For folk who've been wondering, the Liberty Fund symbol pictured above is explained as follows in the front of the book:
The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif of our endpapers is the earliest-known appearance of the word "freedom" (amagi), or "liberty." It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 B.C. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.
We particularly like that it in part resembles an arrow.

Meanwhile. William Graham Sumner, in addition to everything else, appears to have been one of, if not the, the first anti-communists:
Developments in the industrial sphere meanwhile shifted the focus of his interest to labor, big business, and finally to Marxism. Responding to the bloody summer of railway strikes in 1877, he penned an angry response meant for but not finally published in the North American Review, following it with several other essays on labor and strikes throughout the 1880s. Although the secretive formation of the Standard Oil trust in 1882 heralded a new phase of industrial combination, Sumner, like most of his contemporaries, realized its implications only gradually. In a series in the Independent in 1887, however, he took direct aim at the emerging "plutocracy," a concept that joined middle class fear of industrial combination and the patrician dislike of vulgar wealth he had earlier expressed in his sermons. Narrowly defined, plutocracy referred to "a political form in which the controlling force is wealth," he explained. But more generally it enshrined the "increasing thirst for luxury" and the acquisitive appetites of the man "on the make." "The principle of plutocracy is that money buys whatever the owner of money wants," Sumner concluded with disgust.

He also gradually realized that Karl Marx was not just another socialist. Initially he knew Marx only as the leader of the International who wanted "to carry the war into the arena of scientific economy." But Marx's treatment of "capital" was soon at the center of his indictment of the entire socialist movement. When in 1886 the visit of Marx's daughter and son-in-law to the United States stimulated new interest in his theories, Sumner took aim at such concepts as "proletariat" and "bourgeoisie." "No American artisan" can understand these terms, he charged. "Such ideas are a part of a foreign dress of a set of ideas which are not yet naturalized."
Here then his essay, Socialism (or, The Challenge of Facts), which seems especially germane to the recent affirmative action ruling:
Socialists are filled with the enthusiasm of equality. Every scheme of theirs for securing equality has destroyed liberty. The student of political philosophy has the antagonism of equality and liberty constantly forced upon him. Equality of possession or of rights and equality before the law are diametrically opposed to each other. The object of equality before the law is to make the state entirely neutral. The state, under that theory, takes no cognizance of persons. It surrounds all, without distinctions, with the same conditions and guarantees. If it educates one, it educates all-black, white, red, or yellow; Jew or Gentile; native or alien. If it taxes one, it taxes all, by the same system and under the same conditions. If it exempts one from police regulations in home, church, and occupation, it exempts all. From this statement it is at once evident that pure equality before the law is impossible. Some occupations must be subjected to police regulation. Not all can be made subject to militia duty even for the same limited period. The exceptions and special cases furnish the chance for abuse. Equality before the law, however, is one of the cardinal principles of civil liberty, because it leaves each man to run the race of life for himself as best he can. The state stands neutral but benevolent. It does not undertake to aid some and handicap others at the outset in order to offset hereditary advantages and disadvantages, or to make them start equally. Such a notion would belong to the false and spurious theory of equality which is socialistic. If the state should attempt this It would make itself the servant of envy. I am entitled to make the most I can of myself without hindrance from anybody, but I am not entitled to any guarantee that I shall make as much of myself as somebody else makes of himself.

The newest socialism is, in its method, political. The essential feature of its latest phases is the attempt to use the power of the state to realize its plans and to secure its objects. These objects are to do away with poverty and misery, and there are no socialistic schemes yet proposed, of any sort, which do not, upon analysis, turn out to be projects for curing poverty and misery by making those who have share with those who have not.
In the yawning gap between "equality before the law" and the "theory of equality" lies much of the West's former freedom and a couple hundred million victims of the 20th Century's various ultimately indistinguishable totalitarianisms.


Grade: (A)


William Sumner Links:

    -INTRODUCTION: On Liberty, Society and Politics (Robert C. Bannister)
    -LECTURE: The Conquest of the United States by Spain (William Graham Sumner, Lecture delievered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Yale University, Jan. 16, 1899, and published in the Yale Law Journal, Jan. 1899)
    The Forgotten Man (William Graham Sumner 1840-1910)
    -ESSAY: The Challenge of Facts (William Graham Sumner)
    -ESSAY: Monetary Development (William Graham Sumner, September 1875, Harper's)
    -ESSAY: Politics in America, 1776 - 1876 (William Graham Sumner, January 1876, North American Review)
    -ESSAY: What Our Boys are Reading (William Graham Sumner, March 1878, Scribner's)
    -ESSAY: Socialism (William Graham Sumner, October 1878, Scribner's)
    -ESSAY: The National Bank Circulation (William Graham Sumner, December 1878, Scribner's)
    -ESSAY: Sociology (William Graham Sumner, 1881, Princeton Review)
    -EXCERPT: from What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other: ON A NEW PHILOSOPHY: THAT POVERTY IS THE BEST POLICY (William Graham Sumner)
    -EXCERPT: from What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other (William Graham Sumner)
    -EXCERPT: from What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other: Social Obligations in the Industrial Age (William Graham Sumner)
    -EXCERPT: from What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other: THAT IT IS NOT WICKED TO BE RICH; NAY, EVEN, THAT IT IS NOT WICKED TO BE RICHER THAN ONE'S NEIGHBOR (William Graham Sumner)
    -EXCERPT: from The absurd effort to make the world over (William Graham Sumner, March 1894)
    -EXCERPT: William Graham Sumner on Reform
    -EXCERPT: from On Empire and the Philippines (William Graham Sumner, 1898)
    -TESTIMONY: Yale Professor William Graham Sumner Prescribes Laissez-Faire for Depression Woes (On August 22, 1878, Yale faculty member William Graham Sumner testified before a select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives charged with investigating the Causes of the General Depression in Labor and Business)
    William G. Sumner, President 1908-1909 (American Sociological Society )
    -William Graham Sumner, 1840-1910 (History of Economic Thought)
    -William Graham Sumner (Robert Bannister, Swarthmore College)
    -BIO: Sumner, William Graham (American History 102)
    -BIO: William Graham Sumner (Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1887-1889)
    -William Graham Sumner (CT Heritage)
    -LECTURE: William Graham Sumner-- Social Darwinism and neo-liberalism in defense of laissez-faire capitalism (U.S. Political Thought: Lecture 12, November 9, 1995, Joseph Boland)
    -"SOCIAL NORMS": William Graham Sumner (1840-1910)
    -ESSAY: Sumner's Forgotten Classic (Christopher Mayer, September 5, 2003,
    -ESSAY: Freedom Is Honesty, and Honesty Is Freedom (James Leroy Wilson, 6/20/03,
    -ESSAY: Market Extremists Amok: And how best to dethrone them (Kevin Phillips, July 15, 2002, American Prospect)
    -ARCHIVES: "william graham sumner" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of History of American Currency (North American Review, 1874)

    -REVIEW: of Folkways by William Graham Sumner (Robert E. Park, American Sociological Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Forgotten Man and Other Essays by William Graham Sumner (J. H. Tufts, International Journal of Ethics)
    -REVIEW: of War and Other Essays (The Journal of Political Economy)
    -REVIEW: of Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals (Henry Berkowitz, International Journal of Ethics)
    -REVIEW: of Anthropologic Miscellanea: Albert G. Keller; John P. Harrington; O. G. Libbey; E. E. Woodworth; Gilbert L. Wilson; C. A. Peterson; Shridhar V. Ketkar; James Mooney (American Anthropologist, New Series)
    -REVIEW: of Folkways. A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals by William Graham Sumner (William I. Thomas, The American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of A History of Banking in All the Leading Nations by William Graham Sumner (L., The Journal of Political Economy)
    -REVIEW: of The Financier and the Finances of the American Revolution by William Graham Sumner (Worthington Chauncey Ford, Political Science Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Makers of America: Alexander Hamilton by William Graham Sumner (H. L. O., Political Science Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Essays of William Graham Sumner (Redvers Opie, The Economic Journal)
    -REVIEW: of The Science of Society by William Graham Sumner (Hutton Webster, The Quarterly Journal of Economics)
    -REVIEW: of An Introduction to Sociology by Wilson D. Wallis and The Science of Society by William Graham Sumner; Albert Galloway Keller (Floyd N. House, American Journal of Sociology)
    -REVIEW: of Reminiscences (Mainly Personal) of William Graham Sumner (Edward Alsworth Ross, The Journal of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY: William Graham Sumner "On the Concentration of Wealth" (Bruce Curtis, The Journal of American History, Mar., 1969)
    -ESSAY: William Graham Sumner and the Problem of Progress (Bruce Curtis, The New England Quarterly, Sep., 1978)
    -REVIEW: of American Masters and Contemporary Sociology. I. William Graham Sumner by Donald W. Calhoun (Social Forces, Oct., 1945)
-ESSAY: William Graham Sumner, Social Darwinist (Richard Hofstadter, The New England Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Essays of William Graham Sumner. Volumes I and II. (August B. Hollingshead, American Sociological Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Social Science Theories of William Graham Sumner (L. L. Bernard, Social Forces)
    -ESSAY: "The Survival of the Fittest is our Doctrine": History or Histrionics? (Robert C. Bannister, Journal of the History of Ideas)
    -ESSAY: The Moralist Rigorism of W. G. Sumner (Robert B. Notestein, Journal of the History of Ideas)
    -ESSAY: Two Representative Contributions of Sociology to Political Theory: The Doctrines of William Graham Sumner and Lester Frank Ward (Harry Elmer Barnes, American Journal of Sociology)
    -REVIEW: of William Graham Sumner by Bruce Curtis (Robert C. Bannister, The Journal of American History)
    -ESSAY: Law and Social Change: Sumner Reconsidered by Harry V. Ball; George Eaton Simpson; Kiyoshi Ikeda (American Journal of Sociology)
-REVIEW: of Summer Today: Selected Essays by William Graham Sumner with Comments by American Leaders, edited by Maurice R. Davie (R. H., The New England Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise: A Study of William Graham Sumner, Stephen J. Field, and Andrew Carnegie edited by Robert Green McCloskey (Fritz Redlich, The American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise: A Study of William Graham Sumner, Stephen J. Field, and Andrew Carnegie. by Robert Green McCloskey (Edward C. Kirkland, The Journal of Southern History)
    -REVIEW: of Sumner Today: Selected Essays of William Graham Sumner with Comments by American Leaders, edited by Maurice R. Davie (Robert C. Angell, American Journal of Sociology)
    -REVIEW: of Sumner Today by Maurice R. Davie (Robert E. Park, American Sociological Review)
    -ESSAY: Literary Aspects of American Anti-Imperialism 1898-1902 (Fred Harvey Harrington, The New England Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Essays of William Graham Sumner (Pitirim A. Sorokin, The New England Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Essays of William Graham Sumner (William Seal Carpenter, The American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW: of Reminiscences (Mainly Personal) of William Graham Sumner (P. A. S., The New England Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of William Graham Sumner: Sociologist (Harris E. Starr, Journal of Social Forces)
    -ESSAY: Two Representative Contributions of Sociology to Political Theory: The Doctrines of William Graham Sumner and Lester Frank Ward (Harry Elmer Barnes, September 1919, American Journal of Sociology)
    -REVIEW: of Social Darwinism: Selected Essays of William Graham Sumner edited by Stow Persons (Harry V. Ball, American Sociological Review)
    -REVIEW: of American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise: A Study of William Graham Sumner, Stephen J. Field and Andrew Carnegie by R. G. McCloskey (D. W. B., The English Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise; A Study of William Graham Sumner, Stephen J. Field and Andrew Carnegie by Robert Green McCloskey (Guy Howard Dodge, The American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW: of American Conservatism in the Age of Enterprise: A Study of William Graham Sumner, Stephen J. Field, and Andrew Carnegie by Robert Green McCloskey (Vaughn D. Bornet, The Western Political Quarterly)

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