That utility and scarcity, and these alone, are the factors which give value to a thing, whether its utility consists in its power to satisfy wants directly or indirectly, that is, whether it be an article of consumption or a factor of production, is now perhaps sufficiently clear. That the factor of scarcity creates the necessity for economy is also fairly obvious. That it is the source also of the conflict of human interests out of which most of our moral and social problems grow may not be quite so obvious, but the following considerations will show it to be true. The fact of scarcity means that man has wants for which nature does not spontaneously provide. This in turn implies a lack of harmony between man and nature, which it is the purpose of productive industry to restore.

That phase of the disharmony between man and nature which takes the form of scarcity gives rise also to a disharmony between man and man. Where there is scarcity there will be two men wanting the same thing; and where two men want the same thing there is an antagonism of interests. Where there is an antagonism of interests between man and man, there will be questions to be settled, questions of right and wrong, of justice and injustice; and these questions could not arise under any other condition. The antagonism of interests is, in other words, what gives rise to a moral problem, and it is, therefore, about the most fundamental fact in sociology and moral philosophy.〖Cf. “The Economic Basis of the Problem of Evil,” by T. N. Carver, in “Harvard Theological Review,” Vol. I, No. 6.〗

This does not overlook the fact that there are many harmonies between man and man, as there are between man and nature. There may be innumerable cases where all human interests harmonize, but these give rise to no problem and therefore we do not need to concern ourselves with them. As already pointed out, there are many cases where man and nature are in complete harmony. There are things, for example, which nature furnishes in sufficient abundance to satisfy all our wants, but these also give rise to no problem. Toward these non-economic goods our habitual attitude is one of indifference or unconcern. Where the relations between man and nature are perfect, why should we concern ourselves about them? But the whole industrial world is bent on improving those relations where they are imperfect. Similarly with the relations between man and man; where they are perfect, that is, where interests are all harmonious, why should we concern ourselves about them? As a matter of fact we do not. But where they are imperfect, where interests are antagonistic and trouble is constantly arising, we are compelled to concern ourselves whether we want to or not. As a matter of fact, we do concern ourselves in various ways; we work out systems of moral philosophy and theories of justice, after much disputation; we establish tribunals where, in the midst of much wrangling, some of these theories are applied to the settlement of actual conflicts; we talk and argue interminably about the proper adjustment of antagonistic interests of various kinds, all of which, it must be remembered, grow out of the initial fact of scarcity—that there are not as many things as people want.

That underneath all these disharmonies there is a deep underlying harmony of human interests is the profound belief of some. But this belief, like that in a harmony between man and nature, is not susceptible of a positive proof. It rests upon philosophical conjecture—and faith. To be sure, it is undoubtedly true that most men, even the strongest, are better off in the long run under a just government, where all their conflicts are accurately and wisely adjudicated, than they would be in a state of anarchy, where everyone who was able did what he pleased, or what he could if he was not able to do what he pleased. This might possibly be construed to imply a harmony of interests, in that all alike, the strong as well as the weak, are interested in maintaining a just government. But the argument is violently paradoxical, because it literally means that interests are so very antagonistic that in the absence of a government to hold them in check there would be such a multiplicity of conflicts, wasting the energies of society, that in the end everybody would suffer, even the strongest. This is an excellent argument in favor of the necessity of government, but it is the poorest kind of an argument in favor of the universal harmony of human interests.

Fundamentally, therefore, there are only two practical problems imposed upon us. The one is industrial and the other moral; the one has to do with the improvement of the relations between man and nature, and the other with the improvement of the relations between man and man. But these two primary problems are so inextricably intermingled, and they deal with such infinitely varying factors, that the secondary and tertiary problems are more than we can count.

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