« AnteriorContinuar »
But legislation has many successes, as well as failures, to its credit. In the sudden changes of conditions caused by the modern industrial system resort to legislation for means of readjustments has been essential. The system of workmen's compensation in relation to industrial accidents is an example of successful legislation. As Dean Pound has said:
Legislation is something we must have; and yet admittedly it is most unsatisfactory in practice. How to make it take account of the legal background on which the courts will project it when they come to apply it, how to insure that all the interests have been, as it were, inventoried and valued and delimited so as to secure the most that may be with the least friction and the least waste, is a problem of social engineering calling for as great an equipment of science and as much creative resource as any problem of electrical or mechanical engineering that has been solved in whole or in part through the research carried on in our highly endowed laboratories.
We need to study systematically and scientifically the law itself, its action, and the limits of its efficiency. Instead of merely deciding what we want to do and seizing what seems to be the first club with which to beat it into society, we need to consider what we may reasonably expect to accomplish through legislation, and for what we must look to other means. We must recognize that even then all novel legislation is after all but an experiment which must be subjected to the test of experience for a determination of its value.
Scientific study is as much needed in the field of law as in any other. By this I mean the scientific study of law and human conduct itself, not the taking of a few biological or medical facts, and by a purely hypothetical extension of them to the field of human conduct, attempting to explain all the phenomena of crime. We have seen attempts to maintain that all criminals are insane, that all criminals are feebleminded, and what not; that crime is a disease. The phenomena of crime are too complex to be explained by any such single-track and simpleminded theories. It is only by long-continued and methodical collection and observation of the facts, and then the patient and thoroughgoing study of them, that we can arrive at anything like scientific knowledge of criminal law. Meantime we shall do best if we stick closely to traditional experience, innovating only step by step and bearing in mind that of our innovations many will have to be discarded for one that proves its value by the test of experience. It is so that social values have been and must be built up. And this is true in the field of crime and criminal law, for crime is purely and essentially a social manifestation. No more senseless phrase was ever coined than "antisocial" as applied to crime. We are altogether too prone to overlook this social nature of crime and to look at it as pertaining solely to the individual, as due to the individual criminal's depravity, disease, or perverseness. We need to remember that crime is a social construction, a part of a scheme of social values evolved by the life of society. We are too apt, in trying to study it intensively, to isolate it in our thinking from the social whole of which it forms an integral part. The more we investigate the evolution of law-and this includes criminal law-the more clearly we see that it has specialized itself out from a social whole of conduct
which included the total of what we now think of as law, morality, and religion. This specialization, which exists more in our efforts at logical thought than in the group phenomena themselves, has arisen in response to a need, but we must not carry it to an extreme. The age-old conception of crime was bound up with primitive religious and magical ideas, and developed coincidently with evolving religion and morals. It did not rest for its effectiveness solely on the force that society might apply to the individual. Not force, but order, the due and equal ordering that is justice, is the fundamental conception of law. Thus law becomes the expression of the sense of justice of the individual himself as a part of society, as other social institutions are the expression in the action of individuals of group consciousness. We weaken the institution when we emphasize too much the view of law as something imposed by force on the individual by the rest of society. This element of the legal order can only perform the function of whipper-in of the stragglers from the line of march of the social army. The main burden of sustaining the institution must be borne in subtler ways. Other social institutions, such as fashion, for instance, secure a large measure of conformity without it. Not a few who would not hesitate to violate some commands of the legislature will never wear a straw hat before the fifteenth of May or after the fifteenth of September.
If precepts deemed essential-apart from mere rules, whose content changes with time and occasion; rules, I mean, whose subject matter is indifferent so long as there is a rule on the subject—are to become effective they must be built into social habits. And for this something more is necessary than a mere legislative fiat. Something more is necessary than the mere approval of public opinion. In some way they must be tied in with those subtle social influences whose presence we recognize but whose operation we do not yet fully understand. They must enlist the support of the emotional forces which express themselves most clearly in moral and religious ways, but which permeate all social institutions. We need to talk and think less about enforcement of law and more about conformity to law. We need to think of sustaining the legal order not alone by political force, but by all other available methods of social control. For its improvement we must invoke education in the broadest sense of that term. And we must recognize that for the bettering of human conduct law is but one agency which must cooperate with, and needs the support of, all other agencies capable of working for that betterment. It is only as the criminal law can maintain liaison with and be supported by morality, religion, and all other practical agencies of social control that the administration of criminal justice can become reasonably effective.
HOW MUCH SOCIAL WORK CAN A COMMUNITY
Lawson Purdy, Secretary, Charity Organization Society
How much social work can a community afford? I was asked to attempt an answer to this question because I was supposed to have some experience in economic conditions and some knowledge concerning the wealth and giving power of communities. In the first instance the title of my paper was qualified by the proviso that the answer was to be from the economic point of view. The more I thought of the subject the more it was impressed upon me that the economic point of view is only one, and by no means the most important, point of view. The title was therefore modified so that I might be permitted to discuss the question both from the economic point of view and the social point of view. No one is competent to answer this question by a statement of how much, per capita, a community can give if it is minded to give; nor is anyone competent to answer a more important question: How much ought a community to give at any particular time and under any particular circumstances? Every community must put the question to itself: What is our capacity to pay for the benefit of others? and What is the need of those for whom the money is to be spent?
Everyone who knows anything about the United States knows that its capacity to pay varies greatly. In general, the southern states were ruined by the Civil War. Some have increased in wealth more rapidly than others. Some, with a large percentage of illiterates, obviously have a less capacity to produce wealth than some states in the North. For example, the census estimate for 1924 of the true value per capita of property subject to the general property tax is, in the state of Mississippi, $574; in the state of Iowa, $3,082; and in the state of Rhode Island, $3,523. The Financial Statistics of Cities for 1923 furnishes evidence of the relative wealth of cities. The per capita revenue receipts of New Orleans were less than $28; and of Detroit, $87.
The report of the National Bureau of Economic Research on income affords further evidence, not only of the relative wealth of different states, but also shows something of capacity to pay. In that study the Bureau has attempted to determine the per capita current income of the total population of each state; also the per capita current income of the non-farming population.
For 1919 the per capita income of the non-farming population in the state of New York was $928; in Michigan, $756; in Ohio, $738; in Nebraska, $694; in Iowa, $657. The Bureau has not only attempted to ascertain total per capita income, but also has calculated the distribution of that income. It presents a table showing what percentage of the population receives an income of less than $5,000 a year, and what proportion of the total income is thus received by persons receiving less than $5,000 a year. It is obvious that in general that state which has the largest per capita current income in which the largest percentage
of the people receive less than $5,000 a year and share among them the largest proportion of that total income is the state in which economic conditions are best. As anyone would expect, we find that in the state of New York there is the largest per capita income; but, on the other hand, we find, to the disadvantage of New York, that the smallest proportion of the people receive less than $5,000 a year and share among them the smallest proportion of the total. In the state of New York 3 per cent of the people have more than $5,000 a year and share almost 25 per cent of the total income, whereas in Wisconsin only 1.3 per cent of the people have more than $5,000 a year and share only 8.8 per cent of the income. Iowa and Nebraska are in about the same class, only 2.8 per cent of the people in Iowa and 2.6 per cent in Nebraska have more than $5,000 a year, and that small fraction shares somewhat less than 15 per cent of the current income among them.
The distribution of home ownership is generally regarded, and rightly regarded, as important evidence of the economic status of population. In Des Moines, Iowa, 51 per cent of the homes are owned by the occupants, a quarter of them free and clear. At the other end of the scale comes the city of New York, with 12.7 per cent of the homes owned by the occupants and 2.7 per cent free and clear. It would not be fair to let those figures stand without comment, for conditions in these two cities are so different, in that most of the people in Des Moines live in single-family houses, and three-quarters of the people in New York live in multi-family houses.
To indicate a condition of economic well-being it is not sufficient to show that per capita income is large. It is important that it should be evenly distributed. The figures I have given showing total per capita income and the proportion of persons who receive less than $5,000, together with the proportion they receive, are not, standing alone, complete evidence. It might be the case that a very small fraction of the people receive incomes so large as to destroy the balance superficially indicated.
We have another table which throws some additional light on this problem. In the state of New York 1 per cent of the people receive more than $10,000 per annum each, and share 19 per cent of the total; but in Wisconsin only of I per cent receive more than $10,000 a year, and share 4.7 per cent of the total. We may say with some certainty that these figures indicate a wholesome state of economic well-being in the state of Wisconsin. The conditions are about the same in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. This accords with our ordinary observation. The figures are what we would expect to find. If they were not, I should believe that there was something wrong with the statistical method and refuse to accept the figures. Statistics are not much good unless they furnish evidence to support what is in harmony with the observation of an experienced
I have been permitted to inspect a study of the volume and cost of social work in nineteen cities, prepared under the auspices of the American Association of Community Organization and the Welfare Federation of Cleveland.
This study divides the total income for social work in the nineteen cities into taxes, earnings, contributions, and endowment. There is a detailed analysis of expenditures, starting with a broad division into the amount expended for five purposes, entitled dependency, health, character-building, delinquency, and coordination. There is a chart which shows for each of these divisions of expenditure the proportion of income derived from earnings and income contributed by taxes, endowment, and contributions.
We have seen that communities differ materially in respect to the amount of average income and in respect to the distribution of that income, and that in some states there is a better condition than in others. Most people will agree that an ideal community would be one with a large per capita income and a very small number receiving more than the average and sharing a very small part of the total. In such a community one would expect a high average of education, intelligence, and character, both because these qualities are essential to the establishment of such an economic condition and because they would be the qualities which naturally would flow from such an economic condition. In such a community people could manage their own affairs and pay their own bills. They could insure themselves in some appropriate way against the ordinary hazards of life, such as sickness, disability, death, and against the natural disabilities of old age. In such a community they would have the best hospitals, and those hospitals would be supported by those who used them. Payments for health would be high. The earned income of the hospitals would be high and the unearned income low. In such a community character-building agencies would be many, and they would all be paid for by those who used them as, in large degree, are the activities of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. The expenditures would be large for clubs to meet all needs, for education and recreation for men, women, and children. Such opportunities would just naturally flow out of the needs and desires of the community, as country clubs and golf clubs just naturally arise in a rich suburban community.
The ideal condition in such a community would be the absence of any dependency, and there would be no need then for any fund to care for dependents. Delinquency would be almost non-existent, and no fund would be required to care for delinquents. Coordination is a necessity when various agencies exist for the service of others. In an ideal community, in which people served themselves through voluntary associations, a coordinating agency would have no work to do. Federations might exist, but they would be self-supporting.
Such an ideal community cannot exist so long as legal privilege exists. World-conditions affect us, but in the main we can control our own destiny. Social workers, as such, can do little to further sound economic conditions because evil economic conditions are produced by tariffs and taxes and laws which restrict the production of wealth and interfere with its natural distribution. As has been shown, some communities in the United States are nearer to the ideal than others. The influence of social workers may be potent for good or ill.