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12.: Cooperation: Closing Speech 1825 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part I, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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Cooperation: Closing Speech
MSS, Mill-Taylor Collection, II/1/3 (main part), and Connecticut College (conclusion). On the verso of the concluding folio (in Connecticut College) appears, in Mill’s hand, “Cooperative Society / speech on the Cooperative system.” Typescripts, Fabian Society. Edited by Harold J. Laski, under the mistaken title, “Further Reply to the Debate on Population,” Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, LXII (1929), 225-39, 466-7. Prepared for the second debate, on Co-operation, between the Utilitarians and the Owenites at the latter’s Co-operative Society in 1825. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
were i to reply successively to all the objections which have been advanced by different gentlemen in the course of the discussion, I should count too much both upon my own powers, and upon the patience of an auditory already wearied by so long a debate. It therefore gives me some satisfaction to observe, that those whom I cannot now stop to refute, have said, for the most part, nothing which was worth refuting, and that those of our adversaries who from their abilities have the strongest claim to be fairly met, are precisely those who have made us the greatest concessions. If there be any person in this room who has listened attentively, I will not say to our arguments, but to those of the Goliath of our antagonists,1 and who still persists in ascribing all the evils, or even the principal evils of society, to competition,—I may be pardoned for supposing that my reasonings can have little effect in altering a conviction, which has been proof against those of Mr. Thompson. I cannot however lose this opportunity of expressing my gratification on finding that there is one person in this Society who does not see in us the advocates of vice and misery, nor imagines that we must be the enemies of human improvement, because we differ from this Society, with regard to the means by which human improvement is to be attained. We are not the defenders of those evils which Mr. Thompson so feelingly deplored. We are not the advocates of the degradation of the working classes. We are not the advocates of negro slavery; nor does Mr. Thompson himself lament more deeply than we, that miserable thraldom in which the weaker half of our species are held, by the tyranny of the stronger, aided and encouraged by their own abject and slavish submission.2 But there is no question, I believe, in this room, about these evils: let Mr. Thompson condemn them as strongly as he will: he cannot condemn them so strongly that we shall not go along with him. Unless therefore it can be shewn that these evils are necessarily inherent in a system of individual competition, (which Mr. Thompson himself has acknowledged they are not) I shall take the liberty to dismiss them entirely from my consideration as totally irrelevant to the question.
It seems to be allowed by the most intelligent members of the Society, that a very great degree of happiness is attainable, under a system of competition: That it is possible to attain a good government under a system of competition,—that it is possible to obtain good laws, and a good administration of them; and lastly, that it is possible, under a system of competition, to give to the whole human race, a high degree of intellectual and moral education. It is also allowed, that under a system of free competition, combined with good laws, government and education, and with a due regulation of the numbers of the people, every labourer would enjoy the whole produce of his labour, with the exception of what he might voluntarily give up, to obtain a greater good: And this is the happiness which, by the admission of our opponents, is compatible with individual competition. On the other hand, it was asserted in my opening speech,3 and has not been denied, that the principle of cooperation, considered merely in itself, and unconnected with those other great changes to which I have alluded, would not afford an adequate remedy to one of the great evils which at present afflict the human race. By the principle of cooperation, I mean the community of property; the fundamental principle of Mr. Owen’s plan,4 and the only principle of that plan, to which I do not assent. The Cooperative system might, and according to its supporters would facilitate the attainment of good education, of good laws, and of good government, and likewise the regulating of population: but yet, the Cooperative system is not the same thing with good government, good education, good laws, nor a regulated population, and whatever may be the effect of these, is not the effect of the Cooperative system, farther than as the Cooperative system may render these things themselves, more easy of attainment. The Cooperative system would not take off the taxes; it would not take off the tithe; arrangements for education may be combined with it, but it is not itself education. All which the Cooperative system of itself can do, is to add to what the labourers already possess, the profits of stock and the rent of land. Now I proved in my opening speech, on data the correctness of which cannot be and has not been called in question, that rent and profits, which in the present state of society, being collected into large masses, make a vivid impression upon the imagination, and appear to be much greater than they are, do not really exceed one tenth of the produce; and if divided among those who already possess, with the exception of taxes, the whole of the other nine tenths, would hardly suffice to make a perceptible addition to their comforts, even if every man were to work as many hours a day as he does now, which it is not the intention of the promoter of the scheme that he should.
All idea therefore of that great and immediate addition which we were at first told was to be made to the comforts of every person, by going to live in a community, seems now, among the more intelligent members of the Society to be given up, and they rest their case chiefly upon the greater facilities which, in their opinion, the Cooperative system affords to the attainment of good education and government and to the regulating of population, and also upon the greater happiness which, according to their ideas, it would afford the means of enjoying, when good education and good government shall have been attained, and the population regulated.
It is to the last of these topics that I shall in the first instance advert. Mr. Thompson has favoured us with an enumeration of the evils which he considers to be inherent in every system of competition. I know not whether it will be expected that I should go over the whole list, and drive him successively from every position which he has taken up: but if I should not completely answer the whole of his arguments, I hope it will not for that reason be supposed, that I am shirking or evading any. An opinion, however erroneous, is much sooner stated than refuted. To point out inconveniences, a superficial glance is commonly sufficient. To lay open the mechanism by which those inconveniences may be remedied, or in their turn rendered instrumental to the production of a greater good, not only more labour, but much more time is requisite. And yet, Sir, if in addition to all the other things which I have to do, I were to bestow on the examination of Mr. Thompson’s propositions only as much time as he occupied in stating them, I leave you to judge when I should have done. I say this by way of apology for the imperfect state in which my arguments will be presented to you, but I hope still that I shall be able to give to those of Mr. Thompson’s propositions which most require it, a full and satisfactory reply.
He told us first that competition is incompatible with the full operation of the principle of benevolence. His manner of proving this was a remarkable specimen of the general mode of arguing which these gentlemen adopt. He seemed to think that the principle of benevolence is discarded whenever any other principle is brought to its assistance. The object, said he, of competition, is and must always be, exclusively the pursuit of wealth. He will not allow that there can be competition for any other purpose. And even your physician, horrible to relate! when he administers a medicine, or attends the sickbed of a patient, thinks more of the one, two, or three guineas which he is going to pocket, than of the honest fame which he may earn, or the service which he may render to a suffering fellow creature. There cannot be two stronger objections to a proposition, than first, that it is not true, and secondly that if true, it is nothing to the purpose. Both these objections seem to me peculiarly applicable to the proposition before us. With regard to its truth, I will appeal to an authority which Mr. Thompson cannot well dispute, since it is no other than his own. It is one of the accidents to which a long speaker is liable, that before he has got to the end of his speech, he occasionally forgets the beginning and blurts out the direct contrary of that which he had previously maintained with all imaginable emphasis, and with the fullest confidence. Thus in the early part of Mr. Thompson’s speech, it suited his theory, that there should not be competition for any thing except for wealth. Towards the close of his speech, when he came to treat of the supposed tendency of competition to occasion wars, it suited his theory that there should be competition for a great many other things besides wealth; because we know well that as every commercial country is interested in the prosperity of its neighbours, competition for wealth between two countries cannot exist. Competition, therefore, by his own admission is not confined to wealth: the truth is, that there may be competition for every thing—for good as well as ill: for fame and reputation, for the pleasures of beneficence, as well as for the pleasures of wealth. But suppose that as Mr. Thompson says, competition had for its object exclusively the pursuit of wealth. Eating my dinner has for its object exclusively the satisfaction of my appetite: yet is eating my dinner inconsistent with the practice of benevolence? Must we either renounce our virtues or our meals? I confess I never heard that the smallest eaters were observed to have the greatest share of benevolence, nor do I feel at all sure that it would add much to the benevolence of mankind, though they should unanimously determine to keep a perpetual fast.
Another of the evils which were declared inherent in competition is the difficulty of apportioning the supply to the demand. The producers, it is true, are sometimes at a great distance from the consumers and are forced to undergo the labour of production, while it still remains in some degree uncertain whether purchasers will be found to take off the supply. To me, however, it appears that these things always regulate themselves, and that if a commodity is produced at a great distance from the place where it is to be consumed, it is only because it is conducive to the purposes of human enjoyment, that every thing should be produced in that place which possesses the greatest natural facilities for its production. The evil is not an evil inherent in competition; it is an evil inherent in commerce, and unless commerce is to be proscribed, both individuals and communities must take the evil with the good. At present, Essex, from the fertility of its soil, supplies a great part of England with corn: the Welsh mountains, the downs of Sussex and Wiltshire, supply the best sheep, and other places the best wool: Northumberland supplies coals to the whole of England. Cornwall and Derbyshire supply tin and lead almost to the whole world. Would this be no longer the case under the Cooperative system? Would the inhabitants of London be compelled to dig for coals in Blackheath? If not, the producers must still be widely separated from the consumers. Of course, they would sometimes find that they had produced more than was wanted, and then they would lose something: but sometimes also they would find that they had produced less than was wanted, and then they would gain as much as they had lost before.
Some of the evils enumerated by Mr. Thompson, I am sure he must have placed inadvertently among the evils of competition. He spoke of wars, and of government loans, as the necessary consequences of competition: as if it was fair that competition should be charged with being the cause of those evils which are the effect of bad government. He also enumerated among the evils of competition, the liability of every individual to casualties, but he was also kind enough to inform us of a sufficient remedy—the practice of insurance.
I shall touch slightly on the next objection, the injury which the labourers sustain from the competition of machinery. After what was said by Mr. Ellis5 on a former evening, it will not be necessary for me to do more. The effect of machinery may be, to lower wages for a time; the effect of machinery always is, to raise them ultimately. By increasing the produce, it always and necessarily increases the demand for labour. When the spinning jenny was introduced there can be no doubt that it threw a number of cotton spinners out of employment—but look at its ultimate effects—where one cotton spinner found employment before the invention, there is now employment for thousands. The competition of machinery, therefore is to be dreaded by the workmen, only when from excessive population their wages are so low, that a slight depression brings inevitable starvation. If the market was understocked with labour, and wages were high, all would find employment with a very slight reduction. Where wages are low, they cannot bear the slightest diminution—where they are high, the labourers can easily submit to a temporary and trifling decrease for the sake of the great increase which is sure to follow.
If there is one argument on which the gentlemen of this Society lay greater stress than upon any other, it is the tendency of competition to make every man the rival, and consequently, the enemy of every other man. If therefore I can shew that their grand argument is good for nothing, absolutely for nothing whatever, it will probably be admitted that I have done a great deal towards discrediting all the others: Among the labourers who are the great mass of mankind, there would be no rivalry whatever, if population were properly regulated, for there would be employment enough for all much more than all could do: and it cannot be said of the labouring man that he is like the dog in the manger, who envied others the possession of that which could be of no use to himself. Among merchants and other capitalists there would undoubtedly be under the best system of competition a slight degree of rivalry. But it is proper that the gentlemen of the Cooperative Society should know, that there are two sides to the question. Under the Cooperative system, would there be trade, would there be interchange of commodities, or would there not? If not you are reduced almost to primitive barbarism. But if one Community trades, and exchanges its commodities with other communities, there would still be competition—and if competition must of necessity be a cause of rivalry, there would still be rivalry—it would only change its course—man indeed would be no longer the rival of man, but one body of men—one community would be the rival of another community. Mr. Thompson, to whose candour we are indebted for some of the most important admissions which ever were made by one antagonist in argument to another, has acknowledged that there would be competition among communities—but observed that such competition would produce but little rivalry because, said he, no one would depend upon it for subsistence—every one would be able to gain an easy subsistence by his labour. In these views I fully concur. I agree with Mr. Thompson that where every one can gain an easy subsistence by his labour, competition would very rarely produce such rivalry as could be a cause of mutual hostility. But I humbly submit that the benefit of this admission is not confined to Mr. Thompson. I too claim a part of it for my side of the question. Mr. Thompson says, Under his system, every one could gain an easy subsistence by his labour, and therefore there would not be rivalry. Well: under my system every one would gain an easy subsistence by his labour, therefore under my system also there would not be rivalry. And now I appeal to any candid hearer, whether there ever was a more complete discomfiture than has been sustained by this unfortunate doctrine, that competition is a cause of mutual hostility among mankind.
But if all the evils attributed by these gentlemen to Competition were as real and substantial as they are shadowy and chimerical, it is not by these alone that the question is to be decided. Though one side of the question were apparently made out to demonstration, it is not by looking only to one side of the question that truth is to be attained. The question is not whether a state of Competition is exempt from evil, for we know that evil is mixed up in every human lot; but whether Competition or Cooperation on the whole affords the best chance for human happiness: and it is not by a review of the evils of the Competitive system that this great question can be decided, but by a fair comparison of the evils of the Competitive and the evils of the Cooperative system.
If I were to deal with Cooperation as Mr. Thompson and the other gentlemen of this Society have dealt with Competition—if I were to display and make the most of every petty inconvenience which does or may under any circumstances flow from it, I might easily make the catalogue appear as long as I pleased. As however I do not consider this mode of treating the question to be quite fair, and as moreover it is not every one who has either the physical power or the inclination to speak for two hours, I shall content myself with recapitulating four of the principal disadvantages to which the Cooperative system appears to me to be liable.
I object, then, to the Cooperative system,
First, because it prevents the powers of production which the society possesses, from being called into full activity. It must be obvious that if at present, when a man’s whole happiness and even his very existence depends upon his labour, and when his reward is in the exact proportion of his industry, there are yet so many who are idle, it would be far worse when his subsistence would be nearly independent of his labour—when he could live upon the labour of others, when his reward would be equally great, whether he worked much or little, where he could gain nothing by industry, attention and skill, and lose nothing by any degree, except the greatest and most unusual excess of idleness, inattention and stupidity. In such a state, the less any man individually worked, the more bitterly he would inveigh against all others for not working enough, and the community would be a scene of perpetual bickering among those who, idle themselves, would never fail to discover that their neighbours were still more so. It is assumed, however, that all this would be counteracted by public opinion—I say assumed because, although all experience is against it,—although there is not one of these Cooperative gentlemen who in walking from Charing Cross to Temple Bar with a silk handkerchief in his pocket, would trust to public opinion to keep it there,—yet nothing has been said to reconcile this startling assertion with probability, nothing to gloss over its utter inconsistency with all that is known of human nature, except merely that from the nature of the communities people would live together—as if we had never seen such a thing as a town or a village. In justice to the Cooperative Society, I am bound to suppose, that it would not trust to public opinion alone—that there would be a graduated scale of punishments, from something trifling, to expulsion from the society. In this manner, you might, it is true, compel them to work, but how? You substitute punishment for reward. For the cheering and stimulating impulse of hope, you substitute the degrading and chilling influence of fear. You would have none of that labour which is sweetened by the consciousness that every moment of it adds something to the enjoyment of the labourer. Your labourer would not labour that he might produce, and producing might enjoy—he would labour that he might not be driven from the common table of the community—that the society might not reject him from its bosom. His labour would be like that of the slave, submitted to only because he dares not to disobey, and quitted eagerly at the first excuse, or opportunity for evasion. It is not easy to calculate how great a deduction would be made from the sum of human happiness by this one circumstance. After all, the power of punishment is limited. The utmost that you could wring from him is the performance of a prescribed task—a task which must be rated much below the capabilities even of the weakest and most unskilful member of the community. It might be possible that by a vigilant supervision,—the performance—the careless, indolent, and imperfect performance—of such a task might be extorted from the unwilling labourer. Beyond this there are a few whom no circumstances can cause to slacken in the pursuit of great and commanding excellence. These might labour; they would labour alone.
It will be said perhaps that this would only be true if they are ill educated and that it is your intention that they should be well educated: to which I reply, My argument does not suppose that they are ill educated, it only supposes, that they love themselves better than they love the community of which they are members. If you say that you have a plan of education by which they will be made to love the public better than themselves, I have no objection whatever to your trying, though I should be very much surprised if you were to succeed: but thus much is clear, If it be possible to make men thus perfectly benevolent, it can then be of no consequence what are their social arrangements, for they will be perfectly happy under all—or if there be any difference, it will be in favour of that system which leaves the greatest possible freedom of action. The best possible form of government under such circumstances would be anarchy.
I object, secondly, to the Cooperative system, because it affords no sufficient security for the good management of the concern. I have shewn in what manner the love of ease would operate upon the individual members of the community. The managers of the concern, whether it be managed by the whole or by delegates from the whole, would be as fond of their ease, as the individual of his. Nothing more is necessary to render inevitable all the evils which the worst possible management can entail. It is a well known proverb, that what is every body’s business is nobody’s. Witness the most enlarged experience in the case of Joint Stock Companies. Mr. Thompson rather injudiciously quoted these institutions as a partial exemplification which modern times have introduced, of the cooperative principle. He could not have hit upon a more unfavourable specimen of the principle, since there is no experience more universal than that which proves, that the affairs of a Joint Stock Company are always ill managed. Except when the business to be performed is one of mere routine, or where, as in the case of Assurance Companies, the guarantee of numbers is requisite, or where a larger capital is required than it is usually in the power of individuals to command, there never yet was a Joint Stock Company which stood its ground for any length of time against individual competition.
I object, thirdly, to the Cooperative system, because in its very nature it is a system of universal regulation. I am not one of those, who set up liberty as an idol to be worshipped, and I am even willing to go farther than most people in regulating and controlling when there is a special advantage to be obtained by regulation and control. I presume, however, no one will deny that there is a pleasure in enjoying perfect freedom of action; that to be controlled, even if it be for our good, is in itself far from pleasant, and that other things being alike, it is infinitely better to attain a given end by leaving people to themselves than to attain the same end by controlling them. It is delightful to man to be an independent being. The savage of the forest would be the happiest of men, could he reconcile the comforts of civilized life with the preservation of his independence. This indeed is impossible—he must sacrifice a part—but this sacrifice is an evil, and can only be submitted to, for the sake of a greater good. So conformable is this to the general sentiments of mankind that benevolent enthusiasts, in their plans for new modelling society, have hitherto erred in giving too much freedom of action; their day dreams have been dreams of perfect liberty. It was reserved for the nineteenth century to produce a new sect of benevolent enthusiasts, whose day dreams have been dreams of perfect slavery. If it be true of men, as Mr. Thompson says of women, that they are not the less slaves, because they are well fed and clothed,6 I have Mr. Thompson’s authority for saying, that it does not follow, that control is not an evil though it may be exercised for no purpose but for the good of those who are controlled. In order to shew that control is an evil, it is only necessary to shew that it is control—and this surely is an objection which it requires very strong reasons, on the contrary side, to overrule.
Lastly, I object to the Cooperative system on account of the expense of the outfit which, on the shewing of its supporters themselves, would amount, in buildings alone, for Great Britain and Ireland, to upwards of 900 millions sterling. Even this, it may be thought, is not too great a sacrifice for the happiness of eighteen millions of human beings. Assuredly not—but when there is a sacrifice to be made, it becomes us to look round, and see in what manner that sacrifice may be made most effective to the end: and to hesitate before we adopt a plan, which requires to be sunk at the beginning a sum much more than sufficient to give the best possible education to every inhabitant of the United Kingdom.7
It now appearing that it is not possible to obtain under the Cooperative system more happiness than is compatible with individual Competition it remains to consider the other plea of its supporters—that it enables the same end to be attained in a shorter time.
If it were true as Mr. Thompson says that under the Competitive system you cannot raise the condition of any until you raise the condition of all, there would be some foundation for this plea. But this is a mistake. It is true that if wages were high in England, and low in Ireland, and you suffered the Irish to come into England, they would prevent the English labourers from deriving any benefit from their prudence. But the remedy is plain—keep the Irish out—I do not see any thing in this proposal which can startle a member of the Cooperative Society. You would keep all intruders out of your communities—You have only to suppose all England covered with communities; foreigners would then be kept out as a matter of course, unless in such numbers as the communities might find it advantageous to admit. Why then should you object to our doing what you would yourselves do without hesitation? But you will perhaps tell me that if the labourers do not come to the capital, the capital will go to the labourers. This would be true if it necessarily followed, because the labourers in any country are ill off, that the profits of stock are high, but experience shews that in those countries where the people multiply without restraint, it is necessary for their food to cultivate such bad land that the profits are reduced just as low as they are any where else, and the landlord alone derives any benefit from the degraded state of the bulk of the population. In what country are wages higher than in America? If it were true that capital moves from the countries where wages are high to the countries where they are low,—we should find it moving from America to all other parts of the world, instead of which it moves from all parts of the world to America.
The supporters of the Cooperative system tell us, that they have the advantage over us in this respect, that they make happy as many as they can get hold of without waiting till prudential habits are become general. One thing, however, seems to have escaped them, that in proportion as they make some happy, they aggravate the misery of the remainder. The condition of the labourers depends upon the ratio between population and capital: if therefore it be necessary for the establishment of a community to take more from the capital of the country than you do from the population you deteriorate the condition of the great mass of the people. Now this is exactly what you must do. Two hundred thousand pounds are said to be required for the establishment of a community. This capital previously afforded annual subsistence to at least ten thousand labouring men and their wives, and families. Unless therefore you can take all these into your community you will inevitably throw a part of them upon the wide world. I believe it does not enter into your plans to admit more than 2000 persons into a single community. You must at once see, therefore, that you would absorb all the capital in the country, long before you had provided for one third part of the labourers, and when Great Britain at length should be covered with communities, two thirds of the population would find themselves left out—they would be forced into the sea, if they had not previously died of starvation, or raised a rebellion, and subverted the establishments of that system which may justly be denominated a plan for making one portion of the community happy, at the expense of the remainder.
It is clear therefore that until the people shall first have raised their wages by limiting their numbers, it is impossible for the Cooperative system to have more than an experimental existence: and the question is, whether a few experimental communities would sufficiently secure the happiness of the very few persons who could possibly take advantage of them. Provided then, that you could supply motives to work—provided that you could supply securities for the good management of the concern; and provided you could be sure of placing at the head of every one of your Communities a number of enlightened men by whose means you could secure for your inhabitants a good education and without whom the chances are that they would have a very bad one—Provided, I say, that you could do all this, I grant that you would secure to the inhabitants of the community a very great degree of happiness. But I cannot grant that the question turns upon these considerations alone, and I cannot think that it would prove much in favour of the Cooperative system, although you should be able to prove that by the aid of enormous funds, and with the zealous assistance of a large number of individuals, you could produce more happiness than we can produce without any assistance and without any funds—or that it were granted to us to have under our direction for the good of humanity a sum equal to that which must be squandered on the buildings alone of one single community—By the employment of such a sum partly in education and partly in working upon the press, I would undertake in twenty years to effect a reform in the government of my country—to effect a reform in its laws—to effect a reform in its Church establishment—and to possess the whole of its population with a knowledge of the means by which they might keep the market constantly understocked with labour, and have the power of regulating their wages as they pleased. I cannot but wonder that persons so benevolent as the promoters of the Cooperative system undoubtedly are, should think of converting to the exclusive and the very precarious advantage of a few, funds which are sufficient to secure the greatest happiness to the whole—and still more am I surprised that coming forward with such a proposition they should call themselves and fancy themselves the friends of universal equality.
I should be sorry if it were thought that I am an enemy to Mr. Owen’s system. I am an enemy to no system which has for its object the amelioration of mankind. Destitute as it appears to me of all the securities which are necessary for the right working of the social machine, I cannot but consider it to be a hazardous experiment—yet hazardous though it be, if that chance, such as it is, were the only chance for human nature; if there were not another and a far surer foundation for our hopes, no childish dread of that which is new, merely because it is new, no selfish anxiety to keep others miserable only that I myself might by comparison appear more happy, should restrain me from devoting my whole life to the pursuit of that one only chance—So long as the slightest glimmering of hope remained, there is no exertion, no sacrifice which I would spare rather than renounce those cheering anticipations of the indefinite improvement of mankind which I have cherished from my cradle, and which it is probable I shall carry to my grave. But this is neither the only nor the best chance—we are not yet forced upon such drastic remedies. There is a principle in man, far more constant and far more universal than his love for his fellows—I mean his love for himself: and without excluding the former principle, I rest my hopes chiefly on the latter. Let self-interest be or be not a principle which it is possible to eradicate from the bosom not of one man only but of all: no one at least will deny that it is a powerful principle—in the present state of things almost an all-powerful one; and if so it is surely not very wise to court opposition from it, when you might have it on your side. Let things be so arranged that the interest of every individual shall exactly accord with the interest of the whole—thus much it is in the power of laws and institutions to effect; and, this done, let every individual be so educated, as to know his own interest—Thus by the simultaneous action of a vast number of agents, every one drawing in the direction of his own happiness, the happiness of the whole will be attained. But the Cooperative system—look at it on its best side—I can regard it only in the light in which I should consider a man who with prodigious labour and at the peril of his neck should employ himself in attempting to scale a twenty-foot wall, when by casting his eyes about him he would have seen a wicket gate through which he might have effected his passage without danger or difficulty.
As this is probably the last time that I shall open my lips in this Society, I am anxious, before I sit down, to express my acknowledgments for the kind, indulgent and courteous manner with which the members of the Society have listened to the expression of opinions, which must at first have appeared repulsive to their minds, and which many of them, I am certain, at first believed to be the opinions of none but the lukewarm friends or concealed enemies of mankind. None of them I am persuaded at this moment continue to think so. I am sure that we part in kindness—I am sure that we all of us think better of one another than when we began—and if this were the only good effect which the discussion produced—if it had not, as I hope it has, added to our stock of knowledge, the time it has occupied could not in any view be considered to be time thrown away. You will continue to labour in your vocation; we shall labour in ours, and though we differ in the means, we all have in view the same great end, the improvement of the human race. For myself, I shall always recur with pleasure to the thought that I may in some small degree have contributed to set right in your estimation a science which does not deserve the obloquy which you have too readily cast upon it: and to prove to you that in the bosoms even of political economists there may burn as pure a flame of benevolence as even the torch of Mr. Owen can have kindled in yours.
[1 ]William Thompson. For Goliath, see I Samuel, 17.
[2 ]Mill is alluding to Thompson’s Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political, and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery (London: Longman, et al., 1825).
[3 ]See a fragment of it in No. 10.
[4 ]See Owen, Report, pp. 50-1.
[5 ]William Ellis (1800-81), another close associate of Mill’s in these years, was an underwriter for the Indemnity Marine Insurance Company.
[6 ]Thompson, Appeal, p. 67.
[7 ]The part of the manuscript in the Mill-Taylor Collection ends here with cancelled words that run to the end of f. 12v: “It appears therefore to me conclusively established that the Cooperative system has no pretensions”; the concluding part, in Connecticut College, begins at the top of f. 13r.