[Alfred B. Westrup, "Co-operation," Twentieth Century, November 3, 1892, 8-9.—This is a very interesting short piece by Westrup, showing a slightly different side of his individualist anarchism than in many of his writings, where the Mutual Bank Propaganda was his primary concern.]
BY ALFRED B. WESTRUP.
Much has been written on this subject, and many are the efforts put forward to establish "cooperation" of one kind or another, but so far as there is any hope of settling the economic question, none of the experiments now being carried on can possibly accomplish it.
The one essential principle upon which true cooperation must be based, is disregarded to a greater or less degree in every enterprise that bears the name. It is the one great wrong that underlies the social system of the past and present, and is the cause of the economic and political evils we see and complain of.
Reformers have gone on heedless of the warnings so numerous up and down the highways of reform; warnings of defeat and failure which, like mile posts, mark the blasted hopes along that beaten path.
They have all deviated from the broad principle of liberty!
Had they not lost sight of this principle in dealing with questions of equity—individual interests—defeat would not now be the result after so many costly efforts to overcome the obstacles that beset the pathway of labor.
It is the strict adherence to this principle that is destined to banish conflict in our mutual relations and render them harmonious, abolish injustice, and consequently put an end to poverty. To accomplish this, no better method can be devised than the plan well known to individualists as having been first suggested by Josiah Warren in his work entitled "True Civilization," and which he called "Equitable Commerce." His fundamental principle was the "sovereignty of the individual." As a necessary consequence he deduced from this that "cost should be the limit of price."
It is strange, notwithstanding the evils of the ordinary method of cooperation or joint stock have been so clearly demonstrated by Warren and Andrews that it should still be practiced. Investigators: and students of the economic or labor question should carefully read these works. If they do they cannot fail to realize the correctness of this position: All who have means should never let it pass out of their control; instead of a cooperative store being started or contributed to by those who purchase, subscribing to its stock, in which case their means pass into the control of other parties, such store should be started and carried out by a few cooperators among themselves, as we propose, each furnishing the stock in the department which he manages. In this case if he makes any mistakes it is at his own cost, and he alone is the sufferer. If he does not do the hest that can be done for the public, competition will very soon reveal the fact. If he does well the public will be satisfied, and he will be largely patronized, receiving good compensation for his services. If either of the cooperators is dissatisfied, he can move his stock of goods elsewhere. If all the rest are dissatisfied with one, they can buy him out or vote him out, in which case he would have to move.
This method contemplates, as will be seen, the elimination of interest and profit—compensation for the use of capital—and institutes service as the only element entitled to reward, by selling all goods at actual cost and charging time for waiting on customers.
The goods or samples are displayed so that customers have access to them and can learn price, quality, width, weight, etc., from the ticket or label of each. When once this plan is understood, the purchaser will make out a list of what he or she wants, knowing that the less of the salesman's time he takes up the more he will save on his purchase. A little experience will show them how they can save from ten to thirty per cent on their supplies; and the merchant who is kept busy all day at fair wages need not deplore the loss of "profit."
The ordinary reader—those not familiar with these ideas—will say perhaps: If a man "makes" ten dollars a day, what difference does it make whether you call it profit or wages. The difference consists in this: The "time store " upon the cost principle will outsell ten ordinary stores. The merchant or salesman will be kept busy selling, not higgling about price, quality, etc., and selling at prices that the ordinary stores cannot compete with. Under this system some goods could be retailed at less than what the ordinary merchant pays for them. It is only by a thorough investigation that one can be convinced of the enormous advantages that can be attained.
To those who are familiar with the pamphlet already alluded to, and Stephen Pearl Andrews's "Science of Society," these ideas are well understood. They constitute with such the only hope of bringing to an end the cannibalistic civilization that threatens us with a deluge of blood.
This system needs but to be initiated to spread rapidly No power can hinder its growth. A few individuals can do more to advance the cause of justice by carrying out what we propose than all the efforts of all reformers heretofore combined.
After this system has been initiated, the mutual bank would become necessity, and the conditions for its establishment would be mature.
I shall be pleased to correspond with any who desire further particulars. We are about to start such an enterprise, and there is no reason why others should not start in other localities.
Box 204, Lake City, Minn.