Until the rise of modern capitalism, the possibility for most people of establishing a family and of rearing children depended on the inheritance of a home and land and the necessary tools of production. What later enabled those who did not inherit land and tools from their parents to survive and multiply was the fact that it became practicable and profi table for the wealthy to use their capital in such a way as to give employment to large numbers. If “capitalism has created the proletariat,” it has done so, then, by enabling large numbers to survive and procreate. In the Western world today, the effect of this process is, of course, no longer the increase in a proletariat in the old sense but the growth of a majority of employed who in many respects are alien and often inimical to much that constitutes the driving force of a free society.
The increase in population during the last two hundred years has been made up mostly of employed workers, urban and industrial. Though the technological change that has favored large- scale enterprise and helped to create the new large class of clerical workers has undoubtedly assisted this growth of the employed section of the population, the increasing number of propertyless that offered their services has probably in turn assisted the growth of large- scale organization.
The political significance of this development has been accentuated by the fact that, at the time when the dependent and propertyless were growing most rapidly in numbers, they were also given the franchise, from which most of them had been excluded.
The result was that in probably all countries of the West the outlook of the great majority of the electorate came to be determined by the fact that they were in employed positions. Since it is now their opinion that largely governs policy, this produces measures that make the employed positions relatively more attractive and the independent ones ever less so. That the employed should thus use their political power is natural. The problem is whether it is in their long- term interest if society is thereby progressively turned into one great hierarchy of employment.
Such a state seems to be the likely outcome unless the employed majority come to recognize that it would be in their interest to ensure the preservation of a substantial number of independents. For if they do not, we shall all find that our freedom has been affected, just as they will find that, without a great variety of employers to choose from, their position is not as it once was.