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The Forgotten Man is the title of an article that is composed of a compilation of two essays from the eleven written by Graham Sumner in the course of January 1883, in response to an invitation from the Harper’s Weekly. The article is centered on the theme of the relations between employees and employers. It has undertones of capitalism and its adverse impact on the employees or laborers, albeit from a sociological point of view. The main message in the article is that while the society feels it prudent to assist the good-for-nothing paupers in the streets who sit and wait to beg for their livelihood, it must be known that the losers and adversely impacted by such actions are the laborers who produce the capital used. It is an empirical finding that proves the economic principle of pareto optimality. It is these laborers, who are simple, independent and hardworking that Sumner refers to as The Forgotten Man.
Sumner states that capital is a force. His argument is premised on the idea that if one wants to assist a pauper or beggar, then they can do so by themselves. He refers to such people as A and B with the forgotten man being C. Legislators and philanthropists have the capacity of directly assisting paupers without having to take the proceeds of laborers through laws and legislations, which make it mandatory for employees’ income taxes to be uses towards providing for this group of people within the society. According to Sumner, economic and political growth within a country is good. However, such growth must be accompanied with virtues for it to be effective and with positive results to all members of the society. True liberty must accompany economic and political growth.
Excerpts/quotes/positions of Sumner
One interesting quote is, “Now who is the Forgotten Man? He is the simple, honest labourer, ready to earn his living by productive work.” Secondly, I was also interested in his position that whatever is taken for assistance to the paupers in the streets begging for consumption, involves robbing off the laborers who produce it. Thirdly, I also agree with Sumner’s position that when talking about liberty and civil rights it is important to always view it as a function of two parties. Fourthly, Sumner’s assertion that civil order and virtues must accentuate economic and political growth for positive outcomes is highly agreeable. Fifthly, Sumner presents that most laborers are independent and work in silence even as they are exploited and infringed upon. It is a true argument because in many countries’ governments introduce salary cuts and taxes or levies on the pays of employees who just comply without any clamor against such impoverishing legislations.
While it can be truly argued that Sumner has tendencies of a political libertarian, his main message is that governments and employers should not always forgot the plight of employees and laborers in the quest for philanthropic services to the paupers in the community through social transfers or corporate social responsibility programs.
From this article, I believe the future of the American society at large is in people working for their livelihood. I believe the future of the American society is in rewarding hard work and limiting on social transfers and hand-outs to those who do not work. A socially-responsible citizen would, thus, feel encouraged to always fork for a living and help make labor lucrative. I believe that in the future, the American governments should strive to labor and employment lucrative and attractive. Let laborers not remain The Forgotten Man.