A Barbaric Ideal

Conwell, Russel H. What You Can Do WIth Your Will Power. Harper's.

WHEN in the course of social evolution, we shall have emerged from barbarism and shall have come to believe, what we have long preached, that no man is enriched by what he has, but only by what he is; that is to say, when we shall have become convinced, as a people, that beyond immediate necessities there are no values but spiritual values — then what shall men think of Twentieth Century America?

If such a time ever comes, the book here listed will serve as a most damaging bit of evidence against us; for it epitomizes our low social ideals and our blatant vulgarity as few books have done in so small a space, because it is offered to the young men of our time as the veritable gospel of “success.”

What is success, according to this gospel? To be a millionaire!

“Success,” Mr. Conwell assures us, “has no secret.” All one has to do to “succeed” is to make up one’s mind to become rich, force all one’s attention in that direction, and the rest follows as a natural consequence. Why, out of 4,043 American millionaires, all but 20 started as poor boys! Think of it — poor boys! “Neither heredity nor environment, nor any obstacles superimposed by man can keep you from marching straight through to success.”

Alas, how little this man understands the meanings of words. This is not only a silly doctrine, but a vicious one. Any student of psychology and sociology knows what heredity and environment can mean, and do mean in a majority of cases. Furthermore, even if wealth were indeed the supreme good, the proposition that it is possible to all is an absurdity. The wealth of the world is not great enough to make every individual a millionaire, or even fairly well to do.