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March 3–4, 1888

Dr. Richard T. Ely of Johns Hopkins University, a leader of the progressive movement and a pioneer political economist, gave a series of lectures on socialism. Discussing “industrial society” in his first lecture, Dr. Ely saw its development to come, by means of intellectual elevation of the masses, in three phases, from despotism through a “republic” sharing both profit and capital to a “democracy”—“industrial self-government.” His second lecture discussed the nature and aims of socialism, a means, Dr. Ely said, of transfoming a nation’s political organization into an economic industrial organization. He traced this process, said a writer in The Vassar Miscellany, “back to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.

Dr. Ely’s third lecture “took up the strong and weak points of Socialism. One of the strongest, Dr. Ely considers to be its rendering possible by distribuition of income the utilization of inventions and discoveries without entailing, as now, so large an amount of suffering on the part of skilled artisans who are thus deprived of their customary occupation…. Reforms must be gradual, and Socialism, if ever dominant, will be so only in the far future. It has, at present, no prospects at all…. The great work of Socialism thus far has been, Dr. Ely thinks, to promote reflection on the question as to how the life of the industrial classes can be raised to a better and higher plane and to teach men to view all great problems from the standpoint of the general welfare.”

A founder, in 1885, of the American Economic Association and later serving as its president, Dr. Ely taught at the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1892 until 1925 and at Northwestern University from 1925 until his retirement in 1933.

The Years