Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
"Incredible! Marvelous!" shouted Kingscourt. "They actually pay you a bonus for reading the papers!"
"Did you never hear what incomes the great newspapers used to have? Though their salary lists and cable tolls were very heavy and always growing, they constantly reduced their subscription price. The largest papers were sold at less than the cost of production, and yet the profits of the publishers were always on the increase. The principle of reimbursement to the subscribers out of profits was already implied in that situation. You will find the same thing here, except that the lion's share of the owners is divided among the members of the co-operative newspaper enterprise.
"The editorial staff of the newspaper is also its business department, and you may be assured that these highly trained workers-whose labors alone make the printed page worth the reading-are better off now than formerly. It is they who earn the money for the subscribers, and even the man in the street realizes that. Our papers work Unceasingly to broaden the education of the public. They instruct, but they also entertain. And they serve the practical needs of business no less than the ideal ones of art and science. Our journalists nowadays work in a very different spirit, knowing that their services to the public are recognized and appreciated. And how very seriously they take their duties-since the responsibility for the policy of the paper rests now directly upon themselves."
"That sounds alluring," interjected Friedrich, "but it seems to me that the co-operative newspapers must be slavishly subject to the moods of the public. Being entirely dependent for their livelihood upon their readers, the editors must try to be complaisant, to flatter the public, to pander to its passions."
"And if that were the case," replied David, "would it be anything new? Didn't just those things happen in the old days? Were there not editors who kept their ears close to the ground, who suppressed this and exaggerated that in accordance with what they thought their readers wanted? And, at that, they could never be sure of hitting the mark. It is different here. At their annual meetings, the newspaper co-operatives not only render reports, but the organized reading public lays down the lines of the policy for the following year."
"Horrible'" cried Kingscourt. "Meetings with a hundred thousand subscribers!"
"What are you thinking of, Mr. Kingscourt? The subscribers elect one or two hundred representatives. The procedure is simple. Candidates announce their desire to stand for election in the newspapers themselves. Each subscription slip has a coupon attached which serves as a ballot. Five hundred or a thousand votes are cast for one delegate to the annual meeting. Candidates announce themselves in some such formula as this: 'I desire to advocate this or that policy at the general meeting. Those who favor it are asked to vote for me.' "
"Very good," replied Friedrich. "The public receives ample accounting, then. But I still do not see that this serves the public good on the whole. New ideas and new movements are rarely understood at first. You might as well ask children whether they wish to study as inquire of the public whether it desires to have its views broadened or improved your public opinion co-operative must necessarily debase the popular intelligence to the extreme. I mean to say that it is bound to turn the thoughts of the people either toward reaction or toward revolution. They will be deaf to the value of new things or blind to the value of old ones. The benefits of spiritual leadership, which can come only from gifted individuals, are lost to you."
"You did not allow me to finish, Dr. Loewenberg. I did not say that the co-operative newspaper is the only form known here. The co-operative society merely succeeded the old newspaper enterprises which, when you consider the amount of their invested capital, their expensive technical equipment, and the high cost of news-getting, were really very large industrial undertakings.
"But we also have newspapers founded and conducted by private individuals. I myself have such a newspaper, which I need in a struggle I am carrying on in the New Society. My chief Opponent, Rabbi Dr. Geyer, has a paper of his own also. I shall not keep my paper going after the campaign is over, but he will probably do otherwise, since he lives by these bickerings. There are several other privately owned newspapers, recognized as such, which serve various purposes. If a new tendency or a creative spirit appears among us, every opportunity exists for influencing public opinion. Men have to fight hard for their convictions here just as they used to do elsewhere. They must be steadfast, courageous, persevering in defending them. And that is not bad. Believe me, gentlemen, our mutualism has not made us the poorer in strong personalities; the richer, if anything. Here the individual is neither ground between the millstones of capitalism, nor decapitated by socialistic leveling. We recognize and respect the importance of the individual, just as we respect and protect the private progeny which is his economic foundation."
"Thank Heaven for that," commented Kingscourt. "I thought you had abolished the difference between mine and thine."
"If we had, nothing of what you have seen and are to see here would have come into being," returned David. "No, we were not so mad as all that. We did not abolish the spur to work and effort, discovery and invention. Talent must have its due reward; effort as well. We need wealth so that we may tempt the ambitious and nurture unusual talent.
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