from Michael Flürscheim
Clue to the Economic Labyrinth
Chapter XI – Socialism
The Author’s Evolution
In 1890 I concluded Rent, Interest, and Wages with the following apostrophe to individualism: “Poor Individualism! Thou hast made one single mistake, but it was a deadly one. Thou hast forgotten that a free development of individual enterprise is only possible if the base of life and of effort, if mother earth, is freely open to all who want to exert their powers in the infinite store-room she offers to humanity. If it is yet possible, retrace thy steps; reform at the last hour by opening to all men the only field in which individual freedom can be exerted—land. If thou canst not take this decision very soon, farewell to thee, and welcome Socialism! Death is hard, and life is precious, even if it be life in a prison.”
Twelve years have gone round since I penned these lines, twelve years of hard work in the field of economics and sociology. More and more I emancipated myself from the hypnotising influence of Progress and Poverty—a powerful influence indeed, as many thousands have similarly, experienced—attributable not only to the beauty of the diction, but to the one-sidedness which the book shares with most products of deductive reasoning.
Not that there exists a strict demarcation line between
Deduction and Induction.
There can be no deduction without some facts which suggest it, while induction would lose its way in the labyrinth of facts if it did not follow some Ariadne clue which enables it to pick up its way. The distinction, therefore, is not one of kind, but one of degree. The reasoner who is so much dominated by his theory that he either ignores disagreeing facts or involuntarily modifies them until they fit his mould belongs to the army of deductive philosophers. The auto-suggestion of his idea sometimes becomes so powerful that it reaches the strength of that professor’s fanaticism who proclaimed: “So much the worse for the facts!” when these unpleasant knobbly things would not fit into his theories.
On the other hand, the careful grubber after facts often finds life too brief to assort what he has discovered; and should he accomplish some subordinate classifications, he never reaches a general principle. The Darwins who for thirty years withhold a grand generalisation, enunciating it only when they have found it corroborated by the vast majority of facts—they are few and far between. In them philosophy produces its highest incarnation, through the marriage of its two systems; they are the de-inductive reasoners.
Power of Auto-Suggestion
It is instructive to read in Henry George’s biography, written by his son, how his attention was first drawn to the importance of the land question. “Absorbed in my own thoughts, I had driven the horse into the hills until he panted. Stopping for breath, I asked a passing teamster, for want of something better to say, what land was worth there. He pointed to some cows grazing off so far that they looked like mice, and said: ‘I don’t know exactly, but there is a man over there who will sell some land for a thousand dollars an acre.’ Like a flash it came upon me that there was the reason of advancing poverty with advancing wealth. With the growth of population, land grows in value, and the men who work it must pay for the privilege. I turned back, amidst quiet thought, to the perception that then came to me, and has been with me ever since.”
The deductive philosopher had found a great truth whose brilliancy blinded him from thenceforth to anything else lying around it, especially as his want of linguistic knowledge limited him to the comparatively narrow field of English-speaking countries. He wrote me from the steamer Servia, August 28, 1890, on occasion of a missed rendezvous with me in Italy: “My dear Flürscheim, … We went through Europe almost like deaf and dumb people; but it was still very interesting. …” Wonders as he accomplished in the specialty once chosen, he could never see beyond it; nor could he easily recognise errors he had been led into. From Milan, on his return journey from Australia, he wrote: “… The Australian trip was a good and successful one, and our movement is in good shape there, though where it will come first into realisation I am yet undecided. You have many friends among our people in Australia, and a number of the active single-tax men are converts to your theory as to the death of interest. I am as far as ever from seeing it, and all my rumination strengthens the belief that you and they are in error; but the theoretical difference makes no practical difference between us.”
This one-sidedness, this difficulty to liberate himself from ideas that had once taken possession of him, was counterbalanced by that wonderful concentration and auto-suggestion which rendered his books and his personal addresses so magnetic that he made the land question what it has been ever since: the battle-field on which no peace will reign until final victory has been won, until humanity has reconquered its patrimony. No wonder that such a truth could thus carry along a man of his worth, so that he could not see beyond it, when even one of his most devoted disciples, who had the best facilities to obtain the most varied experience in the field of economics, needed ten full years before some other very important features of the great social problem began to develop themselves before his mental vision.
The interest question and that of commercial depressions had been seen by me from another point of view than that of Henry George, before I wrote the passage with which I concluded Rent, Interest and Wages; but gradually I began also to observe the full significance of the currency problem. The great doings of co-operation then attracted my attention to the necessity of centralising distribution. The American trusts finally taught another important lesson. Free competition had gradually eventuated in the most extensive monopoly the world ever saw; subjection to a few plutocrats proved to be the latest phase of individualism. Compared with this individualism.
The Socialist Prison
which had alarmed me began to look like a paradise of freedom. But the outlook was wonderfully changed. I had climbed mountain after mountain, and, from the last summit, I now gazed with enchanted eyes upon a glorious prospect. I beheld the land belonging to the people, and let to individuals for a compensation—paid to the community—proportionate to the value of the temporary privilege enjoyed by the user. I saw a means of exchange—based on the products of labour, and accessible to each worker according to his requirements— free from the fetters of monopoly. I saw demon interest fallen a victim to the now unfettered productivity of labour, and at labour’s disposal I saw untold wealth held for the mere cost of maintenance. I saw co-operation attending to the work of distribution and production, doing away with the waste inherent in the present system, and abolishing the war between profit maker and wage earner. I saw political reforms which—instead of merely substituting the subserviency to self-elected masters, so-called representatives, for subserviency to masters who were little worse, but who had more unpleasant names—made the people real masters of the State. Instead of the man glibly capable of electrifying large audiences while absolutely incapable of managing national affairs, I delighted to see the best man performing the work of administration. Then I wrote The Real History of Money Island, presenting my dream as the outlook upon the true individualism of the future. But, to my amazement, I could not distinguish this individualism from socialism—from the socialism of the most advanced socialists. What had become of that tyrant, that prison-owner, the State, of whom I had been so much afraid?
A Different State
Intelligent socialists do not dream of ever giving such powers to the State as now organised, even in its most democratic form: the Republic with the proportional vote, the referendum and the initiative. They realise that a shoemaker knows more about the organisation of shoemaking than a lawyer, whose smart loquacity has procured him a State office; and the State they look forward to will find practical men well versed in their special branches of work to organise and supervise their respective departments: a State composed of all trades, including farmers and the professions, centralised in unions to which every honest worker is to have free admission, and which organise and direct production, in their several departments, electing a central governing body to attend to interests common to all, especially the fixing of wages and selling prices in the last resort. Such a central governing body would represent the whole of the community, and would certainly know better how to legislate in departments made familiar to them by lifelong training than the most experienced of our present parliamentarians. A system of this nature would at once give a significance to public administration of production and distribution quite different from the impression in the minds of those who cannot dissociate this idea from their experience of public bodies as at present constituted.
The closer I looked at the once so terrible socialism, the more I laughed at my former fears; and I hope that when this chapter has drawn to a close the reader will share with me the relief due to a just recognition of the truth.
The Introduction of Socialism
Before I go into some of the arguments usually trotted out against socialism, I want to discuss the important point of its introduction, practically the only point on which I might disagree with many of our socialists. With them I am ready to look at socialism, or even communism, as the ideal of the future, the roof of the building; but in opposition to most of them I think it will be safer and more conducive to good results if, while keeping before us the grand ultimatum, we unite all our forces to fight for the immediately attainable. Our present possibilities have been depicted in the preceding chapters. A victory on the lines there mapped out will launch the world upon full socialism before it is better aware of it than I was myself in regard to the progress I had made in my convictions.
Step by Step
There is a great deal of sound philosophy in the advice given by Henry George to American socialists: “We both want to reach the Pacific. You think that we shall only reach it at Yokohama, while I believe that we shall already be there at San Francisco. Well, all I have to say is: let us take the next train by the Pacific railroad and go to San Francisco—which is on your way, too; If you are right, I shall go on with you; and if I am right, you can save the trouble of going farther.” Not a single one of the reforms advocated in the previous chapters is out of the direct line of socialism; and socialists might the more willingly help towards their attainment the more certain it appears that through tickets to their goal are not obtainable, and that nothing can be lost by booking from station to station.
At least, this is true for the socialists of Greater Britain. As far as I can estimate the trend of affairs, the progress there will be, as the political advance of the motherland has been, on the line of evolution. The evident headway made by the land nationalisation idea on the one side, and by co-operation on the other, together with the object-lessons partly already given and partly expected from the colonies—especially our New Zealand—secure to this section of Anglo-Saxondom the prospect of a gradual and peaceful advance to the desired end. The direct fight for socialism is absolutely hopeless here, and only likely to strengthen the reactionary elements that construct bugbears so as to impede advance.
In this process of evolution I feel sure that, before a decade is past, New Zealand will possess a rational currency—a reform sure to be precipitated by our necessities—and will have made great progress in the direction of land nationalisation, if it has not entirely obtained it. The victory is certain if all progressive men unite their forces. Such advancement would produce the most favourable effect, not only on the other colonies, but also on
where everything seems ripe for an entirely new departure in political organisations. The true Liberals are gradually learning the lesson that the people begin to prefer downright Toryism to a false Liberalism—always ready with big and well-sounding words, but as reluctant as the most bigoted Tory to grant fundamental social reforms, especially land nationalisation. Liberalism once delivered from these Whig elements, once really progressive on social reform lines, will be victorious, and the people will stand behind their representatives. Woe to the House of Lords that then dares to obstruct the way!
In two directions Great Britain is well prepared: the centralisation of distribution and land nationalisation. In the one field, the co-operation societies, with their Wholesales and Cooperative Union, have done a noble work of organisation which only needs extension to the whole department of distribution, putting an end to the private trader.
In the other field, the prevailing system of land administration in Britain has smoothed the pathway for centralised State ownership. The British farmer, manufacturer, middleman, professional, live and work usually on other people’s land, the rent of which flows into the pockets of a small number of landlords. The organisation now prevalent in regard to the administration of the land has taken such a hold on the thoughts and habits of the people that, as far as the land users at large are concerned, the direct difference—if the State chose to take over the land—would only be the substitution of one landlord for another. The same officials might continue to supervise land tenures. The former agents of the landlords might collect the rents for the State; so that nothing need to change except the name of the party for whom the collection takes place. The people as a body would be the landlords, instead of a few monopolists.
I am sorry that, excepting Scandinavia and Switzerland, I cannot be as hopeful for the European Continent, and for the United States. In Europe, the people have first to gain the political influence necessary to achieve their purpose against the opposition of monarchy and oligarchy. In the United States a Conservative constitution affords numerous obstacles to any thorough reform; and a partial—perhaps, ere long, a complete—monopoly of production and distribution gives to the plutocracy such immense power of corruption and of control over life and death that a sanguinary revolution seems the only way left open.
Such a prospect would be sadder if the hope could riot be entertained that the worst dangers behind this method of progress, exemplified by the great French Revolution, in this case carry along with them their own remedy. In France, in 1789, the people were not prepared for the construction required after destruction had been effectively accomplished. Old historic France was pulled down, but the people had not the remotest idea what to erect in its place, and so, under another name, despotism revived; in fact, never was really moribund for a single day. Until recently, the people of the United States were just as unprepared for practical social reform. The method of confiscation, by means of a tax, unfortunately advocated by Henry George, injured the immediate prospects of land restoration in America as much as his propaganda otherwise furthered the cause. But during the last few years the outlook has entirely changed. What George did not accomplish in one direction has been attempted much more effectively by a number of powerful intellects in another. I do not mean the Bellamys, Gronlunds, Debbs, Herrons, etc. They certainly have done a great deal of good, but the real work has been performed by the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Pierpont Morgans, Schwabs, and other trust organisers.
They have been much attacked, these trusts, and the late presidential candidate of the democratic party, Mr. Bryan, so little understood the trend of the times that he made the fight against the trusts one of the principal planks of his platform. I have to acknowledge that I, too, shared the blindness of the progressivists of the United States, and expected much good from his election. I think we were mistaken. M’Kinley’s demon, Hanna, was the great banner-bearer of reform— like Mephisto in Goethe’s Faust—”the spirit which always wants the bad, and brings forth the good.” It would have been downright folly to disturb the best work done for humanity within the nineteen centuries which have wheeled round since the greatest Socialist’s Sermon on the Mount was delivered—a Work which, since M’Kinley’s victory, has been lustily going on. The figures are growing so fast that, before this book appears, the l0 billion dollars capital mentioned in the following newspaper excerpt will no doubt have been far exceeded. The steel trust alone, which has arisen since the article was published, counts $1,100,000,000 capital—water included. It took the place of Carnegie’s steel trust, with the capital of $250,000,000 mentioned.
“The moment a traveller lands in America he comes under the control of the Trust. The newsboys who boarded his incoming vessel, the telegraph office whence he cables his safe arrival; the baggage porters, and the cabs are all Trust controlled. His hotel is probably a ‘free house,’ but 75% of what he eats and drinks therein is Trust property. The Booth Trust, with its £1,000,000 capital, supplies the fish; the £11,000,000 Biscuit Trust bakes his biscuits; whilst the £4,000,000 Cigar Trust, and the £2,000,000 Match Trust, give him him his after-dinner smoke. The £30,000,000 Flour Trust provides his breads the £4,000,000 United Fruit Trust his desert and vegetables, the £3,000,000 Dairy Trust his milk and butter; one of the two great Whisky Trusts, whose capital aggregates £36,000,000, provides his grog; the £15,000,000 Candy Trust, and the £25,000,000 Sugar Trust, supply him with all manner of sweet things; his feet sink into the luxurious wares of the £10,000,000 Carpet Trust; his journeys are made in the cars of the Pullman Trust, which glide almost noiselessly over the rails supplied by the £50,000,000 Carnegie Steel Trust. In short, in a land which boasts an aggregate of; £1,950,000,000 of Trust stock, it is not surprising to find that the grip of this octopus-like creature is upon every saleable object, from the baby’s bottle to the centenarian’s coffin.”
The saving in the cost of production thus made is enormous. The tin trust alone is said to have forced 15,000 men into idleness; for, by concentration, their labour could be dispensed with. Schwab, the manager of the great steel trust, though getting $800,000 salary, expects to save $10,000,000 in the management. “Highly specialised as the different works were before, they will now become more specialised still; for each in future will only undertake that class of product which its natural conditions and plant capacity render it capable of turning out at the lowest possible cost. In every way, the trust is independent of outside manufacturing industry. It possesses its own mines, its own railways and steam shipping. Even to a certain extent it provides its own customers, since such parts of its organisation as the American Bridge Company, American Steel Wire, American Hoop, National Tube, and other users of foundry steel comprised within the organisation, will take up a considerable portion of the main production.” The number of commercial travellers and salesmen dismissed in consequence of trusts is quite enormous, and yet only a beginning is made. The time will probably come when all the trusts of the country will unite, or, at the least, will have one central office attending to common affairs, especially in the department of distribution. Why feed millions of useless middlemen? Why not have central department stores in every township—on the plans of the Whiteleys, Wanamakers, Jaluzots, etc.—in which the products of the trusts will be sold, to the exclusion of all other middlemen? The latter will be easily killed off by the did dodge of the monopolists, the refusal to supply outsiders with goods, and by underselling them until they are ruined if they buy elsewhere. The majority of the workers and middlemen of all sorts now employed in production as well as in distribution will then be on the pavement—a very large number already are—and the yearly profits of the trust owners will amount to untold figures.
Of course, the purchasing power of all these workers and middlemen will be gone, and there will be a decrease in the domestic sales, as the rich monopolists cannot even begin to exhaust their share. But what of that? The high prices obtained at home will pay for all general expenses, and the surplus can then be manufactured so cheaply that it will be easy to undersell the world, and thus get rid in foreign markets of what is not saleable at home. The workers of these countries will suffer? “Certainly; but that is not our business,” say the trust magnates. “Let us only hope that they will not quite desert the shrine of St. Cobden, an evangelist whose gospel is more or less followed still, even in protectionist countries, which nowhere as yet have dared to draw the last consequences of a protective policy.”
After this invaluable service has been performed by the great organisers, the time will have come for the definite recognition that the trusts own the country and its inhabitants, and that national salvation lies in reversing the relation by
The People’s taking Possession of the Trusts.
Such an expropriation may be carried out by peaceful methods. The great captains of industry, who, within a few years, have done a work which the kind of men usually brought to the top by universal or any other kind of suffrage could not have perfected in centuries, may see that, after all. a man can wear only one suit of clothes at a time, and can eat only from three to five meals a day. Then they may admit that the salary, or pension, which the people willingly proffer for the wonderful organising work they have performed for the socialist State would amply provide them with all the necessaries and luxuries they can possibly enjoy; while the pleasure of living among a happy and thankful people, and the gratitude of a posterity which will revere their names above those of the great political leaders, certainly would exceed any happiness accruing from flunkey-ism. They may see this, and thus at the eleventh hour a peaceful evolution may yet be attained; but I fear that the lust of power and the dictates of ambition and vanity will predominate. Another anti-slavery war will probably be fought; not between two geographical sections as before, but between horizontal ones— a conflict between the upper and lower social strata. Anyhow, things cannot go on for long as they do. Increasing productive power without a corresponding consumption results in scarcity of employment and ruin. Only where the masses, as trust owners, are allowed to consume what they produce can that be deemed a blessing which otherwise is an unmitigated curse.
In Chapter IX. I have sketched the methods by which the people could accomplish the same result through co-operation; but victory on such lines is hardly to be hoped for.
Precedents in the Domain of Political Union
do not point that way. Almost without any exception, nations have been forged into homogeneity by powerful despots. To these kings, emperors, tsars, or whatever title they assumed, was such work allotted by Omnipotence, and only after the work is performed, after the warring tribes have been welded into a nation, the time comes when this nation is ready to thank its founder or his successors for the great service rendered, and to proffer them handsome retiring pensions. Unfortunately, they are generally too arrogant to accept such terms; and, as a rule, much blood has to flow before the business is concluded.
God’s ways often appear incomprehensible to human understanding. History’s pages reek with cruel deeds of violence; and only when, from some lofty pinnacle of time, we look back upon age-long experiences, can we discern the wonderful plan underlying the whole hitherto inexplicable scheme. The growth of
The Russian Empire,
for instance, has certainly not followed humanitarian lines, nor is the despotism of one irresponsible head the form of government free human beings should judge most desirable; but let us recollect the period when hundreds of little khans, kings, and sultans tyrannised over that immense area, killing each other’s subjects, driving away their cattle and destroying their crops. They were more dreadful despots in their little principalities than any one of the Peters, Ivans, Pauls, Alexanders, and Nicolases. Now there is one despot, but he allows no other despot’s competition. Pax Romana reigns over immense parts of the earth’s surface where strife and murder were supreme.
The Despotism of Socialism
Whatever be the gate through which victorious socialism will make its entry—whether through the foundation of a state within the state, through either co-operation or trust centralisation, until co-operation has conquered the state, or until the trusts have been annexed by it—one fear of individualists will prove groundless: that of despotism.
It is not the least amusing among the many vagaries of the strange transitory period through which we are passing that it is usually the despot, and those belonging to his coterie, who paint with vivid colours the despotism to be expected from the socialist state. It is not the poor factory worker or agricultural labourer working as hard as a slave, and with the submission of one, who trots out this bugbear; but the employer, to whom present conditions have given powers resembling those of the slavedriver. Or the landlord and capitalist, who, without responsibility of ownership, own their miserable tenants and debtors as thoroughly as if they were mere chattels. Or those who in books and newspapers take up the cudgels for capital. But more of this anon. I first wish to point out that there will not be the least need for the socialist state to extend her undertakings beyond distribution, transportation, communication, and the production of the necessaries of life—leaving the production of luxuries to free competition. The painter of portraits and landscapes may be as severely left alone as the performer on the ‘cello or the writer of a novel. But even in other branches of production full liberty might be granted. Let them compete, if they can, after the land belongs to the State, and after the means of exchange is accessible to everybody, and after the victory of co-operation in all its forms. There will not be much to fear.
Nobody forces us to take the railroad or to make use of the post office. We have the most unlimited privilege to walk and to send messengers, but the fact that anybody performs distantland journeys on foot or by any conveyance but the railroad has become more and more exceptional; while not one man in a hundred ever sends a messenger beyond the distance of a few miles where the post office performs the same service for a penny. Under such conditions, there is no reason why seemingly irreconcilable parties might not work together after all. Even the most extreme communist does not like to sacrifice the liberty of the individual to work as he pleases, but he prefers dependence to the freedom of starving. A comfortable and certain living as a little wheel in a large machine seems to him preferable to uncertainty of employment as the price of independence—if we can call by this name the present state of things which forces him to become a part of a private machine. Hunger and cold, which now force him to undertake the most repulsive work, are more efficient means of coercion than the whole police force of the socialist state. Is it astonishing that under such circumstances he does not share the aversion in which the well-to-do hold communism? An aversion readily understood in the case of men to whom a comfortable position gives a certain amount of independence from which they are loth to part. For the very sake of this independence, however, the classes may be counselled to look at the question for once from the point of view of the masses, of the poor and down-trodden, who form the majority, and whose will must finally prevail.
Lord Gobbleland and the Communist
Does Lord Gobbleland really believe that his railings against those miserable agitators who want to make all men slaves of an almighty state have any chance of prevailing against the theories of one of these same agitators who is holding forth in yonder public-house to an audience of agricultural labourers? “They tell you,” the man is just saying, “that under communism you would be slaves. Well, what are you now? You work from sunrise till sundown as hard as you can, and you certainly will not work harder under communism. You have to obey unmurmuringly, or you will be without bread; and nothing worse could befall you under communism. But you now get 12 shillings a-week, just enough to keep you and yours from dying of starvation, with the poor-house as your only outlook in old age; whereas, under communism, when everybody will work as much as you, when all will work much less and with incomparably better conditions, you will get at least as much food, clothing, and pleasant shelter as the most fastidious of you will require, with comfortable provision for old age or sickness, besides the privilege of electing your overseer, Is that such terrible slavery?”
What will his lordship answer to this? Will he appeal to statistics to disprove the mere possibility of ever seeing such promises fulfilled? Statistics are against him; for a division of the actual wealth production of Great Britain would give something like £150a-year to each family; and £3 a-week would appear Golconda to the poor agricultural labourer with his 12 shillings wages whom the agitator is addressing. And the man will not stop even at that, but will tell his audience that if everybody, including his lordship, had to work for a living, and if there were no unemployed, but all were producing wealth with the best machinery, and distributing the goods by the best methods, the £3 could easily be raised to £20 a-week, to £1,000 a-year. But suppose that statistics of any kind will not produce much effect on such a public, will they not at once understand the question: “Men, would you be better off or worse off if you could keep as your property all the wheat you are sowing and reaping with your hands, all the sheep you are tending (wool and everything), the cows you are milking; if you were allowed to burn your own bricks and build your own houses on free land?” Does his. lordship believe for one moment that he could ever change the conviction of the men that such a state of things, however it were brought about, would be infinitely preferable to the existing one?
No, my dear Lord Gobbleland, there is but one chance for you to escape from this hated communism, and that is: to lend your help to bring about conditions which will make free individualism as palatable to your dependents as it is to you. Only a fundamental social reform can do that, and parting with your broad acres will certainly be one of its principal features.
We have seen in the preceding chapters that this can be accomplished without communism. If it could not be done, I should decidedly share
John Stuart Mill’s Opinion
expressed in his Principles of Political Economy (Book IL Chap. I., par. 3): “If, therefore, the choice were to be made between communism with all its chances, and the present state of society with all its sufferings and injustices; if the institution of private property necessarily carried with it, as a consequence, that the produce of labour should be apportioned as we now see it, almost in an inverse ratio to the labour—the largest portions to those who have never worked at all, the next largest to those whose work is almost nominal; and so, in a descending scale, the remuneration dwindling as the work grows harder and more disagreeable, until the most fatiguing and exhausting bodily labour cannot count with certainty on being able to earn even the necessaries of life; if this or communism were the alternative, all the difficulties, great or small, of communism would be but as dust in the balance.” And farther on:
“The Restraints of Communism would be Freedom in Comparison
with the present condition of the majority of the human race. The generality of labourers in this and most other countries have as little choice of occupation or freedom of locomotion, are practically as dependent on fixed rules and on the will of others, as they could be under any system short of actual slavery.”
The extraordinary division of labour introduced into all branches of production has made each worker a mere wheel in a gigantic machine, a fact not at all affected by the system of enrolling the managers of the machine. Certainly no one can truly believe that the transfer of this management to men elected by the workers would result in less liberty than our existing method of government by absolute self-elected masters, whose decision allows no appeal, who at any time can deprive the worker of employment: can even, where trusts or blacklists exist, altogether cut him off from any chance of earning his bread by the work he has been brought up to. How little, after all, coalitions of workers can accomplish where they are faced by a union of employers, experience has repeatedly shown—as, for instance, in the great English engineers’ strike. Where trusts dominate over a whole department of production, the chances of trades’ unions are certainly still further minimised, as has just now been proved by the failure of the American steelworkers’ strike. In considering this question, the upper classes are only too inclined to forget that for the masses there is no really free competition even now. As a general thing, the difficulty of finding another billet makes our employees more dependent than they ever could be under a socialist régime, which would at least allow their votes to influence the election of the manager. But, through the trusts, even the employers are one by one losing their independence. Not to follow the mandates of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, etc., spells ruin. The independent employer becomes the official of the trust, and is forced to obey orders just as strictly as the public employee in the socialist state. Even when not absorbed by the trust, he is dependent on the ever more exacting and less certain customer, and his position has become so precarious and unpleasant that the main endeavour of our sons is to find a good billet in the public service—which, however, does not prevent the same parties from declaiming against the absence of liberty in the socialist state. It would be difficult for them to prove why the employee of a state which provides work for everybody has less liberty than the State official of our day, whose billet is longed for by a number of competitors, anxiously anticipating the moment when his trembling hands shall lose their hold, with consequent subserviency to superiors. So we see that even the despotic communism put before us in such books as Pictures of the Future of Eugen Richter cannot be so very repellent to the masses, because it can hardly restrict any liberty of practical value, while it would at least ensure them a permanent competency. That this actually would be the case, and that the bogey of famines and general misery put forth by Richter exists only in the fancy of such blind leaders of the Manchester school, needs no proof after the calculation referred to in Chapter I., which shows that one single hour given daily by all who are capable of work—under a systematic organisation, without any waste—would provide all with the necessaries of life. An hour’s work ought to be got out of every man and woman, without any compulsion other than that of sheer tedium. Many of our well-to-do people devote part of their time to pleasures which demand greater exertions than most employments of paid workers, such as: mountaineering, hunting, deer stalking, rowing, yachting, cricket and football, coaching, etc., etc. This proves that work of some kind is imperiously demanded by our nature.
But abler pens than mine have often enough shown up in their real light objections of this kind, which, however justified they might be when looked at by the citizen of an |ideal state such as never existed, are certainly worthless as regards the actual world in which we live. Here the one stereotype answer can be given to all such detractors of socialism and its possible results. “And to-day? Are things not much worse?” When the disheartening picture of
is unrolled before us—of barracks for homes, uniforms for garments, messes; and even State-regulated amusements, ridiculous fancies though they are—let us ask the poor proletarian whether he would not prefer even this mode of living to the one he is used to. Barracks are better than slums, uniforms are preferable to rags, the mess is decidedly pleasanter than a private table around which the children vainly cry for bread, and even public entertainments are preferable to a private lack of amusements.
The following harrowing incident, which happened in beautiful Apulia, is related by Mr. Edward C. Strutt in the Monthly Review, under the title, “Famine, and its Causes in Italy”:
“Three young women from Allisto were brought before the Praetor of Ugento, charged with stealing olives on an estate belonging to the municipality. The pinched and starving features of the defendants, the eldest of whom was barely twenty-five, their ragged clothes, and their half-hopeful, half-despairing expression, excited the sympathy and pity of the kind-hearted magistrate, who, though unable to acquit them, sentenced them to the minimum penalty—viz., three days.
Then a tragic scene took place. Bursting into tears, the prisoners flung themselves at the magistrate’s feet, imploring him to give them the shelter of the prison for at least three months. With the touching ingenuousness of children, they told how the theft had been a preconcerted affair in order to escape the terrors which the winter (a particularly bitter one this year) held in store for them, and how they had even consulted a lawyer, who had planned the whole scheme, assuring them that, according to the Penal Code, they would be sentenced to three months, at the very least. And now the poor girls saw their dream of prison paradise, with its bed and blankets, and daily soup and bread, and meat twice a-week—a princely fare—vanishing like a mirage before them just as they thought themselves on the point of entering the blessed portals.”
People who regard the jail as an Eden from which they are debarred, will not be inspired by that horror for Richter’s barracks and messes with which well-fed, well-dressed, and well-housed gentlemen regard such accommodations.
Though the limitations of the second-class may appear unpleasant to cabin passengers, to the man from the steerage they will seem paradise. And Richter & Company seem not to remember that the immense majority of passengers in
The Ship of State
travel in the steerage, and not in the saloon. Do not let us forget also that this immense majority own the ship, and that they will not be for ever deterred from taking possession by the contention that it is impossible to give them all first-class cabins. They will reply, not without justice, that they do not claim cabins like the present first-class compartments; that an equal partitioning of the ship into a number of well-furnished cabins, with one good table for all, would certainly improve their position, however it might affect that of the present first-class passengers. Nor can they be frightened by the prospect of their subordination under the orders of the ship’s officers; for though these officers may not drink champagne with them as they now do with the saloon passengers, they certainly will be politer towards men who are the recognised owners the ship than they often are towards poor steerage folk.
Incentive to Exertion gone
Or what effect can be produced upon the poor proletarian when you tell him that communism would stifle the inducement to exertion because profit is no more obtainable, and that without this incentive progress will be arrested? He will answer like the servant immortalised by the German humourist, Fritz Reuter. The man called his master to account because of the insufficient and poor food he was getting, and the master defended himself by asking the Court whether beef and plums is not an excellent dish. The man replied: “Certainly, beef and plums is an excellent dish; but, gentlemen, I never get it.” Let us admit, for argument’s sake, that our wonderful progress in the arts of production and distribution has been brought about by the desire to gain.
What has this Progress done for the Masses of our Population?
Statisticians of weight, such as Thorold Roger, Beissel, Janssen, prove that their well-being is less than it was in the fourteenth century. They show that the average wage worker of our time cannot purchase as many necessaries of life as he could five hundred years ago, when production was yet in its infancy. It is true there are more recent periods that would give a relatively favourable aspect to our time; and optimistic statisticians of the Giffen and Atkinson type generally take such periods as standards of comparison. They quite ignore those statistics just referred to, which present the somewhat hard nut to crack: In those more remote times when the productivity of labour was not one-tenth as great as ours, why was the purchasing power of wages higher, and why were the workers comparatively well off? They pick out the worst times labour ever went through, and from the top of this refuse-heap they flap their wings, and crow lustily: “Workers, see how much better off you are; stop complaining, and things will improve still more!”
In his Problems of Poverty, John A. Hobson gives them this answer: “The period between 1770 and 1840 was the most miserable epoch in the history of the English working classes. Much of the gain must be rightly regarded rather as a recovery from sickness than a growth in normal health. If the decade 1730-40, for example, were to be taken instead, the progress of wage earners, especially in Southern England, would be by no means as obvious. The Southern agricultural labourers, and the whole body of the skilled workers, were probably in most respects as well off a century and a half ago as they are to-day. … Although a sovereign will buy more for a rich man than fifty years ago, it will buy less for a poor man. The prices of most of the comforts and luxuries of life have fallen considerably; but the prices of most of the necessaries of life have risen. The man with an income of £500 a-year finds he can buy more with that sum than he could half a century ago; for almost all manufactures and imported articles have fallen in price. But a family living on 20/- a-week spends a small fraction of their income on such goods. The prices which most concern them are the prices of shelter, of bread, fish, meat, groceries, vegetables, dairy produce, etc. Bread, sugar, tea, cloth is cheaper (see Life and Labour, by Booth, to see how little on the latter the very poor spend). Rent 150% higher, vegetables, milk, eggs, butter, cheese, coals, meat, oil, etc., are dearer; 20% is to be knocked off money value of wages to find real rise.”
What can it benefit the worker if he can buy cheaper carpets, objects of art, and other luxuries which are mostly only attainable by the wealthy? They are beef and plums to him. What would be of infinitely greater value to him than all these luxuries is
The Certainty of always finding Employment;
and this existed in a much higher degree in those distant days than in our over-production shrieking times. This question of permanent employment is very often lost sight of when wages of different periods are compared. The weekly wage may have risen, and yet the yearly income may have decreased; 30 weeks at 30 shillings wages yield a smaller income than 52 weeks at only 20 shillings.
Then there is the working time, in regard to which we certainly are not ahead of the past. Eduard Sacher, in Die Gesellschaftskunde als Naturwissenschaft tells us (p. 277) that in the eleventh century the working time in mines was only 4 hours. Thorold Roger believes that in the fifteenth century the average working day in England was 8 hours only.
But even if all this were disputed, I am sure that the most optimistic statistician will not pretend that incomes and purchasing power of the masses have kept pace with the productivity of labour. The productivity of labour—after taking into account the labour spent on the building of the necessary machinery—has increased at least ten-fold within the last 500 years. Therefore, if instead of earning less, workers (including intellectual workers, who, relatively, are most underpaid) had to-day twice the purchasing power of that distant period—and the most optimistic statisticians dare not go beyond this— they would only obtain one-fifth of what they would receive if productive power were taken as a measure. I say “productive power,” potential production, not actual production. I maintain that without working any longer hours or harder, they could have at least a five-fold income, if all waste of power, through forced idleness of millions, deficient organisation of production, militarism, flunkeydom, etc., were stopped; if everybody were employed on the best method available, with the best of machines obtainable. If, however, the waste through superfluous middlemen, were stopped, and if the part taken by rent and interest were restituted, we might easily multiply five with three, and come to a fifteen-fold increase of wages. I have already shown that, on the other side, it is precisely to the lack of sufficient purchasing power of the masses that we have to attribute the want of employment and the waste in all departments. But the contention that
Gain is the main Stimulant to work
is not even based on fact as far as the best work the world ever obtained is concerned. In his Merrie England, Robert Blatchford points to the lives of men like Galileo, Bruno, Newton, and indeed the bulk of the explorers, scientists, philosophers and martyrs; who were not forced onward by the incentive of gain but by the love of truth, of science, of art, or of fame. And He who laid down His life on Calvary to accomplish the best work ever done for humanity—did He work for pay, for wages, or dividends?
In a communistic commonwealth everyone would have to give a day or a couple of days a week to productive labour, so that men all round would be able to devote more time to intellectual pursuits than is now possible. Were they relieved of solicitude as to bread, the motives just mentioned would stimulate them to the highest excellence and productivity. The most celebrated Talmudists gained their food by humble craft; their wisdom was not sold for money. Spinoza made a living by grinding optical glasses, and refused to consider the elector of the Palatinate’s offer to pay him for his intellectual work with a professorial chair at Heidelberg, preferring to give the fruits of his studies, his philosophy, free to the world. Does the soldier offer his life for the few pennies pay? Is it for the love of gain that he rushes on the enemy’s entrenchments with certain death in view? Do we see a Milton write his Paradise Lost for pounds, shillings and pence? Is a Florence Nightingale sacrificing her health in the field hospitals for wages? Did Cavour and Bismarck work for the unification of their countries on piece work, or on a salary? Or, in case the objection were made that pay was actually given in those cases, let us ask whether Garibaldi went to conquer Sicily for the sake of booty, or whether Mazzini was driven into exile by a business speculation?
Carlyle never wrote nobler words than these, in Past and Present: “My brother, the brave man has to give his life away. Give it, I advise thee—thou dost not expect to sell thy Life in an adequate manner! What price, for example, would content thee? The just price of thy Life to thee—why, God’s entire Creation to thyself, the whole Universe of Space, the whole Eternity of Time, and what they hold; that is the price which would content thee; that, and if thou wilt be candid, nothing short of that! It is all; and for it thou wouldst have all. Thou art an unreasonable mortal—or rather thou art a poor infinite mortal, who, in thy narrow clay-prison here, sternest so unreasonable! Thou wilt never sell thy Life, or any part of thy Life, in a satisfactory manner. Give it like a royal heart, let the price be Nothing; thou hast then in a certain sense got All for it! The heroic man—and is not every man, God be thanked, a potential hero?—has to do so, in all times and circumstances. In the most heroic age, as in the most unheroic, he will have to say, as Burns said proudly and humbly of his little Scotch Songs, little dewdrops of Celestial Melody in an age when so much was unmelodious: ‘By Heaven, they shall either be invaluable or of no value—I do not need your guineas for them!’ It is an element which, should and must, enter deeply into all settlements of wages here below. They never will be ‘satisfactory’ otherwise; they cannot, O Mammon Gospel, they never can! Money for my little piece of work ‘to the extent that will allow me to keep working ‘; yes, this—unless you mean that I shall go my ways before the work is all taken out of me; but as to ‘ wages ‘! —!—”
There will be fewer
Loafers and Lazy Vagabonds
than in our time. In Rossi’s report of a Brazilian anarchist colony’s doings he specially mentions that the members worked too hard, because each felt himself under the watchful eye of his co-workers.
Such fears of loafing often are expressed by people who never did an honest day’s work in their life. The daughter of a squire advanced, in answer to one of my addresses, that the old “Mark” was broken up by the lazy fellows who would not work. I simply drew her attention to the amount of labour done by England’s landlords. I might have told her the story of the American who had asked an Englishman, whose objection against America was that it had no gentlemen, what he meant by “gentlemen.” “Aw, aw, men who do nothing, you know!” “Oh,” said the Yankee, “we have got them; only we call them tramps!”
We are also told that in the communistic commonwealth some will have to perform unpleasant work, that all cannot enjoy certain delicacies, or live in favoured locations. We might ask whether—in our world—everyone is exempt from unpleasant work, and whether all kinds of enjoyments are accessible to any who desire them? But socialism is not communism, and though communism would certainly not make things worse in this respect than they are, socialism would decidedly improve them. Those who do the unpleasant work would get better pay and work shorter hours, while pleasanter employment would be less remunerated. While to-day some bank managers receive, perhaps, fifty times as much pay as the man who cleans our sewers, it might happen in the socialist state that the latter finds himself the better paid man, who could afford to purchase the costliest enjoyments and to live in the most expensive localities. But, no doubt most of the dirty and unhealthy work would be done by machines, or under better protection against danger, and far less human labour would be employed for such purposes than in our time. The argument that work which presupposes a high education has to be paid better, to cover the outlay thus incurred, would lose its force where education and maintenance of the student are paid for by the State. I should not have touched this simple matter if it were not for the fact that it is just this subject which disturbs the mind of more would-be socialists than any others of far more weight. For this reason, Robert Blatchford devoted some of his most amusing lines to it in Merrie England;
Under Socialism: Who will do the disagreeable Work? Who will do the Scavenging?
“This question is an old friend of mine, and I have come to entertain for it a tender affection. I have seldom heard an argument or read an adverse letter or speech against the claims of justice in social matters, but our friend the scavenger played a prominent part therein. Truly, the scavenger is a most important person, yet one would not imagine him to be the keystone of European society—at least, his appearance and his wages would not justify such an assumption. But I begin to believe that the fear of the scavenger is really the source and fountain-head, the life, and blood, and breath of all conservatism. Good old scavenger! His ash-pan is the bulwark of capitalism, and his besom the standard around which rally the pride, and the culture, and the opulence of society. And he never knew it; he does not know it now. If he did, he would strike for another penny a-day. We have heard a good deal more or less clumsy ridicule at the expense of the socialists. We have heard learned and practical men laugh them to scorn; we have seen their claims, and their desires, and their theories held up to derision. But can any man imagine a sight more contemptible or more preposterous than that of a civilised and wealthy nation coming to a halt in its march of progress, for fear of disturbing the minds of the scavengers?
“Shades of Cromwell, of Langton, of Washington, and of Hampden! Imagine the noble lord at the head of the British Government awing a truculent and radical Parliament into silence by thundering out the terrible menace: ‘Touch the dustman, and you destroy the Empire!’ Yet when the noble lord talks about ‘tampering with the law of political economy,’ and ‘opening the flood-gates of anarchy,’ it is really the scavenger that is in his mind, although the noble lord may not think so himself—noble lords not being always very clear in their reasonings. For just as Mrs. Partington sought to drive back the ocean with a mop, so does the Conservative hope to drive back the sea of progress with the scavenger’s broom.”
After all, everything depends on the degree of social recognition bestowed on occupation, and if scavengers are as much thought of under socialism as other tradesmen, there is no reason why many should not prefer scavenging to certain other occupations which are much sought after at present. The knacker’s work is still more unpleasant than the scavenger’s and yet not more unpleasant than that of the anatomist, with the only difference that the latter’s business requires a lot of brain exertion, which the knacker’s does not. Now, on the same school benches we find boys, who would rather do this unsavoury work without racking their brains in addition, sitting side by side of others who delight in intellectual exercise. The ones will rather be knackers; the others anatomists. For pay, the hangman and the officer kill, in the State’s employ; the one in perfect safety, the other at the risk of his life. But are there not plenty of Falstaffs who prefer to kill without any personal danger to themselves? When everyone has become penetrated with the idea that any kind of honest work is honourable, there will perhaps be as many applicants for work now considered the most unpleasant as for that presently regarded as the most conducive to social esteem.
Another objection often heard is that
Nobody would Save under Socialism.
In Richter’s book there is actually a description of a revolt caused by the confiscation of savings, as if the vast majority oi workers in our time could save anything, and as if saving were to be precluded in the social commonwealth! Under communism the saving would be done by the community, not by the individuals; and under socialism, while the community would be the principal saver, individual saving would not be prevented. Every one will get credit for his work, upon which he may draw at leisure, spending his income when and how he pleases,, and we can safely assume that even individual savings in the socialist commonwealth will be much larger than under the existing system, because earnings will be much higher and more general. Certainly there will be one great difference between the savings of the two periods. The savings of the socialist commonwealth will not breed; they will not yield any interest; they will not enable the saver to extort tributes from, other workers. They will represent stores put aside during times of abundance for the days of want, on the principle we observe in the animal kingdom. To be sure, man has made a great progress in the art of saving. Instead of hoarding perishable goods, of which part will prove to have been destroyed or stolen when the saver wants to consume his stock, savings take the shape of means of production, whose use more than covers the cost of storage and preservation, so that when the time of consumption arrives, the saver can obtain the full amount due to him out of the day’s production. This process, which we can observe in our present world, would find its counterpart in the social commonwealth, but without the interest now paid to the saver. But I have already treated this subject amply in Chapters VII. and VIII.
Equal Division of Wealth
If there are antagonists of socialism to whom the impossibility of saving causes heartburn, there are others who find in saving their principal argument against communism, the only kind of socialism they ever heard of. Who has not met with that idiotic argument which forms the stock-in-trade of the ordinary Philistine: “And if you divide everything to-day, you will soon have again rich and poor men. Some would be thrifty and would save, while others would spend all, so that soon the old conditions would return.” What are you to say to people who do not even know that communism does not mean division, but throwing together?
Under socialism, personal saving will certainly yield advantages to the thrifty, and there will probably exist more rich men than in our time; but there will be no oppression of the less favoured brethren, because one man will no longer depend on another for the means of living. In fact, there can be no poor where society is so wealthy that it can secure a certain minimum to all. This minimum might include as much as a house, with garden, plain furniture, clothing, and food. Our productive power is so enormous that the share paid to personal exertion would be such as to render hardly felt the part thus reserved to the individual in his capacity of a shareholder in the wealth of the community.
The mere conception that we should have to take from the rich to provide for the poor proves how little such enemies of socialism know of the facts in point. Even Eugen Richter, with special capacity for figures, here blunders into his main error. He calculates how little an equal distribution of national wealth would give to each citizen: according to him, no more than £50 a-piece to the average German family. This idea also finds itself expressed in the old story of Rothschild’s answer to the proletarian who wanted him to divide with him, and who got his share in the shape of one single florin, as representing Rothschild’s fortune at that period, divided by the number of German citizens. The man was told to send along the others to take their share.
We have neither to reckon with the existing wealth nor with the new wealth produced from day to day, but with the potential wealth, the wealth which could be created under improved conditions when once the obstacles to free production are removed.
Nor does this process of removal entail any confiscation of wealth, though it would certainly necessitate a metamorphosis of the forms which wealth accumulation mostly assumes in our time. This subject was treated in Chapter VIII., yet I may be allowed again to direct attention to the great difference existing between wealth consisting in products of human labour, and wealth taking the form of tribute claims, i.e., privileges of levying tribute from fellow-men. The one form of wealth can never be productive of any permanent danger; not so much because of its evanescent nature due to time’s destructive powers, but because its possession in no way hinders others from producing the same kind of wealth. The wealth which consists of tribute claims, however, plays a most ominous part in our economic and social relations, for it is imperishable as long as the laws subsist which form its basis; and its possession not only enables its owner to extort the product of others’ labour, but entails also the still more formidable right of absolutely preventing the exercise of this labour—as has been thoroughly explained in Chapter VIII. The workers need not grudge the! wealth of the rich, whether it be justly or unjustly got, but they have a right to claim that monopolies of all kinds be abolished which enable the rich to exploit them, and, what is much worse, to prevent them from producing wealth. No wealth is to be taken away from the rich, only obstacles to the production of wealth. It is not a question of dividing the existing stock of goods, but one of opening the flood-gates of unlimited wealth, and permitting an inflow far exceeding the present totality.
What I have said so far may suffice to show that even the arguments brought forward against the communistic state are of little weight when looked at from the average worker’s point of view. But, as I have already pointed out, communism is not the only form of socialism, nor is state socialism. We may attain the socialist’s ideals in a way more congenial to the individualist: by the introduction of a rational currency, and by the nationalisation of land and natural resources, leaving production and distribution to voluntary co-operation.
Anyhow, the enemies of socialism forget that, to a certain extent, we are already living in the very midst of the socialistic state; that it is no more a question of whether we shall obtain socialism, but how far socialism is going to be extended. Sydney Webb showed in his pamphlet, Socialism in England, which appeared in April, 1889, to what extent already at that date one of the most individualistic countries of the world had adventured into socialism:
“Besides our international relations, and the army, navy, police, and the courts of justice, the community now carries on for itself, in some part or another of these islands, the postoffice, telegraphs, carriage of small commodities, coinage surveys, the regulation of the currency and note issue, the provision of weights and measures, the making, sweeping, lighting, and repairing of the streets, roads, and bridges, life insurance, the grant of annuities, ship-building, stock-broking, banking, farming, and money-lending. It provides for many thousands of us from birth to burial, midwifery, nursery, education, board and lodging, vaccination, medical attendance, medicine, public worship, amusements and burial. It furnishes and maintains its own museums, parks, botanic gardens, art galleries, libraries, concert halls, roads, streets, bridges, markets, fire-engines, lighthouses, pilots, ferries, surf-boats, steam-tugs, life-boats, slaughter-houses, cemeteries, public baths, washhouses, pounds, harbours, piers, wharves, hospitals, dispensaries, gas works, water works, tramways, telegraph cables, allotments, cow meadows, artisans’ dwellings, common lodging-houses, schools, churches, and reading rooms. It carries on and publishes its own researches in geology, meteorology, statistics, zoology, geography, and even theology.”
I may add to this enumeration that Glasgow provides hydraulic power, the corporation of Vienna has a brick-yard, Tarnopol a municipal bakery which provides citizens with bread at cost prices, and Valparaiso has a municipal music school. From its municipal horse-races Paris draws £10,000 annually, while its nurseries and green-houses are profitable projects. Our New Zealand factory and poor laws, the Public Health Act, the Shop Hours Regulation Act, the Workers’ Insurance against Accident and Sickness, Arbitration Acts, old age pensions, and our grading of dairy products, are all of them socialistic measures.
is not only carried on by the State in different countries, but in some parts of Germany it is even to a certain extent monopolised by the Government. So, for instance, in the Grand Duchy of Baden it is obligatory to insure four-fifths of the value possessed by buildings, in the State’s fire insurance department; and for only one-fifth it is left at the option of the insurer to insure with private companies, who also insure furniture and other movable property. The system has proved very beneficial, which was to be expected on the following grounds:
- 1. The State can save the enormous waste inherent in the competitive system. Germany had, in 1871, 5,687 insurance agents. In 1881, their number had risen to 15,068; and in 1891 even this large number had more than doubled, the total having reached 31,437. This, of course, does not include the increase in the number of directors, managers, and other officials, of offices, advertisements, and other waste.
- The State can minimise the risk by preventive legislation. In Baden, where, as stated, the State insures four-fifths of the value of buildings, all plans of such have first to be submitted to the department, and they are only allowed if every necessary precaution against fire has been taken. “The Feuerschau” (fire inspection) pays. periodical visits to the buildings to see that all precautions are taken according to law.
- The State avoids the risk of having to provide for people ruined by non-insured buildings. She prefers the prevention of poverty through compulsory insurance to the erecting of poorhouses. In fact, we find here the origin of compulsory State insurance in parts of Germany. The sovereign was called upon to grant timber from his forests when houses burnt down, and this led to compulsory insurance.
- Reinsurance can be saved where such a large domain is mutually insured that a compensation of risks takes place.
I have gone more into detail here because of the agitation organised in New Zealand by interested parties against the State Fire Insurance Bill, proposed by Mr. Seddon in the legislature of 1901. Not that some of the arguments brought against it were without all justification. The question of compensation, for instance, certainly cannot be entirely ignored. Furthermore, if the State reserves the right to refuse risks—as the Bill in its present shape intends—she departs entirely away from the German principle—which insures every building, but adapts the rates to the risk, and insists on the best possible precautions. The New Zealand Bill would altogether take away the possibility of insuring in certain cases; for it is not to be supposed that private companies would take the business which the State leaves alone as unremunerative. However, when we encounter objections in the nature of the following—taken from the report of the Finance Committee of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, end of July, 1901—it is difficult to suppress a feeling of regret at the backwardness in economics and sociology thus betrayed by one of the principal commercial corporations of the land.
Interference with the Tax-payer
“We object altogether to the Government starting State fire insurance, because it is a direct interference as competitors with the business of its own tax-payers, which, in principle, is wrong. If it is right to compete with its own tax-payers in State fire insurance, then, carrying this principle farther, it would be right for the Government to start State butcheries, State woolen mills, State frozen meat works, and generally to do all it can to defeat the private trade of its own population. As a principle, we unhesitatingly declare this to be utterly wrong, and subversive of the best interests of the colony.”
Why not abolish the post office, which might be carried on with great profit by tax-payers? Why not give over our railroads and harbours to private enterprise, and thus get one shilling in taxes for every pound of profit made by individuals at the expense of the community? What a terrible thing it would be if the State, through carrying on for the public benefit certain kinds of work, could get along without any taxes at all—so that there would be no tax-payers to compete with!
Fortunately, such extreme Manchesterism becomes rarer even in England and the United States, the hot-houses of individualismIn the colonies, the time is coming when persons holding such antiquated views will be regarded with the full degree of veneration due to the relics of a fast disappearing stage of civilisation” We have got already so deeply into socialism that the whole question is one of extension, not one of principle. If the community owns some land, which it leases to individuals, why could it not own all the land and lease it to the people who want to use it? If it carries on some productions, why not some more?
State Monopoly and Distribution
But even leaving this question of production aside as offering many important objections, why should not the State attend to the distribution of goods, as it already takes care of that of letters, of newspapers and of parcels? Beyond a certain point, there is not much to be gained by the concentration of production in many industries. In fact, it is often an open question whether the saving obtained on one side is not more than balanced by losses through the difficulties of supervision on the other. When we hear socialists speak of the waste through pur anarchic production and distribution—as they express it—”they mostly illustrate their meaning by giving examples taken from distribution alone.
In this department facts speak too distinctly to escape anyone’s notice. A walk through one of the principal thoroughfares of a modern city will teach people who never read a single treaty on economics that an enormous waste is here going on which wants looking into. We count 20 shops selling the same class of goods, where i could very well do all the work, with a saving of 19 rents, 19 advertisements, at least 10 salesmen, and so on as to heating, lighting, etc.But that is only what we see at first sight. Behind this row of shops we can find quite an army of commercial travellers who sell them the goods which they offer to the public, spending millions for railroad fares, hotel bills, etc. Behind these we have another army of wholesale houses, of merchants, with their rents, advertisements, book-keepers, correspondents, etc.; and only after we have got , beyond this last barrier we reach the producer. Even here we have not done with the waste in distribution. Commercial travellers have to be engaged to see the merchants, advertisements swallow a considerable amount, correspondents, salesmen, rents of show-rooms, exhibitions, etc., swell the amounts which have to be added to the original cost price of goods to cover expenses of distribution. Various calculations have been made to find out the addition to first cost paid by the consumer of the product, and they vary from 30% to 100%. With certain articles 900% is added, i.e., the final price paid by the consumer amounts to ten times the original cost. Let us take the middle course, and assume the addition to be 662/3% on the average, which means 40% of the retail selling price. Now let us see how much could be saved of this percentage if, with production left to private enterprise, distribution were monopolised by the State, just in the way in which France, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Roumania monopolise that of tobacco in its different preparations. That in these countries a part of production is also monopolised by the State need not disturb us, for the system of distribution would not be changed in the least if the production were entirely left to competition. No merchants, no commercial travellers, no advertisements (except those of manufacturers who draw attention to, their goods to induce the public to demand them in the State’s shops; not those of rival retailers who want to attract custom to their special shops), and only as many selling establishments as the convenience of the public requires, deal in tobacco and its manufactures in the above-named countries. There being no credit, a lot of book-keeping and costs of collection are saved. The saving must be greater still where the distribution of all goods is monopolised by the State. Delivery, for instance, being centralised as in the post office, one cart would go into a street where 20 now follow each other. Just think what a letter would cost if 20 postmen of 20 competing post offices were to come one after another, each delivering one letter at the same house, instead of one coming and delivering 20 letters; not counting the inconvenience to the public of having to open the house door 20 times instead of once! The greatest saving, however, would be that in rents; not only through having fewer shops, but through paying less for the floor rent at each of the few remaining selling places required than the present shop has to pay. For two reasons:
- 1. There would be no such competition for land to build shops on, as only one-twentieth of selling places are needed, and consequently the ground would not cost more than that used for private dwellings.
- Immense central magazines of many stories would be erected, with lifts, providing much more floor space than the present average shop for the same land surface. This land once bought by the State, no landlord could raise rents in proportion with the increase of profits, according to their present agreeable and remunerative custom. Attending to customers would require much less of the staff’s work. Competition now forces salespeople to waste a great deal more time with each customer than would be needed if no more subserviency, and just as. much system, were shown as the public gets in the post office, I have been told—when I lived in the United States—that many ladies go “shopping” just for fun, visiting one store after another to price goods, often without buying anywhere. A good part of the staffs time is taken up that way. The State’s store might exhibit books and shelves containing samples and patterns which every customer could personally examine until quite satisfied, when he or she would simply fill out an order, giving number, quantity, and price. Groceries, fuel, chemicals, etc., would be sold only in minimum quantities, or the price would be correspondingly increased to pay for the additional work. As wages would be much higher, the masses could afford to buy more at a time.
We have to take into account also the saving made by the producers, who would only have to send wagon-loads of their goods to the State’s magazines, without a penny’s cost for selling expenses, and without the trouble and charge of packings and forwarding smaller lots all over the country. Another great saving to the producer would be specialisation rendered possible through central buying. The buyers of the State would have before them the orders from all the selling places; they could easily assort them, and arrange with the manufacturers that each gets an order for certain numbers only; so that instead of hundreds having individually to manufacture a. hundred numbers, each of them will only produce one number,, and thus save a large amount of cost through specialisation and a correspondingly increased sub-division of labour, allowing^ special machinery, greater skill applied to the work, an easier supervision, etc., a great advantage already made use of by the trusts. It is well known what this means, for instance, to the textile industry, where the making of new patterns and the change of patterns on the machines is a very important item of cost. We see that there need be no State production to attain such savings; centralised distribution would by itself produce the effect.
Taking all this into consideration, I think 6% of the retail price would suffice for the work of distribution instead of 40%, and this would not include the saving in production through specialisation. Wages now average not over 16% of the present retail price on the most optimistic valuation, (See Chapter VIII., pp. 377-80.) If merely the saving in in distribution were paid out in higher wages, this would mean a trebling of present wages without reducing their purchasing power. The existing exploitation of labour does not even benefit those who get this enormous share of the product, for, unfortunately, if the cost of distribution is now 40% on selling price, instead of only 6%. it is because—leaving the saving of rent out of account—quite a number of people do a work which one could do better, and have to be paid low wages or poor profits where, in spite of selling much cheaper, one would make a good living. It is hardly necessary to repeat here what has been shown in Chapter VIII.: that under present conditions a saving of all this waste would be the very reverse of a blessing for the workers, as the landlords and money-owners would get the full benefit in additional rent and interest. The middlemen thrown out of work would only swell the army of the unemployed, or would drive others, whose billets they take, into those ranks. Competition for employment would be so much sharper, and the purchasing power of wages would finally fall instead of rising. As long as we are building on a bad foundation, every addition to the structure can only serve to bring about its downfall so much the quicker.
Under present conditions a reform in distribution would have the same effect which our progress in the means and system of production has had, or which other reforms, general dis-armament, for instance, would have: an increase in the army of the unemployed, and consequently the power of employers to reduce wages. But in the socialistic State we presuppose common land ownership, as well as a rational currency which take away the land and money monopolists’ cornering power; and I wanted to show that under such conditions, without touching production and the part taken by drones, the mere nationalisation of distribution would be sufficient to treble the purchasing power of the workers. This would naturally result in their correspondingly increased consumption, and the necessity of an equal increase of production, which would create employment for the displaced middlemen. Instead of being practically mere drones, to a large extent, they would be productively employed. The increased production would allow further savings through a more extended division of labour. To this we have to add the beneficial effects of land and currency reform. Finally, quite irrespective of our system of production, greater benefits for the masses would be obtained than the most enthusiastic communist ever dreamt of; for the most powerful motors of the social machine—personal initiative and free competition, or, let us call it: emulation—have been left untouched.
Competition in production and competition in distribution are two entirely different things. Whereas in the one case individual efforts result in improving the processes of production, with the effect of reducing cost price or bettering quality, competition in distribution only wastes power, increases price and decreases quality. Whether State production could do as efficient work as private enterprise may be open to discussion; but there can be no doubt that, under a State monopoly of distribution, the average State official could do far better work than the best of our merchants.
To those who can fully appreciate the great qualifications required for a successful pursuance of the mercantile career, and who at the same time have had some experience of official red tape, my statement must appear rather paradoxical, and yet it is not difficult to prove its correctness. The greatest part of our merchants’ ability is required for the purpose of fighting competition—a work entirely done away with under State distribution, which would be mere routine work, like that of the post office. A few capable business men would certainly be required in the central office to assort and to place the orders; but outside of this any ordinary functionary could do the work required. Where no cajoling of customers is needed, because nobody can attract them elsewhere, where the art of pressing on them things they do not want—unsaleable stock or inferior qualities at high prices—is of no use whatever, the showing of goods, shipping and money-collecting operations certainly do not require great genius. All this has been well proved in the tobacco-monopoly countries. Everything is successfully organised there in the way here indicated, and the public are well served. There are only as many selling places as are required; and in France, for instance, widows of soldiers are in preference chosen to attend to the sales, thus saving pensions to the State. The prices are not unreasonable; but if the large profit mostly obtained by centralisation and consequent absence of waste in distribution, instead of being made to yield about a million francs a-day, found its expression in a reduction of prices, no country in the world could supply cigars as good and cheap as are sold in France under the tobacco monopoly. Even as it is, I have heard the system praised by smokers as giving them the advantage of finding at once anywhere in the whole country cigars of the same quality for the same price; whereas elsewhere it takes them weeks ia a new place to find exactly what they want. Now, what can be done for one article can certainly be done for a hundred—in fact, for all kinds of goods—and it is evident that the saving must increase with the extent of the monopoly, permitting a pro rata saving of rent, wages, and general expenses.
The Competitive System
The outcry against the competitive system—which is the shibboleth of Anglo-Saxon socialism—as we see, is not without its justification, as far as distribution is concerned. What we owe to competition on the field of production is, however, decidedly undervalued by socialists. Invention has followed invention, and organisation has been steadily improved. From the farmer’s home-made soap, home-spun and woven cloth, home-brewed beer, and home-made furniture, onward through the artisan’s specialisation of these productions, and the crafts’ organisation in guilds and corporations,—industrial evolution brought the immense factories, employing thousands of hands, and finally the union of these factories in the trusts. Could State socialism invent a better organisation than competition has thus brought about? Is it likely that red-tape-bound officials would ever have organised food preparation with the genius of an Armour, or that iron and steel manufacture could have reached the high stage to which a Krupp, a Stumm, a Carnegie have brought it? Or that, even in the field of distribution, competitive examination would have brought forth such organisers as Whiteley, Wanamaker, Jaluzot, and others? Would the work of Manchester’s great captains of industry ever have been matched by salaried State employees? Could the ballot have brought such capacities to the top—the ballot, which does not even provide us with the best political governors, and administrators? In Chapter VIII, I have already shown that the fight does not lie between competition and co-operation, but between monopoly and freedom. I have exemplified my meaning by the example of a burning theatre with insufficient means of egress; but I can prove my case even better by going back to the illustration reproduced from Rent, Interest, and Wages, in Chapter VIII., of the l00 workers on the land of E (the employer). E does not need more than the income of one-tenth of his land, and reserves the remaining nine-tenths for a pleasure park. The further supposition is that the people cannot get away, or if they could, would find similar conditions elsewhere; while the available tenth of the land is not sufficient to provide them with a living. What difference can it make to the people under such conditions whether they work the available land under the competitive or under the co-operative system? In either case there will not be enough food for all, and it will only be the choice between having some die and others getting enough to eat under competition; or of all slowly starving, living only a fraction of the time which sufficient food would have given them under co-operation. I grant that the latter system may be slightly preferable; but is such a poor improvement worth fighting for when plenty for all is easily attainable by merely freeing the land? There is so much of it that, never mind under which system they are working, they could all make a splendid living. If each has as much land as he needs, competition in producing the best and cheapest food will be mere emulation increasing the total output. It is a secondary question whether more is gained through such emulation than is lost through the concentration due to co-operation, or, let us say, under socialism, for even competition is co-operation. The farmer who produces wheat, and the tailor who makes clothes for the market, co-operate in supplying this market by means of the best division of labour attainable according to their lights. Certainly there may be a better, a more improved co-operation, by which each may produce more still, and get more to his share; but, as I have shown, our social problem is not a question of productive power, as it was in past ages or still is for some savages, or our technic progress would long since have settled it. It is the problem of freeing productive power from the tabooing grasp of monopoly.
Though competition is a form of co-operation, co-operation does not always include competition. We may have co-operation with competition, as we should have, for instance, in a socialistic State, where the share of each worker depends on his output; and we may have co-operation without competition, as under communism; but we certainly cannot have competition without co-operation. In fact, it is exactly at this juncture that the road of communism branches off from that of socialism. Socialists who are not also communists are illogical when they cry out against competition, which they retain, though they call it emulation, “You may just as well hang a dog as give him a bad name,” says the proverb; the name does not change the nature of the beast.
The best proof of the fact that it is not competition, but the power to monopolise land and money, which is responsible for our social calamities is presented by . the Trusts. These institutions offer the abolition of competition with a vengeance, and the masses are now crying out to get the much-abused competition back again. They want to set the law’s machinery in motion against those destroyers of competition, while they revile the competitive system and discuss the desirability of abolishing competition by law. As I say, only
does entirely away with competition; for while socialism does not exclude payment of each according to the work done—which, in fact, is the system advocated by. most socialists—communism demands, from each to work according to his capabilities, arid gives to each according to his needs.
Whatever the future may have in store for us, communism is not an issue of practical politics in our generation. Even an ardent communist like Allan Eastlake, a member of the “Oneida Community,” acknowledges this in a book published in 1900: The Oneida Community. He says (p. 13s): “The forces of Nature appear to rest, and just as vegetation hibernates, gaining force to meet the coming spring, so communism bides its time till humanity shall become so enlightened that universal brotherhood will be no longer a prophecy, but love shall cover the earth as waters cover the sea.”
The Debt to the Past
I have already mentioned an element that works in the direction of communism: technic progress. The possibilities of labour will become so enlarged that, the time lost in keeping accounts, if used productively, would supply such an amount of wealth that the waste inherent in any communistic system through a diminished exertion and a want of economy in consumption—would be more than made up. But, technic progress forces more and more on our recognition another powerful factor in the direction of communism, and that is the growing insignificance of the share in the product due to the labour of the individual worker.
How much is produced, even in our time, by the most genial and skilful worker, manual or intellectual, after we deduct what past generations have created: From the time when first a savage discovered the use of fire to that when this fire first made the ore yield its metal? From the stone hammer with which the hot metal was shaped, to the mighty steam hammer which could have smashed the powerful mammoth into atoms within a few minutes? From the firebrand, that made darkness visible to the sun-like arc light? From the clumsy sledge—made of branches—wearily dragged across the wilderness, to the train moved by electric power over the mono-rail at the rate of 100-150 miles an hour, the speed of the hurricane? From the fish-bone needle to the sewing-machine? From the word of mouth heard with difficulty at the distance, of a few hundred yards, to the wire-carried whisper that is understood three thousand miles away? From the pointed flint scratching signs on a slab of stone, to the typewriter?
Do not forget that twenty years is the longest monopoly given by law to the inventor of the most wonderful improvement, and after this period anyone has the right to its free use. Furthermore, that under land nationalisation the work performed by Nature, all the advantages due to location and to the efforts of the community, will be common property. The part of the product due to the personal work of the man of one generation is so small that it will not be worth while to separate it at that future time when unfettered production has created additional progress, compared with which all that has been done in the past may appear insignificant.
But technic progress is only a small part of the immense debt of gratitude due by the individual worker to the past and present work of others. The product of his own personal work is merely plucked by him from that wonderful tree which we call our Civilisation, of whose roots the inventor’s activity only forms one rootlet.
From the battle of the first savage who killed a cavern bear with a stone, to the valiant little body of Spartans defending Greek independence against Persian despotism, at Thermopylae; from there to the common soldier unknown to fame who fell at Gettysburg, or to the German peasant whose strong arm helped to repel French aggression—millions of silent partners have contributed to the earnings of a Carnegie and Vanderbilt, and even to those of the humblest labourer. From the first shepherd who, in the silence of the night, ruminated over the nature of the distant shining orbs, to a Copernicus and Newton; from the unknown bard or bards to whom we owe the Iliad and Odyssey, to a Shakespeare and Goethe; from the philosopher forced to drink the hemlock cup and the glorious Martyr of Calvary, down to the humble student of our own days starving in a garret; all have contributed their share to the root fibres from which sap has been conducted to the tree Civilisation—more even than the whole army of inventors have been able to contribute. All these have helped to produce the dividends paid by the great steel trust or by the farms, factories, railroads, ships, etc., of the world.
When we take all this and much more into consideration, we shall cease to wonder at the strange simplicity of those innocent-minded men who believe that a time will come when we shall no more discriminate between the individual mite’s and the community’s share in the production of the immense wealth store flowing with such abundance that a few hours’ daily toil supplies more—for all—than the greediest could consume. Communism will see its day arrive, and God’s Kingdom, the millennium, will begin on this side of the grave.
The following quotation from Thorold Roger’s A History of Agriculture and Prices in England is highly interesting and suggestive. It may help to overcome the last prejudice of those vainglorious intellectual workers who look down on the labourer as a being so far below their own caste that the mere idea of equal wages for all kinds of work seems to them too absurd for discussion, and is scoffed at, especially by men who, while living on the fat of the land, never did any useful work at all since they took the trouble to be born. Scoffs which would be a little more bearable, at least, if they were clothed in the witty phrasing of Ebenezer Elliot, the Corn Law rhymer:
“What is a Communist? One who has yearnings
For equal division of unequal earnings.
Idler, or bungler, or both, he is willing
To fork out his penny, and pocket your shilling.”
I need not draw attention to the fact that the opportunities of education and leisure which socialism would give to all alike must create a much more universal diffusion of knowledge and skill than had been the case at the period mentioned by Rogers.
“The student of mediaeval labour prices cannot, I think, but be struck at the low rate of remuneration paid for exceptional skill, that, namely, of the architect, or builder, or artist. The cost of construction was not enhanced by great professional fees allotted even to those who designed the finest and most finished structures of the age. The cause, I suspect, is principally to be found in the general diffusion of such artistic skill as the age possessed—a skill which in certain departments of art has not been rivaled, and is even now an object of servile, and often incompetent, imitation. The technical knowledge of the time, though not. apparently scientific, was, as far as practical results are concerned, of a very high order, as one can see even now in the architecture and illuminations of the time. But the carver of the ceiling of Magdalen College chapel and hall received only 8d. a-day for his labour in 1517 and 1520, though his name, John de Colonia, seems to imply that he was a foreigner, and probably a person of special skill. In 1543 a similar artisan gets no more. Later on the labour of such an artificer does not rise beyond is. So the work of the embroiderer of copes, and of the tailor who fashions and mends them, is paid at similarly low rates, while friar Gerard, in 1526, js employed for sixty-three days at Oxford in writing books at 4d. a-day, though he was doubtlessly fed at the college tables The clerks at the royal works, who keep the books, and check the labour which is hired and paid for, receive no more than ordinary artisans do, and often are paid less. Such low rates of remuneration for special skill must have rendered it possible that considerable works should be undertaken at very small charges. I have commented in my earlier volumes on the absence of .all intermediaries. Purchasers of such articles as were needed for buildings dealt immediately with producers, when they did not, as they frequently did, manufacture the necessary materials themselves. Hence the interpretation of cost becomes comparatively easy, and the student of prices will find that high or low wages of labour were entirely unaffected by any commission paid to middlemen.”
We are not Ripe for Socialism
I cannot close this chapter without entering into the one argument we hear most frequently when either socialism or communism is discussed. We are told that our present generation is not ripe for this sort of thing. “It may do when once men are angels, but,” etc. Nobody ever gave a better answer than Henry George in his Standard.‘ He presented as an example the observations he had made on the Pacific steamers. At that time, it seems, the steerage passengers were not oversupplied with food, so that at meal times they fell upon the victuals like ravenous wolves in a “the devil take the hindmost” struggle, while the saloon passengers, who sat at a well-supplied table d’hôte, behaved quite differently, eating and drinking as educated people are in the habit of doing. And yet it was not character or education which was responsible for this remarkable difference, but the inequality in the food supply. George was confident that if the positions were changed, if the saloon passengers had been transferred to the steerage, and the steerage passengers to the first cabin, we should soon have seen the new steerage passengers fall upon the victuals like voracious animals, and the former steerage passengers politely hand each other the dishes before they served themselves, and in every way act in as kindly a manner as their predecessors. If once everyone can with ease procure as much of the necessaries as well as of the luxuries of life as he desires, the disappearance of the mad struggle for the means of existence will result in a totally different picture of human character from the one we are used to.
Education for Socialism
My friend, John Richardson of Lincoln, in his excellent book, How it can be Done, recognises fully the difficulty of introducing complete socialism to a generation brought up under the individualistic system, and proposes to begin by educating the growing generation for socialism. The system of schools he advocates is highly ingenious. Its main feature is that not only the mind is to be fed, but also the body; for it is impossible to develop starved brains. His pupils are fed, clothed, and, if necessary, lodged at the school. Great attention is to be devoted to physical exercises, so as to develop a healthy body as well as a healthy mind. The expenses incurred are obtained by taxation in the beginning, but the productive work carried out by the pupils is supposed gradually to make the schools self-supporting; for in the highest class, the continuation schools, half the time is devoted to the different branches of knowledge, and the other half—four hours a-day—is spent in the workshops, where all trades are taught, and at the same time unlike the system usually pursued in our present industrial schools and technical institutes—what is produced in the workshops, gardens, fields, laundries, dairies, kitchens, etc., is to serve for practical use, to feed and clothe the pupils, and to sell in the open market so as to pay for outlays. This system is not only of great pecuniary advantage, but offers much more encouragement to the pupils than the ordinary methods which utilise their work for educational purposes, but otherwise waste its results.
The children begin in the elementary schools, where they spend four years. From these they come into the second-grade schools, and then they proceed to the continuation schools, where they stay between the ages of 15 and 18. Above these is the university, where the pupils are from 19 to 21 years old. Here, too, a certain amount of productive work, enough to pay for the tuition and maintenance of the pupils, has to be given, unless a corresponding fee is paid. This would mean no loss of time for the studies, for only a certain amount of knowledge can be forced into the brain, and those who spend half of their time at work which exercises the body, while it relieves the mind, will finally get far ahead of those who cram from morning till night.
The world would be much further advanced if it were not for this brain-killing cramming. Our pedagogues are even less to blame for its prevalence than our social system, which drives men and women into eager competition for Government offices of all kinds. If every department of work had more openings for willing workers than there are applicants, because without the least effort a good living could be made at anything the pupil who left school liked to put his hand to—only those would apply for office who feel themselves specially qualified for the work; and as it would not be a special boon to obtain such employment; as the Government would be happier to obtain public servants than men and women are now to secure a billet, we could then safely leave it to the heads of departments to select their people—the principle on which the private employer is so much better served than the State. Of course, as long as want of employment is the rule, there may be great danger in giving such power to our administrators, especially while the present system of government continues. The Chinese competitive examinations and their imitations are certainly preferable to the system which gives the spoils to the victor; but they yield poor results for all that. Every teacher knows that those of his pupils who come out best at competitive examinations are very often not the most able youths, and if he were allowed to select according to his observations better results might follow. I well know that this would be as impracticable as the selection through the heads of departments, so long as the existing temptations to dishonesty and favouritism continue in force. However, even the teacher’s most honest testimony is not always reliable, and some of our best men have been considered good-for-nothings by their pedagogues. Every man of the world knows that the boys who bring the best testimonials from school, who not only win the prizes, but also are personally recommended by their teachers, are usually not the most efficient for practical life. I had a partner once, one of the most ingenious and practical men I ever met, a born captain of industry, with a keen knowledge of men and a wonderful ability of choosing his officials, who jocosely said that if ever his son came home and told him he was first of his class, he would extinguish him. He told me that in his experience he never knew the best boy at school to succeed in practical life. Examinations may be useful to obtain red-tape men, but the creative genius and organiser are not thus found. To pass an examination requires a good memory or the hardest study. In either way, it is the receptive faculty which is specially exercised; and it is usually found that the more receptive a man is the less his creative, his productive, qualities are developed. But, as I said, our miserable method of distributing Government offices according to the results of competitive examination—itself the result of our social system—is mostly responsible for such a retrograde pedagogy. Instead of developing a boy’s originality we train him to become a parrot, and the best parrot, having the best chance of obtaining an office—the great aim in a time when employment in the ordinary walks of business becomes more and more precarious—parents with rage in their hearts submit their children to the curriculum of the pedant best fitted to cram for the examinations, and kast able to develop useful men and women.
Whenever it will be easy to earn a living in hundreds of occupations, parents will not any longer submit to see their children educated in a way which, while rendering them unfit for ninety-nine occupations of a hundred, will specially fit them only for this hundredth, or rather, fit them for the engagement, not for the work. Our schools will then change their curriculums, will adapt them to the demands of practical life, and the State will have to desist from exacting any other learning for her examinations—if there are any—than can be attained by the average scholar. She will finally take the best men and women, who have shown practical capacity for business, and will, of course, only get them by paying them as much as they could earn anywhere else. This selection will be exercised by men of a different stamp from that now so often found in our administrations. The highest offices will perhaps be filled by successful captains of industry, who retired after having earned a competency, and who devote their services, free of charge, as honourable obligations to their fellow-citizens.
Latin and Greek
The scope of this work does not permit to more than indicate some of the most important changes in our methods of education which are urgently needed. It would lead me too far to give the full reasons which h^ve made me a deadly enemy of the socalled humanities as a subject of study for our boys. Let those who want to specialise in philology and historic research busy themselves in the dead languages, of which every university might provide teachers for those who want them, while our schools and colleges are entirely purified of them. If our skulls were elastic, and the amount of brain which could be stocked in them unlimited, if human life extended over as many centuries as it fills decades, I should have nothing to say to such fancies; but as it is, a boy has to work hard to master that knowledge which an educated man absolutely needs, even if he is not urged to waste his best time in comparatively useless studies. Emerson once said that it is no use swimming a river over which good bridges are built; and for each boy to study Greek and Latin enough to enable him to read the classics when there are good translations on hand is even more senseless than for all to swim where the work of a few is sufficient to supply the means for a pleasant walk over. But the worst is that, after most of the boys have learnt how to swim the dead tongue rivers, they have no time left to travel in the classic fields on the other side—which they might have done if they had been allowed to use the bridges. The same holds true in regard to the pretension, that Latin is a good preparation for the learning of modern languages. It is like spending one’s life to build a ladder for the purpose of climbing a fruit tree, and then having no more time to gather the fruits; while others, in the interim, climbed the tree without ladders and ate to their heart’s content. How many of our Latin and Greek scholars know anything of French, Spanish or Italian, not to speak of the most useful of foreign languages: German, whose study, by-the-bye, is not in the least helped by that of Latin or Greek, except as to some foreign: additions to the language which mostly exist also in English. To understand what a German means by a “locomotive,” an Englishman does not need Latin or Greek. I am delighted to find many practical men taking the same view. Carnegie’s exclusion of classic studies from the benefits of his £2,000,000 gift is a well-deserved slap in the face of our pedagogic Rip van Winkles. After the precedent of Germany, where their fanaticism has already been restricted, another even more vigorous whack is administered to them by Russia’s Tsar, as the following welcome news indicate:
“Russia is abolishing the classic languages in her public schools. The Teachers’ Commission, under the presidency of General Vanovsky, has presented its report to the Emperor, and in three or four years Greek will entirely disappear, and Latin no longer be obligatory. Classical schools are, however, to be opened in university towns. The new regulations meet with almost general approval. French and German are both made obligatory; more attention will be paid to geography, history, and literature, and more time devoted to the physical training of the boys. The Tsar, after signing the ukase, submitted it for further approval to the head of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan.”
The time will no doubt come when English will take the place of French, which is spoken by a very small fraction of the world only.
Another nuisance is the important place we give to grammar in our schools, making it the foundation, whilst it should be the roof. Distinguished pedagogues begin to find out that the best method of learning any language is that of the child, which is taught to speak correctly by practice, without obtaining the least notion on which system it does so. On the other hand, most of those who try to learn a language with the help of a grammar—though they may, if they possess a good memory, remember the rules—end by neither speaking nor writing correctly. Who would not prefer to walk without knowing the mechanical principles which thus empower him, to being fully conversant with the action of all the muscles and tendons, but not able to make a single step? My little girls, brought up in New Zealand, are learning German and English together, and about, as easily as if only one language were spoken in the house. When they are old enough, they will read books in both languages, and by such practice, I hope, will learn to write in good style without knowing anything of grammar, which, as far as they may ever need it, will be mastered by them in a few weeks later on, when more necessary studies have been achieved, and especially after the lessons of practical life and the development of their bodies have been attended to.
Lord Macaulay says in his essay on Lord Bacon: “We cannot perceive that the study of grammar makes the smallest difference in the speech of people who have always lived in good society. Not one Londoner in ten thousand can lay down the rules for the proper use of will and shall; yet not one Londoner in a million ever misplaces his will and shall. Dr. Robertson could, undoubtedly, have written a luminous dissertation on the use of those words. Yet even in his latest work he sometimes misplaced them ridiculously. No man uses figures of speech with more propriety because he knows that one figure is called a metonymy and another a synecdoche. A drayman in a passion calls out, ‘You are a pretty fellow!’ without suspecting that he is uttering irony, and that irony is one of the four primary tropes. The old systems of rhetoric were never regarded by the most experienced and discerning judges as of any use for the purpose of forming an orator.”
Much more could be said, but even the little mentioned may sound paradoxical enough to most ears. My consolation is that—within my comparatively short life—many things which were looked at as out of the question have come to be considered matters of course.
Evolution towards Communism
Mr. Richardson’s work is in the right direction. No socialism without socialists and men with an insight into real life. The worst enemies of socialism are those conceited, scholarly ignoramuses, especially in the field of economics, whom we so often meet.
After the completion of education, Richardson proposes, somewhat on Bellamy’s plan, to make each pupil devote four years to the community, to pay back in productive work the outlays for his education in so far as the tax-payer had to advance the cost, so that after the system is once in full operation no further taxes will be required for the education and maintenance of the children. After that, men and women so educated would probably prefer the continuance of socialistic production and distribution, would have become fit subjects for a socialistic State, with the qualifications which would render even communism possible and practicable. Where the right spirit exists, communism has been a success; in the family, for instance, where love binds the members together, or in certain communities held together by the religious tie. The education of men and women on the Richardson plan, and, more yet, the growing perfection of our means and systems of production, may finally cause the socialistic State to evolve towards complete communism. Education would banish envy, technic progress would make labour so productive, would increase wealth so enormously, that full freedom of consumption might be given at the banquet to all for the share of the work they are willingly .doing; as is accorded to all who have paid for their board at any good hotel. Anyhow, the mixed system might much sooner recommend itself than we now think possible. Even without any further improvement in the arts of production, we could add to the many things now enjoyed free by the masses, such as free schools, free libraries, museums, picture galleries, parks, street lighting, police, etc. We could go as far as to include in the free list a simply, furnished house, three simple meal a-day, one or two suits of -clothing a-year, and fuel for winter. There will be enough wants left, to take away the fear that men will remain idle after that. They will work, more than to-day, or anyhow, to better purpose and with better effect; just as the work of the free man is worth more than that of the slave. They will not work for a pittance, certainly, and nobody can make them do it, as the whip of hunger and cold will be no more at the service of the employer. They will work as they never do now, when the whole fruit of their labour once belongs to them, and when they will work to such advantage that the stock of wealth produced will be so large that the part paid to the community to provide for the items mentioned will be insignificant in proportion. The mere increase of rent under such conditions would more than supply the means. Perhaps even the product of the four years of free work given by the young after the completion of their education, on the Bellamy Richardson plan, would suffice to supply these means. What a better conscription this would be than that for the 2 to 5 years, military service for the purpose of acquiring proficiency in the business of slaughtering fellow-men’!
Advice to Socialists
I think that what I have said so far has entitled me to ask for sufficient confidence from socialists, and belief in my warm attachment to their principles, to procure me an unbiassed ear for the few words of advice with which I close this chapter. Their ideals will be far better served by a little less talk and more work. Less talk of the final aim and more work for immediate steps towards that aim. Millions who fight shy of them when they preach their socialist or communist State will cheerfully help when they go to work to lay the foundations of a thorough social reform. Nobody will hinder them from keeping before their eyes their great goal: the brotherhood of men; but if they want to do some real good, they will speak less of this brotherhood and do more practical work towards establishing it. As I said once before, there are no through tickets obtainable to the socialist State; we have to book from station to station.
The first two stations are land nationalisation and currency reform. Nothing whatever can be done until natural resources are the property of the people at large, until our country is ours not by name only, but ours in reality. But even on free land free work is impossible as long as our hands are fettered by engagements to pay what practically does not exist; as long as debts are not contracted in something which it is in our power to pay—our labour and its products—but in baubles found in the bowels of the earth in distant places which not one in a thousand has access to.
Another station to which tickets are obtainable at once is co-operation: the best school for the socialist State, and one which ispregnant with immediate splendid results.
But the admission to the booking-office must be fought for before any ticket is obtainable; the people must obtain the power to mould their own destinies, independent of despots, whatever their name; and it is not always the traditional despot who proves the most dangerous. In the Anglo-Saxon world it is not the king but the party boss who is most to be feared. The practical democrat in our country will hot fight for a republic, but for the proportional vote, the referendum, and initiative, the elective executive, never mind whether there is a figure-head above this executive or not
This is the most pressing work cut out for socialists, a work in which they will find helpers in the ranks of millions who as yet look at socialism as the worst craze that ever afflicted humanity. The surest way to convince these men of their mistake is to take them along, or to follow them, step by step, station by station, on the lines approved by really progressive men. Both parties will thus attain the great goal, and will laugh at the idea that they once quarreled about its name. Those who call it Free Individualismwill after all find themselves in the same place with those who insisted upon giving it the name of Socialism. It will not be the only case where particles flying from each other along the periphery of a circle finally meet.
 1 I shall never forget that socialist at one of my meetings in Germany who, when nothing further could be said against my arguments in favour of land nationalisation, asked me: “Mr. Flürscheim, you know very well that with the parties in power in this country land nationalisation by peaceful means has no prospect whatever of success. Now, if we have to use force, don’t you think we had better take all”‘ It was the only question I could not meet, with the result that I finally decided to leave and to go where the soil is better prepared for peaceable evolutionary work.
 The full dinner pail was the party emblem flaunted by republican papers Of the United States during the last presidential campaign—in evidence of the “prosperity” conferred by the existing regime. This reminds one of the “Panem-et circenses” of the Roman Empire in its decline. Even if it were true that the dominion of the monopolists had brought prosperity to the working man, how low must the party of an Abraham Lincoln have fallen to know no higher and more effective appeal than that to the stomach? If, at least, there were truth in the contention; but to all appearances, even in this “prosperous” time the number of unemployed is larger than ever before.
The report of the New York State Bureau of Labour Statistics for the last three months of 1899 states that the number of working men unemployed during that period was larger than in any other quarter of the year. It further shows that, during the last three years—a period of “prosperity”—over 20% of the working people in that State have been without employment.
Nor does the “prosperity” wave seem to roll on Lake Michigan, as an advertisement of “skin for grafting” at 2 dollars per person brought sixty-two applicants as soon as the paper was on the street, all of whom were moneyless, and ready to do anything for bread. All the skin needed was obtained from one man’s arm, several becoming importunate, and one said: “I cannot even sell my flesh for food.” That was in Chicago.
Australasia is another section of the world that ought to have room for more workers, and yet read the following, taken in 1900 from the New Zealand Herald: “There are 5,000 applicants for billets in the New Zealand Railway Department. Here is the state of things in Victoria. For 387 vacancies in the Railway Department there are—how many applications, can you imagine? No fewer than 12,000! The rush to Bendigo was scarcely a circumstance to it. Wages from £1 to £3 a-week—possibly £3 10s. at the most. Just fancy! It has taken an army of clerks to open the letters and note the particulars of each applicant. The greater part of the applicants are country lads—a reflection on our vaunted productive industries. In 1897, for almost a similar number of vacancies, the applicants were less than 2,500. What accounts for the immense increase it is impossible to divine. Both wheat-growing and dairying are brighter now than then. Yet the fact remains that 12,000 of the youth of the colony are eager to get a billet in one of the poorest branches of the Civil Service. Surely there cannot be any more possible candidates.”
Or this from a West Australian paper: “A man in want of work called, among other places, at an iron foundry on the bank of the Swan, and asked for a job, but was told there was no vacancy. A day or two afterwards he saw the body of a man being dragged out of the river, and was told it was one of the hands of So-and-So’s foundry. Off he rushed to the manager, and again asked for a job, and was told there was no vacancy. ‘But,’ said he, ‘one of your men is drowned. I have just seen his body taken out of the river.’ ‘You are too late,’ replied the manager. ‘A man who saw him fall has got the job.'”
The West Australian story is doubtless a mere sarcastic commentary, but it is significant because of the every-day experiences which give it an air of actuality. If the incident has not happened in Westralia, it might have happened anywhere. That the story is brought out in a country so thinly peopled that its natural resources could enable a population at least thirty times as large as it possesses to produce by their labour the necessaries and luxuries of life makes it as fit to illustrate the employment problem as books filled with statistics. For those, however, who prefer the latter, I cannot recommend more instructive reading than the volumes of Life and Labour of the People, by: Charles Booth.
 I quote a few calculations from Professor Adler’s Kampf wider den Zwischenhandel (Battle against the Middleman): “Taking 100 as the original cost price of the goods, the following figures show their prices at retail: Simple victuals, 120-150; kerosene, 120; coffee, 150-200; ordinary cotton goods, 120-150; woolen goods and more expensive cotton goods, 150-200; hardware and fancy goods, 200-500; alcoholic liquors, 200-500; tobacco and cigars, 150-500; glass goods, 200-300; paper, 150-300; books, 200-300; pamphlets, 300-500, etc.”
He thinks that the average addition to original cost made by the middleman amounts to 50%; but he is below the mark, according to my calculations, which make it 662/3=40% of selling price. Another author, Gustav Maier, states that in Zürich, a city of 150,000 inhabitants, 1 million francs a-year are spent for advertisements in the newspapers, while those of another kind may amount to as much again, so that of the 30,000 families each had to spend about 65 francs on this head alone. The increase of middlemen in Germany from 1881 to 1891 has been almost 40%, while the increase of the population in that period has only been 11,65%.
I add from the vast material collected only one further calculation given by the already mentioned W. G. Moody, before the United States Senate Committee of 1885: “A farmer sells his wheat to the middleman at from 40 to 60 cents a bushel, and it goes into consumption at $1,50 a bushel. We, the consumers, are paying here $10, $11, $12 a barrel for flour; and as there are 4½ bushels of wheat in a barrel, anybody can make the estimate of how much is paid in the way of toll.”