Mr. Stokes's Position
SIR,—We all owe so great a debt to Mr. Stokes for his courageous and almost unique behaviour in the House
of Commons, and his recent article on
industry in the CATHOLIC HERALD contained so much truth, that it may seem carping and ungrateful to criticise it. But Mr. Stokes's very position as one of the few Catholics of prominence in thepe political world to speak with an independent mind on the moral issues of the war and on social questions generally, makes it imperative to draw attention to the fundamentally dangerous assumption which appears to underlie many of the statements in his article. The gist of that assumption is contained in these words (1 quote out of context, but do not distort the meaning, I think. Italics are mine): " Man being an insatiable animal, there should never be a lack of demand. . . . There ought therefore in a properly organised society to be an evergrowing demand for the things men need and want. . . . Instead of increases of 10s. a week I would like to see increases of LIO a week . . . the sky is the limit in a pro perly organised scheme. As man is insatiable there ought to he more jobs than people instead of more people than jobs . • . the consumer supplied with an ever-increasing range of high class hut cheaper goods." There are problems involved which at the moment I am not concerned to discuss: the rights and wrongs of e productivity secured by mass-production machinery, with its appalling effects on the workers, effects which mere increases of wages and of " the standard of living " can only ameliorate; the question as to how far the increased productivity of machinery is a tragic illusion, based on the exploitation of natural resources—land, forests, minerals; and how far man's " insatiable desires " are, in fact, a perverted and abnormal growth, fostered by snobbery and advertising. What I am concerned with is that the existence of these " insatiable desires " and the direction of the nation's industrial effort towards their satisfaction, shall be accepted as natural and right in a programme for a " Christian social order." A distinction must be made between " wants " and " needs," which Mr. Stokes lumps together. Man's needs can be satisfied : he only needs so much food, clothing, etc. But his wants, once his mind and will have been turned from God to temporal goods, are indeed insatiable. Surely the great sin of the modern world, and the ultimate cause of its collapse, is precisely the frenzied effort to satisfy wants which are of their nature incapable of permanent satisfaction. So far this effort has been monopolised by the few at the expense of the needs of the many. But to universalise the standards of a debased ruling class (rises of £10 a week) can scarcely be considered as a step towards a Christian social order. If practicable (which I doubt) it can only result in still further sapping of the integrity of the workers by shoddy middle-class standards. This—a work of destruction which is unfortunately already very near completion. I do not wish for a moment to deny the need for social justice for the workers; but it would be a mistake to imagine that that can be secured merely by a more equable distribution of goods as produced to-day. In any wide sense, justice surely implies a right order, a right attitude of mind towards those goods. If the workers, together with other sections of society, have been led to believe that in their enjoyment they will find an earthly paradise, then they, no less than the upper and middle classes, must be shown that that is not so. Bernanos said that the hardest thing of all was to preach poverty to the poor ; yet in no small measure that is the Christian's task to-day. Ifeel that Mr. Stokes's views on this subject may well be misrepresented in a brief and isolated article of a series; and I certainly do not suggest that he is ignorant of the right order which social justice implies. But his statements as they stand cover dangerous implications, and coming from a man of such undoubted integrity and good sense. it would he a pity if they went uncorrected. F. G. SEARLE
The Cottage, Hartrow Manor, Williton, Somerset.