Page 5, 25th July 1941

25th July 1941
Page 5
Page 5, 25th July 1941 — Notes and Comments

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Notes and Comments


WE have not so far commented upon the detention of Mr. Cahir Healy because we had hoped that the Government would by this date have made public the reasons for the detention and made a promise of an early inquiry into the case. Under Regulation 18b there is no need for any of this, but the case of a Nationalist leader in Northern Ireland because of its special character suggests once again the desirability of amending the Regulation. Protests in Ireland state " between the internment of our colleague and the concentration camp we see no difference." Whatever the merits of such a protest, it is obvious that it has considerable propaganda value for the enemies of Britain, and since it is incredible that the Home Secretary would take the step of detaining a Nationalist leader in the present state of relations between Britain and Ireland without satisfying himself that he has very good prima facie reasons, there can be no objection whatever to making public the reason and immediately having the case independently examined. The case of Mr. Healy differs only in the accident of his influence in a neutral country and his claim to belong to that country from other detentions under 18b, and we repeat our view that no sufficient ground has been or can possibly be adduced for the Regulation in its present shape. Our contention is simply that under this Regulation the most innocent person in the country can be imprisoned for any length of time. Let those who

are considered a danger to the country be arrested (including Mr. Healy, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom). but let the sufficiency of the grounds for the

arrest according to the Government's prescription, be confirmed by an indepen dent judge and court, examining the case at once, and let action be taken according to the judgment.


WE were unable last week to comment on the important statement by the Prime Minister in which he deprecated the flamboyant and irresponsible statements of certain Members during the recent debate on arms production. He singled out two such observations for special mention, one to the effect that our industry is only working at " 75% of our possible efficiency," the other that the Ministry of Aircraft Production is in chaos from top to bottom. Both state ments are certainly absurd, Whatever weaknesses may affect the Ministry of Aircraft Production it is unwarrantable to speak of it as being " in chaos from top to bottom." But the other observation is absurd in a context which we do not normally remember. 75% efficiency implies the concept of 100% efficiency. But 100% efficiency is little more than a metaphysical concept. If every administrator were endowed with superhuman foresight, if every manager and director were immune from all weaknesses of the flesh and ideally prudent into the bargain, if every worker's special talents and capacity were somehow exactly known and if work could somehow be made available for every i worker's special talents and capacity, f enemy action against our supplies and lines of communication were invariably and miraculously brought to nothing, if every moral and physical weakness from bad temper to a cold in the head were somehow spirited out of existence for the duration of the war, we might have something which could reasonably be called 100% efficiency and, we might add in parentheses, if pigs had wings they would fly and doubtless provide us with the makings of a novel kind of aerial cavalry. We value as much as anybody the right of free and public criticism and a search of our columns will reveal that we have not hesitated to avail ourselves of it. But we have in the main confined our criticism not to the inevitable chance shortcomings of an improvised war effort but to those false assumptions in values, morals and economics which hinder us in war as they in peace.


QIR Kingsley Wood has stated that if " we are to avoid inflation it would be necessary to increase our savings by another f6,000,000 a weak. It seems a pity that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should still be stressing the purely monetary side of the inflation danger. In so far as the essential feature of inflation is a rise in prices the war has amply demonstrated that that danger can most effectively be met by control not on the monetary but on the physical side. In the old sense of the word we are already in the middle of a gigantic inflation, since newly created money is piling up in the banks—where in point of fact, it is doing no harm whatever. Frankly we feel that these dreadful warnings against the inflation bogey are being a little overdone and the danger of making the nation too inflation-conscious, again using that term in a purely monetary sense, lies in the fact that when the time comes it will be possible to stampede it into accepting a ruinous policy of deflation as the sole remedy for a quite imaginary evil. A runaway inflation either now or after the war would certainly be a disaster. But we must not lose sight of the fact that an entirely stable and rigid system of prices may have almost equally undesirable consequences. A mild inflation is the modern means of achieving what from sheer need for survival peoples always do from time to time achieve, namely a writing down of debts. There is a perpetual tendency in human affairs for the debt burden to become overwhelming, and whenever some means of shaking off this burden is found a period of prosperity ensues, During the last three centuries this salutary function has been performed by the expanding flow of precious metals, from which there has resulted a slow but steady decline in the purchasing power of money; that is to say a mild but steady inflation has been going on all the time. Now that this flow is diminishing and the metallic backing of our money is being done away with, some alternative technique will certainly have to be found. At present we are thinking far too little of this aspect of the inflation problem.


THE report of the Uthwatt Committee

• appears in the main to be a reason

able and conservative document. The aim seems rather to be to set safeguards against pure chaos in post-war building reconstruction than to devise any immediate blueprint for a future Britain. This is a very wise policy. We cannot at the present stage devise ambitious and detailed schemes for the future, since nobody can tell how the physical face of Britain may usefully be shaped until we have a general notion of what will be the nature of the economic foundations of our national life. How, for instance, can we attempt to limit the size of London until we know to what extent we propose to depend on our international

banking services and our Overseas trade?

How can we hope for decentralieation until we have settled the broad lines of our agricultural policy, and how can we plan or settle anything until we know whether or not our great natural assets which are our coal mines are to be exploited to the national advantage in a big and imaginative way? It ,is clear that these are the formative causes which no planning authority can legislate out of existence. Of all this the Uthwatt Committee sems well aware, and if the sphere of its labours is necessarily thus circumscribed, those Labours can nevertheless be immensely valuable.


THE registration of the miners has • caused a not inconsiderable explosion which seems to have surprised the Press, though considering the known and palpable facts of the matter, that surprise is in itself somewhat surprising. We sincerely hope that the present crisis may lead to the long overdue improvement in conditions of miners' work and pay, but that does not alter the fact that the compulsory powers which the Government proposes to use in this matter are abundantly justified. What we are all waiting for, for the most part in tactful, perhaps overtactful, silence, is the exercise of those identical powers of compulsion towards the mine owners. In an article that recently appeared sin our columns attention was drawn to the fact that the present organisation of the coal industry, which is, of course, the pre-war organisation, had one purpose and one purpose only. It was to preserve a certain minimum of profitability in existing undertakings and with it, no doubt, the livelihoods of many miners. This is the reason why uneconomic and uneconomically sited pits are still being worked. At the moment, however, it is a matter of the utmost indifference to the nation whether the paper values of mining shares collapse or whether they don't, while in the matter of miners' livelihoods, it is now the livelihood that is looking for the man and not vice versa. There is, therefore, no conceivable reason why the entire existing organisation of the coal mining industry should not be Lytteltoned into the dustbin.


wE wrote last week of the money • power which we described as a vast conspiracy (in which most of us in some degree participate) to make everything yield to the profit-making motive. Naturally those who wield great financial power arc able to keep peoples and even continents enslaved (often only too willingly because the vested financial interest permeates throughout) to this sordid valuation of human action. This, it becomes ever clearer, is the enemy of religion, morals, culture and the freedom of the human person. We are indebted to last week's Dublin Standard for a short quotation from an article by Henry Williamson, author of Torka the Otter, which well illustrates our point. " I have done a little broadcasting," he wrote, " but could I say what I thought, what I believed? Of course not! In 1938 I wrote in a script that experiments at Cambridge, upon rats fed exclusively on white bread had resulted in the rats dying of various diseases (all due to malnutrition) within three months. I was not allowed to say this, however. Nor was I permitted to extol the virtues of wheatmeal bread. I was not allowed to explode the old lie that British wheat was unfit for making into wholemeal flour. The Money Power had mills at the ports and its machinery was designed for skinning the nutritious golden skin of the harder foreign wheat-berry, in order to produce snow-white flour, and also to supply the feeding-stuffs trade with " offals," as the skins or rinds are called. If everyone, hearing my talk, made sudden demand for wheatmeal bread, millions of pounds worth of machinery would have to be scrapped. Sixteen million pebple might he permanently undernourished but sixteen million pounds must not be lost!

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