I AM bidden to rail against Big
Business. The gravamen of the charge is to be found in Quadragesimo Anna: "It is patent that in our days not wealth which is accumulated, but immense power and despotic economic domination are concentrated in
the hands of a few, who for the most part are not the owners, but only the trustees and directors of invested funds, which they administer at their own good pleasure.
" This concentration of power," adds Pope Pius XI, " has in its turn led to a threefold struggle. First there is the struggle for economic supremacy itself ; then the fierce battle to acquire control of the State, so that its resources and its authority may be abused in the economic struggle; finally, the clash between the States themselves."
What is the solution prescribed by His Holiness?
First, the State instead of being the tool of vested interests must become " the supreme arbiter, ruling in kingly fashion far above all party contention, intent only upon justice and the common good." A new " true and effective guiding principle " must be set ttp for the governance of economic life. This principle is neither free competition (which nevertheless within certain limits is right and productive of good results) nor the economic dictatorship which has recently taken the place of free competition.
No, " a more lofty and noble principle must be sought in order to control economic dictatorship." This principle is social justice and social charity ; and the juridical and social order must be informed by this principle of social charity, which must pervade the whole economic organic.
FAIR DAY'S WORK FOR FAIR DAY'S PAY Secondly, " the mutual relations between capital and labour must be determined according to the laws of strict justice, supported by Christian charity," Labour must give a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, capital must pay a living wage with due regard to the needs of the worker, and must give security of employment.
Thirdly, " free competition, kept within just and definite limits, and still more economic power, must be brought under the effective control of the public authority."
Fourthly, " it is rightly contended that certain forms of property must he reserved to the State since they carry with them a power too great to be left to private individuals without injury to the community at large."
am bidden to rail against Big Business. but let us not be more Catholic them the Pope himself.
The solution is not the enacting of vindictive legislation aimed at crushing Big Business ; the experience of U.S.A. shows that this is apt to lead to a deadlock in which all business comes to a standstill, industry languishes and unemployment is rife. Business big and little must be controlled by just and wise laws based on Christian justice and Christian charity.
BIG BUSINESS: BIG OBLIGATIONS
Listen again to Quodragesinto Amu). Speaking of the obligations of almsgiving, beneficence and liberality, Pope Pius XI says " The employment of a large income in increasing the opportunities for remunerative work, provided the work be devoted to the production of really useful goods, is to be considered an excellent act of liberality, particularly appropriate to the needs of the time."
Here is no scathing denunciation of Big Business—of the owner of a large income ; but a careful recital of the obligations incumbent upon a rich man in dealing with " that part of his income which he does not need in order to live fittingly and becomingly."
Moreover, as we have seen, the holy Pontiff declares that the State (the biggest of all Big Business') rightly controls certain
forms of property that are vital to the community. But this is clearly by exception, the governing principle is enunciated in § 79 of Quadragesinro Anno: " It is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to a group what private enterprise and industry Can accomplish ; it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, for a larger and higher emaciation to arrogate to itself functions that can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies,"
Mr. Colin Clark estimates that in the seven years 1921 to 1928 the number of independent workers and employers in Great Britain declined by 14%, showing a strong tendency for independent employers to be replaced by salaried managers.
XXth CENTURY MISERS
This tendency, whereby " larger and higher associations arrogate to themselves functions that can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies " is, in the words of the Pope, " a grave evil and disturbance of right order." Now sin is the only evil; what sin is it that inducts men to build ever greater fortunes; ever bigger businesses. It is the sin of avarice: there are misers of the XXth century no less than of the XlVth.
Avarice ,ii the Big Business man's unavowed sin. Father Vincent McNabb says that avarice consists In an excessive love of the power and wealth of this world.
Says Pope Pius XI: " When rtren are fascinated by and completely absorbed in the things of this world, Christianity alone cart draw their atterrtion and raise ir heavenwards."
Some fifty years ago, half a dozen family men were congregated in a working man's parlour in Woolwich, and they decided to add together their needs of tea, sugar, butter, bacon and eggs. By thus clubbing together their requirements, they found that they could buy straight from the wholesaler and by-pass the retailer. In this way, so I have always understood, was born that great cooperative society, the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society. The idea has spread rapidly, and this particular society is now the largest trader in S.E. London. The Cooperative Wholesale Society is the largest bulk buyer of many foodstuffs and other merchandise in the country.
Is this Co-operative Society idea antisocial, un-Christian? The small traders have in many places had to give way to the cooperative Societies: instead of a number of owners of small businesses, we now have the large co-operative with its many ramifications.
THE OTHER SIDE TO THE QUESTION.
But there is another side to this question. You remember that advertisement for Picture Post that appeared a few months ago? It showed a grocer's shop of a hundred years (Sr less ago, with the cat sleeping on the bag of sugar, the tea in an open case, the butter fleoblown, the old-fashioned scales that did not give just weight. And there was another evil that the picture did not show—the little grocer's boy engaged in a blind-alley occupation for excessively long hours delivering goods throughout the district, and sleeping 0' nights in company with the cat under the counter among the comestibles.
If Big Business brings a fair deal for the consumer ; cleanliness, just weight, a reasonable. and not excessive profit: if it brings steady work at a just wage, and a career to the worker—then it is not wholly evil. But Pope Pius Xi's principle stands: it is an evil for a large association to arrogate to itself functions that can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies. More: if, in the process of expansion, Big Business pursues policies deliberately aimed at crushing its smaller neighbours, that is an evil. " If a business does not make enough money to pay a workman a just wage because it is compelled to sell its products at an unjustly low price, those who thus injure it are guilty of a grievous wrong; for it iv they who deprive the workers of a just wage."
Undercutting, a deliberate policy aimed at ruining a business competitor, is, it is true, not the monopoly of Big Business, but is to be met wills in every rank of the business hierarchy.
ENGLAND'S GOOD EXAMPLE.
But let us be clear on this point. The situation in this country, for all its defects, is nearer to the Pope's ideal than it is in any other country. The holy Pontiff's first desideratum is a strong Government able to withstand the pressure of vested interests. We have this in England. All men, from the highest to the lowest, are equal before the law, and the judiciary knows no fear or favour—the Government itself is subject to the justices. Business morality is at higher level here than in any other country. An Englishman*); word is his bond.
Furthermore, the rich willingly submit to onerous taxation. Any income over £20,000 a year is taxed at the rate of I8s, in the £ ; the rate of death duty on estates of over £800,000 is 50 per cent.; for estates over £2,000,000 the duty is 66 per cent, Company profits are limited by F.P.T. to the pre-war level. The heavy incidence of death duties, over a long period has been of very great effect in redistributing the wealth of the country, In no other country is there such a great body of small savings, derived, I am convinced, from the JOCial services which have had the effect now for marry years of making it unnecessary for the working nran to dip into his resources for meeting the small difficulties of life. In the ten mars 19213.37, the volume of small savings grew front £2,150,000,000 ro 000,000,000. The growth of the social services is to be attributed a arn persuaded) to the Christian charity of the ruling classes of this country.
Let me not be misunderstood, however.
There are black spots, in the distressed areas, in the unemployment problem. But there is no doubt in my mind that any proposals tending to a solutions of these problems have more chance of a hearing and, indeed, of effective action in this country than in any other country of the world.
But besides the ,question of Christian charity between man and man, there is the wider question of the economic relations between nations to consider. The holy Pontiff hinted most plainly that in his view the economic struggles between the nations were a fruitful cause, perhaps the chief cause of war: " The fierce battle to acquire contriel of the State so that its resources and its authority may be abused in the economic struggle; finally, the clash between the States themselves." In this matter we and the U.S.A. have a grave responsibility. We are the rich nations of the earth; if we would be reckoned as truly Christian nations we must heed the words of St. John: " He that bath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shut up his bowels from him, how doth the charity of God abide in him?" These words apply to nations no less than individuals. The resources of the world are meant for every man's enjoyment, and if the two great Anglo-Saxon nations would only follow a policy of making the world fruittul and rendering the fruits of the earth available to all peoples, prosperity and peace would reign.
There is a grave danger that the world, after the war, may be divided into three economic camps—the American dollar system, the British sterling system, and the " also rens."
ESSENTIAL WORLD UNITY Against alio it seems to me, we Catholics should put forward the truth of the essential unity of the world; we should set our faees against trade restrictions and currency restrictions and do our best to moderate the rigours of the world's monopolies in tin, copper, rubber, tea, coffee.
Cheapness through plenty and the availability of the world's resources to all nations should be our aim.
Two final observations: Firstly, the present Government policy of concentrating production in the most " efficient " units will mightily accelerate the already strong current towards Big Business—and towards Slate control. At the end of the war we shall
have Governmental control of the banks, the transport system, coal, iron and steel, the cotton and wool industries, Government regulation of building. The Government has power to control each and every business in the country, and that power will not be given up. The Times of March 17 warns us that Government control will probably stay " for some lime " after the war on the plea that efficiency and the avoidance of unemployment demand it.
Such a state of affairs will be tantamount to full-blown State Socialism, and Catholics must realise that men who seek to control our industrial lives will also seek to curtail our family and religious rights. Wherever the State has usurped power in one direction it has always naturally, and even necessarily, usurped power in other directions.
" It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, for a larger and higher association to arrogate to itself functions that can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower societies,"
Secondly, we must not be dieappointed if the establishment of the reign of Christ proves a long and difficult process. On the one hand, we know that mankind has fallen from the original state of grace, and that we must not expect the minenium round the corner. On the other, the Christian way of life can hardly take hold of a nation whose educational system is not permeated with
Christianity. The effect of the Education Act of 1870, and of those that have followed it, has been to force a purely secular education upon the great bulk of our fellow countrymen.
If you sow secularism, you must expect to reap secularism. If you would produce the blossoms of Christian justice and charity, you must sow the seeds in a sound Christian education.