the subsistence type of half to one acre in extent providing poultry, vegetables and eggs for the family supplementary to unemployment relief without necessitating any change of residence.
Besides fulfilling the primary purpose of providing food, such holdings might under expert guidance serve as the basis for an apprenticeship which, later, could develop into land cultivation on a larger scale.
From this rapid survey it will be seen that a wise rural economy would not only serve to absorb much labour now unemployed but also enable the nation to go a long way towards feeding itself. A reduction in what is often an absurdly luxurious standard of living would bring the goal of self-sufficiency still nearer. English farming on the whole is better suited to supply the necessaries of life than luxuries.
Must Be Worse Before We Can Be Better
But there is a snag. The first result of a policy such as that indicated might be to create fresh unemployment. It is well to look this fact in the face. The nature of the difficulty is clearly stated in the Report, already referred to, submitted to the Carnegie Trustees.
" Under existing conditions," says a Times summary, " settlement on the land offers little hope of creating new employment; it is likely to lead to displacement elsewhere or to a general reduction in the standard of living of those already engaged in agriculture. The restriction of agricultural imports would lead to a decline of exports and increased unemployment, mainly in the depressed areas. It is a fallacy to expect a large net increase in agricultural employment by stimulating consumption in a certain direction, as, unless spending power increased at the same time, this increased consumption would be at the expense of some other commodity."
Such a condition of affairs following an attempt to put agriculture on its feet and incidentally to absorb the unemployed may be looked upon as the doctor regards the increased debility which follows a necessary operation. For a while the patient is worse rather than better though the initial cause of his weakness has been removed.
Our inflated industrialism has disturbed the normal balance of our national life and is in the nature of a disease. Its abnormality has been exposed, but there can be no evading the painful nature of the process by which it is sought to readjust things. We shall be worse before we are better.
Revolution Must Be Spiritual
But supposing the revolution (it is no less), is agreed upon, in what way can we prepare those whom it is intended to settle on the land for their new life?
So long as land-settlement is viewed on the political plane alone or as an economic matter it will fail. The transfer from city to fields can be effected only in a spiritual atmosphere which regards it as an exodus undertaken in the interests of right living.
That is where, it seems to me, the Catholic Church in this country can best
play its part. The institution of definite schemes are not in its province. But the holding up of ideals and the invocation of a motive-power making the realisation of those ideals possible most emphatically are in its province.