Page 2, 4th October 1940

4th October 1940
Page 2
Page 2, 4th October 1940 — CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ORDER Elimination of the Small Man

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Locations: Worcester


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CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ORDER Elimination of the Small Man

Sia,—May I reply to M. Riley's interesting and intelligent letter? It is not correct to say that because the case against the small retailer is very strong therefore the case against the

small farmer is very strong. The point is that whereas the small retailer is becoming more and more economically indefensible this is by no means the case with the small farmer, particularly in England. England's principal dietetic need is more milk and the fifty-acre farm, which is a suitable size for a family holding, generally makes a good economic dairying unit. I am quite alive to Mr.

Riley's point about means and ends. The mere multiplication of goods is not an end in itself and if the means used to bring it into being are destructive of happiness then we must produce fewer goods. But I do not agree that happiness would be destroyed by orgunising industry and particularly distribution on economic lines or that with decent conditions and good security of employment a salaried manager is necessarily conspicuous as wanting either dignity or happiness. I know some of our Catholic sociologists talk as though every individual in receipt of a wage or a salary was a sort of downtrodden serf or roKit. I can only say that is not my experience I would be perfectly willing to defend the small retailer if the cost to the community of his preservation were only a small matter, but it is not. It is he who keeps in being a legion of redundant commercial travellers and helps to swell the enormous burden of our competitive publicity bills. I fail to see that the community gains anything by this, nor can I put sueh interpretation on any Papal Encyclical as to suppose that the Holy See wishes a grown man tc do work which could easily be done under proper organise. tion by a girl of sixteen, Here may 1 point out that I do not favoui the increase of income through cheapening of goods merely as an end in itself, but because it helps to enrich and enlarge the most important factory of all, which is the family factory called the home. For this reason also favour the maximum amount of standardisation in merchanted products that can reasonably be attained. I want to transfer the creative initiative of making variety out of simple materials from the factory to the home. In my view such standardisation would tend not to limit resourcefulness and creative skill, but to increase it in that sphere where it should have fullest play.

I submit that it is high time that we regarded the production of families as out most important basic industry and subordinated all considerations to that. The posses. sion of a borne, preferably together with some small holding of land, is from this angle the most important form of productive property that there is. Safeguard that and you are safeguarding productive properly. But this does not mean that the sources which supply this factory with its raw materials must be split up into infinitesimally small units not does that form of property necessarily subserve the end we have in view. A lot of loose nonsense is talked about this. and of the connection between this latter form of property and the family. This is remarkable because the possession of small property of this sort often conduces to family arnitation, as it

undoubtedly did in France. It is not the possession of a family business that brings large families into being, but the guarantee of a livelihood for all its members—which is quite a different matter.

" R. J. B.'s " letter puzzles me very much. He appears to me to beg the whole question of what is a just wage or a just price by telling us that the State can step in and delimit both, a fact which is of course, perfectly obvious, since it is already doing it. But he has not explained why it would be just to retail a particular article at bd. and unjust to retail it at 4d. or Sid. That is the question for which I am awaiting an answer He also suggests that the question of profits can be solved by making the Government the sole channel of investment. In other words, he solves the problem of what is a just profit by abolishing profit-income altogether and substituting pure interest (at least that I take to he his meaning), in its place. This might be a very good thing to do, but we are not an inch nearer to finding out what is and what is not a just profit. As to his contention that the greater number of people participating in the market the greater chance of competitive price ruling. This is a very old fallacy. The greater the number competing in the market the greater the number who must get a living out of that market and therefore the higher the minimum at which it is economical for each to trade.

Captain Curd has invited a submission of names for the Economic sub-Committee which I suggested in an earlier letter. The name that immediately occurs to me is that of Miss Barbara Ward, who would not only be eminently suited by reason of her personal qualifications, but would also be in a position to gather about her other qualified people. May I take the opportunity of reoutlining my suggestion? There were, according to my proposals, to be two qualifications for membership of this committee. (I). Members must be qualified professional economists. (2). They must accept the general programme of " Towards " though they need not be Catholics. I do, however, hope that before the committee settles to work Captain Curd will amend the clause concerning the just price and the just profit which I still maintain is devoid of meaning.

My only comment on " Nemo's " admirable proposals is that they will be grand once he has succeeded either in raising the level of agricultural prices or quadrupling the available acreage. In the former case factory farming would be practicable on a large scale (though " Nemo " objects to this). In the latter large numbers could practice subsistence farming without endangering the food supply.

Readers of my letter a fortnight back may have been puzzled by the expression " evading assets." This is surely the mot forte for a phenomenon becoming, alas, increasingly common. ft was. alas; not I but your printer who coined this inspired phrase. What I wrote was " wasting assets." I also

spoke of " share capital," where he made me say " spare capital."


Agriculture and Property

Ste—The recent letters of J. L. Benvenisti, " Nemo," and J. A Riley on the subject of Captain Curd's programme seem to offer a good starting-point for constructive thinking on the vital questions of agriculture and property ownership. "Nemo," like so many of his fellow-idealists, apparently sees the Christian Social Order in terms of " four acres and a cow " — the simple life of the medieval peasant. This hankering after the land is at the hack of most Catholic thought, and for very good reason. But it matters nothing to " Nemo " and company that such a policy would force the settlers on the land to accept a standard of living in comparison with which that of the Means Test would be luxury. We pre all agreed that a revolutionary change in agricultural policy is required in this country —but for heaven's sake let it be progressive and not reactionary. I think Mr. Ben. venisti will agree that land settlement, to be of any economic (as well as of moral) value to the community as a whole, must be planned on lines which will produce food on a scale that will support the settler at a standard comparing favourably with that of the town worker. Now to-day this inevitably means a widespread mechanisation of agriculture together with the co-operative ownership and working of large holdings in the interests not of absentee landlords but of the settlers themselves. The smallholding tenant-farmer like the owner of the one-man retail shop, is an anchronism—and a singularly unhappy one at that—in any society except one in which all conform to this standard.

Even Belloc, in spite of his strong distributist views, had to admit in his Restoration of Property that we cannot put back the economic clock, The fact then remains that, whether we like it or not, the greater the scale of production the higher is the standard of living which it can support That basic economic fact is the justification as well as the explanation of technological progress. If man has abused the powers put into his hands by the machine, that is not the fault of the machine. The universal hatred of machine-like concerns such as Morris Motors, Selfridges or Woolworths lies not in that they flood the market with cheap goods (some good, some not so good), but in that they are based on wage-slavery. But the solutioa is surely not to abolish large-scale concerns, but rather the underlying principle of economic servitude. Is it, as J. A. Riley declares, so " obviously absurd to think that a shareholder in one of our great emporiums feels the same about his local branch as an individual trader feels about his own shop " if the shareholders are the employees themselves? Surely such collective ownership by employees (including managers and salaried directors) represents the widest possible distribution of private ownership—the

goal of all Catholic socia teaching. The unnatural distinction betwee.. " employer " and " employee " here no longer exists. The employees are their own employers; and per contra the owners do all the work.

Is it unChristian to suggest to Captain Curd and his followers that since all property (wealth, capital, or whatever you like to can it) is the accumulated fruit of labour. labour is the only natural title to property? " He that will not work, neither shall be own." It is here that the Socialists have such a tremendous pull over the " capitalists." Yet the Catholic social planners either fail to appreciate the gravity of this problem, or simply ignore it altogether.

H. Risme.

urlingha m, S,W.6.

Supernatural Background

Sie,—Captain Curd evades my criticism of his programme by suggesting that if it were viewed as a whole my objections would be answered.

My point is, that the programme is not a consistent whole and cannot be viewed as such. A principle which the programme says " must be insisted on " which measures man by a thing, which treats of labour as one treats of the price of pork, is not to he visualised at one and the same time as thc principle of the Common Good of the Person of Human Dignity; for it is anti-social,

individualistic and degrading. The older trade unions fought with varying success against the degradation of this policy, but where industrialism, i.e., impersonal labour, has dominated, the principle is accepted. It is responsible to a large extent for the destruction of family life, and unemployment. That. women will stand less chance of employment than men, as Capt. Curd states, is a fiction and the facts arc overwhelmingly against him.

Pious axioms are the stock-in-trade of all political programmes Even Lenin went to St. Paul for his. A supernatural background needs an integral foreground to be Christian, and this is what the programme lacks.


Folders Lane, Burgess Hill, Sussex.

Agriculture and Machinery

Ste—I am pleased to see a first tentative attack on Mr. Benvenisti as oracle on all questions of economics and social reform. Three points interest me—the return to the soil mentioned by "Nemo"; the question of small property discussed by Mr. Riley; and the suggestion of a State Bank, the sole outlet for investment.

A revival of soil culture is the first indispensable reform which may make England a nation again. Men need hard manual work, freed from the oppressive weight of houses and the chatter of towns; and England needs a communal spirit which can only come out of co-operation in fighting the land.

I believe also in the full use of machinery. There is a huge field of development for agricultural machinery, to make farming more economical and more attractive. You will never get farmers cutting and reaping by hand again, even were this desirable; and if machinery is to be employed, why not use efficient machinery wherever there

is opportunity instead of compromising by the use of second-hand binders of antique design for the sake of a suggestion of romance 'I Farming and craftsmanship can be com

bined with industrialism. Industry must become the servant of the farmer and the private manufacturer. That is the meaning of the true Leisure State; the Leisure State gives Leisure to Work. Dr. Alexis Carrel has one suggestion—that labour for industry should be conscripted, and either a certain number of years in a lifetime or a certain number of hours in a clay should be given to the factories. These could be managed most efficiently by the State, under permanent officials whose work would be sufficiently a craft to prevent them being harmed mentally by their position. A national finance would enable jridustry to be run cheaply and smoothly, at the same time providing for the fanner his principal need— cheap credit. This, to-day, is essential, to replace the benefits which landlords used to confer. The State must be the new beneficent landlord Settle the problem of the machinery of production and set men free to live. Their bodies and minds should he devoted not 10 production but to life. This is a spiritual revolution.

Cluatees DOVER.. Severn Lodge, Worcester.

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