Striking New Manifesto
"The Bed-Rock Of Liberty Is Ownership"
ANY of the British Distributists are excitedly pleased by the striking
manifesto issued by the Liberal Party Committee in favour of a wider distribution of property.
No official attitude has yet been decided by the Distributist League, but several individual members are giving The manifesto their full support,
"The concentration of ownership in the hands of either a small class or the State denies the ordinary man his right to be a man and makes him a slave, not a citizen."
That comes from the eeporte jcst published by the liberal Party Committee.
You thought " Liberal" was shackled to Laisser-Faire and "Progress "—the kind of " progress " that made Jarrow a refuse dump?
Alas, Poor " Progress" "Civil and political rights are of priceless importance and need guarding vigi
lantly. But they are no( enough. The bed-rock of liberty is ownership. The man who has nothing can be neither free nor secure."
Alas poor "progress," the " bed-lock of liberty is ownership," not " freedom of the Preas," not " uneestricted private enterprise," not even "education." " Ownership," say the Liberals of 1938, and their sinful forebears shudder in their honoured tombs.
They also say :
" Property is something proper ' to man. It enables him to live his own life and develop his own individuality. The man who possesses 'a bit of property' has something to fall back on in bed times, and is not compelled to take the first job that offers. He can think freely-, act freely, vote freely, without fear of the conscquwees."
That's just plain common sense, and the qualifying sentence: "In no sotiety, however, has man absolute freedom to do what he likes with his own," is a plain reversal of Laisser-Faire.
The Liberals, in this short report, say a great many things which up till now only the unpopular or the unconstitutional—Dis tribut ists, Fascists, Communists—have dared to say. They go further. They point the night retnedies, or at least, most of the right remedies.
Free Trade is dutifully defended level:Al times. But even the Liberals cannot be expected to change all their theories in one go—and anyway, Free Trade. is defended for the right motives.
" Distribution not Destruction"
In the past both Liberals and Conservatives have given hearty electioneering promises to defend the right to private property. The Conservatives have had nearly seven years of power. The results of their defence of property are not impressive.
Less than I per cent. of the population own 60 per cent. of the total privatelyowned wealth.
The Liberals see that by depriving threequarters of the English people of property, you not only repress a natural and healthy instinct, but you make it easy for them to capitulate before quack economic theories or ready-made, despotic, political theories like Fascism or Communism. You also open the land to monopoly trade and to inefficient and expensive bureaucratic control of industries.
" We aim not at the destruction of private property but at its distribution."
So off they go, the Liberals of 1938, on the gay and difficult policy of distributing property more equally and widely among the people.
The Distribittists—who for long have cried intelligently in the wilderness and who might have been excused for a little human pique had they looked with disapproval upon the sudden championing of their cause by those who once despised it—support the new allies with some enthusiasm, if those members of the League to whom I have spoken are anything to go by.
Unnatural inequality comes from the present conditions of inheritance.
You inherit wealth and, therefore, you start with a better opportunity than the other fellow, and because of your wealth and extra opportunity, you leave a lot more wealth to your son when you die— and so it goes on.
Therefore reform the Death Duties, say the Liberals.
" The Duties shall be graduated according to the size of individual bequests, instead of to the size of estates, and they should be graduated not only to size of bequests, but according to the existing wealth of the legatee also."
All forms of monopoly, whether those occasioned by a natural limitation of producers (as for gas, or eleetticity), or those which come from defects in our legal structure (the cornering of commodities or wealth) or those which have the official patronage of the Government (tariffs, transport boards, marketing boards, etc.) discriminate against the small man.
Therefore, let us do all we can to abolish monopolies, say the Liberals.
Reform Company Law and the Patent Law; restore Free Trade; make price fixing and " measures to close an industry against new entrants "
Help for Farmers
At present rating penalises the man who improves his property and "places cruel * Ownership for Al!, published by the Liberal Publication Department, 42, Parliament Street, London, S.W.1. Price 2d. hardships on the small shopkeeper and householder.
"We urge that a substantial proportion of rates should be transferred from bug I. ings and improvements to sites."
It is good to read about industry that " there is no warrant whatever for the current belief in .the ioevitabiliay of bigness." The Liberal betieveseitt-the small man and says so.
In agriculture as in industry.
During the past twenty-five years the number of small holdings (under 50 acres) decreased by 40,000. That was because of poor land, and insufficient capital to improve it, too high rent or lack of knowledge.
The only way the small farmer can get credit is on his character security. That means he. has to go for his credit to the local auctioneers, to the merchant from whom he buys, or to a moneylender.
That's not good enough, say the Liberals.
" We therefore suggest that County Councils should be given authority to make advances to individual farmers on character security."
They also suggest small holdings for people with " other but insufficient means of livelihood "; and the revision of the Law so that the small farmer shall again have a share in the.road transport of stone, coal, wood, etc.
When these reforms are carried through, when the tendency towards monopoly and centralisation has been stopped and reversed, then " The paralysis of proletarianism will be broken and workers will begin to think of themselves less as a class foredoomed to the status of 'hands ' and more as citizens with a stake in the concerns in which they work and with the chance to achieve a competence. In a country where a large number of comparatively small businesses flourish, where an increasing number of persons own small property, there will be a new sense of opportunity for everyone," say the Liberals, and so say all of us.
Unite Employer and Employed Generally in industry the Liberal policy is to raise the real income of the workers and "oi knit closer the bonds between employer and employed, educate the
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