« ForrigeFortsett »
tical idealist who will not accommodate himself to the real world, and against them are placed the practicalities of the economic machine, so that when the pulpit speaks faithfully to the pews, the pews have to content themselves by regarding the truth as merely metaphorical, or feel annoyed at doctrines which they take to be personal attacks. Of course, the pews often do not trouble at all. Habit hardens and deadens the mind as continuous manual labour hardens and deadens the hands. Were this the last word, and were it possible for Society to become callous to the contradiction between its convictions of heart and its expediencies of conduct, and to be in its mind what it is in its form, a pure economic structure, there would be no struggle except that which competition and cupidity might provide. But this is not the last word. The convictions of the heart are never stilled. They not only are unsleeping in supplying standards of excellence alien to those in common use by which the work of Society is appraised, but also in their demands that social structure shall be determined by the higher requirements and by nothing else. Thus we have an endless conflict between spirit and form, an unrest which can be satisfied by no charity, no concession, no compromise—a challenge ever sounding between labour representing the human spirit and Capitalism representing the economic organization. The Pluto which heaves beneath Society and which sends tremors through its apparently solid mass, is the spirit to which we do homage as Christianity. There lies the conflict. The end may be far off. It may be separated from these times by turmoil, revolution, madness. But the spirit will not die down, because it is one of the powers of creation. In our time it shows itself mainly in industrial unrest and in the growing sullenness of the refusal of labour to co-operate with capital in production. Those who attribute these things to purely material conflicts between Haves and Have-nots, miss their meaning, for they have a moral origin.
Society is also an economic system performing the two great functions of production and distribution. The system is based on land, restricted in its area and varied in its productive value, though by man's powers that variation becomes less and less. Science makes the sand dunes rich as river deposits; skill utilizes the remotest parts and turns them into vast workshops and markets. But land remains as it was created, a monopoly, and it is owned because its ownership enables a toll to be placed on industry. True rent is not a payment for service rendered but the price of a permission to render service. That is the first thing.
Production depends on three main things; labour, brains, and capital, the predominating interest today being capital. All the three used to be the possession of the same person. The primitive producer hunted with his capital of bow and spear which he had made and owned, used his own skill in hunting down his quarry, and his own labour in tracking it and killing it. He was his own workman, manager, capitalist, and he provided himself with his own market as well. But wherever two or three are gathered together, the law of economy of effort tends to separate their economic functions. Labour being common, cheap and weak, was the
first to fall out of equality and into subordination. The question of who was to be the pure labourer was fought out through centuries in changing feudal . tenures—producing the landless man—in industrial revolutions—producing the propertyless proletariat —and in their accompanying political and social developments. To-day we have the three factors well divided though not always confined to different individuals. We have the workmen, in the mass, pure workmen, but in some small sections performing managerial duties, or owning shares in businesses; we have the managers, in the mass, purely managers, but in sections owning the capital with which they work, or interested in the capital which other managers work; we have the capitalists, in the mass, purely capitalists, but in sections working as managers of their own or of other people's capital. What little crossing there may be in these functions does not influence the general character of economic society. The interest of capital is predominant. Managers and workpeople alike must make it profitable. If there be any conflict, it rules the conflict. It is the influence which determines whether we are to undertake the burden of tutoring the black man or interfering with the brown one. If it requires for its successful working a margin of unemployment, working-class families must submit to unemployment. If it must glut markets in order to maintain itself in working order, markets must be glutted. If it is essential that it must sometimes prey upon itself, its victims must submit as the victims of human sacrifice had to do in their day and generation. If it can flourish more vigorously for a time on degeneration, its right to do so must be allowed. True, it has been curbed in its absolute claims.
Combinations of workmen have encroached more and more upon the powers of capitalists in determining industrial conditions and wages, and have set up the authority of labour against that of capital. Legislation has also curbed absolute economic power by a series of factory and workshop laws imposing standards of comfort and safety that could not have been secured otherwise. Thus, Capitalism is now controlled by two different forces, the rival economic interests of labour and the social interests of the community. But these bridlings make no fundamental change in the economic nature of Society. Labour does not control production, the community has not changed Capitalism, and this is seen if we work out the process of production and distribution in their broad but essential features. All production is primarily for the use of consumers and for the life of Society. It is the necessary effort of living beings to procure for themselves food, clothing, shelter, and the amenities of a civilized existence. When every man or every family was its own workshop and market, production was a purely personal concern, but when production became specialized into trades, and when the goods that a family consumed became the subject of the most intricate exchange on world wide markets, the matter became one of social concern, because if communal life is only an extended form of individual life, communal economics and industry must afford some guarantees of individual well-being. The divisions of functions in production cannot be allowed by the community to jeopardize steady supplies of necessaries, or be made the opportunity for certain classes and interests to control for themselves the sum total of the communal product. The association of men in communities promotes two important gains. First of all, it is a guarantee of individual security, so that all men, by mutual aid and protection, may develop in peace; then, it is also a guarantee that, by association, labour will be economized and production and distribution effected in the most efficient way. Theoretically, and from the very nature of human interdependence, the supply of the things of life to individuals is a communal service which ought to be organized as part of communal concern and responsibility. But there are practical difficulties in the way. These “oughts” have to wait for time and circumstance. Economic machinery moves faster and is more easily constructed than moral machinery. A man will do what is advantageous far more quickly than he will do what is right; he will meet the need of the moment far more swiftly than he will provide for the need of the next year. Still truer is it that an individual seeing personal advantage will act far more readily than a community seeing communal advantage—for one reason that the nerve organization of the individual is infinitely better co-ordinated and capable of quicker response than what corresponds to it in the community. When the individual sees his advantage and the community is quite unaware of its, the individual has it all his own way until the community has pulled itself together, is ready to act, and has created the organization which enables it to act effectively. Now we can understand why capitalism arose, what its services have been, and how it is to merge into a higher organization. When production became divided into trades and professions, and the