THE DYING ORDER
HE supreme social fact of the moment is that there will one day be an end to rearmament and that that day is not very far off. The Prime Minister has promised that rearmament will not end suddenly but that it will " taper off." This sounds very promising but it is not quite as promising as it sounds. For, as was pointed out in this paper some weeks ago, the end of the rearmament boom will in all probability roughly coincide with the end of an inflationary boom. There will have to be a scaling down all round and during the inevitable period of adjustment millions of men will be thrown onto the labour market.
Now here is a situation with which a Christian State has simply got to grapple, and at present the statesmen of this country are not grappling with it at all. There is no determined effort to face the facts, and no sort of intelligent plan.
Yet the remedy appears to lie ready to hand. The crying need of the hour is housing. The working class of this country is still for the most part rack-rented and badly housed.
There is room and to spare for a £1,000 million building programme, which could be spread over a number of years, before sane, decent and human conditions would become the rule rather than the exception.
The finance of such a programme will ad mittedly be difficult. There will, it is true, be an amplitude of liquid funds (the proceeds of the rearmament boom) but confidence will be lacking and investors hesitant. A government guarantee might possibly produce the money, but the objection must carry weight that a further increase in the inflated national debt is undesirable. Between ourselves, however, I think that a great deal of nonsense is talked about the piling up of the national debt. If you come to think c it the same objections would apply if it were possible to carry out such a gigantic programme by means of the normal processes of investment. Much the same sort of people would receive much the same sort of unearned increment, and much the same sort of people would pay it with much the same sort of money.
This fact is worth noting. It is debt which is the curse. Whether the debt title is or is not a government security may matter to the holder of the title. It does not matter much to anybody else.
Now the remedy for mounting debt is a capital levy. A capital levy does not mean, as some still seem to suppose, going round to moderately well-to-do people with a pistol and forcing them to write out enormous cheques. It means making all firms above a certain size give a bond the interest on which goes to the State. That bond then offsets a. corresponding amount of the national debt.
Here then is a plan. It may be a good plan or it may not, but some sort of a plan should now he in process of being considered.
A situation is imminent which in a Christian State should no longer be tolerated. If we are not very careful that situation is going to arise and it is going to he tolerated. It is time to demand action.
It is most certainly time to ask our Members of Parliament what they propose doing about it.