Land, The Workless
Brilliant Catholic Labour M.P. Mr R. R. Stokes has high praise for the Work-For-All plan.
" The effort the Catholic Herald ' is making to cure unemployment," he says, " should be supported by every thinking man. It is preposterous that when war looms ahead there appears to be a job for everyone, but when peace breaks out ' millions have to face enforced idleness."
Mr Stokes, one of the most. promising of Labour M.P.s, and young as M.P.s go—he is forty-one--entered Parliament through a by-election at Ipswich in February of this year. He changed a Conservative majority of 7,250 into a Labour one of 3.161.
His opinions of the W.F.A. plan, war, agriculture, unemployment, private ownership, the State and the individual are trenchant, and undecorated.
" It is surely time that we Catholics realized that there is a solution to this unemployment problem, that the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount can be translated into the social structure governing our everyday lives.
"People do not seem to realize that as it is they themselves who create demand, the solution of the poverty problem lies in arranging society in such a way that each may apply his effort to meet that demand—a demand which under a properly organized Christian Society would only fail to be met if nature proved niggardly. We know that nature is not niggardly, that God has provided in nature enough for us all."
" Liberate the Land"
He believes that by measures of land reform a great deal could be done to satisfy present needs—food for the under fifty-bob-a-weeks, work for the unemployed.
a We should liberate the land from its present monoply control. By this I do not mean the depriving of the present landlords of their ownership, but rather the reframing of our laws in such a way as to encourage the best use of all land in the interests of the people as a whole. "Let the landlords continue to own the land, but let them pay over to the common fund that value which land derives, not from the exertions of the owner, but from its situation and from the presence and activities of the cornmunity.
" Consider the difference between a field in the country and a building site in the heart of the town. It is the position of the latter in the midst of a busy, thickly populated community which gives it its value—not the industry of it owner.
"So, in varying degree, is it with all land. Surely it is only reasonable to suggest that this communally-created value, this economic rent, should be collected by the community and used, in place of to-day's crippling rates and taxes, to pay the nation's bills."
If you protest • • •
If you are so unwise as to protest violently that these ideas are against Catholic teaching, in the way quite a lea Catholics have done before you, according to Mr Stokes, then he will quote for your instruction two passages from Reruni Novarutn.
" God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sem% that all without distinction can deal with It as they like, but rather that no part of It was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to le fixed by man's own industry and by the law of individual races,"
And the second quotation is: " The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether."
So, what have you?
Obviously you have this, thinks Mr Stokes. " That it is clearly wrong that our laws should be so framed that what was meant for all has now become the monopoly of a few, and the masses must pay first for the privilege of existence a toll to those who hold undisputed control over the natural resources and can even refuse access to those resources if they so desire.
"What belongs to the individual must be used in the best interests of the public good."
" Cure Poverty—Cure War"
And is there any way to stop war?
" Yes," says Mr Stokes. "We can stop war by curing poverty, and we can cure at least enforced poverty by insisting that the resources of nature provided by God for all are made available freely for the need of all."
Here in seven brief points is the way Mr Stokes sums up his ideas on the whole matter of work, food, freedom and security.
"1. All wealth is produced from land by man's labour.
" 2. As all men have an equal right to live they must all have equal rights to the use of land whatever their race, creed or colour.
" 3. What a man produces by his labour is his. It does not belong to the State or anyone else.
" 4. The value which attaches to land is due to the co-operation of the whole community and to the public services
which are necessary for the existence of the community.
" This is Double Robbery"
" 5. To allow land values to be appropriated by individuals involves a double robbery. It deprives the community of the values which it has created and obliges the State to confiscate individual earnings to pay for public services.
"6. If some men hold valuable land unused or badly used others are deprived of the opportunity of making a living.
"7. In order to carry out these principles and to secure economic justice and equality, it is essential to remove all taxes on the production, exchange and consumption of goods, and to collect the whole annual value of land as public revenue for the upkeep of both local and central government."
Finally an appeal to the intellectuals.
"It is specially needed," says Mr Stokes, " that those privileged people who have received leisure for mental work through the labour of others may understand the iniquity of the present system, and regardless of their personal advantage use their best endeavours to Put it right."