by Dick Stokes, M.P.
THE State exists for the individual
not the individual for the State. This is the main point on which the
Dictators go wrong and it should be constantly borne in mind in our programmes for after-war reform. I want less Government, not more.
Governments should only exist to see that justice and good order are administered, whilst leaving the maximum freedom to the individual Leo XIII clearly laid it down that the ditty of the State in righting any wrong must be " limited to the needs of the occasion and must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the mischief."
The real iniquity of the rule by privileged classes of people has been that they too often consider what suits their own interests first rather than place in the forefront of their consideration the needs and benefits to which the people are entitled. What we expect from the State is that Laws shall be so framed as to give everyone equality of opportunity; equality of wealth is of no importance provided there is no restriction .of opportunity. The function of the State is to provide the opportunity and thereafter only to interfere in so far as it may be necessary in order to see that justice is done.
Family Life the State's Strength
Similarly the State exists for the family not the family for the State. The strength of any State in fact lies in the strength of the family ties and any policy which tends to weaken the latter must weaken the former.
That is why the clamour for evacuation of children to America was in error. The strength of the family lies in its unity ; disintegrate and disperse the family and its strength goes. Disintegrate the family and away goes the strength of the nation. In times of stress a nation needs its whole strength ; how can it bear that trial if the units of which it is composed are weakened? It was a disgraceful and shaming thing that numbers of children of well-to-do people, including children of Cabinet Ministers, fled abroad to greater physical security though what will happen to their moral fibre heaven alone knows 1 The responsibility of the Slate is to grow men and women who are morally, mentally and physically healthy members of the community. It follows that laws must be so framed as to enable this to be done. We cannot claim that in this country, with its peace-time population of nearly 2,000,000 unemployed hungry, ill-clothed people, the State has hitherto carried out its responsibility and the laws must needs be changed if we are not to return to appalling poverty and enforced idleness when the war is over. How can this problem be solved?
End that " Dear Scarcity " All wealth comes from the land. All the things men need for their existence are drawn together and collected from that vast storehouse of nature provided by God. In Rerum Novarum Leo XIII wrote: " Man's needs do not die out. but for ever recur; although satisfied to-day, they demand fresh supplies for to-morrow. Nature accordingly must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him from which he might look to draw continual supplies. And this stable condition of things he finds solely in the earth and its fruits."
Note that Leo says that Nature does provide and this we all see by the evidence of our own eyes. But private interest and monopoly to whom " dear scarcity " is almost a sacred motto stand in the way. Are we in future, when this war is over, to fight about artificially-created scarcity or are we to enjoy cheap plenty in peace?
The preference to the masses is obvious. Let those same masses then see to it that the State only interferes to the extent necessary to right wrongs. That the State has that right no one can dispute ; Leo says : " God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to anyone in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man's own industry, and by the laws of individual races:" Man-made laws, mark you I All that is needed is a change of law so that land which God meant for all and from which the sustenance of every man's life is drawn may be made freely available for all.
Many people dream of a future where private enterprise as we now know it is no more and all activities are administered and controlled by bureaucrats in Whitehall.
Call it what you like, will such a system work? Since the war started we have had some experience of Whitehall control and we are not impressed. True enough the pre-war system of private enterprise may be said to have broken down because it neither provided employment and security for everyone, nor did it so control production and distribution (part of production) in such a way as to abolish poverty in the midst of plenty.
But was the failure due to lack of capacity on the part of management and organisers or was there something much more fundamental blocking the road? For remember this, these same people who are to be judged a failure under the pre-war system, are for the most part the very people who will be required to administer the future central control, the only difference contemplated being that they will become Civil Servants and swop their office-stool for one in Whitehall.
True, the elimination of the profit motive may lead to greater justice and fairer distribution of the wealth that is produced, but much of the benefit to be derived therefrom may be lost .in the muddle and ineffi ciency of over-centralisation. There are two big obstructions to the success of the existing system which, if removed, would set the wheels of industry running ever faster and faster producing a condition at the same time wherein the worker could have the benefit of increased supplies whilst working fewer hours as the slave of the machine:— I look for the greater production of wealth not merely for the more equal division of the wealth which 'is now produced, together with the shortening of working hours.
Deal with Land Monopoly
The first of these obstructions is !and monopoly. Whits( I do not object to the private ownership of land, I do object to the power which that ownership grants to the proprietor who is thereby enabled to collect the economic rent, a value created by the community from communal effort and not by the landlord from his mere ownership.
By all means let people continue to own land whether urban or rural, but for the privilege of doing so they must pay over to the community a rent based on the site value of the land whether in fact they make no use, any use, or full use of it. in this way industry could be relieved from taxation and production stimulated whilst no one need go idle or short of opportunity to work.
All wealth comes from the application of labour to land, and the sure way to free opportunity and free production is to make it unprofitable to keep land idle or half used. In short, tax idleness, not industry!
What did Leo XIII say about all this? He urged the right of individuals' to private properly but he also stated quite clearly that the State must interfere if the individual owners are not giving thcir fellow man a square deal :—" 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 interest of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would " therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair."
You must not deprive the owner of more than is fair! Agreed ; but who creates land value? Mere ownership gives it no value; it is in fact created by the presence and effort of the community as a whole and it is fair that the community—not the owner —who from his mere ownership contributes nothing—should draw benefit from it.
The way to bring the change about is to introduce a tax on the site value of all land whether used or not and gradually increase that tax until the whole value passes back to the community. The owner will benefit in that it will then be possible at each stage to diminish other forms of taxation, he will share in the common good and himself draw from the common pool whatever is his due from his own effort. The second obstruction is the existing out of date monetary system. As I wrote in my last article the control of a nation's currency should be in the bands of the state. Money being merely a means of exchange there should be sufficient of it in circulation to enable the members of the community to exchange goods and services to the maximum of their capacity and wish to do so.
They should not be restricted because there is no money—that excuse is as stupid as if a Railway Company were to refuse to carry passengers because they had run out of tickets! Money costs no more to create than railway tickets—in fact a great deal less!—and by taking over control of the issue of currency from the Bank of England, the Government could see to it that there would be no restriction of exchange of goods and services within the country merely on account of shortage of "tickets."
A Rothschild once remarked " Give me control of a nation's money and 1 care not then who governs it!" The Bank of England is a private institution : its Charter should be revoked immediately and the control of currency restored to the people. The Government should put both land and money reforms through now—in war time—so that the national effort may no longer be impeded by these two breeds of parasite and so that the road may be clear for the maximum free reconstruction when peace breaks out. Until this has been done both our war and peace efforts will be sabotaged by the landlords and the moneylenders.