No Pink, Please
I HAVE BEEN a Radical —you may call me a Red if you like without hurting my feelings for over twenty years. My tint has varied considerably during that period, from a delicate pastel pink to a scarlet that would arouse the most genial of bulls to delirium.
But the depression has done something to me, chiefly because it has done something to everyone, that has forced me to Like my most cherished beliefs, my talking points — and D.>rd, how I did talk about them!—off the shelf, give them a little scouring, and see how they stand the test of cold-blooded examination.
I have mentioned the depression and its effect on other people because what it has done to such a horde of people lias made me just a bit sore. You see, nearly everyone on earth has been made a good deal poorer in the last four or live years, and a big percentage of these people have, quite excusably, become Quick 'Lime Radicals. A lot of them have read the Radical books and think they know all the answers; they have heard for the first time the more sensational of the Radical arguments and they din into my ears propositions which 1, after twenty odd years, have begun to question. Which annoys me; annoys me sufficiently that 1 feel I must sit down and write out some of the uneasy suspicions, the deviations from the path of true Scarletina, that have plagued me.
In the first place, I think I have always been uncomfortably aware that the Radical element of society can be divided into three classes: the Have Nots, the Won’t
Haves, and the Never Will Haves. These three classes differ greatly in many resorts, but in one respect they are one. They want to alter or destroy a form of society which makes the Haves possible. And quite right ttx>. Only about four percent of the world’s population comprise the Haves, while the rest of us Ix-long to one of the other three classes, although in normal times only a small percentage are Radicals. The individual who is both a Have and a Radical I have yet to encounter.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I think I ought to attempt a definition of each of the three classes of Radicals. To me, no such definition seems necessary. But as so many Quick Time Radicals are being bom every minute and are as fanatical as converts to any cause always are, I’d better get busy and describe the personnel of the Radical movement before text many Newly-Reds start reaching for the over-ripe tomato.
Harmless Have Nots
VT'OUR HAVE NOT is just what his title implies; he just hasn’t got anything and doesn’t like it a bit. And I don’t blame him. He, however, is quite likely to graduate from his class pretty quickly. The man who finds himself hungry in a world of plenty and is both angry and vocal in consequence, can always find an audience. If he is blessed with brains, his audience may become so large that it may lift him up into the ranks of the Haves.
The classical example of the Have Not who became a Have because he was both angry and excessively vocal is Mr. Bernard Shaw. That Shaw was ever a true Radical or ever will be, I don’t for a moment believe. That at one time he was excessively irritated because such a lot of people had so many of the things he wanted, I cheerfully admit. Read the preface to his novel “Cashel Byron’s Profession’’ and you will see what I mean. Here you have the picture of a Have Not wandering about the West End of London, his pockets empty, cursing the people who, to him, seem to have had everything desirable tossed into their laps, while he, feeling himself an intellectual giant, wondered where his next meal was coming from. He didn’t have to wonder long. Rage in his heart and wit in his brain, he sneered, snarled and scoffed at the Haves, who promptly paid him for the entertainment he afforded them. Paid him in full measure, pressed down and running over.
Of course, there are not many Have Nots like Bernard Shaw—which is lucky for Bernard Shaw. But the Radical Have Not rarely stays in his class. He is “class-conscious” for the very good reason that he doesn’t like the class in which he finds himself and is determined to get out of it. If the capitalist system ever is overthrown, it will not be because of the Have Nots. They are either out to make capital of their condition or temperamentally suited to it.
The Won't Haves is a much harder class to describe. I belong to it, and I firmly believe they are bom that way. Some comic arrangement of their glands or hormones or what-have-you is resjxmsible for their fierce determination not to regard the world as their oyster, and to a congenital belief that what is, is necessarily wrong. Very often a Won’t Have will resent being called a Radical, although he
is and a very definite one at that. In the ranks of the W’on't Haves are to be found the artists—usually unsuccessful ones — of the world. These people don’t hate money or possessions. If you poured into their laps a couple of hundred thousand-dollar bills they wouldn’t protest one little bit; they'd be rather pleased in fact. But they do definitely dislike the business of making money.
It may be all wrong, may be an evidence of the essential wickedness of man, but the fact remains that the man who doesn’t keep his eye on the main chance doesn’t have a chance. If the financial section of your newspaper nauseates you, if you hate to chaffer or bargain, if you feel that money shouldn’t be a standard for achievement, you are bound to be a Wön’t Have and the chances are a hundred to one that you will be a Radical.
The Never Will Haves are the logical Radicals. They are the people who from birth are prevented from waging a fair battle with life; the crippled, the diseased, the insane. If we who make up what is known as society don’t take care of these poor souls, they have every right to demand that we shall. To do us credit, most of us realize this responsibility and are doing our best to shoulder it.
The instincts that are responsible for acceptance of the .Socialist philosophy are sound enough. Stark poverty, sickness, unemployment, all forms of misery are unnecessary and should disappear. At the root of all Radical philosophy this humanitarian feeling is to be found; it is sound and good and is by no means the property of the Radicals.
What is Unearned Increment?
BUT RADICALISM concerns itself with the means whereby these various miseries are to be removed, and I have come to the conclusion that the first step in eradicating them is to quit shouting plausible humbug and understand something about our economic system as it really is—not as it is represented in the textbooks of the Radicals.
Now what are the things which the Quick Time Radicals of today find utterly evil? I believe I can describe them in plain language, disdaining the terminology of the economists. It is my private conviction that if economists had less terminology and more horse sense, they might be of more value to a muddled world.
Well, the first one—and it included all the others—is what is called Unearned Increment. A good phrase; roll it over on your tongue and see how readily it lends itself to a first-class snarl. Unearned Increment! Until the last few years it has been a phrase that has meant balm and blessing to me. Whenever I saw a man lolling back in the luxurious upholstery of an expensive motor car, often
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No Pink, Please
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accompanied by a loller of the opposite sex who looked particularly tasty to me, I had merely to mutter to myself “Unearned Increment” and immediately within me took place what the psychologists call an adjustment. In other words, this blessed phrase made me feel superior to the muttonheaded fool whose rascality had provided him with such an agreeable mode of transportation.
Then one evil day I started to ask myself just what an increment was, and how the capitalist scoundrel went about the business of uneaming it. The increment business was easy enough to understand, but the process of unearning it baffled me. After months of cogitation, I decided that only one form of increment could legitimately be termed “unearned”—the receiving of money or any other form of property byinheritance. To me it was a startling conclusion, and the method by which I arrived at it might be worth recalling.
First of all, I considered the most frequently cited form of unearned increment. A crafty crook with a little money in the bank bought a lot or lots in that part of a city which was not yet built up. The knave figured that the city was rapidly expanding in a certain direction, and that if he hung on to his lot or lots long enough, somebody would want his property badly enough to cough up a good deal more than he had paid for it. We will say that he paid S500 for the property. Because of the activity of his fellow men, stores or houses had to be built on this scamp’s property, and his $500 lot or lots became worth $5,000. If that wasn’t a clear case of getting something for nothing —unearned increment—what was?
In answering the question of whether or not the knave was getting something for nothing, my childlike belief in the iniquity of unearned increment got a swift sock. After a lot of painful thinking, it seemed clear to me that I had been getting things all mixed up. I had thought that the incremented lad had put into his precious lot $500. Now, quite obviously, he hadn’t taken currency for that amount and buried it in the lot. It wouldn’t have done him any good if he had; the paper would quickly have gone moldy and he would have been no nearer owning the lot. So what?
Well, what the man who bought the real estate really had done was to buy it with a certain amount of unused whoopee. “Whoopee?” you say. “What on earth do you mean by that?” Simply, that whoopee is just the reverse of thrift. Thrift may be a virtue, but it isn’t a joy. What all of us want from life is a good time. Our ways of having a good time vary enormously, but they all have one property in common— they cost money; Scotch whisky or first editions; beer or Bach; lovely ladies or lofty libraries. We all have our own particular brand of whoopee, and if we are to save we’ve got to forego it.
As most of us don’t save, we don’t buy lots and sell them for ten times what they cost us. If we do save, few of us take the pains to study the real estate situation so that we may profit by an investment in it. Lastly, if we do save and if we do study, few of us are willing to back our judgment. If the man who is willing to save, to study and to risk hasn’t earned some return, I don’t know what form of endeavor is entitled to it.
You’ve Got to Speculate
npiIE QUICK TIME Radical is sure to object that all land should be the property of the State; that there are thousands of men and women who, even by an exercise of the strictest economv, could never save $500.
Very well. Just what the State would do with all the land on earth even HenryGeorge wasn’t able to make quite clear— and neither can anybody else. As to the question of the individual being debarred
from profit by lack of funds with which to invest, I reply that I can’t see any earthlyreason why people who want to purchase land, or anything else for that matter, for investment, shouldn't purchase co-operatively. The co-operative experiment is neither new nor has it often been unsuccessful. The great difficulty is to get people to add to their incomes by sacrificing any considerable portion of their favorite whoopee.
As all this “vile” unearned increment is the result of speculation, it follows that the Radicals are particularly incensed when the word speculation is even whispered. They tell us that speculation is the favorite device of the legal thief; that it is a coward’s instrument; that when one man speculates successfully, another is ruined. I dare say there is a semblance of truth in all three statements. I seem to remember that in the midst of the spree just preceding the depression certain gentlemen who had made theirs shook august heads and intoned solemn canticles in which invariably occurred the phrase “orgy of speculation.” So to even the most conservative thinker, this speculation thing is a dangerous tool to play with.
With that assertion I am enthusiastically in accord. The only thing that bothers me is this: Everything on earth is a speculation; every form of human endeavor is a speculative effort; every darned thing that happens —fair weather, foul weather, flood, hurricane and earthquake, good fortune or ill— is a matter for speculation. And don’t let the scientists fool you into thinking that it isn’t.
The trouble with your orthodox Radical is that he won’t recognize the distinction between investment and gambling. And yet if we throw overboard a few convenient generalizations, the things are as different ¡ as the demeanor of the Archbishop of i Canterbury and Mae West. The lumping of two utterly dissimilar things together is due,
I am sure, to the careless use of certain phrases. Thus we say of the man who purchases stocks that he is “playing the market.” So, for that matter, is the housewife who g(Xis to a grocery store to buy a pound of butter. I Iowever much you want to buy something, you have got to find a place where it is sold; this place, for the sake of convenience, is called a market. Most of us know what a fluffy-minded female will do in a market; she will have a whale of a time buying “bargains” quite regardless of whether she needs the goods, whether they are really gcxxi values, or if she can afford to sjxind her money on them. She just naturally loves to shop, and she finds sanction for this passion in the belief that in some mysterious way she is getting something for nothing.
A good many saps who play the market “shop around” in the stock market in much the same fashion. Someone “in the know” gives them a tip that “they” are putting up the price of E>tabunk Common. So they hustle off to the market and lay their cash on the line in the belief that Lotabunk— they don’t know what sort of concern it represents, what it manufactures or what is the demand for its product—is going to hit the ceiling and leave them possessed of scads of other ignorant wights’ hard-earned mazuma. These are the sort of people of whom it may truthfully be said that they play the market. A lot of them play the ponies also, and for the same reason.
Can Governments be Trusted?
THE INVESTOR is a very different sort of person. In a country as young in an industrial sense as Canada, he is one of the most important factors in making progress possible. A single concrete example is worth a ream of theorizing. I suppose we are all prepared to admit that the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway was not exactly
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a bad thing for the country. How was it accomplished? Almost on a shoestring. Every time a hundred yards of track was laid the promoters of the road had to go out and snaffle some money from somewhere.
The people who supplied that money didn’t toss their cash at the promoters with a nonchalant gesture accompanied by a good-humored grin. Far from it. The man who decided to kick in with his cash only did so after grave deliberation. He had to measure with almost prophetic accuracy the chances for the railway’s success. Usually his initial investment was a small one which he watched with acute interest and concern. As the chances of success became greater, he frequently dug up some more money. He had his reward, but surely he was as much entitled to it as were many of the executives of the company. His investment in C. P. R. was prompted by both brains and courage. Was it a speculation? Sure it was. And so is every other investment, whether in labor or in money.
There is no such thing as a one hundred per cent safe investment. Suppose you put your money in bonds issued by your own country, confident that the interest will be paid regularly and the principal retired at maturity. Where is the element of speculation in such a transaction? Right here: You can’t possibly know just what purchasing power your money will have during the life of the bond or at its maturity. And money is nothing else in this cockeyed world but purchasing power. You hope, naturally, that you will receive certain symbols that will enable you to buy more of the things your heart craves that you put aside for the purchase of the bond. But you don’t know; you can’t know. Your investment is an assertion of your belief in the future of your country—and that’s about all it is.
Being a conscientious if slightly looney sort of cuss, let me see whither my argument has taken me. Oh, yes! Everything is a speculation. What used to be my argument when this fact was pointed out to me? I used to say—and I still think it was a good argument—that if the profit motive were to be removed from our economic life, the result would be a more equitable distribution of wealth. The State alone was to be permitted to buy and sell things; to hire and fire labor; to utilize and develop the natural resources of the country. But buying and selling involves a big margin of speculation, whether it is done by the individual or the State. A magic word, this word State. Actually it means the men— and the odd woman—whom we choose to manage our affairs for us. When these individuals are chosen they call themselves a government. And I have yet to learn of a government to which I would confidently entrust the investment of a plugged nickel.
How Free is Free Speech?
AND NOW I’m going to try and handle a really nasty one—the question of free speech. The moment you question the right of any individual to express publicly his opinions without let or hindrance, you are going to be attacked by all sorts of people—not necessarily Radicals. You will be told that free speech is essentially a British institution; that every Sunday, in Hyde Park, London, you can hear all kinds of people preaching the most heretical doctrines and getting away with it. A policeman will be around somewhere, of course, but he is there only to protect the speaker.
To speak quite frankly about this matter, from what people who have been in Ix>ndon recently tell me, this isn’t quite the case. You might mount a soap-box in Hyde Park and truculently assert that Ramsay MacDonald wears ladies’ lingerie, and escape with nothing worse than the ribald jeers of the mob. But you won’t advocate revolution by armed force, you won’t demand that Woolwich Arsenal be looted and its contents distributed to the malcontents and have the attendant “bobby” smilingly twirl his impressive mustache. Oh, no! If you are so palpably nutty that the least intelligent of your listeners knows you are nutty,
you can yell your head off. But if you are intelligent and preach subversive doctrine, there is a nice, cool, uncrowded cell waiting for you.
Of course', this Hyde Park business is just an aside; the real question is whether : anyone may publicly preach subversive; doctrine, and who is to decide that it is subversive anyhow? It’s a sticker: I frankly admit that. If there is to be no sort of censor, and any sort of individual, madman or rascal, saint or monster, is to be allowed to talk publicly about anything, then the resultant condition is anarchy pure and simple. Does the Radical want anarchy? Not by the longest of long shots he doesn’t; he is all for setting up a form of government that will force people to behave like good little boys and girls whether they want to or not. And if he succeeds, I’m reasonably certain there isn’t going to be a lot of free speech vibrating through the land.
On this point, Radical and Conservative would seem to be in agreement. The question remains—what is to be ^censored and who is to do the censoring? If we keep in mind the cynicism that “God must love fools, he made so many of them,” I think we may be helped to an answer. I remember once interviewing a well-known chemist to get material for an article I was writing. As I was not so much interested in chemistry, about which I knew relatively nothing, as I was in getting some “punch” into my article, I steered the conversation around to poisons and their use by criminals. Quite calmly the scientist told me of a number of poisons that could be used to remove a fellow human from this life with a minimum risk of detection. “Hot stuff,” I said to myself. “This is going to beat all the detective fiction ever written.” When my chemist had concluded his little dissertation on safe homicide his jaw set and he said:
“What I have just told you is for your own information; it illustrates some of the problems with which I am constantly confronted. But you are not to write a word of it. Too many fools and criminals know altogether too much about deadly poisons as it is.”
A Change is Coming
DO YOU SEE what I am driving at? A well-meaning professor of economics may voice certain causes for dissatisfaction with existing conditions and prescribe a j remedy. Among his fellows these suggestions are merely material for academic discussion. Handed on to the utterly unintelligent and uninformed, they may lead to an outbreak of fearful violence. I listen to the radio a good deal, and I am one of those odd people who enjoy a gixxi speech. Well,
I give you my word as a gcxxi Radical that many of the talks to which I have listened ought never to have been delivered.
Only the other day I came across the amazing statement in a Canadian paper that any sort of talk should be allowed on the air because nobody listened anyway. If that is so, why talk so much about free speech to which no one listens? But they do—the mentally unbalanced especially.
So what should be censored? Here’s a rough and ready rule. Any utterance that could conceivably lead to useless violence, loss of life or destruction of property. Who is to decide what constitutes such utterance? Certainly neither politicians nor police. Probably any successful journalist could do the job well ; he knows the public taste and usually deplores it. He knows that the elements which go to make up a Iront page story are crime or sex or both. He knows that the emphasis placed on these subjects is bad—and powerful. Give him a free hand, and the kind of free speech that can do nobody any g;xxi and may bring about disaster will lie heard no more.
Now, what has all this I have been saying about free speech got to do with Radicalism? Just this: Radicals of every conceivable
stripe are constantly yelling for free, uncensored speech. What they have in mind, of course, is their own kind of free speech. They don’t usually stop to consider what an
anarchy of utterance might imply. If they did, I am sure their yells would die away to whispers.
I could write a fair-sized book exposing the hollowness of much of the Radical philosophy. By the time I managed to get it published, the market for it would have disappeared; a change in our economic system is coming rapidly. So I won’t write it. My purpose in thinking out loud about two or three of the most arresting Radical war cries is simply to persuade the Quick Time Radicals that any political philosophy is a darned hard thing to formulate. They, in turn, are entitled to ask me the question: “Well, where do you stand?” It is a question I would like to dodge, but, roughly, here is my answer:
The honest Radical must make up his
mind which of two things is likely to happen, and which of them he wants to happen. Does he believe that what we call the capitalist system, with its miraculously developed technique for conducting affairs, will so reshape itself that mankind’s future will be happier, or does he believe that the system must be utterly uprooted, destroyed, and a new fabric be woven to replace it?
If he believes the latter, he is a Communist. If he is, he will be well advised to await what is known as the logic of the event. He know’s that the utter destruction of a way of living that has taken so long to evolve must mean unspeakable suffering, and he must be prepared to be one of the sufferers. Of one thing I am certain: No honest
Radical can be an academic socialist. Very literally, that dog won’t fight.