Why not try Work?
S. E. McGORMAN
"The cure to unemployment," says this engineer, "is simple. It is to go to work. And there is nothing difficult about it."
MANY OF our Canadian people are in financial and mental distress. Our governments are harassed for funds. One half the revenue of Ontario, often called the banner province of Confederation, is being spent to keep a great number of our people from starving to death. Taxation has risen to the point where the law of diminishing returns must apply, depressing the living standards of all classes. While it is easy to blame the politicians, I think it is safe to say that no man in authority goes through a day without receiving at least one appeal to give further assistance to some cause, good in itself maybe, but bad in that it would increase the taxation toward that ultimate point where it cannot any longer be supported. If that day comes, all tax-supported causes must fail regardless of who is hurt.
To the writer it has seemed obvious for some time that a great part of our trouble was due to a hopeless attempt to make a multitude of theories square with the hard facts of life, rather than to any fundamental defect in our country, our business system or our people as a whole. This article will point out what I conceive to be the fallacy in these too popular theories, trace the steps which have brought us to our present state of comparative abundance, and suggest a way along which the march may at any time we choose be resumed, and without recourse to any experiments with funny money or the abandonment of democratic government.
The Age of Abundance Fallacy
r‘PHE SENTENCE, “We are living in an age of abundance,” has started many flights of oratory in the last five years, but it will not stand the test of arithmetic. In the first place, capital wealth cannot be distributed. Only income may be so divided. It would profit us nothing if we each had title to a small piece of the Royal York, any more than we are the richer for each owning an inch or two of the Welland Canal.
Where there is income it can be divided; but where there is no income, the division of ownership is futile.
I have prepared a chart showing the result of dividing the U. S. income among the gainfully employed for the years 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932, from the all-time high to the depression low. The figures on which this chart is based are those of the U. S. Department of Commerce, the result of the most thorough analysis of national income ever attempted. American figures are used because they are easier to get; save that they are a little
higher, they do not differ materially from Canadian figures; they were prepared by the present administration at Washington, which is generally conceded to be definitely hostile to business, and favorable to so-called “divide the wealth” policies. In consequence these figures should be free of any suspicion of making the results of division less attractive than necessary.
This chart contains three columns.
The first gives average wages paid in the years 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932. There was a steady fall in the monthly wages each year from an all-time high of $119 in 1929 to $89 in 1932, or by twenty-five per cent.
The second column shows what could have been paid if wages, salaries, bonuses, and shares of proprietors had been divided equally among all gainfully employed.
The third column divides dividends also. In other words, it is the result of dividing equally the entire income of the country among all who are gainfully employed. This is, of course, only a mathematical calculation, as it would be impossible to secure any such division without producing a total paralysis of the national business, for a time at least, since all business would necessarily pass out of the hands of those now controlling it into new hands.
I repeat, an equal division of the entire income of the world’s richest nation in its best year would give an average income of $148 a month. “That’s all there is—there isn’t any more.” Even this small figure is by no means net. About a third of it goes for taxes and depreciation on private property.
This seems to me to pretty effectively prove two things:
First, that the statement, “We are living in an age of abundance,” which is heard so much and which is the foundation of so many castles in the air, is a flower of oratory and nothing more. Abundance in any proper sense of the word does not exist, and never has existed even in the richest states; it is in no immediate likelihood of existing in any state, Capitalist, Communist or Fascist.
The wheat surplus, which is usually quoted as a proof that all we need is distribution, is not a proof of abundance but of lack of good management in the Canadian West, which grew wheat to the exclusion of almost everything else. The phenomenon of hardship due to lack of agricultural balance is not new. Some of the earlier settlers in Virginia actually starved because they grew tobacco, the cash crop, to the exclusion of things to eat. At one time com was rationed in New England to five grains per day per adult, but rum was abundant. There are no marked surpluses of eggs, beefsteaks, pork chops, or asparagus in the West. In 1928, the last big production year, well-to-do farmers in the West were serving canned milk at dinner parties and American eggs were coming into Winnipeg by express in 30,000 doz. shipments. There is plenty of wheat in Canada, but the unemployed don’t want wheat. To replace the dole by wheat would produce a riot.
In 1935, the government of the United States, acting on the theory that economic troubles were rooted in abundance, paid hundreds of millions of dollars to farmers for not producing food and for destroying food already produced. In that same year, the American people imported food to the value of more than two hundred million dollars in excess of their food exports. Pork was and still is being shipped from Poland to Ohio. In the same year, if we are to accept the figures of the foremost dietitians, to have fed the American people so as to produce the maximum of health and vitality, the supply of milk would have had to be multiplied by two, the supply of lean meat and poultry by five and the supply of fruits and vegetables by eight.
These figures, even if they contain a reasonable degree of error, reveal the A.A.A. for what it is—an attempt to enrich a nation by raising prices rather than by producing goods. The cycle is interesting. The government pays the farmer to destroy part of his pigs and recoups itself by levying a processing tax on the packer. The packer pays the processing tax and recoups himself by raising the price of pork. (Ham was recently quoted at 70 cents per pound retail in Michigan.) The industrial worker buys pork at high prices and relies on so-called labor legislation to help him force higher wages from the employer, who pays them if he must and raises the price of manufactured goods. The farmer turns over his pig-killing bonus for dearer goods and the cycle is complete. An illusion of increased wealth is created by higher prices, but real wealth is reduced because the supply of goods is reduced all along the line. The farmer destroys hogs; the industrial worker buys less food because the prices are so high; the employer pays more
per hour, but pays for less hours because he cannot sell as much of the higher-priced goods. There is one sure rule in selling: The cheaper a thing is, the more of it can be sold.
What is Income?
TF WE ACCEPT the hard fact that there is no such thing
as abundance for everybody, then all plans for obtaining a more abundant life for all by any form of division must be abandoned, since their success depends on dividing something which does not exist. Whether the means of division be by ever-increasing taxation, shortening the work week, codes, bargaining collective or otherwise, or by revolution and confiscation, makes no difference to the final result. It is customary for radical orators to threaten revolution as the last and sure method of getting “the people” what they want. History suggests that the well-to-do fear revolution too much and the poor hope for too much from it. The French Revolution, generally considered the model for all good revolutions, got the fjeople some dubious freedom and some wonderful songs, but as a whole they came out with much less wordly goods than they had before. They were also to learn that when it came to levying taxes the Bourbon kings had no imagination or effectiveness at all.
The sum of all incomes is the sum of the values of all desirable things produced, and can never be anything else. No law, or union, or financial or governmental system can alter that fact in the slightest.
The best which could have been achieved in the year 1929 in the United States, either under Capitalism or Communism, was a net income to the gainfully employed of about $100 per month and that is apparently the best return in human experience. If it is to be exceeded it must lx: by producing more goods and not by merely raising the prices of the goods already produced. Depreciating the dollar to fifty cents increases the wealth of a nation to exactly the same extent as depreciating the bushel of wheat to thirty pounds increases the fertility of a farm. If we are to have more goods, the way to get them is by more and better machines, more work per man per hour and more hours per man per day or more men producing useful things. Every increase of output since Eden has been by some one or some combination of these four methods. This may seem a hard road, but there is no other.
If the national income can be increased everyone can have a raise; in the past whenever national income increased everyone did get a raise. True, some got too much and some not enough; but all got something. The time is not long past when an almost incredible amount of work had to be exchanged for the bare necessities of life. In the early days of the American colonies the working day was from daylight to dark and seven years bound service was the going price for one transatlantic passage, with passengers packed like sardines in evil-smelling, dirty, vermin-infested ships. Two things are notable: first, that the man who paid this price did so voluntarily to better his position; and second, that the employers did not get rich. So little was produced that all, masters and servants alike, suffered much privation. About the same time in Europe children of three years sat all day in mine passages opening and dosing little fire doors through which their mothers, on their hands and knees, dragged coal. Yet the owners of the mines were by modem standards not rich.
Mr. Hjalmar Schacht, President of the Reichsbank, has made some interesting studies of the increase in world business previous to the Great War. His conclusions have been reduced to a curve (Fig. II) for simplicity’s sake. The curve also shows Mr. Schacht’s opinion as to the cause of the rise. The place of these events on the curve marks the time and order of their occurrence. It is interesting to note that among these pivotal events selected by Mr. Schacht, himself a banker, there is no law, no change in the financial system, no increase or decrease of gold or money. They are all inventions which made it possible to produce more goods per man, which according to popular theory should have caused unemployment but which actually enormously increased employment.
ÜOR THOSE who hesitate to admit that increased
wages and living standards depend on increased production, it will be interesting to calculate what wages could be paid in Toronto today for the production of common articles by eighteenth-century methods.
In Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations he tells us that 1,000 nails was the best production of a blacksmith in a twelvehour day. He notes also the beginning of mass production, in that boys trained to make nails only, dividing the operations so that none made a complete nail, were able to average 2,500 to 3,000 nails per day per boy. Now 1,000 three-inch nails can be bought in Toronto today for sixty cents, of which about forty-five cents at least is material and transportation. This leaves fifteen cents for twelve hours’ wages—plus taxes, light, heat, sales expense, capital charges and a multitude of other items. In other words, one cent per hour would be a better wage than could be paid to nail makers in Toronto on the basis of hand production of 1,000 nails per twelve-hour day per man. The same one cent an hour wage can be arrived at by comparing
today’s overland freight rates with wagon transport as it was in the eighteenth century.
This example illustrates many interesting points:
1. The old methods of low production did not employ vast numbers of men in nail making. The public went without nails. Hand-made nails meant small stone cottages with mud floors, thatched roofs and practically no furniture.
2. Nail makers today will be paid not less than $2.50 per eight hours, twenty times what the old blacksmith got. So improved methods raised wages instead of lowering them.
3. Many times as many men now make nails as made them in the eighteenth century, so the improved methods did not reduce employment.
4. But the most interesting point of all is that the public was the big gainer, far and beyond either the master nail maker or the wage earner. Here is the real social dividend of progress. We have nails in abundance, and there is not a man, woman or child in this or any other civilized country who is not more comfortable, whose life is not safer and actually lengthened by reason of this abundance. The progressive reduction in the price of goods is the best device yet discovered for distributing real wealth, for getting useful goods, and not stage wealth in the form of paper money into the hands of the greatest number of people.
This has been strikingly illustrated by the automobile industry. It would have been possible to “stabilize” the industry somewhere about 1920 on a price range of about double the present one, and at a wage rate of, say, $25 a day minimum. Had this been done, about a quarter of the present operatives would be employed in this industry. Some twenty million owners would be without cars, and the state would have gone without about a billion a year in taxes; we would all have gone without hard surfaced roads and without our present knowledge of local geography.
The reverse process is illustrated in the building industry.
U.S.DEPT OF COMMERCE.
Firmly convinced that a little work at a high wage is preferable to more work at a lesser wage, hourly rates have been maintained at the cost of annual incomes. No attempt has been made to increase the output per man in thirty years if indeed it has not gone down. The amount of building work available was assumed to be fixed. Therefore, the less one man did in a day the more days he would work. Taxes on real estate are high and apparently going higher. The net result is that a home is no longer an asset but a liability and an actual danger to the average family. Except for a limited number of people at the top of the economic scale, tiie only safe way to buy a home is to let someone else build it and buy it in at the mortgage sale. A very high percentage (in some cities around seventy-five per cent) of
all homes built since the war are available on these terms. Meantime our housing standards go steadily downward. From 1921 to 1933, in 257 principal cities of the United States the rate of replacement was 0.07 per cent. That is, it will take 142 years to replace all houses and even that rate of production was obtained by selling a multitude of people’s homes which they could not afford.
In England, on the other hand, the cost of building has been kept down and building is the backbone of recovery, about one quarter of the dwellings having been replaced in ten years. At the same time the price of the automobile has been kept up in England and they are relatively very scarce. In America the price of automobiles has been kept down and the automobile industry is the mainspring of recovery. Automobiles average almost one to a family—a condition unheard of elsewhere.
Since the introduction of power and of efficiency of manufacture wages and living standards have risen steadily. Statistics in detail do not go back beyond 1879, but in that year the average wage in the United States was just over iy2 cents per hour. In 1929 it was 56y cents. The average workman had his income multiplied by iy2 and his working hours reduced about one-third. Some things increased in price, but most diminished, for equal quality. Big business so-called did somewhat better by its employees than small business both in 1879 and in 1929, and in the intervening years as well. In 1879 big business paid fourteen per cent more than the average and in 1929 it paid thirty-four per cent more. Big business not only paid more than average business every year, but maintained an increasing and not a decreasing ratio, not because the managers of big business were more tenderhearted than those who managed the average business, but because they could adopt improved methods faster. Notwithstanding this last fact the new school of “Social Economists” generally favors the breaking of business up into small units “to help labor.”
While in some instances, notably in publicly owned or controlled industries where votes could be made to act directly on the management, militant unions have been able to maintain wage scales at a point not otherwise possible, but there is little or no evidence that annual wages as a whole have ever been increased otherwise than by increased production, or that they ever will be. If it were true that the condition of wage-earners as a class could be improved by establishing a thirty-hour week and limiting their production, it would also be true that it could be improved by amputating an arm of each workman and thereby very effectively limiting their production and at the same time making sure that there would be no chiselling thereafter. When a labor leader of known ability advocates the thirty-hour week or other production-limiting devices, it .should not be too quickly assumed that he does not see the fallacy in them. It should be remembered that if he did not advocate all the popular fallacies, so long as they remain popular, he could not be a labor leader any longer. Labor, no more than the rest of us, is ready to pay big salaries to be led along unpopular paths just because they may be the right ones. In that same weakness of human nature, common to laborer and financier alike, lies ninetenths of all our political ills. We all too frequently vote for the man who promises most, even when we know the promises are impossible of fulfillment.
Men and Machines
TT IS of small advantage by improved methods to double
a workman’s wages, if by so doing you put another workman out of a job and deprive him of any wages at all.
One of our metropolitan dailies recently gave a statement of the four fundamental facts on which what it calls the new economics is based. One of them was this: “Recognizing that the increasing use of power and machinery must entail an increasing displacement of human labor, it is agreed that purchasing power must be distributed by some method supplementary to wages and salaries.”
This is put forward as though self-evident, but far from being self-evident, it is very definitely proved to have been untrue for the past sixty years by the U. S. census. This period saw more power and machinery come into use than all the ages which went before, but in the aggregate not a man was replaced thereby.
In the United States in 1870, 44.3 per cent of all persons ten years of age and over were gainfully employed. In 1930, 49 per cent. In other words, improved methods and more machines had not only not displaced anyone, but had provided over six million extra jobs. Even this figure is relatively several million too low, since in the meantime school years had been extended and a great many people— probably another six million—were in school, whereas on the 1870 basis they would have been working. The advent of women in business did not replace men, for while the number of women ten years of age and over who were gainfully employed rose from 13.1 per cent to 22 per cent, a gain of just under nine million, the percentage of men employed also rose. The industrial system merely added the women to an ever-increasing total of men.
It is true that from time to time there are individuals who lose their jobs because the methods in which they were
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trained become obsolete. When through age or for any other reason they are unable to fit themselves into the industrial scheme elsewhere, these people have a very definite claim on the state. This is another matter; the fact of history remains that as output per man increased, total output increased, and more men were employed at a wage which increased as long as total output increased and no longer.
Since the production of goods increased so rapidly with the introduction of power and the factory system, why is it that everyone is not abundantly supplied with goods? The radical answer is that the rich kept the increase for themselves. This is easily disproved. Without any attempt to deny that there has been and is unfairness in distribution, it is self-evident that the good things of life are enjoyed by a greater percentage of people than ever before. The eighteenth century saw anything that could be called comfortable living confined to a little over one per cent of the population. Curiously enough, only in Russia where a Communist party of some two million control Russia and divide the good jobs is this condition approached today. In Canada, at least one third of the people are more comfortably housed, better clothed, better fed, more luxuriously transported from place to place, and have greater freedom of movement and wider choice of amusements than anyone, rich or poor, in the eighteenth century. In so far as medical and dental science can render life more enjoyable, and they do contribute enormously, the relief recipient today is beyond all comparison better off than Louis XIV, the sun king.
An English economist, Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) pointed out one of the most important facts of both economics and history but one persistently ignored alike by the orators of the French Revolution such as Rousseau and by the New Deal school of thought, which repeats Rousseau’s theories almost word for word, undisturbed by the fact that while they sounded well they didn’t work.
After the most elaborate studies Malthus pointed out that all life, vegetable, animal and human, tended to increase beyond the means of subsistence. Figure III shows the increase of population in England and Scotland for 2,000 years. Accurate records do not go back beyond the reign of Henry VII, but from known military facts earlier populations can be estimated with sufficient accuracy for our purpose. The curve shows very clearly that improved methods of production produced not only goods but people. Many have been sceptical about storks bringing the babies but few have realized in what abundance the steam engine and the dynamo brought them.
Since population has always increased with production, it follows from simple
arithmetic that the standard of living can rise only so long as production can be made to increase faster than population. The introduction of power and machines made that possible for one hundred and fifty years, but there is some doubt if it can be. maintained indefinitely. While there is no limit to possible production in sight today, it is reasonable to suppose that such a limit exists, whereas there is no limit to the production of life. Population in certain areas has often, with abundant sustenance, doubled in twenty-five years. That was considered by Malthus to be normal in Europe in his time, given favorable conditions. Had this ratio of increase been maintained from Julius Caesar to Henry VIII, the population of England and Scotland would have been not three million but something of the order of 106 x 2 6 2 = 4,610,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Obviously unless we are prepared to limit population, there is no great need for laws to put two men on every job which can be done by one.
The Way Out
P\ THEREFORE, a way could be found to expand our national income, even if it were not done with absolute mathematical justice to everyone, our average standard of living would rise, unless all past experience is false. A look at Japan will show the truly magnificent absurdity of saying that Canada has too many people for the available opportunities. Japan (excluding recent Asiatic conquests) is almost exactly of the same size as Ontario. It is volcanic and only about one seventh of it will support life. This is the equivalent of a strip from Windsor to Montreal in length and about seventy-five miles in width. Even at that it is poor in natural resources, yet the Japanese built up a nation of seventy million people, and have gone forth to conquer the world. With the resources of Asia so nearly in their grasp they would seem on form more likely to succeed than any of their predecessors.
To go forward, to increase the average wage substantially over anything known so far, and at the same time to reduce prices, Canadians would seem to need only the three essentials of success enumerated by the Chinese three thousand years ago —intelligence, courage and good will. All else is at hand. The cure for unemployment is the simplest of all things. It is to go to work. And there is nothing difficult about it. As soon as the people are in a state of mind to accept leadership back to work, not expecting responsible officials to argue down not only the candidate for work, but all the professional agitators, economic theorists and social idealists in the country as well before any work is
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done, the task will simplify itself very materially. We elect governments with every adult voting and speech free to the point of license. That being done, the government so elected should be accepted as the choice of “the people” for the time being and should be supported as such. The immediate rise of an army of amateurs to defend “the people” against the government should be discouraged by a strong public opinion, as should all use of the woes of the unemployed as ammunition for contests for jurisdiction.
We have heard of so many impossibilities in the last five years that many will not accept so simple a solution for unemployment. But consider this. The thing has actually been done before several times, with varying degrees of success. In fact only on this continent where resources per capita are highest does the problem exist in its most acute form. Before the march on Rome, Italy had ceased to be a nation and become a debate. The factions contending for a hearing were almost beyond numbering. Everyone talked, few worked. Mussolini didn’t have to overcome anybody, he merely walked into the control room and sat down. Nobody else was using it. A few months later a Canadian engineer who travelled the length of Italy made this comment, “Everywhere you saw' people working in groups in the field and with every group an*armed Fascist guard. The fellows with the hoes never even looked up at the train.” The people of Italy were put back to work with the bayonet, and that in itself proves that given the will they could have gone back without the bayonet. A bayonet may induce a stout man to jump a four-foot wall, but it cannot make him jump a ten-foot W’all. The experiment was a measurable success. The increase in wealth and pow'er and prestige of Italy is there for all to see; it was obtained by doing more work and talking less. The sole virtue of Fascism is that it provides a means to force people to do what is necessary, but what they cannot agree among themselves to do. If the popularity of Fascism seems hard to understand, remember that it serves three meals a day.
Since putting everyone to work is not an impossibility, the question which confronts Canadians is this. Have we enough intelligence, courage and good will to do otherwise what could be done with bayonets? In fact, taking the long view, the choice is probably this: find a better way or wait for the bayonet in the hands of either some resolute faction in our own population or in the hands of a foreign people; those who cannot or will not govern themselves successfully will inevitably become the subjects of others. The Ethiopians have received much sympathy, and rightly so; but had they developed their own country, as the Italians will develop it at a profit, they would not now need sympathy. Neither would the North American Indian. If Canadians do not develop their own resources, no matter why or how, they, too, will presently need sympathy.
Causes of Unemployment
UNEMPLOYMENT problems are not new, but two things which make them more acute in our time are new, and add to the general disturbance of trade which follows wars and war financing, and make a new peak after the greatest of wars.
The first novelty is an accelerated drift to the cities due to unprecedented wages. Not so long ago over ninety per cent of the people of this continent were subsistence farmers. With the industrial age urban opportunities opened up, and people began to drift cityward, not because of pressure from behind, because they could have gone on living just as they had always lived and have had everything which they ever did have, but because of the prospect of bettering themselves. Too many people, or the wrong sort of people, accumulated in cities; and when the problem became acute
it was handled in various urays, but not as yet by “intelligence, courage and good will.” Queen Elizabeth issued a decree forbidding further immigration into London. In the lS30’s in England the dole was suddenly stopped and the people left to fend for themselves, driven by necessity most of them succeeded in doing so. In the ’70’s the surplus people were driven from more than one American city by troops. When the problem w'as less acute the law of the survival of the fittest was, without much being said about it, left to take its course, and taking the long view its course is always effective.
Canada unquestionably has too many unskilled laborers in cities. In fact the unemployment problem is largely the problem of the unskilled. It is doubtful if there is a single man in good health today on relief (except in some areas destroyed by drought or flood) who ever successfully managed a farm. There are many who have been put off farms for mismanaging them. The farmer has had no easy time of it for ten years, but orators notwithstanding, those who have kept their farms in a good state of cultivation have stuck, and many have made a little money. Other men with limited financial resources have established themselves firmly on farms during the depression. There are few machinists, toolmakers, or molders unemployed. Most employment agencies can place the more skilful type of maids and cooks at good wages, and quite a number of totally unskilled girls as well.
The problem is here and must be faced. It only remains to say whether intelligently or otherwise. It should be frankly recognized that it is not an industrial problem. The unemployed did not come from industry and cannot return to it. The American Federation of Labor gives the number of the unemployed as twelve million—a larger number than those industry employed (8,800,000 in factory, 1,500,000 in offices) at the peak in 1929. Obviously to talk of “reabsorbing” into industry those who were never employed there or who have been rejected for cause is absurd.
Underwriting the Unsuccessful
'"PHIS BRINGS us to the second novelty,
the determination of the public that no one should, for economic reasons, lose his chance of life. To say that this is new may shock some people, but it is very new. The population that exists in any country, and the population which might have existed had everybody bom had a chance for life, tell the story. Only since the war have the resources of the country been poured out for the benefit of those in need. Unfortunately this decision does not end our responsibilities. With many tax bodies levying more for the support of the indigent today than they levied for all purposes twenty years ago, we should seriously consider whether we are relieving distress or manufacturing it, giving relief or promoting it. Starting out to relieve people thrown out of work by the dislocation of industry, we have-—perhaps inevitably since there was little time for study— underwritten the unsuccessful of every kind. To those at the bottom in any field of work it no longer pays to struggle. If a man has seven or eight children it no longer pays him to take an unskilled laborer’s steady full-time job. If he has twelve children it does not pay him to take a skilled mechanic’s full-time job, although he may not be good enough accountant to know it. If, as is the case with one man of my acquaintance, he has fourteen children, several feeble-minded and several tubercular, it would not pay him to take the general manager’s job in most industries.
The plan of paying people according to their ability to produce children rather than goods was tried out in England for some twelve years after the wars of Napoleon with unfortunate results. Thepeople with most children and least earning capacity crowded into London to live
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on the dole. Things went reasonably well until the public could not and would not sustain the burden longer, and the dole was cut off suddenly about 1833. The unfortunate people who had first been the beneficiaries of an unwise if well-meant charity then became its victims and were subjected to the full force of the law of the survival of the fittest. These events were largely responsible for the great slums of London which have endured in part to the present day.
If the law of Mai thus is true, the burden of supporting people in idleness must always become unsupportable in time. The more adequately they are supported the faster they will increase and the sooner the inevitable crash will come. This process is in full operation on this continent now. There is a way of dealing with the problem as yet untried. It is to relocate and train people to be self-supporting. This is a much more difficult matter than giving doles while the money lasts, because it must be training for productive work, in no way to be confused with the giving of financial assistance. Such a programme presents a real challenge to a democratic people.
Many do not see any necessity for going to so much trouble. They see no reason why the money should not last. “If there was a war we would find the money,” is their slogan. We did not find the money for the last war—we promised to find it, and the inability to make good on the promises upset world trade. We are not finding most of the money for relief. We are promising that our children shall find it. The final results may well be quite as bad as those of war.
The developments which the law of Malthus would lead us to expect are in evidence. One half of all babies bom on this continent are born to that seventh of the population lowest in the economic scale. Perhaps they always were so born, but we are keeping them alive whereas they used to die like fleas. Few mothers of people now in middle life, even the richest and most prominent of them, had the scientific attention now supplied free by most cities to the poorest. Few farm births, or births among the lower paid people in the self-supporting brackets, have such attendance today. This is not an argument for discontinuing these services in the hope that more babies will die, but it is a very
stern warning that public responsibility toward these indigent babies does not end with their babyhood. The necessity to do anything and everything necessary to see that they are so trained as to pull their own weight at maturity remains, and if it is not met the results wall be disastrous. The dole has been tried before, in China, in Rome and in England. It has always ended with unpleasant results, especially to the recipients, and it will end again with equally unpleasant results unless we add to the old technique something which has thus far been lacking.
Before anything worth while can be accomplished, it will be necessary to build up a strong public opinion to support the men in charge of the work. If this support is forthcoming, there is no ability in Canada which is not available to our governments for the task. Without it there is no reason why able men should attempt the work, only to be held up to scorn as the enemies of little children whenever they refuse to accept the view of the relief recipients as to what shall be done. There has been such widespread sympathy for the unfortunate that we have lost our sense of proportion. We fail to resent the fact that men with no record of having ever been anything but nuisances enter the office of the Prime Minister of Canada and of the acting Premier of Ontario and tell these gentlemen that they are liars. In Canada high office is not seized, but filled by election under the freest of ballots and with speech free to the point of license. When the Prime Minister of Canada is insulted, the people of Canada are insulted, and that fact should be recognized even by the unemployed.
We are also on the verge of accepting the amazing doctrine that a man should not work for his relief, that to do so is degrading and an infringement of some strange natural right conferred on a man when he becomes an indigent, but withheld from the rest of the population. If a man is sick he should be treated. If he is old or incapacitated he should be cared for decently. If he is unskilful he should be taught if that be possible, but if he is ablebodied he should work at least forty hours a week and there should be no alibi whatsoever. When the people are prepared to support our government in that attitude, the relief problem is half solved.
There is great clamor for work programmes and work and wages policies, from people with political aspirations rather than from the unemployed themselves. We recently had the amazing statement from the Minister of Labor at Ottawa that it would cost four hundred million dollars a year to put the Canadian unemployed to work. It does not cost industry anything to put men to work. The whole socialist hypothesis is based on the theory that the employers have not only not spent anything putting people to work but have profited unduly thereby. Why then should it cost the government such a prodigious sum every year? Simply because it is assumed that the government will get little or no value for the wages it pays. This sort of work and wages programme is in nobody’s interest and does not decrease unemployment. The United States has spent in one presidential term, mostly on work which has not enriched the country, as much money as was spent in all administrations from Washington to the end of Wilson’s first term, and they have more unemployed today than the whole European world put together. About all that is accomplished is to mortgage the earnings of the employed for a generation to come. No greater opportunity ever existed for properly directed co-operative effort. The place for government direction is with the people who cannot make a living, not in harassing those who can.
Back to the Land
nPHERE ARE many routes to a new technique open, but the most obvious one is to train men and return them to the land. Many will say, “But there are too
many farmers now. More will ruin farm prices so that no farmers can live.” The only answer is that the last ten million farmers to be established on this continent did not lower farm prices. They raised them. And furthermore, if we do not settle our great areas of fertile land another race will in time do it for us, with or without our leave. Another million successful Canadian farmers would be quite as likely to solve the railway problem as to ruin agriculture. Back to the land movements in the past have usually failed because it has been overlooked that the first essential on a farm is a fanner. An unemployed man dumped on a piece of unbroken land is not a farmer and is unlikely to become one. True, many of the pioneers in Ontario did it, but with them it was a grim sink-or-swim business with no paternal government to which they could appeal. Had these same pioneers, who incidentally acquired real wealth as fast as any other equally large group has ever done, chosen to remain in the cities and wait for money wages, the Indians would have repossessed the land long ago.
That the Russian co-operative farm is the most efficient means to produce meat and bread is doubtful. We used to hear a lot about how they would flood the markets of the world and destroy our capitalistic farmers. One year they did scare our wheat producers by exporting enough wheat to be a market factor, but the next year five million people starved and we hear no more of Russian wheat. In 1935 their exports were 2,000.000 bushels. There are plenty of Ontario counties which could equal that.
The principal product of farms should be not grain but men. Such men as Messrs. Henry, Ferguson, Drury, Hepburn and Rowe are living proof that a farm in Ontario will, despite all the sad stories, produce both men and money. While these men are in the public eye, they are not otherwise unique. A short walk from anywhere in the settled part of Ontario will find a successful farm. The collective farm does, however, offer an excellent training school ; owned and operated by the Government it would be made self-supporting, and those who were suitable could, having been trained, go on to farms of their own with seed and stock and a chance for success. Money wages at union rates may not be available for everyone, but wages in shelter, clothing, beef, bread, and chicken pie are available to all who are willing to work under intelligent direction; the sooner there is a willingness to accept such wages, the sooner will money wages be more plentiful than they now are.
Every man who can be trained and established on a real farm, not a squatter farm, will absorb another man or two in city industry. Thousands of men in cities who have not the slightest chance to be absorbed in industry, because they cannot do anything that industry wants done and for that matter never could do it, can be taken out of the back streets of cities, where they are a danger to themselves and to everybody else, and located on combination garden and farm establishments where under proper supervision they would more than feed themselves. There are thousands of young men in cities for whom two years’ real work in the open under intelligent supervision would do more than a college education. If young women do not want to do housework and cannot find factory work, they should not object to being taught to sew and to sewing forty hours a week for themselves and their sisters in misfortune. If we are our brothers’ keeper the unemployed have just as much responsibility to help their fellows as have the employed. When everybody works his or her forty hours, the national income will start up, and all will find themselves on a rising scale of living. There will not be perfect justice. Neither will perfect justice be obtained by arguing over the conditions under which work, if any, is to be done. If the relief burden in all its forms could be lifted from the people of
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Ontario they could build every year 7,500 new homes of good quality which they cannot now build.
Work is the source of wealth and the doing of the work is the main thing. The economic sin of the government’s “slave camps” was not the low wage, but that no work was insisted on. When a government is so timid that it will support people without asking any return, why shouldn’t an ambitious agitator try his hand at overthrowing it. The mere insistence on forty hours’ work per week from each unemployed man for whatever value he may be able to produce—with his relief allowance as a sort of minimum guarantee—will reduce the relief load materially because thousands will take the view that “if the government is going to make me work forty hours a week anyway, I can do better for myself under my own management than under the government,” and they will be perfectly right.
Intelligence and Courage Needed
TN CANADA there is no reason why ■L anyone should lack the necessities of life if he will work. There is no lack of work. It is only necessary to look out of the nearest window to see where values could be created. The unused resources of the Peace River valley alone are greater than those of Germany. The difficulty arises principally from the fact that the “outs” make a political issue of any man’s complaint if by so doing they can embarrass the “ins.” A jury can condemn a man to die, and he dies without creating a political issue. Surely some authority could be created to assign him a temporary job and see that he does it without Cabinet Ministers having to investigate the case.
When the public provides the necessities of life its obligation should stop there. There is no obligation to pay a “prevailing wage” or the “union wage,” or any other wage at all, unless for value received. There was much criticism of the wage paid in relief camps, but not a word in parliaement or a line in the press about the work done, although measured by value it was about the most expensive labor ever done in Canada. The mere shifting of the emphasis from the wage rate to the value of the work done would clarify the situation immensely. The unemployed should not be used to drive down the wages of the employed; but it is absurd to the point of fantasy to claim that the wages of men making goods for the market can only be maintained by taxing the product of their labor so that their employers may be inspired by seeing the unemployed receive high wages, derived from these same taxes, for doing work of little or no value. Wages I are not raised by example but by production. Maintaining any considerable number of people in idleness will reduce the real wages of labor. Whether the idle are rich or poor makes no difference. The fact of the decreasing wage may be concealed by inflation for a time, but its reality will be made plain to men who work and women who keep house by a scarcity of goods and by rising prices.
To make the indigent self-sustaining or nearly so will not hurt employed labor. We have the amazing spectacle today of labor leaders who proclaim their whole mission in life to be the betterment of conditions for wage workers, yet who spend their whole time and effort in trying to get more people on relief and more relief for those already on. For every dollar spent on relief between sixty and seventy cents comes directly from someone earning less than $1,500 a year, and the other forty cents comes from someone who would spend it on the products of labor if he did not have to spend it in taxes. If a market for the products of labor can be made by increasing the amounts spent on relief, then a market for com can be made by feeding it to crows. Workmen who expect to live by producing goods have no more dangerous enemies today than such leaders as expect to live by being elected and to that end try to build political support by keeping the unemployed in idleness. If there be any Fascists in Canada they have no better friends than these same leaders of labor, who try to save as many as possible from labor. Already young people starting out in Canada on a farm or in industry, who try to succeed at their business and who pay their debts, must work more than one half-day a week to support other people’s children. It will not be long under present conditions before they will he unable to support any of their own. There is no device whereby the cost of relief can be saddled on the rich though every one of them be reduced to penury. Making rich men poor does not make poor men rich. American industrial profits in the last ten years averaged cents per dollar of product. Out of this 5 34 cents come the taxes paid by the well-to-do, and to a large extent the funds for developing new business. Sixty-five cents per dollar of product went for wages and salaries. The employed must support the unemployed. Their wages are mortgaged twenty years in advance for the support already given.
After going the whole way in economic experiments, repudiating all their debts, killing their own people in numbers beyond all record, the Soviets have been driven to the conclusion that they cannot divide the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and have discarded the rainbow. They have learned that the only wealth is what people produce in the way of useful goods and they have written into their new constitution the words “From each according to his ability. To each according to his work.” That sentence has real significance for Canada. About the wisest man in the first century said, “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat.” That fact is fundamental and it can be ignored for but a short time.
To solve the unemployment problem we need intelligence, not the ingenuity of the • idle in producing rainbows. We need courage, but not the variety which robs the neighbors. We greatly lack good will, good will toward our iellow men, good will to work to the be’stof our ability. All else is at hand in such abundance as is possessed by few peoples on this earth.