C.H. Douglas Out of Print ...... Mondo Politico
Social Credit, by
Major Clifford Hugh Douglas

Part II: The Mechanism of the Classical Ideal



IT was pointed out in Chapter VI, Part One, that there are two separate and distinct inducements to what is called employment. The first of these inducements is involved in the necessity under which humanity labours to provide itself with bed, board, clothes, and such so-called luxuries as are effective in setting free individual energies. That is an elemental necessity imposed by the natural conditions of our existence, and it is a primary necessity, in the sense that until it has been met we are not free to devote our attention to other matters. It is incontestable that the most efficient method of dealing with this primary necessity so far evolved is by co-operative methods such as have been incorporated in the industrial system of the past hundred years or so.

But the second necessity under which men and women labour, after the primary necessity has been met, can broadly be described as the satisfaction of the artistic instinct; which can be further analysed and defined as the incorporation in material forms of ideals conceived in the mind.

It is one of the numberless evidences of the skill and knowledge of human nature which is resident in what we have called the Invisible Government, that these two human necessities are confused in many arguments which proceed from apparently divergent authorities on industrial and social questions, which arguments, when analysed, may be seen to buttress the classical ideal. Until recently, the statement that a large body of the public lived on the verge of starvation, because it was unemployed, and that, therefore, the problem of the modern world was the abolition of unemployment, received almost universal assent. It is fair to say that opinion is no longer so unanimous on this matter; and in consequence, from the position of being stated as an axiom, it may be observed that it is receding into the position of a proposition to be proved, and the confusion to which we have just referred is more or less successfully invoked to this end. Heavy taxation, bankruptcy, and general industrial stagnation are paraded by the Press and the average business man to support the statement that "markets must be found for our goods." Such "Labour Leaders" as Mr. J. H. Thomas have been tireless in explaining with somewhat unctuous rectitude that their constituents desire work, not doles. It is important to examine what may be behind this statement, and in order to do this, and because those for whom Labour Leaders are supposed to speak are much in the public eye as the sufferers by unemployment, we may begin by examining that form of distribution of purchasing-power popularly called the "Dole."

In the first place, the term "Dole" carries with it a definite stigma as of an allowance made by charity to persons unable to help themselves. It carries the smallest possible suggestion of self-respecting independence. The origin of this designation as applied to the unemployment allowance is obscure (more particularly having in view the fact that it is based on compulsory unemployment insurance to which both employer and employed contribute), but it may be assumed that it did not, like Topsy, grow out of nothing. The payment of the thing itself is hedged round with such forms of indignity and inconvenience as the official mind, with every stimulus to activity, can devise, and although fundamentally when it ceases to be an insurance claim the dole is a small dividend on the National Income - a forerunner of "Dividends for All" - it is certainly the Cinderella of dividends, and is treated accordingly. Collectively, it is put in the foreground as being one of the chief sources of expense contributing to the burden of taxation under which the rest of the community is struggling, and thus has the effect of creating a feeling of hostility against its unfortunate recipients, which may be compared with the orthodox Socialist outcry against other and more familiar forms of dividend. The enforced leisure enjoyed by those who participate in it, is rendered practically valueless by the regulations which surround it. To be seen doing an hour's casual work is to render a member of the unemployed liable to penal servitude for fraud, and the passport system of Russia was simple in comparison with the forms necessary to regularise half a day's wood-cutting by an individual registered at a Labour Exchange. And it must be borne in mind that the dole does not represent anything but a claim on goods of the simplest description, of which the persons from whom it is collected in taxation already have enough for their needs, and thus are merely, and uselessly, restricted from the satisfaction of further requirements which would provide the "employment" said to be lacking.

And yet in spite of all this it is notorious that to be unemployed and drawing the dole for any length of time, means in all probability that the individual concerned will never seriously compete for steady employment again under the conditions which exist at present. That is to say, given the satisfaction of the primary necessity for bed, board, and clothes, even under the most disadvantageous conditions, the human individual can find more attractive forms of outlet for his activities than those which are afforded by the present-day industrial system, taking into consideration its hours of work, remuneration and general amenities; and it requires the assurance chiefly found in millionaires, to assess the comparative value of such activities either to the individual or the community, under the conditions which exist in the world to-day. It may be said that at any rate they do not accelerate the progress towards another Great War, which would be the result of general employment in production for export.

Now it is fair to say that Labour leaders are, although they may not consciously know it, amongst the most valuable assets of the financial control of industry - are, in fact, almost indispensable to that control; and the reason for this is not far to seek. They do not speak as the representatives of individuals, they speak, as they are never tired of explaining, as the representatives of Labour, and the more Labour there is, the more they represent. It is natural that employment should be represented by them as being the chief interest of man; as the representatives of the employed, their importance is enhanced thereby. As a consequence, the battle between the employing interests and the Labour leaders who claim to represent the employed is, and must be, fundamentally, a stage battle, since there is a consensus of opinion on both sides that what is wanted is more employment. There is nothing like leather.

Considering the matter always from a practical point of view, it must be evident that the soundness of this stress on the prime necessity for continuous and general employment, using that term in the narrow sense of commercial employment for wages, rests on quite other grounds than the use of employment as a means for distributing wages - can, in fact, only rest on the premises of either the Modernist or the Classical idea. In regard to the first of these, it is obviously dependent on how much human effort is necessary at the present stage of industrial progress to produce a generally satisfactory standard of material civilisation, and the proportion that the amount of human labour necessary for this purpose bears to the number of individuals who are willing, without pressure of any kind, to employ a reasonable proportion of their time in meeting this requirement. It has previously been suggested that the facts in relation to this situation do not furnish any justification for suggesting that even a large number of commercially unemployed necessarily threatens the material welfare of the community and there is a large amount of sound evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

But we can go further. It is not sufficient to say that the unemployment problem, as distinct from the distribution problem, is largely a delusion. As we have seen in the immediately preceding chapters, there is an employment problem in the sense that our financial mechanism does not bear any specific relation to, nor fundamentally does it take any account of, the introduction into the equation of production of solar energy in its various forms. To put the matter another way, if the unemployment problem were solved to-morrow, and every individual capable of employment were employed and paid according to the existing canons of the financial system, the result could only be to precipitate an economic and political catastrophe of the first magnitude, either through the fantastic rise of prices which would be inevitable, or because of the military consequences of an enhanced struggle for export markets.

Why, then, is there so great a misdirection of attention in a matter of such primary importance? There is, I think, only one general and comprehensive answer which can be given to this question; and that is, that whether consciously or not, there is a widespread feeling on the part of executives of all descriptions that the only method by which large masses of human beings can be kept in agreement with dogmatic moral and social ideals, is by arranging that they shall be kept so hard at work that they have not the leisure or even the desire to think for themselves.

The matter is rarely stated in so many words. It is more generally suggested that leisure, meaning by that, freedom from employment forced by economic necessity, is in itself detrimental; a statement which is flagrantly contradicted by all the evidence available on the subject. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that 75 per cent of the ideas and inventions, to which mankind is indebted for such progress as has been so far achieved, can be directly or indirectly traced to persons who by some means were freed from the necessity of regular, and in the ordinary sense, economic employment, in spite of the fact that such persons have never been more than a small minority of the general population. Even where transcendent genius has been able to overcome the limitations of financial stringency, it is probable that the results achieved have been nothing like those which would have enriched the world had those barriers been non-existent. To use a somewhat homely simile, it is common knowledge that every racing stable produces a higher percentage of "weeds" than potential Derby winners; but he would surely be foolish who would suggest that the way to get more Derby winners would be to work horses of every description at the plough. It is probably true that there is an appreciable percentage of the population in respect of which any sudden access of material prosperity would be attended with considerable risk, and for that reason the transition from a state of artificial scarcity such as exists at the present time, to a state of prosperity, is most desirably accomplished by methods which do not too suddenly invest such persons with powers which they have not learnt to use. But to suggest that an obsolete and outgrown system of organisation, must be retained because of this risk, is to refuse to develop the railway, because of its detrimental effect upon the stage coach.

We are thus, I think, justified in concluding that this misplaced emphasis on "Unemployment" can be explained only by reference to theories which are "Moral" rather than "Economic"; and we are not obliged to take the "Morals" of the Labour leader as proceeding from a source other than that to which we can trace his Economics.