Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales,

Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled

In the parliament of man, the federation of the world. The dream which inspired the Manchester School found its apotheosis in the International Exhibition of 1851. The great building of glass which temporarily housed the products of many peoples was to be a permanent temple dedicated to Peace. To the high-priests of the new cult Tennyson addressed his famous adjuration:

O ye the wise who think, the wise who reign,
From growing commerce loose her latest chain,
And let the fair white-wing'd peacemaker fly
To happy havens under all the sky,

And mix the seasons and the golden hours,
Till each man find his own in all men's good
And all men work in noble brotherhood,

Breaking their mailèd fleets and armèd towers,
And ruling by obeying Nature's powers,
And gathering all the fruits of earth,

And crowned with all her flowers.

But the drama faded. The initiation of a free-trade policy in England found few imitators. So far were the 'wise who reigned' from loosing Commerce's latest chain that they reimposed the shackles with increased determination, and busily occupied themselves in building higher and higher the massive walls of protective tariffs. Behind the walls built by Bismarck according to the plans of List, Roon and Moltke constructed their great camps and armed the entire nation. Other continental powers preferred to follow the military lead of Germany rather than the economic lead of England.

tection.

Was there, however, any causal connexion between Militarism militarism and Protection? Would the great armies have and Pronot been raised in equal numbers even if the Governments had followed the lead of the English free-traders? It might have been so; we cannot tell. But there is one observation which seems to be pertinent in this connexion.

Protection does not necessarily involve prohibition. As a fact, the military Powers derived a large revenue from customs duties. Militarism combined with Free Trade would have necessitated heavy direct taxation. Would the peoples who submissively paid their indirect taxes for the support of large armies have been equally docile if subjected, on a commensurate scale, to direct taxation? Again we are in the realm of hypothesis, but the questions may at least serve to suggest a possible connexion between the ethical convictions of the Pacifists and their economic policy of international trade.

It may well be that the time is not yet ripe either for universal free trade, or for universal disarmament. But the disciples of the Manchester School, even if their proposals were premature and their policy was carried out with undue precipitancy, were at least rigidly logical. They hoped for and expected the reign of peace, and they desired to accelerate its advent by throwing down all commercial barriers, and by treating the whole world as a fiscal unit. They failed; but who shall say that their success might not have averted Armageddon?

BOOK V.

THE PROBLEM OF CONSUMPTION

CHAPTER XV

SPENDING, SAVING, AND GIVING

THE USE OF WEALTH

'A true theory of consumption is the keystone of political economy.-J. N. KEYNES. Scope and Method of Political Economy, p. 107 (1891).

'I have fearlessly declared your so-called science of Political Economy to be no science; because, namely, it has omitted the study of exactly the most important branch of the business-the study of spending.-RUSKIN, Crown of Wild Olive, § 77 (1869).

'It matters far less for the future greatness of a nation what is the sum of its wealth to-day, than what are the habits of its people in the daily consumption of that wealth.'- F. A. WALKER (1883).

'Jesus being not a deviser of social programmes does not enter into the question of the economics of thrift; but as an inspirer of personal lives offers a teaching which has a distinct bearing upon the ethics of saving. The reason which that teaching would emphasize for encouraging the saving of money is not that it makes more money, but that it makes better men.'-PROFESSOR F. P. PEABODY.

T

blem of

HERE is a broad distinction between 'what is' and The prowhat ought to be', and throughout this book an consumpattempt has been made to observe it. In regard to tion. the production, the distribution, and the exchange of goods we can discern certain uniformities which we designate as 'laws'. The uniformities are, however, of a broad and general character, and within the generous boundaries of their operation, there is ample room for the exercise of human will; for an endeavour to bring the transactions of everyday life into conformity with ethical maxims, with 'what ought to be'. But the bounds though generous are inexorable. In the department of Economics to which we now pass, the limits, though not less inexorable, are even more generous, for we have now to consider the problems connected with the consumption of wealth, or in less technical

The 'use of wealth'.

language the use which is and ought to be made of the
commodities which the processes of production, distribution,
and exchange place in the hands of individuals, or of the
State, acting on behalf of the community. But it is with
individuals that we are primarily, in this matter beyond all
others, concerned, since the State can have no wealth to
expend, save by the complaisance or through the coercion
of individual citizens.

Consumption as a department of Economic Theory.

There is, perhaps, no portion of our subject where Ethics
are so closely and so obviously interwoven with Economics.
But because the two strands so closely intermingle there is all
the more reason to be precise in discrimination; and at the
outset we must notice a possible source of confusion. The
'right use of wealth' is a common theme for the moralist;
but the homilies of the preacher are generally addressed to
those who are conventionally regarded as 'wealthy '-the
man who has great possessions. The Economist is concerned
with the pennies of the poor, not less than with the pounds
of the opulent. To him the crumbs which fall to Lazarus
are, in their degree, as much wealth as the rich banquets of
Dives. The proper utilization of wealth by those who
individually have little of it is, indeed, of supreme concern
to the economist since they are many in number, and their
aggregate consumption is consequently so large. For example,
of the total consumption of alcohol in 1921, 79-3 per cent
was consumed as beer, presumably the drink of the 'poor';
17.5 as spirits, and only 3.2 per cent as wine, cider, and
perry. None the less, the expenditure of the 'rich' must
receive careful consideration in this chapter.

It is a truism to say that the end and purpose and com-
pletion of production is consumption. Money burns a
hole in the pockets of a schoolboy. No one would grow
strawberries if no one would eat them. Consumption, there-
fore, must govern production. Human desire, if translated
into effective demand, is at the root of all Economic science.
It seems, therefore, the more remarkable that this
department of Economics should have received less
specific attention, and should have been less subjected to

pre on t consi stress than de

sumption and distr seem, there

arrangement is not withou treatises, such treated the pro

Ruskin, after supposed deling economists in th study of spendin Olive as late as 18 made the same po usually speak as if t So far from this be crown, and perfectio a far more difficult people can gain mon vital question for indi much do they make ", b And again: 'the final o good method of consump sumption. And once mo consumption which are the duction doth not consist in things serviceably consumabl is, not how much labour it e produces. For as consumption duction, so life is the end and a commonly happened, Ruskin em but deemed it necessary in doin 1 Unto This Last, pp. 14

separate analysis, than the processes discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. But it will be observed, on the one hand, that this comparative neglect is perfectly consistent with the classical theories of value which laid stress upon Labour, cost of production, or supply, rather than demand; on the other hand, that the problem of consumption is really implicit in those of production, exchange, and distribution. The place assigned to the first would seem, therefore, to be a matter rather of convenience of arrangement than of economic principle. Nevertheless, it is not without significance that the more recent economic treatises, such as those of Walker and Gide, should have treated the problem of consumption specifically and apart.

[ocr errors]

tion.

Ruskin, after his manner, made great play with the Ruskin on supposed delinquencies and deficiences of the orthodox consumpeconomists in this regard: they had utterly neglected the study of spending'. Thus he wrote in The Crown of Wild Olive as late as 1869. But he had already in Unto this Last made the same point with similar emphasis. Economists usually speak as if there were no good in consumption absolute. So far from this being so, consumption absolute is the end, crown, and perfection of production, and wise consumption is a far more difficult art than wise production. Twenty people can gain money for one who can use it; and the vital question for individual and for nation is never "how much do they make", but " to what purpose do they spend ". And again: the final object of political economy is to get good method of consumption and a great quantity of consumption'. And once more: 'It is the manner and issue of consumption which are the real tests of production. Production doth not consist in things laboriously made, but in things serviceably consumable; and a question for the nation is, not how much labour it employs, but how much life it produces. For as consumption is the end and aim of production, so life is the end and aim of consumption.'1 As so commonly happened, Ruskin emphasized an important truth, but deemed it necessary in doing so to ignore or depreciate 1 Unto This Last, pp. 144, 150, 155.

« AnteriorContinuar »