The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
The Distributing Trades
The Distributing Trades.
The Butchers.—I regard the Arbitration Act as the cause of the formation of the Employers' Associations. These associations have reduced wages considerably. To explain how they have been reduced, and to be understood, we must take it for granted that everything is sold at its labour cost. I will first take the Master Butchers. On the establishment of the Court they looked page 6 for a means of defending themselves from the loss which threatened them. They agreed not to compete against each other as before, but to respect each other's interests. Certain rules were adopted, and universal prices were fixed. For every farthing a pound paid extra in wages, a penny was charged upon the meat. At first much greater profits resulted. So delighted were they with the unexpected results of the Act, that Messrs. Reeves and Seddon were for a time looked upon as benefactors. It was, however, soon found that less meat was sold, and other butchers wished to start in trade and join the union. Thus the profits were divided among a larger number of sellers. Next it was found that the increased profits led to more credit to customers. This increased book-keeping and bad debts, so that the net profits became normal, and did not, at 5d a pound, exceed former profits at 4d. They then decided to raise the price to 6d. This did very well for a time, but led to the same results as the rise from 4d to 5d. The working classes, for whose special benefit the Act was passed, were paying a third more for their meat than before the Act was passed, yet the butchers were receiving no more net profit. The extra 2d a pound was thus expended, and accounted for extra labour incurred in waiting on customers in a morning to inquire what they wanted at noon. At this time a butcher outside the union started a shop on Karangahape Road, to sell meat at 4d lb for cash at the counter. To get rid of this anti-unionist the butchers began to sell for cash over the counter at even a lower price, without dropping it to customers delivered at residences. The loss incurred in defeating the scab butcher is said to have been defrayed by the union, to be charged on to the public in the form of future higher prices. The public in the vicinity thought they had got a few weeks' cheap meat, but they afterwards found that high prices were only deferred. The tactics of these butchers are similar to all other trade unions. They are started ostensibly for defensive purposes only against the incursions of the workers' unions.
In 1907 a scab butcher opened a shop near the market, and sold his meat in small lots by auction at, say, 4d lb, and succeeded so far that several other butchers have sold their horses and carts and are serving their cash customers over the counter at 4d, who formerly paid them 6d delivered; and if they can sell as much as they can serve, will have as much nett profit as at 6d delivered.
Though I am promising our trade unionists and scab workers double wages, if they have patience to follow me through all the labyrinths and intricacies of our modern capitalistic industrial system I think there are few whose interest will be sufficiently sustained to follow me to my journey's end, and if they do they will not fully appreciate what has been procured so easily without a battle with its consequent wounded and defeated combatants.page 7
The Baker.—The next distributing trade which I will tackle is the baker's. The waste of labour in this trade is not so great as that of the butchers, which amounts to at least 2d a pound over what it could be delivered at by the method I will explain; while that of bread could not be delivered at over Id for 4lb cheaper. An Auckland baker, Mr. Dough, of Hobson Street, hearing that I could double wages in New Zealand in about five years if the people would follow me as faithfully as they did Mr. Seddon, waited on me to know how it could be done. I said: "You are a baker, an expert in the trade, and ought to know all about it, and you have come to me, who knows nothing about it, to instruct you how it should be managed in the public interest." This, mind you, is a successful business man, a man who would be chosen for a public position before me, because he has been successful. I mention this to show our electors that the last men they should choose to manage for the public is a successful business man. You might as well elect a baby, and a vicious one at that. He has spent his whole life in trying to best his competitors and grow rich at the expense of his fellow-man, and keep within the four corners of the law. These are the men you honour and respect, on which you can rely and put your trust. They have managed their own business successfully, and will do the same for you, and being already wealthy they have no axe to grind; they are above bribery. Public management is so different to private, and the necessary qualities are so conflicting that the same person cannot be reasonably expected to excel in both.
Well, now, Mr. Dough, if I map this part of the town out for your driver to serve every house, go up one side the street and down the other, and forbid any other baker trespassing on your round, you will have no bad debts or dilatory payers, when all must take your bread or go without; how many times as much bread could your man, horse, and cart serve with the same amount of labour as he serves at present? After some calculating and consideration, he said five times. I intended next to have questioned him about economies in the bakehouse, but he did not want any further evidence. He was quite satisfied it could be done. He had lived till his head was grey, but he would not have believed such economies could be effected in his own trade in the public interest. I am told bread can be baked as well as it is now with about two-thirds the labour, with best methods and machinery which are now known. I do not think I need to say more about the baking trade, only to remind the reader that it is about time we all thought more of the public interest and less of our own. We should then have a thousand men and women looking after our own interest, while now we have only one or two at most.
The Milk Trade.—The milk trade is economically so similar to page 8 the butchers and bakers that most of what could be said would be but a repetition. In my youth, at Manchester, from 1850 to 1860, the wholesale price of new milk was 2d. a quart, and retail 2½d., so that it was retailed at one-fifth of its total cost to the consumer. A labouring man then and there would receive in milk 12 quarts as payment for a day's work, so that he would, as retailer, need to distribute 60 quarts a day, without bad debts or loss on having milk left, or rent of dairy; to cover these losses and deductions he must distribute about 90 quarts of milk to cover all incidental expenses and losses. In Auckland at present the dairy farmer receives 2d. a quart, and it is retailed at 4d. With our money rate of wages at nearly three times as high, milk is produced and delivered at Auckland at the same price as at Manchester in 1855; but it costs four times as much to distribute it. A part of this extra cost is due to the town being more hilly. A hilly town must mean in most respects an inconvenient and low wages town. The dwellings are also further asunder. But the greater part of this difference in retail cost is due to more competition and bad debts. The economically ignorant, including the House of Commons, General Booth, and such as promote emigration, seem to believe that there is less competition in a new and thinly-peopled country than in the old and dense. The reader may see that if 50 years' progress in milk distribution had been as great as in milk production, our milk would be retailed at 2½d. a quart, instead of 4d., though I do not think that much labour could be saved in milk production. Yet if producers would think for the consumers, instead of themselves, it could surely be produced at ¼d. a quart less than at present, which would bring milk to a very little over half its present or labour cost. Here are three of our chief articles of diet which can be directly reduced on an average by over a third.
Groceries.—Personally, I do not know much of the grocery trade, but I think that very considerable labour saving could be effected in its distribution if competition was eliminated, with some economies in its production and preparation; the fancy labels, papers, and general get up of many packages cost as much or more than the article they contain. This may be said to attract and please the eye, but it is often intended to allure and deceive. A fancy package may please a rich lady, who has several men and women patiently working to support her grandeur, but the poor women, who are in the vast majority, are forced to pay for a package which has little or no attractions for them. The contents are so inferior to the package and get up that they lead only to the disappointment and vexation of the man who married a worthless woman because she was beautifully attired. At present it costs 6d. to distribute a pound of tea, but a pound of sugar is distributed, and, under certain circumstances, as profit- page 9 ably, for a farthing. How can you justify these differential rates, Mr. Grocer? Why, you might as well try to justify differential tariffs. They are so fixed to pluck the goose with a hidden hand. Few women, when they see, feel, smell, and critically examine, can tell the value of tea to 50 per cent.; but they can tell the value of sugar to a farthing by the use of their eyes alone. One half the world may be said to live by defrauding the other. The grocery business has the appearance of being an innocent and inoffensive one. Many mothers have apprenticed their sons to it because it seems more respectable than rougher and dirtier callings. They learn to be civil and obliging to ladies; they are bound to study human nature, or, at least, more complex woman nature, and they seem so happy; they are never fatigued or dissatisfied. A grocer's assistant is a martyr. I have seen them receive every additional customer with a smile of welcome, when their legs and hands were worrying them with earnest protests.
It is no uncommon thing to see an Auckland grocer delivering goods at Onehunga, one customer in this street and two in that, or a Ponsonby grocer delivering goods at Parnell, and vice versa. These four are our chief, steady, constant, and universal food distributing trades, if not every day, at least every week, and the reader will see what perhaps he never even dreamt of before, that labour and not time is money, and that more than a third of what has been exerted on it has been worse than wasted from a public point of view.
The Fruit Trade.—The fruit trade may be reviewed as belonging to our food supply. While the greater part of the four preceding are delivered by cart, the greater part of fruit is carried by the consumer from a shop. It is only hawked when the supply is excessive and the wholesale price is at zero. The fruiter, fruiterer, or fruitererers' expenses at Queen Street or Karangahape Road, Auckland, are, when fruit is cheap, more in rent than in fruit, so that it never could be sold very cheap if it cost nothing wholesale. It is one of the puzzles and contradictions in the character of the average woman that she prefers to pay a greater price for the same fruit in a front street than in a back one, while she would climb up a sooty chimney for a bargain in drapery, and will exultingly point to her sooty dress to excite the envy or admiration of her acquaintances. A hero would not be prouder of exposing his scars. The purchaser of fruit at a shop has to pay first the wholesale price of the fruit, then the labour of the seller, next the wholesale price of the fruit that is unsold and decays, the cost of its removal by the scavenger, and the paper bag in which it is carried away. The waste of labour in the fruit trade is a scandal to our industrial reformers. The major part of the fruit is sent by the producer to the railway station or wharf page 10 carted from there to an auction room. A host of able-bodied men and women stand or sit round the auctioneer, while the storeman opens each sample case, and a clerk enters in a book each purchase. When one comes to think that the whole of these people's labour is wasted, together with the high rent of an auction mart in a central and consequently a costly situation, we stagger with astonishment, in particular when we hear the people clamouring for cheap fruit.
If fruit was delivered at the residences of consumers in the city and suburbs with as little labour as possible, instead as with as much as the cleverest and worst enemy of our industrial system could invent, it would be delivered at less than half the cost. As those who condemn a system ought to be able to suggest a better, I will here and now describe one. That it may be improved upon is but to be expected, as nothing human is perfect. Arrangements could be made with reputable carters on the stand who drive their own carts, say, each Tuesday and Friday, to fetch the fruit from the wharf or railway direct. The fruit cases should be made with hinges to fold up when empty, so that each case would last a season, and the cases empty should be delivered to the carter by the consumer when they are replaced by full ones. The districts for each carter must not overlap. The cases should be made in at least two sizes, so as to suit large and small families. By this means each carter with one horse would distribute about 30 cwt. in a day, and draw the money and forward the producer his share. I am not going to anticipate all possible casualties or difficulties to the execution of my plan, any more than other inventors, reformers, and economists have done. Our capitalistic system, as we now see after centuries of experience, experiments, and improvements is so faulty that its best friends admit that it ought to be improved as soon as possible; and this is what I am trying to do, as far as I know. J. S. Mill is our standard authority on the subject, and I am following his advice. If I did not think I knew more of the branch of the subject on which I write than any economist I have read, or than our greatest politicians, from President Roosevelt downwards, my writing would be useless.
Summer Drinks.—I have not a list of all our food distributers, but those I have examined are the chief. As to our summer drink distributers, you can see every establishment's waggon running all over the town and suburbs, and are spending three times as much labour in distributing as is necessary. I have no doubt considerable improvements and economies could be effected in the making of these drinks if its managers would study the subject from a public instead of a private point of view.
A publican is a necessary supplier of drinks. He is also a lodging-house keeper. He is also a public entertainer, or rather the public entertain themselves on his premises; that part of the page 11 drink, whether in bottle or jug, which is carried off the premises for consumption, and that sold for cash over the counter to carters and travellers, who do not dally in the drinking, should be subjected to the same rules as I have laid down for the preceding trades. The publican, as an entertainer, should be classed with theatre managers, opera and concert conductors, ministers of religion, managers of lecture halls, and all others who cater for the amusement and enjoyment of the people for profit.
Bootmaker and Saddler.—The bootmaker and saddler both work upon leather, and the tanner makes hides into leather. These are allied trades. I had once a set of harness, the leather part of which, with very little repairing, lasted 12 years, or four times the average. The cost was only a third more than a common set. I could soon see they were going to wear well, so I went to the saddler for another set, made from the same leather. "You are too late," he said," that leather was tanned for exhibition at the Agricultural Show, and no more can be got in Auckland equal to it." The lasting qualities of this leather, I am told, is not so much due to the native qualities of the hide as to the process of tanning. Now if a hide can be made to last four times as long with a third more labour or cost, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Where are the defenders of the capitalistic and condemners of socialism now? Here are our hides reduced to one-fourth their utility through accursed competition, which John Bright would have said is another name for adulteration, and John Ruskin, robbery by deception. These tanners are classed by the "Herald" newspaper as men of resource and self-reliance, and on a higher plane than honest paupers. I suppose he means they are nearer heaven. Our Ward-Seddon Government has appointed graders to prevent our flaxmillers from defrauding each other and the colony, but it has never occurred to them it was necessary to protect the public against our resourceful and selfreliant tanners. In bootmaking there is great temptation to defraud. The ordinary purchaser can scarcely distinguish between a good leather boot and a brown paper one. Even if paper shoes are sold as such it is against the public interest that they should be made and sold to such as want low priced shoes. They are not worth to the purchaser nor to the public as a whole the labour expended on their construction. In a well managed community the simple must be protected against the fraud of the cunning. I do not know much of the boot and shoe trade, but I believe if they were made and mended in the public, instead of private, interest, a considerable saving in labour could be effected.
At the time I am writing this (May, 1909), we have in this country, as well as England and Germany, a considerable surplus of labour as a result of the American depression, and all I have page 12 aimed at so far is to swell the ranks of the workless, but before my task is finished, I expect to be able to find profitable employment for all at double present wages and profits, with a considerable increase in the rate of interest. This, I think, is one of the greatest undertakings yet attempted in the management of a civilised community. The American, British, and German politicians cannot find profitable work for their present workless; all they can do is to relieve it.
The Draper and Clothier.—We are told our lawyers and land agents are the Devil's own. If this be true, our drapers and clothiers are the disciples of Beelzebub, inspired by the Serpent. We are told drapers pawn their consciences every Monday morning, and redeem them on Saturday night. To ascertain the truth I interviewed a pawnbroker. He fetched me a divine opera glass and pointed to a row of bottles, or, rather, pure transparent jars. I noticed some of the consciences were plump and active, while others seemed shrunk and withered and remarkably quiet. The pawnbroker gave me a feasible explanation. "The plump consciences," he said, "belong to drapers who have just entered the trade; the shrunk and withered ones belong to drapers of middle age. You see," he explained," one day's exercise a week is insufficient to keep them plump and active. If you carried an arm in a sling for years, it would shrink and wither. When a draper retires from trade, loaded with riches, as they often do, his conscience after such a long rest grows active and vigorous, and often prompts him against his will to perform noble deeds of charity, and he founds hospitals and endows homes for improvident and ruined women, and is knighted and honoured by the nation, sanctified by the churches, and embalmed in the hearts of the people."
You will have noticed drapers are generally as enthusiastic and active in the Lord's service on Sunday as they are in the devil's during the week. They are chiefly of the dissenting persuasion, and by their persuasive skill and charm over the hearts of women have won for the Lord many converts. There seems to be a strong affinity between a woman's heart, a shining bonnet and silk dress, and the rich golden pavements of heaven.
Let us now proceed to the draper's shop and see how honours are won. This worshipful respect, this devout reverence of the people. I am told when drapery is landed at the shop it is usual to charge 100 per cent, profit, or double cost price. This is while new and fashionable. What remains in stock for a while and goes out of fashion is sold as such at special sales at from 10 to 30 per cent, over cost. This gives an average all-round profit of about 40 per cent. Anyone who will examine how the trade is carried on, and then how it could be managed in the public interest if competition was removed—when one comes to consider the small weight and bulk in proportion to value—the inquirer must con- page 13 clude it could be done with a mere fraction of the labour. I do not mean to say that a dress piece could be sold, measured and delivered, with the same labour as a loaf of bread, a joint of meat, or quart of milk, but it could be executed as well, and with better average satisfaction to the purchaser, with five per cent, of the work. The goods not sold, while fashionable, is caused by the large profits. We have never any cheap coals, corn, or sugar to sell at reduced prices, because they are old and out of fashion, and they are as perishable as drapery; but if 50 or 100 per cent. profit was charged on them above the necessary labour in their distribution, our newspapers would be filled with lying advertisements in the efforts of each to sell more corn and coals than competitors. If all other trades were carried on in like cunning, alluring, and deceitful manner, a working man's wages would be 2s a day instead of 8s. I know a young married woman who wanted a new hat. She paid railway fares to town and back, and spent two days in endeavouring to get suited, and failed. Too much choice is worse than too little, confidence in her ability to judge being shaken. She induced two elderly ladies to accompany her on the third day's expedition. These ladies set out with unbounded faith in their own tastes and sound judgment. They critically examined the greater part of Auckland stock of ladies' hats, and were surprised to find that Auckland did not possess a single competent milliner. As the afternoon advanced a feeling of weary disappointment, mingled with disgust, overwhelmed them. They were, in fact, sick of the business. At this juncture, the young lady discovered she had made a mistake in engaging two ladies of differing if not opposite tastes. A hat that pleased one outraged the other's ideas of fitness. At this critical moment, when all three felt jaded and heart sick, the draper gruffly said, "You must decide, ladies, I have other customers to attend to." In her flurry, but quite unintentionally, the young lady replied, "I will take the hat you think most suitable to my complexion." He gave her one she had not seen, and charged her £l for a 5s hat. The two middle-aged ladies were as glad to turn their backs on, as they had been to enter, the shops in the morning. The young lady's mind was full of doubts and fears, interspersed with faint rays of hope the hat would please her. Fancy her mortification when she found the hat was made to fit all heads, however round or oval. Her husband's sympathy and declared approval of the hat saved her from being a broken-hearted woman.
Between the drapers and the three ladies, not less than a week's labour for one person was expended in the selection of this apology for a hat.
I wanted a strong serviceable coat. Being conscious of my ignorance of cloth, and knowing how easy it was for a tradesman to cheat and impose on women, I engaged an expert man to as- page 14 sist an expert lady in effecting a purchase. When they returned in triumph with their purchase, I could see they had relied more on the expressed opinion of the clothier than their own. I was positively assured the coat would last two years, and it was so cheap, but in a month it was as shabby as my old one. In six weeks its several parts began to divide; in seven I felt in danger when passing a rag shop, and although I had resolved to wear it as long as it would hold together, I was forced to break my resolution, as I could not distinguish the arm holes. I was so aggravated with the clothier that I took the ragged remnant and dashed it on the counter. There were several customers at the time. I was pleased to think I had an opportunity of exposing his fraud, but I found this pleasure abated my anger a little at the very time I needed it most to accomplish my object, which was to make the devil crouch and whine within him, while his customers would wound him with loathsome looks. I knew I could get no satisfaction from him in the way of recompense. I could see he was too busy to attend to me, and I required his whole attention, though I felt too impatient, as anger, though violent, is effervescent as a vapour when the fuel which fed it is withdrawn. While hesitating how to act under the circumstances, I bethought myself that martial music inflamed a soldier's breast with an artificial anger, commonly called bravery and honoured as a noble passion. I went near the door and whistled till I made the shop ring with valiant tunes, but my anger spurned my efforts and sunk lifeless within me. I felt more disposed to contemplate than fight. I thought it strange we should honour artificial anger as a more worthy passion than that which Nature prompted, while such as assume an artificial sorrow are despised.
When the last customer left the shop the clothier said, "Well, my man, what can I do for you?" "Give me a good coat in lieu of this bundle of rags." After my explanation he replied, I never guaranteed the coat; the lady took the tickets between her fingers, and asked how long will this wear, and knowing it was Irish linen I replied two years."
I have selected from many others these two purchases to expose not only the enormous waste of labour direct, but indirect, in making clothes to sell, or defraud the purchaser rather. The cloth was not worth half the tailor's labour in making the coat. It might have been worth making into a bed cover and lasted for years. This is one of those cases in which J. S. Mill deplores the general dishonesty of mankind, and is as much a fraud as passing a dishonoured cheque, but our present law does not treat it as such.
There is a moral as well as an economic aspect in this abominable calling. The surplus goods, which are the result of the enormous prices charged in this trade, are advertised at the end page 15 of each season. Of all the artifices and subterfuges to which business people resort to defraud and deceive their customers this takes the cake. They glory in the debasement and degradation of our wives, sisters, and mothers. The doubtful attributes or failings the Almighty has seen fit to lay to the lot of woman ought to be our duty to minimise and discourage, if not to restrain. A bargain that is an advantage over others, or a commodity at less than its labour cost, is as delightful a prospect to a woman's heart as the smell of frying fish to a cat, even to rich women. Just fancy a lady with a university education, refined in taste, with charming manners, a model and example to her sex, the personification of divinity on earth, suffering a heart flutter on reading a lying, alluring, bewitching advertisement, concocted by a serpentine draper. I recollect one of these sales being placarded and advertised all over the town. On this one occasion the City Council prohibited it being held in Queen Street, and relegated it to Elliott Street. A posse of police were sent to keep order and prevent these women in their mad excitement from tearing each other to pieces. Just fancy the countenances of these women, who were intended by Nature to illumine and adorn the world, to edify, to soften, and control mankind by smiles of love, imitating female tigers. Two of them actually fainted, and would have been trampled to death had not the police brushed the fiends aside and carried them off the field of contention. On one occasion the entrance door became so tightly packed that several were nearly strangled by their own neck garments. In one of these scrimmages or door assaults a married woman of my acquaintance, in her wild fury and abandon, pushed her right foot through two rows of blocked women and implored the policeman to drag her inside by the foot between the legs of the other women.
It has always been a puzzle to me how the City Council tolerate drapers' shops in busy streets. If the Council were honoured by Nature with a spark of chivalry, or even common respect for the weaker sex, they would not allow drapers to tempt and allure women to impose their persons as impediments and even nuisances in the unwelcome presence of busy men following their necessary occupations. In view of this conduct, who can wonder that the marriage and birth rate is falling off.
I called a meeting of six ladies for whom I had a profound respect. They were all sensible and intelligent women in every other way. They led and controlled their husbands by the golden cord of love; they kept warm in middle age the youthful devotions of their husbands. Their husbands seemed happier than men who ride manly hobbies, such as racing and football. They were free from ambition. They avoided quarrels and contentions. You see, love will not fight except in defence of its object. These men toiled at hard drudgery employments without a murmur the whole page 16 day long. They were inspired not only with hope, but confidence; the evening and night enjoyments would amply reward them for their pains. They had not, like the poor of churches, to wait for distant rewards of other worlds.
These six ladies were all infected with the base and degrading distemper of bargain hunting. I told them they should see themselves as others saw them. Your imaginary bargains fill your houses with moths. At this time a great sale at ruination prices was advertised at the Beehive, Karangahape Road. This, indeed was an appropriate title for a bargain sale, where the purchasers were to build their fortunes on the ruins of the seller. It was fortunate that the Beehive, or hive of bees, was on the tramles part of the road, or the road would have been converted into [unclear: a] shamble. Will it be grammatical if I say the drones within the hive were busy raking in the honey while the busy bees outside were swarming and assaulting the door in their feverish excitement and anxiety to deposit their loads of honey in the draper's cells? If a lady cannot judge the value of drapery to 50 per cent when cool and calm, what kind of judgment can we expect when her brain is frenzied and blood boiling with excitement? Could she distinguish cotton from wool? No. I know a lady of Arch-hill who bought a piece of silk at the price of cotton. She fought a full hour to get inside the shop, and vowed while doing so [unclear: if] God would support her strength till she got inside she would spend every shilling she possessed. But this single purchase conquered her resolution. She suddenly decided to rush off to Arch-hill and exhibit to the admiring gaze of her friends her wonderful bargain She encountered as much difficulty in forcing her way out of the shop as she had done in entering, but she did not feel the strain a much. The bargain seemed to give her courage and vigour; [unclear: in] fact, she felt like a heroine, and hugged the parcel to her [unclear: boson] as if it had been a favourite child. How soft and smooth—a [unclear: dress] of this must bring back the beauty of her youth. Imagine [unclear: her] shock when she opened the parcel in triumph before several [unclear: lady] friends, when her silk, like the chameleon, had changed into [unclear: cotton] This was the first time she realised wealthy people like [unclear: draper] would cheat.
The six estimable wives, from 30 to 60 years, of whom [unclear: I] persuaded to see themselves as others saw them, instead of [unclear: being] active bargain hunters were intensely interested spectators. [unclear: They] paraded between the Naval Hotel and Tabernacle. Their [unclear: feeling] were divided between amusement and disgust. They [unclear: suggested] a photograph for the observer, and when I reminded them they [unclear: had] been bargain hunters themselves, they could scarcely think [unclear: they] could possibly have made such asses of themselves, and were [unclear: glad] to bury the thought of it. I advised them to conquer their [unclear: own] foibles and weaknesses in the whole-hearted manner they [unclear: rules] page 17 their households, and had become their husbands' angels. "You are greater than Mr. Ward and Mr. Seddon, as your households you have undertaken to manage are all happy and contented, which is more than can be said of the working classes, so long in the sole charge of the authors of God's Own Country."
I have said these six wives are the guiding angels of their husbands. They all requested me to ascertain the measure of their husbands' affections for them, in obedience to which I adopted a novel method. You see, love is so light it cannot be weighed, and too elastic to be measured, and too glowing to be registered, and so strong and fervent we cannot compare it with other temperatures. The reader will have noticed, when he is forced to carry anything against his will, it feels much heavier than a pair of scales would register it, but if it is something you want to carry it feels much lighter. If I owned the substance you wanted to carry, and said, "No, no, don't carry it; it is too heavy for you," but did not actually prevent you, it would seem still lighter.
I went to these six husbands and requested each to guess the weight of his wife. They all guessed them to be much lighter than the scales weighed them. One of these husbands was a butcher. A cruel butcher is the last man you would think could love a woman, as he must kill innocent and inoffensive lambs. This butcher was an expert at guessing the weight of sheep and pigs at agricultural shows by feeling and carrying them, and had often won prizes. I had often noticed him carrying his wife over a muddy length of road in their evening walks. She always said, "Don't, John, don't. I am so heavy you will strain yourself," and this she repeated all the stretch, as if she wanted him to drop her in the mud. Each repetition invigorated him. Now, this butcher, who could tell the weight of a sheep or pig by lifting it and carrying it a yard or two, could not tell the weight of his wife to 30lbs, though he carried her a furlong through thick mud. This was the loveliest woman of them all. If you will notice a man and handsome woman of about the same weight walk over a lawn or plot of grass, the grass will be much flatter where the man trod than the woman's footprints, but when it comes to a dead, feelingless, iron weight on a pair of scales they are both the same.
On this woman the Divine Sculptor and Artist had exercised His highest skill, and had purposed her as a medium between the terrestial and celestial, to edify and awaken in men an exalted, enthusiastic adoration of the Omnipotent. Is it not grievous to contemplate such a woman being allured and seduced by the cunning machinations of a sordid, iron-hearted draper into the degraded ranks of bargain hunters?
For persuading her to reform she was grateful indeed; in fact, she regarded me as her earthly savior, She said, "I am so happy now. I feel I have two hearts, or my heart has two open- page 18 ings, from which now the undefiled springs of youthful love. I feel as coy and bashful as a maid in the presence of my husband, and all the fervour of a young mother for my children." I remarked, "'Tis impossible. Did you not notice your honeymoon set at the birth of your first child, and your husband, who revelled in your whole affections, felt his devotion starved and stunted when he had to share them with the baby And did you not blush when he saw you clasp the child to your bosom with such fervent ardour? Did you not feel you had half broken your off-repeated vows of all eternal love?" "Well, she replied, "I was only 20 then; I am 30 now, and very strong and healthy. My affections being suppressed during my years of bargain hunting, it is like a second birth for them, and into a strong, matured body I am able to play a double part in life, and play both well."
Coal, Mining, Wood, Shipping, and ’Bus Trades.—I have reviewed and to some extent investigated several of our chief manufactories and distributive industries. This is more than our trade unions or their Parliament have done. They look superficially with suspicious eye on the butcher, baker, coal dealer, and builder, but all other trades have so far escaped their notice. They want high money wages and short hours. This was all they asked for at first, but finding they can neither eat or wear the money, they want cheap meat, bread, and rents. A reader of our newspapers abroad would never think the working classes of New Zealand wore clothes or used milk or groceries. They never think the bushman or shipbuilder have anything to do with the rate of wages, much less our prisoners. If I undertake the examination and exposure of the shortcomings and bad management in every trade and occupation which affects the rate of wages and hours, I shall have a more difficult task than Mr. Ward or Mr. Asquith ever had, or I think will have. The task of raising and supporting 100,000 soldiers to defend the colony, and at the same time building all the bridges, roads, and railways required without increasing taxation, would not be greater; but supposing I make the colony more secure with 1,000 men than Mr. Ward can make it with 100,000, this ought to count for something, and I believe this can be done.
Suppose I now tackle the coal and firewood trades. I have been in these, and ought to know something of their secrets. "We are told there are secrets in every trade, but they are not taught in our schools. Our smart youths are sent to a commercial school to learn its scientific principles, and others the industrial, but they are not taught their secrets. You must actually practice them to learn. Our newspapers teem with instructions how to manage a farm, a garden, or orchard successfully, but never a word about managing a distributive, manufacturing, or mining concern If one of our gold mines strikes a rich reef, or one runs out, the page 19 public get the first notice of it on the Stock Exchange by a rise or fall in shares; but if a bogus report is carried on the winds, it is sure to strike the reporter's ear. I do not know much of coalmining, but I do know of late years there has been a considerable waste of capital and labour in developing a coal mine, when the experts employed knew or ought to have known it would be a failure. When the capital lost in it is replaced, most of it will be in other hands, but labour will bear the burden. A new mine should never be opened up unless there is good reason to believe that it can be placed on the market much cheaper than the existing ones. If a new mine is about equal to the old, much labour will be wasted in cutting prices for a time; and then to prevent the utter ruin of both proprietors, they will amalgamate, the new mine will be closed, the old mine will be loaded with a double capital to pay the interest on it and the loss on the cutting prices during the struggle. The selling price of coals will in all probability be advanced for years; as when a concern fails, capital turns its back on similar speculations for a considerable time.
As I do not know much of shipping or 'bus management, I will make a few remarks on their conduct of private versus public interest. Most of my readers will recollect that the Union Steam Ship Company some years since, believing they had a secure monopoly of the intercolonial trade, charged too high a price. A small shipowner first started in opposition to them, which they decided was beneath their notice, but when Huddart Parker entered into competition, a shipping war commenced. Passenger fares from Auckland to Sydney were reduced to £1, and the sailing times of steamers were fixed not to suit the public interest and convenience, but at such times as was thought would be most inconvenient and harassing to their competitors. The public and our merchants said this shipping puts us to inconvenience, but the reduced freights and passages will about pay us for our extra trouble; one of them must soon be ruined and yield the field to the other, and old freight and passages will follow. But what are the facts? The contending companies agree to work in unison, instead of competition. Charges were fixed at first on a fair paying basis, and have been advanced constantly, slowly, almost imperceptibly, until for many years past they have been at a considerable premium above a paying price. If we could get at the truth we should find that both companies have far more than recouped themselves for losses during the competition period. If another company was to enter into the trade now they would have to fight both. During such competitions the risk of shipwrecks are increased, and much unpleasantness and ill-feeling is engendered between what ought to be units of one community.
My readers will also recollect that a similar shipping war was page 20 waged between the McGregor and Settlers' Companies. At [unclear: this] time I was discussing the matter with an Albertland settler, [unclear: which] said," However the war ends we will receive the benefit of it [unclear: is] low freight and passages. It will be their loss, not ours." I [unclear: replied], "You are mistaken; the whole loss will ultimately [unclear: fai] upon you," and he left me a wiser and sadder man.
Many old Aucklanders will recollect many ’bus wars. For [unclear: instance], those between Auckland and Onehunga, between Queen Street and Ponsonby, between [unclear: Queen] Street and Mount [unclear: Roski] Road, and lastly from Page's Store, Kingsland, to Mount [unclear: Albert] and Avondale. I have often seen two 'buses starting together [unclear: half] full of passengers or less, and then an interval of two hours [unclear: without] a 'bus, and so great was the risk of life and limb that the [unclear: authorities] had to interfere in the interest of public safety.
There is an economic law of averages laid down, I think, [unclear: by] Adam Smith, the greatest of all political economists, ancient [unclear: a] modern, which ought to be understood by everyone who [unclear: under] takes public management, and I will undertake to say that [unclear: Mr.] Seddon or Mr. Ward never read, much less studied and [unclear: under] stood it. It is very important, as you may understand [unclear: from] what I have just explained.
Though this chapter is under the title of coal and wood [unclear: trades] I will give you a remarkable instance of how private [unclear: proprietor] manage to shuffle upon the public the consequences of their [unclear: own] mismanagement. About the middle of November, 1907, or [unclear: and] months since, Oamaru merchants found they had placed too [unclear: high] a price on their potatoes, and they had thousands of bags [unclear: left] which in the ordinary course must have rotted in the pits on [unclear: the] farms of Oamaru district; and these merchants, who, [unclear: according] to Adam Smith, are the most selfish, unprincipled, and [unclear: us] patriotic of mankind, devised the following plan. They [unclear: formed] conspiracy, and each Oamaru merchant wired to each [unclear: Auckland] merchant that they had a few potatoes which were the only [unclear: one] left in the South Island, but not to mention this fact to any [unclear: other] Auckland merchant till bakers came to inquire for them, and [unclear: the] would be able to make a good profit. Every Auckland [unclear: merchants] acted with thanks on this friendly advice and ordered the [unclear: small] consignment. These potatoes were hurriedly conveyed to [unclear: Oam] and all put on one large steamer. It seems the Telegraph [unclear: Department] were not bribed, and almost before the ship had left [unclear: Oam] a corn merchant (are potatoes corn or vegetables?) offered a [unclear: fri] of mine £150 if he would take over his consignment of [unclear: potatos] When these potatoes arrived in Auckland they were carted [unclear: from] the ship to the store. The greater part of them were hawked [unclear: a] offered to anyone who would take them away, sacks given in as [unclear: a] inducement. Most of them were, when all prospect of sale [unclear: w] gone, put on scows, taken out to sea, and tumbled [unclear: overboard] page 21 sacks and all. If all these potatoes had been consigned to one merchant, he and his creditors would have borne the loss, but when the loss falls upon all the merchants of the district equally, and is insufficient to drive them into the Bankruptcy Court, it is classed with the incidental losses of the trade, and charged on to the public in the form of higher prices for other goods, in the same way as fruit which decays in the fruiterer's shop is charged on the sound fruit.
I have placed these three impositions on the public in succession, because they all amount to the same thing, and illustrate and shed light upon each other. They are all a great public waste of labour. These shipowners, ’bus proprietors, and merchants are all protected by the public in the due performance of their several callings, and ought to perform them in the public interest. After I have exposed such maladministration and mismanagement as is within my limited knowledge in a few more trades and callings, if life and health permit I intend, as far as I am able, to explain how each should be managed in the public interest, and the surplus labour which we now have in the country with other larger numbers-which you see I propose to displace by economy and good management, may and can be all profitably employed at an annual advance of about 20 per cent, in wages to all, if the absence of blights and pests over which we have little or no control do not intervene to prevent the results which I expect.
The coal trade, as now managed in Auckland, is incapable of so great an improvement as many others. Very little improvement can be made upon steam coal, because the purchasers and users are nearly all good judges of what they buy, and know which quality is most suitable to their purpose. The fraud and deception practised is therefore confined to the purchasers of household coals. I have known a case or two where brickbats have been mixed with coals by hawkers, and where 12cwt have been palmed off for a ton, and payment made at about 2s below the standard price for a ton. I have known an inferior class of coals palmed off for a superior at a little below the price of the better coals. These tricks of trade are practised almost solely by hawkers upon the very class of women who are bargain-hunters. A sensible housewife will never risk purchasing from a hawker any more than she would purchase Doctor Williams' pink pills. Neither will she, unless under exceptional circumstances, ask a tradesman to take a less price than he asks, or to make a reduction on a bill, but pays all in full without delay or fictitious comment, and seldom or never looks at what you bring her, and never disputes the bill. You will see that such a woman can be served at a less price than those who put the tradesman to so much trouble. A honest and reasonable woman is a jewel, who is respected by all who know her. It is only the lowest and the most vile who would try to page 22 cheat or defraud such a woman. Honesty begets honesty, and fraud begets fraud.
In looking where economies can be effected in the coal trade in the public interest, I will suppose that at Huntly mines the coals are mined with the least possible labour consistent with the safety, health, and comfort of the miners; that they are carried by rail with the same good management. This brings them to the sheds at the town stations, and from here the chief economies must begin. The districts should be mapped out for each coal deliverer, and housewives should be forced to take them in quantities, and at such time as the supplier shall think fit and convenient; in fact, the housewife seldom or never ought to need to order coals. The coal deliverer should know under all ordinary circumstances when her coal bin will be empty, and he ought to be the best judge of when it will be most convenient for him to deliver it; and here I must reproach the engineers who laid out Auckland, and our past and present City Councils, for by their negligence or incapacity in increasing to citizens the price of coals. At the top of Upper Queen Street a number of houses are built upon a bank, and are approached at the front by about 50 steps. About 100 feet behind is Liverpool Street, on a level with these houses. A 4 feet passage from Liverpool Street and a like passage at the back boundary of the allotments, with, say, a public wheelbarrow at the end of the passage, would enable these houses to be supplied with coals at 2s a ton less labour. Between Gladstone Street and Upper Queen Street the same thing should be done. I have seen an old rheumatic woman come from Symonds Street, past Gladstone Street, and walk up 50 steps, a task which took her 10 minutes to accomplish, though she could walk on the level at two miles at hour. To get a ton of furniture up and down these steps would cost almost as much in labour as it costs to take a ton of gum from Auckland to London.
Flitting.—While on this subject, I will make a short [unclear: deviation] on flitting. We have all heard it said that three flittings are as bad as a fire. That I take to include the labour and injury to the furniture. To move from one locality or district to another the change of scenery and air is said to be beneficial to health, and many are deterred from receiving the benefit of such change by the cost of flitting and the work of putting everything in its proper place. If two people wishing to flit could agree to exchange furniture and pay any difference there might be in cash, and just pack up their clothing and household gods and walk into the new home, with everything in its proper place, what an amount of labour both would save, and how much more the two furnishings would be worth. This has perhaps never been acted on because [unclear: it] has never been thought of. I know that a thousand objections [unclear: can] page 23 be urged against it, but we have submitted to many doubtful and even injurious changes that have seemed to present to the imagination greater obstacles—the Arbitration Act, for instance.
The mill wood trade of Auckland is capable of about as much fraud as the drapery and some of the grocer's goods. I have seen a load of this wood divided into six loads, and the silly women who purchased it could scarcely tell the difference. I have known rotten wood saturated with salt water sold for sound wood, and totara for ti-tree. A mill hand forbid his wife to buy a hawker's load of wood, but a serpent, I might say an insurance agent of a hawker, tempted her, and she lost over half a day's wages of her husband over it, which nearly resulted in a separation. I have known a woman offer a carter 2s if he would take her load of wood away, but he durst not tip it on the side of a back street, the city by-laws preventing. I have known a man buy an honest load of wood, and when the carter began to throw it over the fence his wife protested, she was so frightened her husband might beat her.
Timber Commission and Building Trade.—We have just had a commission of inquiry on the timber trade, but its members are either interested parties or know very little about it. Evidence was given by one expert that it would take a 1,000 years for a kauri tree to mature, and by another at about 50 years. About 1875 it was estimated kauri would last 21 years. Now it is reduced to about 10 years. It is of little importance how long our milling timber lasts, as when it is done we can get what we require from abroad in exchange for the wool, gold, mutton, and other exports. If we have less men working in the forest and mills, we shall have more working on the farms. I do not know much about forests or the management of mills, but I do know it is to the interest of the proprietor or owner that every worker, or section, or department shall consider the requirements of every other worker or section of workers; that, in fact, all shall work in co-operation, and not in conflict. There is very little waste of labour in the distribution or delivery of timber, and great confidence between seller and buyer that there is no intention to defraud, either by delivering an inferior article or short measurement. This is to be accounted for chiefly by every purchaser understanding the quality. Women seldom purchase timber; if they did the price would be advanced a little all round to cover the extra cost in distribution. Loads of timber are in almost all cases received by builders without any examination, counting, or signing for, and no timber is rejected and sent back if it can be used. The builder and miller usually consider each other's convenience. Yet I am told occasionally builder and architect conspire to defraud the proprietor and divide the spoil. If a painter puts on two coats of paint instead of three, which I am told is frequent, and the page 24 plumber scamps his work, it is to defraud the owner of the building, who does not understand the work.
To complete a work of this kind, every occupation should be critically examined, and where a saving of labour can be effected, either in the production, conveyance, or distribution, it should be pointed out, even to domestic economy, which in many cases is most wretchedly managed. Then there is the making and mending of streets. There is, I believe, great waste of labour and want of forethought in this department. Many will have noticed that when a new street is cut and metalled, as soon as the surface is in good order the authorities will suddenly find that they had forgot to drain it. A few years since I wanted our Mayor and Council not to permit the owners of shops at the top of Symonds Street to build on what should be the street. This I consider a criminal blunder, which our press would not permit me to expose.
A considerable amount of labour and annoyance could be saved if sellers of working horses and dairy cows were compelled when they sent them for sale to give with each beast a true written character. I have known people who wanted a horse for a given purpose put to much trouble in procuring one, and when they tried him he was unsuitable, often useless. Dairy cows, which have the appearance of good milkers, when they are known to be poor milkers, should not be sold without a true character. Frauds and deceptions of all kinds should be punished. The ultimate results of these frauds are lower wages for the working classes, as I have already explained under the title Merchants' Frauds.
The following anecdote may amuse and instruct the reader as to how John Ruskin's thefts are sometimes perpetrated. A Mrs. Moore wanted a cheap second-hand tax cart or light vehicle. As she was no judge in carts, and had so often made mistakes, she resolved not to risk a purchase without expert advice. Would I advise her as to value, etc. You see, she had so often made mistakes. It was not so much the money loss she dreaded as the after vexation and mortification. On the Sunday evening following, on her way to church with her daughter, she had to pass a place where there was a second-hand trap for sale. She was seized with a sudden impulse to see this gig, and notwithstanding her daughter's protests that they would be late for church, in she went. The man showed her it, and told her governors and princes had been driven in it, that it had an historical as well as a utility value, that it was worth double the money he asked, that an intending purchaser was coming in the morning and would snap it up. She had a strong and impregnable resolution not to purchase without expert advice; in fact, she had made a solemn pledge. "Am I not an expert?" he roared out, "and as capable of giving advice as any other?" And then he pointed out the trap's qualities in detail, and seemed so convincing an arguer that she could no longer doubt page 23 his word. At length she paid him £l 7s 9d as a deposit. This odd amount included the threepenny pieces she had reserved for the church plate.
Insurance and Property Agents.—Every calling in the community should contribute to gratify a human want, and its advantages as a contributor should be greater than its drawbacks. An insurance agency is not one of these. The Arbitration Act was intended to diminish labour disputes, strikes, and sweating, but in practice, on the whole, these have been increased. A fire insurance agency was established ostensibly to diminish fire risks, and to sooth the community's dread of fire, and when a fire did happen to distribute its loss over so great a field that it would not be felt. If we critically examine its results, it has not only failed, but aggravated the sores it promised to soothe. When I read Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," and examined his theory and practice of European society, I was astonished that he had entirely omitted fire and marine insurance. I have been told by an old chum that during the first year after an agency was established there was more fires than during the previous 10 years. I have known a house of furniture insured for 10 times its market value. We have good reason to believe old ships are often wrecked for the purpose of defrauding honest insurers. When a fire results from over insurance, and a death occurs, would not the manager or directors be guilty of manslaughter? I have often wondered how an honest capitalist could invest in an insurance company. A travelling insurance agent is a pest to the community. All other company insurance, such as life and provident associations, are equally guilty, and ought not to continue.
I have shown in previous chapters how the service rendered to the community in some occupations could be as well done by from half to, say, about one-sixth, the labour, but here are a profession of parasites to be wiped out altogether, and removed from a vicious and destructive to a beneficial calling. We boast that we are an enterprising and speculative people, who shoulder risks with visionary prospects of success. We are addicted to gambling in land values, mine values, and horse-racing. How, then, can we be so timid that we live in fear our house will be burned down, and other people cannot be saddled with the results of our own carelessness or folly.
Very near allied to our insurance managers and agents are our land, property, mining, and stock agencies. There are said to be more rogues in this employment than any other in Auckland, and some of them are said to be very shrewd. That there are a few fairly honest I am willing to believe. The dishonesty is no doubt chiefly due to the temptation the calling offers. They effect dealings and transfers of land and shares, the value of which the purchaser has but little idea. If all transactions were conducted page 26 by the agent in a spirit of fairness and equity between the buyer and seller, and none of these wanted to get an advantage over the other, I believe one agent would do the service better in the public interest than six do now. I need not attempt to explain how. It seems strange to me how two of our chief public-spirited citizens should have spent so much time and pains in studying and directing attention to needed reform in other callings, and overlooked their own, which are two of the worst requiring it. I allude to Mr. S. Vaile and Hon. G. Fowlds. One effectual way of reducing our agents to a sixth in number is to reduce the commission to a sixth. Even now these agents are a pest to property owners. I had a letter from one yesterday informing me he had a large number of properties for sale for which he wanted purchasers, and a large number of purchasers for which he wanted properties.
Cabinet-making.—As far as our cabinet-makers are concerned, I would suggest that the furniture in which they put the most and best work should be of durable timber, and that there should always be a due relation between the quality of the work and material, and everything should be what it is represented. I have seen a costly piece of furniture in walnut crumble to pieces in 15 years, and I have seen an oak sofa quite sound after being in constant use 150 years.
The instruction given to cabinet-makers will apply to wheelwrights and blacksmiths. The quality of the timber and iron used should always be in proportion to the quality and finish of the work. Every vehicle should be made so that it will carry the greatest load on the least tare. Every limb should be in proportion to the strain to which it is likely to be subjected, so that all parts would be equally likely to break, and except for a temporary purpose, no jerry work should be undertaken, even for a woman. This advice will apply to all our clothing and other factories, and the work should be subdivided as far as the work and shop is capable.
Lawyers and Magistrates' Prisons.—Our lawyers are said to be the Devil's Own, and, with our magistrates, are classed by J. S. Mill amongst the parasites of civilised society. They are employed to argue, judge, and settle quarrels, disputes, and contentions, and adjust punishment to crime. They may, in fact, be said to feed on crime and quarrels. If there was no crime and quarrels there would be no lawyers and magistrates. It is only natural they will feel lonely and depressed when there is little crime and few disputes and quarrels. We are told when trade is slack on the Stock Exchange, that agents try to depress or raise stocks for the purpose of increasing commissions. Will not lawyers and magistrates be as likely to do likewise? A large police force and army are in a like position with similar interests. A land conveyance is not like our school books, worded in Addistonian lan- page 27 guage, but in a cumbrous and dead language 300 years old. I went with one of Auckland's business men to hear a land conveyance read by a lawyer. The conveyance was three times as long as one in modern tongue, but our merchant did not understand, and the lawyer had to interpret or translate it before being signed. Does not this point to us having too many lawyers, and looking at the cumbrous and antiquated methods of Court procedure? We have too many magistrates. To-day, May 20th 1909, a man in Victoria Street was fined £l and costs for breaking a bylaw. The prosecuting policeman discovered he had made a mistake, and asked that the penalty be quashed, but the magistrate refused, and said the convicted offender must apply for a re-hearing. Does not this go to prove that our courts are courts of injustice, and that our magistrates are simply making trade, as our stock agents are said to do? I do not mean to say that we could do without lawyers and magistrates, but I do believe half of them would be quite sufficient. I recollect once attending the Supreme Court in Justice or Injustice Gillies' time. I had a note from a doctor declaring I was physically unfit to serve as juryman. When I handed up the paper Gillies said, "You look well," and refused to excuse me. This refusal was an illegal act on the judge's part. He had no more right to question me on my health, or to doubt the doctor's judgment, than I had to question his right to sit as judge. A whole day was consumed in trying two men for carnally knowing. The first and worst case, the accused walked out of the dock on a technical point, and the least offender against the moral law got seven years with hard labour, notwithstanding the protests of the jury who tried him. The public opinion in Court was that justice demanded three months.
Opposite the Naval Hotel in Pitt Street was a drunken carter. A man passing by informed a policeman, who went to the spot to arrest him. When he arrived there the sot had gone, but another carter was there who was sober. The policeman arrested him, and took him to the West Street lockup. From there he was sent to High Street by cab. The policeman persuaded Hodge to plead guilty, as by doing so the penalty would be much less than if he pleaded not guilty. My son, under whose superintendence Hodge was carting, attended Court and persuaded Hodge to plead not guilty. The magistrate allowed my son to prompt Hodge. The questions put by Hodge to the arresting constable shook the evidence so much that although Hodge had no witness but himself, the magistrate refused to convict, but consented to postpone the case while the policeman fetched the keeper of the lockup, who also swore Hodge was drunk. The magistrate said in effect to Hodge, "I do not think that you are guilty, but as two policemen have sworn you are, and you have no evidence to the contrary, I must convict you, but I will not fine you or charge Court costs, page 28 only 3s cab fare." If the magistrate could and would have taken my son's story as evidence, although he was at the timber mill when Hodge was arrested, the driver who was drunk could have been fined, the two policemen convicted for perjury, and Hodge recompensed. Is this our jingoes' boasted British justice, or is it God's Own Country justice i I have related this case to show that we can have too many police as well as too few. I think that if this policeman had more work to do he would not have done anything so risky.
I do not know much of gaol management. No doubt some of the prisoners are bad and desperate characters. I would like to know how in past times the Maoris managed their criminals. I think the labour of all but the very worst could be utilised if skill was exercised in their management. About one-fifth of the horses working in Auckland would not do so of their free will, and at least a fourth of them could by bad management in a few days be rendered useless. A man is not a horse, but I have known much better results got out of a set of workmen by change of foremen. I have known sensible and skilful women get on comparatively well with what would under bad management have been bad husbands. Men have declared to me they would not work under some bosses for no money. Even double wages would not induce them. While they would work for other men for less than current pay. I believe Mr. Seddon would, as the superintendent of a gaol, have been a grand success. He had such a good knowledge of human nature. I have known working men excuse him for what they would have condemned in other men. I often wondered why he did not effect some reform in prison management. I have pointed out to intelligent followers the folly of his public utterances and brag, and in reply have been told these speeches were prepared for the multitude; were, in fact, merely public opinions, and that behind them he had sound private opinions on which he would act. If we put all our confirmed criminals on one of the colony's small islands, and gave them the same start as our first settlers had, would they succeed as well, or would they begin to rob each other and fight? A man who is contemplating illegal theft or fraud knows that if he succeeds he can enjoy much luxury for little labour, and if he is detected he will have as much comfort of life as he now enjoys, and it is worth the risk.
Political economists believe there is no need for foreign defence among civilised nations. If people will suppress ambition and vain glory, and foster mutual goodwill and kindly regards, and keep peace among their own people, that is all that is required under this heading. At any rate the stronger our defences the greater are our risks of attack. A red flag excites a military rage in a bull, and a fortification in a soldier; the stronger our home page 29 defences and the less our homes are worth defending. While I am writing this the jingoes of the nations are moving heaven and earth in a whirligig of feverish excitement and agitation for more Dreadnoughts and armies for defensive purposes; not one of them has the remotest idea of acting on the offensive. When a boy, my mother told me the northern nations were cool, fearless, steady, and determined, while the Latins were timid, excitable, nervous, and changeable. What a change.
The reader will by this time realise what an army of unemployed I should create if I had my way. First, there is the present ones created chiefly by the stockholders and capitalists of New York. Add to these, three-quarters of our distributers, a third of our manufacturers, five-sixths of our stockbrokers, half our police force, lawyers, magistrates, and gaolers, the whole of our insurance agents, and all others who as a result of our consumption being below the productive powers of our labour have been driven to the expedience of inventing an artificial want for the purpose of gratifying it. Among the latter we may place the hawker.
Old people who have been in Auckland for 40 years or so, have observed three inflations or periods of prosperity, when the demand for labour has been equal to the supply; and two depressions, when there were many out of work. During the depressions, when the standard of living is reduced and there is less to be sold, there is actually more sellers than during prosperous times. When we have got large stocks of food and clothing, when a number of shops and houses are empty, or capitalists are afraid to build, as at Wellington, and to a less extent in Auckland, when a man is discharged and cannot get legitimate work, it would, at such a time, be useless to try to get in the producing trades. One of three courses he must follow. Either apply to the Charitable Aid Board for support or (what is very nearly related to it) to Government for work where he is not wanted; or, secondly, he may enter into one of the distributing trades; and if he has little capital he cannot afford a shop, but must buy and hawk a few goods, which is very nearly related to begging. Adam Smith has defined the nice distinction between the hawker and the beggar. When the seller says these goods are very cheap, you will never have such a chance again, and urges you to buy them for your own benefit, that is selling. But when he puts on a pitiful, dejected, and depressed look, and says, "I have carried these goods all day, and sold very little; I have a wife and children to support," and appeals to you to buy for his sake, that is begging. A hawker came to my house at Mount Albert last week (a young strong fellow). His whole stock in trade was about 20 small pamphlets of 16 pages, or eight leaves each, medical notes and household receipts, at Is each. The wholesale price would be about one page 30 penny each. If he sold the whole 20 in the day, he would have, say, 18s 4d for his day's work, and the producer would receive Is 8d. Is not this making work? When the hawking business is overdone there is another possible way of making work at present. If the unemployed will climb a tree, and cry out "The Germans are coming," the Government will engage him as a gallant defender of our hearths and homes, and if he is killed he will be enshrined as a martyr of immortal memory, and if he survives he will be honoured as a hero.
There is still another field on which our surplus labourer can dump himself without depressing other employments. He can turn robber, and then the public authorities in consequence will, from the ranks of the workless, employ a detective to capture him, a lawyer to prosecute him, a magistrate to convict him, and a gaoler to guard him; and although he will receive no honours for this, the detective will. The hawking business is an artificial employment, and never would have existed if the consumption had been equal to the productive power of our labour.
You will have noticed that all the employments so far examined belong to the town and suburbs. I think I am economically correct in including the country districts which surround it, say, the whole province. It is to be regretted J. S. Mill did not define a community further than saying: Those who are near compete with each other, and those far off do not compete, but exchange labour products with each other. Whatever I say of Auckland and the country districts which surround it will apply with equal force to the other towns of this colony, and to every other British-speaking community with similar customs and usages.
Last week I visited a farm at Razorback, 30 miles from Auckland. It is chiefly worked as a dairy farm, and I will here consider it as such. The labour wasted in competition in country districts appears to be much less than in towns, though they do compete with each other. It is so far off as to be quite invisible to them, and as a consequence they are so much more sociable. The interest of each is comparatively felt to be the interest of all. If, say, a cow dies, it is felt not only to be a private, but a public loss. This dairy farmer, who has been there less than a year, and from England very little over, gave me such a graphic description of the social qualities of his neighbours as I would not have expected outside a socialistic settlement or heaven itself. Everyone seems to have a kindly, paternal eye upon the whole district. If you have some hay out and your neighbours have not, and the weather begins to threaten, you need not run to beg your neighbours to help you; your neighbours are watching your hay and the weather as assiduously as if it were their own, and will turn up at the right time. If several have hay out at the same time, and the weather frowns on them, it is not a selfish struggle of which page 31 can get his hay in first and the devil take the hindermost, but the circumstances of the whole are considered, and that is first housed that is considered in the interest of all to be for the best. I do not think the children are taught this in school or church, but are taught it as a home lesson, not in precept only, but in practice. When a father teaches his son this practice, this duty to the other members of the community of which he is a privileged unit, the son never doubts it as he does many of the lessons which are taught in school or church.
Though health is generally regarded as the most important of human blessings, shall I be blamed for ranking social intercourse as the first and most important advantage of country over town life. You may here commune with Mother Nature herself, in interest and sympathy with the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and the unadulterated breezes of heaven.
But as a set-off against these blessings there are many inconveniences and disadvantages, such as bad roads, etc., and, it is said, less wages for the hours and labour performed. The indulgences and luxuries are more restricted. The farm is said to be the refuge for the inferior workman driven out of towns by the Arbitration Court, and it is fortunate for the trades unionist that this refuge is left open, or the incompetent would have to be supported by the competent. Another economic drawback to the farmer and farm labourer are the import duties and the arbitration, and the keen competition in the towns. First, let us say the farmer's butter is sent to England, and the price he receives is on an average in proportion to what it fetches there. The clothing, implements, holloware, and so forth, which he requires, pays a heavy import duty, not for revenue purposes, but to protect local industry. Such articles as are prohibited by high duties and made in colonial towns are further advanced in price by the Arbitration Act. Next, the extra cost put upon goods to cover the keen competition in the retail trades is paid by the farmer and labourer. There is, however, another economic law which will ultimately to some extent modify this drawback, and economic laws are always at work and always the same. They are never revoked or altered. They are above parliaments, and defy them. I will not attempt to explain this, as it is so difficult to understand.
Neither will I try to explain what size our farms should be so that our farm produce can be produced with the least labour consistent with the health and comfort of farmers and farm labourers. This health and comfort is a factor of the first importance in measuring the wealth of a community or its rate of wages for labour. In the United States of America, we are told, the men work the hardest of any country in the world. A man in the States is said to be as far worked out at 40 as at 60 in England. If we say that 70 years is the span of life, a man is at his best for page 32 work only half as long as in England. At this rate of calculation, a man in the States will be able to do only light or no work at all for the 30 last years of his life, while in England he will only require to do this for ten years. I know from experience that this often happens with horses. To reckon this on a money basis, which is beneath contempt, a man in the States must do as much work in 20 years as an Englishman does in 40. For a man to do more work in the day than Nature can recoup through the night is madness, and never ought to be done except at a life and death job. The word urgent would not justify it. A man who will frequently attempt this is a lunatic, or at least a rebel against Nature. The dictionary meaning of labour is "painful exertion." I have often thought it possible to enjoy as high a standard of living as we do now without painful labour. The first question to be considered in choosing an employment is the requirements of the community, and the second the tastes, inclination, and capacity of the youth. Every youth should be taught the trade in which he has the keenest interest, provided it is not overcrowded. If it is over supplied it can be discovered by the exchange value of its produce or its rate of wages. When we speak of a sweated industry we mean not the employer who banters his employees to the lowest possible price, but an employment that is overcrowded. It is a misfortune to a boy or girl whose tastes lead them into an employment which is already over full. It is worse for the community also, because the community are induced by the low price to purchase more of these goods than they require, and less of other goods which would have suited them better. We class needle-work, plain or fancy, as sweated labour, because more women like doing it than washing or housework. We often hear the Arbitration Court decree that if an industry cannot pay this wage or that, they will close it. If I asked the Court why they did so, very likely they could not tell me. But the economic effect is this: When the employment is closed the men and women are forced against their will into another employment. If we trace these men and women we shall find that if they do not go directly into an export trade, such as wool, butter, or mutton production, they will drive other workers into them, and these extra exports will be sent abroad in exchange for the class of goods our own sweated industry produced. It will be of interest to note that while our Court is closing one local industry, our Parliament is granting assistance to another. When an expert in a foreign industry arrives here, and cannot get employment, he first appeals to our capitalists to finance the industry, which he is to manage at a living wage. If they cannot see the promised profits clear enough, they will support him in asking Parliament for assistance. After the bonus is expended, Parliament will be appealed to for a protective duty on goods like those produced by the assisted industry; if they fail in this the industry will be wiped out by the Court.page 33
At the time I am writing, our newspaper editors, chambers of commerce, and other leaders of public opinion are prophesying national bankruptcy, because our exports are diminishing and our imports increasing, and the balance of trade is against us. They have forbid our Government and local bodies borrowing in the colony. We are so short of capital, they say. I never yet knew capital borrowed from abroad without increasing our imports in proportion to the amount borrowed, and for some time without increasing our exports.
My old readers will recollect the close of the Franco-German War, 1871. Prince Bismarck, the leading politician of the world, to still further humiliate the French and exalt the German, imposed on the French a war indemnity of 200 million pounds, in English money, and it was stipulated to be paid in seven years. I recollect the then editor of the "Auckland Star," who, like Bismarck, was an economist, informing his readers that the payment of this money would keep France's nose to the grindstone for many years, while the German nation would be revelling in luxury. As France could not possibly pay it in the time, however, the economic would not work to suit our know-all politicians and editors. I often used to wonder why our Harbour Board and City Council paid high salaries to engineers, while the editors of the "Star" and "Herald" were willing to do their work so much better for nothing. Before I attempt to explain the economic process of this penalty, it will be fair to myself and to the world's greatest economists, politicians, and financiers to say that as far as I know I am the first to make the attempt.
We will suppose before the first payment that wages in France and Germany were both 3s a day, English money. The first payment would be made in money. This payment would reduce the money in France by a third, and increase that of Germany by a third. This would reduce money, wages, and commodities in France by a third, and raise them in Germany by the same amount. Now, mind you, although all foreign trade is practically barter, it is always reckoned on a money basis. The wages in France, after the first payment, were 2s a day, and those of Germany were 4s. Any common merchant or producer can see at a glance that German workshops could not compete with imported goods from France with wages at half price, even with high import duties. You must recollect that the circumstances in industry, such as methods and productivity, were about equal, while those between the United States and China are very unequal, as one American labourer will yield as much as several Chinamen. The money wages in all countries will conform to the productivity of labour, if no artificial means are employed to prevent it. You will have noticed that since the Japanese have begun to adopt European methods in industry that money wages are rising, and page 34 are at a much higher level than those of China, where less improvement has taken place.
The results of what I have explained were these: that while cheap money goods from French workshops were poured into Germany, German workshops were closed, and the French war indemnity was distributed by the German authorities among the unemployed workmen. This state of things lasted five years, when the last of the debt was paid. The extra money which had circulated in German marks during the payment of the French fine, was as the cheapest commodity sent back to France, and re-coined into francs to circulate in France, and the commodities and wages of the two countries went up and came down to the same level, that is, 3s a day each. The even prices of wages I have named are not the actual prices. I have fixed these even prices to explain the true functions of money; the actual difference that would allow French goods to beat German goods out of German markets would be much less. When the last payment was made and the French recovered their lost money, times impaired in France and improved in Germany.
The "Auckland Star," who had assured its readers that the French would be very poor while paying the indemnity, and could not possibly pay it in seven years, and the Germans so rich, when it was paid off in five years, with the conditions of the two countries reversed during the time, the "Star" felt called upon to give some kind of explanation. He said the resources of France were wonderfully elastic, but he never attempted to say where the elasticity was to be found.
The indemnity, we will say, was four per cent, of the produce of French labour, but during the period, the extra demand for French labour would vastly reduce competition in the French distributing trades. There would be no unemployed, and some French criminals would be drawn into her industrial activity.
The economic aspect of the South African War will serve to illustrate not only the French war indemnity, but that of the remedy I propose for the unemployed difficulty in New Zealand. It used to be thought, until the time of Adam Smith, that wars cost nations large sums of money, and if a nation had not a large accumulation of money, whatever its other resources, it could not long carry on the struggle. Adam Smith says, "I will show you that wars cost no money," but he thought they cost extra labour to a nation, which I am going to show you is a mistake. A war does not cost labour to a nation until, with the usual standard of living, it has absorbed all the unemployed, and reduced competition in industry and distribution to a vanishing point; until it has attracted into industrial pursuits all prisoners discharged during its progress who are willing and able to work under the improved conditions which always exist when the demand for labour exceeds page 35 the supply, and I may go further and say, until it has drawn into productive pursuits the discharged warders, magistrates, lawyers, and police, who arrested, who tried, prosecuted, and in some cases defended and guarded the reformed prisoners, and I might even go further and include the young and able stockbroker, who is willing for a time to leave his parasitic pursuit to help the nation in her hour of need.
When the South African War began in 1899, the total money or nominal value of the assets of the English nation was about £250 a head of the total population, and at its termination it was about the same. Its assets were greater, but its liabilities were also greater. The only foreign capital borrowed by England during the struggle was five millions from America. When the war began, England was unprepared for the struggle. The great part of the guns and bullets required were in the iron ore. The clothing for the soldiers was on the sheeps' backs, and the food they were to consume was ungrown or in progress of preparation. I may say, in short, the labour which was to produce all these needs was unexerted. As soon as the war began the price of coals and iron shot up to fabulous prices, and the fortunate owners of coal and iron mines, gun and bullet factories, made huge fortunes. That is to say, piled up the national debt. Now, if the British Government had understood its economic duty, it would have taxed direct from these coals and iron owners and others, the whole of the extra profit they made out of the war. If this had been done the national debt at the termination of the war, except the five million named, would have been the same as at the commencement. During the South African War, England was more prosperous than she has been either before or since. That is to say, the demand for labour was equal to the supply. The number of hawkers and beggars were reduced, competition was at a low ebb, and there were less paupers than during times of peace. I will ask the thoughtful to think, if England could, practically without borrowing from abroad, support 200,000 soldiers in South Africa, who were destroying capital as fast as they were able, to say nothing of supplying the Boer soldiers with clothing and often with food, what England could do if her rulers understood economic science in promoting the material wealth of her people?
This brings me to the American depression, or financial crisis, as it is sometimes called. If three flittings are as bad as a fire, three depressions are as bad as a war. In October, 1907, the stockowners and capitalists of New York suddenly decided that stocks and all kinds of property and investments were too high, and they became timid and alarmed. The progress of a financial crisis, trade depression, or unemployed difficulty is this, as near as I can trace it.
Henry George has attributed it to private ownership of land, page 30 but in face of his own evidence this is ridiculous. Mr. E. Withy and Mr. King, secretary of Single Tax League, have admitted this to me. Mr. S. Vaile thinks railway management may have something to do with it, but as he has never attempted to trace the connections, his vague idea is not worth considering, and Mr. Ewington's ideas on the matter are so confused and conflicting that they are not worth considering either.
John Stuart Mill says: "At the commencement of every trade depression in England the capital has reached its highest or nearly its highest possible amount, and no more capital can be accumulated or prosperity renewed until the greater part of the existing capital has been sent abroad or swept away.' This I understand to mean an excess of capital, and this opinion is supported By Henry George's description of a depression in America. Mr. Fleurschiem calls it unspent incomes, and Mr. Edmund Bell loss of confidence. J. S. Mill, Mr. Fleurschiem, and Mr. Bell are all correct, or nearly correct.
In the present American depression or commercial crisis, from which there is and has been so much suffering, not only in the States, but in England, Germany, and the Australasian colonies, this is the way it seems to have proceeded. First, the stock holders and capitalists of New York decide stocks, land values, and all kinds of investments are too high, and as Mr. Bell says: "They lose confidence, and will not speculate or invest.' Here Mr. Fleurschiem comes in with his unspent incomes. As soon as the incomes are not spent, whatever amount of capital there was at New York at the time, the time the capital will last will be extended; hence, when the incomes are unspent, this circumstance makes the capital excessive. Then J. S. Mills' cause is obvious.
At first when the stockbrokers and capitalists lost confidence, the middle and lower classes became alarmed and rushed the bank, who paid out all their cash, and their cash was locked in private safes and boxes, and the quantity of cash circulating in New York was so small that even with reduced trade and expenditure, [unclear: they] were so inconvenienced that it is said goods were sent to [unclear: England,] for the purpose of procuring cash which otherwise would [unclear: not] have been sent. If, at this juncture, Congress had opened [unclear: depots] for the reception of cash, say, without interest, this would [unclear: have] been obviated. Still, this would not have prevented, or even [unclear: relieved], the depression. Mr. Walker, an American economist, [unclear: attributes] a depression to an excess of fixed capital. This is [unclear: what] Mr. Walker saw in the States; but, while I am writing, there [unclear: is] a depression in Lancashire through an excess of circulating [unclear: capital] cotton goods. At Wellington, New Zealand, there is a [unclear: depression,] due partly to the New York depression, and partly to the [unclear: same] local causes which started the depression at New York: high [unclear: price] of land.page 37
The loss of confidence by capitalists in itself would do no harm, but it is the stoppage of the expenditure, which follows it, that does the mischief. If I say the community's industrial system is like an engine, and the capitalist is the stoker, and raises or depresses steam as confidence or fears possess him, is that a good simile? Or, if I say the industrial system is like a machine, and capital is the motive power, and, so long as every rod, wheel, and spindle performs its part well, all is right; but if even a strap breaks or strikes, the whole machine stops, even though the motive power is good.
You see how difficult it is to describe exactly the cause and process of a depression. I will next show you that in economic law, extravagant expenditure is the herald of wealth, and thrift the messenger of poverty. If all the people of Auckland resolved to live on half their present incomes, and save the other half, first, in order to accomplish this, two families must occupy one house, to save rent. If we trace from the direct to the remote effects of this one act of thrift (not economy), it is shocking to contemplate. I will not consider its inconvenience and unhealthiness, as to be thrifty is always insanitary and troublesome. First, half the dwellings in city and suburbs would be empty. As long as the empty houses were in repair they would always depress the rents of those tenanted. Shall I say, the total value of city and suburbs would fall at first to a third, and ultimately to a half, of the present value? Single-taxers tell you the presence of the community and its works creates and maintain land values. This act, you see, would depress them. The next effect would be that all carpenters, bricklayers, and others of the building trade, would be idle. We then, in succession, find all our sawmills closed and bushmen discharged, and brick yards closed. Even our vessels which bring lime and sand would be idle, and worth nothing. As regards furniture, why, from the very start it would be worth nothing. I have only traced this one act of thrift half-way, but I have shown you that one act of thrift is more sinful, vicious, and degrading than many acts of drunkenness. If our civil laws punished our offences in proportion to the injuries of their results, would not thrift have to rank with murder? I might describe the dreadful consequence of every other thriftish act, but it would only be a repetition. Whenever consumption of a commodity falls off, or if the consumption of all commodities is reduced, the production of those commodities and services will follow in due proportion.
I would here describe how superior New Zealand's pension scheme is to the German. An old New Zealander contributes nothing to his right or claim; in Germany, the workman, in the prime of life, contributes a third, the employer a third, and the Government a third. As a trade depression is caused chiefly by an excess of capital, the workman's contribution helps to threw himself out page 38 of work, the employer's contribution is deducted from the workman's wages, as I have already described, and the Government's contribution is charged to the workman on the imported goods he consumes. Hence, you see, the German workman pays for his pension before he gets it. A New Zealander receives his pension in a natural and economic way; those in prime of life must always support, not only the young, but the aged and infirm.
I next propose exposing the ignorance of those who say all prudent people should set aside a part of their earnings for old age. If they mean money, there is only £4 a head of our population in money, so that it is impossible to save much money. If they mean the commodities and services their labour yields, it is impracticable. For instance, a bread-baker cannot accumulate a week's labour; the bread would mould. If a baker wishes to save, he must exchange what he wishes to save for old age, say, with the builder, and he ultimately becomes possessed of a house or two. If we had many prudent people, you can see we should soon have too many houses, and too much capital of all kinds. You see, J. S. Mill, our standard authority, attributes a depression to an excess of capital. Often you will notice we have too much capital in one employment and too little in another. For instance, bricklayers are waiting for bricks, with the building half erected If you meet the bricklayer on the street, and say to him: "Are you out of work?" he will answer: "No; I am waiting for bricks." He blames the brickmaker for being careless or incompetent to manage a brickyard, but when the building is finished, and you meet the bricklayer, and ask, "Are you out of work?" he answers, "Yes." On this occasion he does not blame the brickmaker, whose yard is full of bricks and waiting for customers. Well, he does not know who to blame; he supposes no more houses are required. But when you point to two families occupying one house, and people living in old, unhealthy ones, he will, in a vague sort of way, blame the Government, but never the capitalist, who has lost confidence, and will not spend his income either in houses or any other speculation. The reason at one time brickyards and timber-yards cannot meet the demand, and at other times are overstocked, is often the irregularity of the demand. Sometimes the capitalist will be persuaded that houses, shops, and warehouses are the best investment, and he will build so rapidly that sawmills and brickyards cannot keep him going. Then, suddenly, fears and misgivings will seize him, and the building trade becomes slack, and the unemployed builders seek Fresh fields and pastures new; if there are any to be found. If not, they enter into competition in other employments, as I have previously explained, until such time as the capitalist's confidence returns, and he begins again to build.
I have said the capitalist is the stoker to the engine and the page 39 motive power to the machinery. Industry by him is set in motion, and by him it is suspended, and at all times, except when labourers strike, industry is under his control. Governments may sometimes be above him, and control him. When this happens, he frets and fumes under the restraint, but generally he manages to bribe those exalted above him. He is the power behind the throne. The total capital of all British-speaking countries is about £150 a head of the population, and the taxing power, that is, Government and corporation bonds, land values, and money lent without security, is about another £150, so that the total assets are about £300. It does not look very large when we come to consider that it includes all the American millionaires own, and all the Rothchilds and other English millionaires have a claim to.
The Remedy.—What I propose is to give to capitalists all the privileges which are consistent with the prosperity and good government of New Zealand. All capitalists whose total assets exceed say, £6,000, shall form an association, similar to our present Employers' Associations, and the management of the colony's industries shall be retained in their hands, subject to the payment of taxes and rates, and the Capitalists' Association shall be responsible for the full employment of all able and willing to work at the trade or calling to which they belong, or as near to it as the exigencies and needs of the community require; failing which, the Government must levy on them a special tax to employ the workless on such municipal or public improvements as the Government think in the best interest of the community. Capitalists shall not import any labour without Government consent.
So you see the authority and privileges of capitalists will not be curtailed, but their responsibilities will be increased. Privileges and power should always be attended by responsibilities and duties. On examining my proposal, you will see that capital will be much more secure than it is now, and the difficulties of those who have no capital getting possession of much, would be much increased. The ups and downs of colonial life are proverbial. Half the capitalists of Auckland in 1884 were poor men in 1899. The value of the city and suburbs in the five years fell much below a half, and our country lands, farms, and forests, fell nearly as much, so that any property-owner who was mortgaged to half value, and in some cases a fourth, was penniless in 1889. Worse than this befel Melbourne from 1890 to 1893. At the time I am writing, property-owners at Wellington are threatened with a similar calamity. At Johannesburg, in South Africa, we are told property in the suburbs is worth a mere fraction of what it cost a few years since. I do not know what the fall will have been in the last 18 months at New York, but if we put it down at a fourth, that, I think, will be a moderate estimate. These chances in fortunes are all due to inflations and depressions. Under page 40 the management I propose, there will be neither. The value [unclear: of] property, when measured in labour, will always be about [unclear: the] same, and the money value will vary only in proportion to [unclear: the] rise and fall in the gold value. True, the value of property [unclear: mights] rise a little in one part of the colony, and fall in another, [unclear: but] the Society of Capitalists, which I propose, could divide the [unclear: losses] and gains among themselves if they so wished.
There is no doubt our population, both by births and [unclear: immigration,] has been increasing too rapidly for the past 12 years [unclear: to] maintain wages and domestic comfort at the highest [unclear: possible] standard, which should be our aim. The cry of our [unclear: newspapers] for more farmers and farm labourers is simply a [unclear: landowner's] advertisement, which is as false and selfish as that of a [unclear: draper] If our population was stationary, and our standard of living [unclear: fixed] at a given level, the land values of the colony would be [unclear: always] the same; but when the population increases, the land [unclear: values] increase in a greater proportion. The wages of labour are [unclear: the] quantity and quality of the necessaries and luxuries, the [unclear: material] comforts and enjoyments, of life, consumed and indulged by [unclear: the] worker in proportion to the labour [unclear: and] sacrifice of health and comfort in obtaining them. About two years since, Mr. [unclear: Fowlds,] Minister for Health, told a reporter that if a hundred men [unclear: arrived] in New Zealand, and procured work, when the labour [unclear: market] was overstocked, another hundred men would be forced out. [unclear: It] never occurred to Mr. Fowlds that these men would require [unclear: food,] clothing, or shelter, and that someone must be employed in [unclear: supplying] them. He also said we required more [unclear: farmers] and farm labourers, but when I challenged him to argue the matter, [unclear: he] declined. He either was absent-minded when he made the [unclear: statement,] or he was pandering to ignorance. That we have [unclear: sufficient] farmers and farm labourers is evident by the very [unclear: moderate] average profits of the one, and the low wages of the other. [unclear: It] is, in fact, what our trades unions and Arbitration Court call a "sweated industry." Even admitting that he averages, [unclear: mentally] and physically, inferior to the town worker, a farm labourer [unclear: is] paid less than the town worker, whether reckoned in money [unclear: or] the comforts of life. True, he receives a certain amount [unclear: in] honour, or, rather, flattery. We call him the backbone of [unclear: the] country—that he performs a more valuable service than any [unclear: other]—but we never bow to him as we do to some of [unclear: our] parasites. Our Arbitration Court would have wiped him out long ago if it [unclear: had] been a Court of Justice, but it is a Court of Cowardice. Some years since, Judge Cooper went to the Thames, and granted rises of wages and shorter hours in other employments; but when [unclear: he] came to the miners, instead of serving them like the other workers, he said, in effect: "There are 17 mine managers with loaded revolvers standing over me, and if I grant you a rise of wages, they page 41 will fire, and blow my judgment to smithereens." This happened in God's Own Country, when the almighty Seddon was boss of the show, and this, mark you, his former favourite employment. In fact, I have been told he would to the last, when he met a goldminer, shake hands, and say, "I am proud of you, and will defend your rights with my last breath."
When Judge Cooper metaphorically hoisted the white feather or flag in Court, he did not, as a just and sensible judge would have done, say to the miners, "I will cancel my other awards at the Thames, so that you will have no more to pay for your bread and meat.' Oh, no, that would have brought the Court into disrepute. At Dunedin, Judge Cooper and his associates committed a similar error of judgment. One would have thought that after the Thames incident he would have been more cautions and careful. I have often noticed, when prisoners are lectured by judges for illegal or immoral offences, they are advised to be more circumspect and careful how they conduct themselves in future; but Judge Cooper, being above reproach and criticism, received no such warning. Our newspapers protected his sacred office. At Dunedin, after raising wages in some other employments, he came to the slaughtermen, who prepared sheep for export. On this occasion he suddenly discovered, or, rather, others told him, the Court had no jurisdiction over the price of mutton on the London markets. He was very humble and apologetic, and no doubt very sorry that the Court's powers were limited by the confines of the colony. Now, it happens that the lawyers who pointed out to Judge Cooper this difficulty, were only civil lawyers, and not, as they claimed, economists.
John Stuart Mill says: "Imported goods are not sold at a price to cover their cost in labour in the country of their production, but at a price that will pay for the labour cost of the goods sent abroad in exchange for them." This is the whole theory of foreign trade, as I understand it; it is an exchange of labour products between one country and another, and not from a public standpoint, a sale and purchase; and every country whose consumption is below the productive power of its labour can always pay its foreign debts without reducing its own standard of living. If a country exports less than it imports, the balance will be paid in money. This will reduce the money value of labour in the debtor country, and increase them in the creditor; The creditor country will then be unable to compete with the debtor until its money is returned. In 1902, the Australian drought year, California supplied Sydney with flour and wheat, and having no return trade, the wheat was paid for in money. The San Francisco papers declared Australia was as good as a gold mine to the States. Since then, Australia has paid to the foreign creditor in an excess of exports over imports, about 14 million page 42 pounds. Yet, while Australia paid this sum, she was not prosperous—a moiety of her population was drifting to New Zealand till 1907, for want of employment. On an average, a country is most prosperous when the balance of trade is against it, and most depressed when the balance is in its favour. To illustrate this, I will suppose New Zealand's creditors should suddenly cancel our debt; unless we increased our expenditure in proportion, or, as J. S. Mill says, sent our surplus capital abroad or swept it away, we should suffer a terrible depression.
On the question of Freetrade v. Protection, I can positively say that no economist, who understood his profession, would recommend protection. Every editor or politician who recommends protection is either a fool or a knave, and we all know there are many of them. The chief advantage of freetrade is that it allows every commodity to be made or produced in the country where it can be done with the least labour. For instance, we can produce wool, mutton, and butter with less than half the labour England can produce them; England can produce crockery and clothing with half the labour we can; it therefore pays both New Zealand and England to exchange these goods. There are, I believe, a few imported goods which would cost ten times as much labour to manufacture or produce here as it does to produce mutton in exchange, and there are even a few goods we cannot produce at all. In proof of this statement, I refer the reader to the foreign trade of the United States and Germany. Notwithstanding heavy import duties, these countries have a large foreign trade, but not so large as it would be if the impediment was removed. We often hear people, either ignorant or selfish, asking Government to assist a local industry to keep the money in the country, or find work for the unemployed. The effect of this would be to reduce wages, exports, and imports. I have read the Cobden Club literature, and can assure the reader that Mr. Cobden has, through ignorance, injured freetrade on the one hand, as he promoted it on the other. In his enthusiasm he publicly declared it would find work for the unemployed, and even empty workhouses. Have I not just explained to you that we can enjoy a higher standard of living with the same labour under freetrade than protection? But it would not relieve a depression, except at first, in this way. When the policy of freetrade was first inaugurated, many things produced in England would be produced abroad, and many things produced abroad before would be produced in England. When this happened, much capital, both in England and abroad, would become obsolete, and the demand for labour to replace the lost capital would absorb the surplus labour for the time, and you can see, more ships would be required to carry the increased cargo to and fro. Our own case would better illustrate it. Suppose we adopted freetrade, our clothing fac- page 43 tories, and, say, several other protected industries, would close, and the buildings for the purposes they were intended would become obsolete, and must either be pulled down or altered to suit other purposes. At the same time, farming and grazing would receive a stimulus to produce more butter, mutton, wool, wheat, and oats to exchange for the additional clothing imported-Mr. Cobden said, on his death-bed, if he had his time to go over again, he would follow Adam Smith closely, and would not go beyond him. This will show you how little Cobden understood political economy. No one could have been more conscious of his shortcomings than Smith. He says, "I do not know what is the cause of the rise and fall in the rate of interest, but I do know the popular idea is a false one; I do not know what limits capital, but I am sure it has a limit," and so on. If I had known these things, Mr. Cobden would not have listened to me, because Smith did not know them. These problems have both been solved since.
The cause of the rise and fall in the rate of interest is said to have been discovered by Mr. Bastiat, a French economist. It is very simple, considering that it took so many centuries to discover: "The quantity of capital offering in a community in relation to the demand for it." As far as I have read, every economist has agreed that during periods of depression, the rate of interest is low, and during prosperity, high; or, in other words, the demand for labour and capital have gone hand in hand. However, at the time I write, May, 1909, while the demand for labour is less than it has been for several years past, the rate of interest for short loans is half per cent, higher, and permanent loans a quarter per cent, higher. After considerable study, I offer the following explanation: Eighteen months since, wool fell, say, from Is lb. to 7d. Many wool-growers, we are told, refused to take this price, and have stored it in their sheds for higher prices. These wool-growers must borrow capital to meet current demands, which they would not have required had they sold their wool. The demand for timber, too, has fallen off considerably during the last year, and some of these mills will have worked on while, say, a fourth of the timber has accumulated in their yards. These, too, must either borrow or withdraw capital from other sources. The demand for builders' ironmongery has fallen off, and if their usual supply has come from abroad, they, too, would require to borrow. This, I think, will account for the small rise in interest. If these sawmillers reduce hands, so as to make the demand and supply of timber to meet, the ironmongers stop orders from abroad, the wool-growers sell their wool at the now somewhat advanced price, the rate of interest will fall.
So, you see, our stock of capital, instead of having decreased in bulk, has actually increased, but it is what we call lower in page 44 price, which, in this case, means that money has advanced in value owing to the depression all the world over, and to money not being turned over so frequently.
Some years since, I challenged Dr. McArthur, now magistrate of Wellington, and W. J. Napier, solicitor, of Auckland (they declined), I undertaking to prove that when capital is at the smallest in quantity, and the rate of interest the highest, that borrowers will pay less and lenders will receive more, than when a country has a large capital and the rate of interest low; or, in other words, if I start an industry in New Zealand on borrowed capital, I will have a better chance of success if I have to pay 8 per cent, than I would if I could get it at 6 per cent. Suppose my industry was a furniture factory, and the rate of interest was very high, the demand for furniture would be great in proportion. I would only require to borrow for stock of timber, factory, and machinery. The demand would be so urgent that every piece of furniture would be made to order, and all would be sold direct to the user or consumer for cash. On the other hand, if the rate of interest was low, the demand for furniture would be small in proportion, and in this case I would require to build a large furniture store, and make the greater part of my furniture on stock. I should then require to borrow as much capital for my store and stock as I did for my machinery, factory, and timber. Any intelligent business man of large experience can see that the first half of the problem is clear enough, though my proposition seemed a paradox; the second half is more difficult to prove. Besides, I have the opinion of Bastiat against me. But very wise men have often erred, and I think Bastiat has in this case. We are told the rate of interest in Holland, which had the largest capital in Europe, was 3 per cent., while in Spain, which had the smallest capital, 7 per cent, was usual for like security. If I could get the actual amount of capital per capita, the problem would be solved, and I have little doubts but I am right, and Bastiat has made a mistake.
The next thing I will try to prove, as far as I can rake up argument to prove, is that countries do not compete against each other in foreign trade, as is universally supposed, when the exports from any country are considered in the aggregate. First, J. S. Mill has laid it down as a positive economic law that the exports and imports of every country will ultimately balance, that is, supposing there are no private bankruptcies or anything of that kind. If this law is correct, and I cannot see how it can be incorrect, if we order, say, a million pounds worth of good; from England, and they are to be paid for, they are bound to take a million pounds worth of New Zealand goods direct, or some other country must take a million pounds of New Zealand goods, and then export a million pounds worth of their own goods to page 45 England. I will show you that in all foreign trade, cash payments are practically impossible. Of course, it is not in theory impossible. If a passenger in a tram on a penny section offers the conductor a ten pound note in payment, the penny would not pay the conductor's labour to give the change, even if he ran no risk in making a mistake against himself, which he does. Every business man knows that either the seller or buyers must get credit. The worst payer in Auckland who cannot get a shilling on credit, is forced to credit the coal and wood dealer. As a wood dealer, I always found the very worst payers the best customers—they pay the money before you put the coals or wood on the cart for them. If we order a million's worth of goods from England, Japan, or the United States, and they send them to us, that is as good as an order for a million's worth of New Zealand produce. We are often afraid the Argentine will drive us out of the London mutton market, or that Siberia, with its low wages, will drive us out of the English butter market. Either of these could happen. But, however cheap other countries supply goods to England, they cannot drive us out of the markets of the world as long as it pays us better to import some of our goods than produce them here. The reason I give this explanation is that Mr. Bradlaugh would not vote for a reduction of hours of labour in England, fearing they could not compete in foreign markets. If the hours of labour were reduced a fourth, they could compete as well as they do now; that is, they could exchange their produce with foreigners on the same terms.
The first distributing trade I have examined is the butchers. At present, and for years past, the wholesale price of beef and mutton delivered into the butcher's shop averages about threepence a pound, and is delivered to customers at about sixpence; that is to say, through bad management and competition, it costs as much in labour to distribute as to produce. Under my plan of management, it can be distributed at about a halfpenny a pound, or one-sixth, and the distributer will have as much net profit as he has now. Divide the town and suburbs into convenient-sized districts; the City Council to call for separate tenders for the exclusive right to supply each district (as they do now for the removal of nightsoil), for a period of from one year to five; the tenderer to have a shop near the centre of the district, where any consumer in the district, who may have been out when the cart called, can purchase; the contractor to deliver to every customer once a day the meat, either cut up in convenient-sized joints, and weighed in the shop, or the butcher may take a pair of scales and weigh what is wanted on the cart; the butcher to serve alternate sides of his district first, so that each side shall have its choice in turn. If the butcher thinks he will run short, he shall serve all with a reduced quantity, so that all get some. The butcher page 46 may demand cash on delivery or take weekly or monthly payments. The tender shall be so much a cwt. over the wholesale price for each month, so as to be the least risky to the contracting butcher. In this way, I think one man and cart will be able to deliver, cut up, weigh, and collect cash for, say, half a ton a day, so that the whole business can be done for, say, a farthing a pound, and I think another farthing will cover all losses. Thus, all classes of the community will be served as well as they are now, at little over half, so that if all other commodities and services would yield the same proportion of benefit to economical management, wages would be nearly doubled at once.
For the supply of bread, I think the districts should be about twice as large as for meat, as bread would only be half the trouble to deliver. In this trade, I thing cash would not be practical, on account of the trouble in giving change; the baker, never, however, need lose over a week's bread, and even then they could not be served by another baker, so that any bad debts are very improbable. The reader must recollect that under my plan there would be no unemployed, and in case of sickness, the Charitable Aid Board should pay all debts. I am told, in a large bakehouse, with best machinery, bread can be baked with about two-thirds the labour. If one baker's driver and cart can deliver, say, four times as much bread as now, and bread can be baked with two-thirds the labour, if we reckon the flour and other raw material at the present price, say, half the retail cost of bread, then bread can be delivered at less than three-fourths the present price.
A milk district should, I think, be about the same size as a baker's. Cash would be impracticable, but scarcely any bad debts would be possible, and the price delivered would be about twopence halfpenny instead of fourpence.
The districts for the supply of vegetables should also be mapped out, and the price would probably be reduced a third. Directions for the delivery of fruit have already been given.
For the sale of lollies, fruit, and summer drinks a shop in each main street might be open for the sale of what would be consumed on the road.
For the sale of drapery, imported clothing, boots, etc., conveniently-sized districts should be mapped out, with a store about the centre of each, and the goods sold at such an advance on the imported price as would pay for labour and unavoidable loss. This would probably be about one-tenth of what is charged now, and, if delivered, the price should be a separate charge.
For groceries, a store should be near the centre of each district; and delivered, say, once weekly, and orders either sent by post or given to the driver of the delivery cart for the following week. The packages should be of the simplest, consistent with the safety of contents. The tender should be for amount of page 47 profit on current wholesale price, and everything sold should be what is represented. I do not suppose the saving on groceries would be so great as that on meat or milk, still it would be considerable, as cash would be practical on a week's groceries.
Auckland has, I should say, three times as many druggist shops as are required, and consequently drugs are sold at, say, double price.
The same may be said of watchmakers and jewellers, which, I suppose, are watchmenders and clock-doctors, and prices could be reduced accordingly.
Second-hand furniture and clothing sellers should be limited in number, and the profits on various classes of goods stated; the profits could, I think, be reduced a-half.
Pawnbroking, I think, should be abolished as unnecessary.
I do not think much saving could be effected in the wholesale trades, except that of drapery, and, perhaps, ironmongery and groceries. None of these ought to be allowed to compete with each other, or to send travellers into country districts. All orders by country storekeepers should be sent by letter.
The practice of medicine should be brought into line. I had a small growth on the eyelid. I went to Dr. Purchas, a specialist, who pinched it off and put a white syrup in the eye, similar to cream in appearance, which improved both eyes. He ordered me to see him every third day, but all he did was to put this syrup in the eyes. I had to leave my work, and go a mile to the shop, and be charged, I think, 7s 6d a time. Had he given me a small quantity of the syrup I could have put it in the eyes myself, without loss of time. This, I consider, was an undoubted case of imposition, which deserved punishment, and would not be allowed in a well-managed community. No doubt a surgeon's and physician's occupation presents greater difficulties than most others, but they should be taught that the community's interests should be considered.
All rates and taxes should be levied in a way that would cost directly and indirectly the least in labour to collect. For instance, we will say an income tax, for in whatever way it is levied it ultimately falls on labour. If we levy the taxes on our bad habits, with a view to reducing them, say, on drink and tobacco, we but tempt people to use illicit stills and smuggle. All we do should make it as easy and profitable as possible to do what we consider right and lawful, and as difficult, as dangerous, and as unprofitable as possible to do what we think wrong and unlawful.
The reader will see my aim all through the management of the community has been to obtain the greatest possible results from the least possible labour—to promote peace and goodwill, to banish rivalry and contention, and to instil into all a feeling that they are members of a large family; and that if certain sections, as page 48 a whole, receive a greater recompense for their efforts, it is because their services are worth more to the society as a whole; and if one unit in a section or trade receives a less recompense, whether in material, honour, or distinction, the blame is to rest upon the author of nature.
I have written so far chiefly to show you not only that it is possible for the whole community to receive in a few years double wages, but what is more, I have shown how it can be done, and that it is much simpler than you would expect. The next questions is, How are we to spend our additional income? You can see, if we attempt to save it, the attempt will be fatal, so that it must be spent regularly. We only aim at growing as many potatoes now as will last the year, and seed for the next year. However good the crop may be in any year, however large the surplus, which must rot or be eaten by pigs, the same acreage will be set next year, so that an abundant crop of potatoes does not cause a single man to be thrown out of work. But if all the world had a record crop of wheat in a given year, which was sufficient to last two years, a whole year's surplus would be left at the end of the season, and, as a consequence, all ploughmen, for wheat, would be thrown out of work, and all these ploughmen would have to be fed out of the poor rates, just as the German workmen were fed out of the French war indemnity. You can see, if all had begun to eat twice as much bread at the commencement of the season, these ploughmen would have had work the following year, and there would have been no more paupers than usual. If we make as many boots in a year as will last two years, it would be the same. Everything that is made or produced in a year should be consumed or used in the year, unless we have other extraordinary employment for the men during the year.
While I am writing this (June, 1909), Mr. Ward, our Prime Minister, has suddenly discovered that he has been paying for years, six civil servants to do the work of four, and he is discharging them on an already overstocked labour market. Only one short year since, Mr. Ward sent to England for farmers and farm labourers, and under this heading paid the passages of men of various employments to come to the colony, and now he has nothing for them to do. I mention this to show how incapable Mr. Ward is to manage this country. If, say, two or three years since, he had discovered that he had too many civil servants, they could have got other, though less congenial, employment; but now they can find none, except to enter into competition in the distributing trades, or steal. It would be absurd to say they can go on the land, the recompense for which is already, on an average, one of the worst paid in the colony.
To expose the incapability of men in high position, I refer page 49 the reader to the reply of Henry Campbell-Bannerman to the unemployed of London: "The Government does not know what is the cause of unemployment, but will inquire, and see what can be done." Bannerman evidently thought the cause was known, but the whole Cabinet had neglected to inquire. All the Ministry ought to have known all that was to be known on this, the most important of political subjects, before they were allowed to sit in Parliament.
I would like my readers to clearly understand my proposal to make the capitalists of the colony responsible for the employment, or, at least, the wages of all wanting employment. Every privilege should carry responsibility. The capitalists of every country enjoy the privilege of saying whether men shall work or not. They hold the keys of industry, and if we had no poor law, and all workers would keep the other laws, they could starve poor people to death by the million. I have already explained that the capitalists of New York, in October, 1907, took alarm and reduced industry. If the law, which I propose, had existed in the United States then, the financial crisis would never have occurred, and the consequent depression in England, Germany, and Australasia, would never have followed. I am asking you, not only to read, but to think. These New York stockholders suddenly decide stocks are too high, and must drop in prices. They are frightened to speculate—that is, they are frightened to spend—and, as a consequence, everything comes down with a run, and involves every foreign country which trades with them. If my law had existed in the States, these stock owners, instead of ceasing to speculate, would have called a meeting, and would have decided it would not do to stop half the industry of New York. It would be better for them to risk losing their capital than giving it to the idle workers, and would have been careful not to run up the stocks too high in future.
We have at present a large number of gold mines which do not pay working expenses. Suppose our capitalists were to suddenly conclude that these mines would never pay, and stop paying calls, these mines must soon all close down, and the men be discharged. The consequences would be the same as the stockholders of New York—the expenditure would be diminished and industry blocked. Next, we will suppose my law was in force. Our gold mine stockholders would call a meeting, and decide that if the mines were closed, something else must be opened, so that they would have no idle men to keep. It has always seemed to me, ever since I acquired the key to public management, that we spend too much of our incomes on enterprises, and too little on personal gratification. Suppose, when our capitalists had decided to close the mines, that as many capitalists decided they would like to extend their gardens as would absorb the whole surplus labour. page 50 You can see that the expenditure would go on as before, nor would land and stock values fall as they would have done if these miners had been thrown on the labour market. And, further, instead of a number of ugly holes on the goldfields, our suburbs would be adorned by an additional number of beautiful gardens.
I think my offer to our capitalists is not only a fair, but an exceedingly liberal one. When you come to think that I propose not only to limit immigration, but the birth-rate, so that our population will slowly and gradually increase, and booms and depressions will be extirpated, if an acre of land is worth £50 this year it will be worth £51 next, and will not, as a whole, be subject to fluctuations, you will understand that those who are capitalists now would be likely to remain so, unless they gambled on the racecourse or in gold mines. There would be no gambling in land values, which would be as steady as British Consols, while those who have no capital now would be less likely to procure any. The capitalists of New York, by reducing their own expenditure, have reduced their own income at a much greater rate. While I am writing, the expenditure of private capital has been reduced in Wellington; the money spent on building for the year ending March 31st, 1909, was a third less than the previous year's expenditure. This means, those employed in the building trade direct, and those that are indirectly dependent on them, such as brickmakers, sawmillers, ironmongers, and so forth, have only averaged four days' work a week for the whole year. As a logical consequence, the value of land and capital will have fallen in a still greater proportion. I know a man who rented a shop in Queen Street, Auckland, in 1884, at £7 10s a week, and the same shop in 1889 at £l 10s. Two building lots in Kingsland Avenue were sold in 1883 for £70, in 1893 for £5, and in 1903 for £70. A farm in the Waikato was valued in 1884 at £4,000; the Bank of New Zealand lent £2,000 on it, and in 1893 sold it for £135. The ups and downs of Melbourne have been equal to those of Auckland.
It would be foolish to suppose we are short of capital, and attribute the scarcity of employment to that cause. At the time I write, employment is equally scarce in England, with, if we except Holland, perhaps the largest capital in the world. We never hear of any unemployed in Spain, which has the smallest capital in Europe. We are told by bank managers our capital is nearly exhausted, but if we examine the colony's capital we shall find hardly any of it in the banks. The capital of our country districts consists of all the improvements of the land, such as fences, drains, sown grasses, cultivations, live and dead stock, the unconsumed crops, houses and outbuildings, etc.; the capital of our towns consists of the buildings, such as houses, shops, stores, workshops, and the page 51 machinery and stocks of goods they contain, our shipping, etc. Do we seem to have less of these than we had a year since or two years since, when there was plenty of work for everyone? If a hundred of the richest men in Wellington would double their expenditure for, say, three months, there would be plenty of work for all able and willing to do it; in fact, there would be plenty of work in three weeks, or even three days. If I had £100,000 I could make Auckland prosperous for three months, and before the three months expired, land in city and suburbs would sell for over £100,000 more than when I started to spend. If I say the wealth of a community consists of what it spends, I should be much nearer the truth than if I said the wealth of a community consists of what it saves.
The present time in New Zealand is said to be a critical time, not because we are short of capital, but because we are afraid to spent what we have got. We will suppose, instead of putting a tax on expenditure, we put it on savings, so that the net interest was nil, would that reduce savings or attempt to save? I think not, though J. S. Mill believed if the rate of interest was reduced to much below 5 per cent, people would be discouraged. I feel sure the rate of interest has little to do with savings. When a man is young he begins to save for a rainy day and old age; the desire grows with the amount, until it becomes his chief hobby, and his happiness depends on his success. Suppose we levy a tax of 5 per cent, on all capital saved until there was employment for all, would the necessity last three months? I think not. If New Zealand borrowed, say, 5 millions instead of one, to spend during the year, men could not be got to do the work. The capital of New Zealand is estimated at about 150 millions. If we spend 5 millions of this over what we shall spend, and borrowed none from abroad during the year, should we not be just as prosperous as if we borrowed the 5 millions? And then, you see, we should not owe the 5 millions. I am not a gambler, neither on horse racing or land values, but if anyone who differs from me will induce the Government to put a heavy tax on savings, and watch the labour market the while, and turn the steam on and off, to make the one to meet the other as near as possible, that at the end of the year the total capital we have will be worth as much, whether valued in labour or money.
Suppose we adopted Socialism. All our capital, land, bonds, and wealth would be handed over to the general Government, who would delegate their powers to the local authorities, the City Councils, and Road Boards would find employment for all, and pay all their wages. All our exports would be sent to the English and other markets in the name of the colony, and all the imports would be consigned to the local authority at each port. You can see that if a particular export fell in value there would be page 52 no bankruptcies or inconvenience, or, if another export rose in price, no fortunes would be made out of it. If all or nearly all our exports fell in value, it would be because a general depression in the outer world had increased the value of money, but at such a time our imports would fall in price to about the same pro portion, so that we should get nearly the same imports in exchange for our exports. I think our exports are the produce of from a third to a fourth of our labour. If we say our exports are the produce of one-fourth of our labour, and three-fourths of our labour is consumed in the colony, you will see how little it would matter to us what price our wool, meat, and butter was in foreign markets.
I have introduced Socialism to show we are not short of capital; I will continue it to show we have not too much labour. I will venture to say, under Socialism, there is never a surplus of labour, I am sure every farmer in New Zealand will say that in his whole experience he always had a reserve of work on his farm, he could always see jobs that wanted doing, and that he would like to see done; in fact, he is always short of labour, and would have more if he could afford it. No one will deny that at the present time, while a third of the builders of Wellington, and a fourth of those of Auckland, are unemployed, we are short of decent dwellings. Mr. Ward has undertaken to farm the whole of New Zealand, but he is a very poor manager. He has lots of jobs which want doing, both in the way of [unclear: roads,] bridges and railways; which, he says, he would like to see done. On the other hand, he has a lot of navvies clamouring for work which he would like to find for them. Mark you, the private farmer's work is limited by his means, but Mr. Ward has his capital rotting for want of use, his workers stark for want of exercise, and his lands lying waste, and the necessary material silently inviting him to use it. Am I to charge Mr. Ward with ignorance, indifference, or with wilful neglect. At this critical time he has left us to do the best we can, on a title-hunting [unclear: expedition,] though I believe he could have got one on the gumfields for as old song. There are said to be lords and earls there, but at they are dressed in rags, they are rather despised than respected He has offended Canada by procuring her big name for his little colony, and has stolen a march on the Commonwealth with his [unclear: big] offer to take the wind from their sails, and yet he thinks he [unclear: is] the only man who can unite the Empire.
If a rich goldfield was discovered, say, 100 miles from Wellington, with, say, large reefs yielding five ounces to the ton, should we be short of capital to work it? Should we go and tell the British capitalist what a grand investment we had for him? [unclear: I] am sure more capital would offer than could be profitably [unclear: employed]; in fact, there would be a rush to invest, and there [unclear: would] page 53 not be an idle man in Wellington in a month, and no other enterprises would need suspend for want of capital—some might suspend for want of labour. I believe at the present time, June, 1909, we have a sixth more capital than can be profitably employed.
Suppose, instead of the discovery of a rich goldfield, half of the chief streets of the four chief towns of the colony should be burned simultaneously. I should say a million of our capital would be lost, but the remaining capital would be sufficient to both employ all our surplus labour and to replace the lost capital in, say, three years. Capital is more elastic than labour. A machine could be worked the whole 24 hours for a month or a year, but a man must have alternate exercise and rest. I have known some of our timber mills work two shifts with the same machinery, but they had to procure an extra staff of men. San Francisco was short of capital when the whole city was demolished, but if, say, a sixth of the city had been destroyed, it could have been rebuilt without borrowing from abroad, and work would have been better paid then either before the destruction or after the restoration. When a depression happens it is either because we have too much capital or capitalists are frightened we are going to have too much. The depression in 1865 and 1885, in Auckland, commenced because we had a surplus of capital in the form of building, furniture, etc., but the present depression has started through the fear we soon will have a surplus.
You will often have noticed Mr. Seddon and Mr. Ward tell us that most of the capital they borrow from abroad is put to reproductive purposes. When a depression occurs, it is because the colony's capital cannot be put to reproductive purposes, or, rather, the owners believe it cannot, and are frightened to spend it. I do not know how much capital we have, but I think it will vary from £100 to £150 a head of the population. The assets of British communities are estimated at £300 a head. This will include land values and taxing power, such as corporation bonds, or the bonds may be excluded, as they are a debt as well as a credit. J. S. Mill says they are not always excluded.
If a citizen of New Zealand, with an income of £500 a year, lived on £300, invested £100 in enterprises, and gave to charitable institutions £100, from a public standpoint he would not be so good a citizen as if he spent his whole income on personal gratification.
When we say we are short of capital it is synonymous with saying our accumulations of food, clothing, shelter, and other necessaries and conveniences of life are nearly exhausted, and will not last till they are replenished—a circumstance which has not occurred in a British community of my own knowledge for 50 years past. There can never be a scarcity of capital while labour is unemployed. While I am writing, there is a glut in the English page 54 frozen meat market; in New Zealand our oat and barley [unclear: markets] are glutted, and most of our other products are said to be [unclear: in] excess and selling at less than a remunerative price; yet, as [unclear: a] remedy of this excess in production, our politicians and editors are urging people to go on the land and produce more. The amount of capital and labour which can be profitably employed in production is strictly limited by the consumption.
J. S. Mill thought because wages are paid out of capital, the amount of labour employed would be least when the capital was small, and most when the capital was great. This state of things could happen only in a community of spenders, such as the Spaniards, who live up to their income. A bountiful harvest in Spain would be followed by sumptuous living, while in Dutch and English communities it would be followed by a depression.
If our capitalists of, say, £6,000 and over, should refuse to [unclear: be] responisble for the constant employment and wages of our labourers, they are a pack of imbecile cowards, who are unfit and incapable of the public management of what blind fortune has unworthily thrust upon them, and it will be an easy task for the Government to tax or take as much of their savings as will find on public works employment for all. If this has to be done for a number of years, our public works will so far outstrip the private—that is, our roads, railways, parks, etc., will be so much better than our dwellings and private property, as will astonish visitors. I know there are people whose ethical ideas of morality are so perverted by false education, and contaminated by hereditary custom as to declare my proposal wrong. While confessing the difficulty in distinguishing right from wrong, I shall class all acts whose direct and remote effects contribute more to human happiness than miseries, as virtues, and those with the opposite effects as vices, without respect or even regard for the opinion of others.
It will be proper to explain to the rich that although [unclear: my] economy in public management will reduce the value of land [unclear: in] Queen Street and other retail business streets, to perhaps, [unclear: one] fourth, land values in suburbs and country districts will rise [unclear: to] about double their present value—not the prospective, mind [unclear: you,] but the present using value—because the same number of [unclear: people] will consume and use the double amount in produce of the [unclear: land] not so much in food as in clothing and house and [unclear: allotment] accommodation. A man or woman engaged wholly in a [unclear: competitive] or artificial employment, although he occupies a house [unclear: and] ground, consumes food, wears clothes, etc., his present [unclear: whole] use and consumption will be transferred to his competitors, [unclear: etc.,] who will perform his former service, hence an additional quantity of land will be required by the ex-competitor to the whole [unclear: extract] of the future value of his services to the community.page 55
As this is rather a complex problem and, as far as I know, of my own discovery, I will illustrate by supposing that our present land and mining agents are reduced to one-sixth in number. A retrenched agent, who now earns or rather receives as commission, say, £6 a week, if under the new regime he follows ordinary labouring employment, which is now worth £2 a week, but which will then be worth £4 a week, he will, in this case, require only two-thirds the quantity of land; but if his future services are worth to the community a relative value to what they are now, £6 a week, he will consume and use the produce of double the quantity of land. A Chinaman in China, or Hindoo in India, only requires half the quantity of land to produce what he consumes, as an Englishman. I am presuming that the quality and productivity of land in the countries are equal. The value of land is ruled by the use and consumption of its produce, rather than by the numbers requiring it; every labour-saving machine, every improved method in production, manufacture, conveyance, and distribution increases the value of land.
In the past, the introduction of every labour-saving machine or improved method has been the cause of a trade depression to the extent of the numbers thrown out of work, as the savers of the community are at first unwilling to raise their standard of living to consume the extra productivity of labour; the consumption is, however, after a more a or less severe struggle, forced up by the spenders. This is my reason for first forcing up the consumption by finding profitable employment for all workers, before I throw, by economical management, more out of work.
While I am writing this (October, 1909), Mr. Ward is bragging that he has been able to reduce taxation by retrenchment in the Civil Service, and the economically ignorant will give him credit for doing so, though before Mr. Seddon's death he knew that the Civil Service was overmanned, and ought to have been retrenched years before, while private capitalists were sanguine and in spending mood, and not as now, throw them on an overstocked labour market, or encouraged them to enter into competition in what is understood to be our chief sweated industry (farming).
The reader will have often heard people complain of heavy rates and taxes. Yet these complainers generally choose a district where rates are high. It is, in fact, the advantages of the high rates which attracts them; a rate or tax is a charge for a public service, which, if well spent, is worth more to the payer than its price; and we ought to rejoice when rates and taxes are raised, unless it is for defence against a foreign power, in which case the money is worse than thrown away.
If my plan of removing trade depression and doubling wages is to be tried, we should, at the start, abolish the Arbitration Act, and leave the rate of wages to each individual worker, who page 56 will always sell his labour in the dearest market, considering, of course, the comfort, etc., of the employment, and the relative exchange value in each employment should be left to the choice of each unit of which it is composed. To show how injurious the Arbitration Act is to not only the community of which it is composed as a whole, but to the workers in particular, I would call attention to the varying values of a day's work in wet and fine weather of, say, the navvy. When the weather is wet a navvy's day's work is worth less than half when it is fine. To a less extent, this is true of the carpenter, bricklayer, etc. Thesetrades people often walk the streets for days together when they could have earned half a week's wages or more. Of course, there is a price below which it would not be advisable to work, but this would be a very low one, and the employment a disagreeable one. A woman of choice will often prefer needlework in the evening to reading, however low her recompense. I have been told by men who have walked about all day, aimless and listless, that the day has been less congenially spent, and have felt more fatigued at night than if they had been employed at their usual calling. We work that we may enjoy its fruits, but the Act enforces miserable and profitless idleness.
It will be an easy matter to convince the majority that our distributing trades can be carried on to greater advantage to the public with, say, a third or even a fourth of the present labour; that all kinds of insurance businesses are worse than useless when publicly considered; that all commercial travellers and the vast majority of commercial agents are parasites of society; that our lawyers, magistrates, gaolers, and police could, to the public advantage, be reduced to half their present number; that in a state of society such as I have described, our lunatics and prisoners would be considerably reduced; that if our producers and manufacturers were responsible for the purity and genuine quality of their wares, their utility to the user and consumer would be vastly improved, indeed, in some cases, would be worth four, or even, ten, times as much. When all these economies and abridgements in labour are considered, and a balance is struck, he is a wretched accountant who could not see that wages would be doubled in, say, five years.
But to convince the profound and patient thinker of high intellectual attainment, that the consumption of commodities, as fast as they are produced, will increase the demand for labour to produce more, without quite exhausting our stock of capital, is much more difficult. Adam Smith had no idea; only, he had noticed that in times of war, trade often prospered, but when peace was declared the country often decayed; and J. S. Mill does not connect an excess of capital with a trade depression till near the termination of his work, and in the body of his work he page 57 regards competition as a necessary evil, and at its termination declares it ought to be reduced to the vanishing point.
In writing this treatise I have examined and criticised our industrial and commercial systems as I find them, and, as the reader will see, have fearlessly pointed out their defects, and with confidence exposed what I believe to be unfailing remedies. No one can reasonably say I am a dreamer or faddist, a Utopian or idealist. Though I have fixed perfection as the bull's-eye of my aim, I cannot expect to hit the centre, though I hit the target.
Professor Javens tells us that the accumulations of the savers just about replace the extravagance of the spenders. If this was always so, we should have no slumps in trade.
If the majority should decide on my plan, the first thing is to offer the capitalists of, say, £6,000 or over, the control of the colony's industry, with responsibility of finding profitable employment for all at their usual calling, or as near it as the exigencies and casualties incidental to the undertaking will permit. The syndicate of capitalists will first find out how many men and women it must provide work for; all work not urgent must progress less or more to suit the convenience of the workers. The total wages of the colony will depend upon the total produce of the labour; the wages in each employment will depend on the numbers who elect to work at each trade or calling in relation to the community's needs. The net interest of capital will average the same in relation to the net wages of labour as it does now, that is, about double in five years, or an annual increase of about 20 per cent. Better the management of the whole affairs of the colony, and higher the total wages and interest; worse the total management, and less the total wages and interest. The interest in each calling will, in the aggregate, be in relation to the total or average wages in the trade. At present, mark you, the rate of interest in every calling averages about the same, but if every worker can choose his own calling the syndicate are bound to finance him whatever may be the interest; but if the interest and wages in one employment are small, it is sure to be proportionally great in another. The total wages and interest will be highest if the required number work in every trade. The total capital of the colony will be reduced in quantity in relation to its use, because all commodities and services will be consumed and used as soon as ready for use and consumption. Profits, being a combination of wages and interest, are sure to be proportionally advanced.
Having made provision for the employment of all labour by the taxation of all unnecessary savings or accumulated capital, a district should be mapped out in a town, and the service let to a butcher, as I have already described, until the whole distributing trades are gradually brought under the new manage- page 58 ment. Suppose we make the Karangahape Ward of Auckland a district, with Karangahape Road, Symonds Street, and Newton Road as boundaries, with a butcher, baker, milkman, draper, etc., about the centre, and all the inhabitants were forced to purchase from them, and these tradesmen could not sell to outsiders, all these tradespeople would know how many customers they had to serve, and what they would require, much better than they do now. If an article was in short supply, they would be able to divide it out among all, instead of first come first served, and the rest do without, as they do now. I have already indicated the approximate, relative, and comparative prices, which every tradesman will tell you is about correct.
The labour which I propose to displace will be employed in making better roads, railways, parks, etc., as public conveniences; better food, clothing, houses, etc., as private luxuries, and also superior entertainments. These will be limited only by the amount of labour available, and will not be hurried or retarded by the sanguine confidence or timid fears of the capitalist. The capitalist will be brought a little nearer the level of the worker by being forced to purchase his necessaries from the same tradesman, at the same price, and with as little thanks and ceremony. My plan contains the spirit and merit of Socialism in the body of individualism.
I feel sure no living man can point to an unsurmountable obstacle to the entire execution of my plan, and surely, as its probabilities are so promising to all classes, who is to object to give it a fair trial? The labourer is promised double wages, and the capitalist an increase of interest, with better security for his capital. Will the ambitious labourer object because it will narrow his road to fortune?
We are told by Professor Javens, every man in the street, though they will admit they do not understand chemistry, geology, astronomy, etc., will tell us at once and without consideration, why the times are depressed, and what would improve them. Henry George professed to believe it was the private ownership of land but Mr. E. Withy and Mr. King, secretary of the Single-Tax League, have both privately admitted to me that Mr. George was mistaken.
J. S. Mill has followed his predecessors in defining capital as the result and recompense of abstinence. This statement is not correct. If my readers will question our greatest savers they will find they save because to save is their strongest desire. If they spent to gratify a weaker desire and conquered the stronger (to save) that would be abstinence. Did Miser Costley in saving, exercise abstinence? Decidedly not; he gratified his ruling passion without regard to reason or virtue and I am sure he injured Auckland more by his saving than the public expenditure page 59 of his capital has or will benefit them. A teetotaller will mount the public platform and claim his abstinence as a virtue, when he is a hater of alcohol. Charles Bradlaugh and Cardinal Manning did not save, because their desires to benefit their fellow-men were their all absorbing passion? If these two virtuous men had saved while the poor had starved, they had exercised abstinence.
In placing on capitalists the responsibility of finding full profitable work for all labour, absentee landlords and capitalists, I think, should be included; they enjoy the benefits and should shoulder the responsibilities.
I know the adoption of my plan will not alter human nature, but it will diminish crime by reducing temptation, by increasing the rewards of honest labour, by withdrawing sympathy from theft and fraud, now perpetrated almost in some cases as a necessity, or at least as expedient. I know men now in good circumstances, who, in their time of poverty, committed frauds and thefts of which they are now ashamed, and several of these occupy public positions, and are honoured as above suspicion and reproach. Material circumstances make all the difference to the conduct, though not to the character of men. If an employee defrauds his employer, the average men who sit in judgment on his breach of law, excuse or condemn his conduct in proportion to his remuneration; if his wages were high, he should be rent to gaol, if low, his employer should.
Some years since I wrote a representation of an ideal society in comparison with ours; it is a plea for Socialism.
If, as a Socialist, I am asked what I have to offer to the wealthy in exchange for their surplus riches, this is my reply:—
First, I offer them a free, not a restrained, conscience; not a conscience that has been rebuked and assailed by a perverted will and polluted environment until it has lost faith in its own divine promptings, but a clear conscience which will fearlessly perform the functions that the Creator intended, a monitor and guider to their actions.
Secondly, I offer them the cordial goodwill, the affectionate sympathy, the pleasing fraternity and enduring gratitude of their fellow-men.
And thirdly, I offer them immunity from the rankling hatred of the envious, the pitiable fawnings of the simple, and the detestable flattery of the vile.
And what is more, I offer them the greatest of all earthly security from the terrors of the gaunt and degrading spectre, Poverty, for I defend them by the sword and shield of the whole community.
And then, mark you, I offer them a world—not a world of fraud, of cunning, and falsehood, but a world of honesty, sincerity, and truth; not a world of hatred, but a world of love; not a world page 60 of conflict of ambition and strife, but a world of concord, humility, and peace.
And, lastly, if they are Christians, I offer them the prospect of everlasting life, from which their pride and vanity, feeding wealth on the one hand, with its consequent poverty, degradation, and misery on the other had debarred them.
I include the following poem, though not connected with political economy, because it has been rejected by our respectable press as too low for their columns, so that those it pleases, including teetotallers and clergymen, may judge the ability and tastes of the professed leaders of Auckland's political and social opinions.