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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 32

A Native on Abolition

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A Native on Abolition.

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A Native on Abolition.

That the time has come for a change is only too manifest. That such a state of affairs as at present exists is sufficient proof.

But the change proposed is no more what is wanted than that which it is to take the place of.

All admit that our system of government (if system it can be called) is all muddle and confusion; but the proposed change would only result in confusion worse confused.

Why does no one amongst the army of genius on the Opposition side propose some really sound and beneficial scheme in this time of our need? Is it to be left to an inexperienced native-born son of the soil to come forward and show the way out of the labyrinth of confusion in which our Parliament has landed us? Let us hope not. He is content with his present lot, and has no wish to exchange it for any other; but when he sees a necessity for coming forward, he will not flinch. Meantime pray let him offer a few suggestions, in the hope that they may be of sendee to those who are earnestly seeking to solve the problem of how to get out of the maze.

We, the people, want a change, but it must be for the better : nothing yet offered answers our requirements.

Here then is one, not perfect by any means, but forming a basis upon which to build up a perfect system of government.

The first and most important duties of a State are—
1st.To provide education for its youth.
2nd.To provide employment for its adults.
3rd.To provide support for its aged and infirm.

Let these things be secured to the people and they have little more to ask for.

If these things arc provided, there will be small necessity for providing large sums by taxation for the support of law and police. A well-educated and well-employed people do not incline to the committal of crime.

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I will presently show how these things may be done without taxation; meanwhile, a few words on these three leading duties of the State.

1st. Education for its youth.

For its own sake the State should do it, and for its own sake it should be done thoroughly. Every addition to the knowledge and power of the individual, by training in useful habits and pursuits, is an addition to the wealth and power of the nation, and a step towards its attaining a leading position amongst nations.

But if done at all it should be done thoroughly. The State should take over, at a certain age, the entire control, support, and management of every child; for without such is done, thorough education and training cannot be uniformly carried out. The leading principle upon which to base the education of the child should be, that it must earn all it receives at the hands of the State, that it is in its power to earn anything that it is in the power of the State to give, not as a favor but as a right. Food, clothing, everything, in quantity and quality, depend only on how much industry, energy, patience, and other good qualities the child displays. He or she will thus be led naturally to develop and strengthen all that is good in their nature, and to eradicate all that is bad. They will daily see and feel practically the good of being good and the folly of being bad. In this way could children be induced freely to devote themselves to the task of acquiring knowledge and such things naturally distasteful to their natural inclinations. The State should willingly pay the child for all the knowledge it might acquire, because that child is a part of itself, and it will one day return to the State tenfold what it now receives. So that in reality the State merely paid a florin out of one pocket to-day that it might reap a profit of a pound to-morrow. The child on its side would willingly do the work naturally distasteful to it, for the sake of the substantial reward it would receive, that it might obtain an abundance of those things in which it took pleasure.

I shall go no further into details on this branch of my subject, though prepared to do so if occasion may require.

Proceed to Duty 2nd—The providing employment for the adult population.

The advantage of doing this has been sufficiently demonstrated by the prosperity of this country during the performance of the public works. The fault of this public works scheme was that it forced too much employment on the country at once—more than it page 5 required and more than it was able to perform without outside assistance.

All that is required is a sufficiency of employment to keep up the rate of remuneration to a certain standard scale. The State should not leave these things to private enterprise—it has a perfect right to exercise all the privileges it confers on private individuals and companies: the cry of interference with private enterprise is prejudicial to the State, and that should be sufficient for its condemnation. The State and its advantage should take precedence of all minor interests : that is admitted on all hands. The State is the people in this country : we have no sovereign, no lords. We are all people and have only one common interest. But if we are not on the alert there will arise amongst us a party who will try, who are trying, to appropriate to themselves the rights and privileges of an aristocracy. This will not do; and that an opening exists for them to do so is a sufficient proof of the necessity for a change. Therefore, I say, let us not study individual interests, let us devote our whole attention to the weal of the State. By so doing we study the welfare of the whole body of individuals of which it is composed, without favor to one or injury to another. With a prosperous State we have a prosperous people, and vice versâ.

Having provided education for our youth, let us provide employment for them in every possible branch of useful industry in which their inclinations and other inducements lead them to engage. Let the State take upon itself the responsibility and risk of providing all the necessaries of life, and supplying all the requirements of its people—that is, its own requirements. It is absurd to say that it should leave these things to private enterprise. Why should it leave to others to do imperfectly, what it might do for itself systematically and at far less cost? I say that by the State entering into competition with the individual in supplying all its requirements, the cost of living might be greatly reduced, the expenditure of labor greatly economized, and the good results to the nation as a nation, and to the individual as an individual, would be increased to an incalculable extent : to the nation as a grand total, and to the individual as a general average. If any one doubts it let him study the Post Office. Could the same results—cheapness, despatch, and system—have been obtained under the management of private enterprise? Let him thoroughly understand the reason why it is better the State should have the management of the Post Office, and he will understand why it would be better that it should enter into other fields of enterprise. Without it can do this it cannot give employment to its workers, and the advantages of good education given page 6 to its youth are in great measure lost. One of the greatest inducements to young men to persevere in acquiring knowledge, &c., is the prospect of getting State employment according to their merits; and the State should be in a position to give employment to one and all as a light which the individual can demand. What more could man demand on entering life? Freedom from the tyrannical control of any man, with his prospects of success in life depending, in the main, on his own innate goodness and soundness mentally and physically. With the way open to him to win his way, by the exercise of his own talent, patience, industry, and honesty, to the highest positions in the State, or at the least to have the certainty of being able to earn sufficient to enable him to enjoy all the simple comforts and joys of life with which most men would be content.

To be able to offer this employment to one and all, the State must enter into the ordinary business of life in a business-like way; set to work to organize a system and carry it out as it has done in other matters, such as the Post Office, telegraph, and railway. Why should it not deal in tea and sugar, tape and calico, &c., up to the more dignified gold and silver, bonds and notes, when it already sells halfpenny stamps, and performs the work of an errand boy in carrying for that trifle a newspaper either to the next street or the other end of the Colony? How can it manage to do this? By unity and organized system. How else could it be done but at a loss? And yet from this twopenny-halfpenny business a large revenue is obtained, which helps to relieve the people of part of their burden of taxation. Let us then follow up the advantage gained, and relieve ourselves entirely of this burden. There are difficulties in the way, but they are things that are made to be overcome.

Now for the maintenance of the aged and infirm, the 3rd Duty of the State.

The leading principle should be reward or pension in proportion to the position attained by the individual by his efforts during his prime. The prospect held out in this way would be another inducement to the individual to do his best while he was able. The worthy would fairly earn and deserve the rest and enjoyment their declining powers required. If I thought it necessary I could bring forward many arguments and precedents in support of the necessity for the State undertaking this duty, and the good results it would effect; but I trust a good deal to the knowledge and intelligence of my reader. If I find it necessary I will supplement these remarks in another letter.

Now for the means to do all these things. The natural source of revenue is to be found in the land and the natural products page 7 thereof. This should be in the hands of the State as a State and no other. Let the wealth of the individual depend upon himself, his own natural, physical, and mental power, and how he uses it; but never let him acquire whole and sole control over what should, from beginning to end of time, be the common property and heirloom of the people in the form of their State; from the State inalienable. We have yet a large estate left; let us take care of it, and let the iniquitous system of selling the national heirloom piece by piece for messes of pottage cease. If we must have money, let it not be at the cost of committing so vile a crime as robbing the rising and future generations of what is as much theirs as our own (but which they are powerless to defend), and in its place leaving them a millstone of debt about their necks. If we must rob, let us not attack the helpless and even unborn babes, but let us assail men who are able to defend themselves. No ! we dare not do this, because they would defend themselves. Well, then, let us enter into fair and open competition with them, and earn, by fair means and the honest sweat of our brow, what we need. This will be distasteful to many, but I have a better opinion of my country and its people than to suppose that "many" are in the majority.

Let this great public estate be turned to the best possible advantage, but never part from it. Lease but never sell; and in time I hope to see even the necessity for leasing depart, for surely an individual with the limited means at his disposal cannot afford to pay such a rental into the State coffers as the State itself, with the advantages of unlimited means and magnitude of its operation, could afford to pay. But to perfect the system here proposed, time is required. The youth, or rising generation, must be trained to occupy the different positions in the various departments necessary under such a system. Meanwhile let us commence by imposing one uniform tax on the great natural source, namely, land. So much per cent, on the value to sell. Let the value to sell be fixed by the owner with this condition, that the State may buy at that value in lieu of accepting the tax. Let the tax be paid into the Treasury by the owner at stated periods; failure to comply involving the necessity on the part of the State of ascertaining the value by sale by auction, and deducting percentage for tax and costs from the sum realized, handing balance over to the seller.

The necessities of the State might thus be met without unnecessary expense, and Customs and all other cumbrous and expensive methods of collecting revenue might be swept away.

Here a word on the evil of drunkenness, and the effect this would have on it. With the sweeping away of all Customs and other taxes for the one proposed, one of the chief obstacles to the page 8 temperance movement would be removed. But a word to the wise is enough.

Set us suppose, now, the necessities of the State for the forthcoming financial year are known. How meet them?

After estimating all other sources of revenue, the balance needed would be known.

Then calling for owners' estimates of value to sell, the sum total would be estimated, and the percentage necessary to cover balance required by State to meet its expenditure could be struck, and owners being informed, the amount the amount would, in a short time, be in the State coffers, or, in default, the necessary proceedings taken at owner's expense to have it placed there.

Is that a simple enough system of taxation? Of course, owners will bark and show their teeth; but who would not? If they do not like the burden, the State offers the alternative of shifting it on to its own shoulders.

Let those who really wish to arrive at the best possible course of action look well into this; compare it with other systems, and a hundred other arguments in its favor will suggest themselves. But again I must observe that, if necessary, I will supplement this letter in further explanation and support of what I suggest.

Now as to who shall manage the affaire of State. Once the system is organized and fairly started, the whole management of State affairs will be as simple as the management of any ordinary business concern. Then an ever-increasing supply of trained and educated men will be forthcoming to fill positions of all grades from the lowest up to the highest. There will be no scrambling as at present: every aspirant must first qualify himself, and then work his way steadily up or remain at a standstill, according to his inclinations and merits. Every position will be open to the competition of those who have qualified themselves by passing necessary examinations and serving in subordinate positions in the department to which they belong.

Such is a rough sketch of a system of government such as I hope will one day exist in reality in this my country; by the adoption of which she may really become the first among nations, for it is based on the principle that unity is strength. At present we have that weakest of Government, "a house divided against itself." Each man for himself seems to be our motto. Each province, each district, all are for themselves. To every man, woman, and child in New Zealand I would say forget, for one single day page 9 even, forget self forget, family, forget district, province, all but country, and bend your whole mind, heart, and soul to the task of thinking how she may be rescued from the band of legalized political brigands who are now engaged in such fierce contention to see who shall have the spending of the spoil which they unite in taking from ourselves. We are the Government, we the State: these men should, but do not, represent us. Let us send men to our next Parliament pledged to do our bidding, to represent us in reality, or forfeit their seats to men who will do our will. I have offered my mite, and will give more; let others do the same, and so arrive at some definite plan of action. Let us not be led by the nose by either party, but show both that we, the people, are the masters, they the servants. It matters little which party wins unless some really sound scheme of State management be submitted in place of that which is being broken up. Let us be a united nation and we may become a leading one. In place of being a borrowing colony, over head and ears in difficulty and debt, we may become a lusty, powerful nation, lending from our abundance, happy in substantial prosperity, free from taxation and debt, free from individual tyranny, governed by ourselves, but with the best men our national system of education and training can produce at the head of our affairs, and sending forth our armies of intelligence and industry to colonize and civilize the nations of the old world, as they in their day sent out their mixed armies of intelligence and ignorance, industry and idleness, to occupy the waste places of the earth. But with still other armies at home making a smiling garden of the wilderness, engaged on stupendous works of irrigation, draining, and other means of making the waste places productive, such as could never have been undertaken by the individual. Agriculture carried to the highest point of perfection, and on a scale of grandeur beside which the most gigantic performances of the present day would sink into insignificance. Commerce without its roguery, adultery, and robbery, on an equally grand scale. Vessels to and from all parts of the world, bearing exchanges of wealth in the form of produce.

All working bees in this army, none of the drones who laugh and grow fat on the accumulation of spoil handed down from generation to generation, on the labours of those who for their lives sake are obliged to pay tribute, and that a heavy tribute, to these drones for the privilege of occupying and utilising what should be their own common heirloom, but which had by their forefathers been alienated for messes of pottage to satisfy their own selfish appetites. But the drones in the hive to-day need not take alarm, for I for one would not urge haste in carrying out this proposal. It is a work of time, and what now exists should page 10 be allowed to die as natural a death as possible, or at least be given ample notice and time to take itself elsewhere, unless it chooses to conform to the altered state of affairs.

The two most pressing wants are the matters of education and taxation. The former should be begun at once, and the latter as soon as possible; but taxation under this system would gradually cease as the value of the national property became enhanced, and, consequently, the revenue therefrom increased. The State should lose no opportunity of acquiring possession of all property not already in its possession, until, in tune, all the country would be national estate, and yield a revenue such as no nation on the face of the earth now enjoys, and afford the means to carry on the great work of improving, by every possible method, the value of the national estate, such as by the construction of public works and otherwise. For the present enough.

If the picture I have thus roughly sketched is not sufficiently clear and distinct for most readers to understand and fill in from their own brains, I will ere long try and find time to fill in the details.

Meanwhile I beg to be allowed to remain, as heretofore,

An Attentive Watcher of Passing Events. New Zealand