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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

The Question Constantly Recurring

The Question Constantly Recurring,

and not to be put down till it is satisfactorily answered, is: Does the direction given to labor by capitalists and other non-workers under present conditions induce greater production in its broadest sense, than if labor had free and direct access to the soil, combined with an organised co-operative system of its own? We cannot dissociate the various branches or classes of society. An American publication truly says:—"In these days of labor trouble, society is tempted to forget, in the duty of saving itself, that the poor are also society." A Leipsic journalist wrote:—"The working people are forced to fatten the more fortunate one, who by accident, bad laws, or by unscrupulous spoliation of his fellow-man, has possessed himself of the means necessary for the production of capital." The object of economics is first to discover if such testimony is true, and if so to correct the cause of the wrong. Every individual is a member of the same commonwealth, and if any one class suffers, all others suffer with it till the wrong is removed. From such premises I conclude that we are here for the purpose of considering how the good of the whole community may be promoted, our care being that none are left to want. It must not be supposed that the shortcomings of social and political relations can be rectified at once. Those enamored of a Fabian policy adopt the ancient dictum—Natura non facit saltum. However, during the current century, Nature, aided by the skill of man, has, at his suggestion, made astonishing leaps and bounds. Instead of taking six months to convey by the breath of Eolus the voice of science to the antipodes, the lightning speed of the page 3 telegraph relates what took place the instant before. So we may not altogether accept the voice of the classic legend. I venture to state that this subject of high finance, when not obscured by long-lived prejudice and when the mental vision is not distorted by self-interests, is, after all, not so hard to be comprehended, for, as a home writer remarks, "there is a way of looking at the question which will enable every person of average capacity and knowledge to form a practical conclusion upon it." I submit as true the proposition that "general suggestions are nebulæ, out of which detailed schemes are formed," or as the classic legend, transferred to the entablature of a gas works in England, runs, ex fumo dare lucem. From the smoke that I raise to-day I encourage myself to believe that some light may be evolved.

I ask at this stage of the proceedings to be allowed to overlook the