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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Part I-The Friend Of Labour

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Part I-The Friend Of Labour.

How cloth the provident M.P.
Improve each shining hour,
And in the "Labour Question" see
Hopes of retaining power!
How skilfully he shapes his "sell,"
How neatly spreads his "fakes!"
On Labour's ear they sound right well,
The promises he makes.

Skilled Labour, Labour without skill,
He would have busy too,
Nay, he would find some Labour still
For idle "hands" to do.
Yet Labour, whatso'er he say,
To trust him be not fast;
Or you'll discover some tine day
He'll diddle you at last!

—(See Punch, April 18, 1891.)

Notwithstanding—indeed, I should say, in consequence of—the advent to office of the present Government in January last, returns show that the excess of departures over arrivals for the following six months (ended 31st July, 1891) amounted to 4121, a rate equal to 8242 per year; as against only 1782 for the year ended 31st December last. (Exodus excess—19,298 for five years ending 31st March, 1891.)

There is, moreover, rapidly increasing depression, which must result in further emigration—the inevitable consequence of a plundering and blundering policy.

It behoves us, therefore, to search carefully for the causes of, and the cure for, such disastrous circumstances.

The Premier, on the 10th of last July, in the House, stated (Hansard p. 124), "I have always said, and I repeat, that the principal cause of this exodus of population is that there has not been land in small areas in sufficient quantity on which the people could settle." . . . . . . . Again, "Many people are leaving New Zealand for other shores because they cannot get land here. Sir, unless the big estates are dealt with, I firmly believe—honestly in my heart believe—that the exodus of population must continue."

But, as it seems to me, this is either ignorant, reckless, or dishonest, talk; the kind of dangerous jargon which is bringing ruin upon us all.

For neither land, nor the want of land, is a primary, a nearer, or a proximate, cause of the exodus; as any able statesman must know.

The primary cause of the exodus is our ignorance and selfish apathy, and especially the apathy of our educated men; in ignoring that the welfare of the individuals who compose the State is dependent upon the welfare of the State.

We forget that personal happiness—individual prosperity—is not distinct from, but, on the contrary, is expressly dependent upon, wise laws and prudent administration. Therefore, even on the most selfish principle of self-prosperity, it was, as I urged prior to the elections in 1887, and again last year, distinctly our interest to have taken an active part in securing the return to Parliament of our wisest men, as a reform phalanx of representatives, to insure a philosophy of fruit—not, not a philosophy of thorns; i.e., to insure our urgent needs, financial invigoration (involving restoration of confidence) and increased suitable population: and then (but not before) to insure further measures to secure permanent prosperity.

Of course, incidentally to those further measures, just steps might be taken to prevent and remedy large land-holdings; although not, not by a land tax, or by any other method of class spoliation, or injustice. (See, for instance, Mill's Principles of Polit. Ec., 1852 ed., vol. II., p. page 2 366; and Mill's Rep. Govt., 1855 ed., p. 115, and sequel, and especially pp. 127-128.)

The natural result of our ignorance and selfish apathy has been the election from time to time of a House, of whom the very very large majority have been, and are, ignorant and dishonest. For instance, they are ignorant in respect of even the first principles of political economy, i.e., ignorant of what would render us happy, or miserable; and therefore treat measures as they arise, or are forced upon them only in an ad captandum, haphazard, manner; and they are dishonest, because even if they happen, on any particular occasion, to know what is right, and therefore best, in the interests of the Colony, and therefore in the interest of the individuals who compose the Colony, their main efforts are to toady to the public opinion of the hour, and thereby to obtain, or retain, personal prestige, or plunder, in the shape of office, or otherwise.

Thus, I fear that the number of members who are likely to have, like Socrates, to drink poison, as the penalty of their superior wisdom, is small.

How appropriately do the words used by Disraeli over 56 years ago apply ("Times," 31st December, 1835):—"They were haunted with a nervous apprehension of that great bugbear, 'the people,' that bewildering title under which a miserable minority contrives to coerce and plunder a nation;" and how equally appropriate are the wise exhortations of Socrates in respect of governing in democracies by pandering to the prejudices of the people, rather than by opposing them," etc.

Truly human nature is now the same as it was nearly 2300 years ago and therefore history must repeat itself.

Such then has been the natural effect of the original cause; i.e., of our ignorance and selfish apathy.

Then the effect, i.e., the ignorant and dishonest, very large majority of the House, became, in its turn, a cause—a promotive of the exodus; by passing unwise laws, and by permitting imprudent administration: as shown in (1) neglecting constitutional reforms, (2) allowing Treasurers to violate the primary canons of State finance, (3) permitting unfair legislation, and in (4) the non-promotion of wealth production.

Unwise laws, and imprudent administration, in natural sequence (even before the present Government came into office), produced want of confidence—indeed, deep-seated distrust—amongst capitalists, and virtual stoppage of immigration; the distrust meaning not only no inflow, and a disastrous lack, of cash in general circulation, but also a forcing of outflow.

Thus the primary cause of the excess of exodus is ignorant apathy,; and the proximate causes are natural results immediately arising from unwise laws and imprudent administration: namely, (1) want of confidence—deep-seated distrust (indeed, now, fright) amongst capitalists—and (2) virtual stoppage of immigration.

These natural results have, necessarily, in their turn, produced cessation of the investment, and of other expenditure, of money; and thereby stagnation with its inevitable consequences—destruction of values, paralysis of trade, scarcity of employment, and cheap prices of labour and wares in the struggle to live.

Hence, in natural sequence, widespread misery; and, in a very large number of cases, necessarily bankruptcy, death, or exodus.

For capital and people are the life-blood of prosperity; and how can enterprises—productive or manufacturing—flourish if the main arteries be dammed? [Note also what "The Sydney Morning Herald" says, as reprinted in "The New Zealand Herald" of 24th August, 1891, about our ruinous antics.]

Indeed, before prosperity can again dawn it must, as I wrote in "The New Zealand Herald" of 16th September, 1887, be prominently recognised that capital is one of the three great factors in wealth-production, that labour is mainly dependent upon it (see Mills' Political Economy, 3rd ed., p. 72), that capital depends upon confidence, and that confidence is, indeed, a sensitive plant.

The working man has been deluded to forget—whilst it is he above all others that should remember—that industry is limited by capital, that labour cannot prosper without capital, that capital, by whomsoever supplied, is just as indispensable to State prosperity as labour, and that capital is absolutely requisite to found and support industries, which are what the working man mainly depends upon for his daily food; and therefore that it is suicidal for him to promote, or support, any movement, Ministry, or man, that advocates, or pursues, a policy to oppress, harass, or frighten Capital: and, moreover, of the utmost importance not to otherwise alarm the propertied classes by wild talk—such as land nationalisation, or single, or graduated land, tax.

Instead of sound political economy, the working man has been deluded by specious talkers to believe that labour and capital are necessarily antagonistic; that all wealth page 3 is produced solely by means of labour, and therefore by natural right is the property of the labourer; and that the possessor of capital is a robber who preys upon the workman, and appropriates to himself that which he has had no share in producing.

The working man has thus been humbugged out of his votes, and his hurrahs. Alas! alas! disastrous delusions. But humbug and credulity are twins.

It is truly marvellous, as I have repeatedly pointed out from time to time, that the Colony (and especially the working man) has permitted the Legislature for years past to play, and still approves of the Legislature playing, such ruinous antics, as have been and are now in vogue; and, indeed, wonderful that Labour has been so hood, winked as to send members to power whom capitalists, be they great or small, must view with the utmost distrust. For instead, every exertion should, as, of course, have been made, and particularly by Labour, to inspire Capital with confidence, and to secure an increase of suitable population; and every regard had to a lesson that history teaches—to Disraeli's prophetic words: "You will in due season, with a democracy, find that your property is less valuable, and your freedom is less complete. I doubt not when there has been realised a sufficient quantity of disaffection and dismay, the good sense of this country will come to the rally, and that you will obtain some remedy for your grievances, and some redress for your wrongs, by the process through which alone it can be obtained—by that process which may make your property more secure, but which will not render your liberty more eminent."—(See Kebbel's Beaconsfield, p. 100.)

It is under such circumstances of unwise laws, and imprudent administration, that withdrawal of money from circulation, and emigration, have been forced upon Capital; and exodus upon a large section of the population who are especially and directly dependent upon the smiles of Capital. Nor can want of confidence and emigration stop until we become sane enough to institute the necessary measures to restore confidence amongst capitalists, and to promote prudent immigration; by electing wise men to the Legislature having the confidence of Capital as well as of Labour. For, as even Mr. Buick admits, "By wealth we live." (See Hansard, 1891, second session, p. 28.)

The way to promote further stagnation, and therefore additional disaster, and especially for Labour—that is markedly dependent upon Capital feeling contented, not discontented—is to insist upon such legislative enactments as will still fur the oppress, harass, and frighten land-owners, and capitalists, and render the investment of money here yet more unremunerative and insecure.

Thus, rigidly carry out the proposed land and income tax: and also enact laws (a) whereby free labour is to be suppressed, and Union men only are to be employed; (b) whereby every man who applies for work must be employed, and whereby no man shall receive less than, say, £4 a week, for say five days, work, of, say, six hours a day, regardless of quality, or sale prices; (c) that compulsory Labour Courts of Arbitration (i.e., involving compulsory references) be established; (d) that New Zealand shall be only for New Zealanders (see Premier's speech reported in "The New Zealand Herald' of 20th August, 1891), and therefore that further immigration be prohibited; (e) that capitalists shall invest their money, if called upon to do so, at, say, five per cent, per annum on such personal, or other, security as may be approved by a public valuator appointed by the Trade and Labour Councils, with a penalty as against the capitalist for non-employing an applicant for work, or for not investing when called upon; (f) that there be immediately a further loan of, say, ten millions, to insure employment to all at good wages; (g) that the Government undertake, as a State function, the employment of all needing work, that is when the private employers, who are in the first instances to find work for applicants, have become bankrupt. ("The policy of the Government is to relieve as far as possible the artisans, and to try and find employment for them in the colony."—Hon. J. G. Ward, June 23, 1891, Hansard, p. 207c),—which, seeing that the Government merely represents the people, means that if A, a clerk, wants work, B, a merchant, must employ and pay him, whether or not B needs a clerk; (h) that all Customs duties which do not specially touch capital be instantly repealed; and, above all, (i) that such an amended land tax be enacted, including confiscation of the unearned increment (See Sir George Grey's Parliamentary speech of 11th August, 1891), as may produce all the State revenue needed (except such Customs duties as must inevitably be paid by capital)—irrespective of whether such a tax be dishonest, or otherwise vicious, or otherwise unwise.

The main result, necessarily, would be wholesale emigration, retail humiliation—a further folding of tents and flitting, and a further withdrawal of money from circulation, on the part of Capital; i.e., further fright and flight on the part of the employer, the chief friend of Labour, and page 4 therefore increased distress and emigration on the part of Labour: not, certainly not, the attainment of the Socialist's goal—cloak it as you may—i.e., the equal re-distribution of wealth.

The working man must be mad to think that by class legislation, by legislating, as he thinks, specially for himself, he is benefitting himself. Thus, for instance, in the matter of wages, it is idle to think that Capital can, or will, permanently pay such remuneration to the labourer as leaves it no margin. Indeed, legislative regulation of adult labour is a short-sighted unwholesome delusion; as shown very plainly in the recent article in "The Nineteenth Century Review," by the late Mr. Bradlaugh.

It is significant, also, that the British Association now sitting have arrived at the same conclusion; and, in this connection, it may not be irrelevant to remark that, even in England, where wages are so much lower than here, the late Trade Commission decided that remuneration was almost even between capital and work.

If, however, the working man must have a special political goal let him—instead of risking the denunciations of the Pope as an impious barbarian whose pretentions are ridiculous and insane (see cablegram "New Zealand Herald," 24th September, 1891)—devote his attention to a national insurance, or pension, scheme—an Old Age Insurance Bill—on just lines; to a revision, for instance, of Canon Blacklegs ideas—which by the way, I, in its main principle, long, long since advocated here (see, for instance, my "Education and Educators," p. 24)—or to a revision of such a scheme as is already in operation in Germany, or as is now about to be introduced by M. Constans into France, to secure to French workmen an annual pension after they reach the age of 65, or as Mr. Chamberlin is now working at for introduction into the British Parliament. (See, for instance, "Pall Mall Budget," June, 1891, and "The Review of Reviews," July, 1891.

I must defer comment upon the Land Tax for the next section of this article.

Meantime, to Labour, I—who in my youth was engaged in manual toil, who have always worked and still work for far more than 8 hours a day, and who am forced to believe that the working man has been a miserable sinner towards himself—would say:—Wear your follies loosely like your clothes, not like your skin; as you will have to change them for wisdoms from time to time; and believe me that although this article may seem like a tocsin of war, it is indeed written in the interests of peace.

Further, meantime, to all workers in the cause of promoting our prosperity, I commend, as a supreme basis, The Sovereignty of Wisdom; and, as maxims, not merely "Omnia Vincit Labor" but, pre-eminently, the Disraelian-Gladstonian precept—

"It's dogged that does it."