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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Platt, on Poverty

Platt, on Poverty.

Uneducated as I acknowledge myself to be, my opinion is that Mr. James Platt, F.L.S., author of "Business," "Money," "Economy," "Piatt's Essays," &c.—my opinion, I say, is that Mr. Platt points out some of the best ideas of many writers upon this great and difficult problem. Mr. Platt says, "Poverty has been one of the most difficult social problems of all ages; how to lessen it has been the aim of every good man in every country; how to extirpate it, how to make men equal, has been the dream of those who will not recognise the inevitable and strive after what is practicable. My opinion is that the only possibility for the diminution of poverty is to start every one in the race resolved to improve his condition, and to make them understand that to achieve this result they must be more apt and skilful in their respective avocations than page 38 their predecessors or rivals, but, above all, to be actuated by a desire to develop their better self, the higher part of their nature, so that, as they become wiser and more intellectual, they will also become better men and women, more sympathetic, more kindly disposed to feel for those less favourably equipped for the battle of life. If a man can and will not work it may seem cruel, but it is real kindness, to say to him—'Neither shalt thou eat.' Poverty and vice both have their causes, direct and indirect; those who begin their lives the inheritors of wise, moral, thrifty progenitors have much to be thankful for, and should have more pity for their less favoured brethren. I am afraid that 'poverty will never cease in the land,' but I do most sincerely believe that we have it in our power to lessen it, and reduce it to its minimum." And I say the following remark of Platt indicates the true and main thing to be attained, namely: "The first thing is to develop in every boy and girl, whilst young, that technical or artistic skill by which, anywhere and everywhere, they can earn their own living." Now that has been the great difficulty, and Platt, like other writers, whilst admitting the necessity for some social reform to raise humanity to a higher standard, has failed to show us the way. I claim that I have laid down as practicable a plan, in all its details, as can reasonably be expected by a single individual. Improvements and perfection may follow, if possible, as progression goes on. Mr. Platt says, "We want more industrial, domestic-cooking schools. We want schools in every parish that will give scope for the practical exercise of the talents and capabilities of our people. Instead of being so anxious for a higher education, for cramming their brains with a lot of useless luggage, let our efforts be devoted to training the workers of every district in its speciality, so that, by cultivating and perfecting the different kinds of handicraft, the nation shall excel therein, and thus benefit the nation, and secure to the working-class the means of earning an honest livelihood. We want an organization in every parish for developing the skill and practical intelligence of the working-class. We want facilities in every parish to enable our young people to obtain sound instruction, theoretically and practically, that will make the men good workmen, the women good housewives. We do not want 'poor-houses' in every parish; we want real 'workhouses,' where the workmen shall be taught to work. Men must live, and, if not trained to earn their own living, they must live by taking it from others. To get rid of poverty we must take such steps as will improve the race. We want the industrial and technical schools to take the place of the old apprentice system. By co-operation for mutual benefit we aim the surest blow at 'poverty,' and at the same time are acting in accordance with the soundest economic principles for the progress of the nation."

Samuel Costall, Government Printer, Wellington.

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But who in this Christian land
Will hark to a poor man's cry?
And how can you make us understand
Why Christians let men die?

It's tears of blood we shed,
As we starve, and toil, and freeze;
It's work we want, not money and bread
In doles from the charities.

What wonder that men go mad
With trouble and toil and maze?
What wonder that women go bad,
If nothing but badness pays?

Other refuge have I none, O New Zealand! but in thee;
Old I'm getting, I've no home: will you find some work for me?
Old men's refuge I don't want—"Find me work," is all my cry.
You, the Government, I'm asking—I don't want your charity.