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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Free Trade or Socialism

Free Trade or Socialism.

The English labourer must therefore seriously consider how far he is prepared to embark upon a policy of protection, both for labour and for the produce of labour, if he wishes to start State Socialism on equal terms with his Colonial brother; while the consumers of all classes will have to reflect whether they are prepared that everything shall be raised in price in order that the wages of the producer may attain to the standard which he expects.

The State in our Colonies has an enormous advantage over the Mother Country in that it is the fortunate possessor of large areas of fertile but unreclaimed soil. Though the work be hard and uncongenial, a complete answer to the able unemployed is "Go out and subdue the wilderness." Unfortunately all the unemployed are not able, and it is in the interest of these that I look with great hope on the co-operative system of public works. That system is no more in accordance with the doctrine of those Socialists who maintain that the strong man should earn no more than the weak than it is with those Trades Unionists who maintain that no man should earn anything unless he conforms to the rules of a close page 31 guild. That is not Socialism but selfishness. The principle of New Zealand State co-operation is that the strong acting with the strong shall earn a full wage, and that the weak shall earn enough to maintain subsistence, but both shall be given work only where that work would have to be done under any circumstances. As Carlyle says, "there must be a chivalry of work as there was a chivalry of fighting war."

The bitter lesson of the public works policy has brought home to New Zealanders of all classes that truth which we find it so difficult to impress in England—that public works undertaken to employ labour or to catch votes, unless they are necessary and are likely to be remunerative, must ultimately ruin the undertakers.

It is too early to judge whether these experiments are producing abetter and a nobler type of men and women. We must judge of them by their general tendency, not by the accidental success of any one or more.