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POOR-LAWS-CLAIMS OF LABOUR.
For all practical purposes this right cannot be extended beyond its actual recognition in existing poor-laws, unless steps are taken at the same time to prevent over population. Of course, if the poor-laws act in accordance with Malthus's theory, by decimating the people, this would become scarcely necessary. It is a sophism to say with Thiers that the freedom of labour is a security to the labourer in itself.
We have seen in the chapter on property that without the help of external possessions of some kind labour is unproductive. Freedom of labour does therefore not secure even the necessaries of life ; and this our poor-laws do practically recognise,* by providing against it, although in the most repulsive manner. This fact argues, moreover, a want of faith in the economic harmony of the liberal system. The abolition of all claims to public support, although it might be a piece of barbarism, would be far more consistent from a mere liberal standpoint. That there are workhouses, and men able to work in them, proves that many "free men” cannot even find enough of employment to keep them from starvation, whereas every
free man would have more than sufficient if freedom of labour led to those grand results boasted of by pure liberals.
The fact is, neither poor-laws nor guarantees of work for the labourer can effect much change for the better, without such a retardation of over population and such an adjustment of the rights of property as would enable all individuals to have a proportionate joint use in those external powers of production which are avail
• See “ Essays and Lectures, Political and Social,” by Henry Fawcett, M.P., and Millicent G. Fawcett, Lecture I., p. 25 et seq. “The English poor-law,” says Mr. Fawcett, p. 27, “ is distinctly socialistic in its tendencies.”
able only in a limited degree. 'Towards this point tend all recent efforts at “social” reform in England; they demand emigration grants, and point out the abuses of large landed properties. The fact stares us in the face that the basis of all human subsistence is limited in extent; so that, with over population on the increase, no power on earth could secure absolutely work enough to feed all at the very lowest rate of living among the labouring poor. To guarantee wages which would secure more than the bare necessaries of life, to some industrial branches, would exclude the rest from an enjoyment of common necessaries, and would be creating a lower proletarian class out of the more favoured ranks of labourers themselves.
The protection of factory labourers is a worthy object, which has been steadily pursued in England for more than forty years in and out of parliament, but without the appointment of able and independent inspectors acts of the legislature will remain a dead letter. The same argument applies to the laws on the shortening of the hours of labour and legal appointment of normal labour days. To secure a share in the employer's profits for the employed, by law, is a utopian scheme which no political economist, half-liberal or socialist, can seriously uphold. Even the fixing the rate of shares by the legislature is in itself surrounded by insuperable difficulties. The restriction of liberty in settling down at any given place would only hinder the natural local equalization of surplus population. The narrow-minded rural communities, who now get rid of their overplus population by migration to the larger towns, would be the first to suffer under it. To carry on again commerce by official authority, would as we have shown, be a great economic
To restrict by the law of inheritance peasant-pro
prietorship to one son in the family, so as to avoid subdivision of land, might or might not counteract over population, but is in itself a measure establishing undeniably an unwarranted prerogative.* Finally, the regulation and artificial amalgamation of landed properties so as to reduce them to certain fixed sizest are agrarian measures which are scarcely founded on economic principles, nor do they secure the best cultivation of the soil and the best adaptation to the various changes which follow in the rear of civilization, easy communication and the facility of transportation to and from the markets.
In reviewing all the various proposals on the part of the half-liberals, we must acknowledge that they contain a respectable fund of ideas on social reform. The vagueness and fragmentary character of these writings, and the absence of any combined action on the part of their authors, are partly the cause of their not having led to great practical results.
There is a want of thoroughgoing conception of the real position, and a timidity in facing those powerful existing monopolies which are the outgrowths of capitalism, though in contradiction to its true ends. This too has largely contributed towards their failure. Whilst deploring this we are far from doubt
* The reader will observe that the above refers more to continental agrarian conditions. Moreover, from this it appears that the very thing which some English political economists object to, in the prevailing conditions in the tenure of land here, is demanded by continental economists in order to a more useful distribution of landed property in their countries.
+ See a work by Winter, “Vertheilung der Landsitze nach den socialen Forderungen der Zeit," 1849. He requires six different sorts of landed property as to magnitude, in fixed numerical proportions, according to which the whole national domain is to be divided and classified. Compare also the more important work of Bernhardi on great and small landed property.
ing the good faith and philanthropic aspirations of these authors. It is in the nature of ideas on social subjects to grow up slowly to maturity. Nor is it to be wondered at that sober men,-in the glare of such rash and destructive reformers as the thorough-going communists and daring socialists,-pause before venturing deeper into the water than their feet will carry them. When such men as Sismondi,* whose candour and economical attainments no one can for a moment suspect, despaired at last of any improvement in the existing social-economic order, and actually was so far misled as to oppose the use of machinery, one of the most effectual means of economic development, we must not wonder at the comparative failure of other more or less able and true exponents of the same semi-liberal theories.
* See his most important work, “New Principles of Political Economy,” 1819.
Economic Federalism.-Marlo its first and foremost Represent
ative in Germany.-Contents, and Analysis of his Work: (a) Historical criticism, containing notes on class-antagonism in France, England, and Germany; the Social Conditions of Europe and America compared; (6) Positive and Dogmatical Part.-Combination of Productive Powers on Federal Principles.-Co-operative Systems, their Advantages and Disadvantages.—The true Nature and Objects of Federalistic Institutions.-Federalism in its Relations to Liberalism and Communism.—The Prospects of Federalism.
In the preceding chapters we have considered pure liberal capitalism, which, solely resting on individual freedom and refusing all state interference, expects the salvation of society from liberty. We have also considered pure communism, which demands on the contrary the omnipotence of the state, and in its compulsory equality destroys liberty. Then we came to consider half-communism, which, by means of state organization on communistic principles and the abolition of the right of inheritance, would secure labour and enjoyment in due proportions. Then, what amounts almost to the same, we considered socialism (in the more limited sense of the word), which would dole out enjoyment to everybody in proportion to their talent, capital, and labour, and thus recognises individual differences, and, admitting the right of inheritance and a free choice of labour (or calling), “according to passion,” will have nothing to do with competition and capitalism, without recommending any other thorough organization of labour in their place. And lastly we considered half-liberalism, which does not differ in