Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

18 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



ON THE WASTE AND ECONOMY OF LABOUR. At the British Association for the advancement of Science, held at Exeter, in opening the proceedings of section F (Economic Science and Statistics), Sir Stafford Northcote read an address of considerable length. He spoke of the tendency-of statistical inquiry to take, year by year, a wider range. The statist was not animated by mere curiosity, nor was he content with the simple accumulation of facts. His objects l'ere at once nobler and more practical. He aimed at discovering the actual condition of his country, the causes of that condition, and the methods of improving it. The true condition of the country was not obvious to the superficial observer, while the causes of the phenomena exhibited lay very deep, and were discerned only by patient and extensive inquiries, conducted with skill, discernment, and most rigid exactitude. The investigation of metho Is for improvement imposed fur- ther and at least equally severe labour. The condi- tion of England was a question which did not lie in a nutshell. To him it appeared to be emphatically, in the high- est s-nse of the term, a statistical age-an age in which they were inquiring extensively and methodically into the facts by which they were surrounded, comparing themselves with their neighbours, measuring their pro- gress, and estimating their prospects with unprecedented care. Nor did they stop here, but, giving a practical turn to their inquiries, they studied not only to ascer- tain but to husband and to develope their resources. Pressed, it might be, by the increasing competition of foreign nations pressed, too, by the consideration that their wealth and their desires for enjoyment were in- creasing far more rapidly than the population, and con- sequently than the supply of labour and conscious, moreover, that the non-productive sources of material wealth, such as the minerals, were being very heavily drawn upon, they wore daily beating about to find how this competition might best be sustained, how the balance between capital and labour was to be pre- served, and how they could best economise those sup- plies which it was feared might some day faiL We were beginning to feel that the time for waste had gone by. It milht, perhaps, provoke a sneer from the cynic when he heard that England was becoming anxious as to the possible exhaustion of her coal measures, and was considering how and where she could find water enough for her population. One could not help being reminded of the sarcastic remark of the American tra- veller-that we had a tidy little country enough, but ho wai always afraid of tumbling over the edge of it. There was some truth at the bottom of the taunt but it was not to such considerations that he wished to direct their attention. Rather he desired to point to the satisfactory indications which such inquiries presented of the determina- tion of our people to make a stand against the bane of national prosperity-waste. He spoke not only of waste of raw materials, but of waste in all its forms- waste of power, of labour, of time, of health, and of life. Year by year we were beginning to make skill do the work of strength, to draw greater results from equal efforts, and to supply our labourers with every comfort, every advantage which science could devise for enabling them to tight the battle of life on better terms; and we were grappling, he thought, more boldly than we had ever done before with the difficult problems of our national life, and were advancing t@ their solution with greater breadth of view and greater confidence of step. It was sufficiently obvious that such economy must in the main b advantageous. At the same time they must not forget that the displacement of labour was often the cau-e of suffering, and sometimes, when it occurred sud- denly of very severe suffering. It might produce not only individual distress, but, under certain circum- stances, e yen political danger. If it were possible so to reconstruct society as to give every individual mem- ber of it a direct share in every gain made by society as a whole this particular danger would, of course, vanish. But this was the theory of Socialism, and they had no evidence that if Socialism were in the ascendant society would make these gains at alL Reasoning led them to the conclusion that it would not; and the time was probably far distant when England would accept a system which had so obvious a tendency to discourage private and individual enterprise. Nevertheless, i-t could not be denied thatEoglishmen were beginning to look to Government for assistance, and to distrust in- dividual action to a much greater extent than for- merly. Some years ago it was thought to be the ruty of Government to foster private enterprise by protective laws, monopolies, &c. The great Free Trade move- ment overthrew this theory, and left upon us the im- pression that the more private enterprise was left to it- self and the less the Government interfered with it the better. But, of late, the tide of public opinion had seemed to be settling in a son-ewbat different direc- tion. Not that we were going back to the pro- tective system, but that, on the one hand, we werelbeginning to invite or urge the Government to take upon itself work for which a few years back we should have deemed it utt-rly incompe- tent, and which we should have jealously reserved for private hands, while, on the other hand, our private enterprise was becoming more dependent on the assistance of the Government for its own proper or- ganisation and development. Thus in this matter of our merchant shipping, while we had been repealing our navigation laws and sweeping away every vestige of a differential duty, we had been creating a code of a'most Brobdingnagian dimen-ions for the regulation of every detail of our marine affairs. Nor was this paternal care confined to a single bunch of industry. Government concerned itself with many other branches, and was being pressed to do so with many more. The country was becoming accustomed to Government action in connexion with other classes of business, and was not unwilling to see that action extended. Could it then be that we were willing to siiik the idea of the individual in the idea of the State ? Did the mass of the people, as the Constitution became more democratic, begin to see in Government an organ better fitted to do their work than they found in the classes above them ? Perhaps, as monopolies were put down and privileges abated, and education was more generally diffused, and a closer approach to equality was effected, the tendency to deal with questions nationally rather than by the ac- tion of classes or of individuals might increase. Perhaps, as the competition of foreigners poured upon us with greater severity, and as we became conscious tLat it was only to be encountered by the aid of all the re- sources, all the education, all the organisation that we could command, it was natural that the desire to invoke the powerful aid of the State in gathering up all the elements of our strength and giving it the best possible direction should become more and more marked. Perhaps there might be something in the nature of things which rendered co-operation more and more accessary as we made greater progress in the work of subduing the universe. In the ruder states of society, when industry was in its infancy, the isolated labour of ;he individual sufficed to procure the simple necessaries )f life which he required. As civilisation advanced md greater results were sought, co-operation had to be be taken which only the State was competent to take in a civilised society. As they had lately been re- ninded, deaths by violence-or accident-were rapidly ncreasing in England, and especial precautions were leeded to render the applications of the vast forces of na- ;ure to the arts and industries of life which were now so Issential to our prosperity. It might be that, in the ncreasing struggle for wealth, the interests of the weaker classes, of the poor, of the young, of the female, were likely to be set aside unless the State interfered 'or their protection, and the acknowledged demand for mch interference might be another cause for the tendency to which he had referred. Such seemed at ill events to be the tendency of the age, and it was one which it was impossible to notice without some uneasi- ness. That we had hitherto. been somewhat too jealous )f the State, and that it would be wise to call in its aid rather more freely, might probably be true. But the greatness of England had been achieved by the self- reliant energies of individual Englishmen, and by the jnergies of individual Englishmen it would be best naintained.