Strange economics

LET IT BE GRANTED. By W. T. Carling. 6s. net. London: Elliot Stock, Paternoster Row.

One of the saddest things in the world is an utterly futile and useless book. In such is reflected with peculiar vividness the most dismal features of the present social system. Because some crank imagines he has a message for the world he wastes his time wearing out good pens and consuming good ink ; and because he can afford to pay for the indulgence of his crankiness, printers and publishers will waste further good material and further social energy, from the compositor’s labour at the bottom of the tree—ahem—to the reviewer’s efforts at the top—haw ! haw !—in the weary work of presenting to the public books that the public does not want.

The appalling waste entailed in the production of the unasked volumes of those who can carry the burden of them upon their financially broad backs, embitters the reflection of those of us who know what the world is losing in the Great books which are waiting to be written, and must wait till our ship comes home, or we catch a weasel asleep, which is the allegorical presentation of a publisher with a tile loose.

But there is balm in Gilead to those who know that when the workers emancipate themselves, and so doing, emancipate all mankind, without distinction of race or sex, and without exclusion even of publishers and reviewers, the publication of an author’s lucubration will not depend upon his lubrication—of his publisher, of course.

For it is hardly conceivable that in the good time coming, when the paper it is proposed to use in the making of books is the community’s paper, and time and energy it in proposed to expend in the composition and printing of books in the community’s time and energy–it is hardly conceivable, I say, that in that good time, the community will assent to the making of books that it does not want.

Not that these reflections are to be taken as directed upon the volume under review, which is by no means utterly useless, since it affords opportunity for a few lines of “copy,” and so, these hard and distressful times, follows Caesar’s mortal remains in the lowly but still useful turn of stopping a gap. (That’s half a column out of nothing.)

Mr. Carling has written a most peculiar book. It is a motley medley which leaves one in doubt whether he is a visionary who has had his brain turned by the crumbs which have fallen from the scientists’ table, or a scientist who has been caught in the backwash of some religious revival and swept off his trotters. The truth doubtless is that he is a fanatic, a victim of a chronic form of religious mania, who has gone to the scientists and philosophers, not to discover the “eternal truth” he gabbles so pedanticly about, but to pick up formulas and axioms and terms of logic wherewith to manufacture a quassi-scientific hotch-potch of sophistry to bolster up his religious beliefs.

Mr. Carling, by way of throwing light on the title of his book, tells us that : “The ancient mathematician being desirous of communicating his mental discoveries to his students, . . found it was necessary to have a base upon which he could build up his problems—a base which, however, his students would agree to accept. . . . Therefore he sought a few simple dogmas, which might be called revealed truth—something seen, discerned, not deduced . . instead of asserting that these things were so, he appealed to his students to ‘Let it be granted’—that these things are so.”

This, of course, is an excellent beginning. The frank recognition that in all reasoning one must start with something granted, for the simple reason that “nothing can be evolved or deduced out of nothing,” gives a sort of scientific glamour to the book, while not committing the author in any way. For it is quite obvious that whether what is “evolved or deduced” is sense or nonsense, it is equally true that one must start with something granted. Hence the recognition of this fact by no oceans compels the philosopher to build up his arguments on sense. Having said so much it becomes opportune to give an illustration of Mr. Carling’s method.

He requests the reader to take for granted certain axioms, starting with the unassailable one that “Identical results are produced from identical causes.” He follows with other sound statements, and having impressed his readers with the infallibility of his “revealed truth,” arrives presently at this : “That (sic) if two principles can be shown to be antagonistic to each other, then both cannot further the Kingdom of God.”

This is our author’s way. He starts out with obvious truths known of ages, as one who should say “water is wet,” and having got so far on the cruthes of “revealed truth,” he flings them away and rushes on in the seven-league boots of revealed rubbish. All his talk of “revealed truth” has to come under the drop hammer of “the Kingdom of God” ; all his conclusions have to be prove by Scriptural quotations. He criticises pretty freely all round, but the only remedies he finds or offers are the idiocies of the Bible bangers or the futilities of the “brotherly love” propagandist or the novelist who tries to project a social system which has no basis.

For instance, Mr. Carling, who, like so many opponents of Socialism, is quite alive to many of the evils that afflict the working class under the present system, hankers after “the Kingdom of God upon earth” as the remedy—as far, that is, as any remedy is, in his opinion, desirable. The only “economic” basis for this social system (!) is that indicated in our author’s appeal : “Let this be granted as the perfect law of life : ‘All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.’ ” The result the author sees arising out of the voluntary adoption of the “golden rule” is what he, with his penchant for impressive titles, calls, “Ideal Equity.” His definition of “Ideal Equity” is: “The equity of value in exchange measured in periods of labour spent in the production of the articles being exchanged.” (How blind, that he does not see that this is the very basis of exchange under the present sorry scheme of things, and results in the “Ideal Equity” of all owners of exchangeable things as such, which means the real subjugation of those whose only exchangeable possession is their labour power !)

Mr. Carling professes to think that with the adoption of this “perfect law of life” a “social revolution would be achieved unequalled by any previous reformation recorded in history.” He tells us that under guidance of this rule “whatever wages or salary one received should be the rate by which he paid all those whom he employed to serve his own personal requirements.” “The minister would only receive an hour of any other man’s labour which he demanded in exchange for an hour of his own labour. . . The carpenter would give one hour’s work for one hour’s legal labour. The professor would not sell his skill, but would give one hour of his valuable labour for one hour’s work of the bricklayer [not at all valuable, of course] to build his home.” And so on.

How interesting he makes things when the “Direct Labour” maniac runs amok !

Just fancy Dr. Poundpoison approaching that sturdy buck-navvy Bill Slinggravel in these terms : “Slinggravel, you don’t look quite up to the mark. What is it—liverish ? Feel tip-top ! Nonsense, man ! Anyone can see you’ve one leg in the grave. I’ve got a little job in your line and you had better let me patch you up long enough to enable you to do it. What’s that ? Ted Floorbasher’s wife at the last gasp ! Well, let him look for a doctor who wants a carpenter—I want a navvy.” Or just think of our dear brother in Christ taking his shirt down to the laundry and asking to be permitted to wash the laundress in the blood of the Lamb as an equivalent under the scheme of “Ideal Equity” for the washing of his aforesaid garment, or the same sweet and reasonable servant of God bargaining on his doorstep with the milkmen for one Imperial quart of new milk against X minutes product—under a legal standard pressure of frenzied fervour—of the pure milk of the Blessed Word. Or try to realise the same happy purvey or of spiritual nourishment trying to find a butcher who desired to effect the exchange of a miraculously measured joint of “prime Southdown” for its “ideal” equivalent of the Lamb of God !

Mr. Carling is “convinced that the redistribution of the wealth of the nation … in accordance with the will of God” can only be effected by the adoption of the “Golden Rule.” Like all those particular Christists who aspire to the realisation of the “Kingdom of Heaven upon earth,” our author seems to have no idea of the existence of economic laws. He does not appear to realise that there is no way open to the human mind, as far, at least, as our present knowledge goes, of equating the product of one kind of labour against that of another, except the means provided by competition. That one commodity is only able to discover its equal for the purpose of exchange through the operation of the economic laws engendered by competition is nothing to this nonchalent fellow. He bawls for the voluntary withdrawal of one of the vital props of the social structure—the very king-post of capitalist exchange. What care he whether the whole economic roof tumbles about his ears ? It is doubtful if he even thinks about it, for he has only to say “Let it be granted that angels will uphold,” or “Let it be granted that He shall feed his flocks,” and the economic roof will be of heaven, and quite independent of support below.

The “economics” of Mr. Carling have been dealt with at such length in order to show the depth and profundity of yet another opponent of Socialism who starts out on the search for “truth” armed with a collection of scientific tags to aid him in his quest, and one infallible touchstone by which all things that come in his way are tested-the Scriptures. Anything he and such as he may level at the Socialist proposition surely needs no further defence from our side than is provided by the exposure of the utter futility and folly of their remedies. Mr. Carling says that he is “convinced that Socialism is powerless to bring about tie establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth. For it aims at the gratification cf natural desires.” The wealthy advocate of individualism, he says, “sees correctly that it is only possible for a few people to fully satisfy their natural desires, because such satisfaction can only be achieved at the expense of a great many other people who must labour without receiving sufficient remuneration to fully satisfy their desires.” The natural desires, then, are such as may be satified by and with the products of human toil. The logic of this is that the “Kingdom of God on earth” is to be a kingdom of poverty, wherein the gratification of natural desires is deadly sin. One would almost wonder, therefore, what Mr. Carling has to complain of in the present social system, and it appears that almost his only ground for dissatisfaction is that under it the miserably attenuated existence to be imposed in the “Kingdom of God upon earth” is not quite universal. Well, it certainly would be if our author’s ideas under the caption “Ideal Equity” were carried out—which, perhaps, reveals the method in his madness.

A. E. J.

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