1930s >> 1936 >> no-382-june-1936

Book review: “The Distribution of National Capital”

The Distribution of 
National Capital by G. W. Daniels AND H. Campion (Manchester University Press, 3s. 6d. 62 pages,)
This book is based on the paper read before the Manchester Statistical Society on March 11th, referred to in our April issue. It is a detailed analysis of the ownership of capital in this country in comparison with the position before the War.

 

G. W. Daniels is Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy, and H. Campion is Lecturer in Economic Statistics at the University of Manchester. They are well qualified to write on this subject. Their analysis provides a shattering answer to influential but (on this subject) uninformed people like Sir Robert Kindersley, who recently wrote to the News Chronicle on the widely propagated but almost entirely mythical redistribution of ownership supposed to have taken place since the War.

 

Their conclusion (p. 62) is that: —

  It cannot be said there has been any marked change in the distribution of capital in individual hands in England and Wales during the last 25 years.

Regarding the supposed big savings of the workers, the authors conclude, as a result of their own and other investigators’ studies, that the amount is not the £3,000 million that has been claimed, but less than one-third of that total. They find that the 17 or 17½ million persons, aged 25 and over, who own £100 or less, own altogether something between £500 million and £900 million or between £30 and £50 each! (p. 49).

 

These people represent about 77½ per cent. of the total population aged 25 and over (p. 32), but their property represents only a tiny fraction of the total property, between 3.6 per cent, and 6.1 per cent. (p. 51).

 

At the other end of the social scale: —

  More than half the total capital in 1924-30 and 1911-13 was owned by persons with more than £5,000 each.—(P. 51.)

These people number about 370,000, less than 2 per cent. of the population aged over 25. They own on an average about £27,000 each, compared with the workers’ average of £30 to £50.

 

The book is somewhat technical and will not make easy reading for those who are unfamiliar with statistical studies. It is a valuable addition to authoritative works useful to combat the propaganda which safeguards capitalism by telling the workers that things are changing of themselves, if only the workers will be patient.

 

A further useful contribution is a statement by Sir Leo Money, whose Riches and Poverty greatly helped Socialist propagandists before the Var.

 

A review in The Times Literary Supplement pooh-poohed some statements about the inequality of income, saying that they were based on figures published in 1908 in Sir Leo Money’s Riches and Poverty, and that this was “a ludicrously antediluvian date for an economic argument.”

 

Sir Leo Money promptly wrote a letter containing the following: —

  “The lapse of time, unfortunately, has by no means made the figures of my Riches and Poverty ludicrous. My book said: —
Year by year, with the regularity of the seasons, about four thousand persons die leaving between them about £200,000,000 out of total estates declared to be worth about- £300,000,000.
“After 26 years, the latest report of the Inland Revenue shows that, in 1933-34, estates valued at £524,000,000 were left at death by 134,000 people, and that a mere handful of them, 8,334, left as much as £348,000,000 of the aggregate £524,000,000!
“These are hard facts, which almost beggar argument. As the distribution of capital largely determines the distribution of income, it will be  apparent that inequality still reigns.”

(Times Literary Supplement, March 14th.)
The defenders of capitalism who claim that inequality has disappeared or is diminishing have not the shadow of a case.

 

Edgar Hardcastle