THE SOCIAL ORDER
AN ADDRESS BY WILLIAM H. MOORE, M.P.
The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, February 4, 1943,
MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Gentlemen of The Empire Club: Before I introduce the speaker I should like to welcome to our board this afternoon so many out of town guests and should like to draw your particular attention to the fact that The Empire Club is not a partisan organization. It is a very cosmopolitan, democratic non-partisan, non-political organization. We welcome here today the Honourable Gordon Conant, Leader of His Majesty's Government in the Ontario House, and the Leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Colonel Drew. We welcome also the Honourable John Bracken, recently elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of the Dominion. You will note that the only one missing is the Prime Minister of Canada.
Gentlemen of The Empire Club: It is a distinct personal pleasure for me to have today the honour of introducing our guest, William H. Moore, M.P.
Mr. Moore is one of those fortunate persons who have the ability to move from one sphere of activity to another without any loss of momentum and, like Ulysses, to say "All times I have enjoyed greatly".
He graduated in Arts at the University of Toronto, a member of the famous class of 1894. But let not the appellation "famous", as applied to his class lead you astray, for all classes at the University are famous, the degree of fame depending upon whether it is the class of one's own graduation. The class of 1907, for example, is even more famous than that of 1894.
After graduating in Arts, Mr. Moore served his Alma Mater for a time as Fellow in Political Science, then took the course in law at Osgoode Hall, and, after graduating, went into pioneer work in the building of the old Canadian Northern Railway, where he served as Secretary of the Company. This railway is now part of the Canadian National Railway System. In this position he spent much time at Ottawa, where he learned many things that he never knew before in the way of practical politics.
But his first love continued to beckon and eventually he answered by giving himself over to the study of economics and setting down in type the results of his labours. In other words, he became a writer. He is the author of The Clash, Polly Masson, Commandments of Men, Yellow Metal, Definite National Purpose, and, most recently, Underneath It All-a book which I have read with much interest, a treatise of most compelling reason on the cause of the present world upheaval, from the economic and humanitarian points of view.
Mr. Moore's abilities were recognized by the Government in 1926, when he was appointed Chairman of the Tariff Board, a position which he held until 1930, when he was elected to the House of Commons for the riding of Ontario, a riding which since that time he has continued to represent.
Mr. Moore's abilities have been recognized also by institutions of learning and, to the original Bachelor of Arts, have been added Barrister-at-Law, Doctor of Laws, and Doctor of Letters.
He is also one of His Majesty's Counsel learned in the law-in other words, a "K.C.", and is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.
Like the Latin poet Horace, who was "satis beatus unicis Sabinis", Mr. Moore is quite happy to live an actively retired life on his own little Pickering farm.
Gentlemen: Billy Moore, otherwise William H. Moore, B.A., K.C., M.P., LL.D., D.Litt., who will address us on the subject "The Social Order". (Applause.)
Mr. W. H. MOORE: Mr. President, Gentlemen of The Empire Club: Needless to say, your President is an old friend of mine and I hardly resognize myself in the introduction he gave me. I was pleased, of course, to be invited back to The Empire Club and, looking at the bright side of life, I naturally thought I might have said something the last time I was here that was of service. I am particularly pleased at being invited to come in these days of stress--again in the thought that I may be of service.
And, you know, I am very pleased to have Mr. Bracken here. I hadn't thought he would come all the way from Winnipeg to listen to me. But now that he is here I shall try and give him some good advice. Whether I succeed or not, he alone will decide. I might just add that I give a great deal of good advice in the House of Commons and usually they don't accept it.
Now, I have taken for my text words drawn from a lecture delivered by Lionel Robbins, an Economist from the London School of Economics. They seem to me significant. They were delivered in the spring of 1939 in a series of lectures to the Institute of International Studies at Geneva. This is what he said
"The age in which we live is an age in which men have worshipped many idols and followed many false visions. It has seen nationalism run mad and collectivism turn oppressor. The ideals of the romantic rebellion have proved dead sea fruit in our hands."
I trust my title has not created a wrong impression, for, frankly I have not come here to advocate a specific structure for the social life of the post-war days that we hope are not so very far away.
There are people who profess to have a solution for all the 'social ailments at their finger tips; but I confess I have no Morrison's pills in my pocket. With Thomas Carlyle, I cannot believe all the troubles of mankind are to be set aside by Acts of Parliament, not even by Orders-in-Council. The most I can do is to pass on certain observations, largely drawn from the conclusions of those who devote themselves to the study of society, in the hope that they may be helpful in the task now on the door-step of citizenship.
First of all I would (and cannot) clear away certain obstructions to thought that arise from the use of such words as "capitalism", "socialism", "democracy" and words of the sort. Sometimes I wonder if there is a definition for some of them. I once heard a member of the Commons spend half of his allotted time berating socialism and the other half lauding government ownership. As for democracy, Mussolini, in La Dotrina del Fascismo, says Fascism is the purest form of democracy, provided people be considered qualitatively, not quantitatively and provided further, the will of the people be expressed in the thought of the Few, or even the One.
There is further confusion arising from considering structures for peace, amidst the upsets of war. Looking back, you will find great wars, turning points in society; crises, the fertile ground of social revolution.
"Strike while the iron is hot." It was the favourite maxim of the master-mind of revolution, Lenin. It was the practice of Hitler. And both Lenin and Hitler struck with phrases calculated to arouse the discontent and antagonism in the minds of people who are not given to thought about social consequences.
For example, take the phrase "Human life is more sacred than property." It is a typical strawman set up on the hustings to be knocked down and trampled under foot. For who ever heard one say that property came first? Irrespective of the schools of thought, we all agree that the function of property is to sustain human beings. Forms of ownership are to be judged, in war, as in peace, in terms of human life.
And now let us set directly to the matter in hand by recalling that, vital as they are, social structures are means to ends. The means are not always to be distinguished from the ends, but the objective of the social structure is manifestly the satisfaction of human wants.
There is truth in the old adage: "It takes all sorts of people to make a world". In South Africa, for illustration, the leaders of native races campaign to encourage the "wanting of wants" that the people may be aroused into civilization. It is not so with us. You will recall the revised version of Goldsmith's couplet
"Man wants but little here below
Nor wants that little long":
'Tis not with me exactly so
But 'tis so in the song."
I shall not stress the application of those lines. We want and want without end. The luxuries of yesterday are the essentials of today. Our wants are insatiable and we describe their multiplicity as modern civilization.
A different social order! How did we come by the one we had, say, between 1919 and 1939?
One generation usually refuses to learn political wisdom from its predecessors; but our generation has made such a mess of the 20th century we might well look back with humility at the achievements of the 19th century.
We pride ourselves on the machines that roll out of our factories (and almost think when properly wound up, like Tik Tok of Oz); but the achievements of the 19th century fairly stagger the imagination in terms o f human life. The statistician, Kuczynski (London) tells us that, if the rate of increase in population during the 19th century had prevailed in England since Caesar's invasion, one couple living at that time would by now have 720 million descendants.
The figures seem incredible. They are incredible, until one recalls the wars and plagues and the incredibly bad life in bygone ages. Perhaps what happened in the 19th century comes more within the mind's reach by recalling that within the space of about 100 years the population of Great Britain was multiplied by five; the real wages (or buying power) on the average multiplied by four.
The Victorians prided themselves on having discovered the secret of Progress-the means by which people can go on, and on, with an ever increasing satisfaction of human wants. The Victorians were not given to beating about bushes; when it came to economics, they reasoned that since the objective is the satisfaction of human wants and people possess different capacities for service, everyone should contribute what he had to offer. I give you the formula in the words of Thorold Rogers (Oxford), a Victorian economist:
"That private and personal interests, as long as they are innocent, are judged of better by the individual than they can be by the state, that if men are left free to work, free to bargain, free to trade, the result would be that in the choice of industry the fittest would prosper much more under competition than it had done under regulation."
And we scorned the idea as a guiding principle of life; and scorned it with one of those phrases which people seldom take the trouble to understand. We said the 19th century was given over to laisser faire but, as for us-we would create a better world.
There were abuses in the era we set aside after the last war, but that era is not to be represented as a period of ruthless exploitation of labour. The Mother of Parliaments began vigorously passing Factory Acts for the protection of labour in the eighteen thirties and on the eve of the last world war, although there were still abuses to be corrected, the Average Man had come into possession of comforts that lords and ladies had not dreamed of when government planned the lives of people.
What then is the social order the world has had the past thirty years?
Naturally, it cannot be stated in precise terms because it varied from country to country; but in a general way that order was characterized everywhere by an expansion of state authority over economic life. The field of government ownership was expanded until in some countries (as in Russia) it included almost everything; in other countries (as in Germany) government sought to regulate almost every phase of life; while in our country we adopted a "mixed economy"-a conglomeration of the systems-widening government ownership extending state interventions and all the while holding on, measurably, to personal enterprise.
With Stop and Go signs at nearly every corner, we are now subjected to an organized drive to have the political control, tightened after the war to the extent of conscripting (or confiscating) the means of production. Whatever the decision may be, we have a tremendous advantage over those who had the responsibility of selecting a social structure after the last war. No longer should people be beguiled by promises of "plenty" if they would only turn over the ownership, or control, of the means of production to the state. We should know the truth now
"They went to sea in a sieve, they did; In a sieve they went to sea; In spite of all their friends could say."
The old lines of Edward Lear might have been written of those who, against the protests of the political philosophers, sailed forth under the flag of Social Democracy to discover that Better World.
The venture was doomed to failure. Ships of State, like barges and tugs, have to be designed for the work they are to do. And parliamentary institutions were not designed to transact business; they were designed to provide political freedom; the very precautions taken to safeguard freedom limited the capacity of those institutions for economic action. The defect is not alone in the membership of parliament; it is basic in the structure. Business is not to be efficiently carried on by debate in a large assembly-not even by the members of The Empire Club-and when the membership is subject to change every four or five years, even matters exclusively within the field of the state (e.g. the tariffs) suffer from lack of continuity of policy.
May I illustrate the working of the social structure adopted after 1919 with a page of experience that directly concerns our own country.
Modern economy (as we know) is characterized by specialization of production, with exchange of the products with two great classes (which for convenience may be styled factory and field) differing sharply in organization. The typical factory works with wage-paid labour; the typical farm, particularly in our part of the world, is mainly conducted by the unwaged labour of the family. While the difference in organization is of common knowledge, the consequences do not seem to have been recognized when democratic states began intervening in economic life.
Subjected to organized pressure at the polls, governments, nearly everywhere, provided codes of maximum hours and minimum rates of pay for industrial wageearners. The movement had public approval, but in view of what happened we ought to scrutinize the consequences
To the extent factory codes decreased output and raised prices of factory products, they brought from the field an insistent demand for parity-and since that parity could not be given by wagecodes, it was given by subsidies, direct and indirect (particularly farm credit) that had the reverse effect of increasing output and lowering prices of agricultural products.
The Plan seemed to bring "good times" at first but as Solon once said to Croesus: "In every matter it behooves us to mark well the end for oftentimes the gods give men a gleam of happiness and then plunge them into ruin." So it turned out with us. The price of agricultural products dropped until farmers were no longer able to buy many factory products and, since most people are farmers, the world fell into a Great Dislocation popularly called World Depression.
The Director of the International Labour Office, in the spring of 1932, estimated the number of unemployed at 20 to 25 millions. His successor estimated the number a year later, in early 1933, as 30 millions.
I would like to have considered the impact of state interventions on the relation between nations, but will dismiss the matter with the statement of Professor Condliffe (London) in a report (1938) to the International Studies Conference:
"The problems that have arisen in connection with marketing in recent years are, in fact, the result of increasing intervention by the nation-state in trading activities. Migration is regulated, imports and exports, the disposal of exchange resources, investment, even tourist traffic are now the subject of complex and effective controls. Moreover domestic policy, such for example as the maintenance of low interest rates or stable wages, cannot be dissociated from external regulation. Economic Nationalism is simply the counterpart of domestic social welfare legislation. It may be defended or criticized in the same way as such legislation; but it is probably as deeply rooted in the present economic trends. The extension of public control over the economic, as well as political, activities of nationals follows naturally in the external as in the domestic sphere. It is assumed that such control will be continued in the foreseeable future."
Economic Planning! Planwirtschaft! Professor Bruck, (College of South Wales) says the phrase was coined by Moellendorff, a high official of the German Civil Service in the last war. It may be so but many years ago William Graham Sumner (of Yale) caught the spirit of the thing when he said: "For A to sit down and think, What shall I do? is commonplace; but to think what B ought to do is interesting, romantic, moral, self-flattering, and public-spirited all at once. . . To go on and plan what a whole class of people ought to do is to feel one's self a power on earth, to win a public position, to clothe one's self in dignity."
However, it is true; after the last world war, the idea of an authoritarian planned life caught the popular imagination and sent millions walking backwards in search for a better world. The course was perhaps imperative in some countries
When peace came, a memorandum of the German Economic Ministry (May 7th, 1919), drawn up by Wissel and Moellendorf, stated that there was nothing else to do but to maintain the system known during the war as 'war economy'.
The world still talks of the Great Experiment in Russia; but one would have thought the Greater Experiment had been conducted in Germany. When Russians adopted a system called socialism, they almost immediately adapted their form of government to its administration, but the Germans put to the test the intriguing phrase that "Democracy needs Socialism", and the results are of open record:
From 1919 to 1933, political parties came and went in Germany with "the times". When the Social Democrats had tried to "manage" money and credit according to the insatiable "social needs", and mismanaged the currency almost to the zero point; people began listening to a bid for power from the National Socialist Party that promised stability. "Socialism needs an iron will". "Plans need continuity". "There can be but one Party in the Socialist State'. Those were the phrases that began flying about.
When some 6,034,000 working people had become unemployed, the politicians of democracy "lost face". Germany had been literally torn apart and the people cried out for a form of government expressly designed to manage an Economic State.
It is in that background prudence bids us shape the social order we are to have in post-war days. However, if you decline to think the wreckage of Social Democracy from Moscow through Berlin to Madrid has no lessons for us, then I shall pose several specific questions and call in the experts to answer them. You will judge for yourselves the competence of the witnesses in their respective fields.
First, let us turn to the contention so conspicuously before us today that parliament can plan the economic life of this country. I call in that most distinguished Socialist, Bernard Shaw, who, speaking of the Mother of Parliaments to the Fabian Society, said
"Of all madnesses which afflict this country I should think the worst is to expect that this instrument called parliament, made and developed for the express purpose of checkmating government, and of unrivalled efficiency for this purpose, can possibly be an instrument of Socialism or Fascism, of any modern system which requires a continued governmental activity."
Or it may be, in the diversity of interests, your primary concern is over class economic interest. In our day most of us belong to some sort of a group seeking to exercise pressure on those who govern us. If you think to press your cause and still hold on to democracy, I cite the sobering opinion of the author of After The Deluge, Leonard Woolf
"Democracy treats every man and woman politically simply as an individual and as an equal political unit; non-democratic institutions treat people not as individuals but as members of different classes and gives them different political rights because they are born in different classes, pursue different occupations, or hold different political views."
If you happen to belong to one of the two principal schools of collectivism that so intensely hate each other, then I would have you recall that, whether the Socialist State proceeds by government ownership (as in Russia), or by class regimentation (as in Germany and Italy), there is practical uniformity in the form of the government of the Economic State. Speaking of Germany, Bruck points out
"The role of the party as the dynamic force in the State is the same as in Russia, though Stalin is general secretary of the Party and not President of the Soviet Union, or in Italy where Mussolini is the leader of the Party whilst the king remains sovereign. Hitler, however, combines in himself the leadership and the sovereignty."
Freedom! We make the rafters ring with a protest that-no matter other people-we would never be slaves. But freedom is not to be preserved by enthusiasm alone; not even by throwing back those who would enslave us by invasion. If we want to preserve our freedoms we must preserve the footing upon which they rest. We are being told, in all sorts of phrases, that the individual must surrender much of the freedom he has had that the group, or the nation, may come into possession of a New Freedom. (The phrase smacks of Mussolini's interpretation of democracy.) Recalling Solon's advice to Croesus, let us look to the end of the road as set out by Gilbert Murray (Oxford), a distinguished philosopher. He says:
"In the totalitarian state, whether Fascist as in Italy and Germany, Communist as in Russia, or merely Nationalist as in Turkey, Iraq and Japan, the group has for the time being not merely completely routed the individual; that is only- half the story. The nation as a whole is deprived of its powers of thought and speech just as the individual is."
Is there anyone in Canada who places standards of living above regard for self-government, Canadians by free enterprise obtained about the world's best living standards; I do not know anyone at Ottawa--no matter the form of government--that could do better for us. When people tell me otherwise I ask, with Knapp, an economist of the Netherlands who, writing of the world depression, exclaimed
"Will one never realize that it is absolutely impossible to make all the countless wheels of our extremely complex society fit into any mechanism which the human brain is capable of inventing, no matter how ingeniously it be constructed?"
Many people are tinged, and some fairly blistered, with resentment over the unequal distribution of the national income. Would it be better to have a smaller cake with a more equal division of the slices? All I can say is that the Socialist Soviets tried to bring about an approximate equality of wages and brought themselves to the verge of collapse.
"Levelling results in that the unskilled worker has no interest to become skilled."
How do I know it was so? Well! Stalin said so.
Capitalist Imperialism! I cannot spare the time to analyze the persistent charge that wars are caused by the pressure of capitalist groups bent upon exploiting backward people. Nor would I have mentioned it, had not direct charges been so recently levelled against the policy of Britain and the Netherlands, in the Orient. But whatever the conflicts arising over foreign investments in backward countries, it would appear to be gross injustice to prohibit the export of capital, and seem reasonable to think conflict would become intensified were states to become capitalists. Lionel Robbins (University of London) may have been right when he said
"A world of national socialist states is analytically on all fours with the world of primitive times when the rival hordes owned and had 'sovereignty' over the lands over which they roved, and when the existence of rich soils, good hunting grounds and accumulated treasure, side by side with poor soils, lean hunting grounds and inferior accumulations, was a standing cause of brutal and total war."
Are we then never to realize the hope we have for that Better World? Within the past several weeks, many correspondents have asked the question, and I had to reply: To be effective, hope must be practical.
If by a better world we mean the abolition of poverty, the spread of prosperity, the basic freedoms, I believe--whatever the lot of other people--we may have a better world in Canada. But first we must re-discover the lost secret of Progress--the development of individuality.
We, the people-several millions of us-are at once the means and the ends of the social structure of this country. Shall we plan, as individuals-voluntarily-for ourselves; or shall we depend on a few people, called government, to plan for us-by compulsion?
Do not misinterpret the issue. I am not speaking of demobilization days. We may hope they are right, those people who predict general obsolescence will provide full employment for at least several years after peace, but the Government will not be able to let go overnight. When I speak of the citizens' choice between the social orders. I have in mind the long-term run of peace we hope to have after the war. Even then, the men who govern us will have economic problems to solve. I am speaking specifically of the offer of political parties to take over the means of production and decide about our wants. It is an old, old practice "Your fish were caught, from eldest time, By dint of nets and hauling."
Just a hundred years ago, the people of Britain were subjected to the very drive we face, and from political parties with marked resemblance to the two wings of modern collectivism. In the words of Toynbee, they replied
"Your system of patronage and of patriarchal government is now physically impossible. Newspapers, railways, great cities, have made the workmen independent. The old system may linger on a while but its extinction is only a question of time. You are trying to revive the habits and relations of a bygone age; but the workmen having once tasted the sweets of independence, will never go back into dependence."
That decision was made in the distress of a period known as the Hungry Forties; and out of it, British people came into the fullest life of the Old World-and the freest. Our statesmen are not more able than Disraeli, Bright and Cobden, and we, with the natural resources of the New World at our feet, should not be less able than our grandfathers.
The history of mankind is largely a record of a struggle for power-struggles of men for power over their fellow countrymen, and then on to power over others. Even world power. It is a far stretch from Alexander, with his horse Bucephalus, to Hitler, with tanks and aircraft; but the principle is unchanged. "Power always corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts." Even good men are not to be trusted with meticulous control over the lives of millions. Lord Acton came to that conclusion in the 19th century and we know in our hearts, Acton's conclusion is true of our day. War imposes authority; but in the present crisis let us plant for the reflowering of freedom.
"It is all very complicated!" you say. I know a man (he was an M.P.) who used to say life had become so complicated he doubted people could go on living.
But there are certain phases of social life that are controversial only because people blur the records.
For one thing, collectivism should no longer be allowed to masquerade as a new social order. No longer allowed to blame the ills of society on capitalism. For nearly three decades all imaginable schemes of the collectivist order, in varying degrees of intensity, have been tried out. The issue is not now what may be; the issue is what ha, been.
After 1919, collectivism gained converts by thousands and millions because it promised to abolish poverty. If that promise had been fulfilled probably most of us might have gone to school with Karl Marx for poverty is a terrible thing. But nowhere was the promise fulfilled. The other day, while discussing the social structures in Hamilton, I suggested we test them by their records of performance in relieving people of the struggle for food; clothes and shelter. Let the social order with least poverty be declared best.
But there are other tests.
When individuals and their voluntary associations were fairly free to exchange their goods and their services, the Western World was more prosperous than it had ever been; for the most part peaceful; and there was at least some respect for the integrity of nations.
But once the politicians had taken over control of economic life within states and the police had been called in to regulate industry and commerce, it was not long before soldiers were called out to dispose of trade between states.
Violence breeds violence.
In their struggle for power, politicians of the collectivist schools promised (and still promise) to relieve us from the competitive struggle to satisfy our wants, if only we give them power to plan economic life. But when the thing had been done we found the competition of individuals at home had been exchanged for competition between states, releasing forces destructive beyond measure. The more complete the plan, the more terrible the conflict.
These things may be ignored; they cannot be erased. They are so written in the history of our times.
I conclude: Individuals, alone, are gifted with the faculty of reason; individuals, alone, possess that priceless thing called conscience. When the last word has been said: the way to the better world, like the Kingdom of Heaven, is within us. (Applause.)
Mr. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Mr. Moore, the President of The Empire Club is in no position to comment upon this address. It has appealed to me as a wonderful address, and I am sure it has so appealed to each and every member of this audience and to all of your hearers. An address like this is not prepared without much thought, a very great deal of thought, and with a very great deal of care. We may carry away with us, I think, the idea that the development of the individual and the development of individual personality, are really the ideals after which we should strive. To that should be added the legal maxim that every right has a consequent obligation, that I may exercise my rights so long as they don't infringe upon the rights of anyone else.
You will be glad, Gentlemen, to know that Mr. Moore has gone to the trouble and the expense of having this address printed and that a copy will be available for each one of us as we leave the room. (Applause.) Not only that, but Mr. Moore suggested to me that I should announce that in the ante-room he would be very glad to receive personal criticism of this address and that he would welcome any letters any of you might wish to write to him by way of criticism or further enquiry.
We thank you most sincerely, Mr. Moore, for the trouble and the time and the energy that you have taken to give this to us for our own personal consumption. It is a labour of love and we are very grateful to you for it, sir. (Applause.)