14 OCTOBER 1938, Page 26


Britain in Recovery. Prepared by a Research Committee of the Economic Science and Statistics Section of the British Association. (Pitman. 15s.) Tins, the companion volume to Britain in Depression, published in 1935, follows the fortunes of the British economy and its specific industries down to the present. It is not a wholly symmetrical counterpart ; certain contributors and certain industries (notably distribution) are missing, and a yawning gap appears in the absence of a chapter on banking and finance— for which the erring contributor, Professor Harry Jones, makes a graceful apology. Ample amends, however, are made by Mr. 0. A. MacDougal's introductory general survey, which gives the book as a whole a unity which, in view of the free hand granted to individual contributors, could not otherwise have been attained.

Part I deals with general topics of -all-round importance. Mr. MacDougal's survey is followed by an analysis of the employment and unemployment figures over the whole period of depression and recovery, by Dr. H. W. Robison, an account of industrial relations by Professor Henry Richardson, a survey, by the same author, of the tariffs, preferences, and other forms of protection which our one-time free trade economy has adopted, and a brief study of foreign exchange developments by Professor N. F. Hall. Part II deals with separate industries ; agriculture (grain and other crops, meat, and milk, by Mr. Orwin, and Professor Ashby and Mr. W. H. Jones, respectively) ; coal, by Professor Harry Jones; electricity (anonymous); rail transport, by Mr. H. M. Hallsworth ; the motor industry, by Mr. L. F. Duval; shipping, by Dr. Isserlis ; shipbuilding, by Mr. Hallsworth; iron and steel, by Mr. McCallum; engineer- ing, by Mr. Allen ; building, by Sir Harold Bellman ; cotton, by Messrs. H. G. Hukhes and C. T. Saunders ; and wool, by Mr. A. N. Shimmin. All provide competently collected and presented facts, useful statistics, and the nucleus of a biblio- graphy ; but while most contributors restrict themselves fairly narrowly to plain historical narrative, others offer a certain measure of interpretation and speculative generalisation. Mr. MacDougal's general survey, with its estimates of the real

wastage of resources and loss to the community in general involved in .depression, raises but hastily dtips queStions whose implications reach out across the controversial frontiers of economics and social philosophy. Economically speaking, an obsolete or otherwise sub-marginal human instrument is as fit for the scrap heap as an obsolete or otherwise sub-marginal piece of machinery ; civically speaking, this instrument is a citizen who has got to be maintained as a matter of human right ; but is it more wasteful to keep him in idleness than to divert other instruments—tools, machinery, supervision, capi- tal—from other uses to co-operate with him ? And supposing that it is in fact less wasteful, is the right to work, irrespective of the community's ultimate balance of benefit, a human right which the community must in time grant even as it grants the right to live ?

Mr. MacDougal wisely refrains from arguing these questions, or even from putting them explicitly. They are evidently in the back of his mind ; but to have given them their full weight would have completely overbalanced the book. From Profes- sor Hall's analysis of the foreign exchange situation (peculiar among the essays comprising this book in concealing beneath the austerity of a semi-official manner a perceptible under- current of slightly malicious humour) there emerges a conclusion painful to Britain's conscious financial rectitude. It was the use of the Exchange Equalisation Fund for the purpose, not envisaged by Parliament, of manipulating long-run exchange movements for the benefit of the Bank of England's gold position, which forced the devaluation of the dollar and so smashed the Economic Conference of 1933 and the high hopes pinned to it. Professor Richardson, on the other hand, firmly avoids any discussion of the possible bearing of the Ottawa agreements, and the closing of the colonial Open Door, on the clamour for colonies by the excluded nations, the Manchurian and Abyssinian catastrophes, and the ensuing breakdown in international law and order which just now adds so piquant a taste of uncertainty_to our daily activities.

General conclusions are, of course, further to seek among the individual studies of specific industries. One may, how- ever, hope that the conclusions severally voiced by the writers on iron and steel and engineering will impress themselves in time ; both are heading for a state of gross over-expansion which, with the end (admittedly almost unhoped for) of rearma- ment, will leave them worse off than in 1920. From all the older industries, too, comes the paradox of coexisting unemploy- ment and labour shortage ; processes have changed, workers have deteriorated, shifts in localisation have divorced supply and demand for labour. No recovery can save the hardest hit. victims of long-term unemployment ; industrially, they are permanently crippled.

It is not, however, for its general conclusions, that Britain in Recovery is most noteworthy. It is as a factual resume, a statistical synopsis, and a bibliographical guide that it primarily seeks, and fully deserves, a welcome.