INDUSTRIAL THEORIES AND ASPIRATIONS.*
MR. HENRY DYER has given the world an interesting essay on what he calls the "Evolution of Industry," which is, in short, a description of the position of Labour, as he thinks it ought to be, and therefore as it will inevitably be some day or other. We gather from the title-page that he is an engineer, and were therefore not surprised to find that he takes full advantage, in his construction of theories, of the freedom from the tiresome trammels imposed upon him, in the pursuit of his ordinary calling, by questions as to solidity of foundation and the circumscribing limits of the laws of mechanics. Such a reaction is perfectly natural, just as your practical man of business is always unpunctual in private affairs ; and it need hardly be said that Mr. Dyer's work is none the less interesting for being quite out of touch with the pedantic actualities of life. When we find him speaking of the "economics required for the pro- duction of noble, healthy men and women," we, are at once prepared to accept him as an amiable enthusiast to whom the meanings of words are an unimportant detail, and the faculty for considering one thing at a time is an intellectual blemish.
Every one who has ever done a day's work for a day's wage is bound to sympathise with the workers in their desire to im- prove their position, but in these days when British commerce is pressed hard in our own markets as well as in those of the world at large, by the competition of goods turned out by cheap and efficient labour on the Continent and in the East, it is as well to remember that if we improve British labour too fast, we shall end by improving it out of existence alto- gether; moreover, it must be borne in mind that, owing to the phenomenal fall in the prices of the necessaries of life, the rise in wages, and the institution of free education, which are contrasted with the decline in the rate of interest on invest- ments, by which the incomes of the moneyed classes have been seriously diminished, the labourer is already relatively better off than any other class in the community. Such considera- tions as these do not, of course, appeal to Mr. Dyer's airily philanthropic mind. His knowledge of practical matters may be gauged by his statement that the Limited Liability Acts confine the liability of the shareholders to the amount of the capital they have invested," though any office-boy knows that it is a common practice for limited companies to call up only a portion of their nominal capital, and to regard the further liability of the shareholders as a reserve fund to be drawn on in case of need. Analogy, that weapon so well beloved of the enthusiast, is used by Mr. Dyer with truly startling audacity. He appears to have studied biology in his leisure moments, and talks learnedly and at length on evolution. To the ordinary thinker, it would appear that the lesson most emphatically taught by the doctrine of evolution is that of progress through competition, and some such notion seems to have dawned upon our writer, to whom of course competition is a survival of barbarism. Accordingly, he coolly turns round and remarks that "when man is most truly human, or in the highest attained stage of the evolution of civilisation, he ceases to be in harmony with the system of Nature in the sense true of vegetables or the lower animals." Very well ; but then, why waste the writer's energy and the reader's patience with analogies drawn from the conditions of said vegetables and animals ? And why proceed to malign Nature by asserting that "free competition with a natural vegetation would soon reduce the best garden to a wilderness, and cause the best flowers and fruit rapidly to degenerate, and ultimately to disappear " P For if they were the "best" in Nature's sense, evolution teaches us that they would by no means disappear.
Such inconsistencies, however, seem to be part of the regular stock-in-trade of the industrial reformer. On one and the same page Mr. Dyer states that the development of the joint- stock system tended to raise prices "to suit the companies," and so "the public is squeezed to an enormous extent," and then, that owing to the progress of the same tendency " other
• (1.) The Evolution of Industry. Br Henry Dyer, 0.E.. M.A., D.Sc., So. London: Macmillan.—(2.1 Strikes, Labour Questions, and other Economic DOI- cu'ties. By Alexander W. Johnston. M.A. London : Bliss, Sands, and Foster. —(1) How It Can Be Done; or, Constructive Socialism. By John Richardson. London: Swan Sonnenechein and Co.—(4.) Perils to British Trade : Hose to Avert Them. By Edwin Burgle. London : Swan Sounenschein and Co.—(5.) Three Months in a Workshop. By Paul GOIre. Translated from the German by A. B. Carr. London : Swan Sonnenschein and Co.—(6.) David Ricardo the First Six Chapters of the Principle, of PolatioeVEconomy and Taxation. London : Macmillan.—(7.) T. E. Malthus : .Parallol, Chapters from the First and Second Editions of an Essay on the Principle of Population. London : Macmillan. Juipanies are started and the competition increases. Prices are cut down and wages lowered. No doubt the public obtain 'cheap commodities, if they have the money to purchase them, which they often have not ; and the result is that a residuum is always being rapidly produced. Not only is this true of the workers, but also of the manufacturers. Small competitors are crushed out without pity or remorse." It is very hard to please some people. When prices go up, the public is squeezed; and when they fall, a residuum is formed. Finally, we arrive at the startling conclusion that " unlimited com- petition inevitably leads to monopoly in some shape or form." If there is one thing that recent commercial history has proved more clearly than another, it is this, that the wider the market and the more unlimited the competition, the harder it becomes to establish a " corner ;" but Mr. Dyer, of course, would scorn to understand the meaning of so indi- vidualistic a word as "market." Having thus damned com- petition as tending to monopoly, he goes on characteristically to advocate monopoly as developed through co-operation. " The co-operative movement," he remarks, " is evolving the machinery for correlating supply and demand." If these words can be made to mean anything, they mean that co-operation is doing exactly what every producer and dis- tributor has been doing since prehistoric man first bartered arrow-heads for nose-rings. But a still more startling as- sertion is quoted by our author in this connection, and endorsed with his approval. None other than Mrs. Sidney Webb has decided that " the Industrial Revolution, now rapidly extending to all industries, has rendered it prac- tically impossible for the worker to own the instruments of production without himself becoming a capitalist." Now it is obvious that at no period of the world's history could any one have owned the instruments of production without being, ipso facto, a capitalist, so that Mrs. Webb might have discovered with equal satisfaction that the Industrial Revolution has rendered it impossible for a goose to be stuffed, without itself becoming a stuffed goose. And it is all the more deplorable that people should thus give way to their feelings in treating of co-operation, because it is a movement that deserves sane encouragement rather than hysterical eulogy ; it is teaching a valuable lesson to the working man, especially through its failures, which have been due, as Mr. Dyer con- fesses, " to jealousy, to suspicion, to self-assertion, to want of generous confidence and courageous enthusiasm." It is sad indeed, and yet on the other hand a little comforting, that even co-operators should still be human ; but on the other hand, the fact remains that, by strict attention to common- sense, they have been able to build up a fine record of achievement in spite of the competition of the individual capitalist and the anti - social joint - stock system. Mr. Dyer quotes with justifiable satisfaction some figures which show that in 1892 some 1,791 Co - operative Societies made a profit of £4,743,352 on a. total capital of £18,421,323. In other words, the average profit on the capital in- vested came to just 25 per cent., a most satisfactory return ; but what would Mr. Dyer say if such profits had been made by an unregenerate joint-stock concern ? And how can he have the face to remark, on the very same page, that the economic results of the co-operative movement are very important. Of these the most apparent are the reduction in working expenses by the saving of the charges of the capitalist," &c. ? As for the poor shopkeeper who is to be driven out of existence by co-operative stores, Mr. Dyer states on one page that his loss will be a good riddance, and on the next quotes, with approval, a statement that he will not be exterminated because he is indispensable. Compare the following passages. On p. 144 :— " The ordinary retail-shops at once show the waste of the individualistic system. These are multiplied beyond what is necessary, and there is not sufficient business to support them all. As the competition increases, vast sums are spent on advertising and on rents for the most advantageous localities, and all sorts of adventitious attractions are put forth to allure customers. Men and women are kept from early morning till late at night waiting on trade which comes in driblets. Life becomes harder and harder for those responsible for the business, and not a few of them land in the Bankruptcy Court. Even when they succeed in making money, the accompanying struggles and petty cares make all human life practically impossible."
And on p.115 :— "As Mr. Holyoake has remarked, The shopkeeper has always opposed co-operation, yet he is not in the danger he imagines Good shops are inextinguishable. No store of the London or
Rochdale kind has shown genius in shopkeeping. The thought and consideration, the judgment and Pkill, the personal know- ledge of the needs and tastes of purchasers, are impossible to stores. Stores are like public schools ; a shop is like a private tutor with a limited number of pupils to whom he individually attends Professionally, the shopkeeper's case is better than he imagines. He is afraid, without foresight, of co-operators. His enemies are those of his own household in the trade. He can hold his own with a little wit and a little judgment.'"
Want of space prevents our lingering longer over Mr. Dyer's pages, retracing with him the steps by which that millennium will be reached under which "not only will the economic rent of land and minerals pass into the common exchequer, but also the very large amounts which at present go to private individuals, in the shape of increased revenue from land in consequence of social and industrial development, will go into the treasury either of the State or of the Community." But we have written in vain, if we have not inspired our readers with a desire to peruse this work on their own account.
Farther light on kindred topics is provided by Mr. Johnston's
Strikes, Labour Questions, and other Economic Difficulties, from which we must quote one astute sentence :—" Belief in the power of a people to tax themselves into prosperity is one of the most extraordinary delusions that ever led humanity astray." While Mr. Richardson discusses, in How It Can Be Done, an education scheme, which shall make a new nation of us for the modest sum of £382,500,000, Mr. Hargis advocates Protection in Perils to British Trade, and a picture of labour conditions abroad is presented by Paul G Ware's Three Months in a Workshop. Lastly, if we may dare to mention the names of the masters of the now obsolete economic science,
selections have lately been issued from the works of Ricardo and Malthus.