The Philosophy of Necessity; or the Law of Consequences, as applicable to Mental. Moral, and Social Science. By Charles Bray. In two volumes. Vol. II. Part III. Social Science Longman and Co. TOPOMIAPRY, Visits to Remarkable Places: Old Halls, Bottle-fields, and Scenes illustrative of Striking Passages in History and Poetry, chiefly in the counties of Durham and Northumberland. By William Hewitt, Author of '• The Rural Life of England,” &c.litc. • Second Series Longman and Co. Itunsw Firco-Srownr, The Old Forest Ranger; or Wild Sports of India, on the Neilgherry Hills, in the Jungles, and on the Plains. By Captain Walter Campbell, of Skipness, late of the Seventh Royal Frontiers How and Parsons.
BRAY'S SOCIAL REFORM BY COOPERATIVE
Tux second volume of Mr. BRAY'S Philosophy of Necessity, treat- ing of what he denominates "Social Science," is of more import- ance and interest than the first, from the character of the subject, and a greater display of ability in the author. The commonplaces of physiology, phrenology, and metaphysics, drawn from books in everybody's band, and not put forth as a rapid exposition ne- cessary to the understanding of the author's views, but doled out as a revelation to change the world, had the conjoint effect of dulness and self-sufficiency. The topics in the volume before us are less hackneyed, have a current interest, and are better handled, with more of sense in the view and of eloquence in the composi- tion. The statistical and other facts connected with the con- dition of the masses, in the author's examination of the present state of society, are well selected, and skilfully displayed, with- out any disposition to exaggerate either in the statement or the conclusion : the different plans proposed for the benefit of the people by the friends of Reform, Free Trade, Emigration, Edu- cation, and Religion, are criticized with keenness but without bit- terness, and the inevitableness of their partial operation exposed : and though his own proposal for effecting social reform by means of Joint Stock Companies does not substantially differ from the schemes of OwEri of Lanark and innumerable other pro- jectors, it is urged with less dogmatism, and without any disposi- tion to dissemble the palpable difficulties that are at present op- posed to its successful establishment. In the far-off future, indeed, Mr. BRAY expatiates, when selection and experience, his Normal Schools or Joint Stock Companies, the exertions of philanthro- pists, and some degree of success, shall have trained a new genera- tion to his social reform: but enthusiasm in some shape is essential to a projector The reader will not extend the praise of Mr. BRAY'S book be- yond the exact terms of this criticism, or expect from it more than some curious data as regards the distribution of the national wealth ; a striking picture of the hard struggle for life, the severe distress, and too frequently the premature death, which await the bulk of the people under the present state of things; a calm and not a use- less estimate of the different plans proposed by parties or classes to benefit the poor, and rather a plausible exposition of the author's promised millennium, which is full of matter of a certain kind, clothed in excellent composition. As a system many of Mr. BRAY'S single views are unfounded ; he is constantly assuming conclusions or jumping to them, and he is altogether devoid of logic so far as regards his leading purpose. That is to say, his physiological, phrenological, and metaphysical views might all be correct, yet they would not in any degree lead to the conclusion for which he adduced them—the practicability of his scheme of social reform. His picture of the state of the people, and his judgment upon the proposed remedies of other projectors, might all be true—and much of it is true—yet it has no bearing upon his recom- mendation of Joint Stock Associations for the working classes. It is not that his conclusions are false or insufficient ; there are no con- clusions to be drawn—no relations of cause and effect. Between the three or four sections of the Philosophy of Necessity which should be stages, there are great gulfs, over which the philosopher jumps.
A greater, though a very common deficiency of logic, pervades not only Mr. BRAY'S book and Mr. BRAY'S mind, but the minds of all the projectors and philanthropists who contemplate the improve- ment of mankind by schemes of mutual coOperation. The fallacy, sometimes avowed, but oftener latent, and probably hidden from the projector himself, consists in assuming that a different distribu- tion of existing wealth is the one thing needful ; whereas the only mode of benefiting the masses, at least in countries where men are free, is by increasing the amount of wealth to be distributed. If more of sustenance, or of articles exchangeable for sustenance, were the result of collecting men together in a sort of barracks, as Mr. BRAY proposes, and equally dividing the produce of their labour, or ex- changing it for such articles as they do not produce, cooperation might contribute towards the end in view. As not a shadow of proof is ever advanced that such a result would follow—but the very contrary is predicable, from the few hours to be devoted to labour, the natural indisposition of man to work with energy when be is not to receive the entire reward, and the often-ascertained disadvantage which attends upon joint stock management of busi- ness—it may safely be affirmed, that, if the community were to labour as long as the working-classes now do, no real benefit would result to the whole body of the people from the proposed distribution of existing wealth ; whilst the idea of maintaining everybody in competence by a few hours' daily labour is a mere delusion, as baseless as the realm of a lunatic.
Economists, accustomed to comprehensive views and exact analysis, will readily recognize the force of these almost truisms: but the subject is so complicated with a variety of accidents and relations, that it may be as well to follow it out ; especially as many thousands are not only firm in their belief of the soundness of the principle, but are trying to establish it, whilst many more think that the cause of the wretchedness of the many is somehow or other owing to the wealth of the few,—an error which only leads them astray in their efforts to reform society. When an operative, or a philanthropist, or a projector, each equally uninformed upon the subject he undertakes to decide upon, walks into a rich man's mansion, and sees the luxurious splendour pervading every room—views in the offices the various articles of convenience, from the cooking-utensils to the carriage, and takes a glimpse of the well-stored cellars—he utters some classical or commonplace phrase on the unequal distribution of the gifts of fortune, and jumps at once to an association, where all the good things should be equally divided. If the subject, however, be looked at more closely, it will be found that this equal division would not in any way benefit the poor, so far as regards the quantity of wealth, that is of conveniences and com- forts to be enjoyed or consumed. A division has already taken place before Dives got his purple and fine linen. Let us illustrate this in detail.
The carpets, the costly hangings, the cabinet and iron work, the plate-glass and gilding, together with all the other results of labour
which meet the eye have been paid for by the rich man; who main
j - tained the people Whom he so employed, just as much as if he had given them the money the articles cost and exacted nothing in re- turn. From the complicated nature of the transactions, and the countless number of persons employed in furnishing and keeping up a well-appointed mansion, this gift would practically be exceed- ingly difficult to distribute among tradesmen, mechanics, merchants, shipowners, and so forth : but the reader can allow the assumption that the different artisans have had given to them the amount of their wages ; and what would be the result ? They might enjoy themselves in the fields, or pass more time in the public-house ; but, as far as comforts were concerned, they would be no better off than if they had been working for the sum given to them ; but, the articles not having been produced, the collective wealth of the country would be so much the less, and the rich man's mansion un- furnished.
Many will admit the truth of this as regards articles of furniture, but demur to the wines, and to the productions of the fine arts.
In reality, however, the working is quite as clear. The artist who receives a large sum of money expends it in supplying the wants of himself or his family : if he gave the money directly to the people receives a large sum of money expends it in supplying the wants of himself or his family : if he gave the money directly to the people instead of requiring a quid pro quo, he would go without the articles
he wanted, but they would not be able to command more of the- necessaries of life. Again, the wines and other foreign luxuries,
which persons tolerably well off consume, are purchased with ma- nufactures. The process is more circuitous than in the case of the coach-builder or cabinet-maker, but the operation is just the same; and if the amount they now receive for articles to be sent abroad were given to the manufacturers of cotton, hard-ware, and wool- lens, the nation would import less wine, but the poor would not be any richer for the self-denial of those above them. It is necessary to remind the reader, that this hypothesis properly sup- poses no new creation of wealth : it is merely adduced to illustrate.
the present distribution. If all the incomes of all the rich could
be given to the poor, leaving them time and means to produce as much as they do now, the national wealth would be pro tanto in-
creased ; which is the very thing we say is desirable. It would come to the same thing if the number of people were lessened among whom it has to be divided. Free trade and emigration have a tendency to effect both these things.
The true source of the fallacy we have been considering, with regard to the distribution of wealth, originates in narrow views. Individuals suffering, or having witnessed suffering, come upon the evidences of great wealth apparently enjoyed by a very few persons. In terms they talk of a more equal distribution ; but they mean, that with this wealth they could relieve the particular suffering uppermost in their minds, though they may not be conscious of the mental operation. The narrowness of their view shuts out the male and female servants who would be turned adrift ; the trades- men deprived of large sums, which they distribute, first in wages to their workmen, next in the purchase of materials to dealers, who stimulate our manufacturers and employ our shipowners; and even that portion which comes into the tradesmen's pockets in the shape of profit is redistributed to other persons, who again redis- tribute it in their turn. All these complex operations are lost, upon the sciolist or the ignorant, except in a matter with which they have a practical acquaintance, where a kind of instinct seems to keep them right. The carpet-manufacturer or cabinet-maker is more prone to recommend a larger outlay on the workmanship of his own trade, and to lament the tendency of the times towards cheap articles. Mixed up with this main fallacy of the advocates of cooperation, and of all who deal in schemes to benefit the masses by any other way than the intelligible one of increasing the commodities they consume, is some sort of notion of a more equal division of the things produced. How they would manage with very costly gar- ments need not be inquired, nor the utility or propriety of silk clothes or silk hangings to individuals whose labour for a certain period every day is the very essence of these speculations; but even in the more tangible benefit of spacious and well-ventilated rooms, it may be questioned whether this equal division would lead to all the advantages which at first sight might be expected. If we look
to the numbers directly and indirectly engaged in building large houses it is doubtful whether their accommodation would be in- creased, (always excepting better ventilation for the lowest class of the poor, and a room or rooms for common purposes,) if they were all put into the houses they build, or built new ones : many bedchambers would be as small as the rooms they now occupy, and the larger rooms would have to be subdivided, unless whole families were to pig together like animals in a spacious stall.
Some glimmering of this truth, that a greater quantity of wealth is necessary to benefit the bulk of the people to any great extent, is felt by the advocates of the equal division plan ; and the assump- tion, either expressed or implied, lurks in all their expositions, that cooperation would greatly increase the quantity produced. Mr. BRAY is about the best-informed and most reasonable of the tribe: he sees clearly that very few men, as men are now formed by "selfish" institutions, are fit to unite in a joint stock company of benevolence and community of goods; and that its success, if generally adopted, could not obtain till the lapse of two or three generations. He also admits the force of the objection, that men will not labour with spirit, much less be excited to improvements, unless they are to receive the entire reward : but this difficulty he will conquer by training, &c. So ignorant is he, however, of political economy and practical affairs—so careless in examining the foundation on which his entire superstructure must rest—that be can only start by assuming a miracle in the way of produce and profits. When he has collected the elite of society, he proposes to borrow money to purchase land, to build the cooperative barracks, to acquire implements and materials, and we suppose to support the people until they can become producers; and he gravely calculates that the Joint Stock Company would pay the lenders 5 or 6 per cent besides maintaining the members in competence and leisure. Alas for his simplicity ! Let him go to the bulk of capitalists in many branches of business, where ingenuity and the stimulus of private interest are always on the watch to perceive an advantage, and always active to seize it without delay, and inquire what are their clear profits. Some will tell him—nothing, notwithstanding the miserable rate of wages ; that for awhile they would willingly put aside all gain on their fixed capital, if they could only replace their floating capital with a small profit ; but they cannot, and must close their establishments, or work short times. Yet does Mr. BRAY tell the world, that the Joint Stock Happiness Companies under his social reform could pay 5 or 6 per cent upon capital fixed as well as floating, besides living comfortably and conve- niently, and only labouring a few hours a day ! This is what he says. He means, like all cooperative projectors, that the labourer should have the entire article of which his labour only forms a part, and often an insignificant part,—that the carpenter should have the piece of furniture he fashions ; the weaver the cloth, silk, or cotton which he seems to produce, though he only finishes : a result scarcely practicable, even if the requisite capital were pro- cured, unless we could persuade America, India, Italy, and other places, to give us raw materials. This error is an implied assumption : he also deals in a direct one. Mr. BRAY says, after Mr. Alasoie in his book on Population, that the soil of the United Kingdom could at once and without difficulty be made to maintain four times its present number of people, and with a little exertion six times,—being respectively 120 millions and 180 millions of people : as pure a fiction as the Valley of Diamonds or any other tale in the Arabian Nights ; opposed not only to all the practical experience of mankind, but to the efforts of experimentalists proceeding without regard to expense or even to ruin. The fallacy of Mr. Ausoe, like that of many other mis- taken speculators, consists in not counting cost. A quarter of wheat, says he, "is the full subsistence in wheat" of an individual for a year: there are so many acres in the United Kingdom, which, at a produce of only two quarters per acre, would support such a number. Assuming the quarter part of the business to be accurate, be forgets bow much it would consume to grow these two quarters on the barren and now uncultivated lands.
In dealing with this subject of cooperation or equal distribution— so captivating even to minds above the vulgar, that some years ago the Quarterly Review recommended its trial—we have handled only its essential property, the principle by which alone it must succeed or fail. Counteracting causes will have some operation in the distribution of national wealth, as in other things; subordinate or collateral truths will exist in connexion with cooperative schemes, and deserve some consideration for their own sake. Of these, the two most important are the moral effects of wealth, and the true boundary of cooperation—the line between cooperation for pro- duction and cooperation for expenditure, and to what objects of enjoyment the latter seems limited. It is hardly to be questioned that one great advantage of wealth is of a moral nature ; consisting in the order, method, and cleanliness —the domestic economy which attends it : for habit somewhat blunts the regard for general luxuries ; and as to mere splendour, "what has the owner thereof but the sight of it with his eyes"? That this moral effect operates unconsciously upon the minds of persons painfully impressed with the condition of the masses, is very probable : we all know that a tidy cottage is regarded with pleasure, and a dirty and disorderly palace with distaste. These effects of order, cleanliness, and neatness, however, are virtues in- dependent of place, and must not be rated as exclusively belonging to Socialism in barracks. The poor or the middle-classes rarely enjoy the advantage of large space ; but these moral effects are more or less within their power. It may be true that great numbers on the social verge cannot practice either order, cleanli- ness, or neatness, because they are surrounded by circumstances which prevent them ; many cannot practise them because their training has been such that they know not how, and it is too late for them voluntarily to acquire the practice. It may also be true that no educational efforts will benefit the masses, till their material condition is improved : but cooperation cannot effect this, any more than the present social system, unless you prove that it will increase the quantity of creature comforts to be dis- tributed among the poor. It is very likely that in a show-place, peopled by picked families from the working-classes, a pattern neatness might prevail ; but such poor were neat at home. We think it likely that cooperative establishments would facilitate neat- ness, from the necessity that would exist for some regular dis- cipline; but this sort of order is not the principle of cooperation, or peculiar to it—the same thing exists in prisons, workhouses, barracks, and King's ships.
Mr. BRAY addduces clubs and similar institutions among the rich as proofs of the benefits they derive from cooperation ; and quotes Sir EDWARD BULWER'S England and the English, to show that these resources will be extended downward till "they give the man of 501. a year the luxuries of 5001., as they give the man of 500/. a year the advantages of 5,000l." Had Mr. BRAY reflected for a mo- ment, he would have seen that clubs have no bearing upon the main difficulties of the case—the difficulties of increasing the means of the people : for clubs are institutions for expenditure not for pro- duction. Had Sir EDWARD BULWER observed instead of declaiming, he would have seen that such clubs as the working-classes can make available to their wants and means, already exist, in the shape of me- chanics institutions, reading-rooms, &c. Yet we do not deny that, abstractedly, cooperation for expenditure would enable the working- man to get more for his income : he could buy by wholesale, getting better articles for somewhat less money : at present, want of skill and deficient appliances prevent the poor from evolving all the nu- triment their food contains, or presenting it in the most palatable form, which a few trained persons cooking for many would remedy. A similar remark applies to firing, and to the cleanliness and ventilation of their abodes. All this, however, is a mere ab- straction, like the advantages of virtue, or water-drinking, or direct taxation; which people assent to in theory, but will
not submit to in practice. There are obstacles too in the way of the poor, which render its practice difficult, apart from the natural feeling of man for liberty. The essence of this kind of cooperation is certainty of resources—that is, punctu- ality of payment—which the habits and often the wants of the poor would militate against : the virtual state of serfdom to which they would be reduced ascripti domo —unless they sacrificed what they could not afford, the capital of their share—would also be a bar. After all, too, cooperation is for individual convenience, or for objects attainable in public : there is nothing private, nothing do- mestic about it. Men may lige their club for eating, gossiping, lounging, or writing notes; but they cannot study there, much less follow a pursuit : families may live in boarding-houses, or in joint- stock societies, at less expense than at home ; but they must in a measure live in public, sacrificing privacy, domesticity, and inde- pendence. It is the principle of the old fable of the fat dog and the lean wolf.
In these observations we wish not to be understood as denying the possibility of a temporary success to some cooperative society under favourable circumstances. With picked persons, (already earning, by the by, 70/. a year and upwards,) the assistance of land and money to start with, and zealous amateur superintendence, we dare say they would get on well enough till time and untoward accidents shook the unsound structure. We are speaking not of exceptions, but of generals, applicable to the mass of society.
But still less would we in the slightest degree be understood to deny the benefit of affluent individuals assisting individuals in need or difficulty. In every thing submitted to the economist, the states- man, or the legislator, their decision should be grounded on laws which, seated in the nature of things, are coexistent with human society so far as human experience extends. In their public capacity, they are bound to reject schemes, however well-meaning and taking, which not only cannot produce good but actually cause evil, by buoying men up with false hopes and diverting their attention from better remedies. In their individual capacities, however, neither economists nor legislatures nor statesmen are justified in dis- regarding moral duties, on the plea of the laws of political eco- nomy. The manner in which any single landlord conducts him- self may have no appreciable influence upon the national wealth, or the state of the masses in general ; but he is not to evade his duties as a man on the miser's plea of his want of power to alleviate the general misery- " As be cannot give to all,
He never gives to any."
He is bound to his tenants and his peasantry, both as a landlord and a man—bound to assist them with his advice and example, and where the case requires it, with his purse. So it is with other individuals in their respective spheres. To throw their incomes, or the produce of their incomes, into a joint-stock, would be of' no general benefit to the people ; no more would an interference with their expenditure. But it does not therefore follow that they may not adopt a mode of expenditure that shall produce better limited, results than some other mode ; still less that they ahould not "shake their superflux" to that distress or that misery of which
they are cognizant. To try to raise the condition of a whole class by eleemosynary assistance, Or more equal distributions of existing wealth, is a dream : to assist the struggling at a critical time—to relieve, if only temporarily, an urgent distress—is a reality however humble.