[Mr. R. Seebohm Rowntree, who contributes the following article, is
the Chairman of Rowntree & td., and is well known for his social and political work. He is Co.,ihe author of several books on " Industrial Peace."] ViTHAT is modern industry ? Cynics may call it a mere V I battle-field. But they fail to realize that the ultimate basis of all our industrial life is not conflict but ce-operation. But for an infinite amount of faithful co-operation, not only between man and man, but between country and country too, we could not be sure of so much as a loaf of bread for breakfast, and such luxuries as tea and sugar would be utterly out of the question. To say—and I have heard it said—that trade and com- merce are built•up by competition is-very much like saying that a city is built up by earthquake shocks. An earth- quake shock may, indeed, warn men to build better ; and, similarly, competition may sharpen the wits of in- dustry and make it more efficient. But in itself, com- petition is merely negative, if not destructive. It is, at best, a vacuum-cleaner, which can free the room from dust, but not furnish it—while co-operation is the life-blood of industry, as industry is the life-blood of the race.
Industry is a great co-operative enterprise, dedicated to the service of humanity, in which each man must con- sider not only his personal interests, but the welfare of all. And the more inclusive, the more far-reaching is industrial co-operation, the more it tends to follow distinctively Christian lines, since the only boundaries to mutual service which Jesus Christ laid down were the . Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
This conception of industry leads us to formulate certain industrial aims which should never be forgotten. I suggest that- 1. Industry should create goods or provide services of such a kind and in such measure as may be beneficial to humanity.
2. In the process of wealth production, industry should pay the greatest possible regard to the general welfare of humanity and pursue no policy detri- mental to it.
8. Industry should distribute the wealth produced in the manner that will best serve the highest ends of humanity.
It may be argued that this statement of industry's aims is purely idealistic, and cannot be taken into account by practical business men. If this were true, our present industrial system would stand completely condenined, but I think that it is leavened, evens now,' by more idealism than we realize.
To-day, however, industry has much to learn from politics. Our legislation is judged by 'all public-spirited citizens from the standpoint of the community as a whole. Moreover, the spirit of narrow nationalism is gradually giving way to the international spirit, and a practical belief in the brotherhood of man has become a real political factor. But our industrial thinking lags behind, and it is really high time to make up what I may call our ethical leeway. No nation can rise to real and abiding greatness unless all its foundations are 'true, Now, since it is obvious that the employer, the industrial captain, should take the lead in any progressive move- ment, what is required of him by the conception of industry set out above ?
I will pass over as self-evident the first proposition, namely, that the goods he is producing or the services he is rendering should contribute to human well-being, and not to human degradation, for I want to consider more especially his relation to the workers he employs. They and their families constitute- fourAfths of the com- munity : and the average standard of living among them is still undesirably low. It should be one of the employer's first aims to raise that standard, and no pressure from Trade Unions Should be needed in this respect. Next, he himself should strike the real key-note of the business --co-operation. He must do .his utmost to create a sense of comradeship that dispels, on the one: hand, patronage, and on the other, servility, suspicion and rancour, for only when we have banished these enemies within the gate can industry, come to her own. But the employer who is in- earnest will soon find that before mutual good will can be completely established, certain conditions must be altered. I have already referred to his responsibility as regards raising the workers' standard of life. That is fundamental. Until they feel that he is in earnest in this, no true co-operation between them and himself is possible. Next, the dark shadow of unemployment and economic insecurity must be lifted from their lives. It is true that no individual employer can completely and finally exorcise that spectre, but he can, and must, spare no effort within his proper sphere. It is not enough to refrain from using the fear of unemployment as a. kind of thumbscrew in order to extort from the _workers prompt and entire submission to arbitrary .demands, We must so order industry :that the thought of unemployment. loses its terror, for, the willing and capable worker.
But the conception. of human service as the true end of industry_ will have other reactions. The employer who holds it will do his utmost to raise the status of the worker. When, even unconsciously, a man adopts an ideal that is essentially Christian, he can no longer treat human beings as tools. Rather, he will regard them as intelli- gent fellow-workers, and give them real, insight into the aims of the business and the difficulties against which he has to contend, and a real share in determining at least their own working conditions. If he desires the co- operation of the workers, he must treat them as co- operators.
If I have so far spoken only of the duties of employers, it is because the initiative must come from them, but once that is taken, an equal responsibility for placing communal service before selfish interests rests on workers, capitalists and employers alike.
I have only space to touch very briefly on other aspects of industry. Referring to my third postulate, I believe that society as a whole is definitely moving, albeit slowly, in the direction of a distribution of wealth in which legitimate human needs shall take precedence of mere economic strength. But there remains a peculiarly difficult problem. What is the duty of the would-be Christian business man towards his competitors ? Is he to develop his business as widely and rapidly as he can, knowing that by so doing he may crush out less efficient men, or men commanding less capital ? When I state my answer that, speaking generally, his first duty to the community and to the workers who are dependent on him for a livelihood is to spare no effort to raise the efficiency of his business, I speak with certain reservations. First, he must " fight fair." He must use no weapon which he would legitimately resent if it were used against himself, and he must show to his competitors all the consideration which he himself could honourably desire from them, if he were weak and they were strong.. Personally, I believe that competition in one form or another will always be necessary to mankind, but I believe that, as time goes on, certain basic human rights will be placed beyond its purview. Meanwhile, the , business man must never be content with merely doing his best for those more immedi- ately connected with -him, and making his own busiasas more and more efficient. He must realize that the whole industrial body is one, and he must strive towards a con- dition of things in which no human being who is honest, industrious and capable, .whether. he be employer or worker, shall be denied the opportunity to earn a proper livelihood from industry.
Finally, those who wish to apply Christian ethics to industry must not .falter because in sonic directions the right path is hard to find. There are already wide areas in which the path of progress is clear and unmistakable, and if we followed it we should see from its vantage- ground the next stage of the journey. Systems are but the means which we adopt to carry out our aims ; and Christ came to consecrate the aims of men.
[This is the concluding article of this second series. Previous articles have been " The Modern Outlook in Theology," by the Bishop of Gloucester ; " The Modern Attitude to the Bible," by Canon Vernon Starr, of Westminster ; " Providence and Free Will," by Rev. F. H. Brabant ; " Christianity and the Beyond," by Dr. Edwyn Bevan ; " The Wondrous Fellowship," by Mr. Algar Thorold ; The Mystery of Suffering," by Rev. Dr. Maltby ; " Faith and Works," by Dr. Rudolf Otto, translated by Professor John W. Harvey ; " Personal Immortality," by Dr. Albert Peel ; " The Interior Life," by the Bishop of Southampton ; " The Nature of Prayer,". by Dr. A. H. MoNeile ; " Why go to Church ? " by Dr. H. L. Goudge ; " What Mysticism Is," by Abbot Butler ; and " Silent Worship," by Professor Rufus Jones.]