[To THE EDITOR 01 THE " SPECS/21'01.n Slit,•-•Miss Violet Markham's
letter in your issue of August 26th appeals to our literary instincts, but in my opinion it indulges in too many vague generalizations. I would ask Miss Markham, Was there ever a time in our history when those with a little money have had more sympathy with those with a little less P Was there ever a time when society as a whole was more perturbed with the hard conditions of living of those who have to face life on small wages, long hours, and lack of employment P Why, Sir, our hearts are wrung with compassion day and night at the thought and sight of so much suffering, and the more so because we can think out no practical remedy, beyond the remedy of the slow, orderly development along our present lines. Was there ever a time when cultured men with independent means, without pay or hope of reward, gave up more of their time to public work P Was ever more money spent through life and left after death to objects which it is thought might bring some relief P Have ever local bodies and their inspectors striven more strenuously to improve housing and sanitary conditions P Was there ever a stricter attend- ance at schools insisted upon P Was there ever a wider spread of our best literature in cheap, excellent editions ? Was there ever a time when the Churches were so active in spreading the glad tidings of peace on earth and goodwill to men? You have touched the spot, Sir, when you wrote, it is wages, wages, wages. The workers in the towns have obtained their commodities cheaper than they do to-day. But that cheapness has been obtained at the expense of the workers in the country. The prices that our farmers obtain to-day with hard work and knowledge are just enabling them to live carefully, and is yielding a small interest on the capital invested. If the present prices were' permanently to lower ten and fifteen per cent., dark days and confusion would again be upon us, and the Small Holder movement would be stamped out of existence. From a careful study of agricultural world-wide conditions, I do not think that prices will sink permanently lower; I think rather that the facts at our com- mand suggest that prices will tend gradually to rise higher. It therefore seems fairly certain that everywhere wages will rise, hours of labour lessen, railway freights and fares and cost of living will rise, and that taxation, already very high, will rise still higher. All of which means, of course, that the cost of production will increase. With an open mind as regards our fiscal policy, I am now asking myself the question : " How under this increased cost of production can our trading community hold its own against the productive markets of the world ? I am given to understand that it is only by cutting down all expenses to the lowest point, and doing a large turnover at the smallest profit on each article, that we are now holding our own in our home and export trade. Raise the cost of production and then what is the result? Again you have touched the spot when you say, "Increase capital, and you raise the price of labour. The more capital increases the greater will be the de- mand for labour, and the greater the demand for labour the higher will wages rise." It does not require the expenditure of many words and much ink to prove the truth of this obvious economic law. The wage- earning voter, who has little, often says to himself, "Tax heavily those who have more in order that we may be a bit better off." But surely this is a strange fallacy. It is the working man, even more than the Capitalist, who will eventually feel the burden of an overtaxed State. As an illustration take my own case. I am spending practically all the rents that I am receiving from this estate in payment of wages and in the purchase of commodities from the local tradesmen. Supposing an unchecked House of Commons, in the exuberance of its hopes, says, " I require £100 or £200 more taxes from you." Not being a passive resister, I pay, with this result, that if I am to save myself from bankruptcy I have to discharge someone in my employ, or cut down severely my dealings with the local tradesmen, the result being that our district suffers, especially the wage-earning part of our community. Now extend this principle from the individual to the many. You extract by means of taxation several thousands per annum from the agricultural land- owners and capitalists of this district, and that sum, or the majority of it, goes to London or some central area. I take it to be a truism that labour has to follow capital ; so some labour would leave this district for the congested areas, with the result that you still further deplete our country district of population and still further increase that great evil, which is the root of most of our social troubles, "the massing of the population in congested centres." In my opinion one of the remedies to relieve the present state of affairs—but it is only one amidst many—is to force this soil of ours to yield a still more profitable return. To settle more competent people over the country who can make a living out of their work. By means of co-operation after the manner of Denmark to capture for our markets part, if not the
whole, of the £70,000,000 now paid away out of the country for the lesser agricultural industries, and to circulate this money amongst our people in the country towns and villages. It is a difficult and complex undertaking, but we are tackling it. Through many failures and much disappointment we shall gradually accomplish something towards its realization, pro- vided, however, that our work is not upset by national dis- turbances and bitter political enmity.—I am, Sir, &c.,
Rides, Market Drayton.
H. B. M. BUCHANAN.