26 AUGUST 1899, Page 15



SIR,--I often read with interest the thoughtful articles on various subjects which appear in the Spectator. There is in your latest issue a criticism of Mr. Chaplin's suggestion to re- impose the shilling duty on grain as a means of contribution to the sum required for providing old-age pensions, and the article embodying it contains a passage which tempts me to a word of comment. The passage in question begins with an impu- tation of noisiness upon those among the Unionists who are Protectionists, which, by the way, seems ill-timed, because in the recent past that section of the party have shown little disposition to obtrude their views, and it proceeds to lay down that the Free-traders among the Unionists " would view with the utmost indignation and alarm any imposition of a tax, however small, on the food of the people." I may perhaps be unjustified in assuming that the food of the people includes everything which the people consume, but if not the proposition alluded to becomes very significant from being put forward in close relation to the subject of old-age pensions, with which official utterances indicate that the existing Unionist Government propose to deal. A scheme for the granting of old-age pensions unaccompanied by a covering tax, the weight of which will fall to a large extent upon the class to be benefited, involves neither more nor less than a re- distribution of wealth under legislative sanction, or in other words the undiluted triumph of Socialism. It may, or may not, be expedient to apply the Socialistic principle to the Government of this country ; but ought not those who think it should be so applied once and for all to unfurl the banner of Socialism, and cease to affect any regard for the tenets of political economy ?—I am, Sir, &c., EBURY.

Moor Park, Rickmansworth, Au just 21st.