A REMEDY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
Sm,—The difficulty as regards unemployment in England is not that there are too many people in the country ; there is no reason why 45,000,000 people in England shoUld not live in as great comfort as 35,000,000. We have the necessary natural resources at our disposal, seeing that the British Empire is open to us. The difficulty is one of organization. If we could imagine a single director entrusted with the organization of industry, he would be faced with the questions : What luxuries shall we produce ? Shall it be motor cars for all ? Shall we have a concert hall and an orchestra in every town ; a village hall, well built of brick or stone, in every village ? Shall we have numerous battleships, or an immense number of airplanes ? Shall we provide every house, bunga- low, and cottage with hot water, heat, and electric light ? Shall we build more cathedrals and hospitals ? Perhaps we can do all this, if we work hard. Perhaps it would be best if we only let men work thirty-five hours a week, so that they should not produce too much, and at the same time have plenty of leisure to enjoy the good things we are able to provide for them.
All this may seem fanciful and visionary, but it illustrates the economic possibilities of the situation. In fact, it would seem that all our troubles are due to the fact that we do not produce and consume sufficient luxuries.
The production of luxuries is now the key to pro- sperity. Of course, there is the greatest possible difference between different luxuries, and I use the word in the widest sense, to include everything which is not actually necessary. We cannot be prosperous unless we keep busy. We sometimes read of the construction of Westminster Abbey and Salisbury Cathedral being an indication of the prosperity of England in the thirteenth century. I suggest that the building of cathedrals at this time was not the result of prosperity, but the cause. It was because of men's enterprise in under- taking great buildings that prosperity resulted.
How can we secure the necessary enterprise now ? I suggest that we form a limited liability company to undertake all necessary measures to deal with our present emergency. We must have as directors men of acknowledged integrity and business ability, and it is important that the company should have the support, as far as possible, of statesmen of all parties. Subscription to the shares of this company should be urged upon the whole people as a patriotic duty, much as if it were a subscription to a war loan. It would be a business invest- ment, but it would also be more ; it would be a relief of distress which has deeply moved the country ; and it would be an insurance against increased rates and taxes, against labour troubles, and against Bolshevism.
The choice of enterprises to be undertaken would require most careful consideration. I would suggest that we should begin by operating large stone quarries in various parts of the country. Miners, especially, would soon make excellent quarrymen, and we could be accumulating large stores of good building stone to be used later on in buildings that would remain for centuries as monuments of the enterprise which brought prosper:y to the country in the first half of the twentieth century. Then could we not arrange, by a combination of government and private enterprise, to rebuild many of the worst parts of our cities ? Trade unions need not fear such work ; it would be absolutely an extra, which could not have been undertaken in the ordinary course of things. The work would naturally be spread over a period of twenty years or more, so that no sudden influx of men into the regular building trade need be feared. Moreover, this work would soon bring on a demand for large quantities of goods, from nails to kitchen stoves and all kinds of furniture ; workers in existing trades would be benefited ; they would themselves have more money for houses and furniture, and we should be in the middle of a boom in trade. The company might also undertake some scheme of settlement in the Dominions, under proper management and supervision. But I need not enter further into the merits of particular enter- prises. The point is that enterprise in some form, courageously carried out on a large scale, is the one possible way of relieving the present unemployment, which is a disgrace to the country.