2 SEPTEMBER 1882, Page 15


MR. MALLOCK ON SOCIAL EQUALITY.* MR. MALLocit's book is too ambitious, as well in its title as in its style. So far as the science of which he announces himself as the unfolder is a "missing science," it is so, if we appre- ciate his book lightly, only as the science of nerve fluids is a missing science,—i.e., because there is no such science at all. What is true in this book is not missing at all, but very old; and what is new in it, is missing only because it is erroneous. Mr. Mallook makes a parade in his essay of a scientific method for which there is no adequate result ; and so far as he is on the right track, is only arguing again what all men of any ability have argued a hundred times before, in discussing the principles of Communism. Moreover, Mr. Mallock confounds en- tirely the Communistic doctrines of the Continental Democrats with the totally different doctrines of the English Radicals, and makes the latter responsible for all the nonsense talked by the former. As a matter of fact, the main conclusions of Mr.

Mallock's essay, which are very true and very old conclusions, are perfectly consistent with the doctrines of the great bulk of English Radicals ; and we are quite sure that they are not only consistent with Mr. Bright's views, but identical with what he has often urged. Yet Mr. Mallock gives an adventitious im• portance to his essay, by representing its main principle as totally inconsistent with Mr. Bright's announced doctrine :—

" I have observed already that the equality of modern democracy is essentially a material equality,—an equal sharing in the fruits of existing material civilisation, or, in other words, of the world's exist- ing wealth. It is plain, therefore, that the democratic premiss is essentially some proposition about wealth. It is a proposition, in fact, about the cause of the distribution of it, and it declares this to be laws and forms of government. Now, one thing is plain. Whether or no laws and forms of government aro the cause of the distribution of wealth, they are certainly not the cause of the production of it. The democratic premies, therefore, is virtually a statement that the cause of the production of wealth is distinct from, and independent of, the cause of the distribution of it. This necessarily presupposes some doctrine already arrived at, as to what the cause of production i5; and that doctrine must be the generalisation from which the democratic premiss is deduced. Now that doctrine we arrive at in two ways; not only from the logical necessities of the case, but from the explicit and formal statements of the democratic thinkers them- selves. It is the doctrine so often proclaimed, and so little under- stood or examined, that the cause of all wealth is labour. Thus the Gotha Programme of the German Labour Party—an acknowledged epitome of the most serious democratic thought on the Continent— begins with the following sentence Labour is the source of all wealth and all culture ; and as productive labour generally is only possible through society, hence the aggregate product of labour be- longs to all the members of society, each member having a right to an equal share, in accordance with his reasonable wants, and each sharing equally the universal duty of work.' And precisely the same principles, though stated in a less formal way, are at the root also of our modern English Radicalism. Mr. Bright, for instance, iu ad- dressing an audience of working-men, introduced, amidst loud cheers, this o lowing significant sentences Just now,' he said, 'as I was magnificent my. way to this place to speak to you, I watched in the street a ago'. cent carriage pass me, and in that carriage were two plendally.dressed ladies. Who made that carriage ?—You did. Who made those splendid dresses P—You did. Have your wives any kind carriages to drive in ? Do your wives ever wear clothes of that I watched that carriage farther, and I saw whore it stopped. It stopped t pped before a stately house, with an imposing portico. Who built that house P—You did. Do you and your wives live iu any such houses as that ?'" Now, no one who knows English politics at all can imagine any assertion more absurd than that Mr. Bright,—or, for that matter, any notable English Radical,—advocates an equal shar- ing by all in the world's existing woalth. Mr. Bright knows as

well as Mr. Mallock knows, that, human nature being what it is, such an arrangement as should attempt to bring about an equal distribution of the existing wealth amongst the whole people would, so far as it succeeded, lead to the waste of the wealth there is, but would certainly not succeed far, because it is totally opposed to those primitive instincts in which the origin of private property is rooted. Mr. Mallock does not tell us from what speech of Mr. Bright's the quotation given above is taken,

but we venture to assert that if he had done so, we should, by simply quoting the context, have been able at once to show that Mr. Bright, far from pleading for an equal distribution of the existing wealth, was either only pleading for a removal of some of those artificial restrictions on the natural distribution of wealth which cause the inequalities between the wealth of different classes to be much greater than the ordinary laws of human desire and human capacity make them ; or else was pleading for the grant of greater political privileges to the working-classes, on the ground that their co-operation is absolutely necessary to the production of the wealth of the rich. For whichever of these two modifications of the then existing laws Mr. Bright was pleading, he certainly was not pleading for an enforced equality of material wealth as amongst the different members of any society. We know of no English Radical of any weight in the political world who holds such views, and we are quite sure that there is no politician in England to whom they would appear more absurd and impossible• than to Mr. Bright. What Mr. Bright does hold, Mr. Mallock himself, at a later period of his essay, admits to be, on his own principles, quite tenable, whether or not he admits it to be right and wise :- " Wo have now considered the world's material civilisation under each of its throe aspects, its rise, its progress, and its maintenance ; and in each case we have found the cause of it to be either the desire for, or else the pressure of, inequality. In the absence of this cause, civilisation has been also absent; with the decline of it, civilisation has declined. With regard, then, to the future, the deduction is in- evitable. Any social changes that tend to abolish inequalities will tend also to destroy or to diminish our civilisation. This statement, however, must be taken with certain limitations, or it may else be easily distorted by a perverse or a slovenly thinker. Although, where there are no inequalities, there will be no civilised production, and where there are inequalities there will be civilised production, it is by no means meant that production always increases in exact pro- portion to the magnitude of the inequalities, or that it need always be diminished in exact proportion to the diminution of them. Thus, under the old regime in France, as the inequalities became greater, it is notorious that production became less; and conversely, in the same country, as the inequalities have become less, the production has become greater. To any one, however, who has understood the foregoing arguments, this will seem only natural. Inequality influ- ences production not by existing only, but by existing as an object of desire, on the one hand, and as a means of pressure, on the other. Its power over the skilled labourer depends on the chances he has of achieving it ; its power over the unskilled labourer depends on the way in which it can apply pressure to him. Now, in the first case, if inequality be too hard to achieve, its influence, as an object of desire, will be almost as little as if it did not exist at all; and in the second case, if its pressure be too severe, it may cripple labour in the very act of causing it. Its efficiency, therefore, as the cause of civilised production, will increase with its magni- tude only within certain limits. Further, these limits will them- selves vary considerably in different cases. They will ho dif- ferent in England from what they are in Ireland ; they will be different in China from what they are in the United States. They will differ according to the temperament, the political history, and the occupations of each separate people. But these differences will be altogether accidental. Precisely the same prin. ciple will be found to underlie all of them. Inequality, as it in- creases, will in every case increase production, until by its magnitude it begins to cause despair or indifference rather than hope in the skilled labourer; and misery and weakness instead of resolve in tho unskilled. As soon as it increases beyond this point, production will diminish ; as soon as it decreases towards this point again, production again will increase. This latter process, however, is no movement towards the abolition of inequality ; it tends, on the contrary, to set it on its broadest basis, and not to lesson, but merely to distribute the effects of it. It affords, therefore, no exception to the general law we •have arrived at : that any social changes that tend to abolish in- equalities will tend also to destroy or to diminish our civilisation."

We do not say that Mr. Bright would agree with the form iu which Mr. Mallock here lays down his ground-principle. We our- selves should certainly deny that " inequality, as it increases, will in every case increase production, until by its magnitude it begins to cause despair or indifference rather than hope in the skilled labourer," for what seems to the labourers unjust inequality, even though it does not cause " despair or indifference in the skilled labourer," yet unquestionably diverts their produc- tive labour into the channel of agitation against the injustice under which they suffer, and, so far as that happens, instead of stimulating production, it directly diminishes production. But

in the passage we have cited, Mr. Mallock admits that the re- moval of artificial inequalities, even though it does tend to equalise in some partial degree the distribution of wealth, need not diminish, but may increase, the accumulation of wealth ; and as he admits as much as this, he admits all for which Eng- lish Radicals have ever contended. They object, not to the un- equal distribution of wealth, which they know to be the neces- sary result of the institution of private property taken in con- nection with unequal desires and unequal capacities in indi- vidual men, but to needless legal restrictions on the free distribu- tion of wealth, to legal restrictions which render it more difficult for one man to rise and more difficult for another man to fall in the natural competition of life, than by the due operation of natural desires and capacities, it would otherwise be. So far as Mr. Mallock's doctrine is true, it is a common-place to all except the wild theoretical Communists of the Continent ; and Mr. .1. S. Mill, in his " Political Economy," in the section on 'Communism, has put the argument that anything like a coin- pulsorily equal distribution of wealth would extinguish the motive for the accumulation of wealth, quite as strongly and, to our minds, much more clearly, than Mr. Mallock.

On the other hand, Mr. Mallock, in his rather pretentious statement of the drift of his " missing science,' seems to us to have wandered from the truth. He speaks repeatedly of " the desire for inequality," as the motive power of civilisation, and makes a great parade of proving that this is the motive-power, and yet he appears to understand by " the desire for inequality " the desire for more wealth than before. For instance, he says, on p. 235 :—" If human nature were ever really capable of being motived to skilled production by anything but the desire for inequality, no social arrangements could tend so strongly as ours do to bring that capacity to the surface." And he uses the same -phrase throughout the book, always speaking as if " the desire for inequality " meant the same as the desire to better yourself in the world. This is a very odd and very inaccurate form of speech. Mr. Mallock is aware, we suppose, that the whole labouring class might, and often do, desire to better themselves at once, at the expense of the Capitalists,—and make more or less successful attempts to do so. In other words, the great class of labourers demand and try to get a larger proportion of the products of their labour, ns the reward of that labour, than they had before, and to leave a less proportion of those products to the capitalists as their profits. Indeed, whenever there is a general rise in the real wages of any district or country, this is what happens,—the labourers get a larger share of the products of their labour, and the capitalists retain a smaller share as their profits, i.e., as the reward of their foresight in direct- ing the labour, and of the advance of capital they have made in order to set the enterprise going. Well, whenever that happens, how is it possible to speak of it as a result of "the desire for inequality P" There is no new inequality between the wages of the different labourers, if all wages rise in about equal proportion. There is less inequality than before as between the reward of the capitalists and the reward of the labourers, for the capitalists, who got more, get less, and the labourers, who got less, get more. How, then, can this be described as in any sense the extension of inequality, or as the result of a desire for inequality P On the contrary, if it be described in terms of equality or inequality at all,—which is a very incorrect descrip- tion of it,—it is better described as proceeding from a desire for equality than from a desire for inequality. It does notin the least follow that because a man desires to enjoy a larger reward for his labour than before, he desires inequality. On the contrary, he may desire—and, in the case of Trades' Union strikes, usually does desire—just as much equality as ever in relation to his fellow-workmen, and more equality than ever in relation to the relative reward of his own labour and of his employer's advance of capital and enterprise. Mr. Mallock is so anxious to prove that inequality is a good, that he confuses two totally different things,—the necessary condition of all civilisation that unequal powers and unequal desires shall be at liberty to earn unequal rewards ; and the very different thing, that the express object of desire, when a man wishes for a higher reward, is a greater inequality of position as between himself and his brother workmen. It is perfectly true that if you are to have a progres- sive civilisation, you must give play to progressive desire ; you must not artificially prevent a man of larger desires and larger capacities from earning more than men of less desires and less capacities. But it does not in the least follow that what a man who is working himself upwards in life is eager for, is inequality. Sometimes, the ambitious man is ambitious for his whole class, and not for himself alone. When that is the case, far from desiring more inequality, he desires more equality,—the same equality as before as regards his fellow-workmen, and more equality as regards his master. But even the man who wishes to rise from one class of citizens to a higher class, must be said rather to desire equality with the higher class, than inequality with that to which he now belongs. It is true that the one implies the other ; but still, the object of ambition to him is usually not to spring up above his equals, but to be equal to his superiors. It disguises• the real facts of the case, instead of elucidating them, to represent the inequali- ties of society as themselves the object of desire. The inequali- ties of society are the conditions of that variety of wealth and position which generates social ambitions, but they are, in hardly any case, themselves the objects of desire. In his zeal to discover a " missing science " which shall lay deep the founda- tions of Conservatism, Mr. Mallock has only found again what every good writer on Communism has found before, but has found it in a form of words and a network of thought which we can only describe as constituting a very prettily constructed psychological mare's-nest.