6 AUGUST 1921, Page 18


Timm is a famous type of very clever man with whom ordinary people can never be on real terms of understanding because this very clever man, though his writing is brilliant, his imagination keen, his energy furious and his logic—temporarily, at all events—perfect, deals all the time in unreality. The ordinary people could not exactly prove the unreality—they are unequipped for the purpose—but they feel it by instinct. Of men of this type Mr. H. G. Wells is the most prominent. If the capacities and temperaments of whole populations were, or might become, what Mr. Wells assumes them to be or to be capable of becoming, then there would be nothing left to do but to declare that nobody was ever more right than Mr. Wells and to carry out his programme with all possible speed. Unfortunately, as we, cannot grant his premises, the whole airy fabric crashes. We experience just the same difficulty when we are considering the schemes of Socialists whose future State depends, for example, upon the belief that it is possible and natural to divide the population of a country into producers • The Salvaging of civitization. By II. 0. Was. London : Caw& ed. net.]

and consumers, as though every producer were not also a consumer.

In the book before us, several• chapters of which were originally written to be delivered as lectures in America but by a mis- fortune were not delivered, Mr. Wells develops his plan for , the management of world-affairs. We agree with his implication

that the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant embody a devastating contradiction. On the one hand the

Treaty recognizes the principle of self-determination, which encourages numerous new States to develop their nationality, and on the other hand it recognizes internationalism, inasmuch as it lops off something from the sovereignty of all States, including those which were created by the Treaty. Mr. Wells's logic forces him to conclude that the only way out of the diffi- culty is to readjust the balance between the two principles of nationalism and internationalism and to make the supreme world-authority something so powerful that its decrees cannot possibly be challenged. So far as we remember he used to be a believer in the League of Nations, but he has now thrown it over. He wants something absolute, a body which shall be the keeper of all national consciences and the ruler of the lives of all nations. With a great deal of the argument that leads up to this conclusion men of temperate thought and goodwill must thoroughly agree. He describes in several brilliant pages the newness and unexpectedness of modern war. War between Great Powers has become as ludicrous as it is horrible, because it can lead to no decision. Some of the belligerents may nominally be the winners, but there will be very little satisfaction in that ; if some will be annihilated, others who "win" and survive will be ruined. The question for sane people is whether they mean to go on making preparations on a colossal scale for such a mad result. Do they mean to accept bankruptcy in the present—a certain outcome of the colossal preparations—in order to be quite ready to be ruined at some future date ? We say, therefore, that something must be done, something very positive and determined, if civilization is to be salved.

In these circumstances, surely the safest and most sensible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that men and women will remain for a long time very much as they are now, and that whatever changes may come will be slow. If some day there is the vast change of heart, or the tremendous advance in the world's standard of education, which Mr. Wells predicates, then the machinery can be adapted to the new conditions. But for Heaven's sake do not let us have machinery set up upon an utterly insecure foundation. It is useless to design our plant as though the foundations were concrete when the man in the street knows perfectly well that they are only rubble and sand.

In incidental respects, too, Mr. Wells's argument is opposed to the feelings and instincts of plain people. It is widely, almost universally, felt in this country that the co-operation of the English-speaking races is the proper starting-point of a feasible internationalism. It is so because the English-speaking races are alike in temperament and because their varying polities are all set upon the same historic base of the English Common Law which is but an adumbration of the public law of the world which we hope in time to produce. Mr. Wells, however, says :—

" The idea that the government of the United States can take its place side by side with the governments of the old world on terms of equality with those governments in order to organize the peace of the world is, I believe, a mistaken and unworkable idea. I shall argue that the government of the United States and the community of the United States are things different politically and mentally from those of the states of the old world, and that the role they are destined to play in the development of a world state of mankind is essentially a distinctive one."

According to the distinction which Mr. Wells draws between the old world and the new world, Britain would apparently have a better chance than America has of understanding the nations of continental Europe. But has she ? The experience of the past two years shows that there is little fundamental understanding between France and Britain. Whereas, though it may not go very deep, the friendship between France and America has at least become - a thing of tradition and dates back to the Rench Re-volution and the wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It might be shortly described as the Lafayette and Rochambeau tradition. The facts that Europe is split up into numerous compartments each of them, as it were, fenced round by barbed wire, thus making the

exchange of popular ideas very difficult, and that America is a huge self-containing world in herself where there is no impedi. ment to free circulation, are hit off by Mr. Wells with extra-

ordinary terseness and power, but they are not specially relevant.

Now for Mr. Wells's ambitious scheme :-

" Let us try to imagine what a World Government would bo like. I fad that when one speaks of a World State people think at once of some existing government and magnify it to world proportions. They ask, for example, where will the World Congress meet ; and how will you elect your World President '? Won't your World Presidont, they say, be rather a tremendous personage P How are wo to choose him ? Or will there be a World King ? These are very natural questions, at the first onset. But are they sound questions ? May they not bo a

little affected by false analogies The governing of the whole of the world may turn out to be note magnified version of governing a part of the world, but a different sort of job altogether. These analogies that people draw so readily from national states may not really work in a World State. And first with regard to this question of a king or president. Let us ask whether it in probable that the World State will have any single personal head at all ? Is the World State likely to be a monarchy—either an elective short term limited monarchy such as is the United States, or an inherited limited monarchy like the British Empire ? Many people will say, you must have a head of the state. But must you ? Is not this idea a legacy from the days when states wore small communities needing a loader in war and diplomacy ? In the World State we must remember there will be no war— and no diplomacy as such. • • s • •

But if there is to be no single head person, there must be at least some sort of assembly or council. That scorns to bo necessary. But will it be a gathering at all like -Congress or the British Parliament, with a Government side and an Opposi- tion ruled by party traditions and party ideas ? There again, I think we may be too easily misled by existing but temporary conditions. I do not think it is necessary to assume that the council of the World State will be an assembly of party politi- cians. I believe it will be possible to have it a real gathering of representatives, a fair sample of the thought and will of man- kind at large, and to avoid a party development by a more scientific method of voting than the barbaric devices used for electing representatives to Congress or the British Parlia- ment, devices that play directly into the hands of the party organizer who trades upon tho defects of political method. Will this council be directly elected 7 That, I think, may be found to be essential. And upon a very broad franchise? Because, firstly, it is before all things important that every adult in the world should feel a direct and personal contact between himself and the World State, and that he is an assenting and participating citizen of the world ; and secondly, because if your council is appointed by any intermediate body, all sorts of local and national considerations, essential in the business of the subordinate body, will get in the way of a simple and direct regard for the world commonweal. And as to this council : Will it have great debates and wonderful scenes and crises and so forth—the sort of thing that looks well in a large historical painting ? There again we may be easily misled by analogy. One consideration that bars the way to anything of that sort is that its members will have no common language which they will be all able to speak with the facility necessary for eloquence. Eloquence is far more adapted to the conditions of a Red Indian pow-wow than to the ordering of large and complicated affairs. The World Council may be a very taciturn assembly. It may even meet infrequently. Its members may communicate their views largely by notes which may have to bo very clear and explicit, because they will have to stand translation, and short —to escape neglect. And what will be the chief organs and organizations and works and methods with which this Council of the World State will be concerned ? There will be a Supremo Court determining not International Law, but World Law. There will be a growing Code of World Law. There will be a world currency. There will be a ministry of posts, transport and communications generally. There will be a ministry of trade in staple products and for the conservation 'and develop- ment of the natural resources of the earth. There will be a ministry of social and labour conditions. There will be a ministry of world health. There will be a ministry, the most important ministry of all, watching and supplementing national educational work and taking up the care and stimulation of backward communities. And instead of a War Office and Naval and Military departments, there will be a Peace Ministry studying the belligerent possibilities of every now invention, watching for armed disturbances everywhere, and having complete" control of every armed force that remains in the world. All these world ministries will be working in co-operation with local authorities who will apply world-wide general principle's to local conditions."

The latter part of Mr. Wells's book deals with the kind of education which will fit people to run the world in the manner

he describes. His proposals for producing what he calls a " Modern Bible " and for imposing an identical education all over the civilized world make a deeply interesting essay. Wo

should have liked it better if it had been presented on its own merits and were not an indispensable preliminary to the erection of Mr. Wells's Super-State.

How long really should we have to wait for a solid foundation

for that State ? Yet the world cannot wait for its new . way of life. Let us accept Mr. Wells for the inspiration he .can often give, but not for precise guidance. Much the most promising plan, as things are, is to allow the nations to retain their nationality—they would not give it up anyhow—and persuade them in the exercise of their full sovereignty to agree to respect, or rather to exalt, the absolute sanctity of treaties. Let it be necessary to give an agreed period of notice before denouncing a treaty. Let every nation which breaks the rules be outlawed. Confidence will then be created. Finance Ministers before long will be vying with one another to reduce their expenses as the danger of war diminishes.