STRATEGY OF REFORM
considering the design, either of a mechanism or of an undertaking,
it is first of all necessary to have a specific and well-defined
objective, and, after that, a knowledge not only of the methods
by which that objective can be obtained, but also of the nature
and treatment of the forces which will be involved, the materials
available, and their reaction to those forces.
decision of objectives is the domain of policy. The
decision of methods is technics, and the carrying out of those
methods is technique. With the latter two the general public
can have nothing to do, and therefore the submission of detailed
schemes to the consideration of the public is a mistake where
it is possible to avoid that course. It is a sound proceeding
to submit a proposal to make a railway between A and B to the
public as such; but to submit the engineering details of construction
to the same general criticism would be absurd.
have seen in the preceding pages that there is a definite policy
in operation in the world at the present time, and that policy
is being supported from sources which seem superficially antagonistic.
This policy, for want of a better term, can be described as
the "Moral" or Classical policy; its mechanism is the mechanism
of rewards and punishments; and its inevitable corollary is
limitatation - inhibition.
of this policy in the abstract is beside the point; while natural,
it is an attitude of mind not very dangerous to the system criticised.
The point on which it is necessary to concentrate is that, whether
or not this system has been the best method by which humanity
could be brought to the point which it has now reached, a state
of affairs has arisen out of it which is not merely intolerable
in the abstract, but which in fact the modern man and woman
will not tolerate. A policy which the majority of individuals
concerned will not tolerate is a bad policy from a practical
point of view. If it be objected that there is, in fact, no
other policy operative in the world to-day, the only short answer
which can be made is "Look at the world today"
classical ideal is an imposed ideal. It is authoritarian, However
hopeless at the moment may seem the alternative, there will,
I believe, be nothing but strife and distress in the world until
an imposed policy is replaced by an agreed policy.
has already been suggested that the chief aim of persons who
may be regarded as executives of the Classical Policy is to
avoid as far as possible any discussion on the policy itself
and to direct public attention to a profitless wrangle in regard
to methods. In Great Britain, Conservatives advocate the raising
of prices by means of tariffs; Liberals advocate the lowering
of purchasing-power by means of increased Death Duties and Insurance
Schemes; Labour, the strangulation of individual initiative
by means of nationalisation or a Capital Levy. The choice offered
to the free and enlightened elector is between being hanged,
boiled in oil, or being shot. In the United States every effort
is made to rivet the attention of the public on tariffs or Prohibition,
while crisis succeeds crisis, and the mortgagee grips the land
with ever greater tenacity.
this world it is action which counts. The only sense in which
the phrase "Right is stronger than Might" is anything but pernicious
nonsense is that, in the last event, might depends on the actions
of individuals, and if it is possible to affect the actions
of individuals by something which we call "Right," "Might" and
"Right" may eventually be found on the same side.
we never get mass action out of altruism. Altruism is an occasional
characteristic of individuals, never of mobs. It is part of
the miasma of propaganda with which the world is flooded at
the present time to pretend that such mass action as the entrance
of Great Britain or America or France or any other nation into
the Great War proceeded from altruistic motives. It is perhaps
hardly necessary to stress the point that this was not so, but
it is not without practical use to consider the methods by which
mass action was attained.
over the causes which induced, for instance, Great Britain as
a nation to declare war against Germany, because very few persons
would accuse nations of altruism, the first result of that declaration
was an order to Regular Troops to proceed overseas. No altruism
entered into the obedience to this order; mutiny would have
been punishable by death. It is not unfair to say that the original
means by which this Regular Force was enrolled was by the offer
of a stable economic future, combined with an interesting career.
to the departure of the regular army, volunteers were called
for. Amongst these volunteers were most unquestionably numbers
of people actuated by great devotion to patriotic ideals. But
it would be erroneous and misleading to say that these were
in anything but a small minority. Love of excitement, pressure
of public opinion, hopes of glory and advancement, fear of invasion,
and by no means least, the very attractive financial terms which
were offered, all played their part. The Derby Scheme by which
the population was divided into categories was a remarkable
example of enlisting a majority to coerce successive minorities.
When finally these failed, the residue, by this time reduced
to impotence, were compelled by conscription and by stark threats
of punishment to join those who had been captured by more ingenious
was an exact parallel to this method of procedure in the proposal
put forward in 1922 by the Labour Party, for a Capital Levy
on fortunes over £5000. The minority is first penalised;
and the majority is subsequently to be enslaved in successive
a result of the consideration of the care with which the financial
and legal organisation of the world has been perfected and has
entrenched itself, it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion
that when the milder methods, and the ability to manipulate
public opinion, no longer function, the mask will be thrown
aside and stark compulsion will be ruthlessly invoked. That
is already happening in portions of the Middle West of America,
where strikes are indistinguishable from minor military engagements;
and much the same phenomena are observable in Germany. The "castor
oil" methods of the Italian Fascisti were similar. The British
Government representative on the Board of our only aeroplane
company is, by a curious coincidence, the President of the Bankers'
Institute. All this is important in considering the emphasis
to be laid upon such questions as to whether the attainment
of reform by political, that is to say, Parliamentary methods,
or whether some variant of the "Direct Action" principle is
the only possible path to effective change. There need be very
little doubt that the forces of the State could all be applied
to enforce a Capital Levy or the nationalisation of mines. Would
those forces function to enforce a modification of the powers
of banks and the methods by which the credit system is operated?
The derisory results obtained in regard to the very modest efforts
to interfere with the price system during 1917-1918 lead one
to doubt it.
for the moment, however, the comforting assumption that the
will of the people, as expressed by their votes, must prevail,
there is no doubt that the defeat of the power of political
caucuses to draw up the agenda of an election is the immediate
objective. The exact method by which to attain this end is immaterial
so long as it is attained. The invalidation of an election,
if less than 50 per cent of the electorate voted on the issues
submitted to them, would be as good a method as any other. The
recognition of the danger to the Hidden Government which is
contained in some such procedure is no doubt responsible for
the proposal (and in, certain areas, the Law) constituting abstention
from voting a penal offence.
would then be necessary to obtain a straight vote on major questions
of policy. This does not seem to present insuperable obstacles.
There seems to be no fundamental reason why an election should
not be held on an issue as "Do you want employment, or do you
want goods?" From this point, however, progress would appear
difficult. The power of appointing members of committees - in
short, the power of patronage - is a jealously guarded asset.
Short of holding an interminable series of elections, both on
personnel and terms of reference, it is difficult to see how
any effective check could be exercised over a determined and
organised obstruction and misdirection of public attention such
as is certain to be exercised by the interests attacked.
superficial examination of the situation may be sufficient to
indicate the unsuitability of Parliamentary machinery as an
agency with which to deal with the issues involved. Let us,
therefore, return to the springs of action in individuals. There
is, doubtless, a certain small number of individuals whose interests
are indissolubly wedded to the present economic and social system.
The essence of their attachment to it is the fact that it places
them in positions of enormous, if frequently hidden, power,
and this power, far more than any material reward, is the object
of their concern. These individuals are not amenable to any
argument other than force majeure.
it is quite incontestable that the power of money is by far
the greatest power which is wielded by this small minority of
persons. The power to reward and punish, which is the power
that they prize, is almost solely due to the fact that most
people in the world want money, and most people in the world
cannot get it, except eventually by the acquiescence of those
in executive control of the Financial System. By this power
of money, this small minority can obtain the assistance of the
majority, and thus retain the determinant of force.
the situation as a whole, therefore, it seems indisputable that
sooner or later this monopoly of money power has to be attacked;
that for reasons already explained, it is not being attacked
now, and that taxation, so far from attacking it, enormously
strengthens and consolidates its power; that until it is attacked,
and successfully attacked, it can, by bribes under various disguises,
always retain a majority. By the aid of this majority it can
defeat an antagonistic minority, quite irrespective of whether
that minority is "right" or otherwise, and the only method by
which the minority can ensure that right is might, is by obtaining
the control of those inducements which do, in fact, ensure mass
action. This means, I think, that if we regard the distribution
of money power to all individuals, in opposition in the present
tendency to concentrate it in group-organisations, as the first
aim of economic freedom, we are driven to a somewhat hackneyed
conclusion - that the means and the end are in this case identical.
We can only defeat money power with money power.