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the time to command the largest number of votes.
As it will not be long in power unless its budgets
are of a popular and cheerful kind, it would be very
impolitic to spend, as great private landowners have
done, vast sums in agricultural experiments which
might not prove financially successful, or in improve-
ments which could bear fruit only in a somewhat
distant future. Yet unless this were done the land
and agriculture of a nation would not prosper but
would rapidly deteriorate. Thus the agents of a
modern democratic Government, or, in other words, of
a party Government w^hich represents merely an un-
stable political majority, cannot but have far too
much interest in immediate returns and far too
little in the permanent amelioration of the soil, to
make good land- administrators.

It is generally recognised by those who have
studied the subject, that were the soil of a country
left entirely to the management of any class of


mere farmers it would soon be, if not ruined,
seriously deteriorated. Hence probably, in the case
of the land being nationalised, it would be found
expedient to allow the occupiers of land under the
State fixity of tenure and judicial rents, or, in other
words, a virtual proprietary right and a monopolistic
privilege. But this state of things would certainly
be neither more just nor more profitable to the general
community, and especially to the labouring classes,
than the system which at present prevails.

It is unnecessary to discuss either the proposal
that the State should restore agricultural village
communities or that it should create agricultural
co-operative associations. In exceptional circum-
stances both the agricultural village community and
the agricultural co-operative society might, perhaps,
be established with good results under the fostering
care and guidance of a sagacious, generous, and
wealthy individual ; but the former has so many
economic defects, and the success of the latter
implies so many favourable contingencies not likely
to be found in conjunction, that no prudent Govern-
ment will feel itself warranted to spend any con-
siderable sum of public money in calling them into
existence. No person in this country, so far as I
am aware, has been so unwise as to contend that the
land should be nationalised with a view to a g-eneral
adoption of either of these forms of rural economy.*

* I fear that in this paragraph I have under-estimated the unwisdom
of the English Land Bestoration League. At least, one of its " Tracts,"
written by a well-known literary exponent of Socialism, J. Morrison
Davidson, concludes as follows : — " Let us pass at once from feudalism
to municipalisation ; vest the site of every town in its Town Council,


Still another method, however, might be adopted,
and it is the one which would unquestionably be
most consistent with the principles of Socialism.
The State miofht take into its own hands the whole
management of the whole land of the country. It
might organise agriculture, as it does the art of war,
by the formation of armies of industry, superintended
and guided by competent officers of labour. Thomas
Carlyle, it will be remembered, recommended that
" the vagrant chaotic Irish "* should be provided
with plenty of spade work, formed into regiments

and of every landward parish in its Parish Council. The land is the
birthright of the people. The Free Land Leaguers are trying to hand
it over to the capitalists. If they succeed in gulling the electors, the
little finger of every new landlord will be thicker than his predecessor's
loins, and a long era of suffering — the capitalist era — as fatal as that
inaugurated by the Norman Conquest, will be the result.

" Nota Bene. — The first man who, having enclosed a plot of ground,
took upon himself to say ' This is mine ! ' and found people silly enough
to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes,
how many wars, how many murders, how much misery would have been
spared the human race, if some one, tearing up the fence and filling in
the ditch, had cried out to his fellows, 'Give no heed to this impostor;
you are lost if you forget that the produce belongs to all, the land to

Mr. Davidson here simply resuscitates the scheme of Spence — one
which, had it been acted upon before the Napoleonic wars, would in-
evitably have issued in Britain becoming a French island. He overlooks
that it is not in any proper sense a scheme for nationalisinr/ land, but for
denationalising a country, dismemhering a nation; and also that land, in
so far as municipalised or parochialised, must also necessarily be, in so
far, "enclosed." He has not deemed it necessary to ask himself whether
the land even of a parish, if without fence or ditch, and the property of
nobody, would produce much for anybody, or anything for all. Very
possibly, however, he is right in thinking that "enclosing a plot of
ground" had a good deal to do with founding civil society; and, unques-
tionably, "tearing up all fences and filling in all ditches" would be a
very effective means of bringing it down. His Nota Bene shows that he
has been unguardedly drinking the wine of Rousseau, which is of a very
intoxicating character.


under " sternly benignant drill-sergeants," and given
suitable pay and rations for their labour. There
are Socialists who generalise the suggestion, and
talk enthusiastically of* organising agriculture and
creating armies of agricultural industry after the
model of our modern military system.

But, however attractively this scheme may be
presented, it is, in reality, one for the introduction
of slavery. The desire for freedom must be extin-
guished before it can be realised. It would degrade
the aericultural labourer from the status of a moral
being. It would impose a tremendous task and
confer a terrible power on the State. It would
enormously increase the temptations to corruption
both of rulers and of ruled in connection with the
appointment of officers of labour. Politically, there-
fore, it would be a retrograde and pernicious
system. And economically, also, it would be faulty
in the extreme. In order to be efficient it would
require to be most expensive, and would conse-
quently involve a constant drain of capital from
manufactures and commerce to agriculture. The
expense of adequately officering an army of agricul-
tural labourers would necessarily far exceed the
expense of ofiicering an army of soldiers, as the
difficulty of effective supervision is vastly greater ;
yet even in the case of the latter the cost of
officering is, I understand, not less than half the
entire cost.

The nationalisation of the land, I may add, would
not answer, but only raise, the question, How is the
nation, as sole proprietor of the land and its produce,


to act in relation to foreign trade. ? It is a difficult
question for the Socialist. If the State engage in
and encouraoce foreig-n trade it will fail to o-et free
of the competition which Socialists denounce, and
must conform its agricultural policy to that of its
competitors. If it set itself against it, it will be
mmble to feed a large population, and must be
content to rule a poor and feeble nation. The land
of Great Britain cannot yield food to half the people
of Great Britain. In order that Britain may retain
her place among the nations, it is absolutely neces-
sary that her vast urban and manufacturing popula-
tion should have cheap food, and therefore that the
cultivators of the land should not receive high prices
for its produce.

The nationalisation of the land, then, is not de-
manded by justice, and would not be a solution of
the social problem. Its nationalisation on socialistic
principles would be contrary to justice and incom-
patible with social prosperity.



The proposal to nationalise the land may seem
sufficiently bold, and it is certainly one which it
would be difficult to carry into practice. Yet it
obviously does not go nearly far enough to satisfy
socialistic demands and expectations. The collec-
tivisation of capital is, from the socialistic point of
view, a far more thorough and consistent scheme.
Those who advocate it propose to do away with all
private property in the means of production. They
would have the State to expropriate the owners not
only of land but of all machines, tools, raw materials,
ships, railways, buildings, stocks, &c. ; and to appi^o-
priate the whole mass of these things for the common
good. They aim at setting aside capitalistic compe-
tition in every sphere, substituting for it corporate
organisation, and dividing the collective products of
all kinds of labour amono- the workmen according- to
the quantity and worth of their work. They do
not seek, indeed, to destroy or dispense with capital ;
but they contend for the abolition of all private
capital, for the transference of all capital from indi-
viduals to the State, which would thus become the
sole capitalist.

This, it will be perceived, is a truly gigantic


scheme. What it contemplates is a tremendous
revolution. It is difficult, indeed, even to imagine
the amount of chano^e in the constitution and
arrangements of society which must follow from
making the State not only the sole landlord, but
also the sole employer of labour, the sole producer
and distributer of commodities, the sole director of
the wills and supplier of the wants of its members.

But must not those who advocate such a scheme
be lacking in ability to distinguish between the
possible and the impossible ? Is the preliminary
objection to it of impracticability not insuperable ?
One can conceive the wealthier classes of the nation,
on pressure of a great necessity, buying out the
landowners and nationalising the land. But to
suppose that the poorer classes may buy up all the
property employed as capital in production, and so
create the CoUectivist State, is inherently absurd.
Those who are without capital cannot acquire by
purchase all the capital of those who possess it, so
as to transfer it from individuals to the community,
unless they are endowed for the occasion with a
power of creation ex nihilo which has hitherto been
denied to human beings. Collectivism, if it is to
start with purchase, or, in other words, with the
honest acquisition of the capital of individuals,
presupposes that a stupendous miracle will be
wrought to bring it into existence.

Some Collectivists fancy that they can parry this
objection by vague discourse to the eftect that
society is passing into the CoUectivist stage by a
natural or necessary process of evolution. They


dwell on such facts as the growth of governmental
intervention, the extension of the public service and
public departments, the absorption of small by large
industries, the increase of co-operative enterprise,
! and the multij)lication of limited liability companies,
• as evidences and phases of a development of indivi-
dual capitals into collective capital. These facts are
plainly, however, nothing of the kind. The associa-
tion of capitals in large industries, in co-operative
societies, in joint-stock companies, is in no case the
slightest step towards rendering them not private
but public, not individual but common. Associated
capitals are not more easily bought up than separate
capitals. While, therefore, history does undoubtedly
show a process of social evolution which obviously
tends to the enlargement of industrial and commercial
enterprise through extension of the association of
resources and energies, such evolution is essentially
different from an evolution towards the realisation
of Collectivism. Of the latter kind of evolution
there are happily no traces yet visible ; nor is there
the least probability that capitalists will ever be so
foolish as to cast themselves into any stream of
evolution which will transfer their property to the
community without compensation.*

* In some respects the proposals of Collectivism are obviously at
variance •with the course of historical development. Says Professor J.
S. Nicholson, " Let any one try to imagine how the business of a great
country is to be carried on without money and prices, how the value to
the society of various species of labom: is to be estimated, and how the
relative utilities of consumable commodities and transient services are to
be calculated, and he will soon discover that the abolition of money would
logically end in the abolition of division of labour. This prospect throws
a strong light on the claims of the Socialists to base their doctrines on


The majority of Collectivists, however, do not
imagine that the State will or can purchase the
property which they desire to see transferred from
individuals to the community. They look to its
being taken without payment. The real leaders of
Collectivism in England — the chiefs of the Social
Democratic Federation — do not attempt to conceal
that this is what is aimed at. They tell us quite
plainly that they are aware that it is most improb-
able that Collectivism will be established otherwise
than by revolution and force ; and at the same time
that they are determined to work for its establish-

I shall say nothing as to the morality of this
resolution. And it is unnecessary to do more than
merely call attention to the short-sightedness and
folly of it. What chance could there be of benefit
resulting from it ? Attempts to realise Collectivism
by force are only likely to lead some unhappy and
misguided men to outbursts of riot as contemptible
as deplorable, and from which they must be them-
selves the chief sufferers. Were such attempts to
become gravely dangerous they would discredit
democracy in the eyes of the majority of the com-
munity and cause them to throw themselves for pro-
tection into the arms of despotism. It would thus

the tendencies of history and the actual processes of evolution, for, as
already shown in detail, the principal characteristic of industrial progress
has been the continuous extension of the use of money. In reality, how-
ever, Socialism is still more vitally opposed to historical development,
since it aims at reversing the broadest principle of progress, the con-
tinuous substitution, namely, of contract for status." (" Principles of
Political Economy," 1893, vol. i. p. 433.)


destroy democracy without establishing Socialism.
To those who would attempt to reach Collect-
ivism throusfh revolution these words of J. S. Mills
are exactly applicable : "It must be acknowledged
that those who would play this game on the strength
of their own private opinion unconfirmed as yet by
any experimental verification — who would forcibly
deprive all who have now a comfortable physical
existence of their only present means of preserving
it, and would brave the frightful bloodshed and
misery that would ensue if the attempt was resisted
— must have a serene confidence in their own
wisdom, on the one hand, and a recklessness of other
people's sufferings on the other, which Bobespierre
and Saint- Just, hitherto the typical instances of these
united attributes, scarcely came up to."

Suppose, however. Collectivism to be established.
Is it probable that it could be maintained ? Is it a
kind of system which would be likely to endure ?
No. Its entire character precludes our reasonably
entertaining the hope. Collectivists have as false a
notion of what social organisation is, or ought to be,
as had their socialist predecessors, Saint-Simon,
Fourier, Owen, and so many others. They conceive
of it not as natural, organic, and free, but as arti-
ficial, mechanical, and compulsory. They would
manipulate and mould society from without into
conformity with an ideal of their own imaginations,
but to the disregard of its inherent forces and laws,
the constitutional tendencies and properties of
human nature.

All notions of this kind are foolish ; all efforts


in this direction can only lead to mischief. Were a
man to take it into his head that his body was
insufficiently organised, that his stomach decided
too much for itself, that his heart took its own way
more than it was entitled to, and that various other
parts of him were irregular and erratic in their
action ; and were he to resolve to put an end to
this state of anarchy and to let none of his organs
act by and for themselves, but to rule them all by
his reason alone, the result would be sure speedily
to prove a disastrous fiilure. If the w^ould-be
reorganiser of himself survived the experiment,
he would be forced to recognise that a larger
wisdom than his own ruled even his own body,
and that to attempt to substitute his own wisdom
for it was folly. But it is precisely this kind of
error which Collectivists make ; and even a far greater
error, inasmuch as a nation is a far more com-
plex and important organism than a single human

Were collectivist organisation tried even for a
week the suffering which would ensue would pain-
fully teach us that self-love has not been so deeply
planted in human nature in vain ; that its benefits
far outnumber and outweigh the evils of selfishness,
its excess and abuse, although these be neither few
nor small ; and that if human reason would do any-
thing in the way of organising society aright it must
be not by disregarding and contravening, but by
studying and conforming itself to the Universal
Reason which accomplishes its great general pur-
poses through the free intelligences, the private


affections, the particular interests, and the personal
motives of individuals.

As has been often indicated, no council of the
wisest men in London, although invested with abso-
lute powers, could feed, clothe, lodge, and employ
the population of that city, were no man allowed to
act without having their authority ; were no com-
petition permitted in buying and selling ; and were
wages and prices prohibited, and some supposed
strictly rational determination of what labour was to
receive and what commodities were to be exchanged
for, adopted instead. The problem involved is of a
kind which cannot be solved by the reasoning and
calculation, the legislation and administration, even
of the wisest and most uncontrolled rulers : it can
only be solved, as it actually is solved, by leaving men
free, each to seek his own interest and to attend to
his own business ; to carry his services or his goods
wdiere the rise of wages or of prices shows that they
are most wanted ; and to withhold them where the
fall of wages or of prices warns him that the market
is overstocked. Even when this method of freedom
and of nature is followed numerous mistakes will
occur, but they will be comparatively slight, and
those of one man will counteract those of another,
while every man's intelligence and energies will be
so stimulated by his interest that the general end
to be attained, gigantic as it is, will be reached,
although few, if any, directly and exclusively strive
for it, and many seek merely their own private
benefit. But let the coUectivist method be tried,
and the risk of mistakes will be immensely increased ;


the provisions which nature has made for their cor-
rection will be prevented from operating ; the
amount of mischief produced by each error will be
vastly multiplied ; and the faculties and activities of
the individuals composing society will be but feebly
brought into exercise.*

It is not only a single city, however, but entire
nations, like Great Britain, which Collectivists
propose to organise on this plan. May we not
safely conclude that what they dream of as organ-
isation would be ruinous disorganisation ? Those
who rule nations when the laws of human nature
are suppressed and set aside, as Collectivism re-
quires, ought to be not mortal men but immortal
gods, or at least beings endowed with altogether
superhuman attributes.

Let us now look at Collectivism in itself It pre-
sents itself as the remedy for a grievous evil. The
evil is that at present very many workmen are
merely workmen, and consequently work under
great disadvantages. The materials on which they
work, the instruments with which they work, and
all the wealth employed as capital in connection
with their work, belong to others. Hence they are
in a dependent and insecure position, have no voice
in the direction of their work, obtain a comparatively
small portion of its products, and are liable to be

* The illustration given above has been often used during the last three
hundred years. No one, however, so far as I know, has presented it so
clearly and fully, or shown in so interesting a way what it implies, as
Archbishop Whately in his " Introductory Lectures on Political Economy,'
Lecture IV.


thrown out of employment and reduced to pauperism
and misery.

But if such be the evil, surely those who would
cure it should make use of measures to lessen
it, and so strive towards ultimately abolishing
it ; in other words, one would expect them to
originate, encourage, and aid all schemes and efforts
which tend to make the labourers capitalists as well
as workmen. Is this what Collectivists do ? Not in
the least ; the very opposite. They propose to cure
the evil by universalising it ; by depriving every
workman of his tools, by leaving him not a bit of
private property or a shilling of capital to be employed
in production, and by giving him, so far as I can per-
ceive, no voice in the direction of his labour except a
vote in the choice of his taskmasters.

In a word, this so-called solution of the social
problem is national slavery. The State becomes sole
proprietor, its oflScials omnipotent, all others abso-
lutely dependent on them, dependent for the very
means of existence, without any powers of re-
sistance to tyranny, without any individual re-
sources, with no right to choose their work or
to choose how to do it, but commanded and ruled
in a wholly military manner. Were the end aimed
at the putting of an effective stop to the singing
of " Britons never shall be slaves," Collectivism
would have to be admitted to be admirably con-
trived ; but as a scheme for removing the evils of
which Collectivists justly enough complain it is
singularly absurd. Its whole tendency is to multiply
and intensify these evils.


Of course, Collectivists protest against the impu-
tation of wishing to introduce slavery. And I do
not impute to them the wish. People often do the
opposite of what they wish. My charge is that if
they establish Collectivism they will introduce
slavery, whether they wish to do it or not. How,
then, do they repel this charge that Collectivism is
slavery, or necessarily implies it ? It is by declar-
ing that they desire only to appropriate the means
and regulate the operations of production, but that
they will leave every one free as regards consump-
tion. Labour and capital must be collective ; but
each individual may spend as he pleases what he
receives as his share of the collective product, pro-
vided always that he does not employ it produc-

And this is supposed to be an answer, and one so
satisfactory that no other need be given. If so,
however, there never has been such a being as a
slave in the world. Slavery is not forced enjoyment
or consumption, but forced labour and production.
Collectivism, therefore, only offers us what avowed
slavery itself cannot withhold.

The reply plainly does not meet the objection so
far as production is concerned. It leaves it intact
to the extent that men as labourers, as producers,
are to be without any freedom of choice or contract ;
that every man is to be absolutely dependent on the
State so far as earning a livelihood is concerned ;
that the officers of the State are to assign to all its
subjects what they are to do to gain their bread and
to determine what amount of bread they are to get


for what they do. But this is itself abject slavery,
to which no man of independent mind would submit
so long as there was in the world a free country to
which he could escape.

Then, what guarantees have Collectivists to give
us that men would be as free as they ought to be
even as regards consumption, that is spending
and enjoying what they have earned ? None, The

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