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No. 7



Edited by PERCY ALDEN, M*P*

1. Housing* By Percy Alden, M.P., and

Edward E. Hayward, M.A.

2. The Health of the State* By George

Newman, M.D.

3. The Land and the Landless* By George

Cadbury, Jnr., and Tom Bryan, M.A.

4. The Unemployable and Unemployed*

By Percy Alden, M.P., and Edward
E. Hayward, M.A.

5- Sweating* By Edward Cadbury and
George Shann, M.A.

6. Child Life and Labour* By Margaret

Alden, M.D.

7. Poverty. By Will Reason, M.A.

Cloth Limp, i/- net. Cloth Boards, i\6 net.





No. 7.






Condon :






THE existence of this book, one of a series of elemen-
tary introductions to Sociology, is a happy sign of
the times. Students of social science are everywhere
multiplying, and there is a great call for guidance
from many who, filled with a holy discontent with
the numerous manifestations of poverty, seek to
equip themselves with understanding of, and power
to battle with, the evils they deplore. It is for such
that Mr. Reason has written the following pages,
and the student will find in them not merely a careful
presentation of essential facts, but a stimulating
and suggestive essay, which, while necessarily
dealing chiefly with material things, never loses
sight of the fact that " man does not live by bread
alone," and that, in the words of one of Ruskin's
noblest contributions to the Larger Bible : " The
final outcome and consummation of all wealth is in
the producing as many as possible full-breathed,
bright-eyed and happy-hearted human creatures."

I have said that Mr. Reason's book is a happy sign
of the times. It is one of many widespread indica-
tions of the awakening of our people to social
consciousness. It is true that a very considerable
proportion of the poor are content with their poverty,
and that the lack of holy discontent still makes
exceedingly difficult the path of the social reformer.
It is nevertheless satisfactory that amongst those
who have won, under present conditions, to some
degree of comfort, there exist so many who, realising



that " but for the grace of God " they themselves
had been creatures of the abyss, and filled, not so
much with pride for their own emergence or escape
from poverty, as with horror of the undeserved shames
and dangers to which the vast majority are still
exposed by the vicissitudes of an unorganised society,
are thoughtful and troubled, and eager to bring on
the dawn of a better day. There is hope for mankind
when it can be said with truth that the chief fighters
in the battle with poverty, at the present time, are
not so much those who " have not " as those who
" having," are yet in their comfort and success
discontented that others have not.

Poverty amongst a primitive community, chiefly
engaged in agriculture, with few arts and no science,
and without means of communication, must neces-
sarily be. A modern civilisation, pursuing various
industries by division of labour, inheriting the know-
ledge of the ages, equipped with power machinery,
and able by railway and steamship to exchange
its productions with other peoples, need only know
material poverty as long as it neglects to organise its

The Malthusian theory of population, that
population tends to increase more rapidly than the
means of subsistence, was true of a primitive
people. It was true also of civilisation at the date
when it was uttered, 1798. It was true even at the
date of the death of Malthus, 1834. It is no longer
true to-day. In the years since 1798 the engineer
and the scientist have placed at the disposal of man
the means of producing, or of gaining by exchange
for his productions, more food than he can eat,
more clothes than he can wear, more houses than he
can inhabit. Such bountiful production, however,
is only possible through the division of labour, and
through the division of labour in an organised society.

The time cannot be removed by more than a few
generations when men will look back with amazement
to the fact that the majority of people in the United


Kingdom had not enough boots to wear, in such a
climate as ours, at the beginning of the twentieth
century, at a time, that is, when certain clever
American inventions had made the manufacture
of boots a process demanding little time or labour.
The economic historian of that day will record for
the wonder and amusement of his readers that :
(i) the boot shops of 1909 did not contain enough
boots to go round ; (2) the people at large did not
possess the means to buy the meagre supply of
boots in the boot shops ; (3) fewer people were
employed in boot making in the United Kingdom
in 1909 than thirty years before that date ; (4)
among the reduced number of people in the boot
trade unemployment was so rife that the Mayor
of Leicester, a boot manufacturing town, had about
that date expressed the opinion that " a new industry
was needed." He will be able to point to the fact
that, at the very time that men were unemployed
in the boot trade, the great majority of the British
people had not enough boots, as a typical illustration
of the lack of organisation which so largely nullified
the beneficent work of the engineer. Or, to name
a matter more striking still, the historian of a later
day will be able to show that, at the opening of the
twentieth century, eighty years after George
Stephenson did twenty-eight miles an hour with the
" Rocket," the inventions of Watt, Trevethick and
Stephenson were so little availed of that only a few
of the most lucky of Londoners could occupy
healthy homes ten or fifteen miles from their work.
It is above all things necessary for the student
of poverty to realise how largely futile are the
present attempts to produce. It is not merely that
the present production of material things is unequally
distributed, so that a few have much while many
have little. It is that the entire product is exceedingly
small that not enough boots are made, that not
enough cloth is made, that not enough houses are
built, and that as to all these things the greater part of

viii- PREFACE.

what product three is is poor in quality. The aggre-
gate of the national income only partially expresses
this truth. As I have shown elsewhere, the national
income in 1904 was not less than ^1,7 10,000,000.
This is only about ^40 per head per annum, and is
obviously, therefore, insufficient to provide the
means of a full and generous existence for our people,
to say nothing of the fact that our 44,000,000 people
ought to increase their capital stock yearly by fully
^500,000,000. But this sum of ^1,700,000,000
is not the valuation of the annual product of material
commodities. It is the valuation of income, and
much of it takes ultimate expression not in produc-
tion but in waste. The valuation of the annual
output of material commodities, or of material
commodities plus beneficent services, while uncertain
in amount, is very much smaller than this sum.
To illustrate my meaning in the concrete, the
i ,7 1 0,000,000 includes not only the wages paid for
the useful production of boots from American
machines in a factory at Leicester, but the fee of
loo guineas paid to a leading advocate as a reward
for defending a commercial trickster, or for bullying
a frail woman to the point of tears, in the Divorce

Organisation can do two things. It can (i)
multiply production a hundredfold and (2) so dis-
tribute the multiplied production as to abolish
material poverty. The grown members of a society
of 44,000,000 people, organised and applied to the
best known appliances in the different branches of
industry could, it is not too much to say, produce,
in a short working day, not merely enough for
themselves and their families, but enough for a much
larger community. As I have said elsewhere, if
engineering and science went no further, if man
in the future could hope for no better appliances,
no better inventions, than those already devised,
the need for material poverty has been finally re-
moved. The present position of man in regard to


poverty is that he has all the necessary tools of
wealth, but that he has not yet made full use of them.

Organisation may arise voluntarily, or through
a decision of the majority expressed in political
action. Both processes are in course of evolution
in modern civilisations. At one and the same time
private captains of industry are combining their
forces for the elimination of uneconomic units,
and democratic majorities, by extending public
control over a larger number of activities, are pursuing
the same economic path. The machines are thus
becoming more effective, even while the revolt of
thinking men against the worst results of un-
organisation increasingly stirs public opinion to
demand reform. The strong probability is that a
great measure of the necessary organisation will be
accomplished within the first half of the twentieth
century, quite early, that is, in the lifetime of modern

Organisation, whether " voluntary " or " govern-
mental," can only proceed at a rate determined by
the education of the people in the advantages of,
and the need for, collective action in making use of
science. I am glad to preface these words to Mr.
Reason's work in the belief that it is an educational
factor making for the development of the instinct
of association.

Chaldon, Surrey,

February ^th t 1909.











INDEX - - 163


" Haud facile emergunt, quorum virtu tibus obstat
Res angusta domi."

"It is with difficulty that they struggle free,
whose poverty stands in the way of (the development
of) their powers." JUVENAL, SAT. III., 164.

BEFORE entering upon a full discussion of
Poverty, it is worth while spending a
little time in determining just what we mean
by the word. In ordinary speech its limits are
sufficiently defined by the circumstances that
gave rise to the conversation. If we are speaking
of the particular poor in Ancoats or Canning
Town, there is a background of more or less
definitely conceived conditions which keeps the
mind from wandering to other ideas which in
some not unfamiliar connections cluster round
this same word Poverty. It is a background
of unlovely streets, of overcrowded, under-fur-
nished and often insanitary dwellings, of extremes
of overwork and idleness, of careworn, harassed
women, of stunted and precocious children ;
generally a squalid and repellent background,
though closer search reveals many things in it
which are at first misunderstood, and many more
which move us to admiration. But about the


general result we have no doubt. It is a devourer
of childhood, and for the most part manhood
and womanhood fare ill when within its grip.
It is a disgrace and even a menace to civilisation,
and has become the many-headed problem which
the statesmen of to-day must solve, or it will
compel them, acknowledging defeat, to give
place to others.

Yet one cannot forget that religion, not only
in Christianity but in other great faiths of the
world, has declared Poverty to be a more blessed
condition than riches, and that this has been so
far from remaining a mere speculative opinion
that countless multitudes have definitely put
it into practice. Even in our own land to-day,
"Western" and "modern" though it be, St.
Francis of Assisi wooing his Lady Poverty is
an ideal figure for very many of our best men
and women, even where they shrink from following
in his steps. No doubt the words which in the
Scriptures ascribe the blessing to Poverty, and
say such severe things concerning rich people,
receive only the most conventional assent from
perhaps the majority of those who think they
believe in the Scriptures ; the fact remains that
large numbers accept them, not because they
happen to come in a book which is considered
generally authoritative, but because of their
inherent truth. Further, it is remarkable that
these teachings are exactly those which are laid
hold of by those ardent reformers who want to
abolish the poverty of Ancoats, Canning Town
and all the other similar places, both by those
who are appealing to their fellow believers and
by those who, not believing themselves, taunt
those who profess to do so with disloyalty.


This only concerns us in our present study
as showing the need of a clear discrimination
between these conflicting meanings of Poverty.
We must have no confusion between what produces
a noble and commanding character such as St.
Francis, and what produces the ineffective, weedy
men that swell the sad processions of the unem-
ployed. Nor must we fail to distinguish between
the terrible disease, and that which may perhaps
be found to be the remedy for it.

Somewhat similar is our concern with the
modern half moral, half aesthetic cult of the
Simple Life, which finds a considerable amount
of favour among social reformers and others.
It is not exactly poverty, but it is the doing
without many things that ordinary folk have
become accustomed to regard as indispensable,
and might have considerable influence in deter-
mining the boundary lines of want and sufficiency.

Necessary Distinctions.

The first broad distinction which must be
drawn is that between voluntary and forced
Poverty. The renunciation made by the saint
or the wise man is voluntary, the deprivation
of those whose case we are to consider is forced.
But a voluntary choice between abundance
of possessions and relative absence of such, between
reliance on commercial " securities " and trust
in Providence, between self-indulgence and self-
discipline, or between comfortable living and
actual suffering for some high purpose, means
that both alternatives are within our power.
But the great multitudes of the destitute and
those who hover about the " poverty line " have
no choice. For most of them there has never


been any alternative ; they have not chosen
poverty, but poverty has marked them for her
own from birth.

In the next place, those who make such choice,
either from self-sacrifice or from " enlightened
selfishness," have usually first received the ad-
vantages of wealth in the form of good nourish-
ment and training, though there may have been
some collateral disadvantages from the moral
point of view. St. Francis, to keep to our example,
was a conspicuous instance of this. But we
have to deal with the children of the mean streets
and the slums, born under such conditions that
while multitudes die off in the first year, others
are sickly and stunted in their growth, so that,
underfed and overworked and cast too early on
the world, they reach the years of choice with
starved faculties and enfeebled wills.

Yet again, those who really make the choice
also regulate the conditions. They can refuse
what seems to them to be superfluous or hurtful,
and retain the necessary. But forced poverty
does not allow this, and one of the great evils
under which the poor suffer is that they are shut
up to many expenses from which they reap very
little benefit while the simple things which would
help them are beyond their reach. They have
indirectly, for example, to pay for costly schemes
of traction and sewage disposal, but are shut
off from Nature's free gifts of fresh air and open

The Definition of Poverty.

We need then, a definition of poverty from
the social economic point of view ; a definition
which will keep the evil clearly before us, without


confusing moral and religious issues, and without
begging the question of solution by implying
that riches are the cure. Mr. Stopford Brooke
has given us one which will afford a good basis T
for discussion. He says, " Poverty is one of the
great diseases of the State, and I mean by Poverty
that condition in which for want of means no
just development of the natural powers of any
man or woman can be reached."

This goes to the heart of the matter. It is
not a question of money, but of life, and therefore
is not measured by money, except in so far as
money is a measure at any given time of the
material means of life. By itself the money
measure is too vague and abstract ; it is con-
vertible into so many other things besides the
means of developing the powers of life, and the
figures which stand for its increase have no charac-
teristics to warn us that the useful point has been
passed. It does not follow that because I need
a certain quantity of material food per day, that
I shall be better off with twenty times the quantity.
Every need has its particular measure, and an
overplus may be as hurtful as a lack. To die
of thirst and to be drowned by a flood are both
negations of life.

It does not trouble us therefore to see the poor
child playing with an old stick tied up with rags,
while the rich child has a large cupboard filled
with costly mechanical toys, because we know
that the poor child is not only in most cases
happier at the time, but also exercising its power
of imagination and other qualities which go to
make up the fulness of life. The elaborately
finished models which pass as toys tend to dis-
courage these. But it does trouble us to note


that for lack of sufficient and suitable food the
child is rickety or anaemic, or that for lack of fresh
air it is consumptive, for we know that these
are evils which will limit and hamper his powers
of body and mind in all his coming years, putting
him at a disadvantage in his work and in his
leisure, making all his life less valuable to himself
and to the community. Yet money stands alike
for toys and for food.

The Need of a Standard.

Students of Poverty therefore have to find
and apply a standard by which to measure the
extent and degree of existing poverty, and this
standard is not an arbitrary one of custom or
fancy, but must be based upon a scientific investi-
gation of what goods and conditions are necessary
to human powers, and to what degree. These
will vary slightly among individuals, of course,
but are capable of definite statement for the
average. The proverb that what is one man's
meat is another man's poison, however true,
may be disregarded, because we are not concerned
with particular commodities, but with classes
of commodities. If a man cannot digest porridge,
he will digest in some form the same essential
food constituents.

Broadly speaking, these human powers which
may be marred in their development by want
of means, can be classified under three heads,
viz., physical, mental and spiritual ; or to put
it concretely, the powers of body, mind and
character. This is a convenient subdivision for
the purposes of discussion, but it must always
be borne in mind that actually they are inseparable.
The requisites of physical are on the whole also


necessary for mental and moral efficiency. These
latter need additional means of development,
but for men in general, presuppose a healthy
body. Similarly, mind and character have a
far greater effect upon bodily health than is
recognised in many quarters ; sobriety, cheerful-
ness and self-control are as necessary in their
way as good food and fresh air. They do not
take the place of each other, but work together.
All the same, sub-division for discussion we must

1. Physical.

It is with regard to physical efficiency that
the necessary standard can be most easily deter-
mined, because so many of the factors are material,
and therefore capable of measurement in amount,
and of expression, for any given time and place,
in money equivalents. Experiments have been
carried out with adequately large bodies of men
to determine the quantities of food-elements
which are needful, and researches have been made
with a view of ascertaining the least amounts of
clothing, air-space in houses, materials for light
and heat, cleaning and other necessaries of modern
life. In later chapters the results of these investi-
gations will be given in greater detail, and we
shall have to inquire what proportion of our
population fails to reach the minimum standard
in these respects.

2. Mental.

When we pass to the requirements for mental
efficiency, our arithmetic begins to fail us. It
is true that we are still moving in the region of
material conditions, to a certain extent ; schools


and libraries come within the administration
of quantities-surveyors, and are paid for in definite
amounts ; teachers are needed in ascertainable
numbers, and the average cost is discoverable.
But it is a vexed question how much of this cost
is borne by the poor themselves, and it is certain
that intellectual development depends on per-
sonal association with minds of many varieties,
an association which is not obtainable by great
multitudes, owing to the modern action of civilis-
ation in massing our population in distinct localities
according to their social grades, which means
for the most part according to their financial
status. It is clear that the means which allow
of freer movement among different classes afford
greater opportunities of mental development,
but it is not clear that these opportunities will
be taken, and there are some classes whose members
cannot be considered poor, but are narrowed
in outlook by the very conditions which make
them " comfortable."

3. Moral.

It is the same with character. No one with
any actual experience of the conditions of life
in the districts in which our poor are massed can
doubt that the insobriety and hooliganism which
are such grave reproaches to our modern city
life are partly due to economic causes. Men
and women are in a sense driven to make the
public-house their social centre because the
narrow tenements they call their homes cannot
be used as such. Lads find their most imme-
diately profitable employment in callings that
leave them stranded when they reach the years
of manhood, because they have no skilled trade,


and these are led by the natural congregation
in the streets in idle gangs to vent their energies
in larrikinism and gambling. Yet it is not only
those whose homes are pitiful who lose character
in the public-house, nor only those lads described
above who prefer the idle irresponsibility of the

In estimating the extent of poverty then,*
we have to rely most on the test of means of
physical efficiency, and in an introductory sketch |
like the present it will be sufficient for our purpose. |
We must inquire what the necessary material
means of efficiency are, and what are their respec-
tive amounts. When this standard is fixed, it
can be translated for any given time and place
into terms of income. This will give us what
is now called a " Poverty Line," and if we can
discover what proportion of our people have
an income falling below the line, we have a rough
measure of the extent of the evil to be faced.
But it must be borne continually in mind that
it is necessarily an under-statement, because from
any point of view physical efficiency is not enough,
and does not by any means necessarily secure
the mental and moral efficiency that is required.
This last may demand conditions which require
more expenditure for its attainment.

Removal of Cause the only Cure.

Having determined as well as we can the extent
of poverty, the next step will be to try to discover
the causes. This brings us to controversial
ground, for very many have already made up
their minds one way or the other, and are led to
their conclusions more by their preconceived
notions than by a dispassionate study of the


evidence. The student must do his best to dis-
regard the controversies except in so far as they
indicate the evidence which is to be analysed
and judged. The materials must be sifted, in
spite of the dust, for we cannot hope to find the
xejnedy or remedies until the causes are determined,

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