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ART. VI.-1. Lectures on Social Science, and the Organization of Labour. By JAMES HOLE. 8vo. London: Chapman.
2. The First Report of the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations. To which is added, a Report of the Cooperative Conference held in London, at the Society's Hall, 34, Castle Street East, on the 26th and 27th of July, 1852. London: Lumley. 1852.
3. Report of the Cooperative Conference, held at Manchester, on the 15th and 16th August, 1853, at the Cooper Street Institute. With Appendices. London: Lumley, and Shorter, Hall of Association, 34, Castle Street East, Oxford Street.
4. Five Years in the Land of Refuge; a Letter to the Members of the Council of the late Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations, now reconstituted under the title of the Association for Promoting Industrial and Provident Societies. By JULES LECHEVALIER ST. ANDRÉ. 8vo. London: Richardson.
5. Journal of Association, 1852, January to June. London: Bezer.
6. The Master Engineers and their Workmen. Three Lectures on the Relations of Capital and Labour; delivered by request of the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations, at the Marylebone Literary and Scientific Institution, on the 13th, 20th, and 27th of February, 1852. By J. M. LUDLOW, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-Law. London: Bezer. 1852.
7. The Christian Socialist, Vols. I. and II. London: Printed by the Working Printers' Association. John Tupling, 320, Strand.
IN estimating the value of new schemes and theories, a great distinction must be drawn between the anticipation of final results, and the attempt at immediate measures. Nothing can exceed the folly of the recent talk of Peace Societies discouraging necessary armaments, and expecting to bring nations to a parley without a front of defence. Yet any one who will take the trouble to read Ramsden's Sermons on The Origin and Ends of Government,' and War and the Final Cessation of all Hostilities,' preached in the year 1800, and to follow the reflections they suggest, will learn to see as decidedly the
reasonableness of their ultimate hopes, as the absurdity of their present proposals. Something of the same kind may be said of the attempts and theories of recent years in the department of social organization. Principles are thrown out, and ideals contemplated, which it is impossible at once to realize; and absurd attempts are made at partial realization, under circumstances of impossibility, or in needless and pernicious hostility to existing institutions. Yet, a discerning eye may single out the elements of truth amidst this confusion, and a practical mind may haply succeed in combining them so as to produce growing and important results.
The science of political economy has, in fact, arrived at a stage of great interest, but of no small difficulty. It has, in great measure, exhausted one important field of labour and inquiry, but another, wider, more varied, and richer in practical fruits, is opening before it. The analysis of national wealth was necessary to the last generation in order to correct the enormous errors to which nations were liable in their attempts to increase or to preserve it. The greatness of those errors, and the extensive inconveniences resulting from them, have tended to give a negative character to the conclusions of scientific inquirers, and to direct their minds principally to those natural processes by which, according to their current maxim, 'while each man cares for himself, God provides for all.' And the truths they have elicited in the development of this principle are most wonderful and instructive, and open to our eyes a great design of our Creator, overruling to His own ends our selfish and short-sighted will. The grandeur of this view is sufficient to engage all the energy of a superior mind, and its apparent philosophical and religious character is such as to make it seem a worthy object of life to work it out to perfection, and such as even to give some countenance to the fallacy of its completeness. At the same time, the more subtle intellect finds still abundant amusement in the elaboration and criticism of definitions, while the practical and busy mind rejoices in the accumulation of statistics, and consoles itself for its own deficiencies by complaining of their imperfection.
It would be wrong, therefore, to say with some hasty reformers, that the old science of political economy is altogether dry and effete, and has nothing in it to reward inquiry. It is still necessary as a ground-work for more advanced and practical studies, and it has acquired a kind of classical precision, and almost demonstrative certainty, by the alternate application of genius and criticism. The Christian Socialists themselves, in fair argument, admit no less. Mr. Ludlow, who is an uncompromising advocate of the rights of labour, observes: So long,
therefore, as your competitive plutonomy confines itself to its scientific field, to its dead subject-matter of wealth, we socialists 'have to listen to it and learn from it." But the political economist, who is to be equal to the requirements of the coming age, must look out upon a wider field, and prepare to surmount new difficulties, in the hope of attaining results of still higher practical value, and still deeper theoretic interest. It is in this as in other cases; man first strives wildly against the powers of nature, and one while is swept away, another while succeeds through some favourable conjuncture. Then he studies those powers, and learns their course and sway, and discovers, perhaps, the easiest tracks or the safest periods for his journeys, his voyages, his operations, and understands the causes of the various calamities that threaten him if he mistakes his time or his path. But this is not his final state of knowledge. He aspires further to learn how to stem the currents, brave the winds, pierce the rocks, defy the seasons, and accomplish results which nature herself seemed almost to forbid. If, therefore, any science seems to lead us to strange and sad conclusions, to insurmountable difficulties and prospects of irremediable evils, we are not at once to sit down satisfied that so it must be, but rather to look round in every direction for resources, and not to give up the problems that meet us, till we have well tried every line of thought and of experiment in which a solution. can possibly be found.
It will scarcely be denied that there are such cases in the science of political economy. The operation of the natural laws of competition confessedly leads to a great amount of pressure and distress in various quarters-distress, aggravated by the knowledge of its causes, and the general belief of a kind of fatal necessity in their operation. The evil may be less than that of violent interference, which deranges what might otherwise work well without giving any security for a real remedy for that which works ill. A compulsory fixed price, a compulsory rate of wages, and the like, may be very convenient to certain persons for a limited period, but if they are far from the natural standard they cannot hold long, and are sure first to produce great injury to some interest concerned, and then to bring the whole business with which they are connected to a stand still, so that, even if not utterly ruined, it cannot be restored to activity without a change. Hence has arisen the popularity of the maxim,Laissez faire,' in political economy. It was good against the ill-judged attempts of ignorant legislators to promote agencies which they little understood, and to secure benefits
1 Christian Socialism and its Opponents, (an Answer to the Edinburgh Review, &c.), p. 26.
of which they had limited and inaccurate views. While men excluded wealth in order to keep their hold of money, or tried to encourage productions by means which deprived them of a market, it was well to teach them that nature had her balancing and counteracting forces, and that any extreme effort in one direction was more likely to derange her actual working than to correct or improve it; but now that the working of nature is in the main understood, the system of non-interference is, in fact, the permission of a violent misuse of natural processes, and of advantage taken by the stronger through their means. And when we come to such results as the collision of whole classes of capitalists and labourers, and the consequent divulsion of labour from capital, to the imminent ruin of both; when we see markets alternately drained and glutted, bringing periodical returns of dizzy prosperity, insane speculation, and abject distress; and when we look at the miserable, and, for the time, impracticable resource of transferring capital and labour from a failing to a prosperous trade, we cannot but think that there is some reason in the argument of those who hold that Laissez faire' is reduced to an absurdity. At any rate, let those who still hold the maxim, not quote it as a bar to any fair and natural efforts to obtain a remedy, but allow them at least to share its benefits.
On the one side it is said men will learn, as they get better informed and better educated, not to run into speculation so wildly as they do now; but still the same thing will occur in a certain degree, and the principle of free action requires that it must be so. On the other side it is said, if the principle of free action requires this, then the unqualified principle of free action is false, just as if it proved the three angles of a triangle to be less than two right angles. In like manner, when we consider the case of the provision of food, and observe that free competition will lead to occasional scarcities, and will only prevent entire exhaustion by an oppressive enhancement of prices, it is equally open to us to conclude on the one side that the evil must be endured, or on the other, that some provision may be made which will counteract the extreme effects of free competition. At least, those who hold it to be more humane, and more reasonable, and more in accordance with the rules of scientific investigation, to call in question the strict truth of a principle which leads to such inconvenient, and sometimes calamitous results, have a claim to a fair hearing, and to a full consideration of their several suggestions. It may be that they cannot at once offer any complete remedial system, but they are right in keeping the field of inquiry open by refusing to admit the conclusive rejection of any proposal on the simple ground that it would interfere with the freedom of competition.
This may, indeed, be a reason for avoiding rash experiments, especially on an extensive scale, like the ateliers nationaux of the late Provisional Government; but it must not be taken as of absolute authority at once to stifle inquiry, and put a stop to thought. The classical political economist may 'wrap himself up in his own virtue,' and look with scorn upon the labours of the enthusiast, but he has no such mastery of the whole extent of moral and physical possibilities as to be able to pronounce those labours certainly fruitless, without at least a chance of being one day found in error.
Much less can he forbid the development of a principle which is now rapidly discovering its strength, and evolving incalculable resources from the depths of humanity, and from the hidden recesses of nature. It is premature to criticise; we can but draw attention to some of the leading facts which characterise the recent advances of the principle of Voluntary Association, and which indicate that it is possible that it may afford, ere long, an effectual remedy for some of the unavoidable evils of competition, and tend to supply a needful corrective to the practical theories of political economists. It may, perhaps, remain to be determined by experience whether the competitive system is of so elastic a nature as to admit the introduction of this principle like that of a new machine, or process of manufacture, or whether it will not rather have to retire within its own limits, and leave the main field in the possession of a more powerful as well as a more humane antagonist. Even in the first case its operation will probably one day be so far modified, that it might almost as well submit to change its name, so far as practical results are concerned, though it may keep it for the sake of theoretic truth.
It is, in fact, simply natural that where great evils are fe't, men should seek a remedy; and the more complete the social organization becomes, and the keener the social feeling, the more readily do men resort to remedies of a friendly and forbearing character. Russia and Turkey are communities far less advanced in civilization, and humanized by habits of intercourse, than England and the United States; and it is accordingly for this, as well as for other reasons, much easier for the latter to adopt arbitration as the means of settling their disputes than for the former. In civilized Europe much more has been done of late by diplomacy toward the maintenance of peace than was accomplished in former generations; and there is no reason why the
1 It is not true, as commonly supposed in England, that Louis Blanc was the author of this absurdity. It was not the offspring of a theory, but the resource of an administration embarrassed with an unemployed and dangerous multitude. The French socialists, however wild in some of their speculations, were too well acquainted with the necessary conditions of success to rely upon any such crude and really unorganized measures.