Oliver Spence/Chapter 10

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CHAPTER X.

MORE CHANGES.


Among the laws made by Oliver and Mary, was one absolutely prohibiting the taking of interest upon money, by any person outside the officials of the National Bank, who were empowered to collect, for State purposes, and none other, 2 per cent.; being the interest upon the loans advanced by the National Bank. This interest was, of course, paid only by the Bank's debtors, The operations of the National Bank. which had already been of enormous service to the poor of both country and town, were extended, and its functions were made to include the payment (in National notes) of Government employees, who now constituted an immense multitude, as all government work was done by the State, instead of by private contractors. The taxes were also received by the Bank, as were deposits. In short, the Bank, together with the other departments of government, became such formidable competitors against "private enterprise," that the private capitalist was rapidly being improved off the face of the earth.

The members of the legal profession were replaced by skilled arbitrators in each State, who decided all matters brought before them. No charge was made to the litigants, but vexatious or malicious prosecutions were severely punished. There existed the right of appeal against the Arbitrators' decision, to the Rulers, Oliver and Mary, but this right was seldom exercised.

The members of the medical profession were appointed and regulated by a State Medical Board. The services of medical men were given free of charge to the patients, all expenses being met by the State.

Religion was left entirely to the various religious sects. Nothing in the nature of State assistance, for any purpose whatever, was granted any church. It was generally felt that in the past, religion had been used for the purpose of chloroforming the intelligence of the poor, and that the ministers of religion had acted as a sort of spiritual police, maintained (chiefly by the rich) for the purpose of enjoining the poor to be content with their poverty, and not to lay violent hands on the ill-gotten possessions of the wealthy. The people could also not avoid remarking how much the practice, and even precept of the so-called Christian ministry, contrasted with the life and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. It was mentioned that bishops and other ecclesiastics in receipt of large incomes from their churches, had been among the most prominent of the extortionate financial syndicates, which had paid themselves enormous dividends out of the toil, tears, and disasters of the unfortunate poor.

The Railways, which had been sold to the financiers, were resumed; of course, without compensation, and run free of all charge to passengers or those transmitting freight. It was considered by the Rulers that charging those who used the "iron rods" of the country was as unreasonable and short-sighted a system, as that which formerly prevailed in some countries of charging tolls for the use of stone roads and bridges. The country derived great benefit from the increased settlement of the people on the soil, which resulted from the abolition of freight-charges, and as these charges were, of course, not added to the prices of the articles produced, the consumer was benefited as much as the producer. In order to utilise the vast mineral and other natural resources of the interior, a Central City was created in the heart of Australia, having direct railway communication with all the coastal cities of the great island-continent.

The Rulers recognised that Australia had in the past, suffered severely from the want of sufficient facilities for the irrigation of the soil, and the conservation of the waters of the country. They, therefore, ordered the construction of artesian wells, which obtained immense supplies of water from the subterranean riverine system of the interior; and the waters were stored in gigantic reservoirs, which when required, they were conveyed by means of acqueducts and canals to the lands which needed them. It was also found possible to construct canals for purposes of navigation which was done, the people finding that, unlike railways they were not destructive of natural beauties, and were sometimes preferable to railways in many other respects.

Any person who, after the payment of the tax on land values, and the interest on money borrowed from the National Bank was found to have an annual nett income of more than three hundred pounds sterling was cumulatively taxed oil that income, as it was considered that the possession and enjoyment of a larger income than the sum named tended to foster the excessive luxury in one class, and resultant poverty in another class, which had already destroyed the world's greatest civilizations.

The right of inheritance was limited to articles which could not used to enable people to live in idleness by the private employment, exploitation and consequent robbery of the workers.

The abrogation during the Dictatorship, of all Civil law, had, of course, included all laws for the collection of debts. The holders of Australian Debentures and Treasury Bills, were very angry at this, and most of them, being Englishmen, called upon the English Government to enforce payment. But Russia had so seriously crippled the power of England, that she made no attempt to do so.

Oliver and Mary proclaimed that in future no Australian Government or municipal council should be empowered to borrow money from any person, or from any institution, other than the National Bank. The debts of the National Bank were the only debts which, together with the taxes, were compulsorily paid. In enforcing their payment however, the greatest care was taken to avoid the infliction of undue hardship, and in no case was a debtor reduced to the condition of destitution and abject poverty which was so prevalent during the reign of the financial rings.

The Rulers, believing with John Ruskin, a Nineteenth Century writer, that "the use of substances of intrinsic value as the materials of a currency is a barbarism," forbade any further production of gold and silver money, and decreed that as soon as the coin then in circulation should have become light or defaced, it should be replaced by notes of the National Bank. It gave the Rulers particular pleasure to issue this decree, as it appeared to them folly, and even worse, to waste such a vast amount of labour in dangerously seeking and mining for metals which were not actually necessary as money. The Rulers regarded with particular horror the hardships of the silverminer's life, and the diseases to which he was peculiarly subject. It was decided that the reserves of the National Bank should be kept in ingots of gold, until the increased confidence of the people in the new order of things should render gold reserves no longer necessary.

The Rulers thus having done all that it appeared to them possible to do by legislation, to bring about the abolition of that private ownership of great wealth, which results in the degradation of the many by the combined, cunning few, determined to rest upon their laurels and await the beneficent influence upon the people, of just, and ennobling laws and institutions.