Page:EB1911 - Volume 05.djvu/922

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

charity has for its further object to preserve and develop the manhood and womanhood of individuals and their self-maintenance in and through the family; and any form of state intervention is approved or disapproved by the same standard. ByThe economics of charity. self-maintenance is meant self-support throughout life in its ordinary contingencies—sickness, widowhood, old age, &c. Political economy we would define as the science of exchange and exchange value. Here it has to be considered in relation to the purposes of charity. By way of illustration we take, accordingly, three points: distribution and use, supplementation of wage, and the standard of well-being or comfort in relation to wage.

(1) Distribution and Use.—Economy in the Greek sense begins at this point—the administration and the use of means and resources. Political economy generally ignores this part of the problem. Yet from the point of view of charity it is cardinal to the whole issue. The distribution of wage may or may not be largely influenced by trades unions; but the variation of wage, as is generally the case, by the increase or decrease of a few pence is of less importance than its use. Comparing a careful and an unthrifty family, the difference in use may amount to as much as a third on the total wage. Mere abstention from alcohol may make, in a normal family, a difference of 6s. in a wage of 25s. On the other hand, membership of a friendly society is at a time of sickness equivalent to the command of a large sum of money, for the common stock of capital is by that means placed at the disposal of each individual who has a share in it. Further, even a small amount saved may place the holder in a position to get a better market for his labour; he can wait when another man cannot. Rent may be high, but by co-operation that too may be reduced. Other points are obvious and need not be mentioned. It is evident that while the amount of wage is important, still more important is its use. In use it has a large expansive value. (2) Supplementation of Wage.—The exchange between skill and wage must be free if it is to be valid. The less the skill the greater is the temptation to philanthropists to supplement the lesser wage; and the more important is non-supplementation, for the skilled can usually look after their own interests in the market, while the less skilled, because their labour is less marketable, have to make the greater effort to avoid dependence. But the dole of endowed charities, outdoor relief, and any constant giving, tend to reduce wage, and thus to deprive the recipients of some part of the means of independence. The employer is pressed by competition himself, and in return he presses for profit through a reduced wage, if circumstances make it possible for the workman to take it. And thus a few individuals may lower the wages of a large class of poorly skilled or unskilled hands. In these conditions unionism, even if it were likely to be advantageous, is not feasible. Unionism can only create a coherent unit of workers where there is a limited market and a definite saleable skill. Except for the time, insufficient wage will not be remedied in the individual case by supplementation in any form—doles, clothes, or other kinds of relief; and in that case, too, the relief will probably produce lessened energy after a short time, or in other words lessened ability to live. An insufficient wage may be prevented by increasing the skill of the worker, who will then have the advantage of a better series of economic exchanges, but hardly otherwise. If the supplementation be not immediate, but postponed, as in the case of old-age pensions, its effect will be similar. To the extent of the prospective adventitious gain the attraction to the friendly society and to mutual help and saving will grow less. Necessity has been the inventor of these; and where wage is small, a little that would otherwise be saved is quickly spent if the necessity for saving it is removed. Only necessity schools most men, especially the weak, to whom it makes most difference ultimately, whether they are thrifty or whether or not they save for the future in any way. (3) The Standard of Well-being or Comfort in Relation to Wage.—With an increase of income there has to be an increase in the power to use income intelligently. Whatever is not so used reacts on the family to its undoing. Constantly when the wife can earn a few shillings a week, the husband will every week idle for two or three days; so also if the husband finds that in a few days he can earn enough to meet what he considers to be his requirements for the week. In these circumstances the standard of well-being falls below the standard of wage; the wage is in excess of the energy and intelligence necessary to its economic use, and in these cases ultimately pauperism often ensues. The family is demoralized. Thus, with a view to the prevention of distress in good times, when there is the less poverty there is the more need of charity, rightly understood; for charity would strive to promote the right use of wage, as the best means of preventing distress and preserving the economic well-being of the family.

The theory of charity separates it entirely from socialism, as that word is commonly used. Strictly socialism means, in questions affecting the community, a dominant regard for the common or social good in so far as it is contrary to private or individualCharity and socialism. advantage. But even so the antithesis is misleading, for the two need not be inconsistent. On the contrary, the common good is really and ultimately only individual good (not advantage) harmonized to a common end. The issue, indeed, is that of old Greek days, and the conditions of a settlement of it are not substantially different. Using modern terms one may say that charity is “interventionist.” It has sought to transform the world by the transformation of the will and the inward life in the individual and in society. It would intensify the spirit and feeling of membership in society and would aim at improving social conditions, as science makes clear what the lines of reform should be. So it has constantly intervened in all kinds of ways, and, in the 19th century for instance, it has initiated many movements afterwards taken up by public authorities—such as prison reform, industrial schools, child protection, housing, food reform, &c., and it has been a friendly ally in many reforms that affect industry very closely, as, for instance, in the introduction of the factory acts. But it has never aimed at recasting society itself on a new economic plan, as does socialism. Socialism indeed offers the people a new state of social security. It recognizes that the annona civica and the old poor-law may have been bad, but it would meet the objection made against them by insisting on the gradual creation of a new industrial society in which wage would be regulated and all would be supported, some by wage in adult life, some by allowance in old age, and others by maintenance in childhood. Accordingly for it all schemes for the state maintenance of school children, old age pensions, or state provision for the unemployed are, like municipal trading, steps towards a final stage, in which none shall want because all shall be supported by society or be dependent on it industrially. To charity this position seems to exclude the ethical element in life and to treat the people primarily or chiefly as human animals. It seems also to exclude the motives for energy and endeavour that come from self-maintenance. Against it, on the other hand, socialism would urge, that only by close regulation and penalty will the lowest classes be improved, and that only the society that maintains them can control them. Charity from its experience doubts the possibility of such control without a fatal loss of initiative on the part of those controlled, and it believes both that there is constant improvement on the present conditions of society and that there will be constantly more as science grows and its conclusions are put in force. Thus charity and socialism, in the usual meaning of the word, imply ultimately two quite different theories of social life. The one would re-found society industrially, the other would develop it and allow it to develop.

The springs of charity lie in sympathy and religion, and, one would now add, in science. To organize it is to give to it the “ordered nature” of an organic whole, to give it a definite social purpose, and to associate the members The organization of charity. of the community for the fulfilment of that purpose. This in turn depends on the recognition of common principles, the adoption of a common method, self-discipline and training, and co-operation. In a mass of people there may be a large variation in motives coincident with much unity in action. Thus there may be acceptance of a common social purpose in charity, while in one the impulse is similar to that which moved St Francis or George Herbert, in another to that which moved Howard or Dr Chalmers, or a modern poor-law reformer like Sir G. Nicholls or E. Denison. Accepting, then, the principles of charity, we pass to the method in relation to assistance and relief. Details may vary, but on the following points there is general agreement among students and workers:—

(1) The Committee or Conference.—There are usually two kinds of local relief: the public or poor-law relief, and relief connected with religious agencies. Besides, there is the relief of endowments, societies and charitable persons. Therefore, as a condition precedent to all organization, there must be some local centre of association for information and common help. A town should be divided for this purpose into manageable areas coincident with parishes or poor-law divisions, or other districts. Subject to an acceptance of general principles, those engaged in charity should be members of a local conference or committee, or allied to it. The committee would thus be the rallying-point of a large and somewhat loosely knit