Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/323

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307
SOCIALISM

New Zealand.—Removed 1200 m. from Australia, its nearest civilized neighbour, secured by English naval power and “compassed by the inviolate sea,” New Zealand is better suited for the experiment of a closed socialistic state than perhaps any other country in the known world. It began its new career in 1880-1890, too late for perfect success but not too late to secure a large measure of public ownership of what elsewhere becomes private property. It owns not only the railways but two-thirds of the whole land, letting it on long leases. It sets a limit to large estates. It levies a progressive income tax and land tax. It has a labour department, strict factory acts and a law of compulsory arbitration in labour disputes (1895). There are old-age pensions (1898), government insurance of life (1871) and against fire (1905). Women have the suffrage, and partly in consequence the restriction of the liquor traffic is severe. There is a protective tariff, and oriental labour is excluded. The success of the experiment is not yet beyond doubt; compulsory arbitration, for example, did not work with perfect smoothness, and was amended in 1908. But there has been no disaster. The decline of the birth-rate has been greater than in Britain. It is fair to add that the experiment is probably on too small a scale to show what might happen in larger countries. New Zealand has only 100,000 sq. m. of territory and about one million of inhabitants, mainly rural and of picked quality. The conditions of combined isolation and security are not easily obtained elsewhere. The action of the state has been in the great majority of instances rather regulative than constructive.

Canada.—This last feature is still more marked on the great North American continent. The Dominion of Canada, from its foundation by confederation in 1867, has given its land away too freely. The Dominion, indeed, has only had the land of new territories to dispose of; the original states are the owners of their own unsettled lands. The Dominion government owns the Intercolonial railway but contents itself with subsidies to the rest, over which it has a very imperfect control (by its Railway Commission). It levies royalties on Yukon gold, carries out public works, especially affecting the means of transport between province and province; and in theory whatever functions are not specially reserved to the provinces fall to the Dominion government. The provincial governments, however, show the greater activity. Ontario owns mines and railroads, Nova Scotia coal and iron fields. “The operation of public utilities” by the municipalities is encouraged. Over Canada with the rise of large towns there has been an advance of municipal socialism, not only in the largest, like Toronto, but in the newer and smaller, such as Port Arthur on Lake Superior, where half the local expenditure is paid by public works. Municipal socialism is still in advance of state socialism. Yet the Dominion has a democratic franchise, paid members, a labour department and free education. The democratic basis is not lacking; but the nature of the country is not such as to make it likely that Canada will lead the way in socialistic experiments. The protective tariff, by developing groups of manufacturing industries before their time, introduced into Canada some of the troublesome features of urban civilization in older countries. Accordingly trade unions became better organized. Trusts (like that of the grocers, 1908) began to show themselves. But socialistic propaganda was mainly confined to the mining districts, especially in the far west.

United States.—The great American republic would seem a better field for socialistic experiment, having more men, more states and ample political liberty. But state socialism, in the strict sense of the action of the central supreme authority, is limited by the Federal constitution, and any functions unassigned to the central authority by the constitution fall to the separate states. The separate states have rarely gone farther in a socialistic direction than England itself. In the way of restriction and regulation they have often done more (see Bryce, Amer. Commonwealth, part, v., chap. 95). From 1876 the separate states have had an admitted right to control undertakings having the nature of monopolies. The railways are in private hands; and it was not until 1887 by the Interstate and Commerce Act (followed in 1888 by the Railway and Canals Act) that the Federal power secured control over the means of transport running beyond one state into another. In the same way the Anti-Trust Law of 1890 gave control over the great combinations for “forestalling and engrossing” the supply of articles of necessity or wide use. Socialists have regarded trusts as the stepping-stones to state socialism; but the American people would seem to prefer to see government controlling the trusts rather than itself displacing them.

Trade unionism has made better progress under the Federation of Labor than in the more ambitious Knights of Labor (1878). Like their English counterparts, the societies in the United States include numbers of socialists, and perhaps even more followers of Henry George in advocacy of the nationalization of the land and the “single tax.” The death of Henry George (1897) has not ended his influence. On the other hand the socialists without compromise have had a “Socialistic Labor Party” since 1877. Bellamy's socialistic Utopia, Looking Backward (1888), caused nearly as great a sensation as Henry George's Progress and Poverty (1879). It led to the movement called “Nationalism,” the scope of which was the nationalizing of the means of production generally. Of a less literary sort was the influence of “Populism” and the People's party (formed in 1889). Mixed up with the politics of W. J. Bryan in 1896, it lost a little of its uncompromising socialistic flavour.

General Criticisms.—If the ideal of state socialism be viewed in an equally critical spirit, many of the objections brought by the moderate anarchists are seen to have their weight. A strong central government to which all power was given over all the chief industries in the country would, they say, be contrary to liberty. Our leaders would be too likely to become again our masters. Supervision would become irksome. Great powers would be a. temptation to abuse of power. A democracy with a strong central government would need to leave much to its chosen guardians, and to retain the same men in the position of guardians till they fully learned the difficult business of their office; but this in the end means either what we have now, a government by elected leaders, who, once elected, consult our wishes only on rare occasions,—or a government by permanent officials, which means liberty to go on in the old ways but great fear and jealousy of new ways, in fact, order without progress, no liberty of change.

This criticism becomes rather stronger than weaker if we press the doctrine of the supremacy of the working-classes, a doctrine that figures largely with some socialists. We are told that having been nothing, the working-classes will be everything; having so long been the ruled, they will be the rulers; they have produced for all the rest, the product will now be theirs instead of another's. This doctrine is not essential to socialism; it is indeed hardly consistent therewith. It would not be fair to press it, for no men know better than the scientific socialists that under modern conditions it is in most cases quite impossible to say what is the product of one man's labour. Articles are not made at one stretch by one individual. The contributions of the various hands and minds concerned from first to last in the production of a pocket-knife or a pair of trousers would travel over our stage like Banquo's ghostly descendants in a line that seemed to have no ending. What the socialists demand, when they are not declaiming to uncritical sympathizers, is not that a man should have what he makes but that what is made by great capitals or on great estates should be so distributed that it is not engrossed by individuals, but satisfies the wants of as many as possible. There is no superior enlightenment in the ordinary unskilled or even skilled manual labourer to fit him above others for supreme power. According to socialists and anarchists and indeed all of us who are not incurable optimists, the hungry generations have trodden the working man down too much to make him instantly or even speedily fit to do the work of government himself. He is of like passions with ourselves. He will be perfectly qualified in process of time to share in such responsible work. But at present he needs training.