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The subject of the discovery and application of remedies for the great social evils of Poverty and Destitution considered. · Equality in the possession of wealth shown to be neither possible nor desirable in the prevailing condition of the human constitution. — The false and injurious character of special systems of Socialism and Communism. — The only effectual remedy that of applying the natural law of Social Economy to the existing state of the national capital. The frequent disappointment of nations in the discovery and application of remedial courses arises from the neglect of natural social law. — Important notice of this fact by Mr. Malthus.
Remedy not to be derived by means of any backward course of action. -The course of enriching a nation by means of saving or retrenching, that are recommended by Political Economists, a false and wrong course, both morally and physically. — The Socialistic and Communistic idea a noble idea in itself. — All sound national principle must be of a Social character. The true principle and way to be derived from religion, and from religion only.
Ir has become necessary now to enter upon another and most important field of inquiry; that field which is presented by remedy remedial measures- remedial courses. This branch of the science of Social and Political Economy must, at all times, be foremost in the thoughts and the practical views of every inquirer. What are the courses of national action that are necessary for making our trade and commerce more prosperous, that is, for increasing the profit accruing in the employment of our national capital, of increasing the demand for labour by means of this increased capital, and so raising the wages of labour and of extending the demand for labour to those labourers who, being unemployed, are desirous of and
seeking for employment? All classes of a nation are more or less interested in the solution of this problem; but the interests of the class mentioned last, as in it are comprised those men and families who are in a most unhappy condition of poverty or destitution, should have the foremost place in the inquiry.
The deplorable condition of extreme poverty, by which so many evils of the greatest magnitude have ever been, and still continue to be, entailed on the human family, has ever excited in the minds of humane, sympathising, and honourable men, a desire to discover, and to promote, some special course of action by which the condition may be either removed or alleviated.
But it is a rash and a fearful act to recommend, and to put in practice, that which is called a remedy for this evil, when he who either proposes the remedy, or puts it into execution, has not been able to ascertain either the primary cause, or the secondary causes, of the evils which he seeks to counteract, to diminish, or to remove.
The history of human effort in connection with this high subject proves that, with whatever good intention these efforts may have been made, it has, nevertheless, happened that those men, on whose investigations of the subject reliance has been placed, have not observed that care and caution, or exercised that ability in their great undertaking, which were required at their hands, and which they professed to have observed. It appears seldom to have been perceived, or, if perceived, not to have been acknowledged, that if an adopted course be not true and right, it must inevitably increase the evil for which it is intended to be a remedy. The many false hopes that have been raised on this subject, together with the delusive schemes by which suffering men and families have been led into a condition still more
lamentable than that from which they sought to escape, have justly excited, in the minds of prudent and observing men, a distrust of that which has been called theory; but which, when examined so as to be understood, is found to have nothing whatever in it, for which the high name of theory can be claimed, being nothing better than unfounded ideas, or myths, which men, under the influence of an overweening self-estimation, have presumptuously adopted as truths, and have persuaded other men to unite with them in the adoption.
It is, indeed, true, that the material things of the earth are so created and bestowed, as that there would be no lack of sufficiency for all, if all would conform to the rule, and fulfil the conditions, which, by natural law, are ordained to be observed for the realisation of this sufficiency. The desired object might be attained, notwithstanding the variation both of seasons and of fertility of soils, that are seen to prevail. The labour of man being the power by which all the materials are acquired, it is evident that work is a duty inseparably and everlastingly connected with the mundane condition of man; and although some men may acquire such a large share of the good things of the world as to be rich enough to give so much of their wealth to other men in consideration of their doing work for them, yet, it is evident, that this could not prevail generally, because if more than a certain, and that a proportionably small, number of men were released from the duty of working of cultivating the land of sowing the seed of reaping the crop- and of doing all those things which the wants of the human body require to be done, the necessary commodities would not be forthcoming, production must cease in a great degree, and, as a necessary sequence, consumption and enjoyment must cease likewise. To suppose, therefore, that all of a
community might be so rich as to be released from the duty of doing common work or labour, would be as absurd as to suppose that a structure would stand notwithstanding its foundation and lower part were removed. It is evident, then, that although all of a community may, in the constitution of things that prevails around us, be poor, yet that all cannot, under this constitution of things, be of that condition which we commonly call rich.
There is neither hardship, injustice, nor evil, involved in this prevailing constitution of things; for the notion that contentment, due enjoyment, and happiness, reside especially with those who, by a command of wealth, become released from the duty of labour, is a false notion. It is, indeed, evident, that if a command be not possessed of those things that are essential for duly satisfying the wants of the body, and for insuring a comfortable enjoyment of all the simple and required conveniences of life, evils of many kinds, and of a severe character, are attendant on the condition of those who are necessitated to live in such a state of deprivation. But, if to those who have to earn their daily means of living by the daily exercise of their labour, there should be insured that sufficiency by which the reasonable wants of the whole family are satisfied, comfortable maintenance, together with the power of making due improvement of faculties, being thus comprised, the fact of contentment, and that which is called happiness, would be as much, or, perhaps, in a greater degree, realised in this condition of humanity than under a condition where far more wealth is possessed. It is clear to us, that, in the existing condition of our spiritual, moral, and mental constitution, we are not able to direct our faculties into right and healthful channels of action, if an especial sphere of action be not open before us, and the
necessity of occupying ourselves in this sphere be not imperative.
When, therefore, our condition is so rightly considered, as to be thoroughly understood, we see that equality of circumstances, for which some men have contended, is a mere visionary idea, a baseless speculation, having no foundation either in the necessity or in the possibility of things. Although, by the natural law, we are ordained to be dependent one upon another by reason of the undertaking and engagement to labour one for another, and to exchange the productions of labour one with the other, yet such is the varying disposition, desires, tastes, and habits of men, that, whilst one man will be found to apply his labour rightly, and, also, in that degree which is requisite for a fulfilment of the obligations of his social position, another man will be found not so to apply his labour. And, again: whilst one man will honourably, and under the influence of good sense, restrain his desires, and so control his consumption of things as to fulfil his social duty in this respect, another man will be found to despise all such control, and to indulge in excess. And, again: whilst one man will apply his faculties in that course which both his own interest and advantage, and the interest and advantage of society require, another man will prefer to depart from this course, and to pursue another which he thinks will conduce more to the realisation of his own satisfaction and pleasure. These men have to find that they have made a mistake, and that, by errors of their own creation and choosing, they have lost their opportunities and have depressed their condition, and so are poor. Such men will have no right or title to make a demand on general society for a bestowment or assignment to them of a position which they might have acquired by a proper application of their talents and labour. Such bestowment or assignment of position and