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  • 1891
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has to be paid to the saver for sparing the community, by his voluntary thrift, the necessity of making thrift compulsory. What I now wish to know is, what were your reasons for forbidding the payment of interest? Or are you in Freeland of opinion that it is unjust to give to the saver a share of the fruits of his saving?’

‘We are not of that opinion,’ answered the director. ‘But first I must assure you that you have started from an erroneous assumption. We _forbid_ the payment of interest as little as we “forbid” the undertaker’s profit or the landlord’s ground-rent. These three items of income do not exist here, simply because no one is under the necessity of paying them. If our workers needed an “undertaker” to organise and discipline them for highly productive activity, no power could prevent them from giving up to him what belonged to him–namely, the profit of the undertaking–and remaining satisfied themselves with a bare subsistence. Nothing in our constitution, and no one among us, would interfere with such an undertaker in the peaceable enjoyment of his share of the produce. If the land needed–‘

‘Pardon my interruption,’ said Sir B—-. ‘”If our workers needed an undertaker to organise and discipline them, no power could prevent them from giving up to him the whole of the produce”–these were your words. In the name of heaven, do not your workers need such a man? Do they need none over them to organise, discipline, guide, and overlook the process of production? And when I hear you so coolly and distinctly assert that such a man has a right to the produce, and that neither for God’s sake nor in the name of justice need he leave to the worker more than a bare subsistence, I am compelled to ask myself whether you, an authority in Freeland, are pleased to jest, or whether what we have hitherto seen and heard here rests upon a mere delusion?’

‘Forgive me for not having expressed myself more plainly,’ answered the director to Sir B—- and to the rest of us who, like him, had shown our consternation at the apparent contradiction between the last words of our informant and the spirit of Freeland institutions. ‘I said, “If our workers needed an _undertaker_”: I beg you to lay emphasis upon the word “undertaker.” A man or several men to arrange, organise, guide the work, they certainly need; but such a man is not an undertaker. The difference between our workers and others consists in the fact that the former allow themselves to be organised and disciplined by persons who are dependent upon them, instead of being their masters. The conductors of our associations are not the masters, but the officials–as well as shareholders–of the working fellowship, and have therefore as little right to the whole produce as their colleagues abroad. The latter are appointed and paid by the “owner” of what is produced; and in this country this owner is the whole body of workers as such. An undertaker in the sense of the old industrial system, on the other hand, is a something whose function consists in nothing but in being master of the process of production; he is by no means the actual organiser and manager, but simply the owner, who, as such, need not trouble himself about the process of production further than to condescend to pocket the profits. That the undertaker at the same time bears the risks attendant upon production has to be taken into account when we consider the individual undertaker, but not when we consider the institution as such, for we cannot speak of the risk of the body of undertakers as a whole, I called the undertaker, not a man, but a something, because in truth it need not be a man with flesh and blood. It may just as well be a scheme, a mere idea; if it does but appropriate the profits of production it admirably fulfils its duty as undertaker, for as such it is nothing more than the shibboleth of mastership. Let us not be misled by the fact that frequently–we will say, as a rule–the undertaker is at the same time the actual manager of the work of production; when he is, he unites two economic functions in one person, that of the–mental or physical–labour and that of the undertakership. Other functions can just as well be associated together in him: the undertaker can be also capitalist or landlord; nevertheless, the undertaker, as economic subject, has no other function than that of being master of other men’s labour and of appropriating to himself the fruits of the process of production after subtracting the portions due to the other factors in production.

‘And this master, whose function consists simply of an abstract mastership, is an inexorable necessity so long as the workers are servants who can be disciplined, not by their enlightened self-interest, but only by force. To throw the blame of this exclusively or only mainly upon “capital” was a fatal error, which for a long time prevented the clear perception of the real cause–the servile habits and opinions that had grown stronger and stronger during thousands of years of bondage. Capital is indispensable to a highly developed production, and the working masses of the outside world are mostly without capital; but they are without it only because they are powerless servants, and even when in exceptional cases they possess capital they do not know how to do anything with it without the aid of masters. Yet it is frequently the capital of the servants themselves by means of which–through the intervention of the savings-banks–the undertaker carries on the work of production; it none the less follows that he pockets the proceeds and leaves to the servants nothing but a bare subsistence over and above the interest. Or the servants club their savings together for the purpose of engaging in productive work on their own account; but as they are not able to conceive of discipline without servitude, cannot even understand how it is possible to work without a master who must be obeyed, because he can hire and discharge, pay and punish–in brief, because he is master; and as they would be unable to dispose of the produce, or to agree over the division of it, though this might be expected from them as possessors of the living labour-power,–they therefore set themselves in the character of a corporate capitalist as master over themselves in the character of workmen. In these productive associations, which the workers carry on with money they have saved by much self-denial or have involved themselves in worry and anxiety by borrowing, they remain as workers under a painful obligation to obey, and the slaves of wages; though certainly in their character of small capitalists they transform themselves into masters who have a right to command and to whom the proceeds of production belong–that is, into undertakers. The example of these productive associations shows, more plainly than anything else can, that it was nothing but the incapacity of the working masses to produce without masters that made the undertaker a necessity. We in Freeland have for the first time solved the problem of uniting ourselves for purposes of common production, of disciplining and organising ourselves, though the proceeds of production belonged to us in our character of workers and not of capitalists. And as the experiment succeeded, and when undertaken by intelligent men possessing some means must succeed, we have no further need of the undertaker.

‘But undertakership is not forbidden in Freeland. No one would hinder you from opening a factory here and attempting to hire workers to carry it on for wages. But in the first place you would have to offer the workers at least as much as the average earnings of labour in Freeland; and in the second place it is questionable if you would find any who would place themselves under your orders. That, as a matter of fact, no such case has occurred for the past eighteen years–that even our greatest technical reformers, in possession of the most valuable inventions, have without exception preferred to act not as undertakers, but as organisers of free associations–this is due simply to the superiority of free over servile labour. It has been found that the same inventors are able to accomplish a great deal more with free workers who are stimulated by self-interest, than with wage-earners who, in spite of constant oversight, can only be induced to give a mechanical attention to their tasks. Moreover, the system of authoritative mastership was as repugnant to the feelings of the masters as to those of the men under them, and both parties found themselves uncomfortable in their unfamiliar _rôles_–as uncomfortable as formerly in the _rôles_ of absolutely co-equal associates in production. So considerable was this mutual feeling of discomfort, and so evident was the inferiority of the servile form of organisation, that all such attempts were quickly given up, though no external obstacle of any kind had been placed in their way. Certainly it must not be overlooked that every undertaker who needs land for his business is in constant danger of having claims made by others upon the joint use of the land occupied by him, for, of course, we do not grant him a privilege in this respect; neither he nor anyone else in Freeland can exclude others from a co-enjoyment of the ground. Nevertheless, as we have plenty of space, it would have been long before the undertaker would have had to strike his sail on this account. That the few who in the early years of our history made such attempts quickly transformed themselves into directors of associations, was due to the fact that, in spite of any advantages which they might possess, they could not successfully compete with free labour. Three of these undertakers failed utterly; they could fulfil their obligations neither to their creditors nor to their workmen, and must have had to submit to the disgrace of bankruptcy if their workmen, distinctly perceiving the one defect from which the undertakings suffered, had not taken the matter in hand. Since the inventions and improvements for the introduction of which these three undertakers had founded their businesses, were valuable and genuine, and the masters had during their short time of mastership shown themselves to be energetic and–apart from their fancy for mastership–sensible men, the workers stepped into the breach, constituted themselves in each case an association, took upon themselves all the liabilities, and then, under the superintendence of the very men who had been on the brink of ruin, carried on the businesses so successfully that these three associations are now among the largest in Freeland. Four other several individuals–also notable industrial inventors–avoided a threatened catastrophe only by a timely change from the position of undertakers to that of superintendents of associations; and they stand at present at the head of works whose workers are numbered by thousands, and have since realised continuously increasing profits, high enough to satisfy all their reasonable expectations. Thus, as I have said, undertakership is not forbidden in Freeland; but it cannot successfully compete with free association.’

Sir B—- and the others declared themselves perfectly satisfied with this explanation, and begged the bank director to proceed with his account which they had interrupted. ‘You were saying,’ intimated my father, ‘that in Freeland interest was no more forbidden than undertaker’s gains and ground-rent. As to undertaker’s gains we now understand you; but before you proceed to the main point of your exposition–to interest–I would like to ask for fuller details upon the question of ground-rent. How are we to understand that this is not forbidden in Freeland?’

‘How you are to understand that,’ was the answer, ‘will best be made plain to you if I take up my train of thought where I left off. If, in order to labour productively, we required the undertaker, no power in heaven or earth could save us from giving up to him what was due to him as master of the process of production, while we contented ourselves with a bare subsistence–that is what I said. I would add that we should also be compelled to pay the tribute due to the landlord for the use of the ground, if we could not till the ground without having a landlord. For property in land was always based upon the supposition that unowned land could not be cultivated. Men did not understand how to plough and sow and reap without having the right to prevent others from ploughing and sowing and reaping upon the same land. Whether it was an individual, a community, a district, or a nation, that in this way acquired an exclusive right of ownership of the land, was immaterial: it was necessarily an _exclusive_ right, otherwise no one would put any labour into the land. Hence it happened, in course of time, that the individual owner of land acquired very considerable advantages in production over the many-headed owner; and the result was that common property in land gradually passed into individual ownership. But this distinction is not an essential one, and has very little to do with our institutions. With us, the land–so far as it is used as a means of production and not as sites for dwelling-houses–is absolutely masterless, free as air; it belongs neither to one nor to many: everyone who wishes to cultivate the soil is at liberty to do so where he pleases, and to appropriate his part of the produce. There is, therefore, no ground-rent, which is nothing else than the owner’s interest for the use of the land; but a prohibition of it will be sought for in vain. In the fact that I have no right to prohibit anything to others lies no prohibition. It cannot even be said that I am prohibited from prohibiting anything, for I may do it without hindrance from anyone; but everybody will laugh at me, as much as if I had forbidden people to breathe and had asserted that the atmospheric air was my own property. Where there is no power to enforce such pretensions, it is not necessary to prohibit them; if they are not artificially called forth and upheld, they simply remain non-existent. In Freeland no one possesses this power because here no one need sequestrate the land in order that it may be tilled. But the magic which enables us to cultivate ownerless land without giving rise to disputes is the same that enables us to produce without undertakers–free association.

‘Just as little do we forbid interest. No one in Freeland will prevent you from asking as high a rate of interest as you please; only you will find no one willing to pay it you, because everyone can get as much capital as he needs without interest. But you will ask whether, in this placing of the savings of the community at the disposal of those who need capital, there does not lie an injustice? Whether it is not Communism? And I will admit that here the question is not so simple as in the cases of the undertaker’s gains and of ground-rent. Interest is charged for a real and tangible service essentially different from the service rendered by the undertaker and the landowner. Whilst, namely, the economic service of the two latter consists in nothing but the exercise of a relation of mastership, which becomes superfluous as soon as the working masses have transformed themselves from servants working under compulsion into freely associated men, the capitalist offers the worker an instrument which gives productiveness to his labour under all circumstances. And whilst it is evident that, with the establishment of industrial freedom, both undertaker and landowner become, not merely superfluous, but altogether objectless–_ipso facto_ cease to exist–with respect to the capitalist, the possessor of savings, it can even be asserted that society is dependent upon him in an infinitely higher degree when free than when enslaved, because it can and must employ much more capital in the former case than in the latter. Moreover, it is not true that service rendered by capital–the giving wings to production–is compensated for by the mere return of the capital. After a full repayment, there remains to the worker, in proportion as he has used the capital wisely–which is his affair and not the lender’s–a profit which in certain circumstances may be very considerable, the increase of the proceeds of labour obtained by the aid of the capital. Why should it be considered unreasonable or unjust to hand over a part of this gain to the capitalist–to him, that is, to whose thrift the existence of the capital is due? The saver, so said the earlier Socialists, has no right to demand any return for the service which he has rendered the worker; it costs him nothing, since he receives back his property undiminished when and how he pleases (the premium for risk, which may have been charged as security against the possible bad faith or bankruptcy of the debtor, has nothing to do with the interest proper). Granted; but what right has the borrower, who at any rate derives advantage from the service rendered, to retain all the advantage himself? And what certainty has he of being able to obtain this service, even though it costs the saver nothing to render it, if he (the borrower) does not undertake to render any service in return? It is quite evident that the interest is paid in order to induce the saver to render such a friendly service. How could we, without communistic coercion, transfer capital from the hands of the saver into those of the capital-needing producer? For the community to save and to provide producers with capital from this source is a very simple way out of the difficulty, but the right to do this must be shown. No profound thinker will be satisfied with the communistic assertion that the capital drawn from the producers in one way is returned to them in another, for by this means there does not appear to be established any equilibrium between the burden and the gain of the individual producers. The tax for the accumulation of capital must be equally distributed among all the producers; the demand for capital, on the other hand, is a very unequal one. But how could we take the tax paid by persons who perhaps require but little capital, to endow the production of others who may happen to require much capital? What advantage do we offer to the former for their compulsory thrift?

‘And yet the answer lies close at hand. _It is true that in the exploiting system of society the creditor does not derive the slightest advantage from the increase in production which the debtor effects by means of the creditor’s savings; on the other hand, in the system of society based upon social freedom and justice both creditor and debtor are equally advantaged._ Where, as with us, every increase in production must be equably distributed among all, the problem as to how the saver profits from the employment of his capital solves itself. The machinist or the weaver, whose tax, for example, is applied to the purchase or improvement of agricultural machines, derives, with us, exactly the same advantage from this as does the agriculturist; for, thanks to our institutions, the increase of profit effected in any locality is immediately distributed over all localities and all kinds of production.

‘If anyone would ask what right a community based upon the free self-control of the individual, and strongly antagonistic to Communism, has to coerce its members to exercise thrift, the answer is that such coercion is in reality not employed. The tax out of which the capitalisation is effected is paid by everyone only in proportion to the work he does. No one is coerced to labour, but in proportion as a man does labour he makes use of capital. What is required of him is merely an amount proportional to what he makes use of. Thus both justice and the right of self-control are satisfied in every point.

‘You see, it is exactly the same with interest as with the undertaker’s gains and with ground-rent: the guaranteed right of association saves the worker from the necessity of handing over a part of the proceeds of his production to a third person under any plea whatever. Interest disappears of itself, just like profit and rent, for the sole but sufficient reason that the freely associated worker is his own capitalist, as well as his own undertaker and landlord. Or, if one will put it so, _interest, profit, and rent remain, but they are not separated from wages, with which they combine to form a single and indivisible return for labour_.’

And with this, good-night for the present.



Eden Vale: Aug. 11, —-

What we learnt from the director of the Freeland Central Bank occupied the thoughts of my father and myself for a long time. As this high functionary, who was a frequent visitor at the house of the Neys, dined with our hosts the next day, the table-talk ran mainly upon the Freeland institutions. My father began by asking whether the circumstance that the rest of the world, from which Freeland did not–and, in fact, in this matter could not–isolate itself, paid interest for loans, did not induce Freeland savers to seek foreign investments for their money; or whether at least some artificial means had not to be adopted to prevent this.

‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing,’ answered Mr. Clark, ‘to prevent Freeland savers from investing their capital abroad; in fact, at present–I have quite recently been referring to the statistics upon this point regularly published by our central bank–some two and a-half milliards (2,500,000,000£) are invested partly in the large foreign banks, partly in European and American bonds. For example, a good half of your Italian national debt is in the hands of Freelanders. But what are such figures in comparison with the gigantic amounts of our savings and capital? We cannot prevent, and have no reason whatever to prevent, many Freelanders from being induced by foreign interest to accumulate more capital than is needed here at home on the one hand, and more than they consider necessary to insure themselves against old age on the other. For what is required for these two purposes cannot go abroad.’

‘And is not this last-mentioned fact a disadvantage to the Freeland saver?’ I asked.

‘A Freelander who thought so,’ said Mr. Ney, ‘must have a very imperfect knowledge of what is to his own advantage. The interest paid by foreign debtors can in no respect compare with the advantages offered by employment of the money in Freeland, those advantages being, as you know, equably distributed among all the members of our commonwealth. At the end of last year we had altogether thirty-four milliards sterling invested. The calculated profit of these investments amounted to seven milliards; therefore, more than twenty per cent. Moreover, thanks to these same investments, every Freelander enjoys gratuitously the electric light, warming, the use of railways and steamships, &c., advantages the total value of which would very nearly equal the remunerative production effected by our investments. Anyone can now calculate how much more profitable Freeland investments of capital are than foreign ones. Moreover, the two and a-half milliards, of which friend Clark spoke, is a large sum in European and American financial operations, and it has actually contributed towards very considerably lowering from time to time the rate of interest in all the foreign money-markets; but when this amount is compared with Freeland finances, the investment of it abroad is seen to be simply an insignificant and harmless whim. This large sum brings in, at the present rate of interest–you will understand that Freeland savers invest merely in the very best European or American bonds–about thirty-four millions sterling; that is, not quite the two-hundredth part of the national revenue of Freeland. And there can be no doubt that this whim will–for us–lose much of even its present importance as Freeland continues to grow; for the competition of our capital has already reduced the rate of discount of the Bank of England to one and a-quarter per cent., and raised the price of the One and a-Half per cent. Consols to 118; hence there can be no doubt that a large flow of Freeland savings to Europe and America must, in a near future, reduce the rate of interest to a merely nominal figure. That this whim of investing capital abroad will altogether vanish as soon as foreign countries adopt our institutions is self-evident.’

I now addressed to Mr. Clark the question in what way the Freeland commonwealth guarded against the danger of _crises_, which, in my opinion, must here be much more disastrous than in any other country.

‘Crises of any kind,’ was the answer, ‘would certainly dissolve the whole complex of the Freeland institutions; but here they are impossible, for lack of the source from which they elsewhere spring. The cause of all crises, whether called production-crises or capital-crises, lies simply in over-production–that is, in the disproportion between production and consumption; and this disproportion does not exist among us. In fact, the starting-point of the Freeland social reform is the correct perception of the essential character of over-production arrived at twenty-six years ago by the International Free Society. Until then–and in the rest of the world it is still the case–the science of political economy found in this phenomenon an embarrassing enigma, with which it did not know how better to deal than to deny its existence. There was no real over-production–that is, no general non-consumption of products–so taught the orthodox political economists; for, they contended, men labour only when induced to do so to supply a need, and it is therefore impossible in the nature of things that more goods should be produced than can be consumed. And, on our supposition, to which I will refer presently, this is perfectly correct. Everyone will use what he produces to meet a certain need; he will either use his product himself or will exchange it for what another has produced. It matters not what that other product is, it is at any rate something that has been produced; the question never need be what kind of product, but only whether some product is asked for. Let us assume that an improvement has taken place in the production of wheat: it is possible that the demand for wheat will not increase in proportion to the possibility of increasing its production, for it is not necessary that the producers of wheat should use their increased earnings in a larger consumption of wheat. But then the demand for something else would correspondingly increase–for example, for clothing, or for tools; and if this were only known in time, and production were turned in that direction, there would never be a disturbance in the exchange-relations of the several kinds of goods. Thus the orthodox doctrine explains crises as due not to a surplus of products in general, not to a mere disproportion between production and consumption, but to a transient disturbance of the right relation between the several kinds of production; and it adds that it is simply paradoxical to talk of a deficient demand in view of the misery prevailing all over the world.

‘In this, in other respects perfectly unassailable reasoning, only _one_ thing is forgotten–the fundamental constitution of the exploiting system of society. Certainly it is a cruel paradox to speak of a general lack of demand in view of boundless misery; but where an immense majority of men have no claim upon the fruits of their labour, this paradox becomes a horrible reality. What avails it to the suffering worker that he knows how to make right, good, and needful use of what he produces, if that which he produces does not belong to him? Let us confine ourselves to the example of the increased production of wheat by improved methods of cultivation. If the right of disposal of the increased quantity of grain belonged to the agricultural producers, they would certainly eat more or finer bread, and thus themselves consume a part of the increased production; with another part they would raise the demand for clothing, and with another the demand for implements, which would necessarily be required in order that more grain and clothing might be produced. In such a case it would really be merely a question of restoring the right relation between the production of wheat, of clothing, of implements, which had been disturbed by the increased production of one of these–wheat; and increased production, a condition of greater prosperity for all, would, after some transient disturbances, be the inevitable consequence. But since the increased proceeds of wheat-cultivation do not belong to the workers, since those workers receive in any case only a bare subsistence, the progress which has been made in their branch of production does not enable them to consume either more grain or more clothing, and therefore there can exist no increased demand for implements for the production of wheat and textile fabrics.’

‘But,’ I objected, ‘though this increased product is withheld from the workers, it is not ownerless–it belongs to the undertakers; and these too are men who wish to use their gains to satisfy some want or other. The undertakers will now increase their consumption; and after all one might suppose it would be impossible that a general disproportion should exist between supply and demand. Certainly it would now be commodities of another kind, the production of which would be stimulated in order to restore an equilibrium between the several branches of labour. If the increase belonged to the workers, then would more grain, more ordinary clothing, and more implements be required; but since it belongs to a few undertakers there will be an increased demand only for luxuries–dainties, laces, equipages–and for the implements requisite to produce these luxuries.’

‘Exactly!’ said David, who here joined in the conversation. ‘Only the undertakers are by no means inclined to apply, in any considerable degree, the surplus derived from increased production to an additional consumption of luxuries; but they capitalise most of it–that is, invest it in implements of production. Nay, in some circumstances–as we heard yesterday–the “undertaker” is no man at all possessing human wants, but a mere dummy that consumes nothing and capitalises everything.’

‘So much the better,’ I said, ‘wealth will increase all the more rapidly; for rapidly growing capital means rapidly increasing production, and that is in itself identical with rapidly increasing wealth.’

‘Splendid!’ cried David. ‘So, because the working masses cannot increase their consumption, and the undertakers will not correspondingly increase theirs, and consequently there can be no increased consumption of any commodity whatever, therefore the surplus power of production is utilised in multiplying the means of production. That is, in other words, no one needs more grain–so let us construct more ploughs; no one needs more textile material–so let us set up more spinning-mills and looms! Are you not yet able to measure the height of absurdity to which your doctrine leads?’

I think, Louis, you, like myself, will admit that there is simply no reply to reasoning so plain and convincing. An economic system which bars the products of human industry and invention from the only use to which they should finally be applied–namely, that of satisfying some human requirement–and which is then astonished that they cannot be consumed, narrowly escapes idiocy. But that such is the character of the system which prevails in Europe and America must in the end become clear to everyone.

‘But, in heaven’s name, what becomes of the productive power among us which thus remains unemployed?’ I asked. ‘We are, on the whole, as advanced in art, science, and technical skill as you are in Freeland; I must therefore suppose that we could become as rich, or nearly so, as you, if we could only find a use for all our production. But we do not actually possess a tenth of your wealth, and yet there is twice as much hard work done among us as there is here. For though among you everyone works, and among us there are several millions of persons of leisure who live simply upon the toil of others, yet this is counterbalanced by the circumstance that our working masses are kept at their toil ten hours or more daily, whilst here an average working day is only five hours. Certainly among us there are millions of unemployed workers; but that also is more than compensated for by the labour of women and children, which is unknown among you. Where then, I repeat, lies the immense difference between the utilisation of our powers of production and of yours?’

‘In the equipment of labour,’ was the answer. ‘We Freelanders do not work so hard as you do, but we make full use of all the aids of science and technics, whilst you are able to do this only exceptionally, and in no case so completely as we do. All the inventions and discoveries of the greatest minds are as well known to you as to us; but as a rule they are taken advantage of only by us. Since your aristocratic institutions prevent you from enjoying the things the production of which is facilitated by those inventions, you are not able to take advantage of the inventions except in such small measure as your institutions permit.’

Even my father was profoundly moved by this crushing exposition of a system which he had always been accustomed to honour as the highest emanation of eternal wisdom. ‘Incredible! shocking!’ he murmured in a tone audible only to myself.

But Mr. Clark proceeded: ‘Among us, on the contrary, the theorem of the so-called classical economics, that a general excess of production is impossible, has become a truth, for in Freeland consumption and production exactly tally. Here there can be over-production only temporarily and in _isolated_ kinds of goods–that is, the equilibrium between different kinds of production may be temporarily disturbed. But we have no need to be afraid of even this trifling danger. The intimate connection of all productive interests springing from the nature of our institutions is an antecedent guarantee of equilibrium between all branches of production. A careful examination will show that the whole of Freeland is one great productive society, whose individual members are independent of one another, and yet are connected in one respect–namely, in respect of the proceeds of their labour. Just because everyone can labour where and how he pleases, but everyone’s labour is alike in aiming at the highest possible utility, so–apart from any incidental errors–it is impossible but that an equal amount of labour should result in an equal amount of utility. All our institutions tend towards this one point. At first, as long as our commonwealth was in its initial stages, it sometimes happened that considerable inequalities had to be subsequently balanced; the producers did not always know until the year’s accounts were closed what one and the other had earned. But that was a period of childhood long since outlived. At present, every Freelander knows, to within such trifling variations as may be due to little unforeseen accidents, exactly what he and others have earned, and also what they have every prospect of earning in the near future. He does not wait for inequalities to arise and then set about rectifying them; but he takes care that inequalities shall not arise. Since our statistics always show with unerring accuracy what at the time is being produced in every branch of industry, and since the demand as well as its influence upon prices can be exactly estimated from a careful observation of past years, therefore the revenue not only of every branch of industry, but of every separate establishment, can be beforehand so reliably calculated that nothing short of natural catastrophes can cause errors worth notice. If such occur, then comes in the assistance of the reciprocal insurance. In fact, in this country, not only are there no crises, but not even any considerable variations in the different productions. Our Statistical Department publishes an unbroken series of exact comparative statistics, from which can at any time be seen where either fresh demand or excess of labour is likely to arise; our supply of labour is controlled by these returns, and that is sufficient–with rare exceptions–to preserve a perfect equilibrium in production. It frequently occurs that here or there a newly started establishment comes to grief, particularly in the mining industry. Such a failure must not, however, be regarded as a bankruptcy–how can undertakers become bankrupt when they have neither ground-rent, nor interest, nor wages to pay, and who in any case still possess their highly priced labour-power?–but at the worst as a case of disappointed expectations. And should the very rare circumstance occur, that the community or an association loses the loaned capital through the premature death of the borrower, of what importance is that in the face of the gigantic sums safely employed in our business? And if a guaranty (_del credere_) were insisted upon to cover such a loss, it would amount to scarcely a thousandth part of one per cent., and would not be worth the ink used in writing it.’

‘And do not foreign crises sometimes disturb the calm course of your Freeland production? Are not your markets flooded, through foreign over-production, with goods for which there is no corresponding demand?’ I asked.

‘It certainly cannot be denied that we are considerably inconvenienced by the frequent and sudden changes of price in the markets of the world caused by the anarchic character of the exploiting system of production. We are thereby often compelled to diminish our production in certain directions, and divert the labour thus set free to other branches of industry, though there is no actual change in the cost of production or in the relative demand. These foreign, sudden, and incalculable influences sometimes make a diversion of labour from one production to another necessary in order to preserve an equilibrium in the profits, though the regular and automatic migration of labour from one industry to another is sufficient to correct the disturbance in the relations between supply and demand due to natural causes. But these spasmodic foreign occurrences cannot produce a serious convulsion in our industrial relations. Just as it is impossible to throw out of equilibrium a liquid which yields to every pressure or blow, so our industry is able to preserve its equilibrium by means of its absolutely free mobility. It may be thrown into fruitless agitation, but its natural gravity at once restores the harmony of its relations. But, as I have said, such a disturbance is produced only by a partial over-production abroad. That this brings about a superabundance of all commodities, we care but little. Since foreign countries do not send us their goods for nothing, but demand other goods in return, what those other goods shall be is their business, not ours. We have no interest-bearing bonds or saleable property in land; hence our export goods must be the produce of our labour. The fact that in Freeland every product must find a purchaser is therefore by no means affected by external trade.’

‘That is very clear,’ I admitted.

‘But,’ interposed my father,’ why do you not protect yourselves against disturbance due to foreign fluctuations in production, by a total exclusion of foreign imports?’

‘Because that would be to cut off one’s hand in order to prevent it from being injured,’ was Mr. Clark’s drastic answer. ‘We import only those goods which we cannot produce so cheaply ourselves. But since, as I have already taken the liberty of saying, the imported goods are not presented to us, but must be paid for by goods produced by us, it is of importance that we should be able to produce the goods with which we make the payment more cheaply–that is, with less expenditure of labour-power–than we could the imported goods. For instance, we manufacture scarcely any cotton goods, but get nearly all such goods from England and America. We could, certainly, manufacture cotton goods ourselves, but it is plain that we should have to expend upon their manufacture more labour-power than upon the production of the corn, gold, machinery, and tools with which we pay for the cotton goods that we require. If it were not so, we should manufacture cotton goods also, for there is no conceivable reason for not doing so but the one just mentioned. If, therefore, our legislature prohibited the importation of cotton goods, we should have to divert labour from other branches of industry for the sake of producing _less_ than we do now. We should have either to put up with fewer goods, or to work more, to meet the same demand. Hence, in this country, to enact a protective duty would be held to be pure madness.’

‘Then you hold,’ said my father, ‘that our European and American economists and statesmen who still in part adhere to the system of protection, are simply Bedlamites; and you believe that the only rational commercial policy is that of absolute free trade?’

‘Allow me to say,’ answered Mr. Clark,’ that Europe and America are not Freeland. I certainly cannot regard protection even abroad as rational, for the assumptions from which it starts are under all circumstances false. But neither do I think the foreign free trader is essentially wiser than the protectionist, for he also starts from assumptions which are baseless in an exploiting country. The prohibitionists think they are encouraging production: they are doing the opposite, they are hindering and hampering production; and the free traders, in so far as they insist upon this fact, are perfectly correct. Both parties, however, fail to see that in an exploiting society, which is never able to utilise more than a small part of its power to produce, the influence of legislative interference with trade upon the good or the bad utilisation of productive power is a matter of very little importance. Of what advantage is it to the free traders that a nation under the domination of their commercial system _is able_ to make the most prolific use of their industrial capacities, so long as the continuance of industrial servitude prevents this nation from enjoying more than enough to satisfy the barest necessities of life? More than is consumed cannot, under any circumstances, be produced; and consumption among you abroad is so infinitely small, that it is verily ridiculous to dispute over the question whether this or that commodity can be produced better at home or abroad.

‘What alone interests us in this controversy among the foreign commercial politicians is that neither party has the slightest suspicion that what the free traders rightly reproach the protectionists with, and what the latter wrongly defend, is the very thing that gains so many adherents to protection–namely, the hindering and hampering of production. The protectionists have a right to boast that they compel their people to apply two day’s labour or a double amount of capital to the production at home of a thing which, by means of external trade, might have been exchanged for things that are the product of merely half as much expenditure of home labour. We, who work in order to enjoy, would have a good right to treat as insane any persons among us who proposed such a course as an “encouragement of home labour”; but among you, where labour and enjoyment are completely dissevered, where millions cry for work as a favour–among you, the hampering of labour is felt to be a benefit because it makes more toil necessary in order to procure an equal amount of enjoyment. Among you it is also a somewhat dangerous narcotic, for protection has a Janus head: it not merely increases the toil, it at the same time still more diminishes the consumption by raising the price of the articles in demand, the rise in price never being followed immediately by a rise in wages; so that, in the end, in spite of the increased difficulty in production, no more labour and capital are employed than before. But the intimate relation between these things is as a book sealed with seven seals to both protectionists and free traders. Had it been otherwise, they must long since have seen that the cure for industrial evils must be looked for not in the domain of commercial politics, but in that of social politics.’

‘Now I begin to understand,’ I cried out, ‘the widespread growth of economic reaction against which we Western Liberals are waging a ridiculous Quixotic war with all our apparently irrefutable arguments. We present to the people as an argument against protection exactly that after which they are–unconsciously, it is true–eagerly longing. Protective tariffs, trade guilds, and whatever else the ingenious devices of the last decades may be called, I now understand and recognise as desperate attempts made by men whose very existence is threatened by the ever growing disproportion between the power to produce and consumption–attempts to restore to some extent the true proportion by curbing and checking the power to produce. Whilst the protectionist is eager to put fetters upon the international division of labour, to keep at a distance the foreigner who might otherwise save him some of his toil, the advocate of trade-guilds fights for hand-labour against machine-labour and commerce. And when I look into the matter, I find all these people are in a certain sense wiser than we Liberals of the old school, who know no better cure for the malady of the time than that of shutting our eyes as firmly as possible. It is true, our intentions have been of the best; but since we have at length discovered how to attain what we wished for, we should at once throw off the fatal self-deception that political freedom would suffice to make men truly free and happy. Political freedom is an indispensable, but not the sole, condition of progress; whoever refuses to recognise this condemns mankind afresh to the night of reaction. For if, as our Liberal economics has taught, it were really contrary to the laws of nature to guarantee to all men a full participation in the benefits of progress, then not only would progress be the most superfluous thing imaginable, but we should have to agree with those who assert that the eternally disinherited masses can find happiness only in ignorant indifference. Now I realise that the material and mental reaction is the logically inevitable outcome of economic orthodoxy. If wealth and leisure are impossible for all, then it is strictly logical to promote material and mental reaction; whilst it is absurd to believe that men will perpetually promote a growth of culture without ever taking advantage of it. I now see with appalling distinctness that if our toiling masses had not been saved by their social hopes from sharing our economic pessimism, we Liberals would long since have found ourselves in the midst of a reaction of a fearful kind: it is not through _us_ that modern civilisation has been spared the destruction which overwhelmed its predecessors.’

After dinner, Mr. Ney invited us to accompany him to the National Palace, where the Parliament for Public Works was about to hold an evening session in order to vote upon a great canal project. He thought the subject would interest us. We accepted the invitation with thanks.

The Parliament for Public Works consists of 120 members, most of whom, as David–who was one of the party–told me, are directors of large associations, particularly of associations connected with building; but among the members are also professors of technical universities, and other specialists. The body contains no laymen who are ignorant of public works; and the parliament may be said to contain the flower and quintessence of the technical science and skill of all Freeland.

The project before the house was one which had been advocated for above a year by the directors of the Water and Mountain-Cultivation Associations of Eden Vale, North Baringo, Ripon, and Strahl City, in connection with two professors of the technical university of Ripon. The project was nothing less than the construction of a canal navigable by ships of 2,000 tons burden, from Lake Tanganika, across the Mutanzige and Albert Nyanza, whence the Nile could be followed to the Mediterranean Sea; and from the mouth of the Congo, along the course of that river, across the Aruwhimi to the Albert lake; thence following several smaller streams to the Baringo lake, along the upper course of the Dana, and thence to the Indian Ocean. The project thus included two water-ways, one of which would connect the great lakes of Central Africa with the Mediterranean Sea, and the other, crossing the whole of the continent, would connect the Atlantic with the Indian Ocean. Since a part of the immense works involved in this project would have to be carried through foreign territories–those of the Congo State and of Egypt–negotiations had been opened with those States, and all the necessary powers had been obtained. The readiness of the foreign governments to accede to the wishes of the Eden Vale executive is explained by the fact that Freeland did not propose to exact any toll for the use of its canals, thus making its neighbours a free gift of these colossal works. In connection with this project, there was also another for the acquisition of the Suez Canal, which was to be doubled in breadth and depth and likewise thrown open gratuitously to the world. The English government, which owned the greater part of the Suez Canal shares, had met the Freelanders most liberally, transferring to them its shares at a very low price, so that the Freelanders had further to deal with only holders of a small number of shares, who certainly knew how to take advantage of the situation. The British government stipulated for the inalienable neutrality of the canal, and urged the Freelanders to prosecute the work with vigour.

The following were the preliminary expenses:

South-North Canal (total length 3,900 miles) 385,000,000 East-West Canal (total length 3,400 miles) 412,000,000 Suez Canal (purchase and enlargement) 280,000,000 Total 1,077,000,000£

It was estimated that the whole would be completed in six years, and that therefore a round sum of 180,000,000£ would be required yearly during the progress of the work. The Freeland government believed that they were justified by their past experience in expecting that the national income would in the course of the coming six years increase from seven milliards–the income of the past year–to at least ten and a-half milliards, giving a yearly average of eight and a-half milliards for the six years. The cost of construction of the projected works would therefore absorb only two and one-eighth per cent. of the estimated national income, and would be covered without raising the tax upon this income above its normal proportion. The estimated cost was accompanied by detailed plans, and also by an estimate of the profits, according to which it was calculated that in the first year of use the canals would save the country 32,000,000£ in cost of transport; and therefore, taking into account the presumptive growth of traffic, the canals would, in about thirty years, pay for themselves in the mere saving of transport expenses. Moreover, these future waterways were to serve in places as draining and irrigating canals; and it was calculated that the advantage thus conferred upon the country would be worth on an average 45,000,000£ a year. Thus the whole project would pay for itself in fourteen years at the longest, without taking into account the advantages conferred upon foreign nations.

As the whole of the proposals and plans had been in the hands of the members for several weeks, and had been carefully studied by them, the discussion began at once. No one offered any opposition to the principle of the project. The debate was confined chiefly to two questions: first, whether it was not possible to hasten the construction; and secondly, whether an alternative plan, the details of which were before the house, was not preferable. With reference to the first question, it was shown that, by adopting a new system of dredging devised by certain experienced specialists, quite six months could be saved; and it was therefore resolved to adopt that system. As to the second question, after hearing the arguments of Mr. Ney, it was unanimously decided to adhere to the plan of the central executive. After a debate of less than three hours, the government found itself empowered to spend 1,077,000,000£, something more than the cost of all the canals in the rest of the civilised world. This amount was to be spent in five and a-half years, in constructing works which would make it possible for ocean steamers to cross the African continent from east to west, to pass from the Mediterranean as far as the tenth degree of south latitude, and to remove every obstacle and every toll from the passage of the Suez Canal.

I was absolutely dumfounded by all this. ‘If I had not already resolved to strike the word “impossible” out of my vocabulary, I should do it now,’ I remarked to Mr. Ney on our way home. I must add that in the Freeland parliaments all the proceedings take place in the presence of the public, so that I had an opportunity of making a hasty examination of the details of the project which had just been adopted. You know that I understand such things a little, and I was therefore able to gather from the plans that the two central ship canals crossed several watersheds. One of these watersheds I accidentally knew something of, as we had passed a part of it on our journey hither, and a part of it we had seen in some of our excursions. It rises, as I reckon, at least 1,650 feet above the level of the canal. I asked Mr. Ney whether it was really proposed to carry a waterway for ships of 2,000 tons burden some 1,650 feet up and down–was it not impossible either to construct or to work such a canal?

‘Certainly!’ he replied, with a smile. ‘But if you look at the plan more carefully, you will see that we do not _go over_ such watersheds by means of locks, but _under_ them by means of tunnels.’

I looked at him incredulously, and my father’s face expressed no little astonishment.

‘What do you find remarkable in that, my worthy guests? Why should it be impracticable to do on canals what has so long and extensively been done on railways, which could be much more easily carried _over_ hills and valleys?’ asked Mr. Ney. ‘I admit that our canal tunnels are very costly; but as, in working, they spare us what is the most expensive of all things, human labour-time, they are the most practical for our circumstances. Besides, in several cases we had no alternative except to dispense with the canals or to construct tunnels. The watershed you speak of is not the most considerable one: our greatest boring–connecting the river system of the Victoria Nyanza with the Indian Ocean–is carried, in one stretch of ten and a-half miles, 4,000 feet below the watershed; and altogether, in our new project, we have not less than eighty-two miles of tunnelling. Such tunnels are, however, not quite novelties. There are in France, as you know, several short water-tunnels; we possess, in our old canal system, several very respectable ones, though certainly they cannot compare either in length or in size with the new ones, by means of which large ocean vessels–with lowered masts, of course–will be able to steam through the bowels of whole ranges of mountains. The cost is enormous; but you must remember that every hour saved to a Freeland sailor is already worth eight shillings, and increases in value year by year.’

‘But,’ said my father, ‘what, after all, is inconceivable to me is the haste, I might almost say the _nonchalance_, with which milliards were voted to you, as if it was merely a question of the veriest trifle. I would not for a moment question the integrity of the members of your Parliament for Public Buildings; but I cannot refrain from saying that the whole assembly gave me the impression of expecting the greatest personal advantage from getting the work done as speedily and on as large a scale as possible.’

‘And that impression was a correct one,’ replied Mr. Ney. ‘But I must add that every inhabitant of Freeland will necessarily derive the same personal profit from the realisation of this canal project. Just because it is so, just because among us there truly exists that solidarity of interests which among other peoples exists only in name, are we able to expend such immense sums upon works which can be shown to promise a utility above their cost. If, among you, a canal is constructed which increases the profitableness of large tracts of land, your recognised economics teaches you that it adds to the prosperity of all. But this is correct only for the owners of the ground affected by the canal, whilst the great mass of the population is not benefited in the least by such a canal, and perhaps the owners of other competing tracts of land are actually injured. The lowering of the price of corn–so your statesmen assert–benefits the non-possessing classes; they forget the little fact that the rate of wages cannot be permanently maintained if the price of corn sinks. Against this there is certainly to be placed as a consolation the fact that the non-possessing masses will not be permanently injured by the increased taxes necessitated by such public works; for he who earns only enough to furnish a bare subsistence cannot long be made to pay much in taxes. Therefore, in your countries, the controversy over such investments is a conflict of interests between different landowners and undertakers, some of whom gain, whilst others gain nothing, or actually lose. Among us, on the contrary, everyone is alike interested in the gains of profitable investments in proportion to the amount of work he does; and everyone is also called upon to contribute to the defraying of the cost in proportion to the amount of work he does: hence, a conflict of interests, or even a mere disproportion in reaping the advantage, is among us absolutely excluded. The new canals will convert 17,000,000 acres of bog into fertile agricultural land. Who will be benefited, when this virgin soil traversed by such magnificent waterways annually produces so many more pounds sterling per acre than is produced by other land? Plainly everyone in Freeland, and everyone alike, whether he be agriculturist, artisan, professor, or official. Who gains by the lowering of freights? Merely the associations and workers who actually make use of the new waterways for transport? By no means; for, thanks to the unlimited mobility of our labour, they necessarily share with everyone in Freeland whatever advantage they reap. Therefore, with perfect confidence, we commit the decision of such questions to those who are most immediately interested in them. They know best what will be of advantage to them, and as their advantage is everybody’s advantage, so everybody’s–that is, the commonwealth’s–treasury stands as open and free to them as their own. If they wish to put their hands into it, the deeper the better! We have not to inquire _whom_ the investment will benefit, but merely _if_ it is profitable–that is, if it saves labour.’

‘Marvellous, but true!’ my father was compelled to admit. ‘But since in this country there exists the completest solidarity of interests, I cannot understand why you require the repayment of the capital which the commonwealth supplies to the different associations.’

‘Because not to do so would be Communism with all its inevitable consequences,’ was the answer. ‘The ultimate benefit of such gratuitously given capital would certainly be reaped by all alike; but, in that case, who could guarantee that the investment of the capital should be advantageous and not injurious? For an investment of capital is advantageous only when by its help more labour is saved than the creation of the capital has cost. A machine that absorbs more labour than it takes the place of is injurious. But we are now secured against such wasteful expenditure, at least against any known waste of capital. The commonwealth, as well as individuals, may be mistaken in its calculations; both may consider an investment profitable which is afterwards proved to be unprofitable–that is, which does not pay for the labour which it costs. Nevertheless, the _intention_ in all investments can only be to save the expenditure of energy, for both the commonwealth and individuals must bear the cost of their own investments. If, however, the commonwealth had to be responsible for the investments of individuals–that is, of the associations–then the several associations would have no motive to avoid employing such mechanical aids as would save less labour than they cost. The necessary consequence of this liberality on the part of the commonwealth would therefore be that the commonwealth would assume a right of supervision and control over those who required capital; and this would be incompatible with freedom and progress. All sense of personal responsibility would be lost, the commonwealth would be compelled to busy itself with matters which did not belong to it, and loss would be inevitable in spite of all arbitrary restraints from above.’

‘That, again,’ said my father, ‘is as plain and simple as possible. But I must ask for an explanation of one other point. In virtue of the solidarity of interests which prevails among you, everyone participates in all improvements, wherever they may occur; this takes place in such a manner that everyone has the right to exchange a less profitable branch of production, or a less profitable locality, for a more profitable one. Then what interest has the _individual_ producer–that is, the _individual_ association–to introduce improvements, since it must seem to be much simpler, less troublesome, and less risky, to allow others to take the initiative and to attach oneself to them when success is certain? But I perceive that your associations are by no means lacking in push and enterprise: how is this? What prompts your producers to run risks–small though they may be–when the profit to be gained thereby must so quickly be shared by everybody?’

‘In the first place,’ replied Mr. Ney, ‘you overlook the fact that the amount of the expected profit is not the only inducement by which working-men, and particularly our Freeland workers, are influenced. The ambition of seeing the establishment to which one belongs in the van and not in the rear of all others, is not to be undervalued as a motive actuating intelligent men possessing a strong _esprit de corps_. But, apart from that, you must reflect that the members of the associations have also a very considerable _material_ interest in the prosperity of their own particular undertaking. Freeland workers without exception have very comfortable, nay, luxurious homes, naturally for the most part in the neighbourhood of their respective work-places; they run a risk of having to leave these homes if their undertaking is not kept up to a level with others. In the second place, the elder workmen–that is, those that have been engaged a longer time in an undertaking–enjoy a constantly increasing premium; their work-time has a higher value by several units per cent. than that of the later comers. Hence, notwithstanding the solidarity of interest, the members of each association have to take care that their establishment is not excelled; and since the risk attending new improvements is very small indeed, the spirit of invention and enterprise is more keenly active among us than anywhere else in the world. The associations zealously compete with each other for pre-eminence, only it is a friendly rivalry and not a competitive struggle for bread.’

By this time it had grown late. My father and I would gladly have listened longer to the very interesting explanations of our kind host, but we could not abuse the courtesy of our friends, and so we parted; and I will take occasion also to bid you, Louis, farewell for to-day.



Eden Vale: Aug. 16, —-

In your last letter you give expression to your astonishment that our host, with only a salary of 1,440£ as a member of the government of Freeland, is able to keep up such an establishment as I have described, to occupy an elegant villa with twelve dwelling-rooms, to furnish his table, to indulge in horses and carriages–in a word, to live as luxuriously as only the richest are able to do among us at home. In fact, David was right when he promised us that we should not have to forego any real comfort, any genuine enjoyment to which we had been accustomed in our aristocratic palace at home. Our host does not possess capital the interest of which he can use; nor is Mrs. Ney a ‘blue-stocking’–as you surmise–who writes highly paid romances for Freeland journals; nor does the elder Ney draw upon his son’s income as artist. It is true that Mrs. Ney once possessed a large fortune which she inherited from her father, one of the leading speculators of America; but she lost this to the last farthing in the great American crisis of 18–, soon after her marriage. The domestic habits of the Neys were not, however, affected in the least by this loss; for since her migration to Freeland she had never made any private use of her fortune, but had always applied its income to public purposes. This does not prevent Mr. Ney from spending–over and above the outlay you mention–very considerable sums upon art and science and in benevolence: the last of course only abroad, for here no one is in need of charity. As it is not considered indiscreet in Freeland to talk of such matters, I am in a position to tell you that last year the Neys spent 92£ for objects of art, 75£ for books, journals, and music, 120£ in travelling, and 108£–the amount that remained to their credit after defraying all the other expenses–in foreign charities and public institutions. Thanks to the marvellous organisation of industry and trade, everything here is fabulously cheap–in fact, many things which consume a great deal of money in Europe and America do not add in the least to the expenses of a Freeland household, as they are furnished gratuitously by the commonwealth, and paid for out of the tax which has been subtracted in advance from the net income of each individual. For example, in the cost of travelling, not a farthing has to be reckoned for railway or steamship, since–as you have already learnt from my former letters–the Freeland commonwealth provides free means of personal transport. The same holds, as I think I have already told you, of the telegraphs, the telephones, the post, electric lighting, mechanical motive-power, &c. On the other hand, the Freeland government charges the cost of the transport of goods by land and water to the owners of the goods. I will take this opportunity of remarking that almost every Freeland family spends on an average two months in the year in travelling, mostly in the many wonderfully beautiful districts of their own land, and more rarely in foreign countries. Every Freelander takes a holiday of at least six, and sometimes as much as ten weeks, and seeks recreation, pleasure, and instruction, as a tourist. The highlands of the Kilimanjaro, the Kenia, and the Elgon, of the Aberdare range and the Mountains of the Moon, as well as the shores of all the great lakes, swarm at all seasons–except the two rainy seasons–with driving, riding, walking, rowing, and sailing men, women, and children, in full enjoyment of all the delights of travel.

An intelligent and hearty love of nature and natural beauty is a general characteristic of the Freelanders. They are proprietors in common of the whole of their country, and their loving care for this precious possession is everywhere conspicuous. It is significant that nowhere in Freeland are the streams and rivers poisoned by refuse-water; nowhere are picturesque mountain-declivities disfigured by quarries opened in badly selected localities. No such offences against the beauty of the landscape are anywhere to be met with. For why should these self-governing workers rob themselves of the real pleasure afforded by healthy and beautiful natural scenes, for the sake of a small saving which must be shared by everybody? Naturally, this intelligent regard for rural attractions benefits tourists also. Everywhere both the roads and the railways are bordered by avenues of fine palms, whose slender branchless trunks do not obscure the view, whilst their heavy crowns afford refreshing shade. In consequence of this simple and effective arrangement, one suffers far less from heat and dust here under the equator than in temperate Europe, where in the summer months a several hours’ journey by rail or road is frequently a torture. At all the beautiful and romantic spots, the Hotel and Recreation Associations have employed their immense resources in providing enormous boarding-houses, as well as many small villas, in which the tourists may find every comfort, either in the company of hundreds or thousands of others, or in rural isolation, for hours, days, weeks, or months.

If you are astonished at the luxury in the house of the Neys, what will you say when I tell you that in this country every simple worker lives essentially as our hosts do? The villas merely have fewer rooms, the furniture is plainer; instead of keeping saddle-horses of their own, the simple workers hire those belonging to the Transport Association; less money is spent upon objects of art, books, and for benevolent purposes: these are the only differences. Take, for instance, our neighbour Moro. Though an ordinary overseer in the Eden Vale Paint-making Association, he and his charming wife are among the intimate friends of our host, and we have already several times dined in his neat and comfortable seven-roomed house. Even ‘pupil-daughters’ are not lacking in his house, for his wife enjoys–and justly, as I can testify–the reputation of possessing a special amount of mental and moral culture; and, as you know, pupil-daughters choose not the great house, but the superior housewife. And if it should strike you as remarkable that such a Phoenix of a woman should be the wife of a simple factory-hand, you must remember that the workers of Freeland are different from those of Europe. Here everybody enjoys sound secondary education; and that a young man becomes an artisan and not a teacher, or a physician, or engineer, or such like, is due to the fact that he does not possess, or thinks he does not possess, any _exceptional_ intellectual capacity. For in this country the intellectual professions can be successfully carried on only by those who possess exceptional natural qualifications, since the competition of _all_ who are really qualified makes it impossible for the imperfectly qualified to succeed. Among ourselves, where only an infinitely small proportion of the population has the opportunity of studying, the lack of means among the immense majority secures a privilege even to the blockheads among the fortunate possessors of means. The rich cannot all be persons of talent any more than all the poor can. Since we, however, notwithstanding this, supply our demand for intellectual workers–apart, of course, from those exceptional cases which occur everywhere–solely from the small number of sons of rich families, we are fortunate if we find one capable student among ten incapables; of which ten–since the one capable student cannot supply all our demand–at most only two or three of the greatest blockheads suffer shipwreck. Here, on the contrary, where everyone has the opportunity of studying, there are, of course, very many more capable students; consequently the Freelanders do not need to go nearly so low down as we do in the scale of capacity to cover their demand for intellectual workers. It does not necessarily follow that their cleverest men are cleverer than ours; but our incapables–among the graduates–are much, much more incapable than the least capable of theirs can possibly be. What would be of medium quality among us is here far below consideration at all. Friend Moro, for instance, would probably, in Europe or America, not have been one of the ‘lights of science,’ nor ‘an ornament to the bar’; but he would at least have been a very acceptable average teacher, advocate, or official. Here, however, after leaving the intermediate school, it was necessary for him to take a conscientious valuation of his mental capacity; and he arrived at the conclusion that it would be better to become a first-rate factory-overseer than a mediocre teacher or official. And he could carry out this–perhaps too severe–resolve without socially degrading himself, for in Freeland manual labour does not degrade as it does in Europe and America, where the assertion that it does not degrade is one of the many conventional lies with which we seek to impose upon ourselves. Despite all our democratic talk, work is among us in general a disgrace, for the labourer is a dependent, an exploited servant–he has a master over him who can order him, and can use him for his own purpose as he can a beast of burden. No ethical theory in the world will make master and servant equally honourable. But here it is different. To discover how great the difference is, one need merely attend a social reunion in Freeland. It is natural, of course, that persons belonging to the same circle of interests should most readily associate together; but this must not be supposed to imply the existence of anything even remotely like a breaking up of society into different professional strata. The common level of culture is so high, interest in the most exalted problems of humanity so general, even among the manual labourers, that _savants_, artists, heads of the government, find innumerable points of contact, both intellectual and aesthetic, even with factory-hands and agricultural labourers.

This is all the more the case since a definite line of demarcation between head-workers and hand-workers cannot here be drawn. The manual labourer of to-day may to-morrow, by the choice of his fellow-labourers, become a director of labour, therefore a head-worker; and, on the other hand, there are among the manual labourers untold thousands who were originally elected to different callings, and who have gone through the studies required for such callings, but have exchanged the pen for the tool, either because they found themselves not perfectly qualified intellectually, or because their tastes have changed. Thus, for instance, another visiting friend of the Neys successfully practised as a physician for several years; but he now devotes himself to gardening, because this quiet calling withdraws him less than his work as physician from his favourite study, astronomy. His knowledge and capacity as astronomer were not sufficient to provide him with a livelihood, and as he was frequently called in the night from some interesting observation reluctantly to attend upon sick children, he determined to earn his livelihood by gardening, so that he might devote his nights to an undisturbed observation of the stars. Another man with whom I have here become acquainted exchanged the career of a bank official for that of a machine-smith, simply because he did not like a sedentary occupation; several times he might have been elected by the members of his association on the board of directors, but he always declined on the plea of an invincible objection to office work. But there is a still larger number of persons who combine some kind of manual labour with intellectual work. So general in Freeland is the disinclination to confine oneself _exclusively_ to head-work, that in all the higher callings, and even in the public offices, arrangements have to be made which will allow those engaged in such offices to spend some time in manual occupations. The bookkeepers and correspondents of the associations, as well as of the central bank, the teachers, officials, and other holders of appointments of all kinds, have the right to demand, besides the regular two months’ holiday, leave of absence for a longer or a shorter time, which time is to be spent in some other occupation. Naturally no wages are paid for the time consumed by these special periods of absence; but this does not prevent the greater part of all those officials from seeking a temporary change of occupation for several months once in every two or three years, as factory-hands, miners, agriculturists, gardeners, &c. An acquaintance of mine, a head of a department of the central executive, spends two months in every second year at one or other of the mines in the Aberdare or the Baringo district. He tells me he has already gone practically through the work of the coal, the iron, the tin, the copper, and the sulphur mines; and he is now pleasantly anticipating a course of labour in the salt-works of Elmeteita.

In view of this general and thorough inter-blending of the most ordinary physical with the highest mental activity, it is impossible to speak of any distinction of class or social status. The agriculturists here are as highly respected, as cultured gentlemen, as the learned, the artists, or the higher officials; and there is nothing to prevent those who harmonise with them in character and sentiment from treating them as friends and equals in society.

But the women–elsewhere the staunchest upholders of aristocratic exclusiveness–in this country are the most zealous advocates of a complete amalgamation of all the different sections of the population. The Freeland woman, almost without exception, has attained to a very high degree of ethical and intellectual culture. Relieved of all material anxiety and toil, her sole vocation is to ennoble herself, to quicken her understanding for all that is good and lofty. As she is delivered from the degrading necessity of finding in her husband one upon whom she is dependent for her livelihood, as she does not derive her social position from the occupation of her husband, but from her own personal worth, she is consequently free from that haughty exclusiveness which is to be found wherever real excellences are wanting. The women of the so-called better classes among us at home treat their less fortunate sisters with such repellent arrogance simply because they cannot get rid of the instinctive feeling that these poorer sisters would have very well occupied their own places, and _vice versâ_, had their husbands been changed. And even when it is not so, when the European ‘lady’ actually does possess a higher ethical and intellectual character, she is obliged to confess that her position in the opinion of the world depends less upon her own qualities than upon the rank and position of her husband–that is, upon another, who could just as well have placed any other woman upon the borrowed throne. Schopenhauer is not altogether wrong: women are mostly engaged in one and the same pursuit–man-hunting–and it is the envy of competition that lies at the bottom of their pride. Only he forgets to add, or rather he does not know, that this pursuit, which is common to all women, and which he lashes so unmercifully, is, with all its hateful evil consequences, the inevitable result of their lack of legal rights, and is in no way indissolubly bound up with their nature.

The women here, who are free and endowed with equal legal rights with the men in the highest sense of the words, exhibit none of this pride in the external relations of life. Even when the calling or the wealth of the husband might give rise to a certain social distinction, they would never recognise it, but allow themselves to be guided in their social intercourse simply by personal characteristics. It is the most talented, the most amiable woman whose friendship they most eagerly seek, whatever may be the position of the woman’s husband. Hence you can understand that Mrs. Moro could select her husband without having to make the slightest sacrifice in her relation to Freeland ‘society.’

Whilst we are upon this subject, let me say a few words as to the character of society here. Social life here is very bright and animated. Families that are intimate with each other meet together without ceremony almost every evening; and there is conversation, music, and, among the young people, not a little dancing. There is nothing particular in all this; but the very peculiar, and to the stranger at first altogether inexplicable, attraction of Freeland society is due to the prevailing tone of the most perfect freedom in combination with the loftiest nobility and the most exquisite delicacy. When I had enjoyed it a few times, I began to long for the pleasure of these reunions, without at first being able to account for the charm which they exercised upon me. At last I arrived at the conviction that what made social intercourse here so richly enjoyable must be mainly the genuine human affection which characterises life in Freeland.

Social reunions in Europe are essentially nothing more than masquerades in which those present indulge in reciprocal lying–meetings of foes, who attempt to hide under courtly grimaces the ill-will they bear each other, but who nevertheless utterly fail to deceive each other. And under an exploiting system of society this cannot be prevented, for antagonism of interests is there the rule, and true solidarity of interests a very rare and purely accidental exception. To cherish a genuine affection for our fellow-men is with us a virtue, the exercise of which demands more than an ordinary amount of self-denial; and everyone knows that nine-tenths of the wearers of those politely grinning masks would fall upon each other in bitter hatred if the inherited and acquired restraints of conventional good manners were for a moment to be laid aside. At such reunions one feels very much as those miscellaneous beasts may be supposed to feel who are confined together in a common cage for the delectation of the spectacle-loving public. The only difference is that our two-legged tigers, panthers, lynxes, wolves, bears, and hyenas are better trained than their four-legged types; the latter glide about fiercely snarling at each other, with difficulty restraining their murderous passions as they cast side-glances at the lash of their tamer, whilst the ill-will lurking in the hearts of the former is to be detected only by the closest observer through some malicious glance of the eye, or some other scarcely perceptible movement. In fact, so complete is the training of the two-legged carnivora that they themselves are sometimes deceived by it; there are moments when the hyenas seriously believe that their polite grinning at the tiger is honestly meant, and when the tiger fancies that his subdued growls conceal a genial affection and friendship towards his fellow-beasts. But these are only fleeting moments of fond self-deception; and in general one cannot get rid of the sensation of being among natural enemies, who, but for the external restraints, would fly at our throats. The Freelanders, on the contrary, feel that they are among true and honourable friends when they find themselves in the company of other men. They have nothing to hide from one another, they have no wish either to take advantage of or to injure one another. It is true that there is emulation between them; but this cannot destroy the sentiment of friendly comradeship, since the success of the victor profits the conquered as well. Genial candour, an almost childlike ingenuousness, are therefore in all circumstances natural to them; and it is this, together with their joyous view of life and their intellectual many-sidedness, which lends such a marvellous charm to Freeland society.

But let me go on with the story of my experiences here. Yesterday we saw for the first time in Freeland a drunken man! We–my father and I–had, after dinner, been with David for a short walk on the shore of the lake, where most of the Eden Vale hotels are situated. As we were returning home we met a drunken man, who staggered up to us and stutteringly asked the way to his inn. He was evidently a new-comer. David asked us to go the remaining few steps homewards without him, and he took the man by the arm and led him towards his inn. I joined David in this kindly act, whilst my father went home. When we had also got home we found my father engaged in a very lively conversation with Mrs. Key over this little adventure. ‘Only think,’ cried he to me, ‘Mrs. Ney says we should think ourselves fortunate in having seen what is one of the rarest of sights in this country! She has lived in Freeland twenty-five years, and has seen only three cases of drunkenness; and she is convinced that at this moment there is not another man in Eden Vale who has ever drunk to intoxication! You Freelanders’–he turned now to David–‘are certainly no teetotallers; your beer and palm-wine are excellent; your wines leave nothing to be desired; and you do not seem to me to be people who merely keep these good things ready to offer to an occasional guest. Does it really never happen that some of you drink a little more than enough to quench your thirst?’

‘It is as my mother says. We like to drink a good drop, and that not seldom; and I will not deny that on festive occasions the inspiration begotten of wine here and there makes itself pretty evident; nevertheless, a Freelander incapably drunk is one of the rarest phenomena. If you are so much surprised at this, ask yourself whether well-bred and cultured men are accustomed to get drunk in Europe and America. I know that happens even among you only very rarely, although public opinion there is less strict upon this point than it is here. But in Freeland there are no persons who are compelled to seek forgetfulness of their misery in intoxication, and the examples of such persons cannot therefore serve to accustom the public to the sight of this most degrading of all vices. Many, I know, think that the disgusting picture afforded by drunken persons is the best means of exciting a feeling of repugnance towards this vice–a view which is probably derived from Plutarch’s statement that the Lacedemonians used to make their helots drunk in order to serve as deterring examples to the Spartan youth. This account may be true or false, but an argument in favour of the theory that example deters by its disgusting character can be based upon it only by the most thoughtless; for it is a well-attested fact that the Spartans–the rudest of all the Greeks–were more addicted to drunkenness than any other Hellenic tribe. The “deterring” example of the helots had therefore very little effect. It is because in this country drunkenness is so extremely rare that it excites such special disgust; and as, moreover, the principal source of this vice–misery–is removed, the vice itself may be regarded as absolutely extinct among us. This result has been not a little assisted by the circumstance that merrymakings and festivities in Freeland are always largely participated in by women. Since we honour woman as the embodiment and representative of human enjoyment, as the loftiest custodian of all that ennobles and adorns our earthly existence, we are unable to conceive of genuine mirth without the participation of women. You have seen enough of our Freeland women to understand that indecorous excesses of any kind in their presence are wellnigh inconceivable.’

‘We are not so much surprised that you Freelanders are proof against this vice,’ replied my father. ‘But your respected mother tells us that even among the immigrants drunkards are as rare as white ravens. Now, I am not aware that teetotal apostles keep watch on your frontiers. The immigrants, at any rate many of them, belong to those races and classes which at home are by no means averse to drinking, and indeed to drunkenness in its most disgusting forms; what induces these people, when they get here, to become so persistently abstemious?’

‘First, the removal of those things which in Europe and America lead to drunkenness. Sometimes, during my student-travels in Europe–when I studied not merely art, but also the manners and customs of your country–I have gone into the dens of the poor and have there found conditions under which it would have appeared positively miraculous if those who lived there had not sought in the dram-bottle forgetfulness of their torture, their shame, and their degradation. I saw persons to the number of twenty or thirty–all ages and sexes thrown indiscriminately together–sleeping in one room, which was only large enough for those who were in it to crowd close together upon the filthy straw that covered the floor–men who from day to day had no other home than the factory or the ale-house. And these were not the breadless people, but persons in regular employ; and not exceptional cases, but types of the labourers of large districts. That such men should seek in beastly intoxication an escape from thoughts of their degradation, of the shame of their wives and daughters–that they should lose all consciousness of their human dignity, never astonished me, and still less provoked me to indignation. I felt astonishment and indignation only at the folly which allowed such wretchedness to continue, as if it were in reality a product of an unchangeable law of nature. And it seems to me quite as natural that such men, when they get here–where they regain their dignity and their rights, where on every hand gladness and beauty smile upon them–should along with their misery cast away the vices of misery. These immigrants all gladly and eagerly adapt themselves to their new surroundings. Most of them cannot expect to become in all respects our equals: the more wretched, the more degraded, they were before, so much the more boundless is their delight, their gratitude, at being here treated by everyone as equals; on no account would they forfeit the respect of their new associates, and, as these latter universally avoid drunkenness, so the former avoid it also.’

‘You have explained to us why there are no drunkards in this country,’ I said. ‘But it appears to me much more remarkable that your principle of granting a right of maintenance to all who are incapable of working, whatever may be the occasion of that incapacity, has not overwhelmed you with invalids and old people without number. Or have we yet to learn of some provisions made to defend you from such guests? And how, without exercising a painfully inquisitorial control, can you prevent the lazy from enjoying the careless leisure which the right of maintenance guarantees to real invalids? I can perfectly well understand that your intelligent Freelanders, with their multitudinous wants, will not be content with forty per cent., when a little easy labour would earn them a hundred per cent. But among the fresh immigrants there must certainly be many who at first can scarcely know what to do with the full earnings of their labour, and who at any rate–so I should suppose–would prefer to draw their maintenance-allowance and live in idleness rather than engage in what, from their standpoint, must appear to be quite superfluous labour. Perhaps, with respect to the right to a maintenance-allowance, you make a distinction between natives and immigrants; if so, what gives a claim to maintenance?’

‘No distinction is made with respect to the right to a maintenance-allowance, a sufficient qualification for which is a certificate of illness signed by one of our public physicians, or proof of having attained to the age of sixty years. The greatest liberality is exercised on principle in granting the medical certificate; indeed, everyone has the right, if one physician has refused to grant a certificate, to go to any other physician, as we prefer to support ten lazy impostors rather than reject one real invalid. Nevertheless we have among us as few foreign idlers as native ones. In this matter also, the influence of our institutions is found to be powerful enough to nip all such tendencies in the bud. Note, above all, that the strongest ambition of the immigrant is to become like us, to become incorporated with us; in order to this, if he is healthy and strong, he must participate in our affairs. They understand human nature very imperfectly who think that proletarians in whom there lingers a trace of human dignity would, when they have an opportunity of taking part in important enterprises as fully enfranchised self-controlling men, forego that opportunity and prefer to allow themselves to be supported by the commonwealth. The new-comers are _anxious_ to participate in all that is to be earned and done in this country; in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred no other stimulus to work is needed than this. And the few to whom this stimulus is not sufficient, soon find themselves, when the novelty of their surroundings has worn off, compelled by _ennui_ and isolation to turn to some productive activity. We have here no public-house life in the European sense, no consorting of habitual idlers: here a man _must_ work if he would feel at ease, and therefore everyone works who is capable of doing so. The most stubborn indolence cannot resist for more than a few weeks at the longest the magical influence of the thought that in order to dare to salute the first in the land as an equal no other title of honour or influence is necessary than any honest work. Consequently, even among the immigrants strong healthy idlers are extremely rare exceptions, which we allow to exist as cases of mental disease. But even these must not suffer want among us. Without possessing any recognised right to it, they receive what they need, and even more than is absolutely necessary according to European ideas.

‘As to the question whether the right of maintenance does not attract into this country all the bodily and mental incapables, the cripples and the old people, of the rest of the world, I can only answer that Freeland irresistibly attracts everyone who hears of the character of its institutions; and that therefore the proportion between the immigrants who are capable of working and those who are not is dependent simply upon whether such information reaches the one class more quickly and more easily than it does the other. We reject no one, and admit the cripple to our country as freely as the able-bodied worker; but it lies in the nature of things that the ablest, the most vigorous, offer themselves in larger numbers than those who are weak in body or in mind.

‘From the founding of our commonwealth we have insisted upon the ability to read and write sufficiently to be able to participate in all our rights. Freedom and equality of rights assume the possession of a certain degree of knowledge, from which we _cannot_ exempt anyone. It is true we might resort to the expedient of exercising guardianship over the untaught; but to do this would be to open up to the authorities a sphere of influence which we hold to be incompatible with real freedom, and we therefore treat illiterate immigrants as strangers, or, if you will, as guests whom it is everyone’s duty to assist as much as possible, and who, so far as they show themselves capable of doing anything, suffer no material disadvantage in comparison with the natives, but are not allowed to exercise any political right.’

‘But how,’ asked my father–‘how do you arrive at a knowledge of the mental condition of your ignorant fellow-countrymen? Have you a special board for this purpose; and do no unpleasantnesses spring from such an inquisition?’

‘We make no inquiry, and no board troubles itself about the knowledge of the people. At first, in order not to be overwhelmed by foreign ignorance, we took the precaution of excluding illiterates from gratuitous admission into Freeland, but for the last nineteen years we have ceased to exclude any. Everyone, without any exception, has since been free to settle gratuitously in any part whatever of Freeland. No one asks him what he knows; he is free to make full use of all our institutions, to exercise all our rights; only he must do so in the same way as we, and that is impossible to the illiterate. Whithersoever he goes–to the central bank, to any of the associations, to the polling-places–he must read and write, and as a matter of course write with understanding–must be familiar with printed and written words; in short, he must possess a certain degree of culture, from the possession of which we cannot exempt him even if we would.’

‘Then,’ said my father, ‘your boasted equality of rights exists only for educated persons?’

‘Of course,’ explained Mrs. Ney. ‘Or do you really believe that perfectly uneducated persons possess the power of disciplining themselves? Certainly, real freedom and equality of rights presuppose some degree of culture. The freedom and equality of rights of poverty and barbarism can, it is true, exist among ignorant barbarians, but wealth and leisure are the products of higher art and culture, and can be possessed only by truly civilised men. He who would make men free and rich must first give them knowledge–this lies in the nature of things; and it is not our fault, but yours, that so many of your compatriots must be educated into freedom.’

‘There you are right,’ sighed my father. ‘And what has been your experience of these illiterate immigrants?’

‘The experience that this exclusion from perfect equality of rights, being connected with no material disadvantage, operates as an absolutely irresistible stimulus to acquire as quickly as possible what was left unacquired in the old home. For the use of such immigrants we have established special schools for adults; neighbours and friends interest themselves in them, and the people learn with touching eagerness. They by no means content themselves with acquiring merely that amount of knowledge which is requisite to the exercise of all the Freeland rights, but they honestly endeavour to gain all the knowledge possible; and the cases are very few in which the study of a few years has not converted such immigrants into thoroughly cultured men.’

‘And as to the immigrants who reach us in a really invalided condition,’ interposed David, ‘we fulfil towards them the duty of maintenance as if they had grown old and weak in Freeland workshops. We have not detected any considerable increase of our annual expenditure in consequence. It is a characteristic fact, moreover, that those who reach us as invalids make for the most part only a partial use of their right to claim a maintenance-allowance. These pitiable sufferers as a rule take some time to accustom themselves to the Freeland standard of higher enjoyments, and at first they have no use for the wealth which streams in upon them.’

‘I must ask you to remove yet one other difficulty, and one that seems to me to be the greatest of all. What of the criminals, against whose immigration you are not protected? To me it seems most strange that, with the millions of your Freeland population, you can dispense with both police and penal code; and I am utterly at a loss to understand how you dispose of those vagabonds and criminals who are sure to be drawn hither, like wasps by honey, by your enticing lenity, which will not punish but merely reform the bad? It is true you have told us that the justices of the peace appointed to decide civil disputes have authority in the first instance in criminal cases also, and that an appeal is allowed from these to a higher judicial court; but you added that these judges had all of them as good as nothing to do, and that only very rare cases occurred in which the reformatory treatment adopted in this country had to be resorted to. Have your institutions such a strong ameliorating power over hardened criminals?’

‘Certainly,’ answered Mrs. Ney. ‘And if you carefully consider what is the essential and ultimate source of all crime, you will find this is quite intelligible. Do not forget that justice and law in the exploiting form of society make demands on the individual which are directly opposed to human nature. The hungry shivering man is expected to pass by the abundance of others without appropriating that which he needs to satisfy the imperative demands of nature–nay, he must not indulge in envy and ill-will towards those who have in plenty what he so cruelly lacks! He is to love his fellow-man, though just where the conflict of interests is the most bitter, because it is waged around the very essentials of existence–just there, where his fellow-man is his rival, his tyrant, his slave, in every case his enemy, from whose injury he derives gain and from whose gain injury accrues to him! That for thousands of years all this has been inevitable cannot be denied; but it would be foolish to overlook the fact that the same cruel sequence which made the exploitation of man by man–that is, injustice–the necessary antecedent to the progress of civilisation, also called into existence crime–that is, the rebellion of the individual against the order which is both horrible in itself and yet indispensable to the welfare of the community. The exploiting system of society requires the individual to do what harms him, because the welfare of the community demands it, and demands it not as a specially commendable and pre-eminently meritorious act, which can be expected of only a few noble natures in whom public spirit has suppressed every trace of egoism, but as something which everyone is to do as a matter of course, the doing of which is not called a virtue, though the not doing of it is called a crime. The hero who sacrifices his life to his fatherland, to mankind, subordinates his own to a higher interest, and never will the human race be able to dispense with such sacrifices, but will always demand of its noblest that love of wife shall conquer love of self; nay, it may be stated as a logical consequence of progressive civilisation that this demand shall grow more and more imperative and meet with an ever readier response. But the name of this response is ‘heroism,’ its lack involves no crime; it cannot be enforced, but it is a voluntary tribute of love paid by noble natures. But in the economic domain a similar, nay, more difficult, heroism is required especially from the lowest and the most wretched, and must be required of such as long as society is based upon a foundation of exploitage, and ‘criminal’ must be the name of all those who show themselves to be less great than a Leonidas, or a Curtius, or a Winkelried on the battle-field, or than those generally nameless heroes of human love who have fearlessly sacrificed themselves in the conflict with the inimical powers of nature at the bidding of the holy voice within them–the voice of human love.

‘But we in Freeland ask from no one such heroism as our right. In economic matters we require of the individual nothing that is antagonistic to his own interests; it follows as a matter of course that he never rebels against our laws. That which under the old order could be asserted only by self-complacent thoughtlessness, is a truth among us–namely, that economic morality is nothing but rational egoism. You will therefore find it intelligible that _reasonable_ men cannot break our laws.

‘But you ask, further, how does it happen that those unfortunates who in other countries are driven into crime, not by want, but by their evil disposition–and it cannot be denied that there are such–do not give us any trouble? Here also the question suggests its own answer. This hatred towards society and its members is not natural, is not innate in even the worst of men, but is the product of the injustice in the midst of which these habitual criminals live. The love of wife and of one’s fellows is ineradicably implanted in every social animal–and man is such an animal; but its expression can be suppressed by artificially excited hatred and envy. It is true that long-continued exercise of evil instincts will gradually make them so powerfully predominant as to make it appear that the social nature of man has been transformed into that of the beast of prey, no longer linked to society by any residuum of love or attachment. But it only _seems_ so. The most hardened criminal cannot long resist the influence of genuine human affection; hatred and defiance hold out only so long as the unfortunate sees himself deprived of the possibility of obtaining recognition in the community of the happy, as one possessed of equal rights with the others. If this hope is held out to him all defiance ceases.

‘I question if there has ever been a large percentage of men of criminal antecedents among the immigrants into Freeland. As my son has already said, the proportion in which different categories of men have come hither depends not upon the greater or less degree of misery, but upon the intelligence of the men. Since the criminal classes in the five parts of the world know relatively less of Freeland than do the honest and intelligent workers, I am convinced that relatively fewer of them have come hither. At any rate, we have seen very few signs of their presence here. We have a few dozen incorrigibly vicious persons in the country, but these are without exception incurable idiots. How these reached us I do not know; but of course, as soon as their mental unsoundness was ascertained, they were placed in asylums.’

This point being cleared up, my father asked for a final explanation. He said he could perfectly understand that the Freeland institutions, being nothing else but a logical carrying out of the principle of economic justice, were thoroughly capable of meeting every fair and reasonable demand. He nevertheless expressed his astonishment at the perfect satisfaction which the people universally exhibited with themselves and their condition. Did not _unreasonable_ party agitations create difficulties in Freeland? Particularly he wished to know if Communism and Nihilism, which were ever raising their heads threateningly in Europe, gave no trouble here. ‘In the eyes of a genuine Communist,’ he cried, ‘you are here nothing but arrant aristocrats! There is not a trace of absolute equality among you! What value can your boasted equality of _rights_ have in the eyes of people who act upon the principle that every mouthful more of bread enjoyed by one than is enjoyed by another is theft; and who therefore, to prevent one man from possessing more than another, abolish all property whatever? And yet there are no police, no soldiers, to keep these Bedlamites in order! Give us the recipe according to which the nihilistic and communistic fanaticism can be rendered so harmless.’

‘Nothing easier,’ answered Mrs. Ney. ‘Supply everyone to satiety, and no one will covet what others have. Absolute equality is an hallucination of the hunger-fever, nothing more. Men are _not_ equal, either in their faculties or in their requirements. Your appetite is stronger than mine; perhaps you are fond of gay clothing, I would not give a farthing for it; perhaps I am dainty, while you prefer a plain diet; and so on without end. What sense would there be in attempting to assimilate our several needs? I do not care to inquire whether it is possible, whether the violence necessary to the attempt would not destroy both freedom and progress; the idea itself is so foolish that it would be absolutely inconceivable how sane men could entertain it, had it not been a fact that one of us is able to satisfy neither his strong nor his weak appetite, his preference neither for fine nor for quiet clothing, neither for dainties nor for plain food, but must endure brutal torturing misery. When to that is added the mistake that my superfluity is the cause of your deficiency, it becomes intelligible why you and those who sympathise with you in your sufferings should call for division of property–absolutely equal division. In a word, Communism has no other source than the perception of the boundless misery of a large majority of men, together with the erroneous opinion that this misery can be alleviated only by the aid of the existing wealth of individuals. This view is inconceivably foolish, for it is necessary only to open one’s eyes to see what a pitiful use is made of the power which man already possesses to create wealth. But this foolish notion was not hatched by the Communists; your orthodox economists gave currency to the doctrine that increased productiveness of labour cannot increase the already existing value–it was they, and not the Communists, who blinded mankind to the true connexion between economic phenomena. Communists are in reality merely credulous adherents of the so-called “fundamental truths” of orthodox economy; and the only distinction between them and the ruling party among you is that the Communists are hungry while the ruling classes are full-fed. When it is perceived that nothing but perfect equality of rights is needed _in order to create more than enough for all_, Communism disappears of itself like an evil tormenting dream. You may require–even if you do not carry it out–that all men shall be put upon the same bread rations, so long as you believe that the commonwealth upon which we are all compelled to depend will furnish nothing more than mere bread, for we all wish to eat our fill. To require that the same sorts and quantity of roast meats, pastry, and confections shall be forced upon everyone, when it is found that there is enough of these good things for all, would be simply puerile. Hence there is and can be no Communist among us.

‘For the same reason Nihilism is impossible among us, for that also is nothing more than an hallucination due to the despair of hunger, and can flourish only on the soil of the orthodox view of the world. Whilst Communism is the practical application which hunger makes of the thesis that human labour does not suffice to create a superfluity for all, Nihilism is the inference drawn by despair from the doctrine that culture and civilisation are incompatible with equality of rights. It is orthodoxy which has given currency to this doctrine; certainly, as the spokesman of the well-to-do, it holds no other inference to be conceivable than that the eternally disinherited masses must submit to their fate in the interests of civilisation. But the party of the hungry turn in foaming rage against this civilisation, the very defenders of which assert that it can never help the enormous majority of men, and therefore can do nothing more for them than make them increasingly conscious of their misery. We have demonstrated that civilisation is not merely compatible with, but is necessarily implied in, the economic equality of rights. Hence Nihilism also must be unknown among us.’

‘Then you think,’ I said, ‘that equality of actual income has nothing to do with equality _of rights_? For my part, I must admit that that useless heaping up of superfluous riches, which we have occasion to observe in our European society, has grown to be a very objectionable thing, even though I am convinced that the misery is not, in the slightest degree, caused by this accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, and would not be materially alleviated by a general distribution of it. A social system that does not prevent this excessive accumulation in a few hands must remain imperfect, whatever provision it may make in other directions for the welfare of all.’

‘And I cannot altogether get rid of the same feeling,’ said my father. ‘But my opinion is that in this revolt against inequality in itself we need see nothing more than the moral repulsion which every impartial thoughtful man feels against what have hitherto been the _causes_ of the inequality. Among us at home, we see that large fortunes are very seldom acquired by means of pre-eminent individual talent, but are, as a rule, due to the exploitation of other men; and, when acquired, they are sure to be employed in further exploitation. This it is that arouses our indignation. If a fortune, however great, were acquired merely by pre-eminent talent, and employed to no other end than the heightening of the owner’s personal enjoyment–as is the case in Freeland–the repugnance we now feel would soon pass away. What does our amiable hostess think upon this point?’

‘The repugnance to excessively large fortunes,’ replied Mrs. Ney, ‘is not, in my opinion, based upon any injustice in their origin or use, but has a deeper cause–namely, the fact that, apart from very rare exceptions, the difference of capacity in men is not so great as to justify such enormous differences of fortune. Most of the wealth of a highly civilised society consists of what was bequeathed by the past; and the portion actually produced by existing individuals is so relatively small that a certain degree of equality–not merely of rights, but also of enjoyment and use–possesses a basis in fact and is a requirement of justice. Every advance in civilisation is synonymous with a progressive diminution of the differences. Carry your thoughts back to primitive conditions, when the individual, in his struggle for existence, was almost entirely shut up to the use of his congenital appliances, and you will find the differences were very great: only the strong, the agile, the cunning could hold their own; the less gifted were compelled to give way. As the growth of civilisation added to men’s appliances, so that even the less gifted was able to procure what was necessary to his subsistence, the difference in the achievements of different individuals at first remained very great. The skilful hunter gets a far richer booty than the less skilful one; the strong and nimble agriculturist achieves with the spade a manifold greater result than the weak and the slow. The invention of the plough very materially reduces this difference, and–so far as the difference depends upon physical capacity–the invention of the power-machine reduces it almost to _nil_. Machinery more and more takes the place of the energy of human muscles; and, at the same time, the results of the talent and experience of previous generations accumulate and, in a growing ratio, exceed the invention of the actual living generation. It is true that in intellectual matters the individual differences do not diminish so completely as in matters dependent upon the corporal powers; but even the intellectual differences do not justify the colossal inequality suggested to the mind by the words “a large fortune.” The man who drives a steam-plough may be either a giant or a dwarf, but he gets through the same amount of work. Quick-wittedness and discretion in conducting the process of production will considerably increase the result; but in the present day an achievement which shall exceed the average a hundredfold or a thousandfold in value is possible only to genius, and it is only to genius that our sense of justice would accord it.

‘I believe that in this respect also our Freeland institutions have hit the mark. Among us inequality exists only so far as the difference of capacity justifies it; and we have seen that, in proportion as wealth increases, the distribution of it becomes automatically more and more equal. As in this country everything is controlled by a competition which is free in fact, and not in name merely, it follows as a necessary result that every kind of capacity is better paid the rarer it is. When we first founded our commonwealth knowledge and experience in business were rare–that is, the demand was greater than the supply; they were therefore able to command a higher price than ordinary labour. This is no longer the case; thanks to the general improvement in culture and the intensive participation of all in all kinds of business, head-work, as such, has lost its claim to exceptional wages. Only when superior intellectual gifts are connected with knowledge and experience in business can the man who performs head-work expect to obtain higher pay than the manual labourer. Yet even here there is to be seen a _relative_ diminution of the higher pay. In the early years of Freeland a specially talented leader of production could demand six times as much as the average earnings of a labourer; at present three times as much as the average is a rare maximum, which in the domain of material production is exceeded only in isolated cases of pre-eminent inventors. On the other hand, the earnings of gifted authors and artists in this country have no definite limits; as their works are above competition, so the rewards they obtain bear no proportion to those obtainable in ordinary business.

‘But in this way, I think, the most delicate sense of equality can be satisfied. Economic equality of rights never produces absolute and universal equality; but it is really accompanied by a general levelling of the enjoyments of all, and leaves unaffected only such incongruities as the most fastidious sense of justice will recognise as having their basis in the nature of things.’

Here ended this conversation, which will ever be a memorable one to me, because it confirmed my decision to become a Freelander.


Eden Vale: Aug. 20, —-

In your last you say you think it very strange that in my letters I make no further mention of the young ladies who for the past six weeks have been under the same roof with me. When a young Italian–so argues your inexorable logic–has nothing to say about pretty girls with whom he associates, and among whom there is one whose first glance–according to his own confession–threw him into confusion, he has either been rejected by the lady in question or contemplates giving her an opportunity of rejecting him. Your logic is right, Louis: I am in love–indeed I was from the first sight I had of Bertha, David’s splendid sister; and I have even had a narrow escape of being rejected. Not that my beloved has not returned my affection; as soon as I could summon courage to propose to her, Bertha confessed, with that undisguised candour which is charming in her–more correctly, in all the women of Freeland–that on the very first evening of our acquaintance she felt she should either marry me or marry no one. And yet, on my first wooing her, I had to listen to a ‘No’ of the most determined character. The fact was that Bertha could not make up her mind to become an Italian duchess; and my father, who–hear it and be astounded!–pleaded for me, had as a matter of course insisted that she should go to Italy with me, reside on our ducal estates there, weave the ducal diadems into her locks–they are of a ravishing blonde–and make it her life’s duty to continue the noble race of the Falieri. My desire to settle in Freeland as a Freelander was regarded by my father as a foolish and extravagant whim. You know his views–a strange medley of honest Liberalism and aristocratic pride: rather, these were his views, but here in Freeland the democratic side of his character has considerably broadened and strengthened. Indeed, he became quite enthusiastic in his admiration of the Freeland institutions. If there were but another branch of the Falieri to which could be committed the transmission of the ducal traditions, _per Bacco!_ my father would have at once assented to my wish, and, as he loves me tenderly, he would not hesitate long before he followed my example. But his enthusiasm, noble and sincere as it is, would not permit me to lay the axe at the root of the genealogical tree of a house whose ancestors had fought among the first Crusaders, and had later, as petty Italian princes, filled the world with deeds (of infamy). Against my loving Bertha he made no objection–really and truly, my dear friend, not the least. On the contrary, he was not a little proud of me when, in answer to his question whether I was sure of the maiden’s love in return, I replied with a confident ‘Yes.’ ‘Lucky dog you are,’ cried he, ‘to win that splendid creature so quickly! Who can match us Falieris!’ Bertha had captivated my father as she had me; and as he entertained the greatest respect for the Freeland women in general, he had no objection whatever to a _bourgeoise_ daughter-in-law. But only on condition that I gave up the ‘insane’ idea of remaining here. ‘The girl has more sense in her little finger than you have in your whole body,’ said he; ‘she would little relish seeing her lover cast a shattered ducal crown at her feet. It is very fine to be a Freeland woman–but, believe me, it is much finer to be a duchess. Besides, these two very agreeable qualities can easily be united. Spend the winter and spring in our palaces at Rome and Venice; summer and autumn you could enjoy freedom on your lake and among your mountains–in my company, if you had no objection. Let it stand so: I will get Bertha for you, but not another word about a permanent settlement here.’

This did not please me. I assure you I had not formed the intention of becoming a Freelander for the sake of my beloved; but I could not think of her either in a ducal diadem or in the state rooms of our castles. Nevertheless, I was fain to submit for a while to the will of my father; and I did not really know whether Bertha and her relatives would show themselves so insensible to the attractions of a title and of princely wealth as would be necessary in order that I might have them as confederates against my father. In short, my father pleaded my case with Mr. Ney, and in the presence of Bertha and myself asked her parents for the hand of their daughter for his son, the Prince Carlo Falieri, adding that immediately after the wedding he would hand over to me his estates in the Romagna, Tuscany, and Venice, as well as the palaces at Rome, Florence, Milan, Verona, and Venice; and would retain for himself merely our Sicilian possessions–as a reserve property, he jestingly said. The elder Neys received these grandiose proposals with a chill reserve that gave me little hope. After a silence of some minutes, and after having thrown at me a searching and reproachful glance, Mr. Ney said, ‘We Freelanders are not the despots, but simply the counsellors, of our daughters; but in _this_ case our child does not need counsel: if Bertha is willing to go with you to Italy as the Princess Falieri, we will not prevent her.’

With a proud and indignant mien Bertha turned–not to me, but–to my father: ‘Never, never!’ she cried with quivering lips. ‘I love your son more than my life; I should die if your son discarded me in obedience to you; but leave Freeland–leave it as _princess_!–never, never! Better die a thousand times!’

‘But, unhappy child,’ replied my father, quite horrified at the unexpected effect of his proposal, ‘you utter the word “princess” as if it were to you the quintessence of all that is dreadful. Yes, you should be princess, one of the richest, proudest of the princesses of Europe–that is, you should have no wish which thousands should not vie with each other in fulfilling; you should have opportunities of making thousands happy; you should be envied by millions–‘ ‘And cursed and hated,’ interposed Bertha with quivering lips. ‘What! You have lived among us six weeks, and you have not learned what a free daughter of Freeland must feel at the mere suggestion of leaving these happy fields, this home of justice and human affection, in order, afar off in your miserable country, not to wipe away, but to extort the tears of the downtrodden–not to alleviate the horrors of your slavery, but to become one of the slave-holders! I love Carlo so much above all measure that I should be ready by his side to exchange the land of happiness for that of misery if any imperative duty called him thither; but only on condition that his hands and mine remained free from foreign property, that we ourselves earned by honest labour what we needed for our daily life. But to become _princess_; to have thousands of serfs using up their flesh and blood in order that I might revel in superfluity; to have thousands of curses of men tortured to death clinging to the food I eat and the raiment I wear!’ As she uttered these words she shuddered and hid her face in her hands; then, mastering herself with an effort, she continued: ‘But reflect–if you had a daughter, and some one asked you to let her go to be queen among the cannibal Njam-Njam, and the father of her bridegroom promised that a great number of fat slaves should be slaughtered for her–what would she say, the poor child who had drunk in with her mother’s milk an invincible disgust at the eating of human flesh? Now, see: we in Freeland feel disgust at human flesh, even though the sacrifice be slowly slaughtered inch by inch, limb by limb, without the shedding of blood; to us the gradual destruction of a fellow-man is not less abhorrent than the literal devouring of a man is to you; and it is as impossible for us to exist upon the exploitation of our enslaved fellows as it is for you to share in the feasts of cannibals. I cannot become a princess–I _cannot_! Do not separate me from Carlo–if you do we shall both die, and–I have not learnt it to-day for the first time–you love not only him, but me also.’

This appeal, enforced by the most touching glances and a tender grasping of his hands, was more than my father could resist. ‘You have verily made me disgusted with myself. So you think we are cannibals, and the only difference between us and your amiable Njam-Njam is that we do not slay our sacrifices with one vigorous blow and then devour them forthwith, but we delight in doing it bit by bit, inch by inch? You are not far wrong; at any rate, I will not force upon you the privileges of a position as to which you entertain such views. And my son appears in this point to share your tastes rather than those which have hitherto been mine. Take each other, and be happy in your own fashion. For myself, I will consider how I may to some extent free myself from the odour of cannibalism in my new daughter’s eyes.’

Bertha flew first to me, then to my father, then in succession to her parents and brothers and sisters, and then again fell upon my father’s neck. Her embrace of her father-in law was so affectionate that I was almost inclined to be jealous. My father became at once so eager for our wedding that he asked the Neys forthwith to make all the necessary arrangements for this event. He expected to be obliged to return to Europe, provisionally, in about a month, and he should be pleased if we could be married before he went. Mrs. Ney, however, asked what further preliminaries were necessary? We had mutually confessed our love, the blessing of the parents on both sides was not lacking; we might, if agreeable to ourselves, start off somewhere that very day, by one of the evening trains, on our wedding-tour–perhaps to the Victoria Nyanza, on whose shores she knew of a small delightfully situated country house.

I myself was somewhat surprised at these words, though they were evidently anticipated by my bride. But my father was utterly at a loss to know what to make of them. Of course his delicacy of feeling would not have allowed him to declare plainly that he thought it scandalous in the highest degree for a couple of lovers to start off on a journey together only a few hours after their betrothal, and that he could not conceive how a respectable lady could suggest what would bring such disgrace upon her house. There was a painful pause, until Mr. Ney explained to us that in Freeland the reciprocal declaration by two lovers that they wished to become husband and wife was all that was required to the conclusion of a marriage-contract. The young people had nothing further to do than to make such an express declaration, and they would be married.

‘That is, indeed, extremely simple and charming,’ said my father, shaking his head. ‘But if the State or the commonwealth here has nothing to do with the marriage-contract, how does it know that such a contract has been entered into, and how can it give its protection to it?’

‘Of course the marriage-contract is communicated to the Statistical Department as quickly as possible, but this enrolment has nothing to do with the validity of the contract; and as to the protection of the marriage-bond, we know of no other here than that which is to be found in the reciprocal affection of the married pair,’ said Mrs. Ney.

My father thereupon began to ventilate the question whether it was not advisable on many grounds to attach to the marriage-contract some more permanent guarantee; but this suggestion was met, particularly on the part of Bertha, with such an evident and–to him–quite inexplicable resentment that he dropped the subject. Later, when we men were by ourselves, he inquired what the ladies found so offensive in the idea of giving to marriage some kind of protection against the changing fancies of the wedded pair? It was easy to see that the conversation had left upon him the impression that the women of Freeland held views upon this subject which were altogether too ‘free.’ But Mr. Ney gradually succeeded in convincing him–I had understood the matter from the beginning–that the reverse was the case; that the horror at the thought of being _compelled_ to belong to a man who was not loved was not merely quite compatible with inviolable conjugal fidelity, but was a logical outcome of the highest and purest conception of marriage. At first he held out. He would not deny the ethical justness of the Freeland principle that marriage without love was objectionable; only he questioned whether this principle could be strictly applied to practical life without opening the door to licentiousness. The fact that in Freeland divorces were quite unknown did not at once suffice to convince him. Mrs. Ney, who surprised us in the midst of this discussion, gave the finishing touch.

‘If you take a comprehensive view of the whole complex of our economic and social institutions,’ said she to my father, ‘you will see why in Freeland man and wife must regard each other with different eyes than is the case in Europe or America. All your scruples will vanish, for the logical connection of economic justice with conjugal fidelity and honour lies as plain and open as does its connection with honour in questions of _meum_ and _tuum_. That well-to-do intelligent men do not steal and rob, that in a highly cultivated society which guarantees to everyone the undiminished product of his own labour no one touches the fruits of another man’s industry–this is not more self-evident than it is that the same principle of economic justice must smother in the germ all longing for the wife or the husband of another. For man is by nature a monogamous and monandrous being; polygamy and polyandry are inconsistent with the fundamental characteristics of his nature; they are diseases of civilisation which would vanish spontaneously with a return to the healthy conditions of existence. Sexual honour and fidelity, like honesty in matters of property, are rare “virtues” only where they impose upon the individual the exercise of a self-denial which is not reconcilable with the instinct of self-preservation; where, as among us, a harmony of interests is established even in this domain, where everyone gets the whole of what is his own, and no one is expected to forego in the common interest of the community what belongs to himself–here even this virtue is transformed into a rational self-interest which every accountable person exhibits spontaneously and without any compulsion from without, as something that he owes to himself. We are all faithful because faithfulness does not impose upon any one of us the renunciation of his individuality.’

‘I admire this sentiment,’ answered my father, ‘and do not wish to dispute