The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
WAGES—FAMILY ALLOWANCES—POPULATION

The working-class standard of life—Vital necessity of improving it—Why it is difficult to bring about a considerable rise in wages—The relation between wages and employment—The 'economy of high wages' and its limits—The redistribution of incomes by taxation the best immediate way of raising the standard of life—High taxation need not hamper industry—How far incomes are redistributed to-day—The case for Family Allowances—Why these must be financed by taxation, and not by means of insurance or an 'industrial pool'—How large a scheme can the State afford?—The policy of a 'living wage' for all considered—Developments of the Trade Board system proposed—Wanted: a Central Trade Board—The attitude of a Labour Government towards Trade Union attempts to raise wages—The population problem—Effects of Family Allowances on birth-rates, death-rates, and migration—Birth-control— Quality more important than quantity in considering the population problem—Food supply in relation to population—The 'optimum' theory criticised—Effects of Family Allowances on Trade Union bargaining power—Redistribution of incomes as a stimulus to economic progress— Rival principles of payment, based on need and service—How they can be practically reconciled—Dividends for all?—Shall we reach full equality of incomes?

"The Charter", said Joseph Raynor Stephens nearly a century ago, "is a knife-and-fork question." And, though economic conditions have on the whole greatly improved since Chartist days, the knife-and-fork question remains as pre-eminent as ever. Socialism will not be worth a brass button to the ordinary man unless it can improve the standard of life. For, while an improvement in the material means of life is not a guarantee of an improved quality of living, it is certain that the mass of men stand a very poor chance of improving the quality of their living without it.1

The standard, it may be said, has risen, and both the material

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1
For certain statistics of wage movements illustrating the argument of this chapter, see Appendix III., at p. 449.

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