Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: the social order - Wealth: A Brief Explanation of the Causes of Economic Wealth
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CHAPTER V: the social order - Edwin Cannan, Wealth: A Brief Explanation of the Causes of Economic Wealth 
Wealth: A Brief Explanation of the Causes of Economic Wealth (London: P.S. King and Son, 1922).
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the social order
We have seen how the material welfare or wealth of Isolated Man must depend on his original qualities, on the improvements he has effected in them and in his outward environment, and on his judgment and will in using his powers and environment. We have further seen that the wealth of Society depends on the same factors, and, in addition, on the completeness of co-operation and on the closeness of population to the point at which it should be in order to give the best results. In order that the position of Society may be good in respect of all these conditions, it is necessary that Society should be well organized—that it should have suitable machinery for securing that the original powers of the people shall be great, that they and their surroundings shall be sufficiently improved, that co-operation shall be properly developed, that population shall approximate to the appropriate size, and that proper decisions shall be arrived at with regard to the amount and direction of the labour of the people.
Some would have us believe that there is at present no organization at all. They use hard words, such as “scramble for wealth,” “suicidal competition,” “exploitation,” “profit-hunting,” and say that the present state of things is “chaotic.” Now whatever our present state may be, however unsatisfactory it is, it is certainly not chaotic. If it were really chaotic, every one who goes to his daily work to-morrow must be a fool, since he would be just as likely to get his daily bread if he stayed at home or went elsewhere to amuse himself. The very fact that we know as well as we do that certain results will almost certainly follow upon a certain course of action shows that we are not living in chaos. Our system may be a bad system, but it is a system of some sort: it is not chaos. If a man holds a book too close to his nose, he cannot read it, and so it is with the world of industry. If we look at it from too close a standpoint we can only see a blur. Gladstone complained that Bonamy Price proposed to legislate for Ireland as if he were legislating for the inhabitants of Jupiter or Saturn, and this has given rise to the saying that “Gladstone banished political economy to Saturn.” Let us adopt the suggestion conveyed in Gladstone's metaphor and imagine a committee of the Economics Section of the Saturnian Association for the Advancement of Science reporting on what they had been able to see of affairs on our planet through a gigantic telescope big enough for them to see human beings moving on its face. Would they be likely to report that poor Mundus seemed quite chaotic ? Would they report that every one was scrambling for himself to the disadvantage of every one else in such a way that the general good seemed entirely neglected ? Would they say that all the land in the most convenient situations was lying idle, that nobody had a roof over his head, and that every one was running about aimlessly or sitting idle in imminent danger of starvation ? They might report something of this kind if they could carry on a conversation with certain people here and believed all they were told, but certainly not if they judged by their own observation.
They would be much more likely to report that they had seen a very orderly people cooperating on the whole with a wonderful absence of friction—that they had seen them come out of their homes in the morning in successive batches and wend their way by all sorts of means of locomotion to innumerable different kinds of work, all of which seemed to fit somehow into each other so that as a whole the vast population seemed to get fed, and clothed, and sheltered. They would not, of course, vouch for the perfection of the arrangements. They would see that there were occasional irregularities and hitches. They might see now and then too many vehicles in one street, too many passengers trying to travel by one train or tramcar. They might even see along our English country roads the melancholy spectacle of men tramping in both directions evidently in search of the same kind of work. They might be able to see that some had too much—more than they seemed to know how to dispose of without hurting themselves and others—while some evidently had too little for healthy and happy existence. But in spite of these defects, they would report, I think, that on the whole the machinery, whatever its exact nature, seemed to do its work fairly effectively.
And if we can imagine them able to go back five hundred or a thousand years, we can feel tolerably sure that they would report still more favourably, since they would then see that enormous improvement had taken place and would discover no appearance of any change which would suggest that the existing system is not the outcome of an orderly development of the institutions of the past.
I insist so strongly on the fact that our existing machinery does work, not with any idea of contending that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, but because I think that in order to get any proper hold of economics it is necessary to begin by considering, not the defects of the machinery, but the main principles involved in its construction and working. We are apt to begin with the defects because it is they that strike our eye and often excite our sympathy. Seven per cent. of unemployed are much more likely to make us start thinking about economics than the other ninety-three who are in employment. The emaciated corpse of a single person starved to death naturally makes more impression on our minds than the comfortable bodies of a hundred thousand sufficiently fed citizens. But if we want thoroughly to understand the reason why work and food do not quite “go round,” we should begin by endeavouring to discover what, after all, certainly does not explain itself —why they go as far round as they do. If we grant that there is an organization, the next question is, “What is it?” It is certainly not merely “the State.” In modern times we become so accustomed to all institutions being defined and modified from time to time by the States within the Jurisdiction of which they exist, that we are apt to regard them all as springing from the State and dependent upon its existence for their origin and development. But this is wrong. There are economic Institutions which are older than the State, at any rate in the sense in which we use the word at the present day, and there are others which have come into being and developed under the ban rather than under the patronage of the State. Moreover, some of them cover the whole world, or at the least far wider areas than any State of the present or past. In dealing with the most Important of the institutions on which our existing economic organization is based, it is most convenient to take the State as the third, the Family and Property being the first and second.
We are sometimes inclined to talk as if the Family had been entirely superseded by the Individual in modern economic organization. This is a complete mistake, arising from forget-fulness of the fact that at least one-third of the population of the globe consists not of individuals in the sense of independent adults, but of children regarded by older people as too young to be allowed to do what they like. It is true that the work actually done by children is not of much importance. The world would not suffer much in the next twelve months if all child-labour were entirely cut off for that period. But the children themselves are of paramount importance because it is from them only that the adults can be recruited, and for the most of mankind childhood is the period during which it is settled whether the person shall be industrious or idle and what he shall work at so far as he does work. By far the greater number of men and women have acquired the habit of industry because they were persuaded or driven to work by influences brought to bear on them by the Family when they were still children. These influences, of course, are multifarious; some are typified by the kiss of the mother, some by the stick of the father; some consist in the gibes of elder brothers and sisters, some in the appealing cries of hungry younger ones. Taken all together, these family influences are so powerful that modern States find it necessary to make many regulations and employ many inspectors to prevent children from being overworked. How uniformly the habit of industry, once acquired in childhood, remains with the adult, is shown by the frequency with which we find ourselves attributing idleness in adults to the accidental absence of the normal family influences. Within the Family, too, as a rule, is made the decision which governs the allotment of the person to some one profession or occupation. Every grown man or woman is doubtless legally free to choose his or her occupation and to change it as often as he or she pleases, but legal freedom is generally not of much use after childhood is over. This might not make much difference if the parents always chose for the child just as the child would choose if it had experience before the choice took place. But that hypothesis is far from being a true one: the distribution of persons between the various occupations is influenced in the most important manner by the fact that parents often cannot, and often will not when they can, choose for their child the occupation which he would choose for himself if he were perfectly well-informed and capable of making the selection which seemed to him best in his own interests.
To say that the Family regulates population looks at first more like a physiological truism than an economic proposition, But it is not to be denied that the economic solidarity of the family has an important influence on the number of births and the number of persons who survive childhood. What, however, the precise influence is, and how it works, is at present so obscure that it seems useless to attempt to elucidate it in a work like the present.
We now proceed to the second of our three great economic institutions, Property. I do not say Individual Property, because a great deal of property is the property of groups of persons—groups of more or less magnitude from Nations downwards. I might say Separate Property, but that might mislead, as it is sometimes confused with individual property, and it is doubtful if there is much force in the word “separate,” since if Mankind held everything jointly the idea of property would scarcely be needed.
However far we try to carry our minds back, we call scarcely imagine a time when individual property in movable things was unknown. The very first beginnings of some sort of orderly society involve a recognition of the “right” of a person to retain the share of booty or produce which has been allotted to him either by mere circumstance or by some authoritative decision. As soon as weapons and tools begin to be used, it is inevitable that one person will be in the habit of using one and another person in the habit of using another weapon or tool, that each will resent any one else using what he has come to call “his” weapon or “his” tool, and that disinterested spectators will sympathize with him., We can see this exemplified in any nursery at the present time, and we can conjecture from the example of the nursery that the public sympathy and consequent general recognition of the “right” comes from a respect for custom, that is, from man's proper dislike for seeing things changed without good reason. The children can scarcely have been infected with the adults' ideas of property, since to the adults the whole of the things concerned appear to belong to the parent.
The same feeling must have arisen with regard to dwelling-places as soon as man began to have any, and to pay some respect to order. A person who had secured a comfortable cave or lair under a bush for even a single night would be more annoyed if on returning the next night he found it fully occupied by some one else than if he had found another cave so occupied. If he had held it undisturbed for many nights, he would be still more incensed, and if any general respect for custom had grown up, he would be sure of the sympathy of the disinterested, It would of course make no difference whether the occupation was by an individual or by a family or larger group. Sympathy would be felt with the dispossessed group just as much as with the dispossessed individual.
The idea of property in Land does not appear to come quite so early. Primitive mankind was in much the same relation to the Land that mankind at present is in relation to the Sea. The men were few, the land was big; the number of men using the land was not large enough to make them any appreciable inconvenience to one another. But when numbers grew, each group of human beings living together and in communication with each other began to feel itself menaced by and therefore to resent the appearance of strangers in the district over which they were accustomed to roam, and which they had accustomed themselves to call “their” hunting grounds. In regard to land, however, there was much less possibility of sympathy from disinterested persons than in regard to movables. The dispute involved two whole groups, one of which was interested in making, and the other in resisting the invasion. Opinion outside these two groups would be distant (having regard to the facilities of communication) and probably ill-informed, especially if languages differed. Moreover, the causes of dispute were not so simple in themselves. There is not likely to be much difficulty in ordinary cases in deciding who is the person usually in the habit of carrying a particular bow or spear or of occupying a particular cave or house. But there may easily be great difficulty in deciding whether one or another group is the one which usually hunts in some particular valley or on some particular mountain side. Quarrels were frequent, and could only be settled by a trial of forces between the two interested groups. If the victory of one side was decisive, it often led to some sort of incorporation of the vanquished which led to the amalgamation of the two territories into one, so that now a larger territory would be held under one authority against all invaders. When two territories were amalgamated into one, it would not necessarily or probably follow that the whole territory would be one property: much more often the old line, or a more accurately defined line, of demarcation would be preserved, or in some cases it would even happen that entirely new divisions of the territory might be made for its convenient use by several groups, each under a subordinate authority or in some way united together and divided from the rest. The land held by each of these groups is “theirs” in a somewhat different sense from that in which the land of all the groups now under one authority is “theirs.” It is their property, while the whole land is their country or territory.
It was long before the difference between propertj in land and territory was grasped: it is scarcely grasped at the present time 10 many minds when acquisition of territory by a sovereign state is in question. But in practice the distinction has been recognized ever since conquest or other acquisition of territory ceased to carry with it the entire dispossession of the proprietors of the land annexed.
While the territories of small groups, defended only by force of arms against external aggression, were thus being transformed into their collective property, recognized by the governing authority of the larger territory of which they now formed a part, the idea of property in land was gaining strength in another direction owing to changes within the areas occupied by the small groups. The site of a house with some small curtilage must necessarily be subject to the same ideas as the house itself so far as the “right” to undisturbed occupation is concerned. It is practically difficult to differentiate the house and its site. So people early began to regard the homesteads as “theirs” and to be supported by the authority of the group in maintaining their position not only against outsiders but even against other members of the same group. But at first there could be no similar ideas with regard to the rest of the land of the group; land being plentiful and men few, a single person or family would not be likely to claim a particular stretch of land as land which it had occupied, and which, therefore, should not be touched by others. In search of game every man would desire to roam over the whole of the land wherever the quarry happened to take him. So, too, pastoral people would turn out their flocks and herds with the idea that they should all be able to go where they would in search of pasture. Even arable cultivation could be carried on in common by groups consisting of a moderate number of persons without any very difficult problems of organization being encountered. As time went on, however, it was found practically convenient to allow permanent occupation of plots of land for arable purposes by individuals and their heirs, and eventually even the pasture was divided up with the small exceptions which we see in the “commons” of the present day.& The institution of property, whether individual or “group-al” promoted material welfare both by preventing destructive actions and by making it the interest of people to perform productive actions. If we can imagine men existing and living in contiguity without property, we can see that without property the pursuit of individual self-interest and even the pursuit by groups of individuals of their joint interest must lead to destruction rather than production. Self-interest and the interest of the group would lead the individual or group to take the easiest means of satisfying their desires. They would simply take whatever they wanted wherever they found it, just when they wanted it. To take it beforehand would be of no use, since, proprietary rights being supposed non-existent, some one else might take it away again. The only way of making sure of anything would be to secure and consume it before any one else. Such a system or absence of system could only work tolerably where men were few, nature's useful products very abundant, and man's wants confined to game, fish, and a few other things requiring no preparation before use. In other circumstances it is clear that the endeavour of each person or each group to satisfy his or its desires in the shortest possible way must lead to disastrous results. If the game is not enormously plentiful it will be disastrously reduced and probably eventually exterminated by wasteful killing, especially in the breeding season. Unless the vegetable products which man wants are in enormous abundance, the desire of every man to make sure of them will lead to their being plucked before they are quite ripe, as is the case in the present day, in our own country with blackberries growing by the roadside in the neighbourhood of towns. No one will make any provision for the future or prepare any materials for use or construct any tool or other appliance unless he can be quite sure of concealing his proceedings and his product from the eyes of his neighbours.
Property being established, persons and groups find it to their interest to undertake all sorts of productive operations which would not be worth while if they could be interfered with by others. The proprietors of land (whether individuals or groups) can regulate the use of it so that as little waste as possible shall take place.
At first sight, perhaps, property appears as rather a separating than a uniting force: it seems to set up separate interest and thus to divide the people. But as a matter of fact it unites them by compelling and facilitating their co-operation. It compels it, at any rate where there are any persons without enormous stretches of landed property, because small patches of land do not contain all the requisites of existence, and so if a person has only a small patch he must obtain some things from other people. If he has no land at all, it is still more obviously necessary that he should make terms with others in order to satisfy his needs. Property facilitates co-operation by making it depend upon innumerable separate agreements between individuals and groups of individuals instead of on decisions arrived at by Society at large, acting through some kind of world-wide authority. I say a world-wide authority because we must not forget that cooperation is at present world-wide. It is by no means to be regarded as a merely national affair. An immense amount of co-operation is carried on between the inhabitants of different countries with different sovereign governments. The nature of this co-operation is to be discovered chiefly in the returns of the various custom-houses, which reveal the kinds and quantities of goods imported and exported. We find that the people of England co-operate with the people of every other country in the world. The people of England somehow manage to agree with these other peoples so that a long list of exports is produced by the people of England for the use and consumption of the other peoples, who, in return, produce for the people of England the long list of imports. The co-operation by means of mere immediate exchange of goods for goods is evidently enormous, and often includes absolute necessaries of life, so that in its absence some of the countries would cease to be inhabited. Moreover, this simple immediate exchange of goods for goods is no longer the only kind of co-operation between the inhabitants of different countries. It now often happens that the inhabitants of one country lend things to the inhabitants of another country, taking in return periodical payments in the produce of the second country. This loan of goods is as much entitled to be called co-operation as the Immediate exchange of goods. Further, much co-operation between the inhabitants of different countries now takes place in the form of supervision or direction by persons residing in one country of productive operations carried on In another.
The whole of this co-operation is dependent on the existence of the institution of property in the various countries concerned. Property is by no means exactly the same in all its qualities and incidents all over the globe. Different ideas prevail in different countries and are embodied in the laws and customs which are enforced by the various governments. But there is sufficient similarity to make it possible for “business to be carried on” without unpleasant surprises being too frequent.
The State in its earliest manifestations appears, like the Family, as a group of persons: it was, in fact, scarcely more than a somewhat wider Family. Relics of this may still be found in the fact that parentage still often confers citizenship, wherever the child may happen to be born, and in the fact that States claim the allegiance of their “subjects” or “citizens” even when the persons have left the country in which the State is established. But except for such relics the modern State is completely territorialized. We have already noticed the common origin of the ideas of territory and property in land. The two ideas begin to become distinct as soon as groups of persons are united under one authority in such a way that they have a common government without common land. It is only then that a distinction is necessary between “land” belonging to a group of persons and “territory” belonging to a wider group containing within it various groups owning different parcels of land. The wider group and the authority which governs it then become inseparably connected with the territory, and instead of “tribes,” “peoples,” or even “nations,” “countries,” represented by “governments” or “States” are spoken of as taking the initiative in all sorts of ways.
Before we try to unravel the part played by these countries or States in economic organization, it will be well to insist on the fact that they are very numerous. It is very misleading to talk as if there was only one State in the world, and so to identify the State and Society. When we speak of “the Family,” we do not mean to imply that there is only one family in the world: just so, when we speak of “the State” we need not imply that there is only one State in the world. Even little Europe is divided between about twenty sovereign States. There is no common authority to settle disputes between them, and they are not always capable of setting up a special authority to decide a particular dispute when it arises, and if they do manage to do this, there is nothing to prevent the decision of the special authority being disregarded, though it must be granted that such repudiation seldom takes place. Disputes are consequently often settled, or rather attempts are made to settle disputes, by violence, and destructive wars take place which certainly serve no useful purpose in the general economic organization of Society. Moreover, the possibility of war leads to the permanent establishment of military and naval forces during peace. Since wars have become less frequent and shorter in duration, the cost of maintaining these forces in time of peace has come to exceed enormously the cost of war itself. This is a very serious imperfection in the present organization of Society which should not be ignored. We should regard it as a very serious imperfection in the organization of a “country” if it had no police, so that each person had to go about armed to the teeth and to fortify his house against burglars and other malefactors. The present condition of things as between different States is precisely similar, and should be regarded in the same way.
Even apart from actual war and preparations for war the policy of States is often anti-social. General opinion holds in each country that the policy of the state should be “national,” that is, should be directed towards the “good of the country” without regard to the good of “the foreigner” except in a very strictly limited sense which only excludes what are regarded as “barbarous” actions. It is, for example, no longer thought right to eat the foreigner, or even to reduce him to slavery, and States which insist on carrying national policy to such lengths sooner or later find themselves suppressed by some other State or combination of States. But to “tax the foreigner” for purposes which cannot possibly do him any good, and to prevent foreigners from peaceably settling in the country when they want to improve their condition, are considered perfectly legitimate objects of national policy, although they may be and are often admitted to be contrary to the good of the world at large. No one, so far as I know, has ever contended that the pursuit of self-interest by individual States tends invariably to the common good of the whole.
On the other hand, it is clear that the individual self-interest of separate States does lead to a considerable and valuable amount of co-operation between them, and that this amount is continually increasing. Common interest has led them to agree to extradite offenders against each others laws, to arrange for the world-wide transmission of letters and messages, to adopt joint systems for the encouragement of literature and invention.
Inside each country the position of the State is less equivocal. When not in the hands of a mere faction, its influence is always intended to be directed in favour of the organization which is best for the “people” or the “country” as a whole, and though it is often far from clear who the “people” are and what the “good of the country” means, there is no doubt that on the whole, in spite of mistakes and misapprehensions, the modern State plays a most important part in economic organization.
In the first place the existence of the State and the order enforced by it makes it possible for property to play the part in organization which we have already dealt with. We can perhaps conceive a state of things where the co-operation carried on under the influence of the institution of property might exist without any organized authority or government. The whole people might have so much respect for each other's rights, as established by custom, that no one would ever require to be restrained from invading the rights of another, even if that other was weaker than himself. But we do not suppose that such a state of things has ever been realized in the past nor that it is likely to be realized in the near future, and if we are right in this, it is clear that the State has been necessary in the past and is likely to continue to be so in the immediate future. Further, even in a society of perfectly just men it would be desirable to have some common authority to make changes when necessary. Otherwise progress would be exceedingly slow, since it would have to be imperceptible. If fast enough to be perceptible, it would seem to violate custom and would, therefore, be tabooed, in the absence of machinery for discussing reasons and passing judgment on them.
In the eighteenth century there grew up a school of thinkers who said to the governments of the time, “Laissez faire,” or “Let alone.” The more philosophical among them were influenced by the cult of Nature prevalent at the time, thinking that certain institutions were Natural and therefore good, while others were artificial and bad. They wanted the institutions which they thought natural let alone and the others abolished. The practical men (from whom the phrase itself is said to have come) wanted certain institutions which they regarded as harmful abolished, and did not trouble themselves to think of the others. The philosophers' ideas about Nature are now recognized as erroneous, their natural institutions being nothing but slight modifications of those of their own time. To the practical men, the precept “Laissez faire” never really meant “Leave everything alone,” nor even “Leave all natural things alone,” but simply “Leave alone certain things which I think ought to be left alone.” The practical men got their way to a considerable extent, especially in England, and therefore it has become the fashion to speak of “the triumph of Laisser faire,” of the “Laisser faire period,” and even of the supposed subsequent “Fall of Laisser faire,” But there never was and never can be a State which practises laisser faire. The very establishment of a State negatives a policy of complete “Let alone.” In primitive times the demand upon the authority which represents the rudimentary State is constantly for the enforcement of “good old customs.” When the State complies with the demand, it is not letting alone, but taking an active part in the enforcement of these customs, which might otherwise fall into disuse owing to violation by interested parties. Moreover, the enforcement of these customs, coupled, as it usually is, with neglect to enforce other old customs, involves a discrimination which is favourable to progress. It is only the customs which are felt to be good which are enforced, while the others are left to be violated by those who find it to their interest to violate them. Enforcement of good customs necessitates precise definition, and a good deal of amendment is possible and probable in the process. Consequently there was really a large amount of “State interference” even in periods when the State seemed to do nothing except reinforce the people's respect for custom.
The general enforcement of law and order and the facilitation of necessary or desirable changes in that law and order, though perhaps the most vital, is by no means the only important function of the State in economic organization. Separate property in land has never completely covered the face of any considerable country. A network of narrow strips forming the means of communication is always found outside the limits of ordinary private property, either free to the use of all-comers or available to all on payment of some toll or due prescribed or limited in some way or other by the State. Without this reservation from private property any considerable amount of communication would appear to be impossible. A single proprietor of a large parcel of land usually finds it to his interest to provide roads and sometimes more elaborate means of communication within the area, and it is obvious that a number of different proprietors would often do well to co-operate for the same purpose. On a very small scale, of course, they often do, but the difficulties of “voluntary” co-operation on a large scale are enormous. The single proprietor who makes a road entirely for his own benefit gets the whole of that benefit and, provided the benefit exceeds the cost, the amount of the benefit need not be accurately known or estimated. If, on the other hand a number of proprietors co-operate in making a road, and adopt, as would seem natural, the principle that the cost must be apportioned between them in proportions determined by the relative benefits they individually obtain, the total of these benefits must be precisely estimated in order to allow the apportionment to be made. If the arrangement is that the cost shall be recovered from the persons using the means of communication in proportion to the use they make of it, as usually happens when railways and canals are made, difficulties arise about the charges which should be made for different uses, e.g., should a man who sends a ton of gold over the means of communication pay only as much as one who sends a ton of coal ? Further, if this plan is adopted, the owners whose land is taken for the purpose of constructing the means of communication must be paid for it, and the question arises how much they should be paid. If each is allowed to stand out for as much as he can get, the means of communication will never be made, since each will try to get more at the expense of the others. If this difficulty is overcome by some arrangement about the apportionment of the total price, and the highest possible price is obtained for the property taken as a whole, the cost of transport is likely to be raised to an undesirably high pitch. For example, if there were a range of hills with only one pass through them dividing two parts of a country which it was desirable to connect by a railway or canal, and the owners of the land in the pass were allowed to exact the highest possible price for the monopoly of transit through it, the cost of transit and transport would be higher than it would if there were no range of hills, or if there were many passes through them, and there seems to be no good reason for the difference.
Hence provision of the means of communication has always been very largely in the hands of the State. The State resolves the difficulties not always precisely in the best conceivable manner, but in a rough and ready fashion which is vastly better than leaving them alone. It apportions cost according to some arbitrary standard which very roughly corresponds with benefit received, modified often by some consideration of ability to pay: it prescribes rates and charges, or at least maximum rates and charges, for particular uses of the means of communication; and when it takes the land required, or when it authorizes enterprising persons to take the land, it never adopts the principle that the full competitive price is to be given, but only “compensation,” based on the value of the land for purposes other than that of being used for the new or improved means of communication.
In modern times a number of other things have grown up which resemble the means of communication in being spread over large areas in thin lines. Water, instead of being obtained from a well in each curtilage, or being carried a long distance in buckets from some natural source, is supplied through large pipes or an open aqueduct from some river or lake, natural or artificial, to service-reservoirs in the neighbourhood of a town, and from these it is dispensed by a ramification of smaller pipes into every house. House drainage is carried out in a very similar way. The provision of gas and electric light is also very similar. The provision of telegraphic and telephonic communication requires the laying of a network of wires all over the face of the world, Very often the most convenient plan is to place these waterpipes and gaspipes and wires along the already existing roads or railways, but it is constantly necessary to acquire private property for some part of the work. These things are very similar to roads, railways, and canals in many of their characteristics, and they are dealt with much in the same way.
In providing or actively helping to provide these engineering works required by the progress of invention and the thicker population in modern times the State may be said to be arranging for a necessary supplement to the organization based on separate property, In other important functions it appears rather as supplementing the organization of the family. We can conceive a state of things where children were always sufficiently trained and educated by their parents, and where the sick, aged, and infirm were always properly taken care of by the members of the family who were strong and well. But the actual does not come up to the ideal. Owing to many obvious causes, the family does not always perfectly fulfil its functions in these respects. At first individual almsgiving or “charity” attempts to supply the deficiency with very unsatisfactory results. Crowds of lusty beggars wander from one religious house to another or terrify the lonely housewife by the roadside. Little children are maimed in order to excite compassion for their mutilators. Some kind of organization covering the whole territory and armed with certain disciplinary powers becomes obviously necessary, and is supplied by the State; badly as it works in its earlier forms it is never worse than the chaos which preceded it, and as time goes on it is gradually improved.
It is as yet impossible to sum up the history of property in land except in a vague and tentative fashion. How easily much that was recently accepted may be attacked can be seen in Mr. Jan St. Lewinski's Origin of Property, 1913.