Front Page Titles (by Subject) NEW ZEALAND - Modern Democracies, vol. 2.
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NEW ZEALAND - Viscount James Bryce, Modern Democracies, vol. 2. 
Modern Democracies, (New York: Macmillan, 1921). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
Part of: Modern Democracies, 2 vols.
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the country and its first half century of history
Of all the British self-governing dominions New Zealand is that best suited by climate to be a home for men of British stock. Small as it is in comparison with Canada, Australia, or South Africa, it has a larger proportion of its total area available for the service of man, and it is unsurpassed, if indeed equalled, by any of these countries in salubrity and in natural beauty. Europeans and Americans are apt to associate it with Australia, because the two countries lie only twelve hundred miles apart. But they are very different countries, unlike in physical aspect, unlike in climate, unlike in their fauna and flora, unlike in the character of the aborigines whom the settlers found, and like only in the character of their white population and in the British traditions which it brought to a new land.
The country, consisting of two long islands and one much smaller isle to the south of the Southern island, measures 900 miles from north to south, and is so narrow that no point on it is more than seventy-five miles from the sea. The northernmost part has the climate of Lisbon or Gibraltar, the southernmost the climate of Edinburgh. Large parts are mountainous, the highest peak of the South Island reaching 12,349 feet, and those of the North Island — where the loftiest are extinct volcanoes,— exceeding 9000 feet. Of the total area 104,471 square miles, about two-thirds, are deemed fit for agriculture or pasture, and of the residue a large part is still covered by forests of considerable economic value as well as great beauty. There is a copious rainfall, plenty of water-power, and mines of gold, silver, and coal. A comparatively small part of the land has been brought under tillage, for the chief industry is the keeping of sheep (about 26,000,000, (1919) and cattle (over 3,000,000), but in large parts of the island the native herbage is so innutritious that it is necessary to sow European grasses, and in some regions the process is repeated every seventh year. Nature, while making ample provision for a very large population, has indicated pasture and agriculture as the chief occupations, for the coal deposits are not sufficient to provide fuel for great manufacturing industries, and New Zealand lies so far away from any large markets that manufacturers could not hope to do much more than supply the needs of the home consumer. Sheep-keeping is, moreover, pursued more profitably on a great than on a small scale, so that Nature might seem to indicate that economic causes, if left their full play, would make the country one of fairly large rather than of small holdings. An important development of pastoral industry, however, has recently appeared in the form of moderately sized dairy farms, worked on the co-operative system, and exporting butter and cheese to European markets. A study of the natural resources of New Zealand and of the economic phenomena springing from them suggests that the population will remain rather rural than urban, pretty dense in the arable, dairying, and fruit-raising districts, much more sparse in the pastoral and forest-covered lands. So, too, the towns will be important chiefly as ports for the shipping to foreign markets of agricultural and pastoral products, and as the two islands have a coast line about 4300 miles in total length, harbours are fairly numerous. No one of these ports, except perhaps Auckland in the north, the nearest point to the Panama Canal, and with a spacious haven, seems likely to outclass the others to the same extent as Sydney and Melbourne dwarf the other seaports of South-Eastern Australia.
These are the advantages Nature has bestowed on the country. What one may call the human conditions under which the white colony began were scarcely less favourable. The Maori aborigines belonged to one of the most intelligent branches of that brown Polynesian stock which is perhaps the most attractive primitive race that has ever been discovered. Though they were bold as well as chivalrous fighters, and had, unluckily, been allowed to obtain firearms, they were not numerous enough to be permanently formidable to a European population constantly recruited from without.
The first white settlers were of an exceptionally high quality, with no convicts among them. A good many belonged to old English county families, and not a few were persons of exceptional talent and character. No British colony ever started on its career under brighter auspices, with a larger promise of an equal distribution of wealth, ampler opportunities of prosperity for every industrious man, and greater freedom from the disturbing influences and bad habits of the European world.
The early history of the colony may be dismissed in a few words. In 1840 the islands were formally annexed by Great Britain and a treaty made with the leading Maori chiefs, by which they recognized British sovereignty, while the enjoyment of their lands was guaranteed to them. Disputes about landownership inevitably arose as the settlers spread out, and induced a series of wars, the last of which ended in 1870, since which time the natives have lived at peace with the whites, having a considerable region reserved to them, along with the right of returning four members to the House of Representatives. It has been customary to have one Maori in the Cabinet.1
In 1853 an Act of the Imperial Parliament created an elective Legislature, and 1856 a Ministry responsible to the Legislature, on the English model, was set up. This Parliament presently became a powerful centralizing force, for up to 1876 a large party of the functions of government had been discharged by Provincial Councils, one for each of the provinces (at first six, afterwards nine), into which the country was divided, and these councils had done good service by creating an interest in efficient government, and training not a few men for public life. In 1861 gold was discovered, first in Otago, a little later on the west coast of the South Island, still later on the east coast of the North Island, and this brought in a good many immigrants of a new type, for the most part rough and uneducated, but hard working and kindly. With the year 1870, however, there began a new era. Sir Julius Vogel, then Minister of Finance, seeing the need for land communication between the widely separated centres of settlement, carried through Parliament a plan for borrowing £10,000,000, to be expended in public works, and especially on railways. As the country had then barely 250,000 white inhabitants, besides 45,000 Maoris, this was a bold venture, but Parliament went further, and within the next ten years the debt of the colony had risen from £7,841,-000 to £27,000,000. Long stretches of railway were built, many of which are said to have been laid out unsystematically and constructed wastefully. The expenditure of so many millions created a demand for labour, and drew into the country a swarm of immigrants so large as nearly to double the population between 1871 and 1881. Land values rose rapidly, the influx of miners continued, new industries were started and towns grew. A period of wild speculation in land and in business generally was naturally followed by a collapse and general depression, from which the colony did not recover for many years. Then first was it that distress and pauperism appeared, then first the unlucky immigrants whose hopes had been disappointed began to look to the Government for help. As the heavy debt compelled an increase in taxation, the duties on imports were raised, and a foundation laid for the protective tariff now in force.
The functions of the Parliament of the colony having grown more important after the Provincial Councils had vanished, party divisions in the Legislature became more marked, though for a good while there was hardly any electoral organization in the constituencies, while in the Assembly the tie of party allegiance was loose. For the next fifteen years the reins of government were usually in the hands of those who were then deemed Conservatives, and who defended the interests of the larger landowners and the wealthier business men. Among the opponents of this party, calling themselves Liberals, the most prominent figure was Sir George Grey (in earlier days twice Governor, and now a party leader), a remarkable man, radical in opinion, authoritarian by temper, brilliant by his intellectual gifts, but without the tact and forbearance which the conduct of business in an Assembly requires. His advocacy, while Prime Minister, of an enlargement of the franchise, compelled his successor to pass in 1879 an Act establishing manhood suffrage, and this, followed some years later by the abolition of plural voting, made New Zealand a democracy. At first, however, no great change in legislation was visible. The subjects that occupied Parliament were chiefly land questions and various financial difficulties which the growth of the debt and the depression in business had made acute. Some measures designed to benefit the working men were passed, and the disposition to play for their votes became more evident. Ministers and members, however, to whichever party they belonged, came almost exclusively from the richer and more educated classes. They were landed proprietors, merchants, lawyers, and other professional men, some more advanced in their views and sentiments than others, but not separated among themselves by any sharp lines either of social sympathy or of political opinion. Very few were radicals by theory, if indeed one can talk of theory at all among New Zealand politicians. They were occupied by the issues of the hour, and inevitably also by the getting and keeping of office, for the balance of party strength frequently shifted, and a disproportionate amount of time and effort was spent on the incessant game of replacing the Ins by the Outs.
In that game the working men had not yet begun to take a hand. They had, of course, voted since the suffrage had been extended to them, and most of them voted for the party called Liberal. But they were not keen politicians, their leaders being far more directly interested in the building up of the trade unions and the conduct of strikes and other labour disputes, these having grown more frequent with the increase of the wage-earning class.
This was the position when that election of 1890 which proved fateful for New Zealand was approaching. The Constitution had then already taken the completely popular character which now marks it, and as it has remained unchanged (except in two details to be presently noted) since 1890, this is a convenient point for a brief description of its main features as it stood when the days of effective democracy began.
The Parliament or “General Assembly” consisted of two Houses. The House of Representatives had, and still has, seventy-six members (besides four representing the Maori aborigines), elected by universal (then manhood) suffrage for three years, and for districts approximately equal in population. Each member has received a salary of £300 a year. No elector can vote in more than one district.
The Legislative Council contained in 1890 thirty-four members, appointed for life by the Governor, i.e. by the ministry in power at the time when vacancies occurred. It had practically no power in financial matters, and it did not make or unmake ministries, but otherwise its functions in legislation were legally the same as those of the popular House. The number of its members was not limited by law. As we presently shall see, this provision has been changed.
Executive authority was vested nominally in the Governor appointed by the British Crown (with a term of office usually of five years), but practically in the Ministry, i.e. the leaders of the majority in the House of Representatives. This is the regular form of government in all the self-governing Dominions of Britain, and it places the ultimate seat of power in the majority of citizens voting at an election, this power being exercised through the majority in the popular House and the Ministry which it supports. Its democratic quality was limited by only one check, viz. the right of the Legislative Council to amend or reject Bills other than financial.
The bulk of the voters, however, which here as elsewhere consisted of the poorer classes, had not realized how great their power was, just as the English working class did not realize theirs for many years after the Act of 1867. But now, in 1890, the awakening came. There was much discontent among the masses. The agricultural element among them had been disappointed at their failure to obtain those small holdings for which they had been calling during thirty years. They blamed the improvidence that had allowed most of the good land to get into the hands of large proprietors, and the ineptitude of successive Ministries whose plans for selling or leasing Crown lands in small blocks had failed to satisfy the legitimate desires of the people. The depression which followed the “boom” of the early 'seventies had never quite passed away, although the great sheep-masters were now prosperous through their wool exports, and beginning to profit by the newly discovered methods of sending frozen mutton to Europe, circumstances which raised the price of land against the small buyer. The considerable working-class population which had grown up in the towns since the days when loans had brought money and, for a time, plenty of employment into the country, was restless and unhappy. While many of those who had arrived in the “boom days” were emigrating, there was distress among those who remained, and what is called “sweating” was complained of in some trades. The efforts of their chiefs had hitherto been devoted to the raising of wages and the improvement of labour conditions generally by means of strikes. But the greatest strike yet ventured on, due to an attempt to prevent the use by the shipping companies of non-Union labour, had just failed, after having nearly drained the resources of the Unions. They were disheartened; and hard times made them ready for some new and more promising line of action. There was a sense in the air of coming change, a feeling in all classes that a crisis in industrial problems was at hand. In this situation the leaders of the Liberal party, having already many adherents among the small farmers, turned naturally for support to the leaders of the wage-earners, and the latter gladly joined hands with them, thinking, as were the Australians at the same time, that what they could not get by strikes they must seek in some other way. The election of 1890 gave a majority against the Conservative Ministry, and brought in five working men as supporters of the Liberal Government formed by Mr. Ballance as Prime Minister. When the bold programme of legislation which he set himself to carry out was arrested by the action of the Legislative Council, which rejected or materially altered some important Bills, he resolved to deal with the Council itself, and passed through the House a measure reducing the tenure of office of the councillors from life to a period of seven years. The Council, in which there were then only six Ministerialists out of a total of thirty-four, rejected the measure, whereupon the Ministry requested the Governor to appoint twelve new members, there being, it will be remembered, no limitation to the numbers of the Council. The Governor, who thought this change too large, declined to appoint more than nine. The matter was referred to the British Government at home, which, adhering to its general principle of letting the self-governing colonies settle their internal affairs for themselves, directed the Governor to comply. The twelve new councillors, four of whom were working men, were thereupon appointed, and the Bill reducing the term of a councillor's office to seven years was passed. Since this change the Council, though for a time it showed fight, and though it continues to meet and debate, has practically counted for little, and constitutes no effective check on the action of the popular House. In 1893 another general election gave the Liberals a majority of 22 in that House. The Ministry now had the ball at their feet, and threw themselves with redoubled energy and confidence into that policy of extending the action of the State in many new directions which has made New Zealand's legislative experiments a subject of curiosity and interest to the world. This was done under a new Prime Minister, Mr. Richard John Seddon, one of the most remarkable leaders of the people modern democracy has produced.
richard seddon and his policies
RichardSeddon, or King Dick as he was commonly and affectionately called, was born at St. Helens in Lancashire in 1845. Both of his parents were teachers in elementary schools, then on a far lower level than now. Despite these facilities, he carried away from school little education, being of a restlessly active temper which had no liking for books. After an apprenticeship of five years to an engineering firm, he went at nineteen to seek his fortune in the gold-diggings of Australia. Not finding it there, he crossed the sea from Melbourne to New Zealand, where, after some further experiences in gold-mining, he set up an inn and shop, which his friends called a store and his detractors a public-house, at Kumara, on the west coast of the South Island.1 Here his hustling energy and “hail-fellow-well-met” spirit soon made him successful as a miner's advocate in the Warden's Mining Court, and also a leading figure in local politics. In 1879 he was returned to Parliament as a supporter of Sir George Grey, then Prime Minister, and sat thenceforth in the House of Representatives till he died in 1906, still in middle life, but broken down by a tireless activity which would allow itself no respite from work.
His character and career deserve more than a passing mention. He had little book-learning, no love of knowledge for its own sake, and in particular no acquaintance with even the rudiments of economics and legislation. In eloquence he was equally wanting. There was neither art nor grace in his speeches, which rambled on through a string of details tedious to the listener, with nothing even of that idealistic strain by which men of ardent soul but halting utterance sometimes rouse an audience. But he had Force and Drive. He could say what he meant when he wanted to say it, and said it in a way to command attention. “I believe"— so he once remarked to an interviewer —"in giving it to the great many-headed hot and hot, lots of pepper and seasoning, none of your milk-and water pap, no namby-pamby solemn beating about the bush, but straight-from-the-shoulder talk.” It was well observed of him that he “never could estimate the precise value of comparatives and superlatives, and seemed to the last to imagine that strong language was the only language befitting a strong man.” When he had to deal with a subject, he spared no pains to get up all the facts and to keep them accurately in mind. In Parliament his indomitable persistence and strenuous will bore down all opposition, and the air of determined resolution that sat well on his strong features was all the more impressive from his burly frame and a chest like Vulcan's.
But with this force there were coupled other qualities quite as serviceable. He had a genial manner, a cheery laugh, a crushing hand-grip. Though jealous, he was neither malicious nor vindictive. He was at home with the people. From them he had sprung, and they were proud of him. He got acquainted with everybody, remembered everybody's face, knew how to handle everybody, and thus did more to strengthen his power outside than inside Parliament. Even his opponents found it hard to hate him. With these gifts and a convenient absence of scruples, he was an adroit parliamentary leader, quick in apprehension, shrewd in his judgments, knowing even when to yield and how to yield without the appearance of weakness.1
He was accused of playing down to the crowd, and certainly did much to vulgarize New Zealand politics. Power was his passion, and, though his head was not turned by popularity, he had his full share of vanity. Yet he was something more than a mere self-seeker or vote-catcher. His heart was kindly, and he honestly wished to better the condition and brighten the lives of the class whence he came. He deserves to be remembered as one of the few leaders of the masses who began and remained throughout on the level of the masses. Seldom has any one Of an origin so humble risen to the top, not even in France, in the midst of a revolution, nor in the United States, nor in Switzerland. But the New Zealander, had he lived in the days of the first French Revolution, would have played a notable part there, as he would have done also in those cities of ancient Greece that were often torn by seditions. Revolutions give chances to everybody, but Seddon did not need troublous times to rise. There have been few more remarkable figures in our time than this popular dictator, who gained and kept power without education and without eloquence.1
The election of 1893 gave Mr. Seddon, who had become Prime Minister after the death of Mr. Ballance, a majority of 22, and three subsequent elections in succession confirmed his power. Though during the first few years the resistance of the Legislative Council occasionally delayed his measures, he carried through, during his thirteen years of office, a series of Acts, to which, having regard both to their number or their significance, few parallels can be found in recent history. Most of them were passed in the interests of the working class, and many of them extended the scope and power of State action. Seddon was not himself a Socialist, indeed he was not an -ist of any kind, being free from all theories, and looking solely to the needs of the moment and the exigencies of the political situation. Nor was his Ministry, as a whole, Socialist in the European sense of the term. Resting on the support of the Liberals and of the working-class vote, the latter already strong, though not yet organized, it met the more urgent desires of the latter without offending the former, and carried with it the poorer part of the agricultural class, and indeed the bulk of public opinion in the colony. But it was not by this support only nor by his personal ascendancy that his Ministry kept its grip on members and constituencies. Mr. Seddon was the most astute of party managers, and never hesitated to use Government patronage to win support or buy off opposition. He saw nothing wrong in this, and almost disarmed criticism by the frankness of his avowals. Appropriations for roads, bridges, railways, harbour improvements, every kind of work which could benefit a district or bring money into it, were freely granted. No one charged him or his Ministers with enriching themselves. New Zealand is one of the purest of colonial communities, and, indeed, of democratic communities anywhere, comparable in this respect with Switzerland. But though the grants were occasionally made to districts that were not supporting his government, his abuse of public funds for party purposes did much to lower the tone of politics.
These methods and acts passed, with the support of the Liquor interest, helped to secure his continuance in power, though some thought that his prestige was beginning to wane before he passed away. The pace of legislation slackened during his later years, when two or three of his ablest colleagues were no longer with him, and the trade union leaders, always expecting some fresh concession, grew restive, and were stimulated by the example of the rapid advance made by the Labour party in Australia to think of detaching themselves from the Liberals. After Seddon's death his two successors kept the Liberal majority together on the lines he had followed, while slowing down the pace still further. They were beginning to be weakened by an increase in the class of small farmers, which grew more conservative as it acquired property; and when the wage-earners found that there were limits to the raising of wages, the two sections began to draw apart. Moreover, the Ministry suffered, like every Ministry long in office, by the sort of staleness it acquired in the view of the voters. “In the end the possession of great administrative power brings about destruction. Security breeds carelessness, perhaps corruption; length of office inspires mistrust, discontent, and envy.”1 However, it held on, not without the use of what are euphemistically called “administrative methods,” though at the election of 1908 many of the Labour men drew off, running candidates of their own. Finally, at the election of 1911, the Opposition obtained a small majority, and formed, under the name of the Reform party, a Government, which devoted itself chiefly to financial and land questions, and created a Civil Service Commission, but did not attempt to repeal the measures of its predecessors.
In the election of 1915 the Labour party gained seats in seven constituencies, and elsewhere gave its support to the Liberals, but the Reformers obtained a small majority over both these parties. Shortly afterwards (August 4, 1915) the European War brought about the coalition of Reformers and Liberals in what was called a “National Government,” and it lasted till 1919, when the “Liberal” members withdrew.1
As it is the legislation passed by the Seddon Government that has chiefly fixed upon New Zealand the attention of economists and statesmen in other countries, their measures, and especially those which have a flavour of State Socialism, deserve to be examined in detail. Before, however, I proceed to such an examination, and thereafter to a description of the present political conditions and of the public opinion of the country, a few words must be said upon Local Government, Education, and the Civil Service, in order to complete the account of the machinery of government.
No British colony has developed a more complete system of local institutions. There are, in rural areas, County Councils, and under them Road Boards, both elected biennially on a system which allots one, two, or three votes to the citizen, according to his valuation.2 Their functions cover every kind of rural work except Education, Poor Relief, and Police. The Borough Councils are chosen biennially, the Mayor being elected, not by the Councils, as in England, but directly by the voters, as in the United States. The qualifications are freehold or rating or residential, but the latter does not entitle its holder to vote on any proposal submitted to the electors regarding loans or rates. The functions of these Councils include the care of “streets, drainage, lighting, tramways, bridges, ferries, water-works and water-power, sanitation, fire prevention, workers' dwellings, markets, public libraries, museums, public gardens, and they may contribute funds for recreation, instruction, etc. More than one borough has a theatre.”3
The total indebtedness of the various local authorities in New Zealand (excluding debts to the Government amounting to £3,851,000) was in 1918 £22,260,000. Considerable subsidies are paid annually by the Dominion to Borough Councils, and on a still higher scale to County Councils. No salaries are paid to the members of any of these local bodies. “When the large number of local bodies is considered, it will be seen,” says Chief Justice Sir Robert Stout, “that some thousands of our people are concerned, without fee or reward, in managing our local concerns.” And he adds, “Mistakes may have been innocently made, but up to the present time (1911) not a single charge of corruption or fraud has ever been made against any of our municipal bodies or any of their members.”1 Every one whom I questioned in New Zealand agreed in bearing like witness to the honesty with which local government is conducted.
In rural areas, party politics do not enter into elections, but in the cities it is otherwise. The Labour party ran candidates in the four chief cities in 1913. Municipalities are empowered to adopt in their elections proportional representation, but this right has been so far sparingly used.2
Police belongs entirely to the government of the Dominion, which has entrusted it to a Commissioner. In 1919 a police force of only 878 was deemed quite sufficient for a population of 1,160,000, being one policeman to every 1319 persons. Another cheering fact is that whereas persons born in New Zealand and over fifteen years of age constitute 60 per cent of the whole population, the percentage of New Zealand-born to the total number of prisoners in gaol was only 43.3
Education also is entirely supported by the Dominion Government, the administration being entrusted to thirteen district boards and to school committees elected locally. The question of religious teaching in schools has been much contested. In 1914 a Bill was introduced providing for the reading of the Bible and permitting ministers of religion to enter the schools at suitable times to instruct scholars belonging to their respective denominations, but it was warmly opposed and ultimately dropped, owing to the outbreak of war in Europe. Apart from this question, the schools did not “come into politics.” In the elementary schools instruction is compulsory and gratuitous, while in secondary schools free places are provided for all children who reach a certain standard by a certain age. There is practically no illiteracy among native-born New Zealanders. But one part of the fabric remains unfinished. It is the top story. The University is merely an examining body, and no one of the four colleges affiliated to it, situated in each of the four chief cities, useful as they are and all of them well deserving to be maintained, possesses the equipment which a University needs.1 No city will yield to any other, not even to Wellington, the capital, the honour of being selected as the seat of a true university of the European or American type, concentrating in itself the highest teaching power and the most varied learning of the country. The provision for engineering and other technical instruction is of good quality and sufficient for the population, but institutions created to give instruction in applied science, however valuable for practical purposes, do not fill the void. A first-class university staff is all the more necessary, because New Zealand lies far away from the intellectual influences of Europe. They do, indeed, reach her through books, but with the thin voice of a telephone.
The Public Service
In few countries, if in any, is the proportion of members of the public service to the whole nation so large as in New Zealand, and this because in few does the Government undertake so many tasks on behalf of the people. In 1909 a Minister stated that 130,000 persons out of a population then of 1,000,000 were directly dependent on the State, and this number is said to have now risen to 150,000. This estimate would, however, seem to have been reached by adding to the number of State employees, then 40,000, the old-age pensioners, then 14,000 (now over 19,000), and estimating the dependent families at two and a half persons to each of the above. The condition of the Civil Service is therefore a matter of special interest, for it affects the welfare of a large part of the people, as well as the efficiency of the many and diverse kinds of public work which they perform.
Four questions in particular need to be noticed here, the methods of admission into the Civil Service, the tenure of its members, the system of promotion, and the relation of the Service to party politics.
Admission to the public service is by a competitive examination, held at the age of fourteen, in elementary subjects and therefore affording no satisfactory evidence of the intellectual gifts of the candidates, though some evidence of their diligence. This arrangement does not apply to posts in the railway service, which are filled by the appointment of the Ministers for that department, while in the postal and telegraph services, appointments are entrusted to a non-political Commission. Members of the Legislature used to put political pressure on the Ministers to give places to their friends, and found this one of the least agreeable of the functions which their constituents expected from them. One member is reported to have said: “The applications I receive from candidates for the public service are the worry of my life; men, women, and children all seem to want to get Government billets.” And another observed: “Members of Parliament are to a large extent Labour agents; there is none of us who is not supposed to possess some influence with the Government, and who is not expected to use that influence on behalf of persons seeking Government billets.”1
Tenure.— The existing evils due to political patronage would be much graver had not New Zealand fortunately adopted the British principle of regarding the tenure of posts as practically permanent, i.e. making no dismissals except for serious faults or evident inefficiency. There is no “Spoils System,” no wholesale turning out of officials on a change of Government, such as was once general, and still exists, to some extent, in the United States.
Promotion.— The efficiency of any service depends on the methods used for bringing superior ability to the top, but this implies the entrusting of a wide discretion to the head of the department, who cannot always be trusted to resist political pressure exerted by members of parliament in the way already referred to. The alternative is promotion by seniority, which, even if coupled with examinations at different stages (an experiment tried in New Zealand), gives little security, beyond what mere experience furnishes, for administrative capacity. Thus New Zealand has suffered both from ministerial discretion and from the rule of seniority. As a new country, she had not the advantage of that long tradition and settled custom which in Great Britain has on the whole, if not invariably, controlled Ministers in the disposal of patronage, impressing on them the duty of selecting the best men for the higher posts. An effort to mend things was made in 1912 by an act creating a non-political Public Service Commissioner, with two Assistant Commissioners to exercise a general control over the public service, except the Railway, Defence, and Police departments. Appeals from a decision of the Commissioner may be brought to a Board of three members, one of them appointed from the ranks of, and another elected by the Civil Service itself. This Commission is independent of the Ministry, and its members are removable only by Parliament. An effort to bring its powers under direct parliamentary control has, however, been threatened.
The Participation of Public Servants m Politics.— Though it was long ago laid down that members of the Civil Service are forbidden to take an active part in political controversies otherwise than by recording their votes, this rule was not strictly observed. Members have been known to complain that in the days of the Seddon Government they found an array of public servants working against them at elections, and that it was felt in some places that a man could not get work under the Government unless he supported it by his vote,1 but others have told me of many who, though they might not work against the Ministry, voted against them. In 1907, when a workman had been dismissed because he had moved a resolution hostile to the Government at a meeting of a Labour League, the matter was raised in Parliament and the action of the Government supported. It was generally felt, as some one said, that if the Government did not rule the Civil Service, the Civil Service would rule the Government. The public action, and even the votes, of a body so numerous and so constantly growing would, if steadily thrown for the party which promised them higher remuneration and more favourable conditions, be a dangerous factor in politics, as has happened before now, to some extent in Britain and to a larger extent in Australia, and would also be unfair to those workers who might, as taxpayers, be thus forced to pay more to others than they were themselves receiving for like work. I did not, however, hear that even the railwaymen, the largest single body of employees, have as yet gone far in this direction. Railway workers, though not long ago there was a strike among them, are to some extent kept quiet by the fear of forfeiting their pensions for long service.
The opinions expressed to me in New Zealand all went to show that the upper ranks of the Civil Service were reasonably. efficient and entirely pure. One could not expect to find among them more than a few persons of the calibre of the permanent chiefs of the departments in the countries of Western Europe.
We may now turn to the experimental legislation which has won for New Zealand the reputation of a semi-socialistic State.
The boundless energy of Mr. Seddon, the enormous majority that supported him in the legislature, and the command he soon acquired over the minds of the people, made it possible for his Ministry to carry through in the years following 1893 a series of laws, conceived in the interests of the working class, to which few parallels can be found in any other modern country. Many of these require no special notice, because similar to measures enacted in European countries or in several States of the American Union, so I will advert only to those few which either throw strong light on the tendencies of democratic government or go farthest in enlarging the functions of the democratic State. Most of them did not spring from Mr. Seddon's brain, which was by no means creative, yet without his force and his ascendancy both in and out of Parliament they could not have been pressed through against the resistance of the richer section of the community. I begin with the land policy, in which it was not he, but his colleague John M'Kenzie, Minister of Lands, a masterful shepherd from the Scottish Highlands, who originated, carried, and set a-going the administration of the governmental measures.1
When the Liberal-Labour Government of 1891 proceeded to tackle the Land question the problem was not new, but had already a history, long, changeful, and complicated. In the earlier years of the Colony, when all the land of the islands, except the parts reserved for the Maoris, lay at the disposal of the Government, sad mistakes were committed. There was abundance of good intentions, but very little foresight. Vast blocks were permitted to pass into the hands of speculators, so that in the early 'seventies, when immigrants desired to take up farms, much of the richest and best-situated arable soil was already gone, while the boom (consequent on Vogel's borrowings) which began in 1870 had run up the price against small buyers. Thenceforward many attempts were made by legislation to repair these original errors. Some experiments failed and were abandoned; none had in 1891 done much to meet the reasonable demands of the people. In that year 584 persons owned 7,000,000 acres out of rather less than 44,000,000 fit for agriculture or pasture, and in 1894, 470 persons held land of the unimproved value of £15,000,000, while 38,465 persons held land of unimproved value to the amount of £23,000,000, i.e. one-eightieth of the total number of holders owned two-fifths of the total value of the land. To make farms easily procurable, and to improve social and political conditions by reducing the number of large and increasing that of small landholders, was an object which all recognized as desirable, but about the means there were great differences of opinion.
In 1892 the Liberal-Labour Government abolished the then existing system of a perpetual lease of Crown lands at 5 per cent, with right to purchase, and substituted what was called a “lease in perpetuity,” at a rent of 4 per cent, without the right of purchase, limiting, moreover, the area which any one tenant could hold to 640 acres of first-class or 2000 acres of second-class land. Presently the tenants under the tenure created by this law began to ask for permission to purchase the freehold. This right they at last obtained in 1907, but with a provision that the price should be the capital value which the land had, not at the time when the lease was granted, but at the time of purchase. At the same time the lease in perpetuity was abolished, and a lease for sixty-six years substituted, with a provision for valuation and renewal at the end of the term at a re-fixed rent. But many tenants remain who hold under the older tenures, some under perpetual lease and some under the lease in perpetuity, and their numbers make them a powerful body. A recent authority remarks: 1
The chief danger of a large State tenantry is the immense political pressure they can exercise. There were, in 1909, 25,204 State tenants, holding 18,264,083 acres, and they will agitate for the freehold so long as there is the slightest chance of getting it, and will be supported in their demands by about 45,000 freeholders of country lands, most of whom are strong upholders of the tenure which they enjoy. Even if they do not succeed in obtaining the freehold, they are quite likely to clamour for reduction in rents in time of depression, as indeed they have already done. One witness before the Land Commission of 1905, on being pressed to give reasons for his belief in the freehold, said, “I believe in the freeholder because the freeholder is the man to whom, in times of trouble, the State will look, and the leaseholder the man who in times of trouble will look to the State.”
The questions connected with State ownership cannot be yet deemed to have been settled, and the authority just quoted expresses the opinion that
the advantages of State ownership have been much exaggerated, and it is not easy to show that New Zealand has derived any benefit that could not have been obtained from freehold tenure combined with taxation of land values. Had the efforts of the legislature in the past been concentrated upon the prevention of land monopoly and closer settlement on freehold farms, more progress would probably have been made than has been possible on the lines attempted in the past.1
While these different forms of State leasing were being tried, the sale of Crown lands in freehold also went steadily on, but with two important provisos, “that the purchaser must reside and execute improvements, and that no one can purchase who already owns a certain prescribed quantity of land.” The “Reform” Government, which took office in 1912, has allotted the proceeds of land sales to the support of a fund, to be now referred to, for the purchase of land.
Besides the measures dealing with the lands that had belonged to the State from the first settlement of the Colony, a further effort was made to meet the desire for small properties. In 1894 the Seddon Ministry passed an Act empowering the Government to acquire privately-owned land by compulsory purchase for the purpose of furthering closer settlement “The land so acquired is disposed of on perpetual renewable leases of thirty-three years, at a rental of £4: 10s. per cent on the amount paid for the land. At the end of such lease the renewal rental is £4: 10s. per cent on the value of the land.”1 The sum of £750,000 per annum may be expended in this way, and in fact sums very large in the aggregate have been so expended. Most sales have been effected by agreement, without compulsion. But the money the State pays is obtained by borrowing in England, and the rents which the State has been receiving have not quite covered the interest upon the loans and the expenses incident to the process of purchasing. Moreover, the recent prosperity of the country sent up the price of land, so that it had become before 1914 more difficult to purchase at a price permitting subdivision and letting at rentals which tenants can afford to pay. Thus, undeniable as is the benefit to the tenants of obtaining farms, that benefit was being secured at a loss to the community as a whole. This was not sound finance. Now that the rates at which loans can be raised in England have so greatly risen, can the process continue? So many countries have, since the days of the Roman Republic in the fourth century B.C, failed in their efforts to deal wisely with the problem of the management and disposal of the public land that it need cause no surprise that, even with the experience of the past to instruct them, successive Governments in the Australasian colonies have done little better. New Zealand, specially favoured in one respect, because she started with no landed aristocracy already entrenched in their vested interests, has paid dearly for the errors of the first twenty years. The Seddon Government, however, deserves the credit of having grappled boldly, if not always wisely, with the evils it found. Without confiscation, though at a heavy cost in money, it improved the situation. Under its successors, who are more definitely committed to the plan of freehold ownership, small properties have been increasing, and the large estates are being slowly reduced as the agricultural population grows.
It is only fair to add that the Governments of recent years have been embarrassed and distracted by the existence of three divergent currents of opinion. One school desires to make the State the universal landowner, and to support its expenses by land revenues. Others desire to extinguish private property in land as in all other means of production, in order to establish a Collectivist regime. Opposed to these sections are those who, both on political grounds and for the sake of satisfying a popular demand, seek to create the largest possible number of small landowning cultivators, just such a class, in fact, as exists in North America and (with smaller properties) in many parts of France. Sometimes trying to satisfy both these schools of opinion, sometimes yielding to one or other, New Zealand land policy has been wavering and changeful.2
Revenue.— In New Zealand, as in all young countries where population is sparse and the rich are few, duties on imported goods constitute the most convenient form of taxation, so they continue to supply the chief source of revenue. They were at first imposed for revenue purposes only. Presently, however, when there seemed to he a lack of employment for the town workers, and when this was attributed to the competition to which home-made articles had to submit from the competition of British-made articles, the tariff began to be regarded as a means of raising prices for the home-producer, and thereby assumed a Protectionist character. This character it has since retained and developed. Import duties were further raised under Seddon, whose faith in Protection was so ardent that he insisted on preaching the doctrine in England, regarding it as of universal application, whatever might be the economic conditions of a country. The manufacturing employers, who had found their position strengthened against imports by a raising of duties originally adopted in order to add to the revenue in a time of depression, thenceforward pressed for a higher and higher tariff; while the workmen, thinking that this meant more employment for themselves, seconded that pressure, so that with the support of both classes Protection has become the established creed of the country. It gives revenue; it is popular with the townsfolk; and the agriculturists either have not perceived the burden it lays upon them or are willing to bear that burden in what they suppose to be the general interest. The fear of the competition of Australian-made goods was one of the grounds which deterred New Zealand from entering into Federal relations with Australia. Little objection was made when Seddon, who was a strenuous Imperialist, introduced a preferential scale favouring British imports, because the preference was given, not by reducing the tariff on goods brought from England, but by increasing it upon goods coming from foreign countries. Protection has doubtless helped to maintain in New Zealand some industries that might otherwise have languished. But whether this has proved, or will in the long run prove, a benefit to the country is another question.1
Two other features of the financial policy instituted by Ballance in 1891 and continued by the Seddon Ministry, were both a Land-Tax and an Income-Tax graduated on all profits except those from land. The former was designed not only to raise money, but to break up the large estates, an object already sought by the other means above referred to. To make it effective for this purpose it was laid to fall more heavily upon estates in proportion to their value. The ordinary land-tax, which dated from 1891, applied to all properties exceeding £500 (unimproved value), estates below that sum being exempt. A graduated land-tax (first proposed in 1887 by the Stout-Vogel Ministry), applicable to all properties which exceeded £5000 (unimproved value), was added later, and in 1917 the distinction between the two was abolished, so there is now one graduated tax which, imposing one penny in the £ on land the unimproved value whereof does not exceed £1000, rises till it reaches a maximum of seven-pence in the £ at £193,000. The amount was increased for 1917–19 by a supertax of 50 per cent of the primary tax, making the maximum rate 10£d. in the £. For absentee owners there is a further increase of 50 per cent on the graduated tax. The object of reducing the size of estates has been only to some slight extent secured. The more it is secured the less, of course, is the return from the graduated tax. The graduated income-tax, not charged on the incomes of resident individuals below £300, rises by successive steps to a maximum rate of 7s. 6d. in the £, which rate is attained at an income of £6400. Both these taxes were of course resisted by the large landowners and by the rich generally, but were so welcome to the small farmers, as well as to the labouring class, that they were easily carried and have been maintained. Continued prosperity, with high prices for wool, mutton, cheese, and butter in British markets, has enabled them to be borne. There are also progressive duties on property passing at death, a class of imposts now familiar. Great Britain imposed graduated succession duties in 1894, and a graduated income-tax in 1911. Congress imposed a graduated surtax for the United States in 1916. New Zealand, however, led the way so far as English-speaking communities are concerned.
How is this taxation, large in proportion to the wealth of New Zealand, expended? The net public debt amounted in 1914 to a sum of £91,689,000, in 1919 of £170,000,125, with an annual charge of £8,000,000 for interest and sinking fund, about £70,000,000 having been added to it during the War of 1914–18. In 1891, when the Liberal-Labour Ministry came in, it was £39,000,000, in 1909 £70,000,000, in 1914 £91,000,000, while in 1919 War Loans had raised it to £171,000,000, representing £151 per head of European population. Why so rapid an increase up to 1914 in a country which had, theretofore, no naval and only a very small military expenditure? Most of the money had gone into reproductive public works, such as railways and roads, and much in loans to local bodies, on which they pay interest. Other parts had been expended in the purchase of lands for closer settlement, the rents paid for which nearly equal the interest on the sums so applied, and in advances to settlers for farms and to working men to enable them to obtain dwellings of their own; and it would appear that on these various items the State has lost little or nothing, while many a farmer owes his success to this initial aid. Upon the agrarian policy, taken as a whole, there has, however, been a certain loss, for it has involved many incidental expenses, which have had to be charged on general revenue. From such authorities as are available in Europe I do not gather that the Seddon Administration and its continuation down to 1912 can be charged with recklessness — Seddon was personally averse to waste — or with financial incompetence.1 It showed business capacity on more than one occasion. But it was certainly lax in its methods of expenditure, and lax with comparative impunity, because the direct taxes, which in practice are the only taxes the citizen feels, are paid by a comparatively small part of the community, and it was not this particular part that kept the Ministry in power. The tendency of most branches of administration in New Zealand, as in most democratic countries, has been to a steadily increasing expenditure. Old-age pensions, for instance, when introduced in 1898, ten years before they were granted in Britain, were surrounded by a number of restrictions and qualifying conditions which were in subsequent years struck off, one after another, so that the number of recipients has increased much faster than it ought to have done in proportion to the increase in population. In 1919 it was 19,872. The original amount of each pension was £18 a year. The average was in 1919 a little over £37. The total amount expended per annum, which in 1900 was £157,000, had risen in 1917 to £480,000, and in 1919 it was £743,000.1 The large expenditure had not in 1910 reduced the amount spent by the State on charitable aid to the poor, but it had diminished private contributions to charitable purposes.2 The Poor Law arrangements of New Zealand are alleged to encourage extravagance by allowing local authorities to spend sums received from the central revenue; and the growth of pauperism in a community so new and so prosperous has been frequently commented on and was deplored even by the optimistic Seddon.3
The tendency to laxity, not to say extravagance, in expenditure was increased by that habit of constructing public works with a view to the winning of political support which has been already referred to; and it came all the more easily because the Dominion was able to go on borrowing in England at a rate of from 3 to 3£ per cent. Those were happy days, not likely to return in our time. Though there has been for many years past a Sinking Fund, it was a thing more for ornament than use, and valuable, as a leading statesman once observed, chiefly as indicating an intention some day or other to pay off the debt.4 The elasticity the revenue has shown makes parsimony seem unnecessary, and every one knows that the temptation to please the present generation at the expense of posterity is particularly strong in popular governments.
Undertakings Conducted by The State
Among the enterprises and industries which Government has undertaken in New Zealand, the railroads are by far the most important. In a young colony, where there was hardly any private capital available for construction of costly works, and no chance of obtaining it from Europe save through State action, undertakings so essential for the development of the country inevitably fall to the Government. Some few small lines were built by the Provincial Councils, while they existed, but a far greater number by the Central Government, especially after the hold borrowings started by Vogel. At present, two lines which were privately owned having been bought up, practically all the railways are owned and worked by the State. Its action may be examined first as regards the constructing and then as regards the management of the railways.
Construction.— When the business of providing a country with proper facilities for railway communication is determined by economic considerations only, the problems of military or naval defence not needing to be considered, two principles ought to be observed. One is to lay out and construct the railroads on a systematic plan, both the trunk lines and the branch lines being in proper relation to one another. The other is to build lines where the commercial need for them is greatest, and prospects exist of a remunerative traffic, which will enable them to be worked at a profit, as well as maintained in perfect working order. Neither of these principles was followed by the New Zealand Government. Exposed to a strong and unceasing political pressure by those who wished to have the value of their properties improved by transportation facilities, it usually yielded. Trunk lines might be neglected, while some lines were built where they were little needed, and where, consequently, the receipts were, and have continued to be, small. The whole thing was done piecemeal, and consequently at a needless cost, though it ought in fairness to be said that the absence of any economic centre whence railroads might radiate increased the difficulty of planning a system. A Minister might try to resist, but when votes were to be gained or lost, he was apt to comply or be overruled by his colleagues. This went on from the first, and has been no worse under universal suffrage than it was when landowners ruled the country under a limited franchise, for the latter were just as insistent in desiring to improve their properties as a working-class constituency is in desiring to have employment provided at its doors. Less reprehensible, but almost equally unfortunate, was the clamour which arose from every part of the colony for “a fair share” in the distribution of the loans procured for railway construction. With his usual grasp of realities, Seddon said in the Assembly: “Until we have had a fair expenditure of public money out of loans upon each part of the colony, it is wrong of those parts that have had a fair share to say suddenly that there is to be no more borrowing.”1 Districts where the need was small and the physical difficulties of construction great insisted that as much be spent within their limits as in places where the prospects of traffic were brighter. Much of the waste which from early days loaded the country with a heavy debt is due to this intrusion of political influences.
Management.— In early days the railways were both built and managed by the Minister of Public Works. The loss incurred in running them caused so much dissatisfaction, that in 1887 a permanent non-political Commission of three persons was established, who were thenceforth to control and manage the railways. This Board effected some improvements and many economies. But, as usually happens, the economies were unpopular, because the individuals whom they inconvenienced were more vocal than the general body of taxpayers whom they benefited. When the Commissioners tried to increase traffic by anything in the nature of a differential rate, they were charged with unfairness. Members of the Legislature could no longer obtain the favours for their constituents that had been squeezed out of a political Minister. Many New Zealanders declare that the merits of the Board — its independence, and its stiffness in recognizing nothing but its duty to the community as a whole— proved its undoing. The matter is one still in controversy, but be that as it may, Seddon's Ministry abolished the Board, creating a Minister for railways under whom the politicians regained their influence while economy declined. Ministerial patronage, used, of course, for political purposes, flourished once more, and was said to be flourishing when I visited New Zealand in 1912. Patronage includes not only the bestowal of posts in the railway service and the giving of employment to day-labourers, but also the execution of improvements, such as a new station, in places where a constituency can be gratified, and the creating of work for the unemployed in a particular area. It is said that political aims were at one time pursued in another ingenious way by bringing into an electoral district, where the parties may happen to be equally divided, a body of railway workers whose votes could be counted on for the Ministry employing them.
Two questions remain to be considered: the financial position of the Government railways and the service they render. The former is not easy to ascertain because the form in which accounts are presented, with the habit of sometimes charging to capital what ought to come out of revenue, does not tell the whole story. It seems clear, however, that the lines have been, and are being, worked at a loss, i.e. the receipts do not cover interest on the cost of construction as well as all working expenses, so there is a loss to the general taxpayer. The explanation usually given, besides, of course, an admission of the errors which made the original cost greater than it ought to have been, and which also saddled the Department with unremunerative lines, is that the rates are kept low with a view to the development of the country and the benefit of the travelling public. As regards “development,” this is a term wide enough to cover expenditure on unprofitable lines, and one of the results of “political” and otherwise extravagant railway construction and management has been to reduce those very railway receipts which might have been used for the building of new lines where they were really wanted. It is alleged that the higher branches of the railway service suffer because it is hard to promote the most capable men without incurring the reproach of favouritism, and it is further asserted that in the lower departments less work is got out of railway employees of all kinds than private employers obtain.1 The rates for passengers and even for freight traffic, admittedly low, considering the wages of labour, are justified on the ground that this policy helps the people to move about freely, and that producers would complain if rates were raised on the transport of agricultural products.
Station accommodation is poor, but the transportation service is fairly efficient, having regard to the physical conditions of the country, and the permanent way is kept in good order. Trains are few, for the rural population is sparse and the four great cities lie far apart. The total mileage was, in 1919, 3012 miles, of which 2983 belonged to the State. All lines have a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches, a fact which makes the heavy cost of construction all the more remarkable.
Nobody in New Zealand proposes to change the present system of administration. To sell the lines to private companies might, it is thought, lead to the creation of a formidable monopoly. To lease them to private companies would take them, more or less according to the method of leasing adopted, out of Government control. A more obvious remedy for the present defects would be to re-establish an independent non-political Commission, such as existed from 1887 till 1894, and such as exists in some Australian States. This course also would, however, be unwelcome to members of the legislature, whose political interference offends only a small number of thoughtful men. New Zealanders who admit the defects of their system remark that after all it is better than the control which great railway companies have sometimes in other countries exerted over Governments to the prejudice of public interests, as notably in the United States, and also in France.
Besides building railways, the Public Works Department constructs, or aids by money grants, the local authorities to construct, roads and bridges, forms of expenditure in which ample use is made of all opportunities for showing favour to localities. “I am not one of those (observed Seddon) who say that, other things being equal, I should not favour the district that was represented by one who helped to maintain the Government in power.” “It is unreasonable and unnatural to expect the Government to look with the same kindly eye on districts returning members opposed to the Government as on those which returned Government supporters.”1
Minor Governmental Undertakings.— Some of these need only a passing mention. The State has taken over the oyster-beds at Auckland because they were suffering from reckless private treatment. It has established trout and salmon hatcheries to stock the rivers with fish, and thus created some of the best trout-fishing areas to be found anywhere in the world. It wisely took charge of the famous region of mineral springs and geysers at Rotorua, and has provided hotels for tourists there. It set up sawmills to get timber for its public works more cheaply. A more important enterprise was its undertaking to work coal-mines on the public lands. In 1901 coal had become scarce and dear, owing to a diminished importation from Australia, and it was alleged that a coal Ring was keeping up prices. An Act was therefore passed by the Seddon Ministry empowering the Government to work the coal-beds it possessed on the west coast.2 This it has continued to do, supplying its own railways and also competing in open market with private mine-owners. The latter do not seem to have materially suffered, and the prices, though probably steadied down by the State mines, are still high. It is, however, possible that the entrance of Government into the business may have discouraged the opening of new pits. Mine-owners say that they can stand the competition, because the Government mines are worked at a higher cost, not from a difference in wages, because wages are regulated by law, but because the State workers take things easier and do less work for the same wages than private employers obtain. It may be added these miners have been found troublesome to deal with, for they are exacting in their demands, and their Unions much disposed to strike.1
Life and Fire Insurance.—The business of Life Assurance was undertaken by the State as far back as 1869, when no local New Zealand companies were engaged in it. It has been carried on with reasonable success, though in recent years private companies have distanced the State office and obtained most of the new business. These companies are said to put more energy into canvassing, and communication with the outer world is so much more frequent that State intervention may be less needed than in earlier days. State Fire Insurance was taken up by the Seddon Government in 1903, against strong opposition on the part of the private companies then already established, and which had become unpopular because supposed to have formed a combination which was charging exorbitant premiums. When the State office started with a system of lower premiums, they fought hard against it; and experience showed that the reduction it had made was too great for safe business, the percentage of fires being high in New Zealand, where houses are largely of wood, and earthquakes not unknown. The State office, which found itself obliged to raise its premiums, is maintained as offering a security against the formation of a monopolistic Ring, but should it be found to be continuing to do business at a loss, it will be accused of benefiting the insurers at the expense of the taxpayers.
This is the place to mention another enterprise which won much favour. In 1894, when prices had been falling, and there was a good deal of pressure from the farming class, Seddon carried legislation authorizing loans to be made to agriculturists by way of mortgage at 5 per cent, the interest usually charged on farm mortgages being then from 6 to 8 per cent, or even more. The Government could do this, because it could borrow in England at 3 to 4 per cent, and make a profit on lending at 5. Under the powers of this Advances to Settlers Act, it went into business as a moneylender, with the result of relieving the farmers and bringing down the rate of interest in the open market. Repayment by small instalments was required, and the State has, in fact, profited by this enterprise.1 The experiment was followed up in 1906 by another Act, authorizing advances to workers on first mortgage at 4 1/2 to 5 per cent to enable them to acquire homes. The borrower's income must be under £200 a year, and the loan is not to exceed £350. This experiment also seems to have worked well financially, though critics observe that both schemes encourage the belief that whenever any class is suffering from economic causes, it may expect the Government to step in to relieve it. The same remark would apply to the practice of providing State work at times of unemployment.2
All the water-power of large streams has been taken over by the Government. It is still the owner of considerable natural forests, forests of great beauty which ought to be carefully preserved, and as these are disappearing, it has entered on a policy of afforestation with foreign trees, for the native trees, though many of them valuable, are of slow growth.3
Note on Protection
“The effect on the social structure can be traced if we ask ourselves what would have happened if New Zealand had adopted a different policy. Denmark, like New Zealand, has broken up the great estates by a Progressive Land Tax, and is relying on an elaborate system of co-operative credit to prevent the re-engrossment of the small holdings. But — and herein lies the difference between Denmark and New Zealand — the Socialist members returned by her one great city of Copenhagen have no influence on the policy of the Government. They are swamped by the representatives of the rural industry, who depend on foreign markets and insist on the maintenance of Free Trade. Supposing New Zealand had developed on the Danish policy, the factories of boots, clothing, agricultural machinery, and other manufactured articles would never have come into existence at all; for at present they only exist under one of the highest tariffs in the world. That large proportion of the population which they support would never have been collected in the great towns. On the other hand, the much lower cost of all manufactured articles would have made the profits of agriculture much greater than they now are, so great, in fact, as to attract the inrush of an agricultural population. And there would be ample room for an agricultural population many times larger than that which now occupies the land, for with lower costs of production, large areas would be worth clearing or ploughing, which at the existing cost of production it does not pay to clear or plough; just as in gold-mining lowered costs mean that a poorer grade of ore begins to be raised. It is evident that, given the existing measures to remedy or prevent the engrossment of land for sheep-walks, New Zealand, under Free Trade, would have accumulated a far larger rural population than it has done. It is equally clear that it would yield an infinitely larger output of its natural products — hides, wool, meat, butter, cheese, grain, and flax.
“The cities would, as we have said, be reduced by the absence of the manufacturing population, which exists under a high protective tariff. But, to an extent which can only be conjectured, this loss would be compensated in two directions. In the first place, the immense increase in exports and imports would of itself collect in the towns a larger population than is at present engaged there in the handling of trade. But, secondly, the natural products of New Zealand mean the establishment of subsidiary industries at the ports — meat works where cattle are slaughtered, and residuary products are canned or converted into tallow, manure, jelly, or glue, and freezing works for the meat, butter, and cheese. It is indeed conceivable that the whole volume of business done in New Zealand would be so great as to support towns as large as those now in existence, because the production from the land and the population living on it would be so much greater. The State would be a far larger one, and be growing much more rapidly; but its character would be wholly different. The rural population would have dominated the situation, and would continue to do so more and more.” —” Notes on New Zealand” in Round Table Studies, p. 324.
compuisoby aebiteation in tbade disputes
None of the legislative experiments tried in New Zealand has excited so much attention in other countries as the application of compulsion to the settlement of disputes between employers and workmen, for no other economic question has caused and is causing so much friction all over the civilized world. I will here sketch first the provisions of the New Zealand law, then its working in practice, and lastly its general results, so far as yet estimable.
The wage-earners, having failed in the great strike of 1890, desired to find some better means of improving the conditions of labour, and the colony as a whole, alarmed by the strike, -was in a mood to consider remedies. The first Act on the subject was introduced in 1891 in the Ballance Government and passed in 1894 by the Seddon Government. The drafting of the measure had been wisely left to the Minister of Labour (Mr. W. Pember Reeves), who was not only the most highly educated member of the Government, but did a great deal of its thinking down till 1896, when he left New Zealand. He stated its aims to be three: (a) To prevent strikes, (b) to strengthen Trade Unions, (c) to improve the conditions of labour generally.1 Without describing the many subsequent amendments made in it, I give the principal provisions of the law, as it now stands, beginning with those which relate to Conciliation.
New Zealand is divided into eight industrial districts, for each of which there exists a Council of Conciliation. The four Conciliation Commissioners who administer the Act set up a local Council on the application of a Union, or Association of Unions or Employers, or an individual employer, concerned. Assessors are nominated by the complainants and respondents. The Council hears the parties and endeavours to settle the dispute. If it succeeds, the settlement reached is filed as an industrial agreement, and becomes binding. If it fails, it refers the matter to the Court of Arbitration, since it does not itself possess compulsory powers.1
The Court of Arbitration, appointed for the whole country, consists of one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, detailed for that purpose, and of two assessors, one nominated by the association of employers throughout the country, and the other by the trade unions or associations of unions. These assessors hold office for three years. The Court hears the parties to each case referred to it by the Councils, and, if it has not effected an agreement by persuasion, issues its award, which binds not only the parties, but individuals (whether or not members of Unions) who are working for the employer to whom the award applies. Every kind of question relating to labour falls within the jurisdiction of the Councils and the Court, and can be determined by awards, covering not only the minimum wage and the hours of labour, but also piecework, the distribution of work, permits to pay lower wages to less competent workmen, apprenticeship and the employment of boys, notices of dismissal, holidays, meal hours, modes of payment, provision of tools, the interpretation, scope, and duration of awards, and the power of extending them and imposing fines for their breach,— in fact every kind of condition affecting labour and in particular that most controversial of questions, the giving of preference in employment to members of trade unions. The Court exercises what is virtually a continuous power of legislation in everything that belongs to the relation of employer and employed. The right of applying to Council and Court is given to every union of workers with at least fifteen members, and to any union of employers with at least three. An award may cover the whole country, and employers on whom it is being imposed sometimes ask for its extension in order to prevent unfair competition. Every Union must be registered, in order to obtain the right of application to the Court, and if it withdraws from the register, or allows the registration to lapse, it is no longer within the operation of the law. An employer, however, cannot similarly exempt himself. A strike, when entered on in breach of an award or industrial agreement, is punishable by a fine up to £200 for a trade union, and up to £10 for an individual worker, and similarly a fine up to £500 may be imposed on an employer who offends by declaring a lock-out. Note also that a strike and a lock-out in certain industries affecting the necessaries of life or a public utility are made statutory offences, even when the party in fault is not bound by any award, unless fourteen days' notice of either has been given.
Working of the Law.—It has been often remarked that whereas more was expected from the action of the Councils (at first called Boards) of Conciliation than from the Court, the reverse has turned out to be the fact. The Boards were found tedious and cumbrous, and fell into comparative neglect, nearly all the cases brought before them being carried by appeal to the Court. In their latest form, however, as altered by the Act of 1908, they have succeeded in settling a number of minor disputes. The Court, on the other hand, had been incessantly resorted to in cases of every description, and almost always by the workers. Between 1894 and 1907 the binding agreements and awards imposed reached the number of 535, and affected 78 industries. In 1920 the number of existing awards and agreements was 530, and in all but two of these preference for employment had been directed to be given to members of Labour Unions. The decisions given have as a rule granted a rise in wages or otherwise complied with the wishes of the workers, but in one case the existing wage was reduced, and in a certain number of cases no increase has been made or some other demand of the Unions has been refused. Preference to Unions was usually given in the form of a direction that Union men rather than others shall be employed, provided that members of the Union, equally qualified with non-members for the particular work, stand ready and willing to undertake it. When granted, conditions were, where it seemed needful, imposed on the Unions, requiring them to admit to membership any applicant. To these the Unions have not generally objected, but they still demand an unconditional preference for their members in employment.1 Trouble has also arisen over the employment of boys and the question of apprentices, whom the Unions seek as much as possible to exclude, in order thereby to increase the quantity of work available for adults enjoying the full minimum wage. In order to meet the case of the less efficient workers, such as elder men whom it would be wrong to throw out of employment, the law allows the granting of permits to such persons to work at less than the normal wage prescribed by the award. Such exceptions, however, are disliked, and as far as possible resisted by the Unions.2 The awards are often extremely minute, going into numerous details. Their enforcement by proceedings against those who break an award is in the hands of the Labour Department, but either of the parties to an award can also sue a transgressor. It ought to be added that the Court has done useful work for improving the conditions of labour generally.
The principles on which the Court has proceeded in determining the fair wage are substantially those already set forth as followed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Australia.3 It has sought to find on the one side what is the minimum wage on which a worker — and presumably a married worker — can live in decent comfort, the New Zealand scale of comfort being higher than the average scale in Western Europe, and the price of most necessaries of life being higher. On the other hand, it has had to regard — and this consideration has sometimes received more weight than in Australia — what wages each given industry will bear, i.e. what an employer can afford to pay while continuing to make a profit on his business. The best proof of the fairness which the judges successively charged with this difficult duty have brought to it is to be found in the fact that while complaints against their decisions have come equally from both sides, scarcely any one has questioned their uprightness and their desire to hold the scales of equity even, and to do the best that circumstances may from time to time admit. To satisfy everybody is an impossible task, so most of the judges have accepted those functions reluctantly, and been glad to return from them to their ordinary duties. The work is not truly judicial, except as regards the spirit of impartiality it requires, but rather administration, and administration of a singularly difficult kind; but since there exists in the country no other class of persons so generally trusted as the judges, it was perforce imposed upon them.
The result of a twenty years' working of the system has been to raise wages in practically every industry. The rise had been steady and large even before 1914, but within the same period the rise in the prices of articles had been nearly as great, so it may be argued that the worker is not substantially better off, and that in the natural course of things wages would have followed the upward course of prices. To have secured that rise might, however, have needed the rude expedient of strikes, with their attendant losses, so that by gaining the increase without these losses, both worker and employer have benefited materially and morally.
Sweating, which existed in some few trades so late as 1894, has been extinguished, but this would doubtless have happened in any case through factory legislation simultaneously passed, as well as by the sympathetic action of public opinion. The same may be said of workmen's housing and other improvements in the conditions of the working-class which statutes have dealt with. It is hard to assign these improvements to any one cause when several have been at work. Nevertheless, some credit is due to the Seddon policies.
The employer does not seem to have suffered seriously, if at all. Manufacturers say they have been worried by frequent appearances before the Boards and the Court, and that the conduct of their business has been interfered with, but they have continued to make reasonable profits, and have the advantage not only of a diminution in the number of strikes, but of feeling less anxious lest a sudden strike should prevent them from fulfilling a contract. Neither does it appear that there has been any unwillingness to start new industrial establishments and expand those that already existed. To all this some employers reply that the times have been good in New Zealand, so good as to enable them to support the Court's action, and to this, again, it may be answered that the Court felt it could safely raise wages with rising markets.
When the Bill of 1894 was introduced, the encouragement of Unions was announced as one of its objects. This has been largely attained, the awards of preference having strengthened their position and stamped with legal approval the plan of collective bargaining. Nevertheless, a large part, possibly a majority of the whole wage-earning class, still remains outside. The part which the protective tariff plays in this matter must not be forgotten. Were the manufacturers exposed to the competition of other countries, they could not afford to pay the minimum wage fixed by the Courts, so the compulsion imposed by the Court provides a ground for demanding that import duties be not only maintained but in some instances raised further. This gives the workmen also a motive for supporting a protective policy. Under free foreign competition the whole fabric would topple to the ground. Many New Zealanders who perceive this recognize that the experience of isles far off in the Pacific is too exceptional to set an example to European or American countries.
The third chief aim of the Act of 1894 was the prevention of industrial conflicts. During the first few years it seemed that this had been attained, for nearly all the Unions were on the register, and scarcely a strike or a lock-out occurred. Throughout those years the Court almost always granted an increase of wages, so the workers were pleased. But when, after the expiry of the first set of three-year awards, the Unions went again to the Courts to demand a second increase, they did not always succeed. Disappointment followed, signs of which appeared as early as 1901. In 1906 and the two subsequent years several strikes occurred, though none on a very large scale. Of those whose views I enquired, some blamed the Government, believing they showed weakness, while others thought that Seddon's death had made a difference, his strong personality having exerted a restraining influence on the working class. The passing of the Act of 1908 somewhat eased the situation, but there have been subsequently serious and prolonged strikes. One of these, at the Waihi gold mines, was in progress when I visited New Zealand in 1912, and could not be dealt with under the Arbitration Act because the Miners' Union had, by omitting to register, taken itself out of the Court's jurisdiction.1 Not a few Unions have allowed their registration to lapse in order to obtain this result. Another serious strike took place in Auckland and Wellington in 1913, and failed, because the Government brought in a strong body of special constables from the rural districts, who repressed attempts at violence, while other farming volunteers loaded and unloaded the ships in the harbour. A recent Labour Disputes Investigation Act forbids a strike or lock-out, in cases where the trade is not subject to an industrial award, till the Labour Disputes Committee has publicly investigated the controversy and announced its opinion, and also requires that before any strike or lock-out takes place there must first be taken a secret ballot of the workmen and employers concerned, whether or no the Union is registered. Where an industrial award or (agreement) exists, strikes are absolutely illegal under the Act already mentioned.
What, it will be asked, is the present attitude of New Zealand opinion as to the practical value of the system? As already observed, the working-class is by no means so enamoured of it as in the first years, for wage-raising has not gone on latterly at the same pace. Since the Unions exist largely for the sake of securing better wages, the officials of these bodies, especially the younger among them, are tempted to justify their existence by constant activity, and contrive frequent appeals to the Court. When these have only a slender success, disappointment follows, and the impartiality, though not the honest purpose, of the Court may be arraigned. Nevertheless, the workers as a whole desire to retain the Acts. It is only the more extreme and Communistic section, influenced by the body called Syndicalists, or “Industrial Workers of the World,” that denounces the whole system as a part of “wage slavery,” and seeks to obtain its ends by a succession of general strikes, which would “bring capital to its knees.” Australian and European emissaries come to New Zealand on this mission, while the bulk of the native New Zealanders, led by the older and more experienced men, prefer to bear what evils they have and to keep the goods the Courts provide them. These uphold the Act, pointing to the sufferings which the strikes of former days entailed.
The views of the employers have undergone a sort of converse change. What depressed the spirits of the Unions cheered theirs. Though still grumbling at the interference of a Court with their private affairs, they found that their losses had been less than they feared, and the wiser among them, like the wiser among the working-class leaders, recognized that the prospect of peace, even for the three years an award runs, was no contemptible asset. Accordingly, though most of them still disapprove of the Acts in principle and often complain of them in practice, insisting, like Australian employers, that no effective compulsion is or can be applied to the workmen, they do not demand the abolition of the system.
Rising above these two classes, there is such a thing as the opinion of the country as a whole. This opinion seemed to me to be in favour of maintaining the Acts. It is not so proud of them as in the first few years of their working. It admits that they have not solved the industrial problem as a whole, that they are used by the Labour leaders to gain something by way of compromise, and soon after to reopen the dispute, and that a still longer experience than twenty-five years have supplied is needed to test them, but it conceives that, by invoking a trusted authority, they have enabled the public to hold the balance fairly between the parties, and have brought its judgment to bear on each dispute. Thus the Acts have made for peace, one of the highest interests both employers and employed can have. Things would be worse without them, because no means at all of settlement would be left; and the disposition to uphold them is all the stronger because they are denounced by the revolutionary Communist party. I saw no likelihood of their being repealed in the near future.
Into the general arguments for and against the plan of the State regulation of wages and other labour conditions and the elimination of freedom of contract1 I do not enter. These considerations belong to the realm of legal and economic theory, little regarded in New Zealand.
The broad result of this remarkable experiment may be summed up in a few sentences.
It has had little success in the line of mere conciliation, and has perhaps done something to discredit that method of settling disputes, which, to be sure, was effecting but little in New Zealand when compulsion was introduced.
It began by strengthening the Labour Unions, but has latterly tended to create a division between them, some, under the influence of extremists, repudiating any pacific methods of settling industrial disputes.
It has raised wages, yet perhaps no more than they would have risen, ultimately, if not so quickly, by the action of economic causes.
It has not, to any appreciable extent, injured business or retarded the progress of the country.
If it has not extinguished strikes, it has reduced their frequency and their severity.
It has been a mitigation not a panacea. But, I must again repeat, the results have been attained during a period which has been, as a whole, a period of prosperity and expansion. The real test will come with hard times. Two dangers must not be ignored. One is the growth of a party among the workers which avows its wish to have done with peaceful methods. The other is the possibility that a government might some day, yielding to the pressure of the Labour vote, appoint judges virtually pledged to decide according to its wishes. In the present healthy condition of public opinion, such a danger seems remote.2
Two other pieces of legislation which belong to the Seddon period deserve a brief mention.
One is the extension of the electoral franchise to women, enacted in 1893. This measure, carried through the House of Representatives by Ballance, but rejected by the Council, had no great attraction for Seddon, whether he feared, as did some Australian statesmen, that it might help the conservative party, or whether it seemed to him likely to strengthen the Prohibitionist vote.1 But, though he cared little for it, he chose, as was his wont, the line of least resistance, and let it pass the House, hoping (so I was told) that the Legislative Council would, as on previous occasions, reject it. The Council, however, not wishing to be always expected to do this kind of work, allowed it to become law. Such demand for it as there was in New Zealand had come chiefly from the Prohibitionists, but if there was little positive desire for it, neither was there any strong feeling against it, this easy-going democracy being always disposed to say Yes rather than No. Even among the women the demand for it was confined to comparatively few. Having got it, however, the women have come to the polls in almost as large numbers as the men. They usually vote with their fathers, brothers, or husbands, except to some extent upon liquor questions, when their tendency to cast a vote for the anti-liquor candidate, irrespective of his party affiliations, disturbs the calculations of politicians. Apart from these drink questions, and only slightly even as regards them, woman suffrage has — so I was everywhere told — made no practical difference to politics, and has not led to the introduction of legislation intended specially to benefit women.2
On the subject of immigration, Seddon held more decided views. In the years following the great borrowings of 1870, when money was being lavishly spent in building railways and otherwise developing the country, immigrants were invited from England and continental Europe, and aided by subsidies to come. Not a few Norwegians and Danes arrived, and made excellent colonists, but not all could obtain farms, and when an industrial depression succeeded the boom, many town workers could find no work. Suffering followed, and instead of emigration, men began, after 1880, to leave New Zealand for Australia or Europe. By 1890 the working class had become disposed to shut the door in the face of newcomers, who were now deemed intruders, because possible competitors for wages. Under the influence of the Unions the Ballance-Seddon Government dropped the subsidies theretofore given to attract immigrants. This might have seemed enough, for the cost of a passage from Europe to New Zealand was virtually prohibitive to the poorer class of labourers. But the Ministry went further, and brought in a Bill — the Undesirable Immigrants Bill of 1891 — which passed through the Legislature, but never became law, because the British Government at home objected to provisions it contained affecting the rights of British subjects. The Labour men have, however, maintained their hostility to immigration, although they have received the help of the Arbitration Court in keeping up wages. In 1898 it was found that some Austrian subjects, Slavs from Southeastern Europe, were working as gum-diggers in the kauri forests north of Auckland, and prospering so well that others of the same race were coming out. Nothing was alleged against them, for they were hard-working and frugal, except that they were lowering, or would lower, the rate of wages. The members for the district, however, complained to Government, urging that “the Colony could not be allowed to become a prey to the paupers of the Old World,” so an Act was passed (1898, amended 1899) which stopped the immigration. The law now in force (Immigration Kestriction Act of 1908) prohibits, inter alia, the landing of any person of other than British birth who fails to write out and sign in any European language a prescribed form of application. Trade Unions have, moreover, exerted themselves to dissuade emigration to New Zealand.1 Nevertheless, there is a flow of immigrants, steady if not large, and Government, obliged to recognize the needs of agriculture and of domestic service, provides passages at reduced rates to bona fide farmers and agricultural labourers, under conditions as to their possessing some pecuniary means, and also to domestic servants. A Report of the Minister for Labour called attention to the dearth of boys and girls, stating that there was in many trades too little labour to cope with the work offered, but this did not prevent the Unions from reiterating their protests. Their attitude, if not the result of, is in harmony with, the fiscal policy of the Dominion, for while the employer is protected by a high tariff against foreign competition, the workman has his wages raised by law, and could not have them raised but for the protection which the tariff gives to employers. As the products of his labour are protected, he thinks himself entitled to have his labour itself protected from any competition by newcomers, and defends his case by the argument that a State which does so much for the existing inhabitants cannot be expected to burden itself with any new citizens, and that it is better to have a small population raised to a high level of comfort than a larger one on a level not so high. But M. Siegfried seems to hit the nail on the head when he sums up the situation by remarking: “‘There is a cake to be divided,’ think the workmen, ‘ let us be as few as possible when the division comes.’”1
Fifty or sixty years ago, democracy was supposed to be above all things humanitarian. The sentiment of the masses, themselves lately admitted (in the Old World) to full civic rights, went out to all their brethren of every race and country. All were equal, all equally entitled to the pursuit of happiness, all interested in one another's welfare. The growth of Socialism accentuated this feeling among the wage-earners, and it was even believed to constitute a powerful guarantee for international peace, illusory as that hope proved in 1914. To-day, however, neither in Australia nor in New Zealand do the workers generally or the Socialistic sections among them show any willingness to share with the workers of Europe the benefits they have secured for themselves. No more cosmopolitan humanitarianism, not even for white men seeking to better their lot. The same tendency is visible in the United States and in Canada, countries far more exposed to a large influx from the Old World. But there the law excludes only immigrants really undesirable in respect of character or health, or likely to become a public charge, together with those who, being personally unexceptionable, are brought over under a contract of labour, and therefore presumably intended to replace striking workmen. Few things in Australian and New Zealand policy seem to have so much surprised and grieved European observers as this apparently anti-social attitude of the working-class leaders, who, while striving for economic equality not only between the handworkers and other classes but also among all the handworkers themselves, yet seek to prevent European handworkers from coming to share in their own prosperity lest that should possibly affect questions of employment in Australia and New Zealand. The “class solidarity” for which they plead does not extend its sympathy to members of the same class in other countries. Whether immigration would in fact have the effect New Zealand wage-earners apprehend is a further question too intricate to be here discussed.
Asiatics also are excluded, as they are from Australia, and to some extent from Canada also. There is a strong dislike to them and a jealousy of their competition, which has gone so far as to forbid by law the owner of a laundry to work for longer hours than the statutes in force permit his employees to do, laundrying being a distinctively Chinese trade. A New Zealand law, passed in 1896, imposes a tax of £100 on every Chinese entering the country, and limits the number any vessel may bring to one Chinese for each 200 tons burthen. But as already observed1 there are ethnological and social reasons, not necessarily disparaging to the races of Eastern and Southern Asia, which make it prudent to keep those races from flooding regions already peopled by whites. Though the working men of New Zealand are not interested in the ethnological aspect of the matter, their attitude is intelligible, and they have the whole opinion of the country with them. In 1911 there were 2630 Chinese in the islands, only 88 of whom were females; in 1916 they had fallen to 2147. The Japanese are extremely few, and so are the Polynesians, other than the native Maoris. Feeling being what it is, it may be safer to restrict the number of Chinese, for if they grew to be a considerable body collisions might arise similar to those of San Francisco forty years ago; and it is perhaps too much to expect of any nation that when it has a disagreeable thing to do it should take pains to do it in a courteous way.
the working of the government
Whoever examines the phenomena of politics and puttie life as they exist to-day in New Zealand must never forget how many facts are there absent which control or colour political conditions in European States.
To begin with there are no racial questions. The white population is homogeneous, for though one region, Otago, in the South Island, is predominantly Scottish, that makes no difference for political purposes. The Maoris return their own four members and are on the best terms with the whites. Nothing does more credit to New Zealanders than this friendliness of the races.
There are no religious questions. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts great political influence in Canada, and scarcely less in New South Wales, does not make itself felt politically here, for the Irish element is small, and weak in the legislature.
There are no questions of foreign policy, because that is left to the Motherland, nor of colonial policy, for the Cook Islands, the management of which was entrusted by Britain to New Zealand in 1901, are insignificant in size and population, and the only thing that needs to be done for them is to appoint competent and sympathetic administrators. The mandate given to New Zealand by the League of Nations for the administration of some of the Samoan islands increases the need for care in the choice of such administrators.
There are no constitutional questions, for democracy has got down as far as it can well go, unless indeed some should propose to shorten parliaments to one year from three, or to introduce the Initiative and Keferendum in legislation, changes which would hardly make the system more effectively popular than it is at present.
There are no local disputes affecting general politics, i.e. none which set any considerable district of the country against another, or tend to make the views of districts on public affairs divergent. Questions affecting the distribution of money for public works are numerous enough, but they do not become party matters, though a local election may sometimes be won on them.
Think what a difference it makes to a people to be free from many causes of dissension and from many of those preoccupations with grave issues, often lying outside the knowledge of the ordinary man, which distract the minds of most free peoples! Undistracted by these, New Zealanders can better devote their thoughts to matters touching their domestic and especially their economic welfare.
There is in New Zealand no aristocracy of birth or rank or hereditary wealth, no great fortunes, no considerable class of indigent people, trembling on the verge of pauperism. Social distinctions and social ambitions have not quite disappeared, for there is a small class, colloquially known as “The Push,” who consider themselves select, and desire invitations to parties at Government House, a privilege ungrudgingly accorded to those who have reached a certain position in the agricultural or business world. There is also a measure of suspicion or jealousy — it hardly amounts to the aversion evident in Australia — observable among the working-class towards the employers and the richer people generally. But class distinctions of this nature, in which, moreover, there are no sharp lines between poorer, middle, and upper, have no perceptible effect upon politics, except in so far as they make the wage-earners prefer one of themselves as a candidate for Parliament. Such slight antagonism as exists seems due to the bitterness aroused by labour conflicts, and to that sort of envy which is generally felt towards the richer in a community where differences of wealth exist, while the sense of equality has extinguished the old deference. The significant fact is that what Europeans would call the “upper class” exerts no more political influence than any other class. It does not lead even so much as the like class does in Switzerland or the United States, not to speak of England or Italy, where social status and wealth still count for something. The one form of influence, operating as a slight check on the power of numbers, which is still discernible in the older democracies, is here conspicuous by its absence.
There are no constitutional checks such as exist in the United States, and, to a less degree, in Switzerland. Nothing inhibits the power of the popular House to carry any measure it desires. The Legislative Council of nominees sitting for seven years has been a negligible factor. So, too, the veto of the British Government is practically no longer used, though a case involving Imperial interests may be imagined in which it might be resorted to. Whether a Referendum would prove a serviceable check may be doubted, but it never has been tried except when submitted by the legislature as respects the prohibition of the sale of liquor. The House of Representatives is absolute master of the situation, being virtually able not only to pass laws but to alter the constitution at its pleasure.
The conservative element in New Zealand — there is even here, as there always must be everywhere, a certain conservative element — is to be found in the rural population. In Australia each of the four great cities of the four chief States contains one-third of the population of those States. In New Zealand the four large cities (the other towns being quite small) contain about one-fifth of the total, and the proportion of the population occupied in manufacturing industries is even smaller. The rural population, moreover, consists to a larger extent than in Australia of small farmers, who quickly acquire the so-called instinct of property.
Political Parties.— With these facts in mind, let us come to the parties. In 1915, when the European War caused the formation of a Coalition or “National” Government, there were two old parties, the Reformers and Liberals, nearly equal in parliamentary strength, and the new Labour party, a creation of the preceding eight years, with seven or eight members in the House, but probably a larger proportionate strength in the country as a whole. It was mainly a party of urban wage-earners. The Reform party includes the bulk of the larger landowners, of manufacturers, and of merchants, the minority of these, as well as a good many of the poorer people, forming the Liberal party. Thus it is only the Labourites who are a class party, the two others, as in Australia before the Coalition of 1908, being drawn from both rich and poor.
Of the three, it is only the Labour men, now called the Social Democratic party, who have any regular organization, the Trade Unions having in many towns created political Trade and Labour Councils, whose delegates meet in an annual central Congress, the most powerful unofficial body in the Dominion, though it does not represent all the workers. The wage-earners are also organized in a body called the United Federation of Labour. The other parties have local political committees, but with no such complete and controlling organization as that which the “Liberal” (or anti-Labourite) party had created for itself in Australia in 1912. Candidates for the House of Representatives offer themselves to the electors, and if more than one of the same party come forward, the question who shall be the party standard-bearer is, if not settled locally, referred to the parliamentary chief. In New Zealand party ties are not and never have been strict, and party spirit, except sometimes in the Assembly during conflicts, has not been intense, much less bitter. Neither has the Labour party created any such powerful centre for its political action in the legislature as is the parliamentary Labour Caucus in Australia. Of its two sections, the larger and more moderate includes Socialists and Trade Unionists of the older type, while the smaller and more advanced is under Syndicalist and revolutionary influences, and goes by the name “Red Feds,” as its leaders formed the kernel of the former Federation of Labour. The party programme for the election of 1915 demanded a Right to Work Bill, with minimum wage, a citizen army “democratically organized” on a volunteer basis, and never to be used in industrial disputes, and the Referendum, Initiative, and Recall. The extreme section has been much influenced by the most advanced Socialists of Australia, and seems to be growing. Being weaker than the Australian Labour party, and having had less immediate prospect of carrying the legislation it desires, it is even more disposed to the policy of strikes, yet hopes to secure some of its measures by parliamentary pressure on the other parties.
The Liberals and Reformers were distinguished rather by tendencies than by specific tenets. When the former lost power in 1912, they had no bold legislative programme, for the work done in the twenty years preceding had left them comparatively little to accomplish. They have, however, been more identified than their rivals with the extension of State action and the promotion of the interests of the workers. The Reformers came into power on an unexciting platform, the chief features of which were the disposal of land to small owners on freehold rather than leasehold tenure, with retrenchment, i.e. small borrowings and careful administration, this being, as both parties admit, a chief need for the country. Towards Labour questions their attitude has been that of caution and criticism, for they conceive that the country has gone far enough for the present in the extension of State action and in piling taxation upon the rich, but they uphold compulsory arbitration and the system of advances to settlers. Liquor legislation is the subject which rouses most controversy, but upon it neither party has ventured to announce a distinctive policy. When a sharp conflict arose over a proposal that the Bible should be read in the public schools the issue, though raised by a Ministerial Bill, was fought not on party lines, but rather as between Episcopalians and Presbyterians on one side and the secularist Social Democratic party on the other, the latter supported by some of the smaller religious communities.
The languor of party feeling and action in the country had been, even before 1914, reflected in the Assembly, where political life ought to be most vigorous. In point of composition, the House fairly represents all the elements of New Zealand society. There are some few working men, and about as many landowners, while all the other classes, manufacturers, merchants, shopkeepers, farmers, and professional men contribute their quota. The lawyers are, as in Australia, a comparatively small element. Members of the House receive a salary of £300 a year, those of the Legislative Council £200. There is a time-limit on speeches, a rule needed to check obstruction, called here, as in Australia, “stone-walling.”1
The House of Representatives is in one sense too representative, for its members are little above the average of their electors in knowledge or ability. That average is no doubt high, but nearly all my New Zealand informants declared that the quality of the legislature, instead of rising with the growth of the country, had declined during the last thirty years, and that the debates were now on a lower level than in the days of Sir George Grey or Sir Harry Atkinson. Some said the declension dated from the rise of Seddon, which led the more cultivated class to withdraw. Up till then every member was, according to M. Siegfried, ex officio admitted to the Wellington Club. The country has no lack of capable men, thoughtful and well educated,— none of the self-governing Dominions has a larger proportion,— but very few of those seem to find their way into the Legislature. When travelling through New Zealand I had the good fortune to meet in each of the four chief cities a group of men who used to come together to discuss the problem of the relations of each Dominion to the British Empire as a whole, and they impressed me, in every city, by their high intelligence and sound judgment. But hardly any of them belonged to, or seemed to think of standing for, the Assembly, which is left to persons five-sixths of whom do not rise above the level of the town councillors of an English town. English town councillors are good citizens capable of managing the daily business of their community in an efficient way, but their functions seldom require more than practical common sense, whereas the New Zealand Assembly holds in its hands the fortunes of a young nation which will some day be a great nation, and has to deal with most of those complex problems of law-making which tax to its utmost the capacity of every European legislature.
Why do not the electors choose men of marked ability? They abound, and are not excluded by the cost of elections, for there is no bribery in New Zealand, and legitimate election expenses are light. Except in the very few constituencies which the Labour Unions dominate, there is not, as frequently in the United States, a party machine which controls the choice of candidates, nor, as frequently in Australia, an aversion to candidates who belong to the wealthier class. Neither is the choice of a candidate confined to persons resident in the electoral district.
The reasons lie partly in the conditions of parliamentary life, partly in the competition of other careers. The position of a member carries very little social prestige, and has many disagreeable incidents. The member is expected to be the slave of his constituents, and to act, as one of them observed,1 as a sort of labour agent. His chief business is to get something for the constituency, or for individuals who belong to it, by constantly preferring requests to Ministers, an ungrateful task, and one that distracts him from his proper duties. His merits are measured by whatever benefits he can manage to secure for the place or some of its inhabitants.
Other careers are more attractive. A lawyer or a college professor or a business man, unless he happens to live in Wellington (the capital), must neglect his duties or his private business if he has to attend the sittings of the House, for the other three chief cities lie far off, and two of them can be reached only by a voyage over a stormy sea. There is no leisured class in the country, although one finds some families retaining that tradition of familiarity with public life which used to be strong in England, and is not extinct in the older States of the American Union. The prizes of public life are few, not to add that here, as elsewhere, small is the number of persons who, while enabled by their private means to enter that career, feel themselves called to it by motives of pure patriotic duty.
It may be suggested that the Legislative Council, a Second Chamber in which work is lighter, and a seat is secure for seven years at least, might be used to gather in a number of persons who, when they had already secured a competence, or could leave their farms or business to the care of younger men, would be willing to place their experience and ability at the service of the country. The Council has, however, exercised little attraction, for its powers are limited, its life is sluggish, as it has nothing to do with installing or ejecting a Ministry, and its debates are little reported or read or regarded. With members selected for nomination chiefly because they had rendered steady support to their party it had become an almost superfluous part of the constitutional machinery. Now, however, it has by recent legislation been turned into an elective body, which is ultimately to consist of forty persons, to be chosen from districts, of which there are to be two in each island, so a prospect of usefulness is opening before it.1
These things being so, the standard not only of attainments, but of debates and of manners also, leaves something to be desired. Thinking bears a low ratio to talking. Legislation tends to be, as in most democracies, too copious and too hasty. There are — so far as I know — no scenes of disorder, but there is a good deal of rudeness, and personalities are freely bandied to and fro. A most acute and experienced observer (quoted by M. Siegfried) 2 noted in 1898
“an absence of refinement among politicians without distinction of parties, which is the' result of the pioneer life they have led. What is more serious is the absence throughout the Colony of serious economic study, of scientific investigation of those industrial and social problems which the politicians themselves attempted to solve.”
The first part of this judgment seems to me, as to M. Siegfried, rather too sweeping. But there is certainly what one may call a sort of commonness, a want of that elevation and dignity which ought to raise above their ordinary level those who administer the affairs of a self-governing community with a great future; and this lowers the moral influence of Parliament upon the community itself. Against these defects one must not forget to set the personal probity in public affairs of nearly all the New Zealand politicians. Innumerable jobs are done for constituencies and party interests, but rarely is any one charged with abusing office or parliamentary position for the purposes of pecuniary gain. In this respect New Zealand stands, and always has stood, well above some older and larger democratic countries.
results of democratic government
The general good nature and absence of political passion noticeable in New Zealand are reflected in the Press, which is creditably fair and free from violence or bitterness. There were in 1917 63 daily newspapers, besides 34 tri-weekly, 32 bi-weekly, and 69 weekly, numbers large for a population of 1,100,000. No one among them has ever exercised so great a power as the chief dailies of Melbourne and Sydney enjoyed twenty years ago: none indeed could, for there is no city that holds a leading place in the nation. But the general tone is good, and several are written with marked ability. They seemed to me to be doing more for the formation of an enlightened public opinion than was being done by the debates in Parliament, which, to be sure, are scantily reported.
Opinion is rather less sharply divided on the lines of social class than is now the case in Australia; and this uniformity expresses the homogeneity of the nation. Still, one may distinguish between three sections, the wage-earners at the one end, the wealthier landowners and merchants at the other, and the large mass between these extremes. First of the wage-earners. Although less than half are said to belong to labour unions, it is these bodies and the United Labour Federation that dominate the whole, because they have an organization, and their programme makes a definite and positive appeal. Few of its members are revolutionary, though some have become imbued with communistic ideas. Whatever may appear in electoral platforms prepared by leaders more extreme than their followers, the aim of the great majority is not to create a collectivistic society but to secure further increases of wages and improvements in labour conditions. As already observed, there is an advanced party which, stimulated by Australian Syndicalists, and discontented with the Court of Arbitration, prefers the method of strikes, and has begun to advocate the nationalization of all the means of production and distribution, but the prospect of any such change is distant, for the moderate section is the more numerous, nor is the wage-earning element likely to grow large enough to dominate politics. Though the men of property are few, they carry weight, not by voting strength or by any power over the votes of their employees —for no attempt to exert such power would be tolerated — but by the sort of influence which persons of education and commercial importance cannot but possess in a community which feels that its prosperity depends on agricultural production and the export of its products. Such men are of course the stronghold of conservative opinion. Between these two extremes stands the bulk of the voters, including not only the middle but also a considerable part of the poorer class. Its opinion is the deciding force in the country. The principal articles of its faith may be summed up as follows:
It believes in equality, social as well as political, values constitutional freedom, knows that order must go with freedom, and condemns revolutionary methods. It is firmly — more enthusiastically perhaps than any of the other Dominions — attached to Britain and the unity of the British Empire. Proud of New Zealand, it likes to feel that New Zealand has by its experiments been giving a lead to older and larger countries. It has no fear of experiments, thinking it can try them safely, and drop them if they do not succeed, so, however far it may be from professing what are known as Collectivist doctrines, it would not disapprove of any measure merely because branded with that name. Its profound trust in the future makes it heedless of consequences. “This plan promises well: let us try whether it will benefit us now. The future will take care of itself.”
Here is the answer to those Europeans who ask, after reading of New England's experiments in legislation, “Are the New Zealanders all Socialists, and if so, what has become of the Individualists?” They are in principle no more Socialists than Individualists. The great majority do not think in abstractions: they have no use for theories. If the most obvious way to avert some evil or obtain some good seems to lie in invoking the State's action, they invoke it. “What is the State but ourselves? It is ours to use; why be jealous of it?” There is in this none of the German deification of the State as Power. The State is not to them a mighty organism in which national life is to centre, and by which national life is to be moulded and controlled, but rather an instrument ready to hand to be employed for diffusing among themselves and their neighbours comfort and prosperity, the things they really care for, and which rather than the growth of power or population occupy the New Zealand mind, leading them to tolerate that working-class resistance to immigration which surprises Europeans and Americans.
Public opinion follows the doings of Parliament with intelligence, but with little deference and no keen interest. What one may call the “high voltage” of politics in France or England or the United States is absent. There are no great prizes and few small prizes offered to ambition.
Both here and in Australia one is struck by the absence of traditions. The institutions of course are not new, and the Speaker of the House wears a wig. But that flavour of the British House of Commons thinking and manners, which was brought by the most educated among the first Anglican settlers at Christchurch and the first Presbyterian settlers at Dunedin, has almost died out with them, and the present generation seems, patriotically British as it is, to have but slight sense of the long British past behind it. Traditions are needed, and great men are needed to create them in these new countries, striking figures that can touch the imagination and throw some rays of colour over the landscape of national life. Tame are those regions of the sky in which no stars of the first magnitude glitter. Leaders of some talent and force there will always be in every free country, but it is a misfortune when a nation's most forcible and most trusted leaders do not represent something more ideal than did Richard Seddon.
A description of the attitude of New Zealanders towards their Government and politics needs to be prefaced by a few words on their character and temperament.
They are all (except of course the fifty thousand aborigines) of British stock, and one often notes in them especially in Otago (the far South) a slightly Scottish tinge, whereas the Australians are more distinctively English, with now and then a touch of the Irish. They are strong and healthy, frank, simple, courageous. Before there was any talk of war they instituted a system of physical training and drill which public opinion, with some few exceptions, approved, and had created for defence a force, into the management of which politics scarcely entered. What may be called the social atmosphere of the country is rural rather than urban,1 for only one city counts more than one hundred thousand inhabitants, and outside the towns population is sparse, except where dairying or fruit-growing enables a small district to support many households. Nowhere, not even in Western Canada, is the level of comfort higher. The total private wealth has been calculated at £387,000,000, and the average wealth per head, for persons over twenty years of age, estimated at £604, and this although there are no millionaires and very few persons rich according to British or American standards. A great number of the artisans own the houses they live in. No class is sunk to anywhere near the margin of subsistence, and the traveller, from the moment of landing, feels that the economic pressure of life is light.2
Everybody is educated, and a large percentage well educated, for secondary schools are abundant. The inhabitants, especially in the smaller towns and rural areas, have the same intelligent interest in literature and social questions and public affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, as has been traditional among the townsfolk and the peasantry of Scotland, and of Switzerland, and of New England until the flood of new European immigrants began to swamp the offspring of the old Puritan stock. The likeness to Scotland appears also in the religious habits of the people, for here (and especially in Otago) the habit of churchgoing seems to have maintained itself better than in any other purely British colony, except perhaps in Newfoundland and Ontario.1 Visiting New Zealand soon after I had visited Argentina and Brazil, where men of the educated class have practically dropped Christianity, I was struck by this contrast between the descendants of the Spaniards and the Englishmen of the sixteenth century. In New Zealand life is taken more easily than in Europe, and far more easily than in strenuous North America. The people enjoy outdoor amusements, and are almost as addicted to horse-racing (with the use of the totalizator), cricket, and football as are the Australians. Their temper and view of life has a leisurely and indulgent cast, as of those who wish not only to be happy but also to make everybody else happy, to the extent even of dissolving for slighter causes than English law recognizes the marriages of those who think that they would be happier apart.2 Though the level of knowledge and intelligence is fairly well maintained, men's interest in the greater world beyond the ocean lies in current events, especially those of the Motherland, rather than in following the movements of thought and literature and art. This may be attributed to the remoteness of the country from the European centres of intellectual life, the inevitable results of which it has not been attempted to meet by the establishment of a teaching university on the British or American scale. The country ought to possess, and all the more because Europe is so far off, a much larger number of persons occupied with the higher studies, both literary and scientific, for, over and above the direct influence of their teaching work, they help to keep up an intellectual atmosphere and to vindicate for learning and science a due place of honour. New countries are specially liable to be occupied with purely material interests, because those memorials and traditions of the past which touch imagination and inspire reverence are absent, and the first need of the settler is to subdue the land to his use and develop its resources for that export trade on which New Zealand depends. Material comfort and the volume of production may have for a time at least to take the first place, but they do not suffice for the full enjoyment of that leisure which New Zealand can command.
One may sum up the public opinion of the country by saying that it is temperate and reasonable rather than enlightened and foreseeing. In domestic affairs it thinks of comfort first, tolerates abuses, is glad to throw responsibilities upon Government, prefers to mitigate the consequences of political evils rather than exert itself to remove their causes, does not realize the need for a scientific study of the social and economic problems which its politicians try to solve.
The traveller in New Zealand is bewitched by the strange charm of its scenery, unlike any that is to be seen in the Old World or the New, lakes, and fjords like those of the Arctic Seas, running far into the recesses of snowy ranges like the Alps, volcanoes and geysers, trees and birds of families unknown elsewhere, and a race of aborigines in whose character, as seen by the first explorers, the extremes of savagery and chivalry seemed to have met. In such a land, remote and untouched by the influences of the old civilizations, he can hardly help expecting to find that simplicity and liberty which we associate with the conditions of primitive life. What is his surprise to find in New Zealand the most modern forms of modernity, a people who have given a lead to the nations of our time in extending most widely the functions of the State and superseding the action of the individual! Whatever he may think of this new departure, and however prosaic the machinery it has set working, he cannot quite escape the feeling, fantastic as it may appear, that the grandeur and beauty of the country and the element of romance that belongs to its scenery and to the misty twilight of its history will somehow or other mould or inspire the people. Those who inhabit such a land can hardly have a commonplace future. Will they not some day or other add something novel and striking, be it in letters or arts or institutions, to the stock of mankind's possessions?
It is now time to ask what Democracy has given to New Zealand, what it has failed to give, what special tendencies it has here manifested, what lessons it suggests for other countries. Under it the people enjoy:
Honest government, without bribery or election frauds.
A tolerably efficient administration.
An upright and competent judiciary.
A pure and efficient unpaid local Government.
Good public order and a general respect for law.
An adequate provision of instruction in public schools.
These things, it may be said, existed before Democracy came, and are therefore not attributable to it. That is true. But universal suffrage and an unchecked legislature have not injuriously affected them.
The chief defects in the government of the country, not necessarily all of them due to its democratic character, are the following:
The average of knowledge and ability in Parliament is not high. It wants dignity: its debates neither instruct nor inspire the people.
Though there is no pecuniary corruption in public life, there is a great deal of jobbery, especially in efforts to gain the favour of constituencies.
Financial administration has been wasteful, both as respects the grants for local purposes and in the conduct of some of the many State undertakings. The debt is very heavy in proportion to the population, though part of it is represented by the asset of the railways. Here, as elsewhere, democracy is extravagant.
The growth of population is slow, partly owing to the desire of the wage-earning class to check immigration.
Too much land is in the hands of large proprietors, both through mistakes made in the first years of the Colony, and also because the Ministries that tried to deal with the problem lacked skill and foresight.
Of these faults the two last are not chargeable on democratic government, for they existed before it came, as did much of the public debt. Between 1850 and 1880 the landowning class were as keen in the advocacy of borrowings and in demands for local grants as the voters on a wider franchise have been since.
The distinctive boon Democracy is supposed to have conferred is the body of acts passed in the interest either of the poorer class or of the general public. Many of these have been already examined, but of them, taken all together, a few more words may be said.
That which has chiefly turned the eyes of older countries upon New Zealand is the extension of State action to new fields, partly by laws interfering with freedom of contract, partly also by the taking over of industries previously left to individual enterprise. This is, however, the subject on which it is most difficult to pass a judgment, and that for two reasons. One is that different schools of thought apply different standards to the evaluation of results. The Individualist condemns in advance a law which compels the employer to pay and the workman to accept a wage fixed by the State, and complains of regulations which make it difficult for him to obtain food in an inn after a certain hour. Another section of opinion is prepared in advance to approve both. The only test which these schools can agree in applying is that of tangible results. Does the State regulation of wages ensure industrial peace and give satisfaction alike to the employer and employed? Does the State, in working its coal-mines, obtain as large an output at no greater cost than private coal-owners obtain, and with no greater friction between employer and workman? To determine the results is, however, no easy matter, for in some cases, as that of coalmining, they are disputed, while in others the experiment evidently needs to be tried for some time longer before its success or failure can be proved. Compulsory arbitration with the judicial fixing of wages has reduced the number and extent of strikes and prevented much loss of work and wages, but the hopes at first entertained that it had solved the labour problem have been dissipated. Just when the employers were beginning to acquiesce, the workmen became less and less satisfied, and a section among them prefers the strike to the Court. The system of loans to settlers and to workers for enabling them to acquire houses was working well so long as the Government could borrow in England at 3% per cent, and lend in New Zealand at 5 per cent. But can it continue when the Government must pay interest at, or even above, the higher figure? Though the evidence I obtained regarding the management of Government enterprises seemed to show that the State pays more for the work it gets than private employers do, because its workers “go slow,” and discipline is lax, it would be unsafe to treat this as an established fact, and hard to ascertain the amount of resulting loss. The future will have to settle these controversial issues, and throw some much-needed light on the question how far Paternalism can go without economic loss and galling restrictions on individual liberty.
Still more difficult is it to estimate the effects upon national character of the supersession by the State of individual initiative and enterprise, for such effects, always somewhat intangible, are slow in revealing themselves. They may not become evident until a generation has grown up under their influence, and in the meantime other causes may have modified that influence, making it hard to assign to them their share in affecting national character, for national character, though often talked of as if it were a permanent fact due to a racial strain, is always changing, and changes faster in our age, even in an isolated people, than it ever did before, because the influences that play on it are more numerous. Thus the field for speculation is still open. Neither those who hold nor those who deny that the increase of State interference weakens individual initiative are at present entitled to cite New Zealand in support of their doctrine.
It has already been observed how kind Nature has been in bestowing upon these isles all that could be needed for the growth of a vigorous race and a prosperous self-governing community. Philosophers like Plato in the ancient and Sir Thomas More in the modern world, have indulged their fancy in imagining an ideal State, in which wisely planned institutions and wholesome habits would ensure peace and happiness to a people placed on a fertile soil under genial skies, protected by their remoteness from external attack, unhampered by the resentments of a troubled past, and fitted by their intelligence and character to order life according to right reason. No people planted in a new country has seemed better fitted to realize that ideal than the men who settled in New Zealand. None had a better chance of creating institutions that might serve as a model to less favoured lands. These advantages they have possessed for eighty years. The country has grown steadily and not over swiftly in wealth, and has preserved the purity of its stock without that inrush of ignorant immigrants which North Americans have reason to regret. Its inhabitants have added education to the inborn energy and intelligence of their race, nor have any acute dissensions disturbed the public peace. Government, based on universal suffrage, and exercised (in practice) through one Chamber only, has been as entirely popular as any government can be. Yet a censorious critic can remark that here, too, the defects characteristic of popular governments in older countries have appeared. Want of foresight allowed most of the land to fall into the hands of large proprietors, while those who would have been better occupied in tilling it have crowded into towns where they live by artificially stimulated industries. The citizens are not sufficiently interested in public affairs to observe them with a constant vigilance. Public life attracts too little of the nation's best intelligence, so the laws are often ill framed and their administration imperfect. Expenditure is lavish and sometimes wasteful. Local interests often prevail against the common good. Industrial strife, which it had been hoped to eliminate, constantly recurs. Political parties are more and more forming themselves upon the lines of class distinctions, and the opposition of the poorer and the richer, long familiar to the Old World, has reappeared. There is rather more comfort and contentment than in the great countries of Europe, but no approach to the ideals of Plato or to those of Sir Thomas More can be discerned.
Nevertheless, true though it be that the dream of an ideal democracy has been realized no more in New Zealand than elsewhere, the critic would admit that she has escaped two at least of the evils from which most democracies have suffered, the dominance of money and the control of party organizations, and has made great economic changes with no disturbance of order. Nowhere can we expect to find the bulk of a people striving after ideals, not even when Nature and a secure isolation beckon them upwards. The New Zealanders, after having gone a good way towards State Socialism, showed that they could pause to consider whether they should go farther. They have never attempted a general levelling down, have never lost that reasonable temper which the practice of self-government is fitted to foster. And so, far from being enervated by their seclusion in the midst of a vast ocean, they displayed, when a crisis arrived, their willingness to make every sacrifice needed to meet it. They raised a War Loan immense in proportion to their resources. They sent their youth freely to scale the heights that look across the Hellespont over the plains of windy Troy, and their youth gave proof on the battlefield of unsurpassable patriotism and valour.
The Civil List Act of 1908 provides a salary for two Maoris as members of the Executive Council not holding ministerial posts.
The house had a license, but taken out in the name of his uncle.
A penetrating observer who had every opportunity of studying Seddon told me that he got on much better with the average elector than with men of intellect or education, their mental processes being unfamiliar to him.
M. Siegfried observes that the Frenchman from the country, who is said to have gone round Paris trying to find the being called L'État, and was at last shown a very large building full of public offices, might in New Zealand have simply been led to Mr. Seddon's room.
Hight and Bamford, Constitutional History and Law of New Zealand, p. 303.
The general election of Dec. 1919 gave to the Reform party 48 seats, to the Liberals 18, to the Labour party 10, and 4 others were described as Independents.
A peculiar provision is that where a qualification, freehold, rating, or residential, is possessed by either husband or wife, it is deemed to be possessed by each.
Sir R. Stout, New Zealand, p. 102.
Sir R. Stout, ut supra, p. 108.
Visitors from Europe have remarked on the neglect of civic amenities shown by some municipalities. Auckland, for instance — with an admirable situation and environs of great interest, possessing what is a sort of natural museum of geology and archaeology, for it is, I believe, the only city in the world with a number of small extinct craters in its suburbs, some of which the Maoris turned to account as forts, placing stockades around them — has not made proper use of these natural advantages any more than San Francisco has of hers.
New Zealand Year-Book for 1919.
In 1919 these four colleges had in all about 113 professors and lecturers.
Quoted by Rossignol and Stewart (referred to later), p. 202.
Quoted by Rossignol and Stewart, p. 212. It would appear that there is to-day little, if any, of such action by civil servants.
New Zealand has been fortunate in the authors who have devoted themselves to a description and criticism of her politics, and in particular to accounts of her recent experiments in the field of legislation. The first of these, and one of the fullest and best written, is State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand (published in 1902) by Mr. Pember Reeves, who was Minister of Labour in the administrations of Mr. Ballance and Mr. Seddon. It, however, brings the story down only to 1902. More recent are three works by French observers, the Aurore Australe of M. Biard d'Aunet, the L'Australie Nouvelle of M. Voisson, and the Democratie en Nouvelle Zelande of M. André Siegfried (published in 1904), one of the best studies in contemporary politics our time has produced. (An English translation was recently published.) Still more recent are Sir R. Stout's New Zealand, already referred to, the New Zealand in Evolution (published in 1909) of Mr. Guy Scholefield, very fair and sensible, the Life of R. J. Seddon (published in 1907) of Mr. Drummond, eulogistic but not partisan, and the State Socialism in New Zealand of Messrs. Le Rossignol and Downie Stewart (1910), very careful and impartial. Interesting, but perhaps unduly optimistic, is the still more recent book of Major Lusk, Social Welfare in New Zealand. From all these, and from the very well arranged and executed New Zealand Official Year-Books (published annually), I have derived much assistance. There is now room for another book, which shall bring the story down from 1890 to 1920, dealing fully with strikes and arbitration.
Rossignol and Stewart, p. 33.
Stout, p. 174.
Rossignol and Stewart, pp. 43–45.
The advocates of the leasing system say that the freehold system gave opportunities for trickery and for wild speculation; but it is hard for a visitor to sift and decide between conflicting views in such matters.
See note appended to this chapter. It need hardly be said that New Zealand manufacturers already enjoyed a “natural Protection” in the high cost of importing goods from Britain thousands of miles away, and that they would have gained more by the increase in their home market which larger immigration would have caused than they were gaining by duties which raised the cost of living to the whole community, including their own workmen.
The expenditure in railway construction will be referred to later.
In 1917 an increase of £13 a year was granted to continue till twelve months after the end of the War with Germany.
See as to this Rossignol and Stewart, pp. 183–94, where many interesting details are given.
Rossignol and Stewart, p. 182.
In 1919, however, the Sinking Fund was stated to amount to about £5,951,000.
Quoted by Messrs. Rossignol and Stewart from the New Zealand Hansard, vol. xcix, p. 291.
Some interesting remarks on the costliness of the working of American railways by the State during the War may (with figures) be found in Mr. Moorfield Storey's Problems of To-day (Boston, 1920).
Quoted by Rossignol and Stewart, p. 109. Cf. as to the U.S.A. Pork Barrel, p. 68 ante, and as to Canada, Vol. I., p. 535, where a similar condition of things is described.
The results of the working of coal-mines by the Government is discussed in Round Table Studies, pp. 332–337, and the conclusion from the facts there given seems to be that the mines are operated at a loss, owing to the higher working expenses. Strikes have occurred on these mines.
I am informed that in the summer of 1919 the “go slow” policy-adopted on these Government mines reduced the supply of coal by 30,000 tons per month, with the result of seriously disorganizing the railway service.
See as to this Siegfried, chap, xv; Eossignol and Stewart, p. 285; Scholefield, p. 253.
The Factory Acts, and other laws for the protection of workers and limitation of working hours, are a subject too full of minutiae to be entered on here. Full information regarding them will be found in the works above referred to, and in the successive New Zealand Year Books.
In New Zealand, as was long the case in the United States, the people have not taken sufficient thought for the future of their charming woodland scenery. If protective measures are not soon taken, much will be irreparably lost.
W. Pember Reeves, State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand (published in 1902).
See as to this subject Siegfried, pp. 109–43 (English translation, pp. 128–61); Drummond, Life of Riohard John Seddon, pp. 238–68; Scholefield, pp. 212–43; and Rossignol and btewart, pp. 216–68.
As to preference, see Rossignol and Stewart, pp. 235–6. See Scholefield, p. 220.
Rossignol and Stewart, p. 232.
See ante, p. 248.
The case wag a singular one. A section of the miners desired to form a new union of their own, register it so as to bring it within the Arbitration Acts, and then apply to the Court. The New Zealand Federation of Labour, a body largely Socialist, desired to prevent this, because any award obtained by the new union (if registered) would have bound all the miners, and therefore they organized the strike to arrest the attempt to have the proposed new union registered. The strike failed after six months.
The Chief Justice of New Zealand in 1900 (in delivering judgment in a ease relating to the Arbitration Acts) observed: “All contracts regarding labour are controlled and may be modified or abrogated. The Court can make the agreement between the workman and the employer. It abrogates the right of workmen to make their own contracts.”
The only country (besides Australia) which has followed New Zealand by establishing compulsory arbitration seems to be Norway, by a law passed in 1916.
Mr. Seddon said, some years later, “By granting the franchise to women, Parliament plunged into an abyss of unknown depth.”
Women are now eligible to sit in the House of Representatives. Two were (unsuccessful) candidates at the general election of 1919.
Rossignol and Stewart, p. 282.
Siegfried, p. 121 (English translation).
See p. 236, ante.
For some time there was a second ballot law, providing for a second election where no candidate obtained a majority of all the votes cast, but this was recently repealed by the Reform Ministry.
See ante, p. 308.
The voting is to be on the preferential system. The Council's powers in finance Bills are limited to the right of suggesting amendments to the House of Representatives, but it may amend or reject other Bills, and if a disagreement between the Houses cannot be otherwise settled, the Houses are to sit and vote together as one body, and if the Bill whereon they differ is not affirmed by such a voting, a dissolution of both Houses may follow.
Op. cit. p. 75 (English translation).
Auckland had in 1916 133,000 inhabitants, Wellington 95,000, Christchurch 92,000, Dunedin 69,000. Only six other boroughs had populations exceeding 10,000.
The birth-rate has continued to fall from 1886, when it was 35.40 to 1000 of population to 23.44 in 1918, but as the death-rate is extremely low, having been since 1896 below 10 in 1000 of the population, this, coupled with a steady though small immigration, gives a natural increase of population at the rate of 16.4 per 1000. Had the standard rate of increase recorded in the decade 1865–76 been maintained, the population, which in 1918 was 1,108,000, would have then been 1,621,000. The country could maintain three or four millions at least, but it may be argued that the people are right in preferring a high standard of comfort for few to a lower standard for many.
I omit, of course, the Dutch-speaking parts of South Africa and the French-speaking parts of Canada.
The number of divorces granted has risen in New Zealand much faster than the population. In the ten years 1898 to 1907 it rose from 31 to 147, in the ten from 1908 to 1917 it rose from 171 to 221.