The State of War
Formation of Primitive Communities and the Conditions Necessary to Their Existence
The formation of primitive communities has been ascribed to a peculiar feeling in man of sympathy towards his kind, but more careful observation proves that humanity owns no such innate sentiment. The appearance of such a feeling results from a need for mutual support, and from the interests evoked by this need. A community of interests and needs is the foundation of human friendship, while the opposition of needs and interests is not only capable of provoking antipathy, but it is notorious that nothing on earth has the same power of moving a man to violent and implacable hatred as a member of his own species. Human associations were, in fact, the product of simple necessity. Thus, and only thus, could man realise pleasures and avoid sufferings which he must otherwise have been satisfied to imagine or endure.
When, on the other hand, any living creature was best adapted to a solitary existence, it adopted this mode of life, as do the carnivore. The need of mutual assistance led other orders to a gregarious habit, and human society was originated in this way. Social life imposed itself upon men as the one means to their desired end—first in their duel with the beasts, of which they were at once competitors and a prey; later, when individual fought individual and tribe opposed tribe. The physically inferior unit, possessed of sufficient intelligence to make common cause with his like, was enabled to arbitrarily incline the balance, and survive for the profit of the race.
This first step led naturally to others, for the mere capacity to combine under actual threat of destruction by the more powerful was insufficient. The new confederacy had to learn the means of perpetuating itself, and how to organise and combine those means so as to yield the greatest obtainable power, whether for offence or defence. Hence arose an organisation which can be traced through the most backward societies, and is visible, in a rudimentary form, even among the beasts. This is government.
A cursory survey of the conditions under which primitive societies were able to maintain their unity and to consolidate their forces, at once exhibits the part played by this organisation and the nature of its growth. These conditions can be summarised as the guarantee of internal and external security. In other words, those acts which are harmful to the community must be distinguished from those which are beneficial to it; the two categories must be clearly defined and maintained by a penalty as between man and man. An organisation intended to assure the integrity of the association—an integrity with which the welfare of each member was bound up—could only be formed by combining all individuals capable of discerning the opposition between the socially harmful and the socially profitable with those members, the individually strong, who were most capable of repressing such acts as were judged injurious to the body politic.
Doubtless the rules called laws, which distinguish the useful from the harmful, good from evil, are purely the fruit of observation and experience, and always more or less adapted to their purpose. They are by so much the more valuable, so much the more "just," as they contribute more to the maintenance of the community by augmenting its strength. In any case they were, even from the first, a far better guarantee of their intended object than those individual rules to which they succeeded.
Similarly, however unjust or imperfect might be the government of an early state, it secured a greater security to the individual than he could ever have obtained for himself. In place of defending himself single-handed against those risks which were the common burden of each member, corporate protection became a personal right, while it was also secured, at a far less proportionate cost. Before the advent of a "State" the isolated individual maintained a most precarious existence at the price of the major part of his time and labour. Henceforward much of that time and labour was set free, and the "member of a State" was enabled to expend it on the satisfaction of minor desires, or in the discovery of material, or the invention of instruments and processes, by which he at once obtained a greater return for his outlay and an increase of enjoyment or a diminution of suffering.
Members of one society are united by common interest, whether it be mere personal security or the guarantee of their livelihood. This common interest naturally excites, and later develops, a feeling of sympathy between the associates, and next between them and the community. It embraces nothing beyond the limits of the association, horde, clan, or tribe. Individuals outside those limits, and the communities to which those individuals belong, are regarded with the scorn or hatred naturally due to a competitor in matters so vital. And competition between individuals or States is vital at this time, for until man has learned how to supplement the natural supply of the materials of subsistence his existence depends on that supply, and his own share can only be increased at the expense of a rival.
Competition Between Primitive Communities and Its Results
As population began to outgrow the means of subsistence, which mankind had not yet learned to increase by artificial methods, primitive society was compelled to choose between the elimination of excess population, or the seizure of hunting grounds, or sources of agricultural supply, belonging to some neighbouring tribe. The strong again survived and the weak disappeared. But the new system of association was already securing a certain leisure and a degree of relief from the need for continuous effort. The more intelligent among the inferior powers seized their opportunity, and under the continual spur of the need of survival invented arms and methods of destruction which altered the natural balance of power. Victory inclined to their side, at least until the men of sinews had learned to profit by their superior wisdom and to imitate their skill.
But a second result had occurred in the meanwhile. Engines of destruction were as useful in the field as in actual strife, and an improved art of war soon decreased the numbers of the wild animals. Here was a novel stimulus, at least for those tribes whose strength was insufficient to dispossess a neighbour. Habits of observation and the creative faculty, responding to the motive of need, realised that decisive step on the road of progress which, once and for all, lifted humanity beyond the regions of mere animalism. For the systematic destruction which he shared with the beasts, and which limited his numbers to the natural means of subsistence, man substituted the productive industries and, by acquiring the power of indefinitely expanding the means of subsistence, stood forth lord of creation.
Great nations, amply furnished with all that is needful for the maintenance of life, now succeed the tribes of a few hundred individuals which snatched a precarious existence from vast territories. But the identical causes which made their rise possible placed these nations face to face with a new peril. Every advance was accompanied by fresh danger at the hands of tribes still subsisting by war and the chase. The spectacle of their wealth was irresistibly attractive, and the prospects of a successful foray, as measured in the expectation of loot, became more and more desirable. Nations, on the other hand, depending upon agriculture and those arts of peace, whose creation accompanies the growth of industry applied to production of the material bases of life, lost their ancient aptitudes for the practices of war and the hunting field, if only because they ceased to use them.
In these unequal conditions civilisation must have perished in the bud had not the same process which determined the substitution of agriculture for the chase manifested itself anew. Instead of murdering and robbing, one nation imposed itself upon, and exploited, another. A raid is a temporary expedient, and the renewed harvests of violence yield a continually diminishing crop. Lands of plenty returned to the desert from which they had been wrested, for the toiler lay dead in his furrow. But no sooner did the more astute spoiler of his neighbour comprehend the position than he devised effective means for perpetuating his supply, and even for increasing its yield. Those who had previously ravaged now conquered the land to possess it; where they had destroyed they enslaved, and the victim bought his survival by a surrender of the entire, or a part of, the nett profit of his labours.
The conqueror now became interested in protecting his sources of supply, and began to devise systems for the better exploitation of territories and of the populations which were enslaved. These systems are the first POLITICAL STATES, and their guarantee against further violation from outside was their subjection to those who had first seen the value of the new system. Thus was constituted a further pregnant advance, one whose natural process eventually guaranteed civilisation against the risks of destruction and a return to barbarism.
Competition Between States in Process of Civilisation
No sooner did the exploitation of conquered territory and subject populations become general, with the consequent rise of Political States—of the States—than the conquering communities became involved in two other forms of competition. Certain particularly warlike tribes persisted in the practices of destruction and of pillage, while the States, as between themselves, sought every possible means of expansion.
Like the founders and proprietors of any other business, the owners of a political State desired to increase the profits of the industry from which they obtained a livelihood. They might achieve this either by increasing the nett yields of their enterprise, the exploitation of subjects, or they could expand, win new territory, and, in consequence, new subjects. But the first method required a degree of progress which was not realisable in a day: the labour of their employés had to be rendered more productive by better administration and by improved methods of exploitation. An enlarged measure of liberty, and the enjoyment of an increased proportion of their own earnings, must also be secured to the workers. Now the absolutism of those who owned the States, sanctioned by right of appropriation and conquest, no less than by the overwhelming superiority of organised power, allowed them to use their subjects as mere chattels. Natural cupidity allotted to this "human cattle" no more than the mere necessaries of existence, often far less, and it was only long and costly experience of the loss caused by their own greed which forced statesmen to recognise that the surest and most efficacious means of enlarging their nett profit—whether taken in guise of forced labour or as taxes, in kind or in money—was to encourage the producer to increase his gross output.
To obtain new territory and more subjects was comparatively easy. It was a conception appealing naturally to the spirit and capacity of a conquering caste, and it appears, in every age and in all cases, as the first, often the sole, aim of their political system.
But there were latent consequences in this race for territory and subjects to exploit, which the competitors never guessed. The owners of a State, liable to total, or partial, dispossession at the hands of a rival, maintained their position subject to neglecting none of the many activities which consolidate and guarantee the integrity of a political association. They had to learn that the perfection of the material, art, and personnel of armies, is of little value when unaccompanied by a similar development of political and civil institutions, of the fiscal and economic systems.
Everywhere and in every age, it is this form of competition which stimulated men to perfect the institutions of politics and war, of the civil, fiscal, and economic State. Always and in all ages, also, the more progressive communities—those which develop their destructive and productive institutions to the highest degree—become the strongest and win the race. Our earlier volumes have seen this process at work. We have seen that improved agents of destruction advance production by continually enlarging its outlets. The security of civilisation has been assured neither by the arts of peace nor yet by those of war, but by the cooperation of both.
Decline of Destructive Competition
Since profit is the motive of war no less than of all other human actions, an alliance between the arts of production and destruction soon lessened the inducement which prompted tribes to live by pillage and violence alone. Raiding a civilised community became less and less profitable as the art and matériel of war came to require a moral force, an amount of knowledge and capital, which only civilisation can command. Expeditions, undertaken for the sake of pure pillage, therefore ceased to return those enormous profits which had made them the favourite occupation of barbarian hordes. Tribal incursions tend to bring no profit, or to secure such hazardous and unsatisfactory returns that what was hitherto a rule becomes increasingly rare, occurs only on the most distant and least guarded frontiers, and is finally abandoned. Then the old order is reversed, for the civilised State becomes the aggressor, subdues the barbarian, and occupies his place. This expansion of civilisation at the expense of the uncivilised began many centuries ago, and when its motive is naturally exhausted—probably within the present century—the cause of many wars will have passed away.
Indeed wars, undertaken on this account, are already of secondary importance, since they seldom call for the exercise of more than a most insignificant portion of the resources of a State. It is when State meets State that the full power of modern military equipments is seen, and these occasions are the grand motive of their establishment. So immense and so costly is this apparatus that there is scarcely a State which does not expend upon its upkeep more treasure, more labour, and even more intelligence, than is allotted to any productive industry, agriculture alone excepted.
It has always been difficult to define the actual profits derived from a war, but, until the integrity of civilisation was finally ensured from barbarian aggression, these profits were of two kinds. Every conqueror in war is rewarded with material gains and moral satisfaction, but victory in those times likewise secured a higher degree of security. This better security of civilisation was the measure of its advance in the arts of war, for war was its sole possible criterion.
Whether moral or material, the gains of war have always been practically monopolised by the proprietary and governing element within the victorious State. These profits were never so high as when conquest was followed by a partition of the newly conquered territory and its inhabitants, for the victors thus gained an extra glory and prestige—over and above the common glory of victory—in that they had escaped the fate which they now meted out to the vanquished. Meanwhile, their victory had also screened their own slaves, serfs, or subjects, from the ills of a possible invasion, with its inevitable change of masters, of whom the new were often the more brutal and rapacious. Finally, every war which resulted in an advance, however feeble, in the art of destruction, marked the achievement of one more step upon the long road of that progress whose goal was the establishment of civilisation.
But, as victory ceased to be synonymous with the act of massacring the vanquished, even of enslaving them, these several profits diminished. The defeat of a State now entails little more than a nominal alteration in the quarter to which allegiance is owed. Also, since the safety of civilisation is established, the profits derived from a war no longer include this count. But such profits as do remain are the perquisite of the governing power in the State, and they are shared between the military and the civil arms. A war benefits the military hierarchy by accelerating advancement in grade and pay; by those extraordinary "votes," or honorariums, which a grateful nation accords to successful leaders; and by the glory acquired, although this has diminished in value with the constant diminution in the damages and dangers from which victory saves a nation, and the benefits which it bestows. A successful war benefits the politician by increasing his power and influence, but it cannot be said to appreciably affect the precarious tenure of his office.
A war—such wars at least as enlarge the national boundaries—brings profit to a third class in the State, the officials, for it enlarges the scope of their activities. But it must be confessed that profit of this kind tends to be somewhat temporary, for it is certain that the new territory must ultimately produce its own aspirants to administrative positions, who will dispute the field with the subjects of the conquering State. Finally, profit is sometimes taken in the form of a monetary indemnity in place of actual territorial aggrandizement. Such an indemnity is usually devoted to repairing the inevitable waste and damage of war, or to enlarging the victor's armaments.
But, besides winning profits for the victor, every war occasions loss and injury to the masses who are engaged in the productive industries, and these evils are felt by the subjects of neutral States no less than the subjects of actual belligerents. The very transformation which has been effected in the machinery of destruction has likewise increased the sphere of its effects, and the gravity of the ills which it entails.
The direct losses of war are those of life and capital, and these losses have grown side by side with that increase of power which has followed the growth of population, of wealth, and of credit, particularly among the States of the Old World and in the course of the last century. Nor is loss of life felt less directly than losses of capital, for it is the physical flower of a population which enters the army, and their destruction entails the perpetuation of a less effective type. Direct loss of this kind primarily affects the combatants, the area of indirect damage follows the extension of international interests. Markets are curtailed, the bulk of exchanges is diminished, the demand for capital and labour is arrested. In fact, while expenditure is suddenly increased, a check is put upon the action of those agencies which supply the means, nor are these losses and damages counterbalanced by any corresponding augmentation of the general security.
But, worst burden of all, the persistency of war obliges every nation to maintain a vast permanent machinery of destruction, and every progress in the art or science of war now augments the cost of this establishment.
Every State must keep pace with the armaments of its neighbours. It must, in the very midst of peace, devote a continually increasing proportion of revenue to maintaining the race of the present and redeeming the debts of the past. Nor is this all. More and more men are taken from the ranks of industry and consigned to a life of idleness and demoralisation, until, or in case, it may be necessary to employ them in the work of destruction.
Having accomplished its natural task of assuring security, war has now become harmful. We shall see that it is doomed to give place to a higher form of competition—productive or industrial competition.
Why the State of War Continues When It No Longer Fulfils a Purpose
War has ceased to be productive of security, but the masses, whose existence depends upon the industries of production, are compelled to pay its costs and suffer its losses without either receiving compensation or possessing means to end the contradiction. Governments do possess this power, but if the interests of governments ultimately coincide with the interests of the governed they are, in the first instance, opposed to them.
Governments are enterprises—in commercial language, "concerns"—which produce certain services, the chief of which are internal and external security. The directors of these enterprises—the civil and military chiefs and their staffs—are naturally interested in their aggrandizement on account of the material and moral benefits which such aggrandizement secures to themselves. Their home policy is therefore to augment their own functions within the State by arrogating ground properly belonging to other enterprises; abroad they enlarge their domination by a policy of territorial expansion. It is nothing to them if these undertakings do not prove remunerative, since all costs, whether of their services or of their conquests, are borne by the nations which they direct.
If, now, we consider a nation as the consumer of what its government produces, we see that it is to the interest of the governed to take from government only such services as the latter is able to produce better and at a less cost than other enterprises, and to purchase what it takes at the lowest possible price. Similarly, a nation requires that an annexation of territory should result in such an enlargement of its markets as will be sufficient to enable it to recover all the costs of acquisition, besides a profit; and this profit must not be less than the returns which could have been secured by any other employment of its capital and labour.
But this relation of government and nation, as producer and consumer, is not a free market. Government imposes its services, and the nation has no choice but acceptance. Certain nations, however, possess constitutional governments, and these nations have a right of assent and of arranging the price. But despite the reforms and revolutions which have been so frequent during the last hundred years, this right has altogether failed to establish an equilibrium between the positions of consumer and purveyor of public services. More, the governments of to-day are less interested than were their forerunners to refrain from abusing the powers and resources of their nations, while the nations are also less interested in, and perhaps less capable of, guarding against such abuse.
Under the old system the political establishment, or the State, was the perpetual property of that association of strong men who had founded, or conquered, it. The members of this association, from the head downwards, succeeded by hereditary prescription to that part of the common territory which had fallen to their share at the original partition, and to the exercise of those functions which were attached to their several holdings. Sentiments of family and property, the strongest incentives known to the human race, combined to influence their action. They desired to leave to their descendants a heritage which should be neither less in extent nor inferior in condition to that which they had received from their fathers, and to maintain this ideal the power and resources of the State must be increased, or at least maintained in all their integrity. There was also a fiscal limit to the imposts which they exacted from their subjects, any overstepping of which involved personal loss, often personal danger. If they abused their sovereign power as possessors, whether by exhausting the taxable potentiality of the population or by squandering the product of an impost which had become excessive, their State fell into poverty and decay, and they themselves lay at the mercy of rivals who were only too alert and ready to seize any opportunity of enrichment at the expense of the decadent or defenceless. The governed were able to check any abuse of sovereign power on the part of government through the pressure which was exerted on the ruler by his hope of transmitting his power to his children, and by that form of competition which constituted the State of War.
Meanwhile, as external dangers decreased and a continual evolution in the machinery of warfare required yet larger expenditure, competition ceased to exert continuous pressure. Hence the measure of its stimulus declined. But at the same time the masters of States abated nothing of those imposts and services which they exacted from their subjects, but without the previous justification of danger. Hence a growing discontent sprang up in those classes whose power had advanced with their progress in the arts of industry and commerce, and this process continued until it resulted in the fall of the old order.
The chief feature which distinguishes the new order and separates it, in theory at least, from that which preceded it, is the transfer of the political establishment, of the State, to the people themselves. With it, naturally, passed that sovereign power which is inseparable from ownership of the domain and the subjects of the State. This power which was exercised by the chief, generally hereditary, of the government of the political association, and which included a power of absolute disposition over the lives and goods of subjects, was justified by the original State of War. Under the conditions which then prevailed it was essential that the chief who was responsible for the safety of a State should have unlimited powers to requisition the person and resources of every individual, and to use them in any way which he might judge good, whether for actual defence of the State or for the purpose of increasing its resources by territorial expansion. The ownership of the political establishment might pass into the hands of the nation, but the need for such a power remained. Just as long as the State of War was the dispensation which regulated the world, so long was a power of unlimited disposition over the individual, his life and goods, an essential attribute of governments responsible for national security.
But as experience had already shown how liable this delegation of the sovereign power was to abuse, it was necessary to devise measures which should ensure its proper exercise. Also, as experience showed that the nation was not able to fulfil the office of ruling itself, the theorists responsible for erecting the new order withdrew from it all powers beyond that of nominating those delegates to whom the exercise of sovereign power was to be entrusted. Such delegation involved the risk of unfaithful service on the part of those who were chosen, and it was also foreseen that discrepancies might arise between their policy and the national will, if for no other reason than their too long maintenance in power. A more or less restricted period was therefore placed upon their mandate.
Experience also foreshadowed another difficulty. Delegates are no more capable than their constituents of fulfilling the whole office of a government. It is not possible that they should organise, carry on the necessary machinery for guaranteeing external and internal security, and fulfil those other duties which, rightly or wrongly, are required of "government." The new "constitutions," then, limited the sovereign power delegated to government to the exercise of the legislative prerogative, with a further right of deputing the executive power to ministers who should be responsible to it and who should be compelled to conform their conduct, under penalty of dismissal, to the will of a majority in the assembly of delegates.
This method of dividing the sovereign power among various executive agencies was capable of many variations. In a constitutional monarchy the chief office in the State remained subject to hereditary transmission, but its occupant was declared irresponsible and his action was limited to the sole function of nominating, as responsible minister, the man chosen by the majority of the national representatives. These representatives are nominally chosen by the nation, by those members of the nation who possess political rights, but in point of fact they are no more than the nominees of associations, or parties, who contend for the position of "State-conductors" on account of the material and moral benefits which accompany the position.
These associations, or political parties, are actual armies which have been trained to pursue power; their immediate objective is to so increase the number of their adherents as to control an electoral majority. Influential electors are for this purpose promised such or such share in the profits which will follow success, but such promises—generally place or privilege—are redeemable only by a multiplication of "places," which involves a corresponding increase of national enterprises, whether of war or of peace. It is nothing to a politician that the result is increased charges and heavier drains on the vital energy of the people. The unceasing competition under which they labour, first in their efforts to secure office, and next to maintain their position, compels them to make party interest their sole care, and they are in no position to consider whether this personal and immediate interest is in harmony with the general and permanent good of the nation. Thus the theorists of the new order, by substituting temporary for permanent attribution of the sovereign power, aggravated the opposition of interests which it was their pretended purpose to co-ordinate. They also weakened, if they did not actually destroy, the sole agency which has any real power to restrain governments, in their capacity of producers of public services, from an abuse of the sovereign power to the detriment of those who consume those services.
The constitutions were, nevertheless, lavish in their promise of guarantees against this possibility, the most notable of which has, perhaps, been the power of censure vested in the press—a right which has too often proved quite barren of result. For the press has found it more profitable to place its voice at the disposal of class or party interests and to echo the passions of the moment rather than to sound the voice of reason. Nowhere has it been known to act as a curb on the governmental tendency to increase national expenditure.
Economic reasons, the advances of industry and expansion of credit, have actively furthered the same tendency. During last century industrial activity increased by leaps and bounds, and the continual advance in the wealth of nations enabled them to support charges which would have crushed any other age. The development of public credit has also provided a device by which posterity has been burdened with a continually increasing proportion of the expenditure of to-day, and, in particular the costs of war have been almost entirely defrayed thus. Nor is this all. The present generation, or at least an important and influential part of it, has been interested in the system of spending borrowed money, since they reap the entire profits which result from the consequent increase in business, but are only required to furnish a mere fraction of the funds which must ultimately redeem these liabilities.
This is the true reason why that sovereign power, which is still the attribution of government, has increased the liabilities of nations to a far greater extent than was ever known under the old order. And it has done this no less by enlarging its functions in a manner utterly contrary to sound economics, than by continuing a system of wars which are no longer justified as in any way promoting the security of civilisation.
Consequences of the Perpetuation of the State of War
As long as war was the necessary guarantee of security— guarantee whose failure must have continually reduced human societies to a state akin to mere animalism—the sacrifices which it entailed, and the losses which it caused, were amply compensated by its contribution towards the permanence of civilisation. But this compensation has ceased to exist since the powers of destruction and production, attained under its impulse, assured a decisive preponderance to the civilised nations. More, the very progress of which war was the prime agent has increased its burden. Modern war entails a greater expenditure of life and capital, and, directly or indirectly, greater damage. And even if it is impossible to calculate the sum of these losses and this expense, we can obtain some idea of their bulk by a summary survey.
We need do little more than note a few figures. The various States of Europe have accumulated a debt of 130 milliards of francs (£5,200,000,000), of which the goodly sum of 110 milliards (£4,400,000,000) was added during last century. Practically the whole of this colossal total was incurred on account of wars. The army of these same nations numbers more than 4,000,000 men in time of peace; on a war footing it reaches 12,000,000. Two-thirds of their combined budgets are devoted to the service of this debt, and to the maintenance of their armed forces by sea and land. When we turn to the rate at which public charges have increased during the century, we find that the total monetary contribution has advanced 400 or 500 per cent., and that the "blood-drain" among Continental nations has followed on an almost identical scale.
In the particular case of France, the budget now stands at four milliards of francs (£160,000,000) as against one at the time of the Restoration; during the same period the figure of the annual conscription for the army has been increased from 40,000 to 160,000 men. Other States have suffered a very similar addition to their burdens, and in every case the second half of the nineteenth century was marked by a higher rate of increase.
It is true that the population of Europe has doubled since the year 1800, and that the marvellous inventions which have revolutionised every branch of productive industry have enlarged its productive capacity to an even greater extent. Hence, although available statistics are admittedly faulty, we may allow that productive capacity has developed concurrently with the exactions on output. The rate of taxation continues to rise, but there are signs that the rate of industrial production is beginning to flag. When, as of late, the figures of the birth rate, of general commercial circulation, and of the yield of taxation, exhibit a considerable slackening, it is clear proof that the general production of wealth is suffering a check. Meanwhile the causes which govern an advanced scale of imposts exhibit no retrogressive tendencies, and there are no grounds for supposing that the State of War will, in the twentieth century, fail to maintain a rate of advance at least equal to that shown in the nineteenth.
It is, therefore, a question whether the taxes which have met that expenditure, and the service of those debts, will continue to suffice. If, for example, France cannot support a budget of eight milliards of francs (£320,000,000), and the service of a debt of sixty milliards (£2,400,000,000) upon her present taxes, the deficit must be made good by an increase in their assessment or the imposition of new imposts. But the laws of fiscal equilibrium set a strict limit to the degree within which it is possible to impose new taxes, or to increase the rates of those already in force. The relative productivity of taxes soon shows when this point has been overstepped, for then returns not only cease to rise, but immediately begin to fall. A continuance of the State of War therefore, means that a moment will come when the governing class will, itself, be stricken at the very sources of its means of subsistence.
But the growing burdens of military expenditure are not the only trouble imposed by a continuance of this system. Equally injurious is the necessity which it entails of continuing to endow governments with a sovereign power of disposition over the life and property of the subject. War acknowledges no limit to the sacrifices which it may demand of a nation, and governments must necessarily have an equal power of compelling those sacrifices. The hereditary chief of the oligarchy, which owned the political organisation under the old system, possessed this power absolutely. The new order theoretically transferred it to the nation, but its practical exercise was invested in the leaders of the party in temporary and precarious possession of office. We have already seen that this transfer resulted in increased abuse of the sovereign power, and that all guarantees erected for the protection of the individual proved ineffectual. Whatever the intentions of a government, its tenure of office is so uncertain that party interest must be its first care.
Rulers, under the old system, had only to consider an oligarchy in hereditary possession of the superior political functions, military and civil. If this oligarchy condescended to inferior functions, much more to the servile practices of industrial and commercial life, it abdicated its position. Its demands on government were exacting, but were confined within narrow natural limits. High office was hereditary in a few families, and the sovereign's obligations were fulfilled when he had satisfied their ambition and cupidity. Modern government has to satisfy a vastly greater number of equally hungry suitors. Whereas it was sufficient to find honourable positions and sinecures for the members of the few families which constituted the oligarchy, a modern State has to satisfy thousands, one may say hundreds of thousands of families, all possessed of political power and influence. These men seek every kind of place, and press every kind of interest, and can only be satisfied at the expense of the rest of the nation. Policy and protection—of certain classes or certain interests—are added to militaryism as burdens of the body politic. These charges on production, shared by the State and its protégés, may be added to, or subtracted from, the share of the actual agents of production—capital and labour. They are added when the producer is enabled to increase the price of his product by the entire sum of the tax, as occurs when a country protects a home product from the competition of other countries whose producers are less burdened. The impost is, in this case, paid by the consumer, and—whether derived from invested capital or from direct labour—the purchasing power of his income is correspondingly diminished. The manufacturer is, however, a consumer, and also—in that capacity—a sufferer from the results of a protective duty. But the manufacturer of a protected article—and his sleeping partners, if he have them—is usually able to obtain advantages which more than balance his decreased capacity of consumption. The combined burdens of tax and impost duty therefore fall upon the masses, the men whose labours are unprotected.
External competition sometimes prevents producers from increasing the price of their product by the full amount of a protective duty. The share of profits claimed by the State must, in this case, be subtracted from the shares of the agents of production. As the burden of taxation is rising at a practically concurrent rate among all nations, this case may be considered exceptional.
The nature of capital saves it from this deduction from the shares of the agents of production. Capital is itself a fruit of production, and production is only an incidental of its real intention. Capital is formed as an insurance against the eventualities of life, and suffers no diminution from an indefinite existence. It becomes productive—is applied to productive purposes, only when such application yields a sufficient return to cover the privation consequent on such employment, to counterbalance the accompanying risk, and to provide a profit. When returns do not cover this deprivation, risk, and profit, capital is withdrawn from, or ceases to enter, the field of production. Government can reduce the spheres open to capital by imposing burdens upon those spheres, but it has no power of reducing the rate of profit necessary to bring capital into the field of production.
Labour—the second agent of production—has no such power of self-protection. It must employ itself in production or lack the immediate necessities of subsistence. Unless it can emigrate to countries less burdened—always a difficult and costly operation—the share of labour is inclined to supply the demands of government and its protégés. It is this increasing deduction [by the State] from the share of labour in the fruits of production, which socialists attribute to capital. They maintain that the remuneration of labour has not risen in proper proportion to the enormously increased returns of production, because capital has used its power to seize most, if not all, of the rightful dues of the worker. They have therefore stirred up strife between the two essential factors of production—an action which inevitably aggravates all that it pretends to cure.
Labour does suffer from grave ills, but so far are these from being solely due to insufficient remuneration that the worker has, in many cases, only to thank his own incapacity for the right conduct of life. Faults in the administration of the State are aggravated by the evils in individual self-government: the former do not cause the latter, but they do hinder their cure.
The sovereign power of governments over the life and property of the individual is, in fact, the sole fount and spring of militaryism, policy, and protection. The rationale of the survival of this power is that we still live in a State of War, and the abolishment of that "state" is the present, most urgent, need of society. The solution is natural and inevitable, since the new conditions of social existence daily become more incompatible with its continuance. But, meanwhile, we can hasten the impulse, and so hasten likewise the realisation of that progress which the State of Peace will render possible.