Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XV.: REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH. - The Tyranny of Socialism
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CHAPTER XV.: REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH.
Socialist Declaration that the Poor become Poorer, and the Rich Richer—Small and Large Estates—Savings Banks—Income from Transferable Shares—Assessment of Stocks and Shares in Railway Companies—Shares of the City of Paris—Shares of the Crédit Foncier—The Authors of Ruin—Social Bankruptcy—The Tranquillising of Vested Interests.
Increase of wealth! Yes, but concentrated into a few hands, cry the Socialists. The poor become poorer, the wealthy more wealthy! And the Congress of Erfurt adds that the poor increase in numbers.
After having demonstrated by facts that it is untrue that workmen are getting poorer, we are now going to prove by figures, to how large an extent wealth has become democratised in France.
With regard to land, very small properties, up to 4 acres, are 10,426,000 in number; small estates 2,174,000. The former represent 74 per cent., and the latter more than 15 per cent.; say 90 per cent. together. It is true that, in area, these only amount to 25 per cent.; but the medium-sized estates, of from 12 to 100 acres, rise to 38 per cent.
But how about personal property? According to what the Socialists say, is it not all collected into the hands of financial aristocrats? Facts are once more opposed to this assumption, as Mr. Neymark has shown in a series of very detailed studies. We are not talking of the 6 millions of little books which record investments in Savings Banks, and the 3 thousand millions of francs which they represent, nor of the 450 millions of francs of the Post Office Savings Bank, but of shares which are distributed amongst many hands, and which do not lie, as is supposed, within the coffers of a few huge capitalists.
M. Tirard, Minister of Finance, on March 28th, 1893, stated that transferable shares represent 329,742,000 francs of income, various other shares 11,388,000 francs, say—341,130,000 together, while the income from dividends payable to bearer represents only 81,159,000 francs.
The proportion of transferable shares in railways, when compared with other stock, has steadily risen.
In 1889, railway shares were thus held:—
If we multiply these figures by the price of the day, we shall see that they represent a moderate income, but not wealth.
Of the 30,155,446 railway shares, 20,887,614 are transferable, say—69·26 per cent. They are represented by 636,914 certificates, which gives average of 32 shares to each, say—a capital of 13,000 francs, with an annual return of 438 francs, or about £17 10s.
When, in January 1888, the shares payable to bearer of the City of Paris were renewed, it was ascertained that more than half of those interested held either one entire share, or from 1 to 6 fourths of a share.
The shares of the Bank of France, which are worth 3,900 francs, are divided up thus:—
Of these 182,500 shares, 58,129 are the property of public institutions, of married women, of minors, of interdicted people, or of incapables. The capitalists holding from 1 to 5 shares in the Bank of France—say 4,000 to 20,000 francs, are numerically the large majority.
The 31,395 shareholders of the Crédit Foncier, hold an average of 11 shares each; 7,129 hold only one each.
Where do we find those proofs of impoverishment and misery which—as the Socialistic leaders would have us believe—have been created by a capitalistic society during three quarters of a century? But they are right when they speak of the dangers of disaster, which they would be better able to perceive, if they realised what they were doing. When they go into a neighbourhood for the purpose of organising a strike, what becomes of the Savings Bank deposits, and the articles of value which now filter down through the whole of society, and which the working men they condemn to enforced idleness, possess? What becomes of the petty tradesmen who have been ruined by the credit they have had to give, or of those who supply these petty tradesmen and who cannot get their money in? What is to happen to the small banks burdened with overdue bills? And if these ringleaders of strikes succeed in their attack on some prosperous company or manufacturer, they, by depriving capital of part of its productive power, by that very means, also deprive the workmen, whose interests they pretend to have at heart, of a part of their immediate or eventual earnings.
These creators of ruin know how to make their work acceptable for the present, but it is, nevertheless, only the prelude to a great social bankruptcy.
Finally, they have a simple plan for creating an equality of misery. An Anti-Semitic and Socialist millionaire, M. de Morès, has already proposed it. It will suffice to re-apportion the wealth of France amongst all her inhabitants, at so much per head. The personal property of France is valued at 80 thousand millions of francs. One might begin with that. That would yield 2,000 francs (£80) per head, on the condition that present values would be maintained and not give way in the cataclysm which this bankruptcy would cause. For a large number of these shares are nothing more than credits which are a fortune to those who hold them, but do not add to the wealth of the country. Such are the shares in the public debt, railway debentures, the 3,000 millions of francs of shares of the Crédit Foncier, the 2,500 millions of francs of town and Departmental loans. This social liquidation will be a grand spectacle!
But those who, whilst waiting for this grand consummation, beat about the bush and flatter men’s passions, who endeavour to gain over the impatient as followers, by throwing them the Haute Banque as a bone to gnaw; who offer as their programme, immediate confiscation, “with or without compensation,” of railways, mines, large companies, etc., and the organisation of a State Bank;—these people little suspect, in their vain ignorance of the figures which we have quoted above, the perturbation and apprehension which they already cause. When M. Constans said at Toulouse:—We must tranquillise vested interests,” his words were echoed throughout the country, because, in spite of Socialistic assertions to the contrary, in spite of the “Iron Law of Wages,” and the other redoubtable spectres, the large majority of families in France own either a piece of land, a Savings Bank deposit, a share in debt of the City of Paris, in the Crédit Foncier or in a railway; and they do not enjoy the jokes which have for their object the confiscation of their small property.
Whether man, through reflex action either hereditary or acquired by education, yields to the pressure of his surroundings, or acts from personal conviction, his actions follow the line of his thoughts, We have passed Socialistic Sophisms in review. We will now examine their workings.