Изображения страниц

even as the facilities for company promoting are misused by buccaneers of a more ambitious type.

The establishing of a system of patents and copyrights is another method by which progress is encouraged. When a new industrial device is suggested, it is rarely the case that business leaders can feel confident of the commercial value of the suggested improvement, while the preliminary costs of handling a new invention may be considerable. They naturally hesitate about incurring such preliminary costs (establishing the necessary plant, trying experimental modifications, marketing, advertising) if their rivals are free to copy them immediately the invention in its final form proves a clear success. Without the protection of patent laws each would be likely to wait until one of the others had taken the plunge. Patent and copyright laws give the patent-holder or the publisher of a book the power to charge monopoly prices for a stated period of years, by forbidding others to produce similar commodities in competition against him. Patented articles are therefore likely to be sold at prices considerably above costs of production. But though we are always combating monopolies when they seem to serve no adequate social good (e.g., many of the American Trusts) we hold that it is as a general rule well worth while to allow the patent-holder to reap a temporary monopolist's profit at our expense with a view to encouraging business men to develop new ideas boldly and promptly; and at the same time we give some consideration to the inventor's or author's social deserts. (It is, of course, grotesque to argue, as Mark Twain has often seriously argued, that the author's “right” to monopoly profits

to monopoly profits is a natural

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

property right, which it is robbery on the part of the State to limit in any way. A copyright or patent right is a particularly artificial outcome of the State's benevolence towards the author or inventor. It would have disastrous effects on progress, intellectual or economic, to grant such rights in perpetuity.)

Many more ways of helping the players in the game are always being advocated by those who take part in political life ; suggestions for improvements in the rules are perpetually being brought forward, in parliament, in the press, in the pulpit ; and, it is to be hoped, will continue to be brought forward. Industrial organisation is continually altering; and legislation must move steadily forward in order to keep in touch with its new forms. There is always room for experimenting with new schemes. For there are always great numbers in the community who do not get reasonable opportunities of using their powers to the full ; and, merely as a business proposition, it is worth our while taking trouble in order to create opportunities for them. The whole nation loses when any particular group of players is handicapped by circumstances. What is harmful to one group is generally harmful to the club as a whole, and what is helpful to any one set is helpful to the whole.

Even as between different nations this is usually true. We often find writers (otherwise very sensible people) talking as if countries like England and Germany were enemies in business, and as if one could not gain without the other losing. But a little thought will show that if the Germans become richer they are likely to purchase larger quantities of English goods and services, and thus

give more opportunities of prosperity to English workers; or, if they buy more of French goods instead, they foster the prosperity of France, and Frenchmen may be expected to buy more from England. Of course the makers of steel goods in Sheffield or Birmingham are the rivals of the makers of steel goods in Germany, and may be expected to gain if the German steel-workers are injured (by war or in other ways)-provided the rest of the German nation remains as prosperous as before. But they do not gain by the German ship-builders or the German machine-makers being injured. If these are rendered poorer (by war or in other ways) there is less chance of prosperity for the English steel-workers, even if these German firms do not themselves buy English steel products; for if they buy less Belgian steel than before, there is a likelihood of more Belgian steel being forced on the English market (“dumped ”') at exceptionally low prices.

Every business man wants his customers to be as prosperous as possible, whatever he may wish about his rivals; and if we average out the cases of all English business men, they would almost certainly be found to have more customers apiece in Germany than rivals.

No doubt these considerations require serious modification if there is a grave standing menace of war with the rival nation; and the absence of this menace in the case of Canada and the United States of America may account for the relative unimportance of considerations of hostile rivalry in the Englishman's attitude towards Canadian

Canadian and American prosperity. In this connection, however, it is worth bearing in mind that if the German is prospering, if he has many speculative irons in the fire, if he has given many hostages to fortune in the shape of partially developed enterprises in distant parts of the world, he is less likely to risk his prosperity by plunging again into war. Well-to-do citizens seldom take to burglary and highway robbery. A well-to-do nation, provided the real wishes of the community control its official actions, is less likely than enviously backward nations to turn to war as a remedy for grievances. The sensible thing for Englishmen to wish with regard to Continental powers would seem to be that they should grow steadily in prosperity, should find themselves more and more intricately entangled in the world's net of banking and investment operations, and that their peoples should acquire füller and fuller control of the machinery of government. A rich nation is a more dangerous enemy in war than a poor nation ; but a rich nation, if self-governing, enters upon a great war with more reluctance than a poor one.

So what is true with regard to the best rules for controlling the game of life within the club that we call the United Kingdom is also true, with very few exceptions, in the great loose federation of clubs--ever becoming more closely knit by new business ties--that is constituted by all the civilised races of the world together.


This then constitutes our introduction to the heartless subject,“ the dismal science," which old-fashioned people called Political Economy and new-fangled people call Economics. It is a branch, and by no means the most interesting branch, of the wider subject called Psychology--the science of the behaviour of living things “ reacting” to changing

stimuli.” The earlier Economists were, so to speak, the tutors of statesmen and princes, giving advice on questions of taxes, tariffs, currency regulation, and so forth; and they coined the term

Political Economy” to describe their volumes of precepts and exhortation. ("Economy,” by derivation from the Greek, is the management of a household" "Political Economy" meant the management of the State.) But presently the Economist grew tired of the courtly task of tutoring rulers. He wearied of perpetually making repectful remarks to "the King upon the Guddee,and came down for a change to chat with "the beggar at the gate.” He found the beggar, and the artisan, and the housewife more interesting company, and often more intelligent reasoners, than the exalted folk whom he had previously been attempting (not very successfully) to convert to his own views of truth. He became more and more conscious, as his knowledge of mankind's little ways expanded, of the great limitations to his effective knowledge. He devoted fewer and fewer

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »