The Opposition of Countries to the Dominant
Nation in Industry, Commerce and Sea Power
At all times the weaker countries in Europe have collaborated to defend themselves against the pretensions of a dominant state. This has been called the balance of power. In the same way there has been united opposition to England's dominant position with regard to industry and trade. England has become so powerful economically that she is able to bring good fortune or ill-fortune to other nations, so long as those countries act in isolation.
It is obvious that the idea of the Continental System was born because of England's excessive economic power and because of the possibility that England might misuse this power. Sooner or later the countries which have reached the second and third stage of industrialisation will have to unite to establish a new Continental System if ever England should show any inclination to use her superior sea power to injure the manufactures or commerce of these countries.
An attempt to set up a new Continental System, however, would endanger the prosperity not only of England but of all nations and -
as we have shown in the last chapter - the only satisfactory solution to the problem would be the establisment of world free trade.
Since we can hardly expect England of her own free will to make the concessions necessary to secure the establishment of a world customs union, it seems to us that the countries which have reached the second and third stage of industrialisation should form an association of their own to press for the establishment of world free trade which should be the common aim of all countries.
France and the United States should take the lead in promoting such an alliance. These two countries are closely linked by commercial ties and by their common interest in energetically furthering the maintenance of the freedom of the seas. France and the United States have similar political institutions and similar economic interests. They are natural allies and they should be prepared to take the initiative in promoting a plan which would ultimately benefit all the countries in the world.
The Productive Powers of Agriculture in the first Stage of Economic Development
Primitive peoples start by being hunters. Next they are engaged in pastoral activities and eventually they become arable farmers. So long as they do not trade with their neighbours the arable farmers remain in a state of virtual barbarism. This is the age of slavery, aristocracy, theocracy, and despotism. Only the great landowners are free and the wealthiest among them wield the greatest power. Tied by tyrannical laws to land which does not belong to them, the peasants are oppressed by feudal services and by the obligation to work on the estate of their lord. Their labours satisfy the needs of the landowners but they do not satisfy their own needs.
People who depend entirely upon farming and are scattered over a wide area, live in isolation and cannot meet one another. They cannot enjoy the life of a wider society. Lacking contact with each other they cannot discuss their common problems with their fellows. They are ignorant folk who have no appreciation of the arts and they do not enjoy any personal liberty. Such people cannot hope to make progress or to improve their political position so long as they are unable to set up workshops or to engage in foreign trade. The one factor which stimulates all human activities and which is the main cause of universal prosperity is missing in their lives.
Primitive peasants who simply cultivate the soil are miserable creatures, without adequate capital or tools, without culture, knowledge or any competitive spirit. Nothing encourages them to improve their situation and so they carry on with the dull routine of labour from one generation to another, happy if their crops are sufficient to pay their lord his dues. From the cradle to the grave they lead a truly wretched existence. Their physical and mental powers are never adequately used or properly developed.
These peasants appreciate neither the value of time nor the value of the land that they cultivate. Their net output - after deducting the barest necessities of life - amounts to virtually nothing. To a great extent they produce the material from which their clothes are made. Their greatest efforts produce only the most miserable results. Abstinence is their greatest achievement.
The peasant who simply tills the soil is self-sufficient and has no surplus produce to exchange for other goods. A purely arable district has no need to improve its communications with other regions. There is no stimulus to create better transport facilities which are a powerful means of improving a people's level of culture.
The failure to secure a division of labour between those who till the soil and those who make manufactured goods has another very serious drawback in as much as it leads to an undue subdivision of the land. Lacking industry to absorb the surplus population the growth of a population entirely dependent upon the soil must lead to a continual reduction in the size of the farms and smallholdings. Peasants themselves consume nearly everything that they produce and are able to save only a small surplus to keep in reserve.
For this reason - and because of inadequate means of transport -a failure of the harvest leads to famine and epidemics. The standard
of farming is so poor - the lack of scientific management is so obvious - that no surplus is produced that could be used for commerce or for industry. The primitive peasant is able to consume very few products of industry and sometimes he cannot consume any at all. He has no surplus to devote to the education of his children, to his own enjoyment, or to his intellectual advancement.
In these circumstances good harvests and an increase in the population have the great disadvantage that they provide the rulers of such regions with the means to engage in needless wars with the result that the wretched standard of life of the peoples sinks to a position of utter misery and degradation.
The intellectual powers of such a people are hardly awakened and are put to little use. There are no opportunities for latent talents to be developed. Only physical exertion secures rewards and they are poor enough since the landowners monopolise the labour of the workers on their land.
Such people have few contacts with each other or with neighbouring peoples. The activities of the individual are confined to a single village. In these circumstances inefficiency, prejudices, bad habits, and vices survive for centuries. Physical strength is the dominant factor in such societies. Moral strength never makes its mark and never triumphs over brute force.