Thought for the Month:
"WE believe that national financial and economic power and policy are not to be designed to control men's lives, but to create a climate in which men may be enabled to work out their own salvation in their own way."
"The Labor party proposes to extend the scope and powers of the Commonwealth bank until complete control of bankijng and credit is in the hands of the nation...."
The Aim of Social Credit
by H. E. du Prez
The Fig Tree
No. 8 March 1938
THE basic idea underlying Social Credit is that all political and economic problems with which we are striving today are, in essence, human problems relating to individual persons. This idea is certainly not new but has become so obscured that it requires a new and forceful presentation. It may be summed up in the phrase, "The State exists for Man and not Man for the State." This phrase embodies the main principle which supports the Social Credit faith, viz., that the State, as such, is a complete and entire abstraction if viewed separately from the human beings of which it is composed.
When the State performs perfect service to the individuals composing it, it does so because all the individuals are serving each other. When the State demands sacrifices which are unequal in their effects on individuals, some sections of the people are deluding others into the belief that this abstract thing has a real existence and benefits by their sacrifice. In so far as Social Credit philosophy insists that the individual is the only thing which ultimately matters, and that if all is well with individuals all will, be well with the State, Social Credit philosophy is in alignment with what was taught by the Founder of Christianity.
The next principle is that individuals must be freed from the control of artificially created economic pressure - in order to be able to fashion their own lives in the way they individually think fit. For the purpose of securing this economic freedom for all, it is not necessary that everybody should possess an abundance of things, but what is absolutely imperative is that every individual should be lifted above the degrading and soul-sapping necessity for concentrating almost the whole of his faculties on obtaining the means of mere existence. In this respect, Social Credit is uncompromising in its demand for an immediate abolition of this dire fate which threatens so great a proportion of our people today.
Another principle of Social Credit is a belief in the fundamental goodness and decency of the vast majority of people and that in economic freedom these qualities will immediately become apparent. No progress can be made towards any solution of our problems while we adopt the utterly pessimistic attitude that human beings are to be trusted only when they are industrially occupied. If we are distrustful of giving economic freedom to those who are suffering from artificially created economic pressure, we are denying true freedom to those who appear at present to be more fortunate. Continued economic pressure on one section of the community imposes on all other sections more and more involved and costly methods of dealing with the problems it raises. An overseer is as much bound and frequently has more responsibility and anxiety than the slaves he manages.*
I wish to emphasise this point because the main resistance to Social Credit today seems to come not so much from economic technicians as from those who tacitly accept the present wretched conditions on the ground that, where there is no work to be found for them, human beings must be forced to live on the borderline of starvation, wholly dependent on others. This, of course, is a form of slavery. These people are attempting to crack the nut of what they call a moral problem with the steam hammer of economic pressure, an entire misuse of both the power and the character of the instrument they use.
The problem could become a "moral" problem only if a man would not work when there was necessary work to be done. The facts are such that it will readily be agreed that this is not the problem which press at the moment. The problem which does urgently demand solution is that of securing for people a decent life, which is a very different thing.
This point was dealt with by Douglas recently during an outstanding address to a very large audience at Liverpool, when he remarked, "I can say nothing to you which has not been better said by the great teachers of humanity, One of whom said, 'I came that ye might have life and have it more abundantly. So far as I am aware no great teacher of humanity has ever announced that he came that we might have better trade or more employment, and I am wholly and irrevocably convinced that while we exalt a purely materialistic means into an end, we are doomed to destruction."
The starting-point of this abundant life at which Social Credit aims is visualised as a well-proportioned sufficiency of wealth combined with adequate leisure; and such a combination would give that freedom of choice to individuals which is an essential prerequisite of personal happiness.
Excess of wealth is often accompanied by self-chosen renunciation of leisure. Sometimes the owner of this wealth voluntarily gives up opportunities for spiritual experience in exchange for purely materialistic ends, which state of affairs I take to be the meaning of the saying, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of heaven." For the lure of excessive wealth lies not so much in the wealth itself as in the power it gives over the lives of others. When all have a sufficiency, the power of excessive wealth disappears, and with it the subordination of the interests of millions to the policies of a small financial oligarchy. Leisure itself without any wealth is just a soul-rotting human boredom and spiritual frustration, and this is the terrible fate of all who have been "unemployed" for any length of time. But I would like to emphasise that there is nothing whatsoever in the Social Credit proposals which would enrich the poor at the expense of those who are happily better off. There is no possibility of taking from one section of society and giving to another.
* There is, of course, the Simon Legree species of overseer, found in finance, to whom this argument will not appeal. -Ed.
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The general outlook of Social Credit having thus been outlined, its objective logically follows, and this is the bringing about of conditions necessary for the abundant life. Abundant life is an inner thing of mind and spirit, and the external condition for it is freedom from the driving necessity for overmuch preoccupation with getting the means of bodily existence. How the Social Credit movement hopes to reach its objective is made clear by an understanding of what the term Social Credit really means. Social Credit is the belief or faith of society that the individuals composing it can get the results they want by working together in association. If people persistently get the results for which they associate, they have Social Credit.
If all the individuals associating together as the nation were asked what results they personally wanted most urgently from thus associating, we should almost certainly get an overwhelming majority asking for such things as food, clothes, houses and personal security, which could be classified under a general term such as "the conditions of well-being." By such a referendum, we should find out what the mass of individuals composing the nation really want, and this desire would, under our definition of Social Credit, be a starting-point for our demand for results. It would thus be our policy, as an association of individuals, so that we should become what I can truthfully call a political democracy. This clear-cut conception that we must become in fact what at present we are in theory only - a "democracy of policy" - is the first idea which the Social Credit movement is striving to impress upon the consciousness of the people, allied with the idea that we cannot achieve this until we make up our minds as to exactly what policy we do want. Until this is done, governments lack the only directive power which will push them the way the majority of people want them to go.
This focussing of the people's will into demanding what they want has necessitated a re-statement of the root idea behind political democracy, that the sole foundation for the right and power of appointing governments is the common consent of the individuals of a nation, and that this right and power shall make the relationship of people and government that of master and servant. But a wise master does not order his servant to do impossible things; and so if a policy is vigorously demanded by the will of the people, the people must be sure that what they demand is something which can reasonably be expected to be put into operation, and the full and entire responsibility for the consequences of their policy must be accepted by the people themselves and not by the government.
If responsibility for the consequences of policy is on the heads of the people, however, it is only fair that the entire responsibility for success or failure due to methods of carrying out the policy should rest on the shoulders of the government which has been empowered to give orders to technical experts. Further, if democracy, as a principle, is right and proper in regard to the initiation of policy, it is altogether misplaced in regard to the administration of that policy. Administration is a question of employing experts who have the technical qualifications necessary for advising as to correct methods of carrying out policy. In this case, decisions must ultimately be made by individuals placed in positions of authority by the government, and no interference should be permitted which would undermine the power of the administration to carry a policy to its ultimate conclusion. If the methods of one set of experts are faulty or inconclusive, then other experts should be appointed under more and more limiting time-allowances, until the policy is finally proved sound or unsound.
Today, policies and methods come ready made for presentation to the people from financially-backed party caucuses. For example, we get perhaps a "work for all" scheme presented against a "nationalisation of industry" scheme, neither of which is intended to nor can possibly give the people what they want because the people have neither stated nor been asked what they want. Such political methods are an insidious means of operating the old Roman plan of "divide and rule."
The Social Credit movement therefore is attempting to make two things perfectly clear: first, the absolute sovereignty of the people as regards policy, which must originate with and be self-chosen by the people themselves, and must not be imposed on them by any party system; secondly, that members of Parliament should be simply representatives of the people, specifically chosen to impose their policy on their servant the government.
The Social Credit movement has formulated into a clear statement of policy the emotionally felt universal desire of the mass of people for "conditions of well-being," and has accompanied this by an equally clear demand for results. The policy is one for results which can be demanded with confidence, because they are based on simple and undoubted facts available to anybody. These facts are the existence of widespread poverty on the one hand and actual or potential physical plenty on the other.
The demand is equally simple. It is for a National Dividend - that is, for the issue to the individuals in the nation of monetary or other claims to such physical wealth as is produced but is undistributed by the present system, or the production of which is artificially restricted. This demand is accompanied by a very few simple but vital conditions to the effect that the issue of the claims must not increase prices or taxation or deprive owners of their property or diminish its value. The demand is made by bringing pressure to bear on members of Parliament of all parties so that they in their turn continuously bring pressure to bear on the government from all directions. No demand is made for methods, so that the government is entirely free to employ what experts it likes to implement the policy. The Social Credit movement has thus reduced the working mechanism of political democracy to the very simplest of formulas which can be readily understood and acted upon by all.
Those who have no wish to alter the present unsatisfactory state of affairs or who hypnotise themselves into believing that they are unalterable, and those who are totally insensible to the physical deprivation, mental anxiety and spiritual suffering of millions of normally fine and decent people, would be only too glad if the Social Credit movement continued to raise discussions on purely monetary and technical matters. But experience has proved that such enquiries and discussions are abortive and time-wasting. The problem of abolishing poverty is far too urgent for further talk along these lines, and in demanding results and only results, Social Crediters know that they are placing the responsibility for present conditions and for their amelioration where it rightly belongs, that is to say on the shoulders of those people who have made it their business to act as technical advisers to governments on such matters.
If these people will produce the results demanded, well and good; if not they shall be replaced by others not only more competent but more willing. The Social Credit Movement is attempting to ensure that something be done, but it is for the individuals whose association together gives to the name of Britain its credit to say what that something shall be and to demand it with all the authority which derives from their common consent.
"The Just Tax" by Geoffrey Dobbs
"Responsible Government in a Free Society" by Geoffrey Dobbs
"Political Democracy" is published by the Australian League of Rights, Box 1052. G.P.O. Melbourne 3001.