Applied Science, a Common Good

Written by J. Ernest Grégoire on Wednesday, 01 December 1943. Posted in In This Age of Plenty (book)

In this age of plenty - Chapter 29

Which one of us did not sometimes ask himself or herself — in spite of the rat race, concerns, and worries which make meditation difficult — questions like this one: How is it that with so much progress in all fields of production — agriculture, the clothing industry, construction, medicine, transportation, storage, etc. — one still battles with worries about the future, if not with worries about today itself?

Worries and a feverish life

Note that the worries in question are not brought about by war. War, on the contrary, reduces worries about finding a means of providing daily bread in many homes. It is a question of worries in peacetime, when grain elevators are glutted with wheat, when shop windows display products of all kinds, when advertisements invite us to buy the abundance of goods that just wait to be sold.

How is it that with the invention of so many sophisticated machines to serve him, man is compelled either to sit around idly and die of hunger, or to work frenziedly in factories, mine holes, during the day, at night, on Sundays, to leave his home early and quickly in the morning, or late at night, to be there at the whistle's blow; to leave the factory tired, bewildered, embittered by the continual growing exactions of his employers, who are themselves prey to feverish activities and calculations?

Science that punishes

What is the use of science, inventions, machines, electricity, chemistry, if all of these serve man well only in slaughters, if all of these leave man in misery and need as soon as the large-scale destruction of men and things stops?

Science has become an agent of suffering and death, because the benefits of science do not reach the consumer, the mass of consumers.

Science multiplies products while reducing the number of wage-earners; however, one has not yet come up with the means to distribute the products of science to those who do not get wages or salaries. Hence the miseries and growing disorder in the midst of nations where shine the applications of science. To maintain production activities, each country seeks to push its accumulated production towards other countries, whereas it does not want to buy anything from them; hence the frictions which end up in wars between nations.

What caused Professor Frederick Soddy (1924 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry), one of the great learned men of the present time, to say, on October 2, 1942, at the height of the war: “Science without Social Credit is sheer suicide.”

Science with Social Credit

Why did Professor Soddy say “without Social Credit”? Because with Social Credit, the products of science — all farm produce and goods issued from forests and industry, which respond to the needs of consumers — would go to the consumers, even if the wages and salaries are taken away by machines.

The Social Crediters are of the opinion, advisedly, that it is worthwhile to exert oneself to bring a little more joy on earth, even in peacetime, even when one stops mobilizing men and machines to dig graves.

But what novel thing is Social Credit bringing again, for science to be serving instead of punishing? Social Credit does one very simple thing; it recognizes that science is a common good, and that the more science enters into production, the more claims on this production that must go to each and every member of society.

Example: the electric current

To understand this better, let us spend five minutes in front of an electric lamp. Everybody knows what an electric lamp is, even those who have no electricity yet in their homes.

I push a button: the lamp becomes luminous and lights up the whole room. Why? Because, upon pushing the button, I made two wires join, and an electric current immediately runs into the filaments of the bulb, and makes these filaments incandescent.

But where does this electric current come from? Where does this so convenient current come from, ready to light up, heat up, turn motors, at the simple pushing of buttons? This current which travels into wires at the speed of light, where does it come from? What is it made of?

This current comes from a waterfall. Somewhere, in a forest, on a slope, or at the bottom of a mountain, a river takes a fall in its run towards the sea; a body of water falls twenty, forty, sixty feet.

Our ancestors saw these waterfalls: they were beautiful in the eyes of the poets, but very inconvenient for the rowers who had to do portage. Our ancestors did not take advantage of these waterfalls, except sometimes to turn the vanes of a mill. They did not use water power to get light, heat, or an energy transportable over great distances. Why? They lacked science, which, accumulated and transmitted from generation to generation, sometimes slowly, more quickly at other times, brought forward Ampere's and Faraday's beautiful discoveries. And today, a waterfall is a treasure.

Dams are built, turbines installed, then pylons, wires, and the waterfall supplies current, without growing tired, without wearing out, without requesting a holiday, over distances of tens, hundreds of miles.

This is where the current comes from which makes my electric bulb incandescent and luminous.

A waterfall — science — material — work — and there you have the electric current.

The owners

To whom does the waterfall belong? Who pumps the water from the sea to carry it in the form of rain over the summits and slopes of mountains? Is it not the work of the sun, without one ounce of human labour? Who moulded the mountains, the slopes, the land declivities which make the water precipitate into waterfalls? Who, if not the forces of nature —upthrusts, subsidence, volcanoes, erosion?

Therefore, who can name himself the absolute owner of this waterfall? This waterfall is a common good. In the Province of Quebec, it belongs to the province, therefore to all the province's inhabitants, not to one more than to another, but to all to the same degree.

Then, what about science? The accumulation of inventions which allowed the production of the electric current —to whom does it belong? To whom, if not to all of humanity, to all men without exception? To the newborn baby, to the elderly who can no longer work, to the sick as well as to the healthy, to each and everyone without exception and to the same degree.

As for the material for the dam — it was bought and paid for. The work for the dam was paid for in wages and salaries.

What is private property is recognized and paid for. But has what constitutes common property in this given an income to each and everyone, since each and everyone is a co-owner of it?

Ask the settler, the farmer, who is not able to electrify his farm, the poor worker who uses a paraffin lamp as light or does not have any light at all — ask them what share of current production, or what equivalent share of other products, they have received in return for their claims as co-owners.

We could go further. There is not only the waterfall which is common property. There is not only science which is common property. There is the social organization, without which none of these things would be possible. The social organization, which multiplies the possibilities of production, is a common good too.

Birthrights

All this means that each and every one — from the sole fact of his entrance into an organized society, from the sole fact of his birth into a country with natural resources and into a world of applied science — is entitled to at least something, as a co-owner of a great many common goods. Not only is this so in the field of electricity, but also in all fields of modern production, which more and more often borrow the fruits of applied science, and less and less those of human labour.

Let us now leave the electric lamp, and come close to a newborn child's cradle, close to a sick person's bed, close to the woman who does her housework, close to the pioneer who cuts down trees and pulls up stumps to build, with much difficulty and misery, a small property in a new land, and let us ask them if an annual or monthly income on their share of the common capital would not be good for them, if they would not use it profitably.

Well, this is the common capital that the Social Crediters recognize. They believe in private property, and respect it. They believe in the reward for work, and support it. But they also believe in a common property, and they say that it is precisely because each person is denied his share of the income from this common property, that goods are wasted, are destroyed, under the very eyes of a multitude who are in need of them.

The national dividend

A capitalist draws dividends when his capital produces, even if it is not he who does the work.

Likewise, each citizen, from the cradle to the grave, being a capitalist, a co-owner of a common capital, must draw a dividend on this common capital when this common capital produces. He must receive his dividend in his role of capitalist, not of worker. When he works, he receives a wage or salary; but — on top of his wage or salary if he works, and without a wage or salary if he does not work — he should draw his dividend on a capital which belongs to him. This capital belongs to him in common with all of his fellow citizens; and this is why each and every one is entitled to the same dividend as regards this common capital that became productive.

Do you understand now why the Social Crediters call for a national dividend?

And the facts prove them right, so right that, to maintain modern production, one must absolutely put much of it somewhere. One fires it into the enemies' heads in wartime, in the form of bombs and shells. One throws it into rivers, the fire, the sea, the sewers, in the form of destroyed products or despicable unemployment. In the first case, one kills human brothers of another nation. In the second case, one weakens and kills brothers at home.

Science without Social Credit is suicide for humanity. With Social Credit, it would put plenty, joy, and peace into homes and nations.


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