Today, a single mechanical shovel can replace 350 workers.
You have watched, no doubt, machinery at work, whether at an excavation site or during the construction of a highway. You have witnessed the power and speed at which a mechanical shovel bites into the hardest of grounds and loads trucks one after another.
But did you realize that a mechanical shovel can do in one day what thirty-five men might do in ten days, working by hand? Did you know that by adding a foreman and two truck drivers to such a machine, they could do the work of 350 men? Did you ask yourself what becomes of these men when excavation jobs are no longer available?
If you visit a mine or a quarry, you will see pneumatic drills activated by compressed air. Each drill, in the hands of a single man, breaks up as much rock as twenty men working with pick and shovel. What becomes of these 19 men once their labor is no longer needed?
Visit the docks and see the loading and unloading activities that take place: cranes, bagging equipment, grain vacuums and other suitable machinery that does the work efficiently, which would otherwise require hundreds of workers. What happens to the men who are laid off because of this modern technology?
Some time ago, summer after summer, thousands of men from Quebec and Ontario would take the train to work at the harvest in Western Canada. They received wages that were well worth the time spent away from home. This no longer exists today. Now we see combine harvesters on large grain farms. Each one does the work of 160 manual harvesters. How will the latter replace the wages they no longer receive?
We could go on. The world of production has changed a lot over the last fifty years: Motor force has grown twenty times over. In Quebec, harnessed waterfalls provide some eight million horsepower, the equivalent manpower of 70 million men. If this force was equally divided among the inhabitants of the province, each person – man, woman and child – would have the power equivalent of 15 men at their service, willing and ready to serve them, 24 hours a day. (1965 figures)
The means of production have improved greatly. And more progress has yet to come.
But the question remains: If machinery displaces men, what will the men displaced by machinery live on, since they will no longer receive a salary?
One might ask: What did they live on during the last few decades? With what? At first, periodic crises forced them to spend their savings, and then to go into debt. Whether dealing with private debts or public debts, getting into debt means using other people's income. Those who are deprived of income by progress, have no other choice than to live off of other people's income, or they must stop living altogether. We live off other people's income, not only when we panhandle, but when we do unnecessary things, when we hold a parasitical job in a superfluous business, or in a bureaucracy that a country could do without.
What did the people live on?
What did they live on? We have had two wars in less than thirty years and war is exactly the means used to occupy the arms that are not needed because of progress, since they are being used to destroy production. Once war is over, employment can again be found at rebuilding the ruins. But as the means of production rise from the ashes, crises begin anew.
At the time of the Marshall Plan, the Secretary of State of the United States, Mr. Atcheson, put it bluntly: "If we did not have the Marshall Plan to help Europe, production would pile up in America and millions of Americans would be unemployed."
And President Truman told Mr. Gray, the ex-Secretary of the United States Army, to find the manner by which, after the expiration of the Marshall Plan, Europe might again obtain the means to buy American products. Otherwise, he added, Americans would suffer from the accumulation of products in their own country. Abundance, which we should have rejoiced in, had become a distressing problem. The same happened in Canada.
Progress, which puts motor power and machinery at the service of man, ought to give man a better standard of living while relieving him of his labor. Progress, an abundant production, made possible by the use of machinery and by improved processes, should free man from his fear of tomorrow: Since products are plentiful today and will be even more plentiful in the future, why should we worry about tomorrow?
In spite of today’s abundant production, no-one has ever been as worried about the future as we now are. Most people no longer own anything they can call their own. The family that owned a piece of land a hundred years ago could rely on the soil to feed itself. Where are these patches of land that used to belong to the three-quarters of the people who have been chased out of the countryside into industrial centers?
Ownership is the lot of a small minority. And how many, among this minority, only possess a mortgaged property, which taxes they have to pay on, but which title they no longer possess?
What about employment? Employment is the only source of income for the majority of today’s families; and it is more precarious now than ever before. Employment can be relied upon only during wartime, when destruction is carried out in a wide-scale and scientific fashion. As soon as production becomes wide-scale and scientific, employees feel insecure.
Wasn’t the Government forced into instituting unemployment insurance? Did one speak of unemployment insurance during the era of manual labor?
Unemployment insurance is far from providing security. It is far from distributing the abundance made by machinery. In fact, it begins by reducing the worker's paycheck, which is a strange way to let him know that progress is working for him. Unemployment insurance is a ridiculous cure for an illness that should not even exist. It is hard to believe that the advent of abundance throughout the world should create misery.
Is progress the enemy of mankind? Must we dispense with education, with discoveries; close the universities and laboratories?
Let us change policies
Progress must not be suppressed, but it must be made to liberate mankind. For this to happen, we must simply introduce policies of allocation and of distribution that are in harmony with progress. We have, at present, the same distribution policies that we had when work was done manually.
The distribution of products is carried out by consumers handing over money for the goods they need. Yet, we insist that only people who are employed should receive money. Progress has a tendency to reduce employment: If employment is made a requirement to a claim on products, this means therefore that progress increasingly removes the claims to products.
If wages alone distribute money to individuals and families, then the more machinery will replace men, the less money will reach individuals and families. Even if wages are increased, this will not give anything to those who do not have a job. Moreover, increased wages cause prices to rise, which makes the situation even worse for those who do not receive these increased wages.
It could be said that the men who lose their jobs to machinery in a workshop will find employment elsewhere because new needs call for new services. This is more or less true. Some are able indeed to find a satisfactory job but how many must settle for tasks for which they are not suited, and for conditions that are imposed upon them? Others find temporary jobs; and still others find none. All are subjected to worry, are subjected to lesser or greater losses; and no-one finds in the progress, which has put them out of work, the degree of security that modern abundance should have, logically, given them a right to.
In order for machinery, science and progress to become a blessing instead of a punishment, we must:
First, recognize that progress is a common inheritance, it results from our acquiring scientific and cultural knowledge, built upon and transmitted from one generation to the next. Therefore all must benefit from progress, whether they be employed or not.
Secondly, without eliminating wages, which are the reward for work, we need to introduce an additional source of income; another means of obtaining money, not tied to employment (such as salaries) but that is related to the total amount of products issuing forth from nature and industry. The more machinery takes over man's work, the more important this second source of money must be, since it is issued to buy the fruits of progress, and no longer as a reward for individual effort.
Social Crediters call this second source of income a “national dividend”. A dividend distributed to all in order to buy the production that is made by machinery. A dividend, to pay for the products that wages are less and less able to pay for, products that are made more and more by machinery, and less and less by workers.
Therefore, Social Credit is not a new political party trying to come to power. It is a new means by which the abundant goods of modern production can be distributed. This new way does not do away with the old way, but it adds to it. The old way, which has become less and less satisfactory, speaks of “wages paid for a job done”. To this “wages paid for a job done”, the new way adds: “A dividend to each and everyone”.
The salary must go to the worker: It remains, as before, the reward for individual effort. But the dividend would go to everyone since it would be the fruit of progress, which is a common good.
No matter what anyone might say against it, the dividend is the only formula capable of regulating the present economic situation, which is owed to progress. Besides, it is also the only way of preventing unemployment, which has no reason to be as long as there are needs that are not satisfied. In buying the products that are not selling in its absence, the dividend would speed up the production of replacement goods, which is at a standstill today because of the accumulation of products.
Dividends would increase the total purchasing power found within the country; and it would democratize this new purchasing power by spreading it everywhere, even among the individuals who are unemployed.
How many advantages would this result in? By guaranteeing that each and everyone receives a periodic income, the dividend would dispel the fear and uncertainty of tomorrow. In supplementing the family's income, the dividend would allow people to turn their backs on bureaucratic plans, such as state-run medical care, which puts the individuals in a yoke of networks, of inspections, of waiting lists and of political tinkering. He who has sufficient money in his pocket does not need all of these plans; he takes care of his own affairs.
In doing away with abject poverty, a social dividend to all would put an end, in the sphere of economics, to the initial argument used by socialists, in their propaganda.