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?Unemployment — its causes and those responsible

Written by Louis Even on Monday, 01 February 1960. Posted in Social Credit

A source of hardship

The word, "unemployment", once meant rest. It was a relaxation from material, physical labour, a time to give oneself to occupations that were not servile but rather intellectual and spiritual. On Sundays, great religious feasts and public holidays, we are "unemployed".

Today the word, "unemployed", conjures up totally different ideas. It usually implies hardship, hardship consequent upon the loss of salary, which salary is the sole revenue of the worker. Unemployment today, instead of opening the way for the mind to cultural and spiritual development, makes it the prey of worry, anxiety and anguish.

This is due to the fact that today, we do not live off what we produce by the labour of our hands but rather from the goods and products which we buy on the public market by means of money. And this money we only get by being employed in the work of producing. Since the vast majority of workers have no other means of producing than their hands and whatever skills they may have acquired, they can find employment only in the service of others, especially in the service of industrial and commercial companies. If they have no employment they become unemployed and their salary or wage which permits them to live is suspended.

Even with unemployment insurance benefits the man who is unemployed is still caught in the jaws of the vice. At best such benefits constitute a radically decreased revenue. But the unemployed's needs have in no way decreased. Thus it is that anxiety and mental torture take their place in the home of the unemployed breadwinner. And when the unemployment allowances have run out it means catastrophe for such a family.

This is the most inhuman feature of the unemployment insurance system — such aid comes to a definite end just when the unemployed, having exhausted all his meagre resources, has the greatest need for such help. It is like imposing a rigid fast, not on a healthy, well-fed man, but upon a weakened man who has already undergone a prolonged period of malnutrition.

Misplaced blame

In a society where the financial takes precedence over the merely human, it is not surprising that we should cast about for someone or something to blame when unemployment rears its ugly head. But we are very likely to misplace the blame, putting it there where we should not and completely missing the real target.

For example, it is common practice to cast the responsibility for unemployment upon industry and private enterprise because these do not give employment to everyone. This is the favorite practice of those who are fostering and boosting the nationalization of production; that is, making the state the boss of all the means of production (state socialism).

To do this, of course, is to show a complete ignorance or disregard of the true end and purpose of industry.

Normally the establishment of a new industry in a locality is greeted with considerable joy. "This will give more employment to our people," you will hear. In fact, it is not so much the work which the people are looking forward to as the pay envelopes which such work will bring with it. There is no difficulty in finding work without pay; anyone with half a grain of intelligence can always find plenty to keep themselves occupied if money is no consideration.

But if we consider industry as nothing more than a supplier of work with the consequent pay envelopes we are mistaking a means for an end. The end of industry is not to afford employment but to produce goods. Furthermore, this is the proper end of the entire economic system; to produce and deliver the goods and services to meet human needs, and to do this with the maximum speed and efficiency with the minimum expenditure of energy.

The ideal and perfect economic system would be that which would supply all man's needs, furnish all material goods without requiring any labour on man's part. Men, then, would be in a position to give themselves over to other pursuits and activities than those which are purely economic and which most certainly do not constitute the full range of activity of the human being.

Now, apply this principle to industry. If industry employs human hands it is, or should be, only in that measure in which they are necessary in order for industry to turn out products. But industry becomes that much more perfect, becomes so much more the better servant of society in the degree in which it makes less and less demand upon the time and energy of men in supplying products and services. Any reasoning to the contrary, is simply illogical.

There is not a single man who works for himself, or a single women engaged in housekeeping who does not endeavour to accomplish his or her tasks in the best fashion possible with the least expenditure of time and energy. Why then should industry act otherwise?

If so much importance is placed on employment it is not for reasons of logic. It is because employment has become the one condition of being able to make a living. It is because the means of distribution of production have not been properly adjusted to the rythm of progress.

What would happen if automation were carried out to its ultimate, thus eliminating completely, or almost completely, the need for human "hands? Would we refuse to distribute, such products because they had been produced automatically? There is no question that we are ultimately going to have to find another means than that existing, of distributing the fruit of production to meet the needs of society.

But why wait until we have reached the ultimate in automation before inaugurating such a system. Why not start now, instituting the beginnings of our new system as complimentary to the existing, then bringing it in more and more as technical progress diminished the need for human labour? This new method — Crediters call it the dividend is a recompense for progress and not for work. It is a recompense which is the right of everyone since progress is a common good; something pertaining to everyone; it is a heritage that has been added to from generation to generation and passed on by each generation to the next as a legacy due to all. Under such a system unemployment would once more, take on its pristine signification of leisure time to be consecrated to those activities freely chosen by each one, activities more productive and of a nobler kind than obligatory servile labour. And such unemployment would no longer involve the loss of revenue and hence would not constitute the nightmare that it does under the prevailing system.

All of which goes to prove that it is absurd to blame private enterprise because it does not provide employment for all the world. Private enterprise can only be blamed when it fails to produce the goods and services which mankind needs.

Who is really to blame?

It is completely logical, then, and, in fact, a good thing that progress — always providing that we know how to adapt it to the requirements of distribution — should throw men out of work and should relieve them of the necessity of having to toil at production.

However, in a young country like our Canada, which is still in the full swing of development, unemployment is sheer nonsense when we consider the vast multitude of needs which remain to be filled, especially in the field of durable goods such as housing for families, municipal developments so needed in these days of expansion and growing population, hospitals, the building and improvement of roads and highways, the building of bridges, etc., etc..

On all sides of us there is a vast multitude of projects clamoring for attention, needed urgently by the people. And one need not be an economist to know that there are any number of willing hands and any number of suppliers of materials waiting and ready to supply whatever is needed to realize these projects. But everyone is also well aware of just what it is that prevents these projects from being set on foot and brought to completion. The contractor, for example, cannot wait until he has sold his house in order to pay his workers or pay for the materials he used. He cannot sell the house and pay for these necessities before the house has been built; and at the same time, he must pay for the building of the house as the building is actually going on. In other words, to build the house he must first have an advance of financial credit. When he gets such credit he can go ahead and build the house and a family will have somewhere to live. When he cannot get this credit, he can't build, his workers are thrown out of employment and families go without homes or are forced to live in slums.

It is precisely for this reason that we blame the restriction of credit for the halt in industrial and commercial activity and for the ensuing unemployment.

The financial system is doubly guilty: First, in refusing to finance the production of goods which are physically capable of realization and which are needed in order to fill very real and very urgent needs. It is guilty on a second count because it refuses to finance adequately the consumption of such goods in refusing to furnish to the buying public the money needed to meet the cost price of these goods.

The financial system is guilty. And any government which permits this financial dictatorship is equally guilty. Mayor Foucher of Shawinigan in Quebec, was quite right in saying that the government in Ottawa is responsible for unemployment inasmuch as it jealously retains this debt-spawning, unemployment-breeding monetary system as something which is peculiar to the jurisdiction of the federal government.

∗ ∗ ∗

If, as we of the Social Credit school demand, all new production (private, municipal, provincial and federal) were automatically financed by the issuance of new credits, if these credits were taken out of circulation as the products were consumed; in the place where the product was consumed; then we would have no reason to blame Ottawa. The authority in charge of this system of accounting (not in charge of making decisions as to what should be produced and what should not) could still be under the authority of Ottawa, But once finance were made subservient to physical realities, wheresoever these realities should appear, the control of such decisions would be taken out of the hands of centralized authority. It would be put into the hands of the producers and consumers. Credit would become the faithful servant of the producer, who in turn would be guided by the commands of the consumer, who after all is the one best suited to know exactly what he needs and what he doesn't.

This would be true economic democracy. There would be an end to financial dictatorship, an end to all the multitude of problems engendered by this false system, an end to the hardship which it has imposed so needlessly upon so many. There would be an end to all those conditions which are pushing so many to seek relief in vain in the chimera of Socialism.

The only solution worthy of those who have any pride in the individual liberty of men, is the solution presented by Social Credit.

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