Hence the way to restore prosperity is not to multiply government departments and government expenditures, nor to appoint commissions and to pile up debts, but to start going again the machinery of bold productive effort. Take off all the excess profits taxes and the super-taxes on income and as much of the income tax itself as can be done by a wholesale dismissal of government employees and then give industry a mark to shoot at. What is needed now is not the multiplication of government reports, but corporate industry, the formation of land companies, development companies, irrigation companies, any kind of corporation that will call out private capital from its hiding places, offer employment to millions and start the wheels moving again. If the promoters of such corporations presently earn huge fortunes for themselves society is none the worse: and in any case, humanity being what it is, they will hand back a vast part of what they have acquired in return for LL.D. degrees, or bits of blue ribbon, or companionships of the Bath, or whatever kind of glass bead fits the fancy of the retired millionaire.
The next thing to be done, then, is to "fire" the government officials and to bring back the profiteer. As to which officials are to be fired first it doesn't matter much. In England people have been greatly perturbed as to the use to be made of such instruments as the "Geddes Axe": the edge of the axe of dismissal seems so terribly sharp. But there is no need to worry. If the edge of the axe is too sharp, hit with the back of it.
As to the profiteer, bring him back. He is really just the same person who a few years ago was called a Captain of Industry and an Empire Builder and a Nation Maker. It is the times that have changed, not the man. He is there still, just as greedy and rapacious as ever, but no greedier: and we have just the same social need of his greed as a motive power in industry as we ever had, and indeed a worse need than before.
We need him not only in business but in the whole setting of life, or if not him personally, we need the eager, selfish, but reliant spirit of the man who looks after himself and doesn't want to have a spoon-fed education and a government job alternating with a government dole, and a set of morals framed for him by a Board of Censors. Bring back the profiteer: fetch him from the Riviera, from his country-place on the Hudson, or from whatever spot to which he has withdrawn with his tin box full of victory bonds. If need be, go and pick him out of the penitentiary, take the stripes off him and tell him to get busy again. Show him the map of the world and ask him to pick out a few likely spots. The trained greed of the rascal will find them in a moment. Then write him out a concession for coal in Asia Minor or oil in the Mackenzie Basin or for irrigation in Mesopotamia. The ink will hardly be dry on it before the capital will begin to flow in: it will come from all kinds of places whence the government could never coax it and where the tax-gatherer could never find it. Only promise that it is not going to be taxed out of existence and the stream of capital which is being dried up in the sands of government mismanagement will flow into the hands of private industry like a river of gold.
And incidentally, when the profiteer has finished his work, we can always put him back into the penitentiary if we like. But we need him just now.
VIII.--Is Prohibition Coming to England?
IN the United States and Canada the principal topic of polite conversation is now prohibition. At every dinner party the serving of the cocktails immediately introduces the subject: the rest of the dinner is enlivened throughout with the discussion of rum-runners, bootleggers, storage of liquor and the State constitution of New Jersey. Under this influence all social and conversational values are shifted and rearranged. A "scholarly" man no longer means a man who can talk well on literary subjects but a man who understands the eighteenth amendment and can explain the legal difference between implementing statutes such as the Volstead Act and the underlying state legislation. A "scientist" (invaluable in these conversations) is a man who can make clear the distinction between alcoholic percentages by bulk and by weight. And a "brilliant engineer" means a man who explains how to make homebrewed beer with a kick in it. Similarly, a "raconteur" means a man who has a fund of amusing stories about "bootleggers" and an "interesting traveller" means a man who has been to Havana and can explain how wet it is. Indeed, the whole conception of travel and of interest in foreign countries is now altered: as soon as any one mentions that he has been in a foreign country, all the company ask in one breath, "Is it dry?" The question "How is Samoa?" or "How is Turkey?" or "How is British Columbia?" no Ionger refers to the climate or natural resources: it means "Is the place dry?" When such a question is asked and the answer is "It's wet," there is a deep groan all around the table.
I understand that when the recent disarmament conference met at Washington just as the members were going to sit down at the table Monsieur Briand said to President Harding, "How dry is the United States, anyway?" And the whole assembly talked about it for half an hour. That was why the first newspaper bulletins merely said, "Conference exchanges credentials."