Notes on the Way [IV]
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[ 175 Notes on the Way [IV]1 Time and Tide, 16 (26 Jan 1935) 118, 120-21 As this is the last of my ten-minute lunch hour sermons, I am tempted to try to deal, in a rambling way, with two or three subjects in the course of one Note. One is the curious subject of Work and Leisure: curious, because the majority of publicists seem to be convinced that work is a good thing, and that everybody ought to have plenty of it; and a minority are convinced that work is a bad thing, and that everybody should have as much leisure as possible. The latter allege, not without plausibility, that work formerly done by manual labour is increasingly performed by machines; and that if machines do the work, then they should support human beings in leisure, instead of merely throwing them “out of work.” Shall we make it our ideal that everybody should be working, or that everyone should be free from work? We are offered this interesting alternative. I have been reading, with considerable interest, The Method of Freedom, by Mr. Walter Lippmann.2 I have not read much that Mr. Lippmann has written; but so far I can judge from this book he is what one would call a Conservative. Not that there is not a great deal that is valuable in Conservatism: furthermore, Mr. Lippmann seems to be an able and intelligent writer. I am concerned with Mr. Lippmann because he states explicitly that we must recognize “the right to work as one of the rights of man” (107). This statement puzzles me not only because I am not sure what is meant by “work,” but because I am also in the dark as to what is meant by “right.” Mr. Lippmann says, in the next sentence but one, that “All rights are, no doubt, ultimately a creation of the state and exist only where they are organized by the government.” I hesitate to interpret Mr. Lippmann as meaning that the right to worship God, to say nothing of the right to marry and beget children, is ultimately a creation of the State; because, if Mr. Lippmann really means this, he is allowing far more power to the State than any Christian can possibly allow. But he adds that there are certain rights, which “except in nations that are sunk in absolutism” (so Mr. Lippmann is only a temperate absolutist after all) are “provided by the state.” I should have thought that rights “provided by the State” were hardly Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1935 176 ] rights, but merely handsome concessions; however that may be, one of these “rights” is “the right of access to remunerative work.” The addition of the adjective “remunerative” to the substantive “work” suggests that in Mr. Lippmann’s mind work and pay are closely associated. I think that several ideas are here expressed as one. There is the question (1) of the right to work, (2) of the right to have some reward for work (for “remunerative” does not necessarily imply money), and (3) of the right to be supported if there is no suitable remunerative work available. But Mr. Lippmann, identifying all these ideas, seems to be of the same mind as President Roosevelt: a programme of “useful public work on which any citizen may find employment when he needs it” [107].3 Mr. Lippmann has nothing to say about the important problem of how this useful public work is to be financed; and I do not mean to raise that question at the moment. All I wish to point out now is that there is a world of difference between seeing that certain public works ought to be carried out,andutilizingtheunemployedforthem,and,ontheotherhand,inventing public works for the unemployed to be busied with. The reclamation of the Italian marshes may belong to the class of public works that ought to be carried out, that ought, in fact, to have been done long ago; the building of motor roads to enable people prosperous enough to own motors to go anywhere may belong to the second.4 And when Mr. Lippmann says that “The essential principle is to have on hand at all times varied projects of useful public work on which any citizen may find employment when he needs it” [107], does he realize how very varied those projects would have to be? What sort of useful public work could the Government provide for me, or for...


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