Bertrand Russell on the “ills” of the current economic system – archives, 1916 | Philosophy


Mr Bertrand Russell gave the second in his series of lectures on ‘The World As It Can Be Made’ last night at Onward Hall, Manchester. Mr. GG Armstrong presided, and the hall was again full.

Taking as his subject “Capitalism and the Wage System”, Mr. Russell first spoke about the ills of the current economic system, then made suggestions for ensuring a better system. The economic system he ultimately desired was one in which the state would be the sole recipient of economic rent. That is, the state would effectively own all natural resources, and those using them would have to pay rent to the state for their use, but private capitalist enterprises would have to be replaced to the extent possible – and that would be over a much larger area of ​​the industry – by self-contained combinations of those who actually did the work.

It should be optional for a man to work a full day’s work for a full day’s pay or a half day’s work for half a day’s pay, unless it would cause practical inconvenience. A man’s salary must not cease by the fact that his work is no longer necessary. Reluctance to work should be treated medically or educationally when it cannot be overcome by a change to a more pleasurable occupation. The workers of a given industry should all be united in a single autonomous unit, and their work would not be subject to any external control.

The state, Mr. Russell continued, should set the price for what people produced. In every organization there should be autonomy for domestic policy, but not for foreign policy. In the coal trade, for example, all work in the mines, questions of hours, rates of wages and conditions of production must be regulated by men elected by those working in the mines, but the price at which the cost must be paid must be fixed by the State because otherwise there would be strikes, blackmail, etc.

The State should endeavor as much as possible to enable everyone in the industry to benefit from any improvements which he might introduce into his own processes, but should strive to prevent undeserved losses or gains by outside influences. .

Revolutionary thought
While an immediate program was needed, truly vital and radical reform required a vision beyond the immediate future, some awareness of what human beings could get out of life if they wanted. Revolutionary action might be necessary; but the revolutionary thought was indisputable and, as a result of the thought, a rational and constructive hope.

Mr. Russell then answered a number of questions.


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