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It should, however, be perfectly clear that it is no part of my present contention that German progress in general material prosperity has been the result of Protection : it will be quite sufficient for my present purpose if I can produce a realisation of the fact that Protection has not been inconsistent with-has, if you like, not prevented—a great advance. Nor do I maintain that the tariff measures of Germany are necessarily appropriate for Great Britain. Great Britain has other objects in view than Germany, and must use somewhat different means for their accomplishment. The question for Great Britain is primarily that of the consolidation of the empire. To that end, some restraint on imports from lands outside the empire will be necessary in order to facilitate freedom of trade within. And, in the transitional period, before English trade acquires its firmer imperial basis, it may be necessary to have recourse also to measures for temporary defence. My object will be reached if some of my readers find it easier, after reading this little book, to face these necessities with a certain equanimity and sense of proportion.
Much of the improvement in the condition of the masses in Germany has been the outcome of the active work of Social Reform-reform by means of legislation as well as by private endeavour in many directions. The example of Germany--if one takes a large view of the trend of events over the period as a whole-proves that Social Reform is not, as a matter of fact, unattainable side by side with a Positive Policy in the matter of tariffs. This is a great comfort to those of us who are Social Reformers first and Imperialists afterwards; those of us who, in the present crisis of our national fortunes, are such ardent Imperialists that we are ready to risk even the real dangers of tariffs, and to do this just because we are Social Reformers. And the experience of Germany suggests a further thought ; and that is, that the next large onward movement of social legislation in this country is probably not to be effected by a vague humanitarianism ; that it will be possible only with the acquiescence and co-operation of the employers; and that this can only be obtained when British employers feel that they can carry on their operations with a reasonable degree of commercial security.
I trust my German friends will not think I have painted German conditions in too bright a hue. We must all recognise that Germany entered upon its career as a World-Power under many disadvantages : we must all realise, also, that during the last quarter of a century a vast internal economic transformation has been taking place which was bound to occasion grave evils in Germany, as in every other country. Germany has become a great industrial state; the new methods of modern machinery and large capital have created forms of employment unknown before; huge urban agglomerations have been called into existence; the“ domestic”industries are being destroyed or are in danger of becoming mere parasites in the social body; and meantime the national agriculture has been subjected to the strain to which all the old nations of Europe have been exposed by the competition of the virgin soils of new lands. That Germany should have passed through the trial with no more wreckage and wastage than she has indeed suffered ; that her legislators should have made an effort, unprecedented in its magnitude, to insure her people against the more demoralising causes of distress; that agriculture has been saved and retained as a large element in the wholesome life of the nation,--all this is just ground for congratulation on the part of every German citizen. But that there should remain very much that is saddening and alarming in the outlook there, as in Great Britain—who can expect otherwise ? There, as here
This fine old world of ours is but a child
Yet in the go-cart. It would be too disheartening did we not recognise the progress so far achieved ; and when it is the case of another nation we are considering, wilful ignorance on our part tends only to national Pharisaism.
The wise attitude to take up is that of a man like Von Berlepsch, in a speech which has reached me since this book was written. Von Berlepsch presided, as Prussian Minister of Commerce, over that Conference on Industrial Legislation at Berlin in 1890 which marks the beginning of international cooperation for the protection of labour. As a landed proprietor, and as intimately associated with large industrial undertakings, he knows the employer's side of the matter; as a man of science he has an exact knowledge of existing evils; and he has shown his courage in the promotion of social reform by the measures which led to his leaving office, and by his subsequent public action. As leader of the Moderate party of Social Reform he has lately been insisting on the urgency of the tasks still to be undertaken. But he feels bound to begin by the following unmistakable declaration, on which the last three chapters of this book might be regarded as a commentary : “First, let me say that I am very well aware that the condition of industrial wage-earners has, on the whole, become better in the course of recent decades, and that with some industries and classes of workmen the improvement has been quite considerable-altogether apart from the blessings which can hardly be overestimated of the insurance against sickness, accident, old age and infirmity. Absolute, permanent poverty ( Elend ) has considerably diminished; indeed, it has practically retreated to certain branches of 'home' work. . . . The fact needs no long argument; even the leaders of Social Democracy now recognise that the theory of the progressive impoverishment of the masses can no longer be maintained. Slowly and by little steps rises the well-being of the general body of the people; and no small number of those classes of the population which thirty years ago obtained a bare subsistence, have now made their way into a middle class and enjoy a fairly adequate income.”