Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and FreshFood
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
V. Shelter
VI. Water, Hot Water, and WasteWater
VII. Education--The Schoolof Living
VIII. Capital
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence

HOMESTEADING CATALOG
HOME PAGE





    

CHAPTER TEN
INDEPENDENCE VERSUS DEPENDENCE

    IT IS a simple dictate of the heartwhich says: If a man is hungry, feed him; if he is naked, clothe him; if he is homeless,shelter him.

    But it is a dictate neither of theheart nor of the head, which says, if a man is unemployed, support him.

    Yet in one way or another, most ofwhat is being done to relieve the distress and suffering of the millions who areunemployed as a result of the depression amounts to nothing more than that thosewho are employed shall support those who are not. Most relief, and most plans forrelief, are merely measures for supporting (or tiding over) the unemployed for thatindefinite period of time which they will have to spend looking for work or waitingfor work to turn up. That home relief, and food tickets, and bread lines, are measuresfor supporting the unemployed is obvious. It is not so obvious--but it is neverthelessthe same thing--to "make work" for them; that is, to invent such work ascleaning the parks of a city as a mere excuse for doling out cash to them. And itis still the same thing--supporting the unemployed--to make those who are employed"share" their work with them so that both shall be partly employed andpartly unemployed. And many of the remedies for unemployment, such as unemploymentinsurance, however ingeniously they may be dressed up, are still merely measuresfor supporting the unemployed. For unemployment insurance is merely a device by whichcontributions from those employed, from the employers, and from the government aredoled out to support those who are unemployed.

    My first point, therefore, is this:I am utterly opposed to all measures for relief which upon analysis show themselvesto be mere measures for supporting the unemployed. I am opposed to them on threegrounds.

    First, because they are evasions ofthe problem of the unemployed. They are not solutions of their problem. The publicgives for relief, and the public pays taxes for relief, and the public hopes, justlike Mr. Micawber, that "something will turn up" to end the depressionand that the problem will then vanish.

    Secondly, I am opposed to mere supportof the unemployed because of the financial drain which such support inflicts upontheir friends and relatives (to whom they first turn); to the financial drain whichit puts upon industry to whatever extent industry and commerce try to support them;and to the drain upon taxpayers to whatever extent municipal, and state, and nationalfunds are used to support them.

    Finally, I am opposed to them becausethey are demoralizing to the unemployed. They break down their self-respect. Theydestroy their sense of responsibility and self-reliance; in short, they pauperizethem.

    There is, however, in my oppositionto supporting the unemployed, and what I said in the beginning about the imperiousduty of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless, no contradiction.What we do for the temporary assistance of unfortunate fellow creatures, particularlywhen their misfortune is not of their own contriving, is true charity. I do not likethe word charity, though it is the only one that I can think of in this connection.For this sort of assistance is really a species of hospitality; when we give thissort of temporary assistance we are only doing, indirectly, what used to be the universalcustom for us to do for every stranger who knocked at the doors of the pioneer homesteadsof America's past.

    But if we are not to support the unemployed--beyondgiving them what I have spoken of as temporary assistance--what then are we to dofor them at this time?

    I have an answer for this question.And unlike most of the answers to it, it is so completely the obvious answer thatI dare not state it until some sort of background for it has been prepared. For myanswer cannot be fully appreciated, it cannot be fully understood, its complete practicalitycannot be realized, until we have first thought through completely what the problemof unemployment really is.

    We have in this country at presentabout fifteen million men and women, formerly employed, who are today unemployed.In the aggregate, this army of ex-factory-workers, ex-farm-laborers, ex-railroad-workers,ex-office and store workers, has created such a stupendous and complex problem thatit is easy for us to forget that in its fundamentals the problem of every one ofthese fifteen million human beings is exactly the same. If we consider it from thestandpoint of the individual unemployed workers, we shall avoid the danger of beingdeceived by the sheer size of the problem. Now if we consider it this way, here iswhat we find: John Doe, who was formerly employed--perhaps in an office, perhapsin a factory--is now no longer employed by that office or that factory. What is more,he cannot find employment in other offices or factories.

    What, now, is the difference in JohnDoe's situation before unemployment and after? Before unemployment and while he wasstill employed, he received every pay day a certain sum of money as wages or salaryfor the time he spent working for the firm which employed him. John Doe, if he wasthe breadwinner of a family, took this money and with it his family bought food andclothes and entertainment; they paid for housing in the form of rent (or if theyowned their own home, in the form of taxes or interest), and they paid the installmentson debts which they had contracted in buying their furniture, their automobile, theirhome, and if they were thrifty, they saved a part of the pay for a rainy day by depositingit in a savings-bank, paying for insurance, or in some cases actually investing itin stocks and bonds.

    After unemployment, John Doe no longerreceived any wages or salary. If the family had been fortunate and thrifty up tothat time and had accumulated something in the way of savings, these savings weredrawn upon to meet current expenses. When the savings were exhausted, they beganto sell their investments, their automobile, their home, their furniture, in orderto get the money with which to maintain the family. Then they began to borrow fromfriends and relatives in order to do so; they bought on credit from the merchantswhom they had formerly been able to pay regularly; finally, when all these meansof securing the things they needed to keep body and soul together were exhausted,they turned to the charitable and relief agencies. Then these agencies began to givethem the money directly with which to buy them or they gave them indirectly--by payingit to those stores upon whom John Doe and his family were given orders for food orby paying it to the landlords who furnished the shelter for the family.

    In the meantime, what had John Doebeen doing? He was doing what he was expected to do--spending his time looking foremployment; going from one factory to another, from one employment agency to thenext, answering one help-wanted advertisement after another, and trying to find oddjobs for which he could gee some money to help in the emergency.

    And when physically or spirituallytoo exhausted to spend his time looking for work, he spent it waiting for businessto pick up, so that he could get back to his old job, whatever it may have been.And in doing this, and spending his time in this way, he is encouraged by virtuallyall the relief agencies established to cope with the depression up to the presenttime.

    But not only the relief agencies. Heis encouraged in the course outlined by the whole commercial world. All our big industrialand financial leaders tell him that he has only to wait--that in time a readjustmentwill be effected and that then employment will again become normal. And they tellhim to remember that while he is unemployed their capital is unemployed. While hehas to worry about himself and his family, they have the burden not only of tryingto manage their plants and to employ as many people as possible, but also the worryof protecting the investors in their business. So he is assured that everybody isin the same boat; that it is only necessary to avoid rocking the boat and sooneror later the pilots will get it back safely into harbor.

    And of course the "pilots"or political leaders tell him substantially the same thing. Great economic forcesabout which they are often extremely vague have upset the markets of the world. Forthe moment, they are just as powerless in coping with these economic forces as theyused to be powerless in the face of natural forces such as famines and plagues. Whilethe government and Congress experiments with one expedient after another in its effortsto create a revival of trade, a feeling of confidence among business men, and a risein prices, there is nothing for John Doe and the millions like him to do but waituntil things pick up again.

    But what is even worse, our socialreformers in slightly different words tell him virtually the same thing. There isnothing particularly wrong, according to them, with the complex industrial systemwhich had formerly employed him. It is still a marvelous system, far superior toany which had ever previously been relied upon by mankind for supplying it with itsneeds and desires. What is wrong is the control or ownership of the system.It is the profit system, not the industrial system, which is responsible for hisplight. According to them, all that is necessary is to establish a plan board--toadopt a five-year plan of our own--or to have the state take over the ownership ofindustry altogether and run it for use and not for profit. In the meantime, whilewe are still struggling with the follies of capitalism and individualism, all thatcan be done as a sort of stop-gap for the emergency is to establish government employmentagencies, increase the numbers employed directly or indirectly by the government,and adopt a system of unemployment insurance.

    I disagree with all of them. The unemployed,if they can't be given work here and now by our industrial system, should not beasked to live half hungry, half naked, half cold, while waiting for business to pickup. Above all they should not be fed upon promises of blissful security in the distantfuture--after our reformers have finished tinkering with the industrial system andremolding all our institutions nearest to their heart's desire.

    When a family cannot support itself,and secure the food, clothing, and shelter it needs by getting employment in a factory,or an office, or a store, the only sensible thing for it to do is to support itselfby producing these things for itself on its own homestead. If the unemployed areto be made secure at least as to the needs of life, nothing short of this is adequate.They surely cannot be made secure by shifting their dependence for their livelihoodfrom the business cycle to the political cycle, neither of which is capable of copingwith the inherent insecurity of industrial production.

    Let us not fool ourselves about whatthe future holds in store for us. There are at present no grounds whatever for expectingany return to normal business very soon. No responsible student of business conditionsexpects any complete solution of the problem of unemployment during the coming year.Eventually another period of expansion may come, but as in the depression of 1873,it may take ten years to get back to full employment again.

    These facts are so generally recognizedthat everywhere plans are being made for the continuation of direct relief programs.In New York City, where the situation is in many ways typical of that in all ourindustrial cities, there are over 200,000 unemployed families. Without includingthe uncounted number of destitute single men and women, this means that over 1,000,000human beings are now dependent upon relief and charity for their food, clothing,and shelter. With no prospects of business improvement, plans are being made to supportthis number of families for the whole of 1933. It is true that from time to timesome of these families secure work and so become self-supporting, but others arelaid off to take their place. The same issue of the New York which carried a storyabout a slight improvement in business in the fall of 1932, carried another storyabout the laying off of 2,800 men by a single corporation in New York City.

    At the request of the Emergency HomeRelief Bureau, the New York City Welfare Agencies prepared a budget covering themerest necessities for these families. On the basis of that budget, the taxpayers,the contributors to relief funds, and the relatives of the unemployed, are facedwith the appalling problem of raising $161,370,000 for the support of these familiesfor the single year of 1933.

    Now what does this sort of relief meanto the individual family?

    While the breadwinners of the familyare supposed to be out looking for work, each family of five is to receive a baresubsistence ration of $6.8 5 in food each week; a minimum clothing budget of $2.45per week; a fuel and light budget of $2.95 per week; a minimum rent budget of $4.50per week. This is a total for each family, each week of $15.85, without provisionfor accident and illness, birth and death. In the course of one year, even on thisminimum basis, $824.20 will have to be expended on each unemployed family consistingof five persons.

    Eight hundred dollars, at the presentpurchasing power of the dollar, is a lot of money. Yet I know, upon the basis ofmy own experience, that it is more than is required as the initial capital with whichto establish a self-sufficient homestead.

    It is much more than the amount withwhich many of our pioneer forefathers established themselves in the country and supportedthemselves indefinitely.

    If even half that sum--not more thanfive hundred dollars--were to be intelligently laid out for land and lumber, forseeds, livestock, and implements, the average family could produce for itself thebare essentials of living, and have plenty of time left for part-time or seasonalemployment in industry. With proper instruction and leadership, not much more thanhalf the sum which is now being spent to support a family for a year would be sufficientto take one family permanently off the relief list. It would do more. It would notonly enable them to support themselves; it would ultimately make it possible forthem to repay the money and materials furnished them.

    The problem of unemployment would forthem have been solved. The drain upon the community for their support would havebeen ended, the self-respect of the unemployed restored.

    We have raised hundreds of millionsalready for unemployment relief. Since we have used it merely to support the unemployed,we now find ourselves face to face with the necessity of doing the same thing overand over again. Instead of spending more and more millions to support the unemployedwhile the depression is dragging its weary way over the years, why shouldn't we usethe public's "will-to-give" to enable the unemployed to support themselves?Why shouldn't we furnish them land, tools, lumber, seed, livestock, wool, leather,raw materials of all kinds to enable them to establish themselves once again in thehomesteads which they should never have abandoned as many of them did perhaps generationsback? Above all, while doing so, let us use our universities and our social agenciesfor the purpose of guiding and instructing those of them who may have forgotten,or never learned, how to wrest the necessities of life directly from their own landand their own efforts.

    We should not only relieve them temporarily.

    If we did it on a sufficiently largescale, we would end the problem of unemployment for the whole country, and end itpermanently.

    ----------------

    For a hundred years America has beendeveloping its factory system.

    Year after year we have been buildingup our cities; steadily we have been shifting our population from the country (wherethey used to at one time support themselves) into cities (where they became whollydependent upon industry for their livelihood). And while doing this, we have boastedabout the glorious conquests of the machine age. The machine age was shortening thehours of labor; it was annihilating space and enabling us to fly; it was furnishingeven the humblest of us magical amusements--"pictures" which moved andtalked, and "radios" which brought song and speech on the waves of theair.

    Yet today, millions of the beneficiariesof this machine age are no longer worrying about maintaining the high standard ofliving about which we have been boasting. They have lost their aspirations for two-cargarages, and new models each year. They are no longer trying to keep up with theJoneses.

    We have dotted the landscape with ourfactories. We have filled the cities with skyscrapers. We have covered the continentwith a network of rails and roadways, But in spite of all these things, we have beenunable to furnish the American people security even as to such bare essentials asfood and clothing and shelter.

    During the depression of 1837 theywere told that the Central Bank of the United States was responsible for the country'sdepression. So they abolished it.

    During the depression of 1854 theywere told that the state banks and their wild-cat currency were responsible for thecountry's depression. So they established national banks and a national currency.

    During the depression of 1907, theywere told that the lack of a central banking system was responsible for the country'sdepressions. So they established the Federal Reserve system.

    Today they are being told that thelack of balance between production and consumption is responsible for the country'sdepression, and that economic planning will end the country's depressions.

    During the last few years they haveread endlessly in books and magazines and newspapers about the wonders of the Russianfive-year plan. They have been told that planning was not only the way out of thedepression, but also the way to security and a better way of life.

    Once again they are pricking up theirhopes. Once again they are asking themselves whether at last the doctors haven'tfound the one thing which will tame the machine age and furnish the country the securityit has long been denied. But suppose they establish a plan board for industry. SupposeAmerica adopts a five-year plan of her own. Suppose it tries out economic planning.It has tried nearly everything else. I have no doubt that it will try planning, too.

    And then it shall be once again disappointed.

    After all, the planning board willhave to be composed of human beings, and human beings are all too human. They makemistakes. Even if the members of the Supreme Economic Council, or whatever the planningboard would be called, prove all to be chaste, incorruptible, and without ambition(which I refuse to believe a reasonable expectation), there is no guarantee thateven the most virtuous board will not make mistakes.

    The Russians, in spite of their revolutionaryzeal, have made them. Their five-year plan called for the socialization of agriculture.Farming was to be mechanized. Farming was to be collectivized. The little, inefficientfarms of the peasants were to be merged into giant, efficient farms run by machinery,and transformed into wheat factories.

    Within a year and a half from the timethey started to carry out their plan, the Russians socialized more of these farmsthan they expected to take over in five years. The plan was hailed as a tremendoussuccess, not only by the Russians, but by the advocates of planning everywhere inthe world. But, unfortunately, something went wrong. The planners miscalculated.With that sublime indifference to the human equation which they borrowed from engineering,the Gosplan overlooked how the peasants would react to this appropriation of whathad been their personal property. During the process of converting the little farmsinto giant farms, millions of horses and cows and pigs and chickens were slaughteredby the peasants who couldn't see eye to eye with the agents of the Soviet. Withina short time, not only was there a shortage of meat for the table, there were nohorses for plowing and cultivating and harvesting. The effect upon food productionwas cumulatively bad. Today, in spite of their five-year plan, in spite of theirpathetic faith in the efficacy of socialism, the whole of Russia is on a starvationdiet. True, some sections of the population--the proletariat--are specially favored.But then so are certain sections of the population with us, only we call them therich. And as for the unfortunate fact that with us some of the unemployed are subjectedto inhuman suffering--the Russians match that by subjecting the kulaks, the nobles,and the clergy to similar inhuman suffering.

    The truth about the matter is thatneither the things proposed in previous depressions nor the economic planning proposedin this one is capable of ending the insecurity from which we suffer.

    Insecurity and industrialism are Siamesetwins. You cannot have one without having to accept the other.

    Insecurity is the price we pay forour dependence upon industrialism for the essentials of life.

    A very old Biblical story makes itclear that when one man becomes dependent upon another for the opportunity to securethe food with which to keep himself alive, he may be forced to sacrifice his birthrightof freedom and happiness. Isaac, it will be remembered, was a wealthy man. He hadrich lands, large flocks, and many servants. Esau was his oldest son and favorite.Custom made him his father's exclusive heir. But he was a reckless hunter, whilehis more conservative brother Jacob, who coveted Esau's birthright, was a farmer.The story of what happened to Esau, as the Bible tells it, runs as follows:

    And Jacob had pottage.

    And Esau came from the hunt, and he was faint.

    And Esau said to Jacob: "Feed me, I pray thee, with that same pottage for I am faint."

    And Jacob said, "Sell me this day thy birthright."

    And Esau said, "Behold I am at the point to die, and what profit shall this birthright do me?"

    And Jacob said, "Swear me this day."

    And Esau swore to him and sold his birthright unto Jacob.

    Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he did eat and drink and rose up, and went his way.

    Thus Esau lost his birthright.


    Surely it is unnecessary to draw amoral. Surely it is plain that no man can afford to be dependent upon some otherman for the bare necessities of life without running the risk of losing all thatis most precious to him. Yet that is precisely and exactly what most of us are doingtoday. Everybody seems to be dependent upon some one else for the opportunity toacquire the essentials of life. The factory-worker is dependent upon the man whoemploys him; both of them are dependent upon the salesmen and the retailers who sellthe goods they make, and all of them are dependent upon the consuming public, whichmay not want, or may not be able, to buy what they may have made.

    What the depression has done has beenimmensely to increase the evil effects of this interdependence. What difference doesit make to the man who is unemployed why the demand for coal, or for automobiles,or for cotton goods has fallen off? All he knows is that for some reason beyond hiscontrol he has been laid off. If being laid off merely resulted in his having tocurtail his enjoyment of the luxuries of life, the situation would be bad enough,but at least it would not be tragic. But when being laid off means that he and hiswife and children may be deprived of food, when it means that they may find themselveswithout a roof over their heads, when it means that they may be ragged and cold andsick, except in so far as charity helps them--then you have stark, staring tragedy.

    Compare the position of the millionsof men who are today unemployed to the position of our pioneer forefathers of a hundredyears ago. At the beginning of the last century, Brillat-Savarin, the famous Frenchmanwho wrote The Physiology of Taste, made a long visit to the United States.In the fourth chapter of his book he tells the story of a visit of several weekswhich he made to a farm which is now within the densely populated region of Hartford,Connecticut. As he was leaving, his host took him aside and said:

    "You behold in me, my dear sir, a happy man, if there is one on earth; everything you see around you, and what you have seen at my house, is produced on my farm. These stockings have been knitted by my daughters, my shoes and clothes came from my herds; they, with my garden and my farmyard, supply me with plain and substantial food. The greatest praise of our government is that in Connecticut there are thousands of farmers quite as content as myself, and whose doors, like mine, are never locked."

    Today the farm on which that happy manonce lived is cut up into city streets and covered with city buildings. The men andwomen of Hartford no longer produce their own food, clothing, and shelter. They workfor them in stores and offices and factories. And in that same city, descendantsof that pioneer farmer are probably walking the streets, not knowing what to do inorder to be able to secure food, clothing and shelter.




Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and FreshFood
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
V. Shelter
VI. Water, Hot Water, and WasteWater
VII. Education--The Schoolof Living
VIII. Capital
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence

HOMESTEADING CATALOG
HOME PAGE