The Needs of Peace

» The author of the famous Report finds here, as in England, the conditions which he believes will ensure security.

by SIR WILLIAM BEVERIDGE

1

LAST spring I enjoyed a two months’ visit with my wife to the United States and Canada. We went from end to end of that great continent and addressed meetings of every kind, from the 80,000 workmen in a group of Oregon shipyards to a Baptist Bible class in Tennessee, from a vast dinner of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association in Toronto to an equally vast concourse in the Sylvan Theatre at Washington. On one memorable occasion in May, having been appointed a Deputy Sergeant at Arms of Congress, I sat on the floor of the House Chamber and heard the British Prime Minister, and saw for myself the hold which he has on the hearts and imaginations of our American allies. I ended the visit with a meeting of representatives of practically all America, North and South, convened by the International Labour Office at Montreal to discuss the drafting of a Social Security Charter.

I found in America an intensity of interest in home-front problems of the war, and of anxiety about them, corresponding closely to our own experience. I found in the United States just what we had had at the same stage of war mobilization in Britain: discontent by those outside the administration with the lack of speed or decision or unity with which the administration was proceeding to organize the nation for war. I found heated discussions flaring up about finance and food and manpower and many other issues, just as they have arisen at times with us. Through all this discussion and political conflict there went on unhampered a terrifying output of munitions, of tanks, of planes and ships; there proceeded the irresistible mobilization of a gigantic nation for war.

Of course, discussion of home-front problems of the war had some effect in delaying practical consideration by Congress, at least, of post-war problems. During my visit a bill was introduced in Congress by Senator Wagner for extension and coordination of social insurance, on a scale not materially less than the proposals of my Report on Social Insurance for Britain, though with important differences of procedure. It does not seem likely that this bill will receive practical consideration in the immediate future — just because all political parties will be occupied with other matters for some months to come. But I found no real hostility to developments of social security in the United States, as I am sure there is none in Britain.

Each nation has its own way of doing things in war and in peace. But the strongest, of all my impressions is that the people of the United States of America and we of the British Commonwealth are pursuing the same end: we are making war with all our might, not for the sake of war, but for the sake of a better world after the war.

There are, of course, differences. We in Great Britain are less frightened of government, or less suspicious of it, than the people in the United States. Some Americans believe (I think wrongly) that we are a class society. The United States has a much larger proportion than we of persons working on their own account — as farmers or in small businesses; it is less a nation of industrial employees than we are. It is less homogeneous than we in race and standards of living. These differences and others affect the position of organized labor in the two countries and make the practical problems of social security different. But these differences are minor, while our identity of aim is fundamental.

And in each country the interest in my Report, which I found as widespread and impressive in the States as in my own country, is less for the sake of the Report itself than because the Report is taken as a symbol, as one contribution only to a much wider program of progress, to a better and juster world after this war than we had before it. One of the things I want to do here is to put the proposals of that Report into proportion as one part only — an essential part, but a relatively easy part —of all that is required to win security for individuals after the war.

2

THERE are three main conditions of security in the world after the war and after victory for the United Nations. The first is that justice should be established in place of force as the arbiter between nations. The second is that there must be a reasonable opportunity of productive work for every individual. The third is that there must be assurance of an income sufficient to keep a person above want when for any reason he cannot work. Each of these three conditions is essential. How can they be secured ?

The first of the three conditions, the establishment of justice in place of force as arbiter between nations, cannot be secured by any one nation for itself. Force between nations means war. No nation can be free, not merely from war but from fear of war, — which in some ways is just as destructive of security, — by its own arms. No nation is strong enough by itself to act as policeman for the world, or would be accepted by other nations in that capacity. Lasting peace, the first condition of security, can be achieved only through the positive, permanent cooperation of a group of strong nations that are prepared, on the one hand, to submit to justice themselves in place of using their strength to establish their claims, and on the other hand, to provide the force without which justice between nations cannot be established. As Mr. Churchill once said: “The scales of justice are vain without her sword.”

The second condition of security is that the industry of each country should be so organized as to provide a reasonable opportunity of productive work for all its citizens while they can work. The main question here is how far this responsibility for using resources in peace as fully as they are used in war can be undertaken by private enterprise, and what part the state may have to play. Different nations, no doubt, will answer this question in different ways and will adopt different methods for organizing their industry. Some, like Russia, may rely wholly or mainly on state enterprise or, at least, on complete state planning. Some, like the United States, may rely wholly or mainly on private enterprise. Some may rely on a combination of methods: Mr. Churchill has spoken of harnessing state enterprise and private enterprise in Britain to the common task of maintaining productive employment and raising standards of living.

There are many varieties of possible action in this field, and there is no need for all nations to act the same way. But even in countries which leave the main business of organizing employment to private enterprise, as t he United States certainly will, there are some things for which government action will be needed: to stabilize employment by preventing or counteracting cyclical fluctuation with its alternations of boom and depression; to stabilize agricultural prices and production; to stabilize commercial policy, so as to make possible a steady flow of international trade.

For all these purposes, moreover, the governments of different nations will need to act, not separately, but in collaboration. In so far as the maintenance and improvement of standards of living involves trade between nations, the industrial system of every nation, whether collectivist or individualist, communist, socialist, or capitalist, or a blend of any of these, must work within a framework of international trade, must make possible an orderly development of trade. There need not be any indissoluble arrangements between nations on this matter. Each nation may retain administration of its own economic affairs, but it will be necessary to build up gradually a code of good-neighbor behavior in regard to international trade, and a common policy as to how it shall be conducted and shared among nations. One of t he most urgent needs of today is that the nations should get together now to frame a policy and a system for the conduct of world trade after the war. If they do not do so, they may lapse into that self-destructive economic nationalism which caused almost as much ruin after the First World War as the war itself had done.

The third condition of security is that the individual should be sure of an income when for any reason he cannot work, whether that reason is sickness, accident, old age, or unemployment. That for Britain is the subject of my Report. The main method I propose for Britain is social insurance combined with children’s allowances, guaranteeing to every citizen at all times, on condition of readiness to serve while he can serve and on condition of contribution while he is earning, an income sufficient for his subsistence and the subsistence of his dependents, whether he is earning or not earning. This subsistence income will be given as of right, whenever the risk insured against — unemployment, accident, sickness, old age, or premature death — arises, without inquiry as to what other means the insured person possesses; he is thus left with full incentive to make whatever additional provision above the compulsory subsistence he may desire and be able to make by voluntary saving or insurance.1

The subsistence income will be given not as charity, but as an insurance on condition of contributions. It will be given under controls preventing malingering and idleness. With the guarantee of a minimum income goes provision, also on an insurance basis, of medical treatment of all kinds for all citizens, at home and in hospital, to keep them always as well as science can make them.

Experience has shown that for the abolition of want we cannot trust simply to increasing our wealth, to raising production and raising wages, since this gives no assurance of income when wages are interrupted. That is true not only of Britain but of all other countries. Whether or not the particular methods proposed in my Report for Britain are suitable for other countries — and to what extent — depends on the circumstances and the political views of the citizens of those countries. But all countries have the same risks of sickness, accident, old age, change of employment ; and all countries should make organized adequate provision against them.

These, then, are the three conditions of security for all men in all lands — peace, a job when one can work, and income when one cannot, work. the question may be asked: Which of the three conditions is most important, or comes first in time? That is an idle question. All three conditions are indispensable. If we fail in any of them we do not achieve security.

After the First World War, for the first time in history the nations attempted to build together a sea wall against further wars. They called it the League of Nations. That wall was not built strongly enough and was not watched carefully enough. Today all the United Nations are engaged, to the utmost of their joint total strength, in dealing with the raging torrent that has poured through the breaches of the broken wall. That experience is no reason for thinking that sea walls are impossible to build; neither nations nor individuals usually succeed in any great task when they try it for the first time. Still less is that experience a reason for thinking that no wall is needed. Rather, it is a reason for studying carefully why disaster overtook the first wall, and for making certain at all costs — save the surrender of essential human and spiritual liberties — that the new wall is strong enough to last forever.

If we accept this statement of the conditions of security, what can any or each of us do to help towards their realization? That question has to be answered separately for each condition.

3

LET me take them in reverse order, beginning with the third — provision of an income when one cannot work, the main subject of my Report. That is as essential a condition as the two others, but it. is in some ways the easiest of all to accomplish, because it is a matter on which each nation can take its own line. Whatever each nation does in this field should be of interest to other nations as an example, but it does not affect them directly. This condition of security is relatively easy also because it does not raise, in Britain at least, any large political issues. All parties accept the principle of social insurance; they differ only as to practical details and t he feasibility of meeting at once the financial costs.

Having said so much about this third condition in my Report, I need say little now. To my mind, there is no doubt that we can afford to abolish want due to interruption of earnings in Britain, and to abolish at the same time avoidable disease. There is no valid reason for delay in deciding to do what is so universally desired by the people, what by comparison with other tasks of the war and its aftermath is so easy and free of contention. There is every reason for getting ahead with this easy task, so as to clear the ground for performance of the harder tasks. The words social security in the Atlantic Charter are now nearly three years old. Let us miss no early chance of beginning to turn those words into deeds.

The second condition of security — maintenance of employment so as to give each citizen an opportunity while he can work — is a subject for a book in itself. A number of books, pamphlets, and reports are being written about it by people on both sides of the Atlantic. I am one of those people myself. Having described maintenance of employment and avoidance of mass unemployment as Assumption C of my Report, I am engaged in an inquiry as to the most practical way of realizing that assumption. As that inquiry is not yet complete, I naturally cannot give its results. The second condition of security — maintenance of employment — presents a much harder problem than the third condition — maintenance of income when employment is interrupted. It is a problem bristling with difficulties, technical, political, and international.

But to recognize these difficulties is not to admit that they are too great to be overcome; the world cannot afford a repetition of the mass unemployment of the thirties. Mass unemployment, any unemployment to speak of, has been abolished in practically all belligerent countries, in this war, as it was in the last war. It was abolished before this war — by Germany in preparing for war, by Soviet Russia in making her planned industrial revolution. The common element in all these experiences is recognition by the organized community of needs so urgent that they must be met, and the clothing of those needs with purchasing power, so as to make from them an effective demand for the whole of the labor and other productive resources of the community.

The needs of peace are not really less than those of war. To use our productive resources steadily in meeting those needs is a problem of organization which it would be absurd to dismiss as insoluble, as it would have been absurd forty years ago to say that men could never learn to fly. I don’t suggest — I don’t believe — that in order to abolish mass unemployment it will be necessary to organize our economic life in peace just as we do in war. But the common element which I have named in our experiences suggests the direction in which a solution of the problem can most hopefully be sought. The unsatisfied needs of humanity in peace — for sufficient food, housing, warmth, education, leisure — are not in fact less than the needs of war. We have to recognize the urgency and priority of those common needs. We have somehow to find a way more efficient than the present way of clothing those needs with purchasing power so as to turn them into effective demand.

4

THE winning of the first condition of security does not involve first solving all the economic problems of the world. Those who search laboriously in economic conditions for the causes of war and think that war can be prevented only by equalizing economic conditions for all nations are wrong. The task of securing peace is easier than that. Gangsters cannot shoot or rob if they have no arms and if the policeman has arms. The first condition of security involves no more than making a reality of the Kellogg Pact — making effective the renouncement of war as an instrument of national policy. This means that those strong nations which at the end of this war will be in charge of the world will make it clear once and for all that they are prepared to accept impartial justice in their own cause and to provide the strength that wall enforce international justice for others. Another way of putting this is that those nations which are in charge of the world when the war ends should make it clear that they propose for the future to make the world safe for small nations, as, in an ordered community, life is safe for the unarmed citizen.

If the world is safe for small nations, it will be safe for all nations. If the world is safe for small nations, it will be a world in which the human spirit can flourish in all its variety of national cultures in place of being beaten flat in one totalitarian mold. But the world can be made safe for small nations only by the great nations — by great nations which put the individual above the state.

I do not want at this stage to draw a blueprint of the future political and military organization of the world. To do so may lead to quarreling about details. The essential thing is that those free nations which are set on peace should realize that no one of them can obtain peace for itself by itself — should realize that peace can be obtained only by collaboration among the great democracies of the world based upon mutual trust. This collaboration does not involve the supersession of national governments by a single international government. It does not involve the making of a world state. But it does mean that those free nations which are set on peace for themselves and for the world as a whole should make it clear that they are in indissoluble union for that purpose.

Whatever their rulers may want, the common people of all lands want peace, not power. They want at the same time their own way of life, their own national culture. The time has come to realize that we can get our own way of life best through national governments, but that we cannot get peace that way. For peace and international justice we must find a new organ of government in the world; for all other purposes nations — great and small — can continue and should continue to trust to national governments. Peace they cannot get from any national government.

Nothing worth having can be had for nothing. In one sense, winning all three conditions of security is a form of insurance, of paying a little in advance in common with one’s fellows in order that all may be safe from much greater loss in future. All free nations value their own free ways of life and would like to govern themselves in complete independence of all others. Every time that they are driven to war they are forced to give up a great deal of this — much of their freedom, their independence of action, their way of life.

The only way of avoiding these heavy sacrifices in war is to avoid war itself, and the way to that is to make a small sacrifice in advance, to give up in advance in common with others a little of their isolationism and independence — to act together with other peace-loving nations for the common purpose of lasting peace, so as to be able to preserve always, uninterrupted by war, their essential liberties, their national ways of life. International collaboration in the political and military sphere is the insurance premium against war.

What is the chance of obtaining that collaborat ion among the great nations of the world? I cannot speak of all the great nations. China for seven years has borne up against the immense material superiority of her foe with a courage that has inspired the admiration of the world. Soviet Russia for nearly three years has taken the brunt of the German attack on land and has beaten the alleged unbeatable again and again. I cannot say — I do not know if anyone in Britain today can say — just how these two great nations look upon the future of the world. But I find it hard to believe that they will prove less steadfast for peace and prevention of aggression than they have for defeat of aggression.

5

AS TO the United States, my impressions are: first, that there is a very strong public opinion against taking any risk of a third world war; second, that there is growing readiness for continued international collaboration with other nations to prevent it.

Collaboration among the democracies must depend, not on understanding between governments, for in democracies governments reflect the views of minorities, but on mutual trust among the peoples — on each people’s believing that common interests transcend differences. I am sure that this community of interest exists among the peoples of the British Commonwealth and the people of the United States of America. It does so happen that our two nations, while they want security, want security with a further condition: individual freedom. That condition in some ways makes security harder to obtain, but for us it is the one thing which makes security worth while. We do not want the security of slave employment which Hitler gave to Germany before the war. We want security with freedom; security only for the sake of freedom; material security only to make possible in all lands the free flowering of the human spirit, the adventure of the mind.

We are two peoples differing in many ways in spite of our common language and our partly common origin. We are alike in our views of what is essential for human happiness, in our scale of values. Our collaboration should be easy — can be defeated only by wanton mischief or misunderstanding. Our collaboration implies no unfriendliness to others or lack of collaboration with others. I stress it only because it is both indispensable and relatively easy.

If I am asked how lasting I want this union for peace to be, my answer is the question: “How lasting do you want peace itself to be?” When I insure my life, I want to insure my life for the whole of my life — and not for five or ten or twenty years. Nothing worth having can be had without a price, and the price of lasting peace is lasting, guaranteed, international cooperation among the great, nations to make the world safe for all nat ions, great and small, to enforce justice for all nations accepting it for themselves.

Is that price too high? The answer is: “Do you prefer the price of war? Do you prefer the price of war, realizing that this price is paid overwhelmingly by the young in the loss of life and postponement and sacrifice of careers, public and private?” All the United Nations have one common objective of victory; all have another objective — that of using victory only as a means of making a new world, better than the old world. That is what we older people owe to the young who risk and sacrifice most in war.

We older people do not pay our debt to the young merely by doing all that people can do in war, by buying war bonds or continuing at such war work as we are able to do. That is only helping the young to save us as well as themselves. That is giving them nothing. What we owe to the young is to let none of our prejudices or interests stand in the way of making a different, better world for those who are young now, and for their successors, when they in turn shall be old. When the war is over and the young people will be busy making their careers, many of us older people will be in positions of command and responsibility. Our feeling of responsibility must be to the future, not to the past. If we cannot be young in body, we can and must seek to be young in mind — looking forward, not back.

  1. Avoidance of any test of means for receipt of the insurance income is a fundamental principle of the scheme, with a view to preserving the incentive to personal thrift, two subsidiary principles are: first, that the insurance income should not be more than enough for subsistence; second, that insurance should apply to everybody without income limit. The object of the first of these subsidiary principles is to retain the maximum of freedom consistent with security; every citizen is compelled to contribute enough when earning to be sure of subsistence when not earning, but he is not compelled to contribute or save more than that. The second principle is more open to argument but has great psychological advantage in emphasizing the unity of the nation. Rich and poor alike contribute to a common fund, and rich and poor can draw from it alike; the rich of course pay also as taxpayers, according to their means.