Document source : faith-at-work.net
The question that I will ask you to consider today is this: When the war is over, are we
likely, and do we want, to keep this attitude to work and the results of work? Or are we
preparing, and do we want, to go back to our old habits of thought? Because I believe
that on our answer to this question the whole economic future of society will depend.
Sooner or later the moment will come when we have to make a decision about this. At
the moment, we are not making it don't let us flatter ourselves that we are. It is being
made for us. And don't let us imagine that a wartime economy has stopped waste. It has
not. It has only transferred it elsewhere. The glut and waste that used to clutter our own
dustbins have been removed to the field of battle. That is where all the surplus
consumption is going. The factories are roaring more loudly than ever, turning out night
and day goods that are of no conceivable value for the maintenance of life; on the
contrary, their sole object is to destroy life, and instead of being thrown away they are
being blown away in Russia, in North Africa, over Occupied France, in Burma, China,
and the Spice Islands, and on the Seven Seas.
What is going to happen when the factories stop turning out armaments? No nation has
yet found a way to keep the machines running and whole nations employed under modern
industrial conditions without wasteful consumption. For a time, a few nations could
contrive to keep going by securing a monopoly of production and forcing their waste
products on to new and untapped markets. When there are no new markets and all
nations are industrial producers, the only choice we have been able to envisage so far has
been that between armaments and unemployment. This is the problem that some time or
other will stare us in the face again, and this time we must have our minds ready to tackle
it. It may not come at once for it is quite likely that after the war we shall have to go
through a further period of managed consumption while the shortages caused by the war
are being made good. But sooner or later we shall have to grapple with this difficulty,
and everything will depend on our attitude of mind about it.
Shall we be prepared to take the same attitude to the arts of peace as to the arts of war? I
see no reason why we should not sacrifice our convenience and our individual standard of
living just as readily for the building of great public works as for the building of ships
and tanks but when the stimulus of fear and anger is removed, shall we be prepared to
do any such thing? Or shall we want to go back to that civilization of greed and waste
which we dignify by the name of a "high standard of living"? I am getting very much
afraid of that phrase about the standard of living. And I am also frightened by the phrase
"after the war" it is so often pronounced in a tone that suggests: "after the war, we want
to relax, and go back, and live as we did before." And that means going back to the time
when labor was valued in terms of its cash returns, and not in terms of the work.
Now the answer to this question, if we are resolute to know what we are about, will not
be left to rich men to manufacturers and financiers. If these people have governed the
The question that I will ask you to consider today is this: When the war is over, are we likely, and do we want, to keep this attitude to work and the results of work? It may not come at once for it is quite likely that after the war we shall have to go through a further period of managed consumption while the shortages caused by the war are being made good. And I am also frightened by the phrase "after the war" it is so often pronounced in a tone that suggests: "after the war, we want to relax, and go back, and live as we did before."