GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

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Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Sarvodaya and Mahatma Gandhi

 

People in the West generally hold that it is man’s duty topromote the happiness prosperity, that is of the greatest number. Happiness is taken to mean material happiness exclusively, that is,economic prosperity. If, in the pursuit of this happiness moral, laws are violated, it does not matter much. Again, as the object is the happiness of the greatest number, people in the West do not believe it to be wrong if it is secured at the cost of the minority. The consequences of this attitude are in evidence in all western countries. The exclusive quest for the physical and material happiness of the majority has no sanction in divine law. In fact, some thoughtful persons in the West have pointed out that it is contrary to divine law to pursue happiness in violation of moral principles. The late John Ruskin was foremost among these. He was an Englishman of greatlearning. He has written numerous books on art and crafts. He has also written a great deal on ethical questions. One of these books, asmall one, Ruskin himself believed to be his best. It is read widely wherever English is spoken. In the book, he has effectively countered these arguments and shown that the well-being of the people at large consists in conforming to the moral law. We in India are much given nowadays to imitation of the West.

We do grant that it is necessary to imitate the West in certain respects. At the same time there is no doubt that many western ideas are wrong. It will be admitted on all hands that what is bad must be eschewed. The condition of Indians in South Africa is pitiable. We go out to distant lands to make money. We are so taken up with this that we become oblivious of morality and of God. We become engrossed inthe pursuit of self-interest. In the sequel, we find that going abroad does us more harm than good, or does not profit us as much as itought to. All religions presuppose the moral law, but even if wedisregard religion as such, its observance is necessary on grounds of common sense also. Our happiness consists in observing it. This is what John Ruskin has established. He has opened the eyes of the western people to this, and today, we see a large number of Europeans modelling their conduct on his teaching. In order that Indians may profit by his ideas, we have decided to present extracts from his book, in a manner intelligible to Indians who do not know English. Socrates gave us some idea of man’s duty. He practised his precepts. It can be argued that Ruskin’s ideas are an elaboration of Socrates’s. Ruskin has described vividly how one who wants to live by Socrates’s ideas should acquit himself in the different vocations. The summary of his work which we offer here is not really a translation. If we translated it, the common reader might be unable to follow some of the Biblical allusions, etc. We present therefore only the substance of Ruskin’s work. We do not even explain what the title of the bookmeans, for it be understood only by a person who has read the Bible in English. But since the object which the book works towards is the welfare of all that is, the advancement of all and not merely of the greatest number we have entitled these articles “Sarvodaya”. Man suffers from many delusions; but none so great as his attempt to formulate laws for the conduct of other men disregarding the effects of social affection, as if they were only machines at work.That we cherish such an illusion does us no credit.

Like other forms of error, the laws of political economy also contain an element of plausibility. Political economists assert that social affections are to belooked upon as accidental and disturbing elements in human nature; but avarice and the desire for progress are constant elements. Let use liminate the inconstants and, considering man merely as a money making machine, examine by what laws of labour, purchase and sale,the greatest amount of wealth can be accumulated. Those laws oncedetermined, it will be for each individual afterwards to introduce asmuch of the disturbing affectional elements as he chooses.This would be a convincing argument if the social affections were of the same nature as the laws of demand and supply. Man’saffections constitute an inner force. The laws of demand and supply are formulations concerning the external world. The two, therefore, are not of the same nature. If a moving body is acted upon by aconstant force from one direction and a varying force from another, we would first measure the constant force and then the inconstant. We will be able to determine the velocity of the body by comparing the two forces. We can do this because the constant and the inconstant forces are of the same kind. But in social dealings the constant forceof the laws of demand and supply and the accidental force of socialaffection are forces that differ in kind. Affection has a different kindof effect on man and acts in a different manner. It changesman’snature, so that we cannot measure its effect with the help of lawsof addition and subtraction, as we can the effects of different forceson the velocity of a body. A knowledge of the laws of exchange is ofno help in determining the effects of man’s social affections. 1

I do not doubt the conclusions of the science of economics ifits premises are accepted. If a gymnast formulated laws on theassumption that man is made only of flesh without a skeleton, thoselaws might well be valid, but they would not apply to man, since manhas a skeleton. In the same way, the laws of political economy may bevalid but they cannot apply to man, who is subject to affections. Aphysical-culture expert may suggest that man’s flesh be detachedfrom the skeleton, rolled into pellets, and then drawn out into cables.He may then say that the re-insertion of the skeleton will cause littleinconvenience. We should describe such a man as a madcap, for thelaws of physical culture cannot be based on the separation of theskeleton from the flesh. In the same manner, the laws of politicaleconomy which exclude human affections are of no use to man. Andyet the political economists of today behave exactly like thegymnastic instructor. According to their mode of reasoning, man is amere body a machine and they base their laws on this assumption.Though aware that man has a soul, they do not take it into account.How can such a science apply to man, in whom the soul is thepredominant element?Every time there is a strike, we have a clean proof thateconomics is not a science, that it is worse than useless. In suchsituations, the employers take one view of the matter, the workersanother.

Here we cannot apply the laws of supply and demand. Menrack their brains to prove that the interests of the employers and theemployees are identical. These men know nothing of such matters. Infact, it does not always follow that because their worldly interests economic interests—are at variance men must be antagonistic to eachother. Let us suppose that the members of a family are starving. Thefamily consists of a mother and her children. They have only onecrust of bread between them. All of them are hungry. Here, theinterests of the two of the mother on the one hand, and the childrenon the other are mutually opposed. If the mother eats, the childrenwill starve; if the children are fed, the mother will go hungry. There isno hostility between the mother and the children for that reason; theyare not antagonistic to one another. Though the mother is thestronger, she does not eat up the bread. The same is true of men’srelations with one another.Let us suppose that there is no difference between men andanimals, and that we must fight like animals in pursuit of ourrespective interests. Even so we can lay down no general rule eitherway on whether or not the employer and the employee will alwaysremain hostile to each other.

Their attitudes change withcircumstances. For instance, it is in the interest of both that workshould be well and properly done and a just price obtained for it. Butin the division of profits, the gain of the one may or may not be theloss of the other. It does not serve the employer’s interests to paywages so low as to leave his men sickly and depressed. Nor does itserve the worker’s interests to demand a high wage irrespective ofwhether the factory pays its way or not. If the owner does not haveenough money to keep the engine-wheels in repair, it will obviouslybe wrong for the worker to demand full wages or to demand anywages at all.We can thus see that we are not likely to succeed in constructinga science on the basis of the principle of supply and demand. It wasnever God’s intention that the affairs of men should be conducted onthe principle of profit and loss. Justice must provide the basis. Manmust give up, therefore, all thought of advancing his interests byfollowing expediency regardless of moral considerations. It is notalways possible to predict with certainty the outcome of a given line ofconduct. But in most cases we can determine whether a certain act isjust or unjust.

We can also assert that the result of moral conduct isbound to be good. We cannot predict what that result will be, or how itwill come about.Justice includes affection. The relation between master andoperative depends on this element of affection. Let us assume that themaster wants to exact the utmost amount of work from his servant. Heallows him no time for rest, pays him a low wage, and lodges him in agarret. In brief, he pays him a bare subsistence wage. It may beargued that there is no injustice in all this. The servant has placed allhis time; at the master’s disposal in return for a given wage, and thelatter avails himself of it. He determines the limits of hardship inexacting work by reference to what others do. If the servant can get abetter place, he is free to take it. This is called economics by thosewho formulate the laws of supply and demand. They assert that itisprofitable to the master thus to exact the maximum amount of workfor the minimum wage. In the long run, the entire society will benefitby it and, through the society, the servant himself.But on reflection we find that this is not quite true. This methodof calculation would have been valid if the employee were a meremachine which required some kind of force to drive it. But in this casethe motive power of the servant is his soul, and soul-force contradictsand falsifies all the calculations of the economists. The machine that isman cannot be driven by the money-fuel to do the maximum amountof work. Man will give of his best only when his affections arebrought into play. The master-servant nexus must not be a pecuniaryone, but one of love. 2

It usually happens that, if the master is a man of sense andenergy, the servant works hard enough, under pressure; it alsohappens that, if the master is indolent and weak, the performance ofthe servant is not of the best in quality or quantity. But the true law isthat, if we compare two masters of equal intelligence, the servant of theone who is sympathetically inclined will work better than that of theother who is not so inclined.It may be argued that this principle does not quite hold, sincekindness and indulgence are sometimes rewarded with their opposites.The servant becomes unmanageable. But the argument is neverthelessinvalid.A servant who rewards kindness with negligence willbecome vengeful when treated harshly. A servant who is dishonest to aliberal master will be injurious to an unjust one.Therefore, in any case and with any person, this unselfish treatmentwill yield the most effective return. We are here consideringaffections only as a motive power. That we should be kind becausekindness is good is quite another consideration. We are not thinkingof that for the present. We only want to point out here that not onlyare the ordinary laws of economics, which we considered above,rendered nugatory by the motive power of kindness sympathy butalso that affection, being a power of an altogether different kind, isinconsonant with the laws of economics and can survive only if thoselaws are ignored. If the master is a calculating person who shows kindnessonly in expectation of a return, he will probably be disappointed.Kindness should be exercised for the sake of kindness; the reward willthen come unsought. It is said that he who loses his life shall find it,and he who finds it shall lose it. Let us take the example of a regiment and its commander. If ageneral seeks to get his troops to work in accordance with theprinciples of economics, he will fail. There are many instances ofgenerals cultivating direc

t, personal relations with their men, treatingthem with kindness, sharing their joys and hardships, ensuring theirsafety in brief, treating them with sympathy. A general of this kindwill be able to exact the most arduous work from his troops. If welook into history, we shall rarely find a battle won where the troopshad no love for their general. Thus the bond of sympathy between thegeneral and his troops is the truest force. Even a band of robbers hasthe utmost affection for its leader. And yet we find no such intimaterelation between the employer and the employees in textile mills andother factories. One reason for this is that, in these factories, the wagesof the employees are determined by the laws of supply and demand.Between the employer and the employee there obtains, therefore, therelation of disaffection rather than of affection, and instead ofsympathy between them we find antagonism. We have then toconsider two questions: one, how far the rate of wages may be soregulated as not to vary with the demand for labour; second, how farworkmen can be maintained in factories, without any change in theirnumbers irrespective of the state of trade, with the same bondbetween workmen and employer as obtains between servants andmaster in an old family, or between soldiers and their commander.

Let us consider the first question. It is surprising why economistsdo nothing to make it possible for standards of payment forfactoryworkers to be fixed. We see, on the other hand, that the officeof the Prime Minister of England is not put up to auction, but thatwhoever the incumbent, the remuneration remains the same. Nor dowe offer the job of a priest to anyone who agrees to accept the lowestsalary. With physicians and lawyers, too, we do not generally deal inthis manner. Thus we observe that in these instances a certain standardof payment is fixed. It may be asked, however, whether a good workmanand a bad one must both be paid the same wage. In fact, that is asit should be. In the result, the rate of wages for all workers being thesame, we shall engage only a good bricklayer or carpenter as we goonly to a good physician or lawyer the fees of all physicians or lawyersbeing the same. That is the proper reward of the good workman to be chosen. Therefore, the right system respecting all labouris that it should be paid at fixed rates.

Where a bad workman finds itpossible to deceive employers by accepting a low wage, the eventualoutcome cannot but be bad.Let us now consider the second point. It is that, whatever thestate of trade, the factories must maintain the same number of workersin employment. When there is no security of employment, the workersare obliged to ask for higher wages. If, however, they can be assuredof continued employment for life, they will be prepared to work forvery low wages. It is clear therefore that the employer who assures securityof employment to his workers will find it profitable in the longrun. The employees also stand to gain if they continue steadily in thesame job. Large profits are not possible in factories run on these lines.Big risks cannot be taken. Gambling on a large scale will not bepossible. The soldier is ready to lay down his life for the sake of hiscommander. That is why the work of a soldier is considered morehonourable than that of an ordinary worker. The soldier’s trade isreally, not slaying, but being slain in defence of others. Anyone whoenlists as a soldier holds his life at the service of the state. This is truealso of the lawyer, the physician and the priest. That is why we lookup to them with respect. A lawyer must do justice even at the cost ofhis life. The physician must treat his patients at the cost of inconvenienceto himself. And the clergyman must instruct his congregationand direct it along the right path, regardless of consequences. 3

If this can happen in the professions mentioned, why not intrade and commerce? Why is it that trade is always associated withunscrupulousness? We shall see on reflection that it is always assumedthat the merchant is moved solely by self-interest. Even though hehas a socially useful function, we take it for granted that his object isto fill his own coffers. Even the laws are so drafted as to enable themerchant to amass wealth with the utmost speed. It is also accepted asa principle that the buyer must offer the lowest possible price and theseller must demand and accept the highest. The trader has thus beenencouraged in this habit, yet the public themselves look down on himfor his dishonesty. This principle must be abandoned. It is not rightthat the merchant should look only to self-interest and amass wealth.This is not trade, but robbery. The soldier lays down his life for thestate and the trader ought to suffer a comparable loss, ought even tolose his life in the interests of society. In all states the soldier’sprofession is to defend the people; the pastor’s to teach it; the physician’sto keep it in health; the lawyer’s to enforce pure justice in it;and the merchant’s to provide for it. And it is the duty of each on dueoccasion to die for the people. The soldier must be prepared to die athis post of duty rather than desert it.

During a plague epidemic, thephysician must not run away from his task but instead attend to thepatients even at the risk of infection. The priest must lead people fromerror to truth even if they should kill him for it. The lawyer mustensure, even at the cost of his life, that justice prevails.We pointed out above the proper occasions for members of theprofessions to lay down their lives. What, then, is the proper occasionfor the merchant to lay down his life? This is a question which all, themerchant included, must ask themselves. The man who does not knowwhen to die does not know how to live. We have seen that the merchant’sfunction is to provide for the people. Just as the clergyman’sfunction is not to earn a stipend but to instruct, so the merchant’sfunction is not to make profits but to provide for the people. Theclergyman who devotes himself to preaching has his needs providedfor, and in the same manner the merchant will have his profits. Butneither of them must have an eye only on the main chance. Both havework to do each a duty to perform irrespective of whether or notthey get the stipend or the profit. If this proposition is true, the merchantdeserves the highest honour. For his duty is to procure commoditiesof high quality and distribute them at a price which peoplecan afford. It also becomes his duty at the same time to ensure thesafety and wellbeing of the hundreds or thousands of men workingunder him. This requires a great deal of patience, kindness and intelligence.Also, in discharging these several functions he is bound, asothers are bound, to give up his life, if need be.

Such a trader wouldnot sell adulterated goods or cheat anyone, whatever his difficulties oreven if he was going to be reduced to utter poverty. Moreover, he willtreat the men under him with the utmost kindness. Very often a youngman taking up a situation with a big factory or commercial housetravels a long way from home, so that the master has to accept the roleof his parents. If the master is indifferent, the young man will be likean orphan. At every step, therefore, the merchant or the master mustask himself this question, ‘Do I deal with my servants as I do with mysons?’Suppose a ship’s captain places his son among the commonsailors under his command. The captain’s duty is to treat all sailors ashe would treat his son. In the same manner, a merchant may ask hisson to work alongside of those under him. He must always treat theworkers as he would then treat his son. This is the true meaning ofeconomics. And as the captain is bound to be the last man to leave hisship in case of shipwreck, so in the event of famine or other calamities,the trader is bound to safeguard the interests of his men before hisown. All this may sound strange. But the really strange thing aboutthe modern age is that it should so sound. For anyone who applies hismind to it will be able to see that the true principle is as we have statedit. Any other standard is impossible for a progressive nation. If theBritish have survived so long, it is not because they have lived up tothe maxims of economics, but because they have had many heroeswho have questioned them and followed instead these principles ofmoral conduct. The harm that results from the violation of theseprinciples and the nation’s consequent decline from greatness, weshall consider on another occasion. 4

Economists may reply in the following manner to what we saidearlier concerning “roots of truth”: ‘It is true that certain advantagesflow from social affection. But economists do not take theseadvantages into their reckoning. The science with which they areconcerned is the science of getting rich. Far from being fallacious, ithas in experience been found to be effective. Those who follow it dobecome rich, and those who disregard it become poor. All themillionaires of Europe have acquired their wealth by following thelaws of this science. It is futile to seek to controvert this. Every man ofthe world knows how money is made and how it is lost.’This is not quite true. Men of business do indeed make moneybut they do not know whether they make it by fair means and if theirmoney-making contributes to the national weal. Very often they donot even know the meaning of the word “rich”. They do not realizethat, if there are rich men, there must also be poor men. Peoplesometimes believe, mistakenly, that by following certain precepts it ispossible for everybody to become rich. But the true position can becompared to a water-wheel where one bucket]empties out as anotherfills.

The power of the rupee you possess depends on another goingwithout it. If no one wants it, it will be useless to you. The power itpossesses depends on your neighbour’s lack of it. There can bewealth only where there is scarcity. This means that, in order to berich, one must keep another poor.Political economy consists in the production, preservation anddistribution, at the fittest time and place, of useful and pleasurablethings. The farmer who reaps his harvest at the right time, the builderwho lays bricks properly, the carpenter who attends to woodwork withcare, the woman who runs her kitchen efficiently are all true politicaleconomists. All of them add to the national income. A science thatteaches the opposite of this is not “political”. Its only concern is withindividuals merely accumulating a certain metal and putting it toprofitable use by keeping others in want of it. Those who do thisestimate their wealth the value of their farms and cattle by thenumber of rupees they can get for them, rather than the value of theirrupees by the number of cattle and farms they can buy with them.Furthermore, men who thus accumulate metal rupees think interms of the number of workmen whose services they can command.Let us suppose that a certain individual possesses gold, silver, corn, etc.This person will require a servant. And if none of his neighbours is inneed of gold, silver or corn, he will find it difficult to get one. He willthen have to bake his bread, make his clothes and plough his field allby himself. This man will find his gold to be of no greater value thanthe yellow pebbles on his estate. His hoard of corn will rot. For hecannot consume more than his neighbour. He must therefore maintainhimself by hard labour as other men do. Most people will not want toaccumulate gold or silver on these terms. Careful reflection will showthat what we really desire through acquisition of wealth is power overother men power to acquire for our advantage the labour of aservant, a tradesman or an artisan. And the power we can thus acquirewill be in direct proportion to the poverty of others. If there is onlyone person in a position to employ a carpenter, the latter will acceptwhatever wage is offered. If there are three or four persons who needhis services, he will work for the person who offers him the highestwage. So that growing rich means contriving that as large a number ofmen as possible shall have less than we have. Economists generallyassume that it is of advantage to the nation as a whole if the mass ofpeople are thus kept in want. Equality among men is certainly notpossible. But conditions of scarcity, unjustly created, injure the nation.Scarcity and abundance arising naturally make, and keep, the nationhappy. 5

Thus the circulation of wealth among a people resembles thecirculation of blood in the body. When circulation of blood is rapid, itmay indicate any of these things: robust health, effects of exercise,ora feeling of shame or fever. There is a flush of the body which isindicative of health, and another which is a sign of gangrene. Furthermore, the concentration of blood at one spot is harmful to the bodyand, similarly, concentration of wealth at one place proves to be thenation’s undoing.Let us suppose that two sailors are shipwrecked on anuninhabited coast They are then obliged to produce food and othernecessaries of life through their own labour. If they both keep goodhealth and work in amity, they may build a good house, till the landand lay by something for the future. All these things would constitutereal wealth. If both of them work equally well they will have equalshares. Therefore, all that economic science would have to say abouttheir case is that they had acquired a right to an equal share in thefruits of their labour. Let us suppose now that after a while one ofthem feels dis-contented. So they divide the land and each one workson his land by himself and on his own account. Let us suppose that ata critical time one of them falls ill. He would then approach the otherfor help. The latter might reply: ‘I shall do this work for you, but oncondition that you do the same amount of work for me whenrequired. You must undertake in writing to work on my field whenrequired for the same number of hours that I work for you now.’Suppose further that the disabled man’s illness continues and thatevery time he has to give a written promise to the other, healthyperson. What will be the position of the reduced to utter poverty. For,during the time that the invalid was laid up, his labour was unavailable. Even assuming that the friend was very hard-working, it is obviousthat the time which he devoted to the ailing man’s land was at theexpense of work on his own. This means that the combined propertyof the two would be less than it would have been otherwise. Also, the relation in which the two stood to each other hasaltered.

The sick man becomes a debtor, and can only offer his labouras payment towards the debt. Suppose now that the healthy mandecided to make use of the documents in his possession. He wouldthen find it possible wholly to abstain, from work that is, be idle. Ifhe chose, he could exact further pledges from the man who hasrecovered. No one can attribute any illegality to such a transaction. Ifnow a stranger were to arrive on the scene, he would find that one ofthe two men had become wealthy and the other had lost hiswell-being. He would also see one of them passing his days in idleluxury and the other in want, though labouring hard. The reader willnote from this that claiming the fruits of another’s labour as of rightleads to a diminution of real wealth. Let us consider another illustration. Suppose that three men established a kingdom and then they all lived separately. Each ofthem raised a different crop which the others could also avail themselvesof. Suppose, further, that one of them, in order to save the timeof all the three, gave up farming and undertook to arrange the transferof commodities from one to the other, receiving in return a quantityof food-grains. If this man provided the required commodity at theright time, all of them would prosper. Now suppose that he kept backsome of the grain he was to transfer. Then suppose there set in aperiod of scarcity, and the middleman offered the stolen corn at anexorbitant price. In this way he could reduce both the farmers topoverty and employ them as labourers.This would be a case of obvious injustice. This is, however, theway the merchants of today manage their affairs. We can also see thatin consequence of this fraudulent practice the wealth of the three,taken collectively, will be less than it would have been if themiddleman had behaved honestly. The other two farmers have doneless work than they could have. Because they could not obtain thesupplies they wanted, their labour did not fructify to the fullest, andthe stolen commodities the hands of the dishonest middleman werenot put to the most effective use.

We can therefore reckon with mathematical accuracy how farthe estimate of a nation’s wealth depends on the manner in whichthat wealth has been acquired. We cannot estimate a nation’s wealthon the basis of the quantity of cash it possesses. Cash in the hands ofan individual may be a token of perseverance, skill and prosperity, orof harmful luxuries, merciless tyranny and chicanery. Our way ofestimating wealth not only takes into account the moral attributes ofthedifferent modes of acquiring it but is also sound mathematically.One stock of money is such that it has created ten times as much inthe gathering of it. Another is such that it has annihilated ten times asmuch in the gathering of it.To lay down directions for the making of money withoutregardto moral considerations is therefore a pursuit that bespeaks ofman’s insolence. There is nothing more disgraceful to man than theprinciple “buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest”. Buy inthe cheapest market? Yes, but what made your market cheap? Charcoalmay be cheap among roof timbers after a fire and the bricks ofbuildings brought down by an earthquake may be cheap. But no onetherefore will make bold to assert that fire and earthquake redound tothe nation’s benefit.

Again, sell in the dearest market? Yes, but whatmade your market dear? You made good profit today from the sale ofyour bread. But was it by extorting the last cowrie from a dying man?Or, did you sell it to a rich man who will tomorrow appropriate all thatyou have? Or did you give it to a bandit on his way to pillaging yourbank? Probably you will not be able to answer any of these questions,for you do not know. But there is one question you can answer,namely, whether you sold it justly and at a reasonable price. Andjustice is all that matters. It is your duty to act so that no one suffersthrough your actions. 6

We saw that the value of money consists in its power tocommand the labour of men. If that labour could be had withoutpayment, there should be no further need of money. Instances areknown where human labour can be had without payment. We haveconsidered examples which show that moral power is more effectivethan the power of money. We also saw that man’s goodness can dowhat money cannot do. There exist men in many parts of Englandwho cannot be beguiled with money.Moreover, if we admit that wealth carries with it the power todirect labour, we shall also see that the more intelligent and moral menare, the greater is the wealth amassed. It may even appear on afullerconsideration that the persons themselves constitute the wealth,not gold and silver. We must search for wealth not in the bowels of theearth, but in the hearts of men. If this is correct, the true law ofeconomics is that men must be maintained in the best possible health,both of body and mind, and in the highest state of honour.

A timemay also come when England, instead of adorning the turbans of itsslaves with diamonds from Golkonda and thus sporting her wealth,may be able to point to her great men of virtue, saying, in the wordsof a truly eminent Greek, “This is my wealth.”Some centuries before Christ there lived a Jewish merchant,Solomon name. He had made a large fortune and earned great fame.His maxims are remembered in Europe even today. He was so belovedof the Venetians that they erected a statue in the city to his memory.Though his maxims are known by rote, very few persons actuallypractise them. He says: “Those who make money through lies areafflicted with pride, and that is a sign of their death.” At anotherplace, he adds: “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing. It is truthwhich delivers from death.” In both these maxims Solomon assertsthat death is the outcome of wealth unjustly acquired. Nowadays,people tell lies or perpetrate injustice so cleverly that we cannot findthem out. For there are misleading advertisements. Things bearattractive labels, and so on.Again the wise man says: “He that oppresseth the poor tomultiply his riches shall surely come to want.” And he adds: “Robnot the poor because he is poor. Oppress not the afflicted in the placeof business. For God will corrupt the soul of those that tormentthem.” At present, however, it is the practice in business to administerkicks to those who are already dead. We are eager to take advantageof a needy man. The highwayman robs the rich, but the trader robsthe poor.Solomon says further: “The rich and the poor are equal. Godis their maker. God gives them knowledge.” The rich and the poorcannot live, the one without the other. They always need eachother.Neither of them can be regarded as superior or inferior to theother. But evil consequences follow when the two forget that they areequal, and that God is their light. 7

Wealth is like a river. A river always flows towards the sea, that is,down an incline. So, as a general rule must wealth go where it isneeded. But the flow of wealth, like the course of a river, can beregulated. Most of the rivers run out their courses unregulated, theirmarshy banks poisoning the wind. If dams are built across these riversto direct the water flow as required, they will irrigate the soil and keepthe atmosphere pure. Similarly the uncontrolled use of wealth willmultiply vices among men and cause starvation; in brief, such wealthwill act like a poison. But the selfsame wealth, if its circulation isregulated and its use controlled, can, like a river whose stream hasbeen properly harnessed, promote prosperity.The principle of regulating the circulation of wealth is ignoredaltogether by economists.

Theirs is merely the science of getting rich.But there are many different ways of getting rich. There was a time inEurope when people sought to acquire wealth by poisoning owners oflarge estates and appropriating their possessions. Nowadays,merchants adulterate the food sold to the poor, for example, milk withborax, wheat flour with potato flour, coffee with chicory, butter withfat and so on. This is on the same level as getting rich by poisoningothers. Can we call this either an art or a science of getting rich?Let us not, however, assume that by “getting rich” economistsmerely mean “getting rich by robbing others”. They should pointout that theirs is a science of getting rich by legal or just means. Ithappens these days that many things which are legal are not just. Theonly right way, therefore, to acquire wealth is to do so justly. And ifthis is true, we must know what is just. It is not enough to live by thelaws of demand and supply. Fish, wolves and rats subsist in thatmanner. Bigger fish prey on smaller ones, rats swallow insects andwolves devour even human beings. That for them is the law ofNature; they know no better. But God has endowed man withunderstanding, with a sense of justice. He must follow these and notthink of growing rich by devouring others—by cheating others andreducing them to beggary.Let us examine what then the laws of justice regarding paymentof labour are. As we stated earlier, a just wage for a worker will be that whichwill secure him the same labour, when he needs it, as he has put inforustoday. If we give him a lower wage, he will be underpaid, and ifmore, overpaid.Suppose

 a man wants to engage a worker. Two persons offertheir services. If the man who offers to accept a lower wage isengaged, he will be underpaid. If there is a large number ofemployers and only one worker, he will get his own terms and willvery likely be overpaid. The just wage lies between these two points.If someone lends me money which I have to repay after a time, Ishall pay him interest. Similarly, if someone gives me his labourtoday, I must return him an identical quantity of labour andsomething more by way of interest. If someone gives me an hour oflabour today, I should promise to give him an hour and five minutesor more. This is true of every kind of worker. If, now, of two men who offer me their services, I engage theone who accepts the lower wage, the result will be that he will be half starved while the other man will remain unemployed. Even otherwise,if I pay full wages to the workman whom I employ, the other man willbe unemployed. But the former will not starve, and I shall have madejust use of my money. Starvation really occurs only when the duewages are not paid. If I pay due wages, surplus wealth will notaccumulate in my hands.

I shall not waste money on luxuries and addto the poverty. The workman whom I pay justly will in turn learn topay others justly. Thus the stream of justice will not dry up; instead itwill gather speed as it flows. And the nation which has such a sense ofjustice will grow happy and prosper in the right direction.According to this line of reasoning, economists are found to bewrong. They argue that increased competition means growingprosperity for a nation. This is not true in fact. Competition is desiredbecause it reduces the rate of wages. The rich become richer therebyand the poor poorer. Such competition is likely to ruin a nation in thelong run. The right law of demand and supply should ensure thepayment of a just wage to a workman according to his worth. This,too, will mean competition, but the result will be that people will behappy and skilful, for, instead of being obliged to underbid oneanother, they will have to acquire new skills to secure employment.It is for this reason that men are drawn to government service. There,salaries are fixed according to the gradation of posts. The competitionis only with regard to ability. A candidate does not offer to accepta lower salary but claims that he is abler than others. The same is thecase with the Army and the Navy, and that is why there is muchlesscorruption in these services.

But only in trade and commerce isthere unhealthy competition, as a result of which corrupt practices,such as fraud, chicanery, theft, have increased. Furthermore, goods ofpoor quality are manufactured. The manufacturer wants a lion’s shareof the price for himself, the workman to throw dust in the eyes ofothers and the consumer to exploit the situation to his own advantage.This poisons all human intercourse, there is starvation all round,strikes multiply, manufacturers become rogues and consumersdisregard ethical considerations. One injustice leads to numerousothers, and in the end the employer, the operative and the customerare all unhappy and meet with ruin. A people among whom thesecorrupt practices prevail comes to grief in the end. Its very wealthacts like a poison.This is why men of wisdom have held that where Mammon is God, no one worships the true God. Wealth cannot be reconciled with God. God lives only in the homes of the poor. This is what the British profess, but in practice they place wealth above everything else,estimate the prosperity of the nation by the number of its rich, andtheir economists formulate precepts for everyone to get rich quickly.True economics is the economics of justice. That people alone will behappy which learns how to do justice and be righteous under allconditions of life. All else is vain, a kind of moral perversity thatpresages doom. To teach the people to get rich at any cost is to teachthem an evil lesson. 8

We saw in the three preceding chapters that the generally acceptedprinciples of economics are invalid. If acted upon, they will makeindividuals and nations unhappy. The poor will become poorer andthe rich richer; neither will be any the happier for it.Economists do not take men’s conduct into account butestimate prosperity from the amount of wealth accumulated and soconclude that the happiness of nations depends upon their wealthalone. Hence they advocate greater accumulation of wealth throughmore and more work in factories. In England and elsewhere factorieshave multiplied because of the spread of these ideas. Large numbersof men leave their farms and concentrate in cities. They give up thepure and fresh air of the countryside and feel happy breathing thefoul air of factories.

As a result, the nation grows weaker, and avariceand immorality increase, and if someone suggests measures foreradicating vice, the so-called wise men argue that vice cannot beeliminated, that the ignorant cannot be educated all at once and that itis best to let things alone. While advancing this argument, they forgetthat it is the rich who are responsible for the immorality of the poor.The wretched workers slave for them day and night so that they maybe kept supplied with their luxuries. They have not a moment tothemselves for self-improvement. Thinking about the rich, they alsowant to be rich. When they fail in this, they become angry andresentful. They then forget themselves in their anger, and havingfailed to gather wealth by honest means, turn in desperation to fraud.Both wealth and labour are thus wasted, else they are utilized forpromoting fraud.Labour, in the real sense of the term, is that which produces usefularticles.

Useful articles are those which support human life. Supportinghuman life means provision of food, clothing, etc., so as toenable men to live a moral life and to do good while they live. For thispurpose, large-scale industrial undertakings would appear to be useless.To seek to acquire wealth by establishing big factories is likely tolead to sin. Many people amass wealth but few make good use of it. Ifthe making of money is likely to lead a nation to its destruction, thatmoney is useless. On the contrary, present-day capitalists are responsiblefor widespread and unjust wars. Most of the wars of our timesspring from greed for money.We hear people say that it is impossible to educate others so asto improve them, and the best course would be to live as well as onecould and accumulate wealth. Those he hold these views show littleconcern for ethical principles. For the person who values ethical principlesand does not yield to avarice has a disciplined mind; he doesnot tray from the right path, and influences others merely by his example.If the individuals who constitute a nation do not observe moralprinciples of conduct how can the nation become moral?

If we behaveas we choose and then point the accusing finger at an errant neighbour,how can the result of our actions be good?We thus see that money no more than a means which may makefor happiness or misery. In the hands of a good man, it can be usedfor cultivating land and raising crops. Cultivators will find contentmentin innocent labour and the nation will be happy. In the hands ofbad men, it is used for the production, say, of gun-powder and bringingutter ruin on the people. Both those who manufacture gunpowderand those who fall victims to it suffer in consequence. We thussee that there is no wealth besides life. That nation is wealthy Which ismoral. This not the time for self-indulgence. Everyone must workaccording to his ability. As we saw in the illustrations earlier, if oneman remains idle another has to labour twice as hard. This is at theroot of the starvation prevalent in England. There are men who dolittle useful work themselves because of the wealth that has accumulatedin their hands, and so force others to labour for them. This kindof labour, being unproductive, is not beneficial to the worker. In consequence,the income suffers diminution. Though all men appear tobe employed, we find on closer scrutiny that a large number are idleperforce. Moreover, envy is aroused, discontent takes root and, in theend, the rich and the poor, the employer and the workman violate thebounds of decency in their mutual relations.

As the cat and themouse are always at variance with each other, so the rich and the poor,the employer and the workman become hostile to one another, andman, ceasing to be man, is reduced to the level of beasts.Our summary of the great Ruskin’s book is now concluded.Though some may have been bored by it, we advise those who haveread the articles once to read them again. It will be too much to expectthat all the readers of Indian Opinion will ponder over them and acton them. But even if a law readers make a careful study of the summaryand grasp the central idea, we shall deem our labour to havebeen amply rewarded. Even if that does not happen, the reward oflabour, as Ruskin says in the last chapter, consists in having doneone’s duty and that should satisfy one.What Ruskin wrote for his countrymen, the British, is a thousandtimes more applicable to Indians. New ideas are spreading in India.The advent of a new spirit among the young who have receivedwestern education is of course to be welcomed. But the outcome willbe beneficial only if that spirit is canalized properly; if it is not, it isbound to be harmful. From one side we hear the cry for swarajya;from another, for the quick accumulation of wealth by setting upfactories like those in Britain.Our people hardly understand what swarajya means. Natalenjoys swarajya, but we would say that, if we were to imitate Natal,swarajya would be no better than hell.

The Natal whites tyrannizeover the Kaffirs, hound out the Indians, and in their blindness givefree rein to selfishness. If, by chance, Kaffirs and Indians were to leaveNatal, they would destroy themselves in a civil war.Shall we, then, hanker after the kind of swarajya which obtainsin the Transvaal? General Smuts is one of their leading figures. Hedoes not keep any promise, oral or written. He says one thing, doesanother. The British are disgusted with him. Under the guise ofeffecting economy, he has deprived British soldiers of livelihood andhas been replacing them with Dutchmen. We do not believe that in thelong run this will make even the Dutch happy. Those who serve onlytheir own interests will be ready to rob their own-people after theyhave done with robbing others.If we observe happenings all over the world, we shall be able tosee that what people call swarajya is not enough to secure thenation’s prosperity and happiness. We can perceive this by means of asimple example. All of us can visualize what would happen if a bandof robbers were to enjoy swarajya. In the long run they would behappy only if they were placed under the control of men who werenot themselves robbers. America, France and England are all greatStates. But there is no reason to think that they are really happy.Real swarajya consists in restraint. He alone is capable of thiswho leads a moral life, does not cheat anyone, does not forsake truthand does his duty to his parents, his wife, his children, his servant andhis neighbour. Such a man will enjoy swarajya wherever he mayhappen to live.

A nation that has many such men always enjoysswarajya.It is wrong normally for one nation to rule over another. Britishrule in India is an evil but we need not believe that any very greatadvantage would accrue to the Indians if the British were to leaveIndia. The reason why they rule over us is to be found in ourselves;that reason is our disunity, our immorality and our ignorance.If these three things were to disappear, not only would theBritish leave India without the rustling of a leaf, but it would be realswarajya that we would enjoy.Many people exult at the explosion of bombs. This only showsignorance and lack of understanding. If all the British were to bekilled, those who kill them would become the masters of India, and asa result India would continue in a state of slavery. The bombs withwhich the British will have been killed will fall on India after the Britishleave. The man who killed the President of the French Republicwas himself a Frenchman and the assassin of President Cleveland ofAmerica was an American. We ought to be careful, therefore, not tobe hasty and thoughtlessly to imitate the people of the West.Just as we cannot achieve real swarajya, by following the path ofevil that is by killing the British so also will it not be possible for usto achieve it by establishing big factories in India. Accumulation ofgold and silver will not bring swarajya. This has been convincinglyproved by Ruskin.

Let it be remembered that western civilization is only a hundredyears old, or to be more precise, fifty. Within this short span the western people appear to have been reduced to a state of culturalanarchy. We pray that India may never be reduced to the same state asEurope. The western nations are impatient to fall upon one another,and are restrained only by the accumulation of armaments all round. When the situation flares up, we will witness a veritable hell let loose in Europe. All white nations look upon the black races as their legitimate prey. This is inevitable when money is the only thing that matters. Wherever they find any territory, they swoop down on it likecrows upon carrion. There are reasons to suggest that this is theoutcome of their large industrial undertakings.To conclude, the demand of swarajya is the demand of everyIndian, and it is a just demand. But swarajya is to be achieved byrighteous means. It must be real swarajya. It cannot be achieved byviolent methods or by setting up factories. We must have industry, butof the right kind. India was once looked upon as a golden land,because Indians then were people of sterling worth. The land is stillthe same but the people have changed and that is why it has becomearid. To transform it into a golden land again we must transmuteourselves into gold by leading a life of virtue. The philosophers’stone which can bring this about consists of two syllables: satya. If,therefore, every Indian makes it a point to follow truth always, Indiawill achieve swarajya as a matter of course. 9

 

References:

 

  1. Indian Opinion, 16-5-1908
  2. Indian Opinion, 23-5-1908
  3. Indian Opinion, 30-5-1908
  4. Indian Opinion, 6-6-1908
  5. Indian Opinion, 13-6-1908
  6. Indian Opinion, 20-6-1908
  7. Indian Opinion, 27-6-1908
  8. Indian Opinion, 4-7-1908
  9. Indian Opinion, 18-7-1908

 

 

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