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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Letter on Social/Economic Issues (S552: 1898)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to columnist 'Dangle' printed on page 325 of the Clarion issue of 8 October 1898. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S552.htm

     My dear Dangle,--I am rather sorry you have put forth your Clarion Referendum before a much fuller discussion. The whole subject is divisible into two parts: (1) such improvements in the law-making machine as shall give adequate representation to workers and Socialists, and so render advanced legislation possible; and (2) those reforms which are of most vital immediate importance for raising the condition of what you term "the half-starved drudges dwelling in pigstyes," and through them of the whole working population, which will thus be rendered more open to our proselytising influence. For the first of these purposes, among your eight alternative proposals Nos. 4 and 6 seem to be the only ones which are essential, and on which all our forces should be at first concentrated.

     Then, just as we get increased parliamentary power, let us work, first for the Initiative and Referendum, which will add to our power of useful legislation. Afterwards, I would claim the immediate provision of free bread, to stop starvation, as proposed in the Appendix to my "Wonderful Century" (which I believe was sent for review to the Clarion office.) For carrying out this and other more permanent reforms we should require large funds, to be provided by a scheme of progressive death duties and progressive income-tax. Old-age pensions on a liberal scale would come next, then self-supporting colonies for the unemployed, not merely work, which may mean stone-breaking, oakum-picking, or any other stupidity.

     I agree very largely with Leonard Hall, especially as to the land. But I think this would be most easily acquired by such an extension of the death duties as to take all above a certain amount left by any one person--say, 100,000 acres--with a diminishing percentage on lesser amounts--say, 90 per cent. on all above 90,000 acres and under 100,000, down to 10 per cent. on amounts above 10,000 and under 20,000 acres. Or the proportions may be taken in estimated land-values instead of by acreage, and of course a similar proportion of the value of all personal estates. This would furnish funds for carrying out all required measures of permanent social reform.

     The one point on which I wholly differ from Leonard Hall is on what he terms "money monopoly." There is no "money monopoly" in the sense that there is a "land monopoly"; and the source of all the evil in our fiscal system is not at all in the money, but in the existence of permanent interest-bearing securities, by means of which an ever-increasing number of persons are enabled to live on the labour of the community, while doing no productive work themselves. These securities of various kinds can best be got rid of by the system of progressive death duties and progressive income-tax, culminating in the State being made the universal inheritor of all accumulated wealth, and the establishment of "equality of opportunity," to be soon followed by the co-operative commonwealth.

     But this is for the future, and must as yet be a matter of education. What we want immediately is (1) Socialist candidates; (2) support of advanced Liberals who will advocate the Referendum. Till that is got, any real and far-reaching reforms are hopeless. Would it not be well at present to concentrate our energies on these two matters only, continuing at the same time with all possible earnestness our educational propaganda?--Yours, &c.,

Alfred R. Wallace.

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