17. H. F. Scott-Stokes to Harrod, 3 May 1922
3 May 1922
My dear Roy,
Many thanks for Marx and your comments - I agree; one must be more of a Jesuit and less of one who merely thinks aloud, and I recognize the need of some serious economics. I'd be very glad of a slip of paper some day with the names of the standard works - I feel a frightful dabbler. And by the grace of God I have unlimited leisure in view - K'zoo are cutting down staff, and much as I disliked my work I felt that the position of a dependent relative had really become intolerable, so I am out in the road from Saturday fortnight - and, egad, I mean to spend the first week sitting all through Eights, if you'll tell me when Eights are. After that I've made a plan to keep the wolf from the door during the summer months - it means letting the cottage, alas, but can't be helped - and then I hope to come back and have some arguments with the poor and ignorant of Birmingham during the winter. I've been doing it in the Works once a week all this year - nominally `Modern Political Thought' - and have encountered much kindness and encouragement, and I've written a perfectly beautiful book about Job [or God? difficult to read, CSS] and all those other old loves - 10 pages precisely, in type! I really think that's rather an achievement. You shall see it some day soon, when your toils are ended.
Back to Marx: I've read & I think thoroughly grasped the theory of rent since writing that paper (a full year ago now), and I have it clear in my mind now that no other than `customary justice' can possibly be applied to the distribution of wealth - is that wrong? But the worst thing about the paper is its assumption that laissez-faire has once and for all gone by the board. I believe that the working sum today is
Market price - fixed by competition
minus interest on capital - ditto
minus all other charges (except wages) - ditto
= wage-fund - & what I gain by bargaining some other man loses
- and that this must remain so until you have an international Govt. prepared to enforce a certain standard of living all round; until you do that one country can no more do it (unless completely isolated & self-supporting, which is unthinkable) than the individual manufacturer could pay his folk properly while others were free to sweat them.
I loathe competition with all my heart and soul; I am sure that it's immensely wasteful - I think of the figures men give of America `1 salesman to 1 workman', and even here 40% of the market-price is very small for selling costs; men are degraded day and night by the doctrine that no sane man ever does anything except for more money; and if they are salesmen they must worship the moneyed man (because he alone can give them orders - you can't imagine what orders mean to a business-man until you've seen it) - wait on him, fawn on him, flatter him, spread themselves in the mud before him - and this is called `salesmanship'. Well, well, I shall never resent rudeness in a shop-assistant again - I'll admire it.
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