Anthony M. Ludovici
The Fortnightly Review 113 (new series), 1923, pp. 600614
- p. 600 -
Neither of these writers goes further than to state the problem and to emphasise its acuteness. If, however, the matter is as urgent as their words imply, it would seem almost frivolous to leave it at that without making any attempt to solve, or at least throw some light upon it; and their silence appears to call for some explanation. That the reason of their discretion is to be sought in their lack of ideas cannot be entertained for a moment. There must therefore be other reasons, and the writer suggests as the principal of these the immense difficulty of discussing the question of population and its bearing upon the future without immediately losing one's way in the cloud of prejudice that the subject invariably rouses.
But if no one is ever going to take the lead in this matter, if no frank and impartial treatment of it is ever to be undertaken, for fear of the prejudice to which we refer, what is to become of the problem itself and of the future which so delicately hangs upon it? Does experience tend to show that problems of this kind solve themselves? If they do, how can the question be one of "supreme moment", and where would be the point in warning the "leaders of the State", as Mr. Martin very wisely does, about "a situation of gathering complexity and danger"?
A little later in his article, Mr. Martin, speaking of the Con-
1 THE FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, Jan., 1923, p. 11.
2 Ibid., p. 48.
Truth to tell, never was a government's opportunity for dealing with this problem more eminently favourable. They are opposed chiefly by Labour members, all of whom, as we shall attempt to show, are deeply concerned in its solution, and the highest interests of whose constituents would best be served by arriving at this solution as speedily as possible. What signs are there, however, that the question of population is about to receive the attention of all parties? Animated by the same discretion which, as we suggest, probably accounts for Mr. Marriott's and Mr. Martin's silence, is the House of Commons also going to leave this thorny subject completely alone?
Like most other problems, that of population can be approached from two standpoints. We can deal with it quantitatively, and consider the practical means by which the numbers of our fellows can be adapted to the country's resources and needs, either by encouraging their multiplication if they are insufficient or by developing industry, relieving distress and promoting emigration if they are excessive; or we may deal with it qualitatively, by contriving means whereby the efficiency of our people may be enhanced and their energy spared and increased if they are inferior from the standpoint of human desirability.
Needless to say that, in practice, the two standpoints merge to some extent one into the other. But, in view of the fact that they do indeed become one, the moment it can be shown that a large proportion of a country's people are inferior from the standpoint of human desirability for all undesirable members of a population appear as excessive in the light of a nation's weal we can narrow down the whole question to one of quality if we are able to demonstrate (a) that a large proportion of the nation and indeed inferior as human material, and (b) that this large proportion creates many of the evils and difficulties which are apt to be ascribed to a mere excess in numbers.
The Malthusians who, with varying degrees of success, have for over a century been calling attention to the evils of over-population, are, as a rule, summarily silenced with the reply
1 Op cit., p. 49.
Mr. Harold Cox, in his book The Problem of Population, 1 is the latest distinguished thinker who has attempted to present the case for Malthusianism afresh, and it must be admitted that he disposes very ably of the shallow and ultra-optimistic attitude of the ordinary opponent of Malthusian doctrine. Along the qualitative line he demonstrates very convincingly that all unrestricted increase must lead to excessive internal pressure, to misery, to the need of expansion and thence to war, and he arrives at the following dilemma: "As soon as a population grows big its leaders say: 'Our people are so numerous we must fight for space.' As soon as war has taken place the leaders invert the appeal and say: 'We must breed more people in preparation for the next war.' How is this horrible see-saw to end?" (p. 85).
Mr. Cox suggests that it can only end by birth control, through the voluntary restriction of families by married couples; and this, indeed, is the conclusion to which the whole of his reasoning tends. He recommends this escape from over-population from the standpoint of happiness, of social progress, of general peace, and of human advancement, and endeavours with considerable success to clear conscious birth control of all moral stigma.
To those who point to the still unpeopled areas of Australia, Canada and the Argentine, to the still unexplored resources of mineral wealth in many parts of the world, and who draw the inference that there is room for the indefinite expansion of the human race, Mr. Cox replies, wisely enough: "That inference cannot be maintained. However great the still untouched resources of the earth may be, beyond question they are limited. Therefore, if the expansion of the human race continues indefinitely, a time must come when man will find himself face to face with an empty cupboard. It is purposeless to argue that this prospect is remote" (pp. 3536).
Finally, to those socialists and communists who frequently pretend that their schemes will abolish all problems, Mr. Cox points out very cogently that "if the institution of private
1 The Problem of Population. By Harold Cox. (Jonathan Cape.)
Thus, after showing that emigration cannot possibly keep with the increase of population for, while the government scheme only allows for the removal of 80,000 persons a year, the increase in England and Wales for the years 1921 alone amounted to 390,000 (which figure represents the excess of births over deaths) Mr. Cox can see no other remedy for the existing state of affairs than systematic and universal birth control, with a League of Low Birth-Rate Nations to support and organise it.
Now, admirable and courageous as Mr. Cox's analysis of the problem of population undoubtedly is, not only do we see in it no attempt to identify the quantitative and qualitative standpoints in the manner suggested above, but also we are bound to join issue with him in the remedy he suggests.
It cannot be repeated too often to thinkers like Mr. Harold Cox, Dean Inge and Dr. Marie Stopes, all of whom are advocates of systematic birth control, that, quite apart from other considerations which can hardly be discussed here, their alleged remedy for the evils of over-population would work in precisely the opposite direction to that which they anticipate.
Unless they take the view that the state has the right to determine who shall and who shall not have offspring and we do not read this extreme standpoint in their works all birth control depending on the voluntary use of contraceptives must inevitably lead to racial suicide. And why is this so? Because birth control is a precaution that naturally appeals to the more prudent, the more intelligent, the more self-denying and the more desirable sections of the population, and where it is encouraged and promoted, only the lowest and most undesirable sections of the population will be left as unrestricted and unlimited multipliers.
It may seem ridiculous nowadays that we should still be able to witness public prosecutions in this country for the publication of pamphlets informing people how to obtain and use contraceptives. It may seem to many that the action of the French Government in passing penal legislation against contraceptives in 1920 was both foolish and tyrannical. But behind the apparent madness of our own and the French governments in this matter a certain very wise method will be perceived when it is remembered that, where contraceptives are extensively used, it is the least desirable alone that multiply. It may be argued
For this reason alone, apart from many other reasons, both psychological and physiological, into which it is not possible to enter here, we therefore disapprove of the universal remedy for wars, social misery, etc., suggested by Mr. Harold Cox in his masterly treatise. This, however, does not mean that we regard the problem of over-population lightly, or that we question the evils which Mr. Cox declares it creates. But we suggest that, since voluntary birth control is inadvisable as a general method of cure, since emigration is inadequate and since, moreover, at the present day we are witnessing a very orgy of expenditure in public assistance which cannot well be exceeded, 1 we are driven to the only remaining alternative, which consists in approaching the matter merely from the qualitative or race-improvement standpoint, and considering what means we can adopt to relieve the sound and efficient sections of the population from the enormous burdens now weighing upon them in the form of degeneracy and inefficiency of all kinds. And seeing that, apart from the very doubtful experiments that are being made with education and the intensive medical supervision of the masses, this field is practically a new one, it is not impossible that very fruitful conclusions may be reached by exploring it. Nor could any enquiry claim a stronger and more imperative democratic sanction; for who can be more interested in the general enhancement of human desirability and the elimination of waste human material than the masses of the people themselves?
Unfortunately, however, the moment anyone attempts to approach the problem of population from the standpoint of quality and no other standpoint could be more urgent to-day he finds himself confronted with obstacles so formidable and unexpected in the form of both prejudice and tradition that he may well lose heart from the very outset of his investigation, and be tempted to leave to others the thankless task of pursuing
1 A writer in the Spectator estimates this expenditure at £225,000,000 per annum. See article by Mr. Geoffrey Drage, "Public assistance and its cost." (Spectator, Feb. 3rd, 1923.)
The future of a nation is potential in the quality of every generation of its citizens. It is possible to reply "Après nous le déluge"; but it is precisely because our ancestors of the nineteenth century made this reply too often that we are now compelled to confront "a situation of gathering complexity and danger".
It is customary, too, for the exponent of qualitative solutions of the population question to find his audience alienated from him quite early in his campaign by interested parties who do not scruple to brandish the bogey of the "Lethal Chamber" before them as a warning of whither the qualitative reformer ultimately wishes them to go. Possibly, therefore, we may retain our audience a little while longer if we declare from the start that we have nothing so brutal or inhuman in mind.
The "elimination of the unfit", as it is popularly discussed to-day, is a foolish and meaningless phrase; in the first place because the methods commonly recommended for the proposed elimination offend our sense of the dignity of human life, and secondly because the word "unfit" is usually given a definition so loose and elastic that it is wholly impossible to discover to what part of the population it refers. In the words of the philosopher who first used it, it means unadapted to environment just that and nothing more. But society to-day is so complex that a man may be eminently desirable and yet completely unadapted that is to say, unfit. To speak about the "poorly remunerated" as the "unfit", therefore, as we have heard a certain very prominent eugenist speak, is certainly a proper biological use of the term; for to be so poorly remunerated as to be hardly able to survive in modern society is certainly to be maladapted. But it would be illegitimate to argue further that the elimination of such "unfit" people was desirable, because, from the human standpoint, as society is constituted at present, poverty is no proof whatsoever of undesirability. We can call to mind scores of men who lived and died in poverty who were conspicuously superior to their wealthy contemporaries, and whose
Behind every such phrase, however, and behind every movement as influential and popular as the Eugenic movement, certain very precise national ideas and ideals must ultimately be found to be lurking, and we propose now to attempt to discover this background of solid opinion, and to suggest some practical means of realising the aims after which it strives.
We have seen that the modern Malthusian has a reply for those who claim that his cry of over-population need not be taken seriously. Since Malthus wrote, however, a new problem, and in certain respects an essentially modern problem, has allied itself to the question of over-population, not only to complicate, but also in many ways to alter it. Thus, to those whose argument against the Malthusian still consists in a denial of the evils to which he says over-population leads, the modern investigator can now retort: "Yes, but is that true of every kind of human life? Can it be anything but an evil if every increase in population is to show more than a proportionate increase in degenerate beings?" In other words, while the modern Malthusian may not have yielded up his original stronghold, he knows now that he can fall back upon a position that is infinitely more commanding and unassailable. He can point to the many circumstances that plead for a reconsideration of the whole point at issue, and compel his opponents to abandon their old methods of attack.
He can question whether many of the evils of the present day, which would have appeared to his predecessors merely as evils of over-population, are not to a very great extent the outcome of the fact that a too heavy burden of human incapacity and wreckage is now imposed upon each fresh generation of efficient and sound citizens; and, seeing that he can prove the existence of this human incapacity and wreckage not only among the poor but also among the rich and the well-to-do, he can invite others to face this problem with him, not merely with the wish of absolving himself and them from engagements which press unpleasantly upon their finances, but with a serious regard for the future both of their country and their race.
Probably no similar situation has ever arisen before in the history of the world. It is unique in the sense that it is essentially the product of our unique civilisation. Revolutions against oppression there have been by the score; but no revolt has yet been known to occur against the oppression and national menace represented by degeneracy itself. The heavy toll that was levied on the people by the dissolute aristocracy of eighteenth-century France was, as we know, borne with considerable patience for a very long time; but, both in its magnitude and the docility with which its worst consequences were endured, it was as nothing compared with the toll that is now exacted by humanity's wreckage from the surviving percentage of sound citizens in these islands. And seeing that, as we have pointed out, a motive may be active in the endeavour to seek a solution of this problem, which soars far above the mere sordid considerations of material interest, we may quite legitimately enquire whether the time has not come for it to be solved by wise and peaceful measures before the oppression to which it leads drives the oppressed to open revolt.
The population of England and Wales in 1901 was composed of 32,527,843 persons. In 1911 this total had been increased by 3,500,000, and in 1921, in spite of the Great War, there was a further increase of about 2,000,000, forming an ultimate total of 37,885,242. Now, it was about the physical condition of the bulk of this population that Mr. Lloyd George, on September 12th, 1918, gave the nation so grave and momentous a warning. Speaking of the results of his own perusal of the statistics of ill-health supplied by the Ministry of national Service, he said the figures were "startling", and he added: "I do not mind using the word appalling. I hardly dare tell you the result. The number of Grade II and Grade III men throughout the country is prodigious." 1
Commenting upon the same figures, the Daily News declared that this means that only one man in three was found to be
1 The Times, Sept. 13, 1918.
Now, it is naturally impossible to obtain precise figures from which we could form any idea of the amount of chronic debility, slight deformity, partial blindness or deafness, and sub-acute disabilities and manifestations of degeneracy of all kinds that are to be found in the present population of England and Wales, for no record is kept of such cases, and they are not classified. The probability that their number must run into millions for both males and females is, however, indicated by the fact that in the government report referred to above, which dealt with adult males alone, we are told that of 2,500,000 men of military age examined in one year (November, 1917, to October, 1918) only 30 per cent could be regarded as up to the normal standard of health and strength for their age, while 10 per cent were judged as totally and permanently unfit for any form of military service. When, moreover, it is remembered that at that period of the late war very little attention was paid to teeth in the enrolment of recruits, and that, therefore, the numbers of modern men and women whose teeth are defective cannot be estimated, even approximately, from the reports of the National Medical Boards, we can hardly escape from the conclusion that sound bodily condition, even up to the minimum standard insisted upon by our army before the war, is at present but a rare and sporadic occurrence in our midst.
If we deal with precise figures, however, we are unfortunately limited to those cases of degeneracy which are acute and which constitute total disability, for these are the only cases of which accurate records are kept. In examining them, therefore, it is essential that we should bear in mind that, as they represent only the extreme results of a condition that is actually far more widely distributed, their comparative insignificance should not mislead us into forming too optimistic conclusions concerning the remainder of the population.
Nevertheless, though these figures represent only extreme cases, they will be seen to be sufficiently alarming, for not only are they high in proportion to the total population, but, as representing full-fledged recruits from that population, which must be assumed to contain the physical elements that produce them, they point to the existence within it of every possible degree of degeneracy up to the standard which causes their own numbers to be publicly recorded.
In the forty years that elapsed between the census of 1871 and 1911 the total cases of insanity of all kinds rose from 69,019
1 See issue of Feb. 28, 1920.
Turning now to other abnormalities, we find that in 1911 there were 26,336 persons totally blind in England and Wales; 26,649 totally deaf (an increase of about 45 per cent on 1901); 13,427 deaf and dumb; 1,695 dumb; and 432 blind and deaf.
It was not possible to discover the total number of persons classified roughly under the title "Cripples" or "Incurables", distributed roughly among the many palatial homes for the care of such people which exist all over England and Wales; but some idea may be formed of the general burden they impose on the community from the fact that in 1919, quite apart from public assistance, £76,000 were distributed in charity in London alone for this class of abnormal citizens. Of a total of £5,348,742 spent in charity in London in 1919, the blind obtained £197,033, the deaf and dumb £9,600, the mental defectives (not in public institutions) £17,748; those who sought medical relief £978,075; convalescent homes £144,220; and dispensaries £7,872.
Now, without the evidence of further figures, it must be obvious that any nation which, from generation to generation, bears upon its shoulders a mass of human degeneration and wreckage so steadily increasing, which absorbs its energies and its wealth without yielding any corresponding benefit, must in the end show signs both of exhaustion and revolt. For, if the reader remembers that in the figures just quoted we have only the extreme cases, and by no means a complete picture of the general state of debility and inferior physique throughout the country, he will realise that even throughout the remainder of the population, not referred to in the records consulted, there must exist a vast proportion who, in hospitals, homes, workhouse infirmaries,
It is difficult, and it would also be inaccurate, to disregard these heavy burdens in tracing the causes of trade depression and unemployment; and, when we consider the imperative necessity of relieving the distress of the sound and the able-bodied, and of feeding necessitous children in schools; 1 when, moreover, we have acknowledged the duty of continuing old-age pensions, 2 and many other forms of public assistance ultimately productive, or at any rate unavoidable we may well ask ourselves what steps, if any, we may take to reduce the burden of our obligations in that quarter which constitutes a dead loss to the nation as a whole. Can this expenditure be avoided? Can it be reduced? But, what is more important, can it be prevented from increasing at a rate higher than the increase in population? Another question: is there not perhaps a far higher motive prompting us to prosecute the investigation than that merely of wishing to reduce our burdens? While the result may be a reduction in our burdens, are we not primarily concerned with the bearing our measures may have upon the future of our race, and ultimately of our Empire? Can we with any pretence of sanity allow the multiplication of thoroughly undesirable human material to continue any longer unrestricted in our midst? Must we wait until disaster is imminent before we takes steps to meet it? For we take this occasion of observing that, while emigration is inadequate as a means of relieving over-population, it is also a potent contributory cause of national deterioration. It should never be forgotten that, while the increase of degeneracy proceeds apace, emigration, by skimming off the cream of our population every year, adds to the influences which disturb the
1 The average weekly number of meals provided in London schools may be seen from the following table:
2 On March 25th, 1921, the number of people in receipt of old age pensions in England and Wales was 734,295.
The problem of how to proceed qualitatively to deal with our present situation is, of course, an immensely difficult one, and Mr. Harold Cox, who refers to the abortive attempts that have been made along these lines in the past, has only one remedy to suggest, in addition to birth control, and that it the sterilisation of obvious undesirables.
Now we suggest, in the first place, that the failure that has attended previous attempts to deal with our problem of population qualitatively has been largely due to the fact that those sections of the House of Commons who were strongly in favour of this method of approaching the difficulty not only did not receive, but also did not enjoy, a sufficiently powerful backing from the people of the country. Public opinion has not yet been completely converted to the possible qualitative reforms of our population policy; indeed, it is so far from being even aware of such reforms that vast numbers in the nation, we feel sure, are still ignorant of the fact that there has been any attempt to pass legislation through the House on these lines.
The first step, therefore, is to draw wider public attention to the possibility and urgent advisability of approaching our population problems from the qualitative standpoint. And, in view of the unlimited means at the disposal of the government of this country, both in regard to propaganda and patronage, it ought very quickly to be able to create a large following for any policy of qualitative reform that it proposes to adopt.
Secondly, it should be borne in mind that the measures to be framed should have these two definite objects: they should aim at reducing and ultimately eliminating degenerate and undesirable stock, and they should protect the sound and normal among the population from any chance of pollution, or constitutional deterioration, through misalliances with weak or polluted blood.
At first those cases alone could be dealt with which, while they are not acute enough to find their way into asylums and homes for incurables and cripples, nevertheless constitute a threat to the race, if allowed to multiply; and it might even be neces-
The short-sighted sentimentality that would rise against such measures could be overcome before they were carried into operation only by a careful preparation of public opinion, while the ultimate necessity of adopting the form of sterilisation now being used for undesirables in the State of Indiana, U.S.A., and advocated by Mr. Harold Cox, might always be held up as the resort to which a too prolonged delay in the use of milder measures must finally constrain us.
Concurrently with these efforts, and usefully supplementing them, a vigorous attempt might be made to disseminate among the people a taste and a moral bias which, based upon the conclusion here advanced, that at the present crisis the qualitative and quantitative view of our over-population problems are one and the same, would educate a large body of public opinion to regard all procreation of unsound and tainted children as despicable and revolting. Indeed, so much might be accomplished on these lines alone that it is not impossible that this method would prove the best and most practical with which to make a start, and might ultimately render extreme measures almost superfluous. To argue that this taste and moral bias are already in the air, or at least the subject of general knowledge, and that in spite of this they do not have the effect desired, is worse than disingenuous; it amounts to deliberately disregarding the condition of complete and romantic ignorance into which the bulk of the nation has sunk precisely in regard to a healthy and far-sighted grasp of this fundamental matter. Neither among the poor nor among the rich is it at all customary nowadays to encounter any influence whatever approaching to a sound check on the love impulses, proceeding from a wise discrimination of desirability in the mate. Here the reformer has practically a virgin field for his operations and the highest possible sanction for carrying them out.
It may be objected that no body of teachers would ever be able to agree upon the very first principles that would need to be inculcated in order to rear such a healthy taste among a whole people. But the stigmata of degeneration are well-known; why not begin with them? Hard and unfeeling as it may appear to instruct one generation of human beings in the signs of degeneracy among their contemporaries, is it not very much more
No campaign of this kind, however, could possibly succeed which was not accompanied by a rigorous investigation of the thousand and one influences which, with our intensive urbanism and the commercialisation and industrial preparation of our staple foodstuffs, tend to sow the seeds of debility and ill-health in every fresh crop of human beings that grow to maturity in our midst. With the view of protecting and preserving the sounder elements of the nation, a thorough examination should be made of the conditions prevailing, especially in the market of artificial, proprietary, and all industrially prepared foods, of which the masses particularly purchase enormous quantities. The question should be boldly put, in the teeth of vested interests, whether health is possible where commercially prepared foodstuffs are being absorbed on a large scale. And this applies above all to every kind of alleged satisfactory substitute for mother's milk.
Here again, it is only a matter of influencing the body of the people by instruction and timely warning; and this is urgently desirable, not only because of the large amount of chronic debility for which this kind of evil is responsible, but also because it is not improbable that a good deal of the insanity of modern times, as also much of the despondency, nervousness, dental trouble, and general constitutional feebleness, are due primarily to the many severe and obscure disorders of the digestive system which are caused by unwise feeding.
We have a Ministry of Health that, so far, has accomplished hardly anything in this direction. But the lethargy shown by this department of government cannot be due wholly to the bad will of the officials themselves. It is far more likely that in these questions, as in the matter of the Bill for race-improvement that failed in 1912, the official leaders of the nation find themselves
It is admittedly a thorny question, and one around which there is likely to be a great deal of bitter controversy, but this fact alone should not deter a wise Government from taking the first step in the desired direction; nor should it prevent the honour of having taken that first step from falling to the Conservative Party of our day. In view of the fact that the present government has in front of it an Opposition whose very highest interests all concur in demanding the kind of reforms we have outlined above, not only can there be no serious obstacle to an agreement regarding the legislative measures to be adopted, but also there would appear to be no danger of these measures becoming suspected of having been prompted either by class antagonism or party prejudice.
Certainly, no further tinkering at quantitative measures for dealing with our population problems can possibly yield such permanent and desirable results as a deep concern about the future quality of our people, and the fact that the latter method of approach, as the more novel and untried, is perhaps the more difficult of the two, should not at this late hour prevent us from attempting it. Little success, however, will be achieved unless it is seen that at the present juncture the quantitative and qualitative standpoints are really one and the same, and unless a large majority of the people of these islands can be induced to lend the Government determined and wholehearted support in this immensely complicated, and to some extent wholly novel, departure, so urgently called for by every circumstance of our present national life.