Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 24, 194344, pp. 9394
- p. 93 -
This being so, it is hardly surprising that the biological cost of poverty should also have been for so long overlooked.
In Mr. Titmus's latest book, * however, one aspect at least of this cost is convincingly described; for, by means of data drawn from various official sources, he allows us no escape from the conclusion that infant mortality bears a constant relation to standards of living, and that it is highest where income is lowest.
Incidentally, he has also prepared a shock for those who imagine that in the last three decades "the gap between the classes has become narrower with the years," for he shows that "although the enormous inequality in the distribution of private property was known to most" inside and outside official circles in the period 19111939, there has been no change in that distribution since 1911."
When it is appreciated that "for every 100 births in each class three infants of the rich die as against eight of the poor," and that "this gross range of inequality has persisted at least as far back as 1911 . . . despite great advances in nutritional science, medicine, social welfare, medical services, sanitation and hygiene, and housing," when, moreover, we learn that 52 per cent. of English and Welsh children were in 19361937 living in families with incomes of less than 60/- a week, we do not require an undue proportion of public spirit to feel, with the author, that something must be done and done quickly.
Most of Mr. Titmus's findings might probably have been foreseen by any well-informed thinker who, a century ago, saw whither our so-called "civilization" was leading. For, when you have intensive industrialism, with its inevitable inhuman sequel heart-breaking drudgery how can you run your factories, mines, mechanized transport, tele-communications, and urban public services, without some compelling spectre of privation menacing those who only reluctantly undertake the labour all this presupposes.
And how make that spectre effective unless your proletariate are kept impecunious enough, even when at work, not to raise themselves rapidly above its menace? Has not Professor Schumpeter, in one of the profoundest political treatises of recent years, hinted that, given the modern industrialized State (really Coomaraswamy's State à l'envers), there may have to be devised, if the absence of an economic spur be insisted on, some compelling force (shock troops or a ubiquitous and dreaded Ogpu) to compel men and women to keep at work? When, therefore, added to all this, women are allowed to enter industry, and urbanism, overcrowding, and stale and faulty food become the rule, what can anyone expect but the record Mr. Titmus so faithfully lays before us?
But, to reform this state of affairs, to retain the inhumanities of industrialism, and yet to remove its biological and spiritual cost, is not going to be easy and, failing a civilization such as that Dr. Coomaraswamy favours, it will be necessary, if Mr. Titmus's legitimate demands are to be met, to institute a system whereby a less "democratic" and less "British" threat than penury will drive the majority in every mechanized State to their daily toil.
"Every one but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor or they will never be industrious," said Young, and Mr. Titmus quotes this with implied dissent, but it must he remembered that Young was speaking of our inhuman system, and this being so, there is more realism than callousness in the remark. If, then, we reject the coercion of want, and doubt the efficacy of public-spiritedness, how can we escape Coomaraswamy and the complete change of our system, or else keep this system and use another sort of lash?
To dwell on the obviousness of Mr. Titmus's theme, however, is not to detract either from the scholarship or the cogency with which he presents it, or from its lofty purpose, although in the detail of his reasoning there are occasions when some bias might possibly be inferred.
He says, for instance "we should have thought that coal-mining would have attracted a better type of workman than general labouring." Why? i.e., if good taste be associated with good type?
Again, when discussing the important relation of maternal intelligence to infant viability, he argues that if it exerted the influence supposed, "it is reasonable to suggest that this would be greatest during the first few weeks of life."
On the contrary! It is precisely then that instinct may play the greater part or, failing this, that other people, including the doctor and nurse, are there to advise. It is at the toddler stage, when mother and infant are alone, that I have seen difficulties arise, and as I have had some experience of these difficulties, and have more than once supplied the details of a toddler's regimen with success, I speak with knowledge of a difficult problem.
Referring to the possible influence of hereditary factors in the great disparity between the infant mortality of rich and poor, Mr. Titmus says, if these factors exerted great influence, "one would not expect to find bricklayers' labourers placed above teachers." But, again, why? Surely the boot is on the other foot! The demands made upon the physique of a teacher are relatively slight. Those made upon the physique of a bricklayer's labourer may be, and often are, severe and persistent.
Altogether, while it is impossible not to agree with Mr. Titmus when he says that we must first remove the gross environmental differences before we can with certainty infer hereditary factors in the unequal infant mortality of the classes, he seems a little too prone to dismiss these factors; for, whereas he is willing to acknowledge that the poor have been less able than the well-to-do to avail themselves of the knowledge and opportunities for better infantile health, he does not consider that there may prevail and I believe actually does prevail among the economically superior classes, a more knowledgeable, though still defective, altitude towards mating. To reside, as I have done, as an observer in, say, Rotherhithe or North Kensington, is soon to be struck by the very inferior biological specimens that working men and
* Birth, Poverty and Wealth (Hamish Hamilton, Crn. 8vo. pp. 118, Price 7/6 net).
Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, recently reviewed in these columns.
To my surprise, Clementina Black, as far back as before the last war, certainly recognized the possibility of an unwise choice in mating being typical of at least one class of working girl. This actually related to character only, but if ignorance is a factor to he reckoned with at all, as Mr. Titmus believes it is in the question of infant mortality, why may it not extend even to sexual selection? If it does and I believe it does then hereditary factors probably play an important part in causing the disparities Mr. Titmus emphasizes.
There are other matters in which I do not see eye to eye with Mr. Titmus, but I cannot deal with them now. Suffice it to say, therefore, that although, it is impossible not to accept his findings, it is arguable that, in his examination of causes, he has shown himself insensitive to a number of imponderables which bear no necessary relation to economic inferiority as such.
See Married Women's Work, pp. 17, 63 and 122.