The Outline of Sanity by G. K. Chesterton

The Outline of Sanity by G. K. Chesterton

Author:G. K. Chesterton [G. K. Chesterton]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

III. The Real Life on the Land

We offer one among many proposals for undoing the evil of capitalism, on the ground that ours is the only one that really is a proposal for undoing it. The others are all proposals for overdoing it. The natural thing to do with a wrong operation is to reverse it. The natural action, when property has fallen into fewer hands, is to restore it to more numerous hands. If twenty men are fishing in a river in such a crowd that their fishing-lines all get entangled into one, the normal operation is to disentangle them, and sort them out so that each fisherman has his own fishing-line. No doubt a collectivist philosopher standing on the bank might point out that the interwoven lines were now practically a net; and might be trailed along by a common effort so as to drag the river-bed. But apart from his scheme being doubtful in practice, it insults the intellectual instincts even in principle. It is not putting things right to take a doubtful advantage of their being wrong; and it does not even sound like a sane design to exaggerate an accident. Socialism is but the completion of the capitalist concentration; yet that concentration was itself effected blindly like a blunder. Now this naturalness, in the idea of undoing what was ill done would appeal, I think, to many natural people who feel the long-winded sociological schemes to be quite unnatural. For that reason I suggest in this section that many ordinary men, landlords and labourers, Tories and Radicals, would probably help us in this task, if it were separated from party politics and from the pride and pedantry of the intellectuals.

But there is another aspect in which the task is both more easy and more difficult. It is more easy because it need not be crushed by complexities of cosmopolitan trade. It is harder because it is a hard life to live apart from them. A Distributist for whose work (on a little paper defaced, alas, with my own initials) I have a very lively gratitude, once noted a truth often neglected. He said that living on the land was quite a different thing from living by carting things off it. He proved, far more lucidly than I could, how practical is the difference in economics. But I should like to add here a word about a corresponding distinction in ethics. For the former, it is obvious that most arguments about the inevitable failure of a man growing turnips in Sussex are arguments about his failing to sell them, not about his failing to eat them. Now as I have already explained, I do not propose to reduce all citizens to one type, and certainly not to one turnip-eater. In a greater or less degree, as circumstances dictated, there would doubtless be people selling turnips to other people; perhaps even the most ardent turnip-eater would probably sell some turnips to some people. But my meaning will


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