So far we have considered the working of International Finance chiefly from the point of view of its effects upon the prosperity and comfort of mankind as a whole and on this country, as the greatest trader, carrier, and financier of the world. We have seen that the benefit that it works is wrought chiefly through specialization, that is, through the production of the good things of the earth in the lands best fitted, by climate or otherwise, to grow and make them. By lending money to other lands, and the goods and service that they have bought with it, we have helped them to produce things for us to consume, or to work up into other things for our consumption or that of other peoples. Thereby we have enriched ourselves and the rest of mankind. But the question still arises whether this process is one that should be left altogether unchecked, or whether it involves evils which go far to modify its benefits. In other words is it a good thing for us, socially and politically, to enrich ourselves beyond a certain point by a process which involves our dependence on other countries for food and raw material?
Analogy between a State and a man is often useful, if not pushed too far. The original man in a primitive state is always assumed to have been bound to find or make everything that he wanted by his own exertions. He was hut builder, hunter, cultivator, bow-maker, arrow-maker, trapper, fisherman, boat-builder, leather-dresser, tailor, fighter—a wonderfully versatile and self-sufficient person. As the process grew up of specialization, and the exchange of goods and services, all the things that were needed by man were made much better and more cheaply, but this was only brought about at the expense of each man's versatility. Nowadays we can all of us do something very much better than the primitive savage, but we cannot do everything nearly as well. We have become little insignificant wheels in a mighty great machine that feeds us and clothes us and provides us with comforts and luxuries of which he could never have dreamt. He was the whole of his machine, and was thereby a far more completely developed man. The modern millionaire, in spite of his enormous indirect power over the forces of nature, is a puny and ineffective being by the side of his savage ancestor, in the matter of power to take care of himself with his own hands and feet and eyes, and with weapons made by his own ingenuity and cunning. Moreover, though in the case of the millionaire and of all the comparatively well-to-do classes we can point to great intellectual and artistic advantages, and many pleasant amenities of life now enjoyed by them, thanks to the process of specialization, these advantages can only be enjoyed to the full by comparatively few. To the majority specialization has brought a life of mechanical and monotonous toil, with little or none of the pride in a job well done, such as was enjoyed by the savage when he had made his bow or caught his fish; those who work all day on some minute process necessary, among many others, to the turning out of a pin, can never feel the full joy of achievement such as is gained by a man who has made the whole of anything. Pins are made much faster, but some of the men who make them remain machines, and never become men at all in the real sense of the word. And when at the same time the circumstances of their lives, apart from their work, are all that they should not be—bad food, bad clothes, bad education, bad houses, foul atmosphere and dingy and sordid surroundings, it is very obvious that to a large part of working mankind, the benefits of the much vaunted division of labour have been accompanied by very serious drawbacks. The best that can be said is that if it had not been for the division of labour a large number of them could never have come into existence at all; and the question remains whether any sort of existence is better than none.
In the case of a nation the process of specialization has not, for obvious reasons, gone nearly so far. Every country does a certain amount of farming and of seafaring (if it has a seaboard), and of manufacturing. But the tendency has been towards increasing specialization, and the last results of specialization, if carried to its logical end, are not nice to forecast. "It is not pleasant," wrote a distinguished statistician, "to contemplate England as one vast factory, an enlarged Manchester, manufacturing in semi-darkness, continual uproar and at an intense pressure for the rest of the world. Nor would the continent of America, divided into square, numbered fields, and cultivated from a central station by electricity, be an ennobling spectacle."
"England's Foreign Trade in the Nineteenth Century," p, 16, by Dr. A.L. Bowley.
It need not be said that the horrible consequences of specialization depicted by Dr. Bowley need not necessarily have happened, even if its effects has been given free play. But the interesting point about his picture, at the present moment, is the fact that it was drawn from the purely economic and social point of view. He questioned whether it was really to the advantage of a nation, regarding only its own comfort and well-being, to allow specialization to go beyond a certain point. It had already arrived at a point at which land was going out of cultivation in England, and was being more and more regarded as a park, pleasure ground and sporting place for people who made, or whose forbears had made, fortunes out of commerce and finance, and less and less as a means for supplying food for our workers, and raw material for our industries. The country workers were going to the new countries that our capital was opening up, or into the towns to learn industrial crafts, or taking services as gamekeepers, grooms or chauffeurs, with the well-to-do classes who earned their profits from industry or business. Even before the war there was a growing scarcity of labour to grow, and harvest, even the lessened volume of our agricultural output. Dr. Bowley's picture was far from being realized and even if the process of specialization had gone on, it may be hoped that we should have had sense enough to avoid the blackest of its horrors.