The Spectator

The Spectator at war: State provision for state servants

From The Spectator, 14 November 1914:

A married man who was insured before the war may, if totally disabled, receive as much as 28s. a week for life. This is certainly an extremely liberal allowance, and we may be sure that the pacifists among us, especially those with Socialistic tendencies, will sooner or later draw a contrast between the liberal payment which the State makes to men disabled by war and those disabled in industry. The contrast is not a new one, but so far as it is used for argumentative purposes it rests upon a very obvious fallacy. The allowances made by the State are made by it to its own servants in return for services which they have undertaken at its call for the benefit of the country. On the other hand, a man who is engaged in private employment is not the servant of the State, and therefore to him the State has no direct obligation. It may even be that the work upon which he is engaged for a private employer is work which might conceivably be injurious to the State. For example, in time of peace British shipyards are fully at liberty to build ironclads for foreign Governments. There is absolutely no reason why the British Government should pay to a British workman who has been employed in such work and received injury therein any compensation allowance. Or, to take an argument which ought to appeal even more strongly to the Socialist Party, why should the State pay gratuities to a workman who had been engaged in such undemocratic work as building expensive motor-cars for a bloated plutocrat? The only sound principle is that people who want work done should pay an adequate price for it, and that adequate price ought to include—and by rough bargaining ultimately tends to include—compensation for the special risks which the industry involves as compared with other occupations.

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