Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE (Wetaskiwin):
Mr. Speaker, this resolution was introduced yesterday afternoon by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman). I will summarize its subject matter briefly. It calls to our attention the fact that the problem of production has been to a very large extent solved; that scientific research has greatly contributed to that solution, and that the government has recognized the services of science in that respect and has organized and financed a national council of scientific research. Then the resolution goes on to point out that there are still to be solved some very grave economic problems, for which solutions have not yet been found either in Canada or any other country; it suggests that a body should be organized to take up the study of these questions, and that such body should be known
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as a national council of social and economic research.
The hon. member for Red Deer brought this matter before the house last session, and on that occasion the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) was highly critical of the suggestion. In his speech yesterday the minister was still very critical indeed, as well as somewhat sceptical of the anticipated results of such a proposal, but withal he exhibited a tolerant if not a receptive attitude of mind, so I would congratulate the hon. member for Red Deer on having made at least some progress with respect to an idea.
I think we might say that the 'history of philosophy flows into two main streams of thought. The one is that the individual has absolute freedom, that the human being is free to plan and do as he may will. This idea is epitomized in the words "I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my fate." That is the one idea. The other is that of historical materialism, as it is sometimes called; the idea of economic determinism. that everything is determined by certain economic conditions. These two ideas run through the history of philosophy. The philosophy of history, which is a very different thing from the history of philosophy, shows that both streams flow together into the great sea of human activity. In other words, the ultimate depends as much upon the reaction of the human mind to the events as it does upon the events themselves. I hold the view that there is possible a wise and prudent action which can be taken to meet any given situation but that action is not likely to be wise or prudent unless there is a thorough knowledge of all the facts embraced in the particular situation. Holding that view with regard to matters of social and economic import to the nation, I hold also the view that some body should be entrusted with the responsibility of pursuing and systematizing the study of national matters, with the common weal as the objective. The governments of all countries, as well as the government of Canada, are endeavouring to function to some extent in that capacity. No doubt each government attempts to plan its work in the best way it can, no doubt each government has in view the common weal but the tremendous task of administrative work and the carrying out of legislative policies, especially in times such as these, entirely absorbs the attention of the statesmen, and we cannot expect them to make a special study of the problems which are to-day so pressing.
We have proposed in previous sessions, as we do now, that the government should take into consideration the creation of a body to be known as the council of social and economic research. This body would devote itself to the study of social and economic problems with the viewpoint of the national well-being. It would give the same attention to these matters which scientists in the past have devoted to the question of production and so forth. We believe that this function should be performed by a body other than an administrative body, insmuch as that body always will have sufficient to do in carrying on the ordinary affairs of state. For upwards of a century and a half scientific research has made great strides in the field of production, its contribution to human progress has 'been amazing and beyond all possible computation. Governments throughout the world have recognized the value of scientific research in matters of industrial pursuit and our own National Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is an example of the foresight displayed by Canadian governments both of to-day and of the past in respect to the value of scientific information in connection with production.
Scientific methods of production however when accompanied iby unsoientifie methods of distribution constitute in a general way the modern problem. I do not hesitate to say that our council of scientific research will do more harm than good if it is not supplemented by social and economic research. Still further to increase production which is to-day so great that we do not know what to do with it, without paying attention to the other half of the problem, that of distribution, will make our problem more acute than ever.
Those of us who believe in the possibility of a planned national economy are sometimes characterized as bolshevists and dangerous characters. I have no objection to being thus characterized. Nevertheless I may say that I advocate the idea embodied in this resolution in the hope that bolshevism may be unnecessary. In my opinion there is no way by which we can prevent the disruption of the world other than by the intelligent planning of the affairs of the peoples and of the countries of the world. If there is no planned defence against chaos, then we will have bolshevism; if we act according to plan, we can avoid such catastrophes.
The hon. member for Camrose (Mr. Lucas) made a telling point in his speech of yesterday. He referred to the great problem which faces Canada to-day in connection with her
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railways and lie suggested that if plans had been laid some years ago in connection with the transportation system we would not now be saddled with a problem which is almost too heavy to be borne. I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) in the speech he delivered a few days ago made reference to this railway problem. He said something to the effect that it was difficult to explain why there should have been such a rush to build three transcontinental railways to serve less than ten million people. The reason that was done was because no one had any reason for doing anything, they just did it. Our railroad system grew just as Topsy grew, and we are now faced with the difficulty which that kind of policy brings to any people or to any nation. It must be clear that if there had been any planning from a national viewpoint at the commencement of our railroad policy then the government of to-day would not be confronted with the great problem which now confronts them. I question whether many of us are able to appreciate the magnitude of that problem.
That is an example of the lack of planning. Meanwhile we are building up other systems just as thoughtlessly and just as carelessly which in the near future will result in problems for some other government to solve. It must be clear to everyone that any attempt at planning, even though it is not as successful as it might be, even though it bristles with difficulties as the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) pointed out, will have some effect in easing the problems of future statesmanship. Some hon. members may be impatient because our proposal may appear to be very abstract, far away from the balancing of the budget and the equalization of freight rates, a considerable distance away from revenue and all that sort of thing, but we do not expect that the budget will be balanced this year as a result of the adoption of our proposal of planned economy. While we regard our proposal as being quite practical we know that the results wiil not be apparent at the moment. However, we do argue that its results some day will be very apparent and serviceable to the state. This is the time to begin to plan to prevent the occurrence of some things with which we may have difficulty in our public life years hence.
We appreciate the difficulties which will confront any government which undertakes to establish a body of this kind. I may not appreciate the difficulty to the same extent as does the Minister of Trade and Commerce, some of the difficulties may be never
absolutely overcome but we should not stop trying to do a thing because there are difficulties in the way, those difficulties must be overcome in one way or another. Any one of the difficulties which were mentioned yesterday by the minister might have been just as appropriately brought forward as an objection to the scientific research council which is now functioning. It might have been said at the inception of this council: Where will you
get your men? Will you go to the universities for them or will you find them at the head of great industrial enterprises? Will you put pure theorists or bolshevists in charge? Who will you put into your scientific research council? The same questions can be asked now. But those difficulties are not insurmountable.
There are those to-day who are fearful for the survival of the economic system. I do not know whether it is going to survive or not. I would say that it has no more claim on eternal life than any other economic system, nor has civilization for that matter. Civilizations in the past have come and gone and we do not know but what ours may go too, although I agree with the minister when he said yesterday that in the present system there are many things which are well worthy of being safeguarded. Nevertheless nobody knows whether the present system is going to survive the existing crisis or not. Supposing we just for the moment imagine it does not survive. Then what? Surely if there is the barest possibility of its not surviving, then we ought to be planning what we are to do when it ceases to exist. But take the other alternative. Supposing it does survive; supposing once more we crawl out of this bog of depression and start on our next cycle. In that event this is the moment to begin planning to prevent the next depression, for just as surely as we emerge with the system as it now is, just as certainly will the next depression fall upon us and it will be more depressed than this one. We shall be deeper in the bog, and if we are going to try to avoid that, now is the day and the hour to begin. There is no use in talking now about this depression; we cannot do anything but try to adjust ourselves to it and carry on. We should have been planning against this ten years ago. If we had done so, it could have been avoided. The next depression can be avoided if we begin now to plan against it.
The minister charged yesterday that we had not been very practical in the suggestions and that he had some difficulty in understanding just what we meant by national planning and what function we expected to be per-
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formed by such a body as we proposed. I want to touch for a little on the practical side of the question and I do not think I can do better than read a very short selection from a modern school book which I have no doubt the minister has read, because I know he is an omnivorous reader on matters of this sort. Perhaps the house will bear with me while I read this excerpt from this school book which is entitled "What happens when they work without a plan."
Mr. Fox acquires money-one million dollars. But money must not remain idle. Mr. Fox looks through newspapers, he consults friends, he employs agents. From morning till night the agents comb the city, look about, and make inquiries. What is to be done with the money of Mr. Fox? ,
At last a business is found. Hats! That is what one should make. Hats sell; men get rich.
There is nothing to hesitate about. Mr. Fox builds a hat factory. ,
The same idea occurs at the same time to Mr. Box, and Mr. Crox, and Mr. Nox. And they all begin to build hat factories simultaneously.
Within half a year there are several new hat factories in the country. Shops are filled to the ceiling with hat-boxes. Store rooms are bursting with them. Everywhere there are posters, signs, advertisements; hat, hats, hats. A great many more hats are made than are needed-twice as many, three times as many. And the factories continue to work at full speed. .
And here something happens that neither Mr. Fox, nor Mr. Box, nor Mr. Nox, nor Mr. Crox anticipated. The public stops buying hats. Mr. Nox lowers his price twenty cents; Mr. Crox, forty cents; Mr. Fox sells hats at a loss in order to get rid of them. But business grows worse and worse.
In all of the papers advertisements appear:
You may have only one head, but that does not mean at all that you should wear only one hat. Every American should have three hats.
Buy the hats of Mr. Fox!
Mr. Box offers to sell hats on a three-year instalment plan.
Mr. Nox announces a sale:
Only for one day! Take advantage of this opportunity!
But this does not help. Mr. Fox lowers the wages of his workers one dollar a week. Mr. Crox lowers the wages two dollars a week. Again business grows worse and worse.
All at once-stop! Mr. Fox closes his factory. Two thousand workers are discharged and permitted to go wherever they please. The following day the factory of Mr. Nox stops. In a week practically all hat factories are standing idle. Thousands of workers are without work. New machines grow rusty, buildings are sold for wreckage.
A year or two pass. The hats bought from Nox, Fox, Box, and Crox wear out. The public once more begins to buy hats. Hat stores become empty. From the top shelves dusty cartons are taken down. There are not enough hats. Prices on hats go up.
And now, not Mr. Fox, but a certain Mr. Doodle, thinks of a profitable business-the building of a hat factory. The same idea also enters the heads of other wise and businesslike people-Mr. Boodle, Mr. Foodie, and Mr. Noodle. And the old story begins over again.
There is the story of production on the north American continent, and as well of all the countries of the world. There is absolutely no preparation, no planning, with the result that in connection with some commodities we have a tremendous over-production, and in connection with others, we may have too little. For instance, there is nobody in Canada to-day that knows whether there will be enough boots made in this country next year to go on the feet of the Canadian people. Nobody is looking into that matter. We leave that to chance. Nobody knows whether in Canada next year there will be enough wheat to feed the Canadian people. We take a chance on that because we say the farmers are so foolish they will grow wheat for nothing, so that they will continue doing that.
There is absolutely no plan in any country that I know of that takes care of the national economy in such a way that we may feel sure that production will be sufficient; that it will not be wasteful; that it will not be too much. That is a function that I say has not been performed in any country and it is one that must be performed if we are to avoid disaster in the future. I am not saying that this task should be undertaken by the Department of Trade and Commerce; I am not saying that it should be undertaken as a political matter; I am saying that it should be undertaken as a national, scientific scheme with a view to running the affairs of the country on an intelligent basis.
Let me cite a few more practical suggestions. It was suggested that this national planning was only a phrase which we were in danger of using just to sound wise and, well, trifle with. Let us look at a practical suggestion. Take the issuance of currency and credit in Canada for the years 1931 or 1932, or 1933, the years that are coming. Can there be any question more important to the business welfare, the commercial welfare and indeed the very welfare of the people than that? But there is no planning about it. There is no way of controlling the issuance of currency or credit so that it has the proper volume in relation to the business to be done. That is just left, as in the case of the way in which Mr. Cox and Mr. Nox built their hat factories, to competition between two or three
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bankers, and that is all the regulation there is. The result is only too apparent.
Take another illustration. Take the investments of insurance funds, an enormous amount of money collected from the people of Canada entrusted to a few private individuals to invest largely for their own gain, because the gains do not return to the policy holders. Think of how some companies invest their money in highly speculative stocks; consider the endangering of these investments. Insurance companies may invest the money they control either inside Canada or outside. Consider the direct effect upon the industrial life of Canada of the investment of such an enormous amount. The effect is tremendous. But there is no national voice which directs how that money shall be invested. It may be invested in mines in Timbuctoo or in soap factories in the Argentine, if they have any there, or in any other industry in any other part of the world. So far as Canada is concerned there is no direction at all. That is a practical proposition for a council such as is suggested in the resolution to deal with.
Then take the question of production itself. No planning is made with regard to quantity of production in Canada or in any other country, so far as I know, except perhaps in Russia. Nor is there any planning with regard to the quality, nor with regard to the variety of production. In this connection I should like to quote a sentence or two from Mr. Stuart Chase, a very orthodox authority whose opinion ought to count for a good deal in an argument on this question. He says:
We drown in a sea of things which we do not use, which we lose, which get out of style, which we give to friends and which they do not need, which disappear somewhere; fountain pens, cigar lighters, cheap rings, razors, endless trinkets, gew-gaws. We destroy mountains of good iron ore and an endless quantity of horsepower in order in a few months to fill rubbish cans with them.
Subtopic: PROBLEMS OF DISTRIBUTION, PURCHASING POWER, EXCHANGE VALUES ANB UNEMPLOYMENT