There is sure to be a cry to protect certain industries; in some cases it may be necessary to do so for a time at least, but every such claim should be most jealously scrutinised. The interests of any powerful section of the community always find influential advocates. They can exercise strong pressure on any Government or on Members of Parliament. The general interests of the people who have no trade organisation to support them will be likely to be overlooked. The restoration of freedom is the first reform that should attend the restoration of Peace.
RESTORATION OF INDUSTRY
Neither one person nor any number of persons is warranted in saying to another human being of ripe years that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it.—JOHN STUART MILL.
The next task will be the restoration of industry to its ordinary channels, and the return of the men who have been in the army to civilian occupations. Mr. Bonar Law has said that nothing has ever happened more wonderful than the way in which the British Empire has changed its Peace organisation into a War organisation. To reverse the process and change the War organisation into a Peace organisation may be still more difficult. In creating the War organisation enormous sums of money have been expended, the wheels have been lavishly greased to enable the new machinery to work. That process cannot continue, as with the reorganisation after Peace there must also be retrenchment. In the War Cabinet’s Report for 1917 it is said that “1917 may be described as the year in which State control was extended until it covered not only national activities directly affecting the military effort but every section of industry, production, transport, and manufacture.” To get rid of some of that control as regards industry as well as commerce, must be one of the first steps in reconstruction. State interference not only involves the expense of an enormous army of officials, inspectors, clerks, accountants, and others, but also causes friction, while the regulations which it has been found necessary to impose have been one of the causes of labour unrest. Any State regulations of labour are rightly watched with the greatest jealousy. Pledges have been given that certain pre-War conditions as regards labour shall be re-established as soon as possible.
During the War the exceptional conditions demanded exceptional measures. To prevent competition for labour in order to fulfil the enormously profitable contracts when the demand for munitions was so imperative, special legislation was found absolutely necessary before the end of the first year of the War. Employers had to be prohibited from engaging workmen who had been on munitions work within six weeks before taking up new employment, unless they had a certificate that the workmen had left with the former employer’s