Commerce and finance practical expressions of the instinct of self-preservation which is common not only to all men, but to all living creatures. Early appearance of trading habit in boys. Early examples of trade. Abraham’s purchase of a burying-ground from Ephron the Hittite. Solomon’s trade with Hiram of Tyre. Herodotus, the first historian, opens his history with an allusion to trade. Trade is based on specialization, and is at once a cause of unity and of disunion. Its extension from individuals to communities. Foreign trade stimulated by variations of value in different communities. Specialization increases efficiency, but makes the worker a machine, and a speculator on the chance that others will want what he makes. International trade also promotes both unity and friction. On the whole, commerce a great promoter of unity. Likewise finance, or money-dealing. Its origin and development. London’s catholic taste in foreign securities: sometimes prefers them to the home-made article. Effect of foreign investment on home production and consumption. Foreign finance and productive specialization.
Interdependence true of countries as of classes. A fact brought home to us by the European War. Importance of international action in relation to the raising of social and industrial standards. This truth perceived by Robert Owen a century ago. Work of Owen and his successors in the direction of an international minimum of labour conditions. Action of the Swiss Federal Council. The German Emperor calls the first Conference on workmen’s protection 1890. Formal failure and substantial achievement of this Conference. Founding of International Association for Labour Legislation and International Labour Office. Constitution and work of these bodies. Biennial conferences of the association: subjects and methods. International Conventions of 1906, their scope and value. Subsequent labours of the Association. Its present position and future hopes.
Ideals arise from perceived social evils. They have caused in recent years (a) Common action by European Governments and (b) action by separate Governments influenced by foreign experience. There has also been a growth of sentiment, not yet embodied in law or institutions, with regard to (i) the position of women and children, (ii) social caste, and (iii) the increase of common action for reform by civilized states.