The five giants

Extract from notes from the advisory panel on Home Affairs on Reconstruction Problems: the Five Giants on the Road, 25 June 1942 (T 161/1165)

Assuming victory for the United Nations, is there any good reason for doubting our capacity after this war to do what was well within our reach just before it? We shall be poorer in the immediate aftermath of war, by loss of investments and in other ways. We shall not be able to afford so much waste or slackness. But need we, even in the immediate aftermath of war, be very much poorer than in 1936? And need we stay poorer for any length of time? Technical progress will not stop. To be afraid of the Giant Want is senseless cowardice.

Abolition of want in the sense in which that word is used here does not mean satisfying all desires. The extent to which the standard of living can be kept above the national minimum depends upon the degree of success achieved in dealing with the fifth giant: Idleness.

2. Disease: Attack on disease is a matter of prevention; second of cure. Prevention, beginning with health services in the narrow sense, spreads outwards into the problem of sanitation, housing, nutrition and local government. As to cure, opinion both public and professional, is probably ripe for a general re-organisation of the medical service of the community- so as to ensure that the best science o f the community- so as to ensure that the best that science can do is available for the treatment of every citizen at home and in institutions, irrespective of his personal means. There are practical difficulties and sectional interests to be overcome in this field as in dealing with want, but no fundamental political issues.

3. Ignorance:  Successful attack on Ignorance is a condition of good government under democracy. It is the only way of combining the efficiency of a dictatorship with the essential freedom of the citizen. Attack on Ignorance like attack on Want raises no fundamental political issues, and touches fewer vested interests. Progress on this line should be easy. But attack on Ignorance is not simply or mainly a question of raising the school age or widening the educational ladder to higher schools and Universities. It is a question at least as much of adult education on an immense scale. That in turn means both getting more leisure and giving guidance in using leisure well.

4. Squalor: The irresistible disorderly growth of great cities, which may be described in one word as conurbation, is almost as great a social evil as unemployment. It has involved in the past daily waste of life and human energy in needless travel, bad housing and ill health, needless exhausting toil for the housewife in struggling with dirt and discomfort, habituation of the population to hideous surroundings. Co-urbation is a phenomenon as universal as unemployment- an inseparable accompaniment hitherto of private enterprise and private ownership of land. The only effective remedy is control of the distribution of industry,- control not persuasion, for population goes where industry calls for it.
Distribution of industry in turn involves control of the use of land, imaginative centralised direction of transport and public utilities, and re-organisation of local government. Here is a giant indeed.

5. Idleness: Want of the means subsistence could be abolished by a policy of the national minimum, as outlined above. But abolition of Want is an inadequate aim. Public opinion will demand that with income security shall go a reasonable opportunity of productive work, not indeed with absolute continuity of jobs, but with more jobs than idleness for everyone. It will demand standards of living far above the minimum of physical subsistence. The policy of a national minimum must be combined with a policy of maintaining productive employment, of ensuring that the productive resources of the country are used to meet the needs of the people.

Next to the maintenance of peace, maintenance of productive employment is the most important of all reconstruction aims. It is the most important in itself; if the Giant of Idleness can be destroyed, all the aims of reconstruction come within reach;

The five giants are of an increasing order of strength and ferocity. Attacks on Want, Disease and Ignorance all affect sectional interests but raise no fundamental political issues. The task of framing these attacks is already to some extent in hand in regard to Want by the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, in regard to Disease by the Ministry of Health and by that Committee, in regard to Disease by the Ministry of Health and by that Committee, in regard to Ignorance by the Board of Education.

In regard to the two remaining giants the position is different. It is difficult to see how attacks on Squalor and Idleness could be pressed home by a Government which had not made up its mind for State planning, for some form of nationalisation of land or at least of land values, and for nationalisation of certain essential services. In other words attacks on Squalor and Idleness do raise what have been regarded as hitherto political issues. Whether they must continue to be so regarded, can be determined best by considering actual plans for maintaining productive employment and for distributing industry and population so as to prevent con-urbation and squalor. The making of such plans calls for the setting up of an Economic General Staff, which means neither a Committee of Ministers, nor a Committee of departmental officials, nor an Advisory panel, nor the Treasury or Board of Trade. It means, in fact, an Economic General Staff. It means an organ of Government which does not yet exist, with an access to the minds of decisive Ministers which has not yet been provided.

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