1 correction by anonymous - Show corrections
THE SUCCESS OF CO-OPERATION.
(From the London "Spectator.")
Denmark has a population about half that of London, and an area less than half that of Scotland. More than half her people are engaged on the land, and agriculture is her chief source of wealth. The soil is, on the whole, leys good than England, and the climate is no better than ours. Yet in Denmark farming pays well, and the dwellers on the land are growing in numbers. Mr. Rider Haggard's Danish journey (described in his book, "Rural Denmark, and its Lessons") had the object of finding out the reason tor this success. There was no easy explanation at hand like high Protection, for Denmark is a freetrade
country, with no duty on ordinary food- stuffs, except a small one on cheese and fruits. Denmark has nothing to invest in except her land, hut the question is how she has managed to make her in- vestment so profitable. Obviously the matter is of great importance to us at the present juncture. Denmark is the country of small holdings, of co-opera- tion, of credit societies, of all the de- vices which are suggested as remedies for our depressed countryside. Danish experience must cast a valuable light upon our own current problem .
Mr. Haggard follows the same plan as in his "Rural England" ; that is, he describes faithfully what he saw, so that the leader may judge for himself whether the evidence bears out the author's conclusions. He takes us over a variety of farms, from the "house- man's' twelve acres to the great land- owner's seven thousand, which bring in a clear profit of £20,000 a year. He conducts us to egg-warehouses, and model dairies and sugar-beet factories, and establishments where the pig suffers every change of which his being is cap- able. These matters, however, are a little outside the main line of inquiry. Mr. Haggard's real object was to dis- cover the condition and prospects of the small-holder, and the part played in his I work by co-operation and specialised
There aro some 5,000 State small Holders, who have bought their land in the open market; there is no compul- sory purchase in Denmark. The maxi- mum State advance is nine-tenths of the purchase price. The rate of in- terest is 3 per cent., apart from a sink- ing fund of 1 per cent., which liqui- dates the advance in a period of ninety eight years. No payments to the sink- ing fund are made during the first five years of occupation. Mr. Haggard's evidence goes to show that compara- tively few of the small holders fail, and that, acre tor acre, they produce more than the large farmers, besides the work for wages they may do outside their holdings. His chief criticism is that the small holder should possess more than one-tenth of the total capi- tal. As it is, he succeeds only by the help of three outside agencies which help him along -- a system of agricul- tural education, credit banks, and es- pecially various co-operative agencies. There is no more interesting chapter in the book than the account of a visit to the small holders school at Ringsted. In seven years it has passed five thou rand pupils through its courses, and though the fees for board and tuition are only £2 5s. per month, it pays its way. The minimum age is eighteen, but there have been pupils of seventy. It gives the most practical instruction in all branches of farming and garden- ing, as well as in domestic economy. The existence of such schools is a proof of a radical difference between Den- mark and Britain, for it is difficult to imagine our prospective small holder thus laboriously and scientifically equip- ping himself. Having no other asset than the land, Denmark has to take it seriously. The Hausen Credit Unions are specially designed to advance funds to small holders. The members aree jointly and severally responsible for the obligations of their union. An intend- ing mortgagor gives the union a bond and receives the loan (up to half the assessed value of his land) in union bonds, on which 4 per cent. interest is guaranteed by the State. These he sells in the open market. The interest charged to the mortgagor varies from 3 to 4½, per cent., with 1 per cent. as sinking fund. These credit unions are extremely successful, and their losses
are few and inconsiderable.
But "were it not for the elaborate Danish system of co-operation he would fail miserably." In Denmark there are 1,157 co-operative dairies, 34 bacon- curing factories, 1,1180 societies for cat- tle breeding, besides societies for breed- ing-sheep, horses, and pigs, and for exporting cattle and eggs. The farmer, large and small, has an interest in these concerns, and shares in the pro- fits, over and above the services they render him. The small man knows that he has not to fear the competi- tion of the big wholesale producer. He knows that he is buying at the lowest rate and selling at the best market price. The best expert advice in the country is at his disposal : --
The farmer who, standing alone, can be broken across the knee of, tyranny, extortion, or competition if bound up with a hundred others by the bond of common interest is able to match them all. This advantage, too, remains to him : as co-operative societies guarantee the quality of
their produce the market is always sure. In short, co-operation is the real solution of the difficulty so often experienced of making properly farm- ed but unprotected land pay a living profit and something over for rent or interest on loans invested in the pur- chase of the freehold with a margin for sinking fund ir savings. I repeat, however, my belief that this most beneficial system will only take real root in an agricultural community which owns and does not hire the land it works, and even then will only attain to complete success and prosperity if the people of the com- munity are very hardworking, edu- cated in the true sense, kindly, toler- ant-natured, ind intelligent
Co-operation it would appear, which is the clue to success in small holdings de- mands ownership for this among other reasons. Co-operative accounts are open to inspection, and tenants, if they chanced to be doing well, might natur- ally fear that a rise in prosperity would mean a rise in rent.
Theie ni o ninny critics of the b}/>tein of course fiom whom Mi Haggard very onndidlv quotes but no cnticism i,ets lid of the fact that on the wliole Dmish farming: is astonishing!} success ful One Danish critic objects to the fieehold system in small holdings and would prefer leases of two lives In up phmg the moral to Engand Mr Hag gard seems a little affected bv tins view ind bv the few applications for the purchase of oui County Council hold mgs and m one-passage seems to favour tenancy nthei than ownership Tor ourselves wo do not see v h} there should not be room for both but ne would prefei the second as the nornnl tvpe Co-oporntion which is the truo bocret of success is on Air Haggard s cwn argument much easioi to work nniong owners thin among temnts The Dinish lesson is applied with gientgood sense ind fun ness Mr Haggard be- gins w lth the proposition tint the re tention of the people on the land shoiill ho tin gi eat and cien the mini en deivoui of the Western nit ions No thing can make up foi the loss of them -no weilth no splendour no foreign investments ' no témpora» success or glonos of my kind He wants to seo the soil of Tligland ni many moie hands thim at present for it would mean that the pioduction -would ba doubled No circumstances in our i» liculture isfconishes ind indeed horn he« the Dinish firmer so much is docs our huge nciongo of wasteful and mdif ferent pistuie Ho thinks that half of Englind Ins been foi sale for vear« if purchasers ciultl have been found to piv a price in anv wn\ proportionate to what had been snent on the lind He his no belief m Piotectton -is a re- medy the cure must como is in Den muk from the firm°i himself and from the land jtself^ A better distru tion of Innd scientific training scien- tific methods and above all co onera tion-these have made of Denmark in obieet lesson to the woild On them alone cm my true English land polier be founded______^