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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. III - The Basic Works > UNTO THIS LAST > Ad Valorem


Ad Valorem

We have seen how the ideas upon which political economy is based are misleading. Translated into action they can only make the individual and the nation unhappy. They make the poor poorer and the rich richer and none are any the happier for it.

Economics do not take the conduct of men into account but hold that the accumulation of wealth is the sign of prosperity, and that the happiness of nations depends upon their wealth alone. The more factories, the merrier. Thus men leave village farms with their spring winds and coming to cities, live diminished lives in the midst of noise, of darkness, and of deadly exhalation. This leads to deterioration of the national ph3'sique, and to increasing avarice and immorality. If some one talks of steps to be taken to eradicate vice, so-called wise men will say that it is of no use at all that the poor should receive education and that it is best to let things alone. They however forget that the rich are responsible for the immorality of the poor, who work like slaves in order to supply them with their luxuries, and have not a moment which they can call their own for self-betterment. Envying the rich, the poor also try to be rich, and when they fail in this effort, they are angry. They then lose their senses and try to make money by force or fraud. Thus both wealth and labour are barren of all fruit or else are utilized for chicanery.

Labour in the real sense of the term is that which produces useful articles. Useful articles are those which support human life, such as food, clothes or houses, and enable men to perfect the functions of their own lives to the utmost and also to exercise a helpful influence over the lives of others. The establishment of big factories with a view to getting rich may lead a person into sin. Many people amass riches but few make a good use of it. Accumulated wealth which leads to the destruction of a nation is of no earthly use. The capitalists of modern times are responsible for widespread and unjust wars which originate from the covetousness of mankind.

Some people say that it is not possible to impart knowledge so as to ameliorate the condition of the masses; let us therefore live as seems fit and amass riches. But this is an immoral attitude. For the good man who observes ethical rules and does not give way to greed has a disciplined mind, does not stray from the right path, and influences others by his acts. If the individuals who constitute a nation are immoral, so is the nation too. If we behave as we choose and at the same time take our neighbours to task for their wrongdoing, the results can only be disappointing.

We thus see that money is only an instrument which makes for misery as well as happiness. In the hands of a good man it helps in the cultivation of land and the harvesting of crops. Cultivators work in innocent contentment and the nation is happy. But in the hands of a bad man, money helps to produce say gunpowder which works havoc among its manufacturers as well as among its victims. Therefore There is no Wealth but Life. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.

This is not a time for self-indulgence but for each of us to labour according to our capacity. If one man lives in idleness, another has to put. in a double amount of work. This is at the root of the distress of the poor in England. Some so-called work is nugatory as in jewel- cutting and even destructive as in war. It brings about a diminution in the national capital, and is not beneficial to the worker himself. It seems as if men are employed, but really they are idle. The rich oppress the poor by misuse of riches. Employers and employees are at daggers drawn with one another, and men are reduced to the level of beasts.