Book Review from the June 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Poverty,” by Robert Hunter. London : The Macmillan Co. 2s. net.
This is a cheap reprint of a work that originally appeared in 1904 in America. It is written by a member of that body of reformers known as the Socialist Party of America. The author defines the main object of the volume as an estimate of the extent of poverty in the United States of America, and a description of “some of its evils.”
A further object of the book, we are told, is to point out certain remedial actions which society may wisely prosecute.
To one who is familiar with the investigations in this country of Mr. Charles Booth, Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, and Dr. H. H. Mann, the method of this work is certainly disappointing. As the author himself admits : “The poor of the rural districts have hardly been mentioned and the working woman and the mother are left almost entirely out of consideration.”
Little information, if any, can be gleaned beyond that already to be obtained in the works of Jacob A. Riis and Mrs. Van Vorst, etc.
The estimate given by the author of this book on poverty in America is sufficient to show of how little use the work is to the serious student. “I have not the slightest doubt,” he says, “that there are in the United States ten millions in precisely these conditions of poverty, but I am largely guessing at it, and there may be as many as fifteen or twenty millions.”
The condition which Mr. Hunter takes for his standard of poverty he defines as the lack of those necessaries sufficient to maintain a state of physical efficiency.
The real remedy for the poverty of the workers amidst the luxury of the idlers is not shown, and the preventive measures advocated by our author are worthy of the moat zealous supporter of the present system.
Sanitary laws and shorter hours for women and children. Laws to “make industry pay the necessary and legitimate coat of producing and maintaining efficient labourers.” Compensation and Insurance Acts and Anti-Immigration laws. In short, all those measures which are in operation in many lands, where they dismally fail to improve the workers’ conditions. Our author shrinks from the true position, viz., that as the poverty of the working class is due to robbery the remedy is to stop the robbers by ousting them, first from political, and then from economic power.