The Intelligent Man’s Guide Through World Chaos (1932) (1st ed)


The Intelligent Man’s Guide Through World Chaos (1932) (1st ed)


Title: The Intelligent Man’s Guide Through World Chaos

Author: George Douglas Howard Cole

Publisher: Victor Gollancz, London, 1932. First edition.

Condition: Hardcover, red cloth with dust jacket. Book is in very good condition, dust jacket is in average to poor condition with lots of tears and fraying around edges. Firmly bound.


About the book (from the preface):

THIS BOOK is an attempt, within the compass of a single
volume, to give the intelligent and open-minded citizen,
who wants to understand how the world has got into its
present plight but possesses no special economic training,
the means of unravelling in his own mind the tangle of
world economic affairs. It does not profess or attempt to be
a systematic treatise on Economics, or Economic History, or
Money and Banking, or any other of the problems which it
sets out to discuss. Anyone who wants a formal and academic
treatment of these questions must go elsewhere ; and he will
readily find plenty of text-books to give him such help as
text-books are designed to give. But the trouble about text-
books is that they are mostly written to help students to
” get up ” a subject, and not to enable ordinary men and
women to arrive at a better knowledge of the workaday
world. If my book were to be regarded as a book on Eco-
nomics, written for students of thcit depressing subject, it
would have to be condemned for a thousand faults of omis-
sion, disproportion, wrong emphasis, and at some points
over-simplification of complicated questions. For ft seems
sometimes as if the object of the theoretical economists were
to make their subject as difficult as possible in order to
frighten off the amateurs.

As I am not wilting for economic students, but for all in-
telligent people who can be persuaded to read my book, I
have tried throughout to be as simple as possible, and have
left out j J abstruse and difficult discussions that are not ab-
solutely vital to an understanding of immediate problems.
I have been able to do this the more easily, because I be-
lieve that the understanding of present-day economic
problems is not really so hard a matter as it is often made
out to be. Even the money problem, which frightens off so
many potential enquirers, is in fact largely a matter of
plain commonsense ; and most of it can be understood by
anyone who is prepared to take a little trouble, if only it is
presented without jargon, and with as few technical terms
as possible. It may be difficult enough to decide what ought
to be done “bout money ; but there is no real reason why
this vital pi >blem should not be intelligently discussed by
ordinary people.

Indeed, at the present day it is of the first importance
that this and similar problems of national and world
economic policy should be intelligently discussed. For the
only alternative is that they will be discussed without intel-
ligence. They cannot be avoided, or left to the experts as
matters too technical for the intelligent voter to trouble his
head about. In Great Britain, the General Election of 1931
, turned largely on such economic issues as tlfe ” balance ol”
trade,” the dangers of ” inflation,” the effects of going off
the ” gold standard,” and the case for and against tariffs.
Everyone had to have views about these questions or to
ict as if he had views about them. Similarly, in the United
States to-day Congress is busy balancing or failing to
balance the Budget, passing laws for the reform of bank-
ing and the raising of the price-level, and trying to find
someone or something to blame for America’s economic
prostration. The German and French elections have both
turned mainly on economic issues ; and in every country,
great or small, the world slump has forced these questions
into the forefront of political controversy. No one can escape
them, or fail to realise that they are of close concern to him
personally as well as to the world as a whole. This book is an
attempt to set intelligent people thinking more clearly about
them, in the hope that if people think more clearly Govern-
ments will act more courageously and intelligently than
they have done hitherto.

1 begin, then, by trying to describe the world slump, and
to lay bare its more obvious causes. But it soon becomes
plain that the slump cannot be understood except in rela-
tion to the state of the world before it set in and that
means to the world as it was in the years immediately after
the war. For the war left behind consequences which have a
very direct bearing on the troubles of to-day reparations,
war debts, re-drawings of political and economic frontiers,
profound disturbances and dislocations in the economic
system of every belligerent country. Ever since 1918, most
countries have been trying and failing to get back to
pre-war conditions. Only Russia, for good or ill, has been
trying to build up an economic system radically new and
different. We shall have to ask, then, what was this pre-war
system to which the nations have been striving to return,
and how it grew up, and drew country after country within
its orbit, in the course of the nineteenth century. We shall
have to describe its growth, and to outline its salient charac-
teristics, in order to see whether its restoration is really
something to be desired, or practicable even if it is desired.

We shall find that in this pre-war world, as in the world of
to-day, two things money and prices largely governed
men’s economic doings ; and we shall have to study the be-
haviour of these things, in order both to find out how far
they are responsible for the world’s misfortunes, and to dis-
cover what can be done to make them behave less disas-
trously and erratically in the future. We shall have to ask
how far unemployment and trade depression are mere con-
sequences of the misbehaviour of money and prices, or arise
from more deeply-rooted causes in the economic* system
itself. This will lead on to a discussion of the reasons why
nations seem to alternate between boom and slump, pros-
perity and depression, and of the various attempts which
they have made to protect themselves from the ” economic
blizzard ” by tariffs and other devices designed to remedy
world troubles by national means. Consideration of tariffs
will lead on to the whole problem of taxation and national
expenditure, of the effects of the nations’ attempts to
” economise/’ and of the huge burden of debts, national and
international, by which the world is weighed down more
and more heavily as prices continue to fall.

At this stage, the time will have come to look away from
the nations which are striving to rebuild their shattered
economic systems on the old foundations to the Russian
attempt to create a totally new economic system as a model
for the world to imitate. We shall try to find out how this
Russian system actually works, and with what successes and
failures the Russians have met in the carrying out of their
famous ” Five Year Plan.” The study of what has been
happening in Russia will prepare the way for a discussion
of the fundamental economic controversy of the modern
world the cleavage between Capitalism and Socialism as
rival economic systems. We shall try to see what revolutions
the various schools of Socialists and other advocates of
radical change want to introduce into the world’s economic
affairs, and to estimate the chances of capitalist recovery as
the alternative to a conversion of the world from Capitalist
to Socialist ideas.

This, broadly, is the structure of the book which follows.
It makes no claim to finality, or to a monopoly of wisdom ;
for it is written in the midst of a world crisis which is com-
pelling every reasonable man to alter many of his ideas,
and at a time when only fools can feel absolutely sure of
their own Tightness. I can claim for it neither completeness
or impartiality for who can either know everything or
believe nothing? But I do claim to have been honest in
stating facts and looking for causes, and to have set down
nothing simply because it is what I should like to believe.
I have tried to be objective, if not impartial ; and above all,
I have done my best to tell as plain and straightforward a
tale as the tangle of present affairs will allow.

About the author:

George Douglas Howard Cole (25 September 1889 – 14 January 1959) was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the Co-operative movement.

He and his wife, Dame Margaret Postgate Cole (1893–1980), together wrote many popular detective stories, featuring the investigators Superintendent Wilson, Everard Blatchington and Dr Tancred. Cole was educated at St Paul’s School and Balliol College, Oxford.

As a conscientious objector during World War One, Cole’s involvement in the campaign against conscription introduced him to a co-worker, Margaret Postgate, whom he married in 1918. The couple both worked for the Fabian Society for the next six years before moving to Oxford, where Cole started writing for the Manchester Guardian.

During these years, he also authored several economic and historical works including biographies of William Cobbett and Robert Owen. In 1925, he became reader in economics at University College, Oxford. In 1944, Cole became the first Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. He was succeeded in the chair by Isaiah Berlin in 1957.

Cole was initially a pacifist; however, he abandoned this position around 1938, stating that “Hitler cured me of pacifism”.

He was listed in the ‘Black Book’ of prominent subjects to be arrested in the case of a successful Nazi invasion of Britain. (from wikipedia)