Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
David smiled. "Something of the sort. We have only such bazaars. No small shops at all."
"What" cried Kingscourt. "Have you put all the small tradesmen out of business? Have you killed the poor devils dead?"
"No, indeed. We did not have to kill them, because we simply did not let them be born."
Friedrich, who had been admiring the window displays with the ladies, now asked, "How's that? You prohibited petty trade. Is that your freedom?"
"Everyone is free here, and may do as he chooses," replied David. "We punish only those crimes and misdemeanors which were penalized in enlightened European states. Nothing is forbidden here that was not forbidden there. We do not consider petty trade a misdemeanor, but poor business. That was one of the problems our Society had to solve. It was very important to do so, especially at the beginning, because such large numbers of our people were petty tradesmen. My good father himself-you probably remember, Dr. Loewenberg-earned his poor crust as a peddler. And peddling is certainly the most wretched form of petty trade. He used to carry his basket from one cafe to the other."
"One moment, Mr. Littwak!" roared Kingscourt. "I say, you don't seem to be ashamed of it." "I? Far from it. My father suffered torments for my sake.
I should be the last person-" "I like that! Shake hands!'" Kingscourt caught the young
man's hand, and pumped it vigorously. On their way to the glove department, Friedrich probed further. "How did you get around petty trading," he asked, "if you did not forbid it by law?"
"Quite simply. Through this thing here-the large bazaar. Such large emporiums and mail order houses with branches everywhere were inevitable in an era of steam engines and railways. They did not happen by accident. No clever merchant conceived them in a flash of insight. It was a development forced by iron necessity.
"Mass production had made this type of distribution imperative. Naturally, the small tradesmen became discouraged and bewildered, and were forced out of business, like the stagecoach drivers when the steam engine appeared. But the drivers realized their plight sooner than the tradesmen with their short-sighted shrewdness. The tradesmen were the more helpless because their business consisted chiefly of their bit of capital, and that had usually vanished by the time they realized the impending peril. They, poor souls, were not to blame for their own ruin. The new epoch attacked them without so much as a causus belli.
"But-and this is one of the keys to our prosperity-the obsolete forms of commerce never got a foothold here. We started off with the new era. No man was stupid enough to set up a little shop beside a great bazaar. No man any longer went from house to house or from town to town with a pack on his back when he knew that the price lists, samples, and newspaper advertisements of the mail order houses had preceded him. Petty trade and peddling no longer promised the least profit. Therefore, when our people entered the new conditions, they did not try to adopt those means of earning a livelihood.
"In old Europe, where so many rights had been won at different periods, and had to be protected none the less, this was a trying problem. The lower strata of the commercial middle-class were seriously endangered by the department stores. Yet, if the large shops were to be closed by law, a legal question would arise: at what point did they become 'large?' Were they to be weakened through high taxes? That course would profit the public' treasury little, while the small tradesmen would not be much the gamer.
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