Samuel Geddes: The Little Prophet

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My excuse for breaking that rule to-day is that there are too many of us who know too little about this subject of population. I cannot see any better way of opening up a discussion of this vital subject than by a debate in your Lordships' House. I do not speak in any way as an expert in terms of knowledge of the facts, and certainly not in terms of remedies, but simply as a layman who feels that here we are at the present moment planning our future policy for education, housing, health, the use of our land in town and country, agriculture, industry, and all our Imperial policies and defence, yet we are taking quite extraordinarily little account of what must, in fact, be the very basis of the consideration we are giving to these problems—that is, the numbers and, equally important, the age composition of our future population by which must be judged our capacity to earn the wealth that will be necessary to pay for all we are intending to do, the population that will be needed for the peopling of the Empire and, if need be, for working and fighting, as to-day, for our very existence.

Very briefly and simply it is this, that every women of child-bearing age were in replacing themselves to the extent of 75 women.

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Taking that as a basis of calculation, it means that these 75 women will in turn replace themselves to the extent of 57 women. That compares with a rate in of , and in of Assuming that these tendencies continue it means that by about our population will be down to 34,, compared with the present 45,, I use the word "assuming" rightly, because it is no good attempting to be a prophet on a subject like this. It may well be that some quite unforeseen happening will occur to alter this tendency and falsify all our gloomy prognostications, but he would be a bold man who would say that we must base our assumptions on a tremendous reversal of what has been, in fact, a very prolonged trend.

The gravity of these figures is masked at the present time partly because it takes almost a generation for figures like these to work out in their effect over the whole population. Also there has been a fairly considerable decrease—most welcome—in mortality; but this decrease is among the aged as well as the young, and to that extent has no effect on future population figures. The gravity of the position has also to some extent been masked by the fact that the tendency, just before the war, was for migration to be towards this country rather than away from it.

Unless we face up to the problem here and now, it may well be that in twenty years' time we are going to wake up and realize we are exactly twenty years too late. I apologize to your Lordships for giving so many figures, but one cannot illustrate this matter without figures. They do not, however, tell the whole story.

Not only are we going to have a much smaller population in , but our whole age composition is going to be vastly different. To the extent of about one-quarter, we are going to be a nation of old age pensioners. That is quite politically true. I hope I shall not be accused of taking an unduly cynical view of the politics of this country if I suggest that, with the ever-growing voting power of the pensioner, the tendency will be for pensions to go up in value rather than to go down. These figures, I hope your Lordships will agree, are extremely grave.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that there really is no other single political or economic problem that compares with this in fundamental importance. There is only, so far as I can see, one official note that has been taken of the position. It is a combined report by their two Registrar-Generals. I cannot see the reason or excuse for a Report of this character unless it is just an attempt to allay public concern on a problem that is in fact dangerous to the extent that the public do not recognize it. If your Lordships look at this Report you will see that the figures do not go beyond It is an extraordinary coincidence that it is just after that the figures really become disturbing.

If your Lordships can get hold of a copy of this Report and will look at page 4 you will find calculations showing that the situation will be quite all right on the assumption that the birth-rate continues at , a year, but in an aside, having given that calculation, the Report notices incidentally that we are in fact proceeding at a rate of 25 per cent. But there is no reason why we in this House should follow that course.

One has to recognize that there are a great number of people who, with some reason, disagree with myself on this matter. It can very well be argued, as they would say, that a population of 5,, or 6,, less than we have in this country at the present time would not really seriously matter. But that is quite beside the point. We are not discussing the question of a population of 5,, less, we are discussing a problem that is to give us a steadily decreasing population logically proceeding almost to extinction over a very prolonged period, and not only a steadily decreasing population but a steady increase of old persons at the expense of the young members of the nation.

Why is this thing happening? I think we have got to make some attempt to answer that question before we jump to quick or easy remedies. A great deal more study of the problem is needed before anybody who is wise is going to attempt any final explanation. I do not know. I notice some figures, to give two examples, showing that in Bul- garia 1. Is that an important factor? Is it due to economic causes? Is it due to a national loss of fertility? Is it because we have become pleasure-loving?

Is it because of lack of religion? Is it that our education gives a wrong objective, particularly to girls, putting before them the aim and object of earning their own living in a shop or as a typist rather than looking for a home? Is it a lack of confidence in the material state of the world following on the last great war, which was succeeded by twenty years or more of industrial depression and unemployment? Or is it something more elusive? Is it something that really calls into question the whole quality of our civilization?

The subject was brought out the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, in a rather different context. Is it something that calls into question the whole content of our education, the whole objective of our national health system, which aims at curing disease rather than at what the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, described as positive health? Is it the effect that living in slums for generations will have on a population, the deadening effect not only of unemployment but of constantly repetitive work upon those engaged in mass production processes?

What effect is all that going to have? Is it going to increase this tendency or decrease it? We have to face the fact that it is not always those families of the highest standard of living, the most healthy and the most prosperous families, who necessarily increase at the most rapid rate. There seems to be complete uncertainty in the answer we have to give to most of these questions, and I feel that it would be folly to attempt an answer to them to-day. I think he would be a bold man who attempted a very definite or positive answer on present evidence.

Probably, as so often is the case in life, this happening is due to a great variety of causes and I doubt myself whether there is any one single answer or one single remedy. The first is a continued attack on the problem of mortality, particularly amongst the young. Obviously that is something we want to go on with whatever its effect on population. But we must face this, that if not a single girl or woman were to die under the age of fifty—I take that as an approximate child-bearing age—it would only take our rate of production up from 75 per cent.

Therefore I say a mere attack on the problem of mortality is inadequate. Then there is the proposal of family allowances. I have never been able to persuade myself that this problem is one that can be adequate on a purely economic basis. We do know, of course, that the child has become a much greater burden than it was in the old days when, to take an extreme case, families put their children into the mines or mills, sometimes even as early as five years of age, in order to add to the family income.

To-day children are not allowed by law to go to work until at least fourteen. We know that never has mortality been lower than to-day and never has the standard of living been higher, but for all that most of us would press the Government to continue that policy of family allowances and would stress particularly the desirability of paying little or nothing for the first or second child in order that it may be possible to be more generous for the third and later children.

Probably the middle classes are most hit on the economic side from the point of view of bringing up children. No system of family allowances is going to be of serious assistance to the middle classes. Therefore to family allowances I think we must add the need for making Income Tax deductions for children far less negligible than they are at present. The improvement of our public system of education, to make it easier for them to make use of that system, would also undoubtedly be of great assistance.

But, to sum up, I would say, first, that the subject presents us with a problem that is serious and pressing and that the only report about it which has hitherto been issued by any Government Department is misleading and, as I said, therefore dangerous. Secondly, there are two immediate steps that can be taken: the continuing attack on the problem of mortality and the granting of family allowances, plus considerable and generous Income Tax deductions in respect of children.

Both these proposed remedies, we have to admit, though desirable are inadequate. Thirdly, and most important, there must be further immediate inquiry into the facts and causes and the effects of declining population.

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I will not attempt to dogmatize now as to whether that inquiry should take the form of a Royal Commission—although I am convinced the subject is worthy of such consideration—or the rather more permanent ad hoc body suggested the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, for advising the Government on policy and the wider aspects of public health.

But there must be inquiry and it must be immediate. Lastly, whilst all our efforts must be directed to correcting this tendency that we are discussing to-day we should always bear in mind that we have got to have a second line of defence. All the plans we are making to-day for the future should take into account the fact that we may either fail completely in our efforts or achieve only partial success.

Unless we take that into consideration there is grave danger that the plans we are laying to-day with so much hope may be based on quite false and non-existent premises. I beg to move. My Lords, with much that the noble Earl has said I mostly warmly agree. There is very little indeed, if anything, from which I differ.

In nothing am I more cordially in agreement with him than that this subject is one to which even the uninstructed layman may make a contribution by throwing ideas into the common pool, though he be himself no expert. I have no pretensions to be an expert, I approach the subject from the standpoint of an ordinary citizen concerned with a problem of great moment. It is indeed, as the noble Earl has said, perhaps the most important single economic problem with which our nation has to deal. In the last century the British people expanded both in numbers and in space.

That is why the last century is known as Britain's century. If the noble Earl's prognostication is correct, and I believe it is, the grim question which we have to ask ourselves is: Has the tide turned? That is the main question, but there are subsidiary questions which have a very real importance. We have to ask ourselves these questions: Will there be sufficient young men and women in the next generation to maintain the greatness of Britain? Will there be enough of them to defend that greatness in the next generation if, which God fore-fend, the need should arise?

For myself, I say frankly that looking into the future I find the prospects of an ageing and declining population most frightening. There are some—the noble Earl indicated it—who do not take that view, who ask, why is the prospect frightening? Was there not, they say, mass unemployment before the war? If the population goes down will there not be fewer people to share the nation's goods and services?

To those who ask those questions the prospects are indeed attractive, but the attractions are meretricious, the argument is fallacious. It is true that there will be fewer to work, and there will be fewer to share, but the stock of goods and services to be shared will be smaller also. The plain fact of the matter is, as the noble Earl said, that the nation is not reproducing its numbers, though the situation is, to an extent, veiled at the moment, obscured by the fact that the old are living longer.

The noble Earl gave your Lordships a few figures. Mine are a little different but they have the same general trend. It is worth the notice of your Lordships that in the proportion of the population under fifteen was one-third; to-day it is one-fifth, and in , if present trends continue, it will be one-sixth. In the proportion of old people—that is, for this purpose, men over 65 and women over 60—was one-sixteenth; to-day it is one-eighth, and in , under present trends, it will become one-fifth.

Those are not precisely the same figures as the noble Earl gave, but it is the same argument based on the same trend. This is the outcome that has to be faced in respect of these figures and I have put it in concrete terms. There will be 9,, old people to be supported by 29,, only of men and women of working age. Furthermore, in there will only be 7,, children coming along as compared with 12,, in And the decline in both the total population and, what is vitally important, the proportion of the population of working age, will have begun, and having begun will gather speed increasingly.

I take a very different view from those who look with calmness upon what I regard as a frightening prospect. The view I would place before your Lordships, concurring with the noble Earl, is that the way to save unemployment and to maintain the standard of living is not to multiply the unborn.

If this trend continues there will be more and more old people, fewer and fewer children, fewer producers, fewer taxpayers, and fewer fighters. That is the prospect, and it is enormously important that the people of this country should be made aware of it; that they should be brought up against the sobering truth which they will have to confront at some time or other.

We have, in my diagnosis of the situation, to make the people of this country population conscious. We want to create an atmosphere, to create, if you like, a climate of thought in which the people will want, and are going to be encouraged to have, larger families. We have to make larger families the fashion. Larger families must become "the thing. The facts and their grave implications must he brought home to the people of this country.

What are the facts? The noble Earl has referred to some of them. He has pointed out that mothers are failing to reproduce themselves by an extent of about 25 per cent. That is a pretty formidable prospect. The ebb started in , and after or thereabout the number of births began to fall. But the number was still well in excess of the number of deaths, and the population, round about , was still replacing itself.

It was after the last war that the tide really began to turn in earnest.

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The reproduction rates then fell below unity—they fell below replacement level. But the population was still, for a time, on the rising curve because mortality was still falling, and births still exceeded deaths. But, my Lords, the sands are nearly dry now. If the current trend continues the population, as the noble Earl said, must fall, within the next generation and the decline will gather great speed in two generations.

It goes ahead almost in geometric progression. These are the facts; what are the implications? What are the implications of an ageing and declining population, declining in its virile working section as well as in its total numbers? The onus of production will fall on fewer shoulders; there will be relatively few and decreasing producers. The burden of taxation will tall on fewer heads; the vast sums required for the Budget will have to be found from the productivity of these relatively few and decreasing producers.

The responsibility for defence will fall on fewer backs, there will be fewer to work and fewer to fight. And, let us face it squarely, if these trends continue, Britain will be unable to discharge the functions of a world. Power, she will be unable to discharge the obligations of an Imperial Power and partner.

And this is not only a matter of defence; it is a question of peopling the empty spaces of the Dominions and the Colonies. As it is—it was said in debate in this House only a few weeks ago—we cannot face the prospect of having to spare our young and fit, and, if things go on as they are doing, we shall be still less able to spare them. We cannot help because of the frightening fall in numbers.

But if we were to accept that situation, and to take no remedying steps it would be abdication. That is a situation which none of us can accept. It is perhaps important, and I think perhaps it is useful, that one should look a little afield and see how we stand in relation to other countries in this matter. It is very remarkable—it has, I think, been pointed out to your Lordships already, and I certainly intended to refer to it—that in the course of two generations the prospective mother population of this country has decreased by two-thirds.

Throughout Northern and Western Europe, by the middle 'thirties, the average number of potential mothers born had also fallen, as in this country, by two thirds during the last sixty or seventy years. Even in countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand reproduction has been only just hovering at the replacement point, and sometimes dipped below. No doubt your Lordships will have seen Professor Harrod's recent pamphlet in which he makes this very striking statement, which seems, unhappily, to be borne out by the facts.

It is not the first or even the second births which count in this matter, but the large families—the third, fourth and fifth children. Let us look into this matter a little further, because the striking fact emerges that the world balance is shifting. The main feature of the nineteenth century was what has been called "the swarming of the Western European peoples. They have ceased to swarm. In one country after another, rising living standards have brought falling reproduction rates, so that they have gained a whole new world but they have lost the will to grow.

I emphasize that phrase—the will to grow. It is not biology or physical disability or sterility that sets limits to fertility; it is social habit, custom, psychology; it is a matter of deliberate choice. In the words of Sir John Clapham, "it is two-thirds a spiritual problem. While these nations have lost the will to grow, other peoples still swarm. The cycle of population is still moving upwards in Central and in Eastern Europe.

New cycles of population increase are in progress in Asia. I wonder whether your Lordships have looked at the very remarkable figures for Russia. In spite of civil war, invasion, disease and famine, they show a very remarkable trend. In the twenty years from to , the population of European Russia increased from ,, to ,,, an increase of 26 per cent. In the same twenty years, the population of Asiatic Russia increased from 29,, to 41,,, an increase of 46 per cent. It is clear, therefore, that from the Urals eastward there is a new powerhouse of population and energy which has already done much to save Russia in this war, and is a certain centre of expansion and development in the post-war world.

In Japan the rate of increase is at a peak. No doubt it will slacken, but it will long remain very formidable. In the Netherlands Indies, India and China the cycle of increase is still sweeping upwards—checked, no doubt, by death, disease, starvation and war, but still sweeping upwards. It may be that Russia, Japan, India and China will in their turn come to check their growth as their standards of living rise, as has happened in the Western countries, but, as you look round the world, the contrast is very striking and very significant.

The war has done anything but help the Western countries in these respects. All the conditions of scattered Armies, privation, starvation and slavery have struck at the European peoples until, in the words of Sir John Clapham, "I foresee," he says, "a multitude of never-born Europeans which may well exceed the losses of battle.

That is the question which the noble Earl has posed in his Motion. Is it inevitable, is it inescapable, that the so-called developed countries, industrialized, commercialized, civilized in the material sense, should cease to grow? I say of Britain at least, surely it is not. It is a matter of choice, and therefore the trend can be turned.

I want briefly to give three aids to this reversal of a course which is leading to national disaster. First, let the people know; inform them of the peril. Second, remove all the deterrents to having a large family. Third, set out consciously to create a new habit and a new custom; as I have said before, make families fashionable, make large families "the thing.

In previous times they have moved in reverse; we now have to make them move together. It is a great experiment, but at the same time it is a major test of our civilization. Let me take my three aids—they are no more than aids, because at bottom the problem is spiritual and personal. I say first that it is the duty of every leader of opinion in the pulpit, in Parliament, in the Press and elsewhere not to agitate for more cannon-fodder in the totalitarian sense of Hitler and Mussolini—that is not succeeding in increasing the size of families—but to put the facts and their implications before the British people; because they, after all, have the right and also the duty to decide the future of themselves and of their country.

There has been too much reticence, too much coyness, too much ignorance, too much stupidity, too much neglect of the nation's plainest need. What is that plainest need? It is salvation from extinction. Nothing less is at issue. Remove also the deterrents. I would ask of the Government that from now onwards every branch of social, economic and fiscal policy should be selective, biased and weighted in favour of large families.

It was one of the virtues of Beveridge that he did see the family problem as a whole—security, maternity benefit, children's allowances. The Government have accepted the suggestion of children's allowances. I am not here to discuss the amount of them, but I say, do it now. Although they are little enough, they are one small item in the right direction; and these allowances—and this is the only point which I would make on the question of amount—must increase progressively with the size of the family. The programme should be higher allowances for later children.

Then, as the noble Earl has said, there is the question of taxation. This article examines the work of the pioneer American industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, an early and significant exponent of streamlining, to argue that the style has been largely overlooked as an important modernist expression, containing within it a number of competing and contradictory meanings.

While designers, such as Geddes, considered the aerodynamic aesthetic both functional and expressive, critics of streamlining considered it a threat to a more narrowly defined form of modernism. Nicolas P. His area of research is American 20th century design, focusing on the relationships between modernism and popular design. Combining the logic of Le Corbusier with the imagination of H. Wells, the educational amusement ride depicted a vast miniaturized model of the future dominated by speeding automobiles, sprawling super highways, towering cities and the logic of science, technology and consumption.

Visited by tens of millions of people, its depiction of frictionless traffic and streamlined consumerism profoundly shaped the American notion of the world of tomorrow. He was guilty of all the excesses which that label implies — massive fantasies, a cavalier attitude toward money, and an absolute conviction of the brilliance of his own endeavours. But beneath these eccentricities lay a passion to create, a passion whose giant scope aroused public awareness to the possibilities of industrial design. His stage design course reflected the modernist principles of organic unity, simplification, abstraction, originality and anti-historicism; tenets Geddes embraced throughout his career.

Throughout his career he sought the friendship of important modernist designers, including the German architect Erich Mendelsohn and the leading American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, both of whom he greatly admired. At the same time, Geddes developed a friendship with the architect and theosophist, Claude Bragdon.

Geddes was the first among his peers to promote his ideas in an industrial design monograph. Horizons, , contains futuristic visualizations of streamlined vehicles and ambitious engineering projects which identified the emerging profession with logic and foresight, while promoting Geddes as both a practical visionary and an artist-engineer.


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Horizons presented streamlining as an idiom uniquely suited to contain the seeming paradox of style and function. Geddes saw no contradiction between his idealistic designs and his bread and butter jobs; the former attracted the latter. As an accomplished stage designer, Geddes would have been equally aware that the theatricality of visionary design could provide a useful distraction in hard times, especially during periods of decreased consumption and material scarcity.

A transcript collected by the Geddes office of a San Francisco Chronicle article made just that point: Depressions, oddly enough, are always high old times for prophets. Van Doren, however, was more concerned with the detrimental effect of associating prophetic fantasies with the increasingly professional practice of industrial design.

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The more sensational technological forecasts — those of flying cars and push-button living — linked industrial design with science fiction rather than a serious profession. From the inception of the automotive industry streamlining was understood more in aesthetic than engineering terms. In the s the word was applied to the gentle curves of crafted luxury cars. The aesthetic associated these cars with the glamour and modernity of air transport.

The sociologist David Gartman argues that during the Depression competing visions of streamlining went head to head: a functional approach promoted by engineers focussed on efficiency and economy, while an aesthetic application favoured by stylists hid mechanical components behind smooth exteriors, thus disguising labour.

Gartman claims that the stylists won the day: stylistic streamlining provided a diverting image of progress and luxury that masked social misery. Many of these designs illustrate that Geddes had no qualms applying streamlining to stationary products, a practice decried by contemporary design critics, including the influential curators Philip Johnson and John Mc Andrews of the Museum of Modern Art MoMA.

Two pivotal exhibitions at MoMA exemplified this shift. The Machine Art exhibition promoted an aesthetic based on the gleam of steel and the classicism of pure geometry, providing a reverential display of American tools and European modernist furniture, while Organic Design in Home Furnishings of evidenced a preference for natural materials and biomorphic forms. However, its application to household goods and transportation design made it visible within domestic and public spheres.

In millions of Americans caught their first glimpse of streamlined trains. Hoping to cash in on the growing excitement, Chrysler released its pioneering Airflow the same year. Designs for Graham-Paige, ca. Graham, thus initiating his industrial design career. Another victim of the s economic depression, the Graham-Paige car never went into production. Horizons and Ideal Streamlining and Motor Car Number 8 The effects of the Wall Street crash provided additional time for Geddes to indulge his enthusiasm for aerodynamic forms.

Presented in Horizons, the teardrop car sported a truncated front end, a rear engine and rear fins intended to improve stability. This is approximately that of an egg, though the small end of the drop tapers more sharply to a conical point. In accord with the visual language of aerodynamics, the medal fused the airplane and the automobile into an organic whole, depicting an abstract teardrop-shaped car with a feathered wing on one side and an equally stylized engine on the reverse.

While Johnson saw classical modernism as the ultimate aesthetic, Geddes viewed the teardrop as the ultimate form, longing to introduce it in his Chrysler designs. Most of us have at least one written in our own language that we can read and study with little effort. But Bibles have not always been so readily available. In 2 Kings 22 and 23, written some time around B.

This discovery seemed to have been a surprise; copies of the scriptures were apparently hard to come by then. King Josiah read these writings, discovered that many religious practices of his people did not conform with the recorded commandments, and decided to make changes. He reemphasized the Passover feast, and conditions improved for a time in Jerusalem. A few years later, Lehi and his family were commanded to leave Jerusalem and take with them a copy of the scriptures.

Book of Mormon readers remember the efforts of Nephi and his brothers to obtain from Laban the plates of brass, which contained a record similar to our Old Testament down to that time B. As the account in 1 Nephi 4—5 implies, copies of the scriptures in any form were scarce. In contrast, those who came with Mulek from Jerusalem to America about B.

See Omni — While it is possible that the Mulekites failed to take the scriptures with them primarily out of neglect, it is more likely there were few copies of the scriptures around to take.


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See 1 Ne. In about B. He translated as he read because the scriptures were written in Hebrew and the younger Jews spoke only Aramaic, the language of Babylon. Probably for the first time in their lives the Jews heard and understood the scriptures in their own tongue, and they wept and rejoiced. See Neh. These examples lead us to believe that having the scriptures readily available and in our own language is a blessing that most people in bygone days have not enjoyed.

And yet the Bible is not only recorded on paper for reading, but also on tape for hearing, in braille for feeling, and even on microfilm. It has been translated into thousands of languages and is available in book form in a multitude of sizes and bindings. We have got a Bible, and there cannot be anymore Bible. Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the [Jewish prophets], and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto [them]?

The question seems to be, Do we appreciate what it means to have our own personal copy of the Bible? The original languages of the Bible were Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Jerome , perhaps the most capable Bible scholar of the time, to translate the scriptures into Latin. Even with all his efforts and learning, however, Jerome could not avoid making some errors and misinterpretations. But of even greater importance, over the next thousand years more changes crept into the many versions of the Vulgate that were made. During the Middle Ages, few northern Europeans understood the Latin scriptures, and copies of the Bible were scarce.

Sometimes even the local priests knew little of the Bible. The type of church service did not contribute to much reading, anyway, as the emphasis was on celebrating the mass rather than preaching the word of God. Many of the poor people could not read at all; thus, concentrated, sustained, and regular study of the Bible was out of the question for most people.

Still, through the centuries, many wondered why the scriptures could not be translated into different languages so everyone could read and benefit. The ancient Hebrews had been taught by the prophets in their own language, and the Greeks had been taught by Paul in their native tongue. Why could it not be so with the English, the French, the Germans? Although others had translated portions of the Bible into English, Oxford scholar John Wycliffe was the first to make the entire Bible available in an English translation.