Belfort Bax

The Law of Maximum

(1 March 1917)

E. Belfort Bax, Law of the Maximum, Justice, 1st March 1917, p.8. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Dear Comrade, – The letter of our friend Watson deserves respectful attention if only from the circumstances under which it appears it was written.

Watson seems to think that the above question is one concerning the more or less abstract laws of economic science as such. These, of course, like the abstract laws of every science, apply “other things being equal.” But then “other things” are seldom or never quite “equal” in this vale of tears we call life, individual or social. Hence, as I contended in my article, the effect of purely economic laws, and the economic influences actuating men, can be nullified and overridden by extra-economic causes and influences, of which a Law of Maximum, enforced by the State or the collective power of society, is one. In making this observation, I leave the question open as to the accuracy of comrade Watson’s economic analysis itself.

Watson seems to find the question of the fixing of the Maximum a great stumbling block. He asks, who is to fix the maximum? I answer, in the first instance, obviously those responsible for the drawing up of the law, subject to necessary modifications as suggested by the board responsible in the last resort for its administration. As to the standard of prices adopted as the basis of the law, I would propose those obtaining (say) in the year 1900. Even if we admit Watson’s economics in their general outline, there is no doubt whatever that the rise in prices during the present century has been largely a fictitious rise; that is, one not based upon value or any economic principle in the true sense at all.

As to the fear of any Law of Maximum being “hocussed” by the governing class, that is, of course, what the working class and Socialists generally have to be on their guard against. But if the danger of this is to be deemed a valid objection to any measure in the nature of a stepping-stone – for the danger of such being “hocussed” in this way applies alike to all such measures – we may as well be content to sit down with our hands folded and wait upon fate and the completed social revolution. – Yours fraternally,


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 9.12.2004