E. Belfort Bax

The Law of Maximum

(29 November 1917)

E. Belfort Bax, Law of the Maximum, Justice, 29th November 1917, p.8. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

Dear Comrade, – I confess I was disappointed with our friend “Tattler’s” contribution to the discussion concerning the above. I expected some more pregnant argument from his facile pen.

In answer to “Tattler” I may say that I certainly regard a Law of Maximum as “a definite measure,” to the passing of which our efforts should be directed – in fact, as perhaps the most important economic “stepping-stone” (to borrow our old S.D.F. expression) towards the transformation of the social system in Socialist sense. I do not pretend to say whether it is likely to be “carried out in its entirety under the capitalist system of society.” Of course, I am fully aware of the varied “interests” which are opposed to the Maximum as they are to every other measure which they feel strikes at the root of profit-making even though it does so only incompletely. But I do not think the difficulties should deter us from working for the measure which the war has certainly brought within the region of practical politics, to say the least.

“Tattler” admits that swindling goes on in retail trade. “The inability,” he says, “of the poor to buy in quantities renders them always liable to be robbed by having to pay more per lb. or per pint than in better-off neighbourhoods where greater quantities are purchased.” He does not seem to see that this admission of his serves as at least one good argument for a Law of Maximum to stop this robbery.

But I should go much farther than this. The whole system of modern trade, certainly retail trade, is, as I contend, largely based on the artificial inflation of prices. The war has brought about the exaggeration of this tendency to a point which it becomes obvious to everyone, except, it would seem, some Socialists.

Instances galore are to hand of astounding discrepancies between the cost of production and the selling price of ordinary articles of consumption. But it is unnecessary to particularise, since what is said applies well-nigh to all “necessaries.” This it is that has led to the widespread and insistent demand for the fixing of a maximum price, first for one thing and then for another. Now “Tattler” it would seem, like Drummer Watson, would deprecate Socialists taking the lead in this popular movement which is accentuating itself every day, “Tattler” being not “very sanguine about the Law of Maximum.” Well, well! – yours fraternally,


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 28.5.2007