This sarcastically titled essay addresses the unequal food rationing in England during WWII, rooted in the wealth disparity. Now, during wartime, everyone's affected because wars aren't free, with citizens funding tanks, bullets, and meals for soldiers. So homeland sufferance is automatic in terms of the very economics of resource availability. If I have something, you can't, and vice versa. However, the food rationing in England during WWII wasn't managed all that effectively because the wartime swelling of the black market was enabled. The black market is a truly free market because although it's ultimately laissez faire (due to the absence of a regulatory body), there are market trends and a general pricing paradigm because there's a general ceiling to what people are willing to pay for certain things. This system was alive and well in WWII, and England did nothing to curb it, despite being aware of its presence.
Orwell holds issue with allowing the wealthy to purchase whatever from the black market without consequence, citing Plutocracy. Even though the wealthy consist of such a small minority of the population that their resource consumption doesn't make a significant dent, they purportedly damage the "we-are-all-in-it-together" feeling. (366) I don't think this jives with his argument in previous essays though, which says that England is a source of inimitable and indelible national pride. Thus, I think it's just Socialist nitpicking. Everyone is asked to cut their consumption during war, and since all of England was part of the same market system--they used the same currency, resources, and subject to same laws whether or not they were enacted in every instance--everyone had to sacrifice something to obtain something else. This means the wealthy had to dig a little deeper for that extra plate of black market meat, rather than settling for oatmeal like the middle class. Thus, their wealth was effected in an abnormal way, despite not making a dent in it. It also makes a such small dent in the available resources, because to redistribute them to everyone would produce a negligible increase on an individual level. So it's not about quantity of resources and deprivation of the middle class at the hands of the upper class, it's about principle of some people being capable of insulating themselves from the feeling of sacrifice, while others having to "cut down their milk consumption and be enthusiastic about oatmeal and potatoes." (p.366)
The argument of redistribution is on the table. If instead of allowing the black market to exist, redistributing all those resources across England would--according to Orwell-- increase the "we-are-all-in-it-together" feeling. Orwell calls this "War-Socialism," although to me it is flavored with Communism. Hidden within the "together" feeling and the "equality of sacrifice" is an ideal of quantitative equality that really can't exist because they weren't equal before the war. Where does this feeling of equality all of a sudden come from? It's not like everyone were on a level playing field before Hitler started invading his neighbors, so it's not complete lifestyle disparity and asymmetry. If everyone sacrifices due the the connected nature of the market, isn't everyone still in it together? Orwell wants to measure and institute sacrifice subjectively, but I find that hard to quantify, qualify, and apply to a society of people.
My overarching question on this issue is: "Are people really concerned with fairness and equality if the black market always swells when regulation inhibits free market operation?"
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