|Wealth and Want
|... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
Ogilvie’s Essay on The Right of Property in Land
by D.C. MacDonald
the 1891 Edition of Birthright in Land,
by George Morton
Professor Ogilvie’s Essay was written between 1776 and 1781, about a hundred years before Mr. Henry George wrote his Progress and Poverty
Both authors traversed the sorrowful jungle of Political Economy, and both discovered “the central truth.” The independent testimony of the one is corroborated by the equally independent testimony of the other.
The same truth was revealed to John Locke between the years 1680 and 1690. And is there any doubt that it was seen by Moses, David, Socrates, and a host of prophets, poets, and philosophers, ages and ages before?
Do we not find the Birthright of Man stereotyped in the words “OUR FATHER”? The Faiths of the world, ancient and modern, whether considered natural or revealed, have all something in them, in common with genuine Christianity, which declares “Equality of Rights” between man and man.
“Whether,” says Locke,* “we consider natural reason, which tells us that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink and such other things as Nature affords for their subsistence, or ‘revelation’, which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah and his sons, it is very clear that God, as King David says (Psalm cxv., 16), ‘hath given the earth to the children of men,' given it to mankind in common.
* Essay on Civil Government.
“As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He, by his labour, does, as it were, enclose it from the common.
“God gave the world to men in common; but since He gave it for their benefit and the greatest conveniencies of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed He meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational (and labour was to be his title to it); not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious.” And adds Professor Ogilvie: “Nor yet that it should be appropriated in such a manner as that, when not more than half cultivated, the farther cultivation and improvement should be stopped short, and the industry of millions willing to employ themselves in rendering the earth more fertile should be excluded from its proper field, and denied any parcel of the soil, on which it could be exercised, with security of reaping its full produce and just reward.” “This title to an equal share of property in land” is declared by Professor Ogilvie to be a “BIRTHRIGHT which every citizen still retains.” We shall see how far he advanced the question towards the standpoint of Progress and Poverty.
“The reform” - says Mr. Henry George - “I have proposed . . . is but the carrying out in letter and spirit of the truth enunciated in the Declaration of Independence - the ‘self-evident’ truth that is the heart and soul of the Declaration - ‘That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!’
“These rights are denied when the equal right to land - on which and by which alone men can live - is denied. Equality of political rights will not compensate for the denial of the equal right to the bounty of nature. Political liberty when the equal right to land is denied, becomes, as population increases and invention goes on, starvation wages. This is the truth that we have ignored.”
Such being the disease, what is the cure?
“It is necessary,” says the Philosopher of Pittensear,* “that the object to be aimed at, and the means by which it may be obtained, should be again and again stated to the public in a variety of speculative views, and so rendered familiar to the understandings of men.
*Ogilvie’s ancestral home [see MacDonald’s Notes]. [Editor].“Internal convulsions have arisen in many countries by which the decisive power of the state has been thrown, for a short while at least, into the hands of the collective body of the people. In these junctures they might have obtained a just re-establishment of their natural rights to independence of cultivation and to property in land, HAD THEY BEEN THEMSELVES AWARE OF THEIR TITLE TO SUCH RIGHTS, and had there been any leaders prepared to direct them in the mode of stating their just claim, and supporting it with necessary firmness and becoming moderation. Such was the revolution of 1688, at which time, surely, an article declarative of the NATURAL RIGHT OF PROPERTY IN LAND might have been inserted in the Bill of Rights, HAD THE PEOPLE AT LARGE BEEN BEFOREHAND TAUGHT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THEY WERE POSSESSED OF ANY SUCH CLAIM. Such also was the late convulsion in America (1776), the favourable opportunities of which are not yet exhausted.”
It is interesting, as well as instructive, to notice the harmony that pervades the writings of these three Apostles of Man's natural right to independence, his liberty to labour, and his Birthright in land.
* The measure proposed in this book confusingly goes under several names today - The Single Tax, Land Value Taxation, Community Ground Rent, etc.. It is the last of these names however - COMMUNITY GROUND RENT - which most roundly and accurately describes, in modern terms, the nature of the reform we propose. [Editor].
Sad and strange to say, amidst our boasted civilisation, our profession of the Christian Faith, and our avowed belief in one impartial God, all knowledge in regard to the just and equal right of mankind to participate in the bounties of Nature, has hitherto been systematically boycotted. Until recently, the teacher of such principles was treated by Law and Order as a dangerous criminal. John Locke had to take shelter in Holland. William Ogilvie had to conceal himself under a bushel in Scotland. Many a noble son of Erin had to mount the gallows, while thousands suffered imprisonment, and millions were exiled from that unhappy country - a country which is still held like a mangled corpse in the crocodile jaws of commercial landlordism; and the monster will not let go its hold except on one condition, namely, to be allowed to gorge itself with British blood.
But why not utterly destroy this monster? What better service for our soldiers, blue-jackets, and policemen, than to employ themselves in destroying this common enemy of mankind? Parliament could do it, a royal warrant could do it, the sufferers have a right to do it, nay “every man hath a right” to destroy such monsters. “In transgressing the law of Nature,” says John Locke, “the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security, and so he becomes dangerous to mankind; the tie which is to secure them from injury and violence being slighted and broken by him, which being a trespass against the whole species, and the peace and safety of it, provided for by the law of Nature, every man upon this score, by the right he hath to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to them, and so may bring such evil on any one who hath transgressed that law, as may make him repent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and, by his example, others from doing the like mischief. And in this case, and upon this ground, every man hath a right to punish the offender, and be the executioner of the law of Nature.”*
*The renowned George Buchanan, the great-grand-father of British Liberty, puts it even stronger than this.
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper