It isn't news that the process of living up to the
truths America's founding fathers held to be self-evident is not yet
complete. But some people appear to think we're getting pretty close,
and seek to conserve the system we've
got, unwilling to consider the possibility that we are falling short
on some vital dimensions.
Georgists, however, see a major remaining distortion — and they
know how to remedy that distortion.
Our founding fathers were all large landowners, and it would not have
occurred to them to limit the rights of landholders in any way. But at
a time when there was still an open — seemingly limitless— frontier, their perceptions might have been affected by that. But they
enough about conditions in Europe to anticipate what America would be
like as population increased.
Only 100 years later, with changes in technology and the closing of
the frontier, Henry George saw significant poverty in America's
cities. He sought the explanation for what he saw, and recorded his
— and the remedy — in Progress
Henry George: The Common Sense of Taxation (1881
Evidently this regard for the general good is the true principle of taxation.
The more it is examined the more clearly it will be seen that there is no
valid reason why we should, in any case, attempt to tax all property. That
equality should be the rule and aim of taxation is true, and this for the
reason given in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created
equal. But equality does not require that all men should be taxed alike,
or that all things should be taxed alike. It merely requires that whatever
taxes are imposed shall be equally imposed upon the persons or things in
like conditions or situations; it merely requires that no citizen shall be
given an advantage, or put at a disadvantage, as compared with other citizens.
The true purposes of government are well stated in the preamble to the
Constitution of the United States, as they are in the Declaration of Independence.
To insure the general peace, to promote the general welfare, to secure to
each individual the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness — these are the proper ends of government, and are therefore
the ends which in every scheme of taxation should be kept in mind.
As to amount of taxation, there is no principle which imposes any arbitrary
limit. Heavy taxation is better for any community than light taxation, if the
increased revenue be used in doing by public agencies things which could not
be done, or could not be as well and economically done, by private agencies.
Taxes could be lightened in the city of New York by dispensing with street-lamps
and disbanding the police force. But would a reduction in taxation gained in
this way be for the benefit of the people of New York and make New York a more
desirable place to live in? Or if it should be found that heat and light could
be conducted through the streets at public expense and supplied to each house
at but a small fraction of the cost of supplying them by individual effort,
or that the city railroads could be run at public expense so as to give every
one transportation at very much less than it now costs the average resident,
the increased taxation necessary for these purposes would not be increased
burden, and in spite of the larger taxation required, New York would become
a more desirable place to live in. It is a mistake to condemn taxation as bad
merely because it is high; it is a mistake to impose by constitutional provision,
as in many of our States has been advocated, and in some of our States has
been done, any restriction upon the amount of taxation. A restriction upon
the incurring of public indebtedness is another matter. In nothing is the far-reaching
statesmanship of Jefferson more clearly shown than in his proposition that
all public obligations should be deemed void after a certain brief term — a
proposition which he grounds upon the self-evident truth that the earth belongs
in usufruct to the living, and that the dead have no control over it, and can
give no title to any part of it. But restriction upon public debts is a very
different thing from restriction upon the power of taxation, and reasons which
urge the one do not apply to the other. Nor is increased taxation necessarily
proof of governmental extravagance. Increase in taxation is in the order of
social development, for the reason that social development tends to the doing
of things collectively that in a ruder state are done individually, to the
giving to government of new functions and the imposing of new duties. Our public
schools and libraries and parks, our signal service and fish commissions and
agricultural bureaus and grasshopper investigations, are evidences of this.
But while no limit can be properly fixed for the amount of taxation, the
method of taxation is of supreme importance. A horse may be anchored by fastening
to his bridle a weight which he will not feel when carried in a buggy behind
him. The best ship may be made utterly unseaworthy by the bad stowage of
a cargo which properly placed would make her the stiffer and more weatherly.
So enterprise may be palsied, industry crushed, accumulation prevented, and
a prosperous country turned into a desert, by taxation which rightly levied
would hardly be felt.
Now discarding all idea that there rests upon us any obligation to equally
tax all kinds of property, and assuming for our guidance the true rule, that
taxation should be levied with a view to the promotion of the general prosperity,
the securing of substantial equality, and the recognition of inalienable rights,
let us consider upon what species of property it may be best laid. ...
... The possession of wealth is the
inducement to the exertion necessary to the production and maintenance of wealth.
Men do not work for the pleasure of working, but to get the things their work
will give them. And to tax the things that are produced by exertion is to lessen
the inducement to exertion. But over and above the benefit to the possessor,
which is the stimulating motive to the production of wealth, there is a benefit
to the community, for no matter how selfish he may be, it is utterly impossible
for any one to entirely keep to himself the benefit of any desirable thing
he may possess. These diffused benefits when localized give value to land,
and this may be taxed without in any wise diminishing the incentive to production.
To illustrate: A man builds a fine house or large factory in a poorly improved
neighborhood. To tax this building and its adjuncts is to make him pay for
his enterprise and expenditure — to take from him part of his natural
reward. But the improvement thus made has given new beauty or life to the
neighborhood, making it a more desirable place than before for the erection
of other houses or factories, and additional value is given to land all about.
Now to tax improvements is not only to deprive of his proper reward the man
who has made the improvement, but it is to deter others from making similar
improvements. But, instead of taxing improvements, to tax these land values
is to leave the natural inducement to further improvement in full force,
and at the same time to keep down an obstacle to further improvement, which,
under the present system, improvement itself tends to raise. For the advance
of land values which follows improvement, and even the expectation of improvement,
makes further improvement more costly.
See how unjust and short-sighted is this system. Here is a man who, gathering
what little capital he can, and taking his family, starts West to find a
place where he can make himself a home. He must travel long distances; for,
though he will pass plenty of land nobody is using, it is held at prices
too high for him. Finally he will go no further, and selects a place where,
since the creation of the world, the soil, so far as we know, has never felt
a plowshare. But here, too, in nine cases out of ten, he will find the speculator
has been ahead of him, for the speculator moves quicker, and has superior
means of information to the emigrant. Before he can put this land to the
use for which nature intended it, and to which it is for the general good
that it should be put, he must make terms with some man who in all probability
never saw the land, and never dreamed of using it, and who, it may be, resides
in some city, thousands of miles away. In order to get permission to use
this land, he must give up a large part of the little capital which is seed-wheat
to him, and perhaps in addition mortgage his future labor for years. Still
he goes to work: he works himself, and his wife works, and his children work — work
like horses, and live in the hardest and dreariest manner. Such a man deserves
encouragement, not discouragement; but on him taxation falls with peculiar
severity. Almost everything that he has to buy — groceries, clothing,
tools — is largely raised in price by a system of tariff taxation which
cannot add to the price of the grain or hogs or cattle that he has to sell.
And when the assessor comes around he is taxed on the improvements he has
made, although these improvements have added not only to the value of surrounding
land, but even to the value of land in distant commercial centers. Not merely
this, but, as a general rule, his land, irrespective of the improvements,
will be assessed at a higher rate than unimproved land around it, on the
ground that "productive property" ought to pay more than "unproductive
property" — a principle just the reverse of the correct one, for
the man who makes land productive adds to the general prosperity, while the
man who keeps land unproductive stands in the way of the general prosperity,
is but a dog-in-the-manger, who prevents others from using what he will not
Or, take the case of the railroads. That railroads are a public benefit
no one will dispute. We want more railroads, and want them to reduce their
fares and freight. Why then should we tax them? for taxes upon railroads
deter from railroad building, and compel higher charges. Instead of taxing
the railroads, is it not clear that we should rather tax the increased value
which they give to land? To tax railroads is to check railroad building,
to reduce profits, and compel higher rates; to tax the value they give to
land is to increase railroad business and permit lower rates. The elevated
railroads, for instance, have opened to the overcrowded population of New
York the wide, vacant spaces of the upper part of the island. But this great
public benefit is neutralized by the rise in land values. Because these vacant
lots can be reached more cheaply and quickly, their owners demand more for
them, and so the public gain in one way is offset in another, while the roads
lose the business they would get were not building checked by the high prices
demanded for lots. The increase of land values, which the elevated roads
have caused, is not merely no advantage to them — it is an injury;
and it is clearly a public injury. The elevated railroads ought not to be
taxed. The more profit they make, with the better conscience can they be
asked to still further reduce fares. It is the increased land values which
they have created that ought to be taxed, for taxing them will give the public
the full benefit of cheap fares.
So with railroads everywhere. And so not alone with railroads, but with
all industrial enterprises. So long as we consider that community most prosperous
which increases most rapidly in wealth, so long is it the height of absurdity
for us to tax wealth in any of its beneficial forms. We should tax what we
want to repress, not what we want to encourage. We should tax that which
results from the general prosperity, not that which conduces to it. It is
the increase of population, the extension of cultivation, the manufacture
of goods, the building of houses and ships and railroads, the accumulation
of capital, and the growth of commerce that add to the value of land — not
the increase in the value of land that induces the increase of population
and increase of wealth. It is not that the land of Manhattan Island is now
worth hundreds of millions where, in the time of the early Dutch settlers,
it was only worth dollars, that there are on it now so many more people,
and so much more wealth. It is because of the increase of population and
the increase of wealth that the value of the land has so much increased.
Increase of land values tends of itself to repel population and prevent improvement.
And thus the taxation of land values, unlike taxation of other property,
does not tend to prevent the increase of wealth, but rather to stimulate
it. It is the taking of the golden egg, not the choking of the goose that
Every consideration of policy and ethics squares with this conclusion.
The tax upon land values is the most economically perfect of all taxes. It
does not raise prices; it maybe collected at least cost, and with the utmost
ease and certainty; it leaves in full strength all the springs of production;
and, above all, it consorts with the truest equality and the highest justice.
For, to take for the common purposes of the community that value which results
from the growth of the community, and to free industry and enterprise and
thrift from burden and restraint, is to leave to each that which he fairly
earns, and to assert the first and most comprehensive of equal rights — the
equal right of all to the land on which, and from which, all must live.
Thus it is that the scheme of taxation which conduces to the greatest production
is also that which conduces to the fairest distribution, and that in the
proper adjustment of taxation lies not merely the possibility of enormously
increasing the general wealth, but the solution of these pressing social
and political problems which spring from unnatural inequality in the distribution
"There is," says M. de Laveleye, in concluding that work in which
he shows that the first perceptions of mankind have everywhere recognized
a most vital distinction between property in land and property which results
from labor, — "there is in human affairs one system which is the
best; it is not that system which always exists, otherwise why should we
desire to change it; but it is that system which should exist for the greatest
good of humanity. God knows it, and wills it; man's duty it is to discover
and establish it." read the
H.G. Brown: Significant
Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress & Poverty:
14 Liberty, and Equality of Opportunity (in the unabridged P&P: Part
X: The Law of Human Progress — Chapter 5: The Central Truth)
... The reform I have proposed accords with all that is politically, socially,
or morally desirable. It has the qualities of a true reform, for it will
make all other reforms easier. What is it but the carrying out in letter
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
rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!"
These rights are denied when the equal right to land — on which and
by which men alone can live — is denied. Equality of political
rights will not compensate for the denial of the equal right to the bounty
Political liberty, when the equal right to land is denied, becomes, as population
increases and invention goes on, merely the liberty to compete for employment
at starvation wages. This is the truth that we have ignored. ...
Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing
one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have
his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress goes on. This
is the subtile alchemy that in ways they do not realize is extracting from
the masses in every civilized country the fruits of their weary toil; that
is instituting a harder and more hopeless slavery in place of that which has
been destroyed; that is bringing political despotism out of political freedom,
and must soon transmute democratic institutions into anarchy.
It is this that turns the blessings of material progress into a curse. It
is this that crowds human beings into noisome cellars and squalid tenement
houses; that fills prisons and brothels; that goads men with want and consumes
them with greed; that robs women of the grace and beauty of perfect womanhood;
that takes from little children the joy and innocence of life's morning.
Civilization so based cannot continue. The eternal laws of the universe
forbid it. Ruins of dead empires testify, and the witness that
is in every soul answers, that it cannot be. It is something grander
than Benevolence, something more
august than Charity — it is Justice herself that demands of us to right
this wrong. Justice that will not be denied; that cannot be put off — Justice
that with the scales carries the sword. Shall we ward the stroke with liturgies
and prayers? Shall we avert the decrees of immutable law by raising churches
when hungry infants moan and weary mothers weep?
Though it may take the language of prayer, it is blasphemy that attributes
to the inscrutable decrees of Providence the suffering and brutishness that
come of poverty; that turns with folded hands to the All-Father and lays on
Him the responsibility for the want and crime of our great cities. ...
Between democratic ideas and the aristocratic adjustments of society there
is an irreconcilable conflict. Here in the United States, as there in Europe,
it may be seen arising.
- We cannot go on permitting men to vote and forcing them to tramp.
- We cannot go on educating boys and girls in our public schools and then
refusing them the right to earn an honest living.
- We cannot go on prating of the inalienable rights of man and then denying
the inalienable right to the bounty of the Creator. ... read
the whole chapter
Henry George: Salutatory, from
the first issue of The Standard (1887)
I begin the publication of this paper in response to many urgent requests,
and because I believe that there is a field for a journal that shall serve
as a focus for news and opinions relating to the great movement, now beginning,
for the emancipation of labor by the restoration of natural rights.
The generation that abolished chattel slavery is passing away, and the political
distinctions that grew out of that contest are becoming meaningless. The work
now before us is the abolition of industrial slavery.
What God created for the use of all should be utilized for the benefit of
all; what is produced by the individual belongs rightfully to the individual.
The neglect of these simple principles has brought upon us the curse of widespread
poverty and all the evils that flow from it. Their recognition will abolish
poverty, will secure to the humblest independence and leisure, and will lay
abroad and strong foundation on which all other reforms may be based. To secure
the full recognition of these principles is the most important task to which
any man can address himself today. It is in the hope of aiding in this work
that I establish this paper.
I believe that the Declaration of Independence is not a mere string of glittering
generalities. I believe that all men are really created equal, and that the
securing of those equal natural rights is the true purpose and test of government.
And against whatever law, custom or device that restrains men in the exercise
of their natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness I shall
raise my voice. ... read the whole column
Henry George: The
Land Question (1881)
What is the slave-trade but piracy of the worst kind? Yet it is
not long since the slave-trade was looked upon as a perfectly
respectable business, affording as legitimate an opening for the
investment of capital and the display of enterprise as any other. The
proposition to prohibit it was first looked upon as ridiculous, then
as fanatical, then as wicked. It was only slowly and by hard fighting
that the truth in regard to it gained ground. Does not our very
Constitution bear witness to what I say? Does not the fundamental law
of the nation, adopted twelve years after the enunciation of the
Declaration of Independence, declare that for twenty years the
slave-trade shall not be prohibited nor restricted? Such dominion had
the idea of vested interests over the minds of those who had already
proclaimed the inalienable right of man to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness!
... read the whole article
Henry George: The Wages
Though the rich were to “bestow
all their goods to feed the
poor and give their bodies to be burned,” poverty would continue while
property in land continued.
the case of the rich man today
who is honestly desirous of devoting his wealth to the improvement of
the condition of labor. What can he do?
- Bestow his wealth on
those who need it?
He may help some who deserve it, but he will not improve general
conditions. And against the good he may do will be the danger of doing
- Build churches?
Under the shadow of churches poverty festers and the vice that is born
of it breeds!
- Build schools and
Save as it may lead men to see the iniquity of private property in
land, increased education can effect nothing for mere laborers, for as
education is diffused the wages of education sink!
- Establish hospitals?
Why, already it seems to laborers that there are too many seeking work,
and to save and prolong life is to add to the pressure!
- Build model tenements?
Unless he cheapens house accommodation he but drives further the class
he would benefit, and as he cheapens house accommodation he brings more
to seek employment, and cheapens wages!
- Institute laboratories,
scientific schools, workshops far physical experiments?
He but stimulates invention and discovery, the very forces that, acting
on a society based on private property in land, are crushing labor as
between the upper and the nether millstone!
- Promote emigration from
places where wages are low to places where they are somewhat higher?
If he does, even those whom he at first helps to emigrate will soon
turn on him and demand that such emigration shall be stopped as
reducing their wages!
- Give away what land he
may have, or refuse to take rent for it, or let it at lower rents than
the market price?
He will simply make new landowners or partial landowners; he may make
some individuals the richer, but he will do nothing to improve the
general condition of labor.
- Or, bethinking himself of
public-spirited citizens of classic times who spent great sums in
improving their native cities, shall he try to beautify the city of his
birth or adoption? Let him widen and straighten narrow and
crooked streets, let him build parks and erect fountains, let him open
tramways and bring in railways, or in any way make beautiful and
attractive his chosen city, and what will be the result? Must it not be
that those who appropriate God’s bounty will take his also? Will it not
be that the value of land will go up, and that the net result of his
benefactions will be an increase of rents and a bounty to
landowners? Why, even the
mere announcement that he is going to do such things will start
speculation and send up the value of land by leaps and bounds.
What, then, can the rich man do
to improve the condition of labor?
He can do nothing at
except to use his strength for the abolition of the great primary wrong
that robs men of their birthright.
The justice of God laughs at the attempts of men to substitute
anything else for it!
In speaking of measures for
improving social conditions, it
seems to us that in the teachings of morality is to be found the
highest practicality, and that the question, What is wise may always
safely be subordinated to the question, what is right?
But expressed moral truths are
deprived of all practical
meaning when accompanied by unjust sanctions as when the American
people, while they legalised chattel slavery, were accustomed to read
solemnly on every national anniversary the declaration which asserts:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal
and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that
among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
What did this truth mean on the
lips of men who asserted that
one man was the rightful property of another man who had bought him,
who asserted that the slave was robbing the master in running away, and
that the man or the woman who helped the fugitive to escape, or even
gave him a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, was an accessory to
theft, on whose head the penalties of the State should be visited?
read the whole article
Lindy Davies: Land
I'm here today as a "Single Taxer". If you don't
recall quite what that is, let me first say that it’s NOT Steve Forbes’s “flat
tax!” No. The Single Tax is actually a comprehensive program for
economic justice and environmental sustainability. It was stated most memorably
the American economist Henry George in his 1879 book Progress
— and affirmed by a great many important thinkers,
before and since. The idea is for society to collect the rental value of
land for public revenue — and to abolish all other taxes on the production
and exchange of wealth. It came to be known at the “Single Tax” because
of this proposal that the rent of land should be the sole source of public
Single Taxers have been ridiculed somewhat, over the years, for peddling
a panacea, offering a cure for poverty, depressions, urban blight, potholes,
the common cold and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Well, I don’t claim
to have a cure for every bad thing. But I do want to talk to you making the
necessary economic arrangements to create a just society, in which there would
be equal opportunity for all, and in which we could confidently look ahead
to all our children’s futures.
Single taxers have also caught some grief for always saying “It’s
all about the land!”
But I’m not going to apologize for that! I want to explain to you
why the issues of economic justice and sustainability actually ARE all about
The theme of this week’s program is Land and Justice. Those are two
words that we use so often that we tend to take their meanings for granted.
It might be helpful to stop and think about what they truly mean.
Justice is often seen as the fair retribution for something done wrong,
as in "justice was done" when a criminal is sent to jail. George
W. Bush vowed, for example, to bring the 9-11 terrorists to justice.
However, that conception of justice — in which one does good, in order
to avoid the consequences of not doing good — is actually an immature
one. In the stages of moral development identified by psychologist Lawrence
Kohlberg, this is called the "conventional" stage. Maturity comes
in the "post-conventional" stage, when we come to value doing good
so as to contribute to our community, or, even, doing good for its own sake.
Jesus was hip to that, in his scorn for the loudly-praying pharisees on
the street corners. They already have their reward, he said. He set much
store by good deeds done without thought of reward: "whatever you do to
the least of my brothers and sisters, you to do me also." And, even more
to the point, the prophet Micah enjoins us to "Do justice and love mercy."
So, what is "doing justice," in this positive sense? If I do
something nice for the least of my brothers and sisters, have I done justice?
If I send
them a handmade quilt?
Not really. I think the least of my brothers and sisters, cold though they
might be, would resent my presuming to know exactly how to handle their problem;
perhaps they'd rather make their own quilt, or build a fireplace, or move to
a warmer place.
Justice must have to do with freedom. To do justice, then, is to secure,
in Thomas Jefferson's words, people's inalienable rights: life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness.
The most basic of those rights is life. (In this day and age, though, even
that is controversial... There's a great deal of passionate contention
about the troubling special cases of the very beginning, or the very end
of life — but
it seems to me that we ought to pay more attention to every single human
being's right to live!)
Be that as it may: we all pretty much understand basically what human life
is, and what its basic requirements are: food, clothing and shelter. ...
Now it is interesting to note that the economic vision presented in the
bible is not a precursor of communism. Two of the ten commandments explicitly
the institution of private property, and the prophets consistently railed
against landlords and rulers who robbed the people of the fruits of their
laws of Leviticus, which Jesus said he "came not to destroy but to fulfill," envisioned
a community in which everyone was secure in his own home and property, "beneath
his vine and fig tree".
(Incidentally, the quote on the American Liberty Bell, from Leviticus,
chapter 25, was a direct reference to these principles : "Proclaim liberty throughout
the land and to all the people thereof." It was a reference to the Jubilee,
and the freedom it provided was from debt and servitude.)
The division is clear: there is to be a sacred right of private property
in the things that are made by people. But people were not to own the things
that were made by God. The 7th commandment sums up both principles in 4 words: Thou
shalt not steal.
Modern society has looked away from these principles, calling them quaint,
naive, inapplicable to the complexities of our time — yet, modern society
finds itself mired in chronic economic and social problems for which it can
find no solutions — and which threaten to pull down all the advances
of civilization into a dark age — occasioned by some combination of
war, financial implosion or ecological collapse.
If there is any way out of this dark future, it can only come by way of solving
the problem of land and justice.
Fortunately, there exists a plan for that.
This plan takes the shape of a "fiscal reform", because it applies
a definition of the relationship between the individual and the society that
is consistent with both economic efficiency and moral law. It calls for us
to respect the right of labor to create and to save wealth, and we acknowledge
that the value of land is created not by its “owners”, but by
the entire community.
Therefore, we will abolish all taxes on income, products and sales — and
collect the full rental value of land and other natural resources for public
Eventually, I believe that human society will adopt the biblical and georgist
wisdom, and organize itself as it must, to achieve justice, efficiency and
Eventually we will have tried everything else. That's how Clarence Darrow — one
of the reform's many prominent supporters — saw things. He said this: “The “single
tax” is so simple, so fundamental, and so easy to carry into effect
that I have no doubt that it will be about the last reform the world will
People in this world are not often logical.”
True enough. Yet I have to believe that eventually the obvious truth will
start to dawn on us. ... read
the whole speech
Henry George: The
Land Question (1881)
What I want to impress upon those who
may read this book is this:
The land question is nowhere a mere local question; it is a universal
question. It involves the great problem of the distribution of wealth,
which is everywhere forcing itself upon attention.
It cannot be settled by measures which in their nature can have but
local application. It can be settled only by measures which in their nature
will apply everywhere.
It cannot be settled by half-way measures. It can be settled only
by the acknowledgment of equal rights to land. Upon this basis it can be
settled easily and permanently.
If the Irish reformers take this ground, they will make their fight
the common fight of all the peoples; they will concentrate strength and divide
opposition. They will turn the flank of the system that oppresses them, and
awake the struggle in its very intrenchments. They will rouse against it
a force that is like the force of rising tides.
What I urge the men of Ireland to do is to proclaim, without limitation
or evasion, that the land, of natural right, is the common property of the
whole people, and to propose practical measures which will recognize this
right in all countries as well as in Ireland.
What I urge the Land Leagues of the United States to do is to announce
this great principle as of universal application; to give their movement
a reference to America as well as to Ireland; to broaden and deepen and strengthen
it by making it a movement for the regeneration of the world – a movement
which shall concentrate and give shape to aspirations that are stirring among
Ask not for Ireland mere charity or sympathy. Let her call be the
call of fraternity: "For yourselves, O brothers, as well
as for us!" Let her rallying cry awake all who slumber, and rouse to a common
struggle all who are oppressed. Let it breathe not old hates; let it ring
and echo with the new hope!
In many lands her sons are true to her; under many skies her daughters
burn with the love of her. Lo! the ages bring their opportunity. Let those
who would honor her bear her banner to the front!
The harp and the shamrock, the golden sunburst on the field of living
green! emblems of a country without nationality; standard of a people downtrodden
and oppressed! The hour has come when they may lead the van of the great
world-struggle. Types of harmony and of ever-springing hope, of light and
of life! The hour has come when they may stand for something higher than
local patriotism; something grander than national independence. The hour
has come when they may stand forth to speak the world's hope, to lead the
Torn away by pirates, tending in a strange land a heathen master's
swine, the slave boy, with the spirit of Christ in his heart, praying in
the snow for those who had enslaved him, and returning to bring to his oppressors
the message of the gospel, returning with good to give where evil had been
received, to kindle in the darkness a great light–this is Ireland's
patron saint. In his spirit let Ireland's struggle be. Not merely through
Irish vales and hamlets, but into England, into Scotland, into Wales, wherever
our common tongue is spoken, let the torch be carried and the word be preached.
And beyond! The brotherhood of man stops not with differences of speech any
more than with seas or mountain-chains. A century ago it was ours to speak
the ringing word. Then it was France's. Now it may be Ireland's, if her sons
But wherever, or by whom, the word must be spoken, the standard will
be raised. No matter what the Irish leaders do or do not do, it is too late
to settle permanently the question on any basis short of the recognition
of equal natural right. And, whether the Land Leagues move forward or slink
back, the agitation must spread to this side of the Atlantic. The Republic,
the true Republic, is not yet here. But her birth-struggle must soon begin.
Already, with the hope of her, men's thoughts are stirring.
Not a republic of landlords and peasants; not a republic of millionaires
and tramps; not a republic in which some are masters and some serve. But
a republic of equal citizens, where competition becomes cooperation, and
the interdependence of all gives true independence to each; where moral progress
goes hand in hand with intellectual progress, and material progress elevates
and enfranchises even the poorest and weakest and lowliest.
And the gospel of deliverance, let us not forget it: it is the gospel
of love, not of hate. He whom it emancipates will know neither Jew nor Gentile,
nor Irishman nor Englishman, nor German nor Frenchman, nor European nor American,
nor difference of color or of race, nor animosities of class or condition.
Let us set our feet on old prejudices, let us bury the old hates. There have
been "Holy Alliances" of kings. Let us strive for the Holy Alliance of the
Liberty, equality, fraternity! Write
them on the banners. Let them be for sign and countersign. Without equality,
liberty cannot be; without fraternity, neither equality nor liberty can be
- Liberty–the full freedom of each bounded only by the equal
freedom of every other!
- Equality–the equal right of each to the use and enjoyment
of all natural opportunities, to all the essentials of happy, healthful,
- Fraternity–that sympathy which links together those who struggle
in a noble cause; that would live and let live; that would help as well
as be helped; that, in seeking the good of all, finds the highest good
"By this sign shall ye conquer!"
"We hold these truths to be self-evident–that all men are
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!"
It is over a century since these words rang out. It is time
to give them their full, true meaning. Let the standard be lifted that
all may see it; let the advance be sounded that all may hear it. Let
those who would fall back, fall back. Let those who would oppose, oppose.
Everywhere are those who will rally. The stars in their courses fight
against Sisera!... read the whole article
Peter Barnes: Capitalism
3.0 — Chapter 7: Universal Birthrights (pages 101-116)
The Idea of Birthrights
John Locke’s response to royalty’s claim of divine right was
the idea of everyone’s inherent right to life, liberty, and property.
Thomas Jefferson, in drafting America’s Declaration of Independence,
changed Locke’s trinity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These, Jefferson and his collaborators agreed, are gifts from the creator
that can’t be taken away. Put slightly differently, they’re universal
The Constitution and its amendments added meat to these elegant bones. They
guaranteed such birthrights as free speech, due process, habeas corpus, speedy
public trials, and secure homes and property. Wisely, the Ninth Amendment
affirmed that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights,
shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In
that spirit, others have since been added.
If we were to analyze the expansion of American birthrights, we’d
see a series of waves. The first wave consisted of rights against the state.
The second included rights against unequal treatment based on race, nationality,
gender, or sexual orientation. The third wave — which, historically
speaking, is just beginning — consists of rights not against things,
but for things — free public education, collective bargaining for wages,
security in old age. They can be thought of as rights necessary for the pursuit
What makes this latest wave of birthrights strengthen community is their
universality. If some Americans could enjoy free public education while others
couldn’t, the resulting inequities would divide rather than unite us
as a nation. The universality of these rights puts everyone in the same boat.
It spreads risk, responsibility, opportunity, and reward across race, gender,
economic classes, and generations. It makes us a nation rather than a collection
of isolated individuals.
Universality is also what distinguishes the commons sector from the corporate
sector. The starting condition for the corporate sector, as we’ve seen,
is that the top 5 percent owns more shares than everyone else. The starting
condition for the commons sector, by contrast, is one person, one share.
The standard argument against third wave universal birthrights is that,
while they might be nice in theory, in practice they are too expensive. They
impose an unbearable burden on “the economy” — that is,
on the winners in unfettered markets. Much better, therefore, to let everyone — including
poor children and the sick — fend for themselves. In fact, the opposite
is often true: universal birthrights, as we’ll see, can be cheaper
and more efficient than individual acquisition. Moreover, they are always
How far we might go down the path of extending universal birthrights is
anyone’s guess, but we’re now at the point where, economically
speaking, we can afford to go farther. Without great difficulty, we could
add three birthrights to our economic operating system: one would pay everyone
a regular dividend, the second would give every child a start-up stake, and
the third would reduce and share medical costs. Whether we add these birthrights
or not isn’t a matter of economic ability, but of attitude and politics.
Why attitude? Americans suffer from a number of confusions. We think it’s “wrong” to
give people “something for nothing,” despite the fact that corporations
take common wealth for nothing all the time. We believe the poor are poor
and the rich are rich because they deserve to be, but don’t consider
that millions of Americans work two or three jobs and still can’t make
ends meet. Plus, we think tinkering with the “natural” distribution
of income is “socialism,” or “big government,” or
some other manifestation of evil, despite the fact that our current distribution
of income isn’t “natural” at all, but rigged from the get-go
by maldistributed property.
The late John Rawls, one of America’s leading philosophers, distinguished
between pre distribution of property and re distribution of income. Under
income re distribution, money is taken from “winners” and transferred
to “losers.” Understandably, this isn’t popular with winners,
who tend to control government and the media. Under property pre distribution,
by contrast, the playing field is leveled by spreading property ownership
before income is generated. After that, there’s no need for income
redistribution; property itself distributes income to all. According to Rawls,
while income re distribution creates dependency, property predistribution
But how can we spread property ownership without taking property from some
and giving it to others? The answer lies in the commons — wealth that
already belongs to everyone. By propertizing (without privatizing) some of
that wealth, we can make everyone a property owner.
What’s interesting is that, for purely ecological reasons, we need
to propertize (without privatizing) some natural wealth now. This twenty-first
century necessity means we have a chance to save the planet, and as a bonus,
add a universal birthright. ... read
the whole chapter
Nic Tideman: A Bill of Economic Rights and Obligations
Our nation was founded on the idea that we are all created equal, that we
are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
In living, expressing our liberty, and pursuing happiness we sometimes conflict
with one another, so we need a shared understanding of the extent of the sphere
of equal rights given to every person, and beyond that sphere our obligation
to respect the rights of others. This Bill is concerned with the economic aspects
of these rights and obligations. ... read
the whole article