Wealth and Want
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God's Eldest Sons

We hold these truths to be self-evident ... But our formalized relationship to something we all need — land and the gifts of nature — makes a mockery of those proud words. We allow those who claim title to land to also claim the land rent as their own. We needn't disturb title to correct this; we merely need to start collecting the land rent, as our common treasure.

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 26, 1826,
before the celebration of the 50th anniversary
of the Declaration of Independence

In the countries that many of our ancestors fled, the laws and traditions called for primogeniture, the practice of the father's land being left to the eldest son, so as not to split it up into properties so small that one could not support a nuclear family from it. The daughters and the younger sons were left to make their own way as best they could, taking up trades. The eldest sons continued as landlords, with the privilege of collecting rent from the children of their fathers' tenants. (Do you remember the WWII movie, The White Cliffs of Dover?)

Yes, we abolished primogeniture, so all one's children could inherit equally.

But today, with the increasingly skewed distribution of wealth, the children of a few of us are able to inherit huge sums of money, valuable pieces of land, rights to natural resources including energy, minerals, water and the airwaves, corporate stock and business equity, while the children of the rest of us inherit little or nothing. But we hold it to be a self-evident truth that we are all created equal. What is it that we send our troops into harm's way to protect? Is it that we are all created equal, or is it the privileges that are accorded to those who own our land and natural resources, and their children?

The Most Rev. Dr Thomas Nulty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath (Ireland): Back to the Land (1881) 

The Whole People the True Owners of the Land.
When, therefore, a privileged class arrogantly claims a right of private property in the land of a country, that claim is simply unintelligible, except in the broad principle that the land of a country is not a free gift at all, but solely a family inheritance; that it is not a free gift which God has bestowed on His creatures, but an inheritance which he has left to His children; that they, therefore, being God's eldest sons, inherit this property by right of succession; that the rest of the world have no share or claim to it, on the ground that origin is tainted with the stain of illegitimacy. The world, however, will hardly submit to this shameful imputation of its own degradation, especially when it is not sustained by even a shadow of reason.

I infer, therefore, that no individual or class of individuals can hold a right of private property in the land of a country; that the people of that country, in their public corporate capacity, are, and always must be, the real owners of the land of their country -- holding an indisputable title to it, in the fact that they received it as a free gift from its Creator, and as a necessary means for preserving and enjoying the life He has bestowed upon them. ...

The essential and immutable principles of justice used certainly to be: --

That everyone had a right of property in the hard-earned fruits of his labour; that whatever property a man had made by the expenditure of his capital, his industry and his toil, was really his own; that he, and he alone, had a right to all the benefits, the advantages and enjoyments that that property yielded; and that if anyone else meddled with that property against his will, or interfered with him in its enjoyment, he was thereby guilty of the crimes of theft and of robbery, which the eternal law of God, as well as the laws of all nations, reprobated and punished with such severity.

But the principles which underlie the existing system of Land Tenure, and which impart to it its specific and distinctive character, are exactly the reverse of these. The principles on which that system is based are: --

That one privileged class do not require to labour for their livelihood at all: that they have an exclusive right to all the advantages, comforts and enjoyments that can be derived from a splendid property, which exacted no patient, painful or self-denying efforts of labour to create it or acquire it, and which, in fact, they inherited without any sacrifice at all: that, being a singularly favoured race, and being all God's eldest sons, the rest of the world must humbly acknowledge themselves to be their inferiors in rank, lineage, condition and dignity: that this superiority of rank gives them a right to sell out God's gifts as if they were purely the products of their own labour and industry, and that they can exact in exchange for them famine or scarcity prices. Finally, that they enjoy the enviable privilege of appropriating the hard-earned property of others against their wills, and do them no wrong even if they charge them a rent for the use of what would really appear to be their own. ...  Read the whole letter

Henry George: Thou Shalt Not Steal  (1887 speech)
Who can claim a title of absolute ownership in land? Until one who claims the exclusive ownership of a piece of this planet can show a title originating with the Maker of this planet; until that one can produce a decree from the Creator declaring that this city lot, or that great tract of agricultural or coal land, or that gas well, was made for that one person alone — until then we have a right to hold that the land was intended for all of us.

Natural religion and revealed religion alike tell us that God is no respecter of persons; that He did not make this planet for a few individuals; that He did not give it to one generation in preference to other generations, but that He made it for the use during their lives of all the people that His providence brings into the world. If this be true, the child that is born tonight in the humblest tenement in the most squalid quarter of New York, comes into life seized with as good a title to the land of this city as any Astor or Rhinelander. ...  read the whole article

Henry George:  The Land Question (1881)
And why should the landlords be paid? If the land of Ireland belongs of natural right to the Irish people, what valid claim for payment can be set up by the landlords? No one will contend that the land is theirs of natural right, for the day has gone by when men could be told that the Creator of the universe intended his bounty for the exclusive use and benefit of a privileged class of his creatures – that he intended a few to roll in luxury while their fellows toiled and starved for them. The claim of the landlords to the land rests not on natural right, but merely on municipal law – on municipal law which contravenes natural right. And, whenever the sovereign power changes municipal law so as to conform to natural right, what claim can they assert to compensation? Some of them bought their lands, it is true; but they got no better title than the seller had to give. And what are these titles? Titles based on murder and robbery, on blood and rapine–titles which rest on the most atrocious and wholesale crimes. Created by force and maintained by force, they have not behind them the first shadow of right. That Henry II and James I and Cromwell and the Long Parliament had the power to give and grant Irish lands is true; but will any one contend they had the right? Will any one contend that in all the past generations there has existed on the British Isles or anywhere else any human being, or any number of human beings, who had the right to say that in the year 1881 the great mass of Irishmen should be compelled to pay – in many cases to residents of England, France, or the United States – for the privilege of living in their native country and making a living from their native soil? Even if it be said that might makes right; even if it be contended that in the twelfth, or seventeenth, or eighteenth century lived men who, having the power, had therefore the right, to give away the soil of Ireland, it cannot be contended that their right went further than their power, or that their gifts and grants are binding on the men of the present generation. No one can urge such a preposterous doctrine. And, if might makes right, then the moment the people get power to take the land the rights of the present landholders utterly cease, and any proposal to compensate them is a proposal to do a fresh wrong.  ... read the whole article

Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come (1889 speech)

.. There was a little dialogue published in the United States, in the west, some time ago. Possibly you may have seen it. It is between a boy and his father when visiting a brickyard. The boy looks at the men making bricks, and he asks who those dirty men are, why they are making up the clay, and what they are doing it for. He learns, and then he asks about the owner of the brickyard. “He does not make any bricks; he gets his income from letting the other men make bricks.”

Then the boy wants to know how the man who owns the brickyard gets his title to the brickyard — whether he made it. “No, he did not make it,” the father replies: “God made it.” The boy asks, “Did God make it for him?” Whereat his father tells him that he must not ask questions such as that, but that anyhow it is all right, and it is all in accordance with God’s law. The boy, who of course was a Sunday school boy, and had been to church, goes off mumbling to himself “that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for all men”; but that He so loved the owner of this brickyard that He gave him the brickyard too.

This has a blasphemous sound. But I do not refer to it lightly. I do not like to speak lightly of sacred subjects. Yet it is well sometimes that we should be fairly shocked into thinking.

Think of what Christianity teaches us; think of the life and death of Him who came to die for us! Think of His teachings, that we are all the equal children of an Almighty Father, who is no respecter of persons, and then think of this legalised injustice — this denial of the most important, most fundamental rights of the children of God, which so many of the very men who teach Christianity uphold; nay, which they blasphemously assert is the design and the intent of the Creator Himself. ... Read the whole speech

Henry George, Progress and Poverty: Section VII: Justice of the Remedy; Chapter 5: Of Property in Land in the United States

In short, the American people have failed to see the essential injustice of private property in land, because as yet they have not felt its full effects. This public domain -- the vast extent of land yet to be reduced to private possession, the enormous common to which the faces of the energetic were always turned, has been the great fact that, since the days when the first settlements began to fringe the Atlantic Coast, has formed our national character and colored our national thought. It is not that we have eschewed a titled aristocracy and abolished primogeniture; that we elect all our officers from school director up to president; that our laws run in the name of the people, instead of in the name of a prince; that the State knows no religion, and our judges wear no wigs -- that we have been exempted from the ills that Fourth of July orators used to point to as characteristic of the effete despotisms of the Old World. The general intelligence, the general comfort, the active invention, the power of adaptation and assimilation, the free, independent spirit, the energy and hopefulness that have marked our people, are not causes, but results -- they have sprung from unfenced land. This public domain has been the transmuting force which has turned the thriftless, unambitious European peasant into the self-reliant Western farmer; it has given a consciousness of freedom even to the dweller in crowded cities, and has been a wellspring of hope even to those who have never thought of taking refuge upon it. The child of the people, as he grows to manhood in Europe, finds all the best seats at the banquet of life marked "taken," and must struggle with his fellows for the crumbs that fall, without one chance in a thousand of forcing or sneaking his way to a seat. In America, whatever his condition, there has always been the consciousness that the public domain lay behind him; and the knowledge of this fact, acting and reacting, has penetrated our whole national life, giving to it generosity and independence, elasticity and ambition. All that we are proud of in the American character; all that makes our conditions and institutions better than those of older countries, we may trace to the fact that land has been cheap in the United States, because new soil has been open to the emigrant.

But our advance has reached the Pacific. Further west we cannot go, and increasing population can but expand north and south and fill up what has been passed over. North, it is already filling up the valley of the Red River, pressing into that of the Saskatchewan and pre-empting Washington Territory; south, it is covering western Texas and taking up the arable valleys of New Mexico and Arizona.

The republic has entered upon a new era, an era in which the monopoly of the land will tell with accelerating effect. The great fact which has been so potent is ceasing to be. The public domain is almost gone -- a very few years will end its influence, already rapidly failing. I do not mean to say that there will be no public domain. For a long time to come there will be millions of acres of public lands carried on the books of the Land Department. But it must be remembered that the best part of the continent for agricultural purposes is already overrun, and that it is the poorest land that is left. It must be remembered that what remains comprises the great mountain ranges, the sterile deserts, the high plains fit only for grazing. And it must be remembered that much of this land which figures in the reports as open to settlement is unsurveyed land, which has been appropriated by possessory claims or locations which do not appear until the land is returned as surveyed. California figures on the books of the Land Department as the greatest land state of the Union, containing nearly 100,000,000 acres of public land -- something like one-twelfth of the whole public domain. Yet so much of this is covered by railroad grants or held in the way of which I have spoken; so much consists of untillable mountains or plains which require irrigation; so much is monopolized by locations which command the water, that as a matter of fact it is difficult to point the immigrant to any part of the state where he can take up a farm on which he can settle and maintain a family, and so men, weary of the quest, end by buying land or renting it on shares. It is not that there is any real scarcity of land in California -- for, an empire in herself, California will some day maintain a population as large as that of France -- but appropriation has got ahead of the settler and manages to keep just ahead of him. ... read the whole chapter

Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894)

c. Significance of the Upward Tendency of Rent

Now, what is the meaning of this tendency of Rent to rise with social progress, while Wages tend to fall? Is it not a plain promise that if Rent be treated as common property, advances in productive power shall be steps in the direction of realizing through orderly and natural growth those grand conceptions of both the socialist and the individualist, which in the present condition of society are justly ranked as Utopian? Is it not likewise a plain warning that if Rent be treated as private property, advances in productive power will be steps in the direction of making slaves of the many laborers, and masters of a few land-owners? Does it not mean that common ownership of Rent is in harmony with natural law, and that its private appropriation is disorderly and degrading? When the cause of Rent and the tendency illustrated in the preceding chart are considered in connection with the self-evident truth that God made the earth for common use and not for private monopoly, how can a contrary inference hold? Caused and increased by social growth, 97 the benefits of which should be common, and attaching to land, the just right to which is equal, Rent must be the natural fund for public expenses. 98

97. Here, far away from civilization, is a solitary settler. Getting no benefits from government, he needs no public revenues, and none of the land about him has any value. Another settler comes, and another, until a village appears. Some public revenue is then required. Not much, but some. And the land has a little value, only a little; perhaps just enough to equal the need for public revenue. The village becomes a town. More revenues are needed, and land values are higher. It becomes a city. The public revenues required are enormous, and so are the land values.

98. Society, and society alone, causes Rent. Rising with the rise, advancing with the growth, and receding with the decline of society, it measures the earning power of society as a whole as distinguished from that of the individuals. Wages, on the other hand, measure the earning power of the individuals as distinguished from that of society as a whole. We have distinguished the parts into which Wealth is distributed as Wages and Rent; but it would be correct, indeed it is the same thing, to regard all wealth as earnings, and to distinguish the two kinds as Communal Earnings and Individual Earnings. How, then, can there be any question as to the fund from which society should be supported? How can it be justly supported in any other way than out of its own earnings?

If there be at all such a thing as design in the universe — and who can doubt it? — then has it been designed that Rent, the earnings of the community, shall be retained for the support of the community, and that Wages, the earnings of the individual, shall be left to the individual in proportion to the value of his service. This is the divine law, whether we trace it through complex moral and economic relations, or find it in the eighth commandment.

... read the book

Upton Sinclair: The Consequences of Land Speculation are Tenantry and Debt on the Farms, and Slums and Luxury in the Cities

I know of a woman — I have never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance, because she lives in a lunatic asylum, which does not happen to be on my visiting list. This woman has been mentally incompetent from birth. She is well taken care of, because her father left her when he died the income of a large farm on the outskirts of a city. The city has since grown and the land is now worth, at conservative estimate, about twenty million dollars. It is covered with office buildings, and the greater part of the income, which cannot be spent by the woman, is piling up at compound interest. The woman enjoys good health, so she may be worth a hundred million dollars before she dies.

I choose this case because it is one about which there can be no disputing; this woman has never been able to do anything to earn that twenty million dollars. And if a visitor from Mars should come down to study the situation, which would he think was most insane, the unfortunate woman, or the society which compels thousands of people to wear themselves to death in order to pay her the income of twenty million dollars?

The fact that this woman is insane makes it easy to see that she is not entitled to the "unearned increment" of the land she owns. But how about all the other people who have bought up and are holding for speculation the most desirable land? The value of this land increases, not because of anything these owners do — not because of any useful service they render to the community — but purely because the community as a whole is crowding into that neighborhood and must have use of the land.

The speculator who bought this land thinks that he deserves the increase, because he guessed the fact that the city was going to grow that way. But it seems clear enough that his skill in guessing which way the community was going to grow, however useful that skill may be to himself, is not in any way useful to the community. The man may have planted trees, or built roads, and put in sidewalks and sewers; all that is useful work, and for that he should be paid. But should he be paid for guessing what the rest of us were going to need?

Before you answer, consider the consequences of this guessing game. The consequences of land speculation are tenantry and debt on the farms, and slums and luxury in the cities. A great part of the necessary land is held out of use, and so the value of all land continually increases, until the poor man can no longer own a home. The value of farm land also increases; so year by year more independent farmers are dispossessed, because they cannot pay interest on their mortgages. So the land becomes a place of serfdom, that land described by the poet, "where wealth accumulates and men decay." The great cities fill up with festering slums, and a small class of idle parasites are provided with enormous fortunes, which they do not have to earn, and which they cannot intelligently spend. ...

In Philadelphia, as in all our great cities, are enormously wealthy families, living on hereditary incomes derived from crowded slums. Here and there among these rich men is one who realizes that he has not earned what he is consuming, and that it has not brought him happiness, and is bringing still less to his children. Such men are casting about for ways to invest their money without breeding idleness and parasitism. Some of them might be grateful to learn about this enclave plan, and to visit the lovely village of Arden, and see what its people are doing to make possible a peaceful and joyous life, even in this land of bootleggers and jazz orchestras. ... read the whole article

Henry George: The Condition of Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)

Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property, of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning, if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:

1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN, paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason. (RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN, paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN, paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth, and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...

8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private owner. (51.)

This, like much else that your Holiness says, is masked in the use of the indefinite terms “private property” and “private owner” — a want of precision in the use of words that has doubtless aided in the confusion of your own thought. But the context leaves no doubt that by private property you mean private property in land, and by private owner, the private owner of land.

The contention, thus made, that private property in land is from nature, not from man, has no other basis than the confounding of ownership with possession and the ascription to property in land of what belongs to its contradictory, property in the proceeds of labor. You do not attempt to show for it any other basis, nor has any one else ever attempted to do so. That private property in the products of labor is from nature is clear, for nature gives such things to labor and to labor alone. Of every article of this kind, we know that it came into being as nature’s response to the exertion of an individual man or of individual men — given by nature directly and exclusively to him or to them. Thus there inheres in such things a right of private property, which originates from and goes back to the source of ownership, the maker of the thing. This right is anterior to the state and superior to its enactments, so that, as we hold, it is a violation of natural right and an injustice to the private owner for the state to tax the processes and products of labor. They do not belong to Caesar. They are things that God, of whom nature is but an expression, gives to those who apply for them in the way he has appointed — by labor.

But who will dare trace the individual ownership of land to any grant from the Maker of land? What does nature give to such ownership? how does she in any way recognize it? Will any one show from difference of form or feature, of stature or complexion, from dissection of their bodies or analysis of their powers and needs, that one man was intended by nature to own land and another to live on it as his tenant? That which derives its existence from man and passes away like him, which is indeed but the evanescent expression of his labor, man may hold and transfer as the exclusive property of the individual; but how can such individual ownership attach to land, which existed before man was, and which continues to exist while the generations of men come and go — the unfailing storehouse that the Creator gives to man for “the daily supply of his daily wants”?

Clearly, the private ownership of land is from the state, not from nature. Thus, not merely can no objection be made on the score of morals when it is proposed that the state shall abolish it altogether, but insomuch as it is a violation of natural right, its existence involving a gross injustice on the part of the state, an “impious violation of the benevolent intention of the Creator,” it is a moral duty that the state so abolish it.

So far from there being anything unjust in taking the full value of landownership for the use of the community, the real injustice is in leaving it in private hands — an injustice that amounts to robbery and murder.

And when your Holiness shall see this I have no fear that you will listen for one moment to the impudent plea that before the community can take what God intended it to take — before men who have been disinherited of their natural rights can be restored to them, the present owners of land shall first be compensated.

For not only will you see that the single tax will directly and largely benefit small landowners, whose interests as laborers and capitalists are much greater than their interests as landowners, and that though the great landowners — or rather the propertied class in general among whom the profits of landownership are really divided through mortgages, rent-charges, etc. — would relatively lose, they too would be absolute gainers in the increased prosperity and improved morals; but more quickly, more strongly, more peremptorily than from any calculation of gains or losses would your duty as a man, your faith as a Christian, forbid you to listen for one moment to any such paltering with right and wrong.

Where the state takes some land for public uses it is only just that those whose land is taken should be compensated, otherwise some landowners would be treated more harshly than others. But where, by a measure affecting all alike, rent is appropriated for the benefit of all, there can be no claim to compensation. Compensation in such case would be a continuance of the same in another form — the giving to landowners in the shape of interest of what they before got as rent. Your Holiness knows that justice and injustice are not thus to be juggled with, and when you fully realize that land is really the storehouse that God owes to all his children, you will no more listen to any demand for compensation for restoring it to them than Moses would have listened to a demand that Pharaoh should be compensated before letting the children of Israel go.

Compensated for what? For giving up what has been unjustly taken? The demand of landowners for compensation is not that. We do not seek to spoil the Egyptians. We do not ask that what has been unjustly taken from laborers shall be restored. We are willing that bygones should be bygones and to leave dead wrongs to bury their dead. We propose to let those who by the past appropriation of land values have taken the fruits of labor to retain what they have thus got. We merely propose that for the future such robbery of labor shall cease — that for the future, not for the past, landholders shall pay to the community the rent that to the community is justly due. ...

If when in speaking of the practical measures your Holiness proposes, I did not note the moral injunctions that the Encyclical contains, it is not because we do not think morality practical. On the contrary 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 your Holiness in the Encyclical expressly deprives the moral truths you state of all real bearing on the condition of labor, just as the American people, by their legalization of chattel slavery, used to deprive of all practical meaning the declaration they deem their fundamental charter, and were accustomed to read solemnly on every national anniversary. That declaration asserts that “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.” But 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?

Consider the moral teachings of the Encyclical:

  • You tell us that God owes to man an inexhaustible storehouse which he finds only in the land. Yet you support a system that denies to the great majority of men all right of recourse to this storehouse.
  • You tell us that the necessity of labor is a consequence of original sin. Yet you support a system that exempts a privileged class from the necessity for labor and enables them to shift their share and much more than their share of labor on others.
  • You tell us that God has not created us for the perishable and transitory things of earth, but has given us this world as a place of exile and not as our true country. Yet you tell us that some of the exiles have the exclusive right of ownership in this place of common exile, so that they may compel their fellow-exiles to pay them for sojourning here, and that this exclusive ownership they may transfer to other exiles yet to come, with the same right of excluding their fellows.
  • You tell us that virtue is the common inheritance of all; that all men are children of God the common Father; that all have the same last end; that all are redeemed by Jesus Christ; that the blessings of nature and the gifts of grace belong in common to all, and that to all except the unworthy is promised the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven! Yet in all this and through all this you insist as a moral duty on the maintenance of a system that makes the reservoir of all God’s material bounties and blessings to man the exclusive property of a few of their number — you give us equal rights in heaven, but deny us equal rights on earth!

It was said of a famous decision of the Supreme Court of the United States made just before the civil war, in a fugitive-slave case, that “it gave the law to the North and the nigger to the South.” It is thus that your Encyclical gives the gospel to laborers and the earth to the landlords. Is it really to be wondered at that there are those who sneeringly say, “The priests are ready enough to give the poor an equal share in all that is out of sight, but they take precious good care that the rich shall keep a tight grip on all that is within sight”?

... read the whole letter

Joseph Fels:   True Christianity and My Own Religious Beliefs

Do you question the relationship between taxation and righteousness? Let us see. If government is a natural growth, then surely God's natural law provides food and sustenance for government as that food is needed; for where in Nature do we find a creature coming into the world without timely provision of natural food for it? It is in our system of taxation that we find the most emphatic denial of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, because,
  • first, in order to meet our common needs, we take from individuals what does not belong to us in common;
  • second, we permit individuals to take for themselves what does belong to us in common;
  • thus, third, under the pretext of taxation for public purposes, we have established a system that permits some men to tax other men for private profit.

Does not that violate the natural, the divine law? Does it not surely beget wolfish greed on the one hand, and gaunt poverty on the other? Does it not surely breed millionaires on one end of the social scale and tramps on the other end? Has it not brought into civilization a hell, of which the savage can have no conception? Could any better system be devised for convincing men that God is the father of a few and the stepfather of the many? Is not that destructive of the sentiment of brotherhood? With such a condition, how is it possible for men in masses to obey the new commandment, "that ye love one another"? What could more surely thrust men apart? What could more surely divide them into warring classes?  ...

Nowhere do these differences between wealth and poverty coincide with differences in individual powers and aptitudes. The real difference between rich and poor is the difference between those who hold the tollgates and those who pay toll; between tribute-receivers and tribute-yielders.

In what way does nature justify such a difference? In the numberless varieties of animated nature we find some species that are evidently intended to live on other species. But their relations are always marked by unmistakable differences in size, shape or organs. To man has been given dominion over all the other living things that tenant the earth. But is not this mastery indicated even in externals, so that no one can fail on sight to distinguish between a man and one of the inferior animals? Our American apologists for slavery used to contend that the black skin and woolly hair of the negro indicated the intent of nature that the black should serve the white; but the difference that you assume to be natural is between men of the same race. What difference does nature show between such men as would indicate her intent that one should live idly yet be rich, and the other should work hard yet be poor? If I could bring you from the United States a man who has $200,000,000, and one who is glad to work for a few dollars a week, and place them side by side in your antechamber, would you be able to tell which was which, even were you to call in the most skilled anatomist? Is it not clear that God in no way countenances or condones the division of rich and poor that exists today, or in any way permits it, except as having given them free will he permits men to choose either good or evil, and to avoid heaven if they prefer hell. For is it not clear that the division of men into the classes rich and poor has invariably its origin in force and fraud; invariably involves violation of the moral law; and is really a division into those who get the profits of robbery and those who are robbed; those who hold in exclusive possession what God made for all, and those who are deprived of his bounty? Did not Christ in all his utterances and parables show that the gross difference between rich and poor is opposed to God’s law? Would he have condemned the rich so strongly as he did, if the class distinction between rich and poor did not involve injustice — was not opposed to God’s intent?

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper