Notice that the Lord's Prayer is not a prayer by the individual
for the individual, but by the community for the community, that all may
have what we need and live peaceably and justly together. Inherent in
a full return on their
labor, and that those who don't work don't take by force from those
who work (as is true in the privatization of economic rent).
Our daily bread, not my daily bread.
Henry George: Thy
Kingdom Come (1889 speech)
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.
Better to me, higher to me, is
the atheist, who says there is no
God, than the professed Christian who, prating of the goodness and
the Fatherhood of God, tells us in words as some do, or tells us
indirectly as others do, that millions and millions of human
creatures — [at this point a child was heard crying]
— don’t take the little thing out — that millions and
millions of human beings, like that little baby, are being brought
into the world daily by the creative fiat, and no place in this world
provided for them.
Aye! Tells us that, by the laws
of God, the poor are created in
order that the rich may have the unctuous satisfaction of dealing out
charity to them, and attributes to the laws of God the state of
things which exists in this city of Glasgow, as in other great cities
on both sides of the Atlantic, where little children are dying every
day, dying by hundreds of thousands, because having come into this
world — those children of God, with His fiat, by His decree
— they find that there is not space on the earth sufficient for
them to live; and are driven out of God’s world because they
cannot get room enough, cannot get air enough, cannot get sustenance
I believe in no such god. If I
did, though I might bend before
him in fear, I would hate him in my heart. Not room for the little
children here! Look around any country in the civilised world; is
there not room enough and to spare? Not food enough? Look at the
unemployed labour, look at the idle acres, look through every country
and see natural opportunities going to waste. Aye! That Christianity
puts on the Creator the evil, the injustice, the degradation that are
due to humanity’s injustice is worse, far worse, than atheism.
That is the blasphemy, and if there be a sin against the Holy Ghost,
that is the unpardonable sin!
Why, consider: “Give us this day our daily bread.” I
stopped in a hotel last week — a hydropathic establishment. A
hundred or more guests sat down to table together. Before they ate
anything, a man stood up, and, thanking God, asked Him to make us all
grateful for His bounty. And it is so at every mealtime — such
an acknowledgement is made over well-filled boards. What do we mean
If Adam, when he got out of Eden,
had sat down and commenced to
pray, he might have prayed till this time without getting anything to
eat unless he went to work for it. Yet food is God’s bounty. He
does not bring meat and vegetables all prepared. What He gives are
the opportunities of producing these things — of bringing them
forth by labour. His mandate is — it is written in the Holy
Word, it is graven on every fact in nature — that by labour we
shall bring forth these things. Nature gives to labour and to nothing
What God gives are the natural elements that are indispensable
to labour. He gives them, not to one, not to some, not to one
generation, but to all. They are His gifts, His bounty to the
human race. And yet in all our civilised countries what do we see?
That a few people have appropriated these bounties, claiming them as
theirs alone, while the great majority have no legal right to apply
their labour to the reservoirs of Nature and draw from the
Thus it happens that all over the
civilised world that class
that is called peculiarly ‘the labouring class’ is the poor
class, and that people who do no labour, who pride themselves on
never having done honest labour, and on being descended from fathers
and grandfathers who never did a stroke of honest labour in their
lives, revel in a superabundance of the things that labour brings
forth.... Read the whole
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.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private
property in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (14-17.)
With all that your Holiness has to say of the sacredness of the family relation
we are in full accord. But how the obligation of the father to the child
can justify private property in land we cannot see. You reason that private
property in land is necessary to the discharge of the duty of the father,
and is therefore requisite and just, because —
It is a most sacred law of nature that a father must provide food and all
necessaries for those whom he has begotten; and, similarly, nature dictates
that a man’s children, who carry on, as it were, and continue his own
personality, should be provided by him with all that is needful to enable
them honorably to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life. Now, in no other way can a father effect this except
by the ownership of profitable property, which he can transmit to his children
by inheritance. (14.)
Thanks to Him who has bound the generations of men together by a provision
that brings the tenderest love to greet our entrance into the world and soothes
our exit with filial piety, it is both the duty and the joy of the father
to care for the child till its powers mature, and afterwards in the natural
order it becomes the duty and privilege of the child to be the stay of the
parent. This is the natural reason for that relation of marriage, the groundwork
of the sweetest, tenderest and purest of human joys, which the Catholic Church
has guarded with such unremitting vigilance.
We do, for a few years, need the providence of our fathers after
the flesh. But how small, how transient, how narrow is this need, as compared
constant need for the providence of Him in whom we live, move and have our
being — Our Father who art in Heaven! It is to him, “the giver
of every good and perfect gift,” and not to our fathers after the flesh,
that Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And
how true it is that it is through him that the generations of men exist!
Let the mean temperature of the earth rise or fall a few degrees, an amount
as nothing compared with differences produced in our laboratories, and mankind
would disappear as ice disappears under a tropical sun, would fall as the
leaves fall at the touch of frost. Or, let for two or three seasons the earth
refuse her increase, and how many of our millions would remain alive?
The duty of fathers to transmit to their children profitable property
that will enable them to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life! What is not possible cannot be a duty. And how is it
possible for fathers to do that? Your Holiness has not considered how mankind
really lives from hand to mouth, getting each day its daily bread; how little
one generation does or can leave another. It is doubtful if the wealth of
the civilized world all told amounts to anything like as much as one year’s
labor, while it is certain that if labor were to stop and men had to rely
on existing accumulation, it would be only a few days ere in the richest
countries pestilence and famine would stalk.
The profitable property your Holiness refers to, is private property in
land. Now profitable land, as all economists will agree, is land superior
land that the ordinary man can get. It is land that will yield an income
to the owner as owner, and therefore that will permit the owner to appropriate
the products of labor without doing labor, its profitableness to the individual
involving the robbery of other individuals. It is therefore possible only
for some fathers to leave their children profitable land. What therefore
your Holiness practically declares is, that it is the duty of all fathers
to struggle to leave their children what only the few peculiarly strong,
lucky or unscrupulous can leave; and that, a something that involves the
robbery of others — their deprivation of the material gifts of God.
This anti-Christian doctrine has been long in practice throughout the Christian
world. What are its results?
Are they not the very evils set forth in your Encyclical? Are they not,
so far from enabling men to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life, to condemn the great masses of men to want and misery
that the natural conditions of our mortal life do not entail; to want and
misery deeper and more wide-spread than exist among heathen savages? Under
the régime of private property in land and in the richest countries
not five per cent of fathers are able at their death to leave anything substantial
to their children, and probably a large majority do not leave enough to bury
them! Some few children are left by their fathers richer than it is good
for them to be, but the vast majority not only are left nothing by their
fathers, but by the system that makes land private property are deprived
of the bounty of their Heavenly Father; are compelled to sue others for permission
to live and to work, and to toil all their lives for a pittance that often
does not enable them to escape starvation and pauperism.
What your Holiness is actually, though of course inadvertently, urging,
is that earthly fathers should assume the functions of the Heavenly Father.
It is not the business of one generation to provide the succeeding generation “with
all that is needful to enable them honorably to keep themselves from want
and misery.” That is God’s business. We no more create our children
than we create our fathers. It is God who is the Creator of each succeeding
generation as fully as of the one that preceded it. And, to recall your own
words (7), “Nature [God], therefore, owes to man a storehouse that
shall never fail, the daily supply of his daily wants. And this he finds
only in the inexhaustible fertility of the earth.” What you are now
assuming is, that it is the duty of men to provide for the wants of their
children by appropriating this storehouse and depriving other men’s
children of the unfailing supply that God has provided for all.
The duty of the father to the child — the duty possible to all fathers!
Is it not so to conduct himself, so to nurture and teach it, that it shall
come to manhood with a sound body, well-developed mind, habits of virtue,
piety and industry, and in a state of society that shall give it and all
others free access to the bounty of God, the providence of the All-Father?
In doing this the father would be doing more to secure his children from
want and misery than is possible now to the richest of fathers — as
much more as the providence of God surpasses that of man. For the justice
of God laughs at the efforts of men to circumvent it, and the subtle law
that binds humanity together poisons the rich in the sufferings of the poor.
Even the few who are able in the general struggle to leave their children
wealth that they fondly think will keep them from want and misery in the
uncertainties of this mortal life — do they succeed? Does experience
show that it is a benefit to a child to place him above his fellows and enable
him to think God’s law of labor is not for him? Is not such wealth
oftener a curse than a blessing, and does not its expectation often destroy
filial love and bring dissensions and heartburnings into families? And how
far and how long are even the richest and strongest able to exempt their
children from the common lot? Nothing is more certain than that the blood
of the masters of the world flows today in lazzaroni and that the descendants
of kings and princes tenant slums and workhouses.
But in the state of society we strive for, where the monopoly and waste
of God’s bounty would be done away with and the fruits of labor would
go to the laborer, it would be within the ability of all to make more than
a comfortable living with reasonable labor. And for those who might be crippled
or incapacitated, or deprived of their natural protectors and breadwinners,
the most ample provision could be made out of that great and increasing fund
with which God in his law of rent has provided society — not as a matter
of niggardly and degrading alms, but as a matter of right, as the assurance
which in a Christian state society owes to all its members.
Thus it is that the duty of the father, the obligation to the child, instead
of giving any support to private property in land, utterly condemns it, urging
us by the most powerful considerations to abolish it in the simple and efficacious
way of the single tax.
This duty of the father, this obligation to children, is not confined to
those who have actually children of their own, but rests on all of us who
have come to the powers and responsibilities of manhood.
For did not Christ set a little child in the midst of the disciples, saying
to them that the angels of such little ones always behold the face of his
Father; saying to them that it were better for a man to hang a millstone
about his neck and plunge into the uttermost depths of the sea than to injure
such a little one?
And what today is the result of private property in land in the richest
of so-called Christian countries? Is it not that young people fear to marry;
that married people fear to have children; that children are driven out of
life from sheer want of proper nourishment and care, or compelled to toil
when they ought to be at school or at play; that great numbers of those who
attain maturity enter it with under-nourished bodies, overstrained nerves,
undeveloped minds — under conditions that foredoom them, not merely
to suffering, but to crime; that fit them in advance for the prison and the
If your Holiness will consider these things we are confident that instead
of defending private property in land you will condemn it with anathema!
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
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?
It seems to us that your Holiness misses its real significance in intimating
that Christ, in becoming the son of a carpenter and himself working as a
carpenter, showed merely that “there is nothing to be ashamed of in
seeking one’s bread by labor.” To say that is almost like saying
that by not robbing people he showed that there is nothing to be ashamed
of in honesty. If you will consider how true in any large view is the classification
of all men into working-men, beggar-men and thieves, you will see that it
was morally impossible that Christ during his stay on earth should have been
anything else than a working-man, since he who came to fulfil the law must
by deed as well as word obey God’s law of labor.
See how fully and how beautifully Christ’s life on earth illustrated
this law. Entering our earthly life in the weakness of infancy, as it is
appointed that all should enter it, he lovingly took what in the natural
order is lovingly rendered, the sustenance, secured by labor, that one generation
owes to its immediate successors. Arrived at maturity, he earned
his own subsistence by that common labor in which the majority of men must
earn it. Then passing to a higher — to the very highest — sphere
of labor, he earned his subsistence by the teaching of moral and spiritual
truths, receiving its material wages in the love-offerings of grateful hearers,
and not refusing the costly spikenard with which Mary anointed his feet.
So, when he chose his disciples, he did not go to landowners or other monopolists
who live on the labor of others, but to common laboring-men. And when he
called them to a higher sphere of labor and sent them out to teach moral
and spiritual truths, he told them to take, without condescension on the
one hand or sense of degradation on the other, the loving return for such
labor, saying to them that “the laborer is worthy of his hire,” thus
showing, what we hold, that all labor does not consist in what is called
manual labor, but that whoever helps to add to the material, intellectual,
moral or spiritual fullness of life is also a laborer.*
* Nor should it be forgotten that the investigator, the
philosopher, the teacher, the artist, the poet, the priest, though not
engaged in the
production of wealth, are not only engaged in the production of utilities
to which the production of wealth is only a means, but by acquiring and
diffusing knowledge, stimulating mental powers and elevating the moral
sense, may greatly
increase the ability to produce wealth. For man does not live by bread
alone. . . . He who by any exertion of mind or body adds to the
aggregate of enjoyable
wealth, increases the sum of human knowledge, or gives to human life
higher elevation or greater fullness — he is, in the large meaning of the
words, a “producer,” a “working-man,” a “laborer,” and
is honestly earning honest wages. But he who without doing aught to make
mankind richer, wiser, better, happier, lives on the toil of others — he,
no matter by what name of honor he may be called, or how lustily the
priests of Mammon may swing their censers before him, is in the last
a beggar-man or a thief. — Protection or Free Trade, pp. 74-75.
In assuming that laborers, even ordinary manual laborers, are naturally
poor, you ignore the fact that labor is the producer of wealth, and attribute
to the natural law of the Creator an injustice that comes from man’s
impious violation of his benevolent intention. In the rudest stage of the
arts it is possible, where justice prevails, for all well men to earn a living.
With the labor-saving appliances of our time, it should be possible for all
to earn much more. And so, in saying that poverty is no disgrace, you convey
an unreasonable implication. For poverty ought to be a disgrace, since in
a condition of social justice, it would, where unsought from religious motives
or unimposed by unavoidable misfortune, imply recklessness or laziness. ...
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
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”? ...
Let me again state the case that your Encyclical presents:
What is that condition of labor which as you truly say is “the question
of the hour,” and “fills every mind with painful apprehension”?
Reduced to its lowest expression it is the poverty of men willing to work.
And what is the lowest expression of this phrase? It is that they lack bread — for
in that one word we most concisely and strongly express all the manifold
material satisfactions needed by humanity, the absence of which constitutes
Now what is the prayer of Christendom — the universal prayer; the
prayer that goes up daily and hourly wherever the name of Christ is honored;
that ascends from your Holiness at the high altar of St. Peter’s, and
that is repeated by the youngest child that the poorest Christian mother
has taught to lisp a request to her Father in Heaven? It is, “Give
us this day our daily bread!”
Yet where this prayer goes up, daily and hourly, men lack bread. Is it not
the business of religion to say why? If it cannot do so, shall not scoffers
mock its ministers as Elias mocked the prophets of Baal, saying, “Cry
with a louder voice, for he is a god; and perhaps he is talking, or is in
an inn, or on a journey, or perhaps be is asleep, and must be awaked!” What
answer can those ministers give? Either there is no God, or he is asleep,
or else he does give men their daily bread, and it is in some way intercepted.
Here is the answer, the only true answer: If men lack bread it is not that
God has not done his part in providing it. If men willing to labor are cursed
with poverty, it is not that the storehouse that God owes men has failed;
that the daily supply he has promised for the daily wants of his children
is not here in abundance. It is, that impiously violating the benevolent
intentions of their Creator, men have made land private property, and thus
given into the exclusive ownership of the few the provision that a bountiful
Father has made for all.
Any other answer than that, no matter how it may be shrouded in the mere
forms of religion, is practically an atheistical answer. ... read the whole letter
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a
themed collection of
excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)
THE term Labor includes all human exertion in the production of wealth,
whatever its mode. In common parlance we often speak of brain labor and hand
labor as though they were entirely distinct kinds of exertion, and labor
is often spoken of as though it involved only muscular exertion. But in reality
any form of labor, that is to say, any form of human exertion in the production
of wealth above that which cattle may be applied to doing, requires the human
brain as truly as the human hand, and would be impossible without the exercise
of mental faculties on the part of the laborer. Labor in fact is only physical
in external form. In its origin it is mental or on strict analysis spiritual. — The
Science of Political Economy unabridged:
Book III, Chapter 16: The Production of Wealth, The Second Factor of Production — Labor • abridged:
Part III, Chapter 10: Order of the Three Factors of Production
IT seems to us that your Holiness misses its real significance in intimating
that Christ in becoming the son of a carpenter and Himself working as a carpenter
showed merely that "there is nothing to be ashamed of in seeking one's bread
by labor." To say that is almost like saying that by not robbing people He showed
that there is nothing to be ashamed of in honesty. If you will consider how true
in any large view is the classification of all men into working-men, beggar-men
and thieves, you will see that it was morally impossible that Christ during His
stay on earth should have been anything else than a working-man, since He who
came to fulfill the law must by deed as well as word obey God's law of labor.
See how fully and how beautifully Christ's life on earth illustrated this law.
Entering our earthly life in the weakness of infancy, as it is appointed that
all should enter it, He lovingly took what in the natural order is lovingly rendered,
the sustenance, secured by labor, that one generation owes to its immediate successors.
Arrived at maturity, He earned His own subsistence by that common labor in which
the majority of men must and do earn it. Then passing to a higher — to
the very highest-sphere of labor. He earned His subsistence by the teaching of
moral and spiritual truths, receiving its material wages in the love offerings
of grateful hearers, and not refusing the costly spikenard with which Mary anointed
his feet. So, when He chose His disciples, He did not go to land-owners or other
monopolists who live on the labor of others but to common laboring men. And when
He called them to a higher sphere of labor and sent them out to teach moral and
spiritual truths He told them to take, without condescension on the one hand,
or sense of degradation on the other, the loving return for such labor, saying
to them that the "laborer is worthy of his hire," thus showing, what we hold,
that all labor does not consist in what is called manual labor, but that whoever
helps to add to the material, intellectual, moral, or spiritual fulness of life
is also a laborer. - The Condition
NOR should it be forgotten that the investigator, the philosopher, the teacher,
the artist, the poet, the priest, though not engaged in the production of wealth,
are not only engaged in the production of utilities and satisfactions to which
the production of wealth is only a means, but by acquiring and diffusing knowledge,
stimulating mental powers and elevating the moral sense, may greatly increase
the ability to produce wealth. For man does not live by bread alone. He is not
an engine, in which so much fuel gives so much power. On a capstan bar or a topsail
halyard a good song tells like muscle, and a "Marseillaise" or a "Battle Hymn
of the Republic" counts for bayonets. A hearty laugh, a noble thought, a perception
of harmony, may add to the power of dealing even with material things.
He who by any exertion of mind or body adds to the aggregate of enjoyable wealth,
increases the sum of human knowledge or gives to human life higher elevation
or greater fulness — he is, in the large meaning of the words, a "producer," a "working-man," a "laborer," and
is honestly earning honest wages. But he who without doing aught to make mankind
richer, wiser, better, happier, lives on the toil of others — he, no matter
by what name of honor he may be I called, or how lustily the priests of Mammon
may swing their censers before him, is in the last analysis but a beggarman or
a thief. — Protection or Free Trade, Chapter 7 econlib
... go to "Gems from George"
A.J.O. [probably Mark Twain]: Slavery
Suppose I am the owner of an estate and
100 slaves, all the land about being held in the same way by people of the
same class as myself. ...
Suddenly a brilliant idea strikes me. I reflect that there is no
unoccupied land in the neighbourhood, so that if my laborers were free
they would still have to look to me for work somehow. ...
Most of them think they would like to have a piece of land and work
it for themselves, and be their own masters. ...
"But," softly I observe, "you are going too fast. Your proposals
about the tools and seed and your maintenance are all right enough, but the
land, you remember, belongs to me. You cannot expect me to give you your
liberty and my own land for nothing. That would not be reasonable, would
Still I am ready to do what I promised — "to employ as many
as I may require, on such terms as we may mutually and independently agree." ...
So they all set to at the old work at the old place, and on the old
terms, only a little differently administered; that is, that whereas I formerly
supplied them with food, clothes, etc., direct from my stores, I now give
them a weekly wage representing the value of those articles, which they will
henceforth have to buy for themselves. ...
Instead of being forced to keep my men in
brutish ignorance, I find public schools established at other people's expense
to stimulate their intelligence and improve their minds, to my great advantage,
and their children compelled to attend these schools. The service I get,
too, being now voluntarily rendered (or apparently so) is much improved in
quality. In short, the arrangement pays me better in many ways.
REJOICE! I AM CAPITAL AND I EMPLOY PEOPLE!
But I gain in other ways besides pecuniary
benefit. I have lost the stigma of being a slave driver, and have, acquired
instead the character of a man of energy and enterprise, of justice and benevolence.
I am a "large employer of labour," to whom the whole country, and the labourer
especially, is greatly indebted, and people say, "See the power of capital!
These poor labourers, having no capital, could not use the land if they had
it, so this great and far-seeing man wisely refuses to let them have it,
and keeps it all for himself, but by providing them with employment his capital
saves them from pauperism, and enables him to build up the wealth of the
country, and his own fortune together."
Whereas it is not my capital that does
any of these things. ...
But now another thought strikes me. Instead of paying an overseer
to work these men for me, I will make him pay me for the privilege of doing
it. I will let the land as it stands to him or to another — to whomsoever
will give the most for the billet. He shall be called my tenant instead
of my overseer, but the things he shall do for me are essentially the same,
only done by contract instead of for yearly pay. ....
For a moderate reduction in my profits, then — a reduction equal to the
tenant's narrow margin of profit — I have all the toil and worry of management
taken off my hands, and the risk too, for be the season good or bad, the rent
is bound to be forthcoming, and I can sell him up to the last rag if he fails
of the full amount, no matter for what reason; and my rent takes precedence
of all other debts. ...
If wages are forced down it is not I that
do it; it is that greedy and merciless man the employer (my tenant) who does
it. I am a lofty and superior being, dwelling apart and above such sordid
considerations. I would never dream of grinding these poor labourers, not
I! I have nothing to do with them at all; I only want my rent -- and get it. Like
the lillies of the field, I toil not, neither do I spin, and yet (so kind
is Providence!) my daily bread (well buttered) comes to me of itself. Nay,
people bid against each other for the privilege of finding it for me; and
no one seems to realise that the comfortable income that falls to me like
the refreshing dew is dew indeed; but it is the dew of sweat wrung from the
labourers' toil. It is the fruit of their labour which they ought to have;
which they would have if I did not take it from them.
This sketch illustrates the fact that
chattel slavery is not the only nor even the worst form of bondage. When
the use of the earth — the sole source of our daily bread — is
denied unless one pays a fellow creature for permission to use it, people
are bereft of economic freedom. The only way to regain that freedom is to
collect the rent of land instead of taxes for the public domain.
Once upon a time, labour leaders in the
USA, the UK and Australia understood these facts. The labour movements of
those countries were filled with people who fought for the principles of
'the single tax' on land at the turn of the twentieth century. But since
then, it has been ridiculed, and they have gradually yielded to the forces
of privilege and power — captives of the current hegemony — daring
no longer to come to grips with this fundamental question, lest they, too,
And so the world continues to wallow
in this particular ignorance — and in its ensuing poverty and debt. Read the whole