Wealth and Want
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Henry George:  The Land Question (1881)

Is it not but yesterday that in the freest and greatest republic on earth, among the people who boast that they lead the very van of civilization, this doctrine of vested rights was deemed a sufficient justification for all the cruel wrongs of human slavery? Is it not but yesterday when whoever dared to say that the rights of property did not justly attach to human beings; when whoever dared to deny that human beings could be rightfully bought and sold like cattle–the husband torn from the wife and the child from the mother; when whoever denied the right of whoever had paid his money for him to work or whip his own nigger was looked upon as a wicked assailant of the rights of property? Is it not but yesterday when in the South whoever whispered such a thought took his life in his hands; when in the North the abolitionist was held by the churches as worse than an infidel, was denounced by the politicians and rotten-egged by the mob? I was born in a Northern State, I have never lived in the South, I am not yet gray; but I well remember, as every American of middle age must remember, how over and over again I have heard all questionings of slavery silenced by the declaration that the negroes were the property of their masters, and that to take away a man's slave without payment was as much a crime as to take away his horse without payment. And whoever does not remember that far back, let him look over American literature previous to the war, and say whether, if the business of piracy had been a flourishing business, it would have lacked defenders? Let him say whether any proposal to stop the business of piracy without compensating the pirates would not have been denounced at first as a proposal to set aside vested rights? ... read the whole article

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


Direct taxes fall into two general classes: (1) Taxes that are levied upon men in proportion to their ability to pay, and (2) taxes that are levied in proportion to the benefits received by the tax-payer from the public. Income taxes are the principal ones of the first class, though probate and inheritance taxes would rank high. The single tax is the only important one of the second class.

There should be no difficulty in choosing between the two. To tax in proportion to ability to pay, regardless of benefits received, is in accord with no principle of just government; it is a device of piracy. The single tax, therefore, as the only important tax in proportion to benefits, is the ideal tax.

But here we encounter two plausible objections. One arises from the mistaken but common notion that men are not taxed in proportion to benefits unless they pay taxes upon every kind of property they own that comes under the protection of government; the other is founded in the assumption that it is impossible to measure the value of the public benefits that each individual enjoys. Though the first of these objections ostensibly accepts the doctrine of taxation according to benefits,12 yet, as it leads to attempts at taxation in proportion to wealth, it, like the other, is really a plea for the piratical doctrine of taxation according to ability to pay. The two objections stand or fall together.

Let it once be perceived that the value of the service which government renders to each individual would be justly measured by the single tax, and neither objection would any longer have weight. We should then no more think of taxing people in proportion to their wealth or ability to pay, regardless of the benefits they receive from government than an honest merchant would think of charging his customers in proportion to their wealth or ability to pay, regardless of the value of the goods they bought of him." 13

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Henry George: Concentrations of Wealth Harm America (excerpt from Social Problems)  (1883)

That individuals are constantly making their way from the ranks of those who get less than their earnings to the ranks of those who get more than their earnings, no more proves this state of things right than the fact that merchant sailors were constantly becoming pirates and participating in the profits of piracy, would prove that piracy was right and that no effort should be made to suppress it.   ...   Read the entire article


Clarence Darrow: How to Abolish Unfair Taxation (1913)

Everybody nowadays is anxious to help do something for the poor, especially they who are on the backs of the poor; they will do anything that is not fundamental. Nobody ever dreams of giving the poor a chance to help themselves. The reformers in this state have passed a law prohibiting women from working more than eight hours in one day in certain industries — so much do women love to work that they must be stopped by law. If any benevolent heathen see fit to come here and do work, we send them to gaol or send them back where they came from.

All these prohibitory laws are froth. You can only cure effects by curing the cause. Every sin and every wrong that exists in the world is the product of law, and you cannot cure it without curing the cause. Lawyers, as a class, are very stupid. What would you think of a doctor, who, finding a case of malaria, instead of draining the swamp, would send the patient to gaol, and leave the swamp where it is? We are seeking to improve conditions of life by improving symptoms.

Land Basic

No man created the earth, but to a large extent all take from the earth a portion of it and mould it into useful things for the use of man. Without land man cannot live; without access to it man cannot labor. First of all, he must have the earth, and this he cannot have access to until the single tax is applied. It has been proven by the history of the human race that the single tax does work, and that it will work as its advocates claim. For instance, man turned from Europe, filled with a population of the poor, and discovered the great continent of America. Here, when he could not get profitable employment, he went on the free land and worked for himself, and in those early days there were no problems of poverty, no wonderfully rich and no extremely poor — because there was cheap land. Men could go to work for themselves, and thus take the surplus off the labor market. There were no beggars in the early days. It was only when the landlord got in his work — when the earth monopoly was complete — that the great mass of men had to look to a boss for a job.

All the remedial laws on earth can scarcely help the poor when the earth is monopolized. Men must live from the earth, they must till the soil, dig the coal and iron and cut down the forest. Wise men know it, and cunning men know it, and so a few have reached out their hands and grasped the earth; and they say, "These mines of coal and iron, which it took nature ages and ages to store, belong to me; and no man can touch them until he sees fit to pay the tribute I demand".

Pirates Demand Tribute

Nature prepared the earth for ages to make a mine of iron ore, which is so useful in civilized life. It was here before man came, and will be here after he is gone, and yet a plundering, soulless, conscienceless band of pirates, called the steel trust, have taken possession of all the iron in America, and they say to every man who will use it: "You must pay us tribute." And every time two dollars is paid for their product one dollar goes to labor, and one dollar is taken as plunder pure and simple, because of the foolish laws of man. They can take from the farmer and laborer all that they earn except enough to keep them alive still to toil for the monopolist.

You may make eight-hour laws, you may make laws regulating sweat shops and factories, but so long as a few rich men own the earth, there will be a few rich and many millions of helpless poor. As population becomes more dense, the proportion of poor will increase. ... read the whole speech


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