|Wealth and Want|
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How do we know that the Almighty is against poverty? That it is not in accordance with His decree that poverty exists? We know it because we know this, that the Almighty has declared: "Thou shalt not steal." And we know for a truth that the poverty that exists today in the midst of abounding wealth is the result of a system that legalizes theft.
The women who by the thousands are bending over their needles or sewing machines, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen hours a day; these widows straining and striving to bring up the little ones deprived of their natural breadwinner; the children that are growing up in squalor and wretchedness, underclothed, underfed, undereducated, even in this city, without any place to play — growing up under conditions in which only a miracle can keep them pure — under conditions which condemn them in advance to the penitentiary or the brothel — they suffer, they die, because we permit them to be robbed, robbed of their birthright, robbed by a system which disinherits the vast majority of the children that come into the world.
There is enough and to spare for them. Had they the equal rights in the estate which their Creator has given them, there would be no young girls forced to unwomanly toil to eke out a mere existence; no widows finding it such a bitter, bitter struggle to put bread into the mouths of their little children; no such misery and squalor as we may see here in the greatest of American cities; misery and squalor that are deepest in the largest and richest centers of our civilization today.
These things are the results of legalized theft, the fruit of a denial of that commandment that says: "Thou shalt not steal." How is this great commandment interpreted today, even by men who preach the Gospel? "Thou shalt not steal." Well, according to some of them, it means: "Thou shalt not get into the penitentiary." Not much more than that with some. You may steal, provided you steal enough, and you do not get caught. Do not steal a few dollars — that may be dangerous, but if you steal millions and get away with it, you become one of our first citizens.
"Thou shalt not steal"; that is the law of God. What does it mean? Well, it does not merely mean that you shall not pick pockets! It does not merely mean that you shall not commit burglary or highway robbery! There are other forms of stealing which it prohibits as well. It certainly means (if it has any meaning) that we shall not take that to which we are not entitled, to the detriment of others.
Now, here is a desert. Here is a caravan going along over the desert. Here is a gang of robbers. They say: "Look! There is a rich caravan; let us go and rob it, kill the men if necessary, take their goods from them, their camels and horses, and walk off." But one of the robbers says:
"Oh, no; that is dangerous; besides, that would be stealing! Let us, instead of doing that, go ahead to where there is a spring, the only spring at which this caravan can get water in this desert. Let us put a wall around it and call it ours, and when they come up we won’t let them have any water until they have given us all the goods they have." That would be more gentlemanly, more polite, and more respectable; but would it not be theft all the same? And is it not theft of the same kind when people go ahead in advance of population and get land they have no use whatever for, and then, as people come into the world and population increases, will not let this increasing population use the land until they pay an exorbitant price?
That is the sort of theft on which our first families are founded. Do that under the false code of morality which exists here today and people will praise your forethought and your enterprise, and will say you have made money because you are a very superior person, and that all can make money if they will only work and be industrious! But is it not as clearly a violation of the command: "Thou shalt not steal," as taking the money out of a person’s pocket?
"Thou shalt not steal." That means, of course, that we ourselves must not steal. But does it not also mean that we must not suffer anybody else to steal if we can help it?
"Thou shalt not steal." Does it not also mean: "Thou shalt not suffer thyself or anybody else to be stolen from?" If it does, then we, all of us, rich and poor alike, are responsible for this social crime that produces poverty. Not merely the people who monopolize the land — they are not to blame above anyone else, but we who permit them to monopolize land are also parties to the theft.
The Christianity that ignores this social responsibility has really forgotten the teachings of Christ. ... read the whole article
Henry George: The Single Tax: What It Is and Why We Urge It (1890)
To show briefly why we urge this change, let me treat (1) of its expediency, and (2) of its justice.
From the Single Tax we may expect these advantages: ...
Let us turn to the moral side and consider the question of justice. ...
The right of property does not rest upon human laws; they have often ignored and violated it. It rests on natural laws -- that is to say, the law of God. It is clear and absolute, and every violation of it, whether committed by a man or a nation, is a violation of the command, "Thou shalt not steal."
The man who catches a fish, grows an apple, raises a calf, builds a house, makes a coat, paints a picture, constructs a machine, has, as to any such thing, an exclusive right of ownership which carries with it the right to give, to sell or bequeath that thing.
But who made the earth that any man can claim such ownership of it, or any part of it, or the right to give, sell or bequeath it? Since the earth was not made by us, but is only a temporary dwelling place on which one generation of men follow another; since we find ourselves here, are manifestly here with equal permission of the Creator, it is manifest that no one can have any exclusive right of ownership in land, and that the rights of all men to land must be equal and inalienable. ... read the whole article
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper