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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 all nations.
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 world's advance!
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 be true.
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 people.
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 achieved.
"By this sign shall ye conquer!"
Weld Carter: An Introduction to Henry George
What is the law of human progress?
George saw ours alone among the civilizations of the world as still progressing; all others had either petrified or had vanished. And in our civilization he had already detected alarming evidences of corruption and decay. So he sought out the forces that create civilization and the forces that destroy it.
He found the incentives to progress to be the desires inherent in human nature, and the motor of progress to be what he called mental power. But the mental power that is available for progress is only what remains after nonprogressive demands have been met. These demands George listed as maintenance and conflict.
In his isolated state, primitive man's powers are required simply to maintain existence; only as he begins to associate in communities and to enjoy the resultant economies is mental power set free for higher uses. Hence, association is the first essential of progress:
And as the wasteful expenditure of mental power in conflict becomes greater or less as the moral law which accords to each an equality of rights is ignored or is recognized, equality (or justice) is the second essential of progress.
Thus association in equality is the law of progress. Association frees mental power for expenditure in improvement, and equality, or justice, or freedom -- for the terms here signify the same thing, the recognition of the moral law -- prevents the dissipation of this power in fruitless struggles.
He concluded this phase of his analysis of civilization in these words: "The law of human progress, what is it but the moral law? Just as social adjustments promote justice, just as they acknowledge the equality of right between man and man, just as they insure to each the perfect liberty which is bounded only by the equal liberty of every other, must civilization advance. Just as they fail in this, must advancing civilization come to a halt and recede..."
However, as the primary relation of man is to the earth, so must the primary social adjustment concern the relation of man to the earth. Only that social adjustment which affords all mankind equal access to nature and which insures labor its full earnings will promote justice, acknowledge equality of right between man and man, and insure perfect liberty to each.
This, according to George, was what the single tax would do. It was why he saw the single tax as not merely a fiscal reform but as the basic reform without which no other reform could, in the long run, avail. This is why he said, "What is inexplicable, if we lose sight of man's absolute and constant dependence upon land, is clear when we recognize it." ... 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