see also: title, justice changing
Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George,
a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry
George (with links to sources)
THE common law we are told is the perfection of reason, and certainly the
landowners cannot complain of its decision, for it has been built up by and
for landowners. Now what does the law allow to the innocent possessor when
the land for which he paid his money is adjudged to rightfully belong to another?
Nothing at all. That he purchased in good faith gives him no right or claim
whatever. The law does not concern itself with the "intricate question of
compensation" to the innocent purchaser. The law does not say, as John Stuart
Mill says: "The land belongs to A, therefore B who has thought himself the
owner has no right to anything but the rent, or compensation for its salable
value." For that would be indeed like a famous fugitive slave case decision
in which the Court was said to have given the law to the North and the nigger
to the South. The law simply says: "The land belongs to A, let the Sheriff
put him in possession! " — Progress & Poverty — Book
VII, Chapter 3, Justice of the Remedy: Claim of Landowners to Compensation
COMPENSATED for what? For giving up what has been unjustly taken? The demand
of land-owners 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-value,
have taken the fruits of labor, retain what they have thus got. We merely propose
that for the future such robbery of labor shall cease. — NOW, is the State
called on to compensate men for the failure of their expectations as to its action,
even where no moral element is involved? If it make peace, must it compensate
those who have invested on the expectation of war. If it open a shorter highway,
is it morally bound to compensate those who may lose by the diversion of travel
from the old one? If it promote the discovery of a cheap means of producing electricity
directly from heat, is it morally bound to compensate the owners of all the steam
engines thereby thrown out of use and all who are engaged in making them? If
it develop the air-ship, must it compensate those whose business would be injured?
Such a contention would be absurd. — The
Condition of Labor
Yet the contention we are considering is worse. It is that the State must compensate
for disappointing the expectations of those who have counted on its continuing
to do wrong. — A Perplexed
COMPENSATION implies equivalence. To compensate for the discontinuance of a wrong
is to give those who profit by the wrong the pecuniary equivalent of its continuance.
Now the State has nothing that does not belong to the individuals who compose
it. What it gives to some it must take from others. Abolition with compensation
is therefore not really abolition, but continuance under a different form — on
one side of unjust deprivation, and on the other side of unjust appropriation. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation)
INNOCENT purchasers of what involves wrong to others! Is not the phrase
absurd? If, in our legal tribunals, "ignorance of the law excuseth no man," how
much less can it do so in the tribunal of morals — and it is this to
which compensationists appeal.
And innocence can only shield from the punishment due to conscious wrong; it
cannot give right. If you innocently stand on my toes, you may fairly ask me
not to be angry; but you gain no right to continue to stand on them. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation)
WHEN a man exchanges property of one kind for property of another kind he gives
up the one with all its incidents and takes in its stead the other with its incidents.
He cannot sell bricks and buy hay, and then complain because the hay burned when
the bricks would not. The greater liability of the hay to burn is one of the
incidents he accepted in buying it. Nor can he exchange property having moral
sanction for property having only legal sanction, and claim that the moral sanction
of the thing he sold attaches now to the thing he bought. That has gone with
the thing to the other party in the exchange. Exchange transfers, it cannot create.
Each party gives up what right he had and takes what right the other party
had. The last holder obtains no moral right that the first holder did not have. — A
Perplexed Philosopher (Compensation) ... go
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