Wealth and Want
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Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer's early writings, including Social Statics, were of an entirely different spirit from his later writings. Henry George called attention to the difference.

Herbert Spencer: Social Statics

Given a race of beings having like claims to pursue the objects of their desires; given a world adapted to the gratification of those desires — a world into which such beings are similarly born — and it unavoidably follows that they equal rights to the use of this world. For if each of them has "freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other," then each of them is free to use the earth for the satisfaction of his wants, provided he allows all others the same liberty. And conversely, it is manifest that no one, or part of them, may use the earth in such a way as to prevent the rest from similarly using it; seeing that to do this is to assume greater freedom than the rest, and consequently to break the law.

Equity, therefore, does not permit property in land. For if one portion of the earth's surface may justly become the possession of an individual and may be held by him for his sole use and benefit as a thing to which he has an exclusive right, then other portions of the earth's surface may be so held; and eventually the whole of the earth's surface may be so held, and our planet may thus lapse altogether into private hands. Observe now the dilemma to which this leads. Suppose the entire habitable globe to be so enclosed, it follows that if the landowners have a valid right to its surface, all who are not landowners have no right at all to its surface. Hence, such can exist on the earth by sufferance only. They are all trespassers. Save by the permission of the lords of the soil, they can have no room for the soles of their feet. Nay, should the others think fit to deny them a resting place, these landless men might equitably be expelled from the earth altogether. If, then, the assumption that land can be held as property involves that the whole globe may become the private domain of a part of its inhabitants; and if, by consequence, the rest of its inhabitants can then exercise their faculties — then exist even — only by consent of the landowners, it is manifest than an exclusive possession of the soil necessitates an infringement of the law of equal freedom. For men who cannot "live and move and have their being" without the leave of others cannot be equally free with those others.

Herbert Spencer, quoted by James Dundas White in a pamphlet entitled "Land-Value Policy"

"You have turned over the soil to a few inches in depth with a spade or a plough; you have scattered over this prepared surface a few seeds ; and you have gathered the fruits which the sun, rain, and air helped the soil to produce. Just tell me, if you please, by what magic have these acts made you sole owner of that vast mass of matter, having for its base the surface of your estate, and for its apex the centre of the globe? . . . You say truly, when you say that 'whilst they were unreclaimed these lands belonged to all men.' And it is my duty to tell you that they belong to all men still; and that your ' improvements' as you call them, cannot vitiate the claim of all men. You may plough and harrow, and sow and reap; you may turn over the soil as often as you like; but all your manipulations will fail to make that soil yours, which was not yours to begin with. . . . This extra worth which your labour has imparted to it is fairly yours . . . but admitting this, is quite a different thing from recognising your right to the land itself." [Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, 1851, ix, 4]

Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)

GREAT as John Stuart Mill was and pure as he was — warm heart and noble mind — he yet never saw the true harmony of economic laws, nor realized how from this one great fundamental wrong flow want and misery, and vice and shame. Else he could never have written this sentence: "The land of Ireland, the land of every country, belongs to the people of that country. The individuals called landowners have no right in morality and justice to anything but the rent, or compensation for its salable value."

In the name of the Prophet — figs! If the land of any country belong to the people of that country, what right, in morality and justice, have the individuals called landowners to the rent? If the land belong to the people, why in the name of morality and justice should the people pay its salable value for their own?

Herbert Spencer says: "Had we to deal with the parties who originally robbed the human race of its heritage, we might make short work of the matter?" Why not make short work of the matter anyhow? For this robbery is not like the robbery of a horse or a sum of money, that ceases with the act. It is a fresh and continuous robbery, that goes on every day and every hour. It is not from the produce of the past that rent is drawn; it is from the produce of the present. It is a toll levied upon labor constantly and continuously. Every blow of the hammer, every stroke of the pick, every thrust of the shuttle, every throb of the steam engine pay it tribute. It levies upon the earnings of the men who, deep underground, risk their lives, and of those who over white surges hang to reeling masts; it claims the just reward of the capitalist and the fruits of the inventor's patient effort; it takes little children from play and from school, and compels them to work before their bones are hard or their muscles are firm; it robs the shivering of warmth; the hungry, of food; the sick, of medicine; the anxious, of peace. It debases, and embrutes, and embitters. — Progress & Poverty — Book VII, Chapter 3, Justice of the Remedy: Claim of Landowners to Compensation

... go to "Gems from George"


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