Instead of a Book/Land and Rent
LAND AND RENT.
"THE LAND FOR THE PEOPLE."
[Liberty, June 24, 1882.]
The Liverpool speech, it seeins, was delivered by Davitt in response to a challenge from the English press to explain the meaning of the phrase, "the land for the people." We hope they understand it now.
"The land for the people," according to Parnell, appears to mean a change of the present tenants into proprietors of the estates by allowing them to purchase on easy terms fixed by the State and perhaps with the State's aid, and a maintenance thereafter of the present landlord system, involving the collection of rents by law.
"The land for the people," according to Davitt, as explained at Liverpool, appears to mean a change of the whole agricultural population into tenants of the State, which is to become the sole proprietor by purchase from the present proprietors, and the maintenance thereafter of the present landlord system involving the collection of rents in the form of taxes.
"The land for the people," according to George, appears to be the same as according to Davitt, except that the State is to acquire the land by confiscation instead of by purchase, and that the amount of rental is to be fixed by a different method of valuation.
"The land for the people," according to Liberty, means the protection (by the State while it exists, and afterwards by such voluntary associations for the maintenance of justice as may be destined to succeed it) of all people who desire to cultivate land in the possession of whatever land they personally cultivate, without distinction between the existing classes of landlords, tenants, and laborers, and the positive refusal of the protecting power to lend its aid to the collection of any rent whatsoever; this state of things to be brought about by inducing the people to steadily refuse the payment of rent and taxes, and thereby, as well as by all Other means of passive and moral resistance, compel the State to repeal all the so-called land titles now existing.
Thus "the land for the people" according to Liberty is the only "land for the people" that means the abolition of landlordism and the annihilation of rent; and all of Henry George's talk about "peasant proprietorship necessarily meaning nothing more than an extension of the landlord class" is the veriest rot, which should be thrown back upon him by the charge that land nationalization means nothing more than a diminution of the landlord class and a concentration and hundred-fold multiplication of the landlord's power.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS: RENT.
[Liberty, October 3, 1885.]
In following up the issues made by Mr. Tucker in the August number of Liberty, I am not quixotic enough to defend Proudhon either against Mr. T. or against his own possible inconsistencies. Only two of his works (recommended by Mr. T.) have been open to me. What I have to say stands upon its own merits, appealing to reason and the instinct of justice.
1. "The fiction of the productivity of capital,"
In productivity for human needs or desires, human activity is implied. No one pretends that capital or the results of past labor can in this point of view be independent of actual labor. Ripe grain or fruit in field or orchard is a capital; its use implies the labor of gathering and storing, milling, cooking, etc. But these consummating works would be impossible without the capital of the harvest, the result of previous culture, which, whether by the same or by different laborers, is equally an integrant factor in productivity and justly entitled to its proportionate share of the fruits.
Now, go back a year or more. Before the culture in question, capital existed as the result of clearing, fencing, ditching, manuring, etc., without which the culture would have been fruitless or impossible. Such previous works, then, are, equally with the two later, integrant of productivity, and have just claims to t>e satisfied in the repartition of the harvest. Previous to these three kinds of works, there has often been expenditure of effort in discovery or exploration, in conquest of territory, to which the State falls heir, and on the strength of which it levies tribute under title of entry fees or purchase-money.
In the precited series, the second term in order of succession has absorbed the first, so that the entry or purchase-fee is added to the claim for preparatory works, whose aggregate constitutes the basis of rentals. Mr. Tucker says that the "liquidation of this value, whether immediate or gradual, is a sale, and brings a right of ownership, which it is not in the nature of rent to do. To call this rent is inaccurate." Now, this is a question of the use of language. Accuracy here, as I maintain, consists in the use of words in their usual sense. I protest against neologies, or arbitrary definitions, in economics that make words squint, as a perfidy of Socialism which engenders vain logomachies and retards the triumph of justice. The liquidation of the value precited, the result of preparatory works, may be effected either by sale or by rentals. Sale is often impossible or unfeasible; it would be so at present for my own farm. Now, comes in the idea that each payment of rent shall constitute an instalment of purchase-money. This is Proudhon's theory of liquidation with a view to the independent proprietorship of the soil by its farmers. It is viable for rentals during a term of successive years, but is inapplicable to many cases like the following. By expenditure of unpaid labor during several years I have prepared a field for cotton culture. An immigrant, needing to realize the results of labor more promptly than would be possible if he began by performing upon forest land the kind of work I have already done, offers me a fourth of the crop for the use of my field. This is rent. The crop from which it is paid leaves the soil poorer in proportion, and the fences, etc., will need repair at an earlier period. Thus each crop may be estimated as lessening the original value of productivity by about one-tenth, sometimes as much as one-fourth. Now, the tenant profits three times as much as I do at the cost of my preparatory labors. The loss by cropping, of this value, is the just basis of rent, which leaves no proportion of purchase title to the tenant during one or a few seasons who does not manure or repair fences. The tenant who does this, and thus reproduces the original value, justly enters into proprietorship, and his rentals ought to be regarded as instalments of purchase-money. There lies the practical difference.
It is necessary to face the facts, and to avoid confusion by abstract terminology. There is just rent, and there is unjust rent, or the legal abuse of the rental system. Abate the public nuisance of legislation, and these matters are naturally arranged by contract between farmers.
The equitable relations between actual labor and the previous labors that constitute capital in the soil, or immovable upon it, vary with time, place, and circumstance. Rulings concerning them, reduced to the procrustean measures of law, if just for some cases, must be unjust for others. Private contracts only can approximate to justice; and hownearly they do it is the affair of the contracting parties, defying all prescriptive formulas.
The two works which I recommended to Edgeworth are among Proudhon's best; but they are very far from all that he has written, and it is very natural for the reader of a very small portion of his writings to draw inferences which he will find unwarranted when he reads more. This is due principally to Proudhon's habit of using words in different senses at different times, which I regard as unfortunate. Now, in the article which gave rise to this discussion, Edgeworth inferred (or seemed to infer), from the fact that some of Proudhon's transitional proposals allowed a share to capital for a time, that he contemplated as a permanent arrangement a division of labor's earnings between labor and capital as two distinct things. Lest this might mislead, I took the liberty to correct it, and to state that Proudhon thought labor the only legitimate title to wealth.
Now comes Edgeworth, and says that he meant by capital only the result of preparatory labor, which is as much entitled to reward as any other. Very good, say I; no one denies that. But this is not what is ordinarily meant by the "productivity of capital"; and Edgeworth, by his own rule, is bound to use words in their usual sense. The usual sense of this phrase, and the sense in which the economists use it, is that capital has such an independent share in all production that the owner of it may rightfully farm out the privilege of using it, receive a steady income from it, have it restored to him intact at the expiration of the lease, farm it out again to somebody else, and go on in this way, he and his heirs forever, living in a permanent state of idleness and luxury simply from having performed a certain amount of "preparatory labor." That is what Proudhon denounced as "the fiction of the productivity of capital"; and Edgeworth, in interpreting the phrase otherwise, gives it a very unusual sense, in violation of his own rule.
Moreover, what Edgeworth goes on to say about the proportional profits of landlord and tenant indicates that he has very loose ideas about the proper reward of labor, whether present or preparatory. The scientific reward (and under absolutely free competition the actual reward is, in the long run, almost identical with it) of labor is the product of an equal amount of equally arduous labor. The product of an hour of Edgeworth's labor in preparing a field for cotton culture, and the product of an hour of his tenant's labor in sowing and harvesting the crop, ought each to exchange for the product of an hour's labor of their neighbor the shoemaker, or their neighbor the tailor, or their neighbor the grocer, or their neighbor the doctor, provided the labor of all these parties is equally exhausting and implies equal amounts of acquired skill and equal outlays for tools and facilities. Now, supposing the cases of Edgeworth and his tenant to be representative and not isolated; and supposing them to produce, not for their own consumption, but for the purpose of sale, which is the purpose of practically all production, it then makes no difference to either of them whether their hour's labor yields five pounds of cotton or fifteen. In the one case they can get no more shoes or clothes or groceries or medical services for the fifteen pounds than they can in the other for the five. The great body of landlords and tenants, like the great body of producers in any other industry, does not profit by an increased productivity in its special field of work, except to the extent that it consumes or repurchases its own product. The profit of this increase goes to the people at large, the consumers. So it is not true (assuming always a régime of free competition) that Edgeworth's tenant "profits three times as much" as Edgeworth because of the latter's preparatory labors. Neither of them profit thereby, but each gets an hour of some other man's labor for an hour of his own. So much for the reward of labor in general. Now to get back to the question of rent.
If Edgeworth performs preparatory labor on a cotton field, the result of which would remain intact if the field lay idle, and that result is damaged by a tenant, the tenant ought to pay him for it on the basis of reward above defined. This does not bring a right of ownership to the tenant, to be sure, for the property has been destroyed and cannot be purchased. But the transaction, nevertheless, is in the nature of a sale, and not a payment for a loan. Every sale is an exchange of labor, and the tenant simply pays money representing his own labor for the result of Edgeworth's labor which he (the tenant) has destroyed in appropriating it to his own use. If the tenant does not damage the result of Edgeworth's preparatory labor, then, as Edgeworth admits, whatever money the tenant pays justly entitles him to that amount of ownership in the cotton field. Now, this money, paid over and above all damage, if it does not bring equivalent ownership, is payment for use, usury, and, in my terminology, rent. If Edgeworth prefers to use the word rent to signify all money paid to landlords as such by tenants as such for whatever reason, I shall think his use of the word inaccurate; but I shall not quarrel with him, and shall only protest when he interprets other men's thought by his own definitions, as he seemed to me to have done in Proudhon's case. If he will be similarly peaceful towards me in my use of the word, there will be no logomachy.
The difference between us is just this. Edgeworth says that from tenant to landlord there is payment for damage, and this is just rent; and there is payment for use, and that is unjust rent. I say there is payment for damage, and this is indemnification or sale, and is just; and there is payment for use, and that is rent, and is unjust. My use of the word is in accordance with the dictionary, and is more definite and discriminating than the other; moreover, I find it more effective in argument. Many a time has some small proprietor, troubled with qualms of conscience and anxious to justify the source of his income, exclaimed, on learning that I believe in payment for wear and tear: "Oh! well, you believe in rent, after all; it's only a question of how much rent;" after which he would settle back, satisfied. I have always found that the only way to give such a man's conscience a chance to get a hold upon his thought and conduct was to insist on the narrower use of the word rent. It calls the attention much more vividly to the distinction between justice and injustice. If in this I am guilty of neology, I am no more so than in my use of the word Anarchy, which Edgeworth adopts with great enthusiasm and employs with great effect. If the "squint" is what he objects to, why does it annoy him in one case and please him in the other?
I must add that, after what I said in my previous answer in opposition to legislative interference for the control of rents, etc., it seems hardly within the limits of fair discussion to hint that I am in favor of "procrustean measures of law." Certainly, Edgeworth does not directly say so, but in an article avowedly written, in answer to me I cannot see how the remark is otherwise pertinent.
RENT : PARTING WORDS.
[Liberty, December 12, 1885.]
The terminology employed by me in the preceding numbers of Liberty needs no defence, as I have used common words in their usual sense without regard to the technicalities of schoolmen.
My admission that payments by a tenant beyond restoration of all values removed by crops, and during the years of.culture, should justly be reckoned as purchase money, has nothing to do with terminology; it employs no words in an unusual sense. Therein consists, however, my radical accord with Proudhon and other modern socialists, and it cuts to the root of the tribune paid to idle landlords. The rent on real estate in cities has a compound basis; for, in addition to the equivalent for repairs and taxes common between it and agricultural rent, it includes an increment that may or may not have been earned by the owner and which is generally due to the concurrence of many individuals actuated by commercial and other social interests. A vortex, the site of which is determined by some local advantage, sucks in the population and resources of a large area.
The ethical title to the unearned increment of market values in real estate reverts to the municipal autonomy (1), but its legal title is now vested with individuals, and is the unjust basis of fortunes, like that of the Asters in New York City. Such titles carry with them at least hygienic; duties, and certain tenement blocks are fairly indictable under existing laws as public nuisances.
Market gardens near cities partake of this compound basis of values, but for agricultural lands generally labor is the only factor of value and title of rent. "Reduction to Procrustean codes of law of these relations between past and present labor which constitute capital in the soil" is an archonistic vice which I do not attribute to Mr. Tucker, but I perceive in his reply some twinges of conscience which accuse his semi-allegiance to "Pantarchate" doctrines. One of these he brings forward in the formula of exchange of labor, hour for hour; an arrangement the feasibility of which is narrowly limited in practice, and which, even when feasible, must be subordinate to personal contracts under individual sovereignty. (2) The pretension to generalize it is purely conventional and foreign to economic science. (3)
Aiming at equalitarian justice in labor exchange, Marx takes from statistical tables the average life of laborers in each department, including even the manipulation of poisons; then, if the span of life in these is reduced to, say five years, while in farm-work it is sixty, he makes one hour of the latter exchange for twelve of the former.
Is it necessary to expose the puerility of such speculative views? With a despotic capitalism will cease the necessity for murderous industries. Honest labor owns no fealty to the royalty of gold; hence will abandon the quicksilver works of the Rothschilds, which have for their chief object the extraction of gold, to be kept in vaults as the basis of currency. The Labor and Produce Exchange Bank annihilates at one blow the industrial and the financial slavery.
Honest labor has no use for those paralyzing paints which are compounded with white lead. It will forge its plows as they were forged before capitalism dictated that sharpening process, to the dust of which so many lives are sacrificed by artifical phthisis. I make bold to declare that not a single murderous function will remain after the emancipation from the prejudice of government, for the political and the economic despotisms are Siamese twins. But that will not equalize exchanges, hour for hour,—a system whose occasional feasibility cannot go behind personal contracts, and for Anarchists must be optional with individual sovereignty. It is a rickety child of the "Pantarchate," that needs to be bolstered with half a dozen ifs. Not only is it incalculable for exchanges between the simpler forms of labor and those requiring years of previous study, or a costly preparation; (4) but even in agriculture or mechanics, labor is little more than the zero that gives value to judgment and skill, without which its intervention is not only worthless, but often detrimental. (5) A mere plowman in my orchard may ruin my fruit crop by a day's faithful work, or a surgeon cripple me for life by an operation however well intended, and, mechanically, well performed. (6)
The employer is naturally and ethically the appraiser of work, and what he wants to know is, not the cost in time or pains, but the probable value of the result, before proposing terms to labor. (7) Then the estimate of costs enters into the laborer's answer, but, as he must often accept work the unforeseen costs of which exceed the compensation, it is unjust to restrict him from indemnifying himself on other occasions, by computing the value of his work to the employer. (8)
The "cost limit of price" doctrine is another economic fantasy (9) that flouts practical expediency, and, while qualifying particular estimates, can never become a general law.
The ethical validity of investment of past labor as the basis of rent does not need to lean upon the broken reed that Mr. Tucker supplies in his "if its result would remain intact, the field lying idle," etc. He knows it could not remain intact, for such field would grow up in grubs and the fences would decay during idleness; but it does not follow that the field would lie idle because not rented, nor would my loss in that case be a just reason why I should not share in the fructification of my past labor by another man's actual labor. (10) My illustration of the mechanism and conditions of the productivity of capital stands for itself and by itself; it is not a gloze or commentary upon Proudhon. His ideas and mine both harmonize with the facts of the case; that is our agreement: it is not an affair of mere verbiage.
The field in question owed its whole productivity to my previous labor. Other land contiguous was free to my tenant's occupation and use, but though of equal original capacities was rejected by him as a non-value. This is true of most agricultural land. Only by contiguity to cities, or in certain exceptional sites, has land any appreciable value independent of labor, in this country.
I stated that, in making a crop upon the basis of values accumulated in the soil by my previous labor, the tenant, paying one-fourth, profited three times as much by my previous labor as I did. This is the conventional award to his season's labor; it may be more or less than relative justice, but conventional rules or customs are infinitely preferable to arithmetical computations of a balance by the hours of labor. Farmers are not apt to be monomaniacs of bookkeeping. Instead of profited, I might have written shared. The term profit touches a hyperæsthetic spot in the socialist brain, and makes thought fly off at a tangent, (11) Mr. Tucker's commentary here is to me a mere muddle of phrases, which it does not appear profitable to analyze.
There is no squint in our use of the word Anarchy. There is a squintin employing it as a synonym with confusion. (12)
(1) This smacks of Henry George. If the municipality is an organization to which every person residing within a given territory must belong and pay tribute, it is not a bit more defensible than the State itself,—in fact, is nothing but a small State; and to vest in it a title to any part of the value of real estate is simply land nationalization on a small scale, which no Anarchist can look upon with favor. If the municipality is a voluntary organization, it can have no titles except what it gets from the individuals composing it. If they choose to transfer their "unearned increments" to the municipality, well and good; but any individual not choosing to do so ought to be able to hold his "unearned increment " against the world. If it is unearned, certainly his neighbors did not earn it. The advent of Liberty will reduce all unearned increments to a harmless minimum.
(2) There it is again. After admitting that I do not want to impose this principle of exchange, why does Edgeworth remind me that it must be "subordinate," etc.? When forced to a direct answer, he allows that I am not in favor of legal regulation, but immediately he proceeds with his argument as if I were. Logic commands him for a moment; then he lapses back into his instinctive inability to distinguish between a scientific principle and statute law.
(3) Who pretends to generalize it? Certainly no Anarchist. The pretension is that it will generalize itself as soon as monopoly is struck down. This generalization, far from being conventional, depends upon the abolition of conventions. Instead of being narrowly limited in practice, the labor measure of exchange will become, through Liberty, an almost universal fact.
(4) Why incalculable? Suppose a boy begins farm labor at fifteen years of age with a prospect of fifty years of work before him at one thousand dollars a year. Suppose another boy of the same age spends ten years and ten thousand dollars in studying medicine, and begins practice at twenty-five years of age with a prospect of forty years of work before him. Is it such a difficult mathematical problem to find out how great a percentage the latter must add to his prices in order to get in forty years as much as the farmer gets in fifty, and ten thousand dollars besides? Any schoolboy could solve it. Of course, labor cannot be estimated with the same degree of accuracy under all circumstances; but with the cost principle as a guide a sufficient approximation to equity is secured, while without it there is nothing but haphazard, scramble, and extortion. Edgeworth is mistaken, by the way, regarding the paternity of this principle. It is not a child of the "Pantarchate," or at any rate only an adopted child, its real father having been Josiah Warren, who hated the "Pantarchate" most cordially.
(5) I have never maintained that judgment and skill are less important than labor; I have only maintained that neither judgment nor skill can be charged for in equity except so far as they have been acquired. Even then the payment is not for the judgment or skill, but for the labor of acquiring; and, in estimating the price, one hour of labor in acquiring judgment is to be considered equal,—not, as now, to one day, or week, or perhaps year of manual toil,—but to one hour of manual toil. The claim for judgment and skill is usually a mere pretext made to deceive the people into paying exorbitant prices, and will not bear analysis for a moment.
(6) What has this to do with the price of labor? Imagine Edgeworth or any other sensible man employing an incompetent surgeon because his services could be had for a dollar a day less than those of one more competent! The course for sensible and just men to follow is this: Employ the best workmen you can find; whomsoever you employ, pay them equitably; if they damage you, insist that they shall make the damage good so far as possible; but do not dock their wages on the supposition that they may damage you.
(7) On the contrary, the employee, the one who does the work, is naturally and ethically the appraiser of work, and all that the employer has to say is whether he will pay the price or not. Into his answer enters the estimate of the value of the result. Under the present system he offers less than cost, and the employee is forced to accept. But Liberty and competition will create such an enormous market for labor that no workman will be forced by his incompetency to work for less than cost, as he will always be in a position to resort to some simpler work for which he is competent and can obtain adequate pay.
(8) The old excuse: to pay Paul I must rob Peter.
(9) No, not another; the same old fantasy, if it be a fantasy. The fact that Edgeworth supposes the exchange of labor for labor to be a different thing from the "cost limit of price" doctrine shows how little he understands it.
(10) Edgeworth admitted in his previous article that he could ask nothing more than that his field should be restored to him intact, and that anything his tenant might pay in addition should be regarded as purchase-money; now he not only wants his field restored intact, but insists on sharing in the results of his tenant's labor. I can follow in no such devious path as this.
(11) It would have made no difference to me had Edgeworth said "shared" instead of "profited." In that case I should simply have said that neither landlords nor tenants as such (where there is freedom of competition) share in the results of the extra fertility of soil due to preparatory labor, but that those results go to the consumers. And Edgeworth's reply would have been the same,—that my remarks were a "muddle of phrases." Such a reply admits of no discussion. Only our readers can judge of its justice. In saying that "farmers are not apt to be monomaniacs of bookkeeping," Edgeworth is probably not aware that he is calling Proudhon (with whom he so obstinately insists that he is in accord) hard names. The statement occurs over and over again in Proudhon's works that bookkeeping is the final arbiter in all economical discussion. He never tires of sounding its praises. And this great writer, whose "radical accord" with Edgeworth "is not a matter of mere verbiage," was one of the most persistent champions of the cost principle and the exchange of labor hour for hour.
(12) I presume I am entirely safe in saying that the word Anarchy is used in the sense of confusion a thousand times where it is used once in the sense of Liberty. Therefore Edgeworth's closing assertion that "there is no squint in our use of the word Anarchy," and that "there is a squint in employing it as a synonym with confusion," shows how much reliance can be placed upon his opening assertion that in this discussion he has "used common words in their usual sense."
PROPERTY UNDER ANARCHISM.
[Liberty, July 12, 1890.]
The current objection to Anarchism, that it would throw property titles and especially land titles into hopeless confusion, has originated an interesting discussion in The Free Life between Auberon Herbert, the editor, and Albert Tarn, an Anarchistic correspondent. Mr. Tarn is substantially right in the position that he takes; his weakness lies in confining himself to assertion,—a weakness of which Mr. Herbert promptly takes advantage.
Mr. Tarn's letter is as follows:
To the Editor of The Free Life:
Sir,—In your article on "The Great Question of Property " in last week's Free Life you speak of the weakness of the Anarchist position as involving either "hard crystalline customs very difficult to alter," or "some perpetually recurring form of scramble."
It seems strange that you can attribute to Anarchy just the very weaknesses that characterize our present property system. Why, it is now that we have "hard crystalline customs very difficult to alter," and a "perpetually recurring"—nay, a never-ceasing—"form of scramble."
Anarchists above all, though in favor of free competition, are averse to the eternal scramble which is now going on for the privileges which legal money and legal property confer, of living at ease at the expense of the masses.
Anarchy would sweep away such privileges, and, there being no longer any chance of obtaining them, people would simply work for their living and retain whatever they earn. There would be little or no quarrel about property, no revolutionary movements to try to get hold of it, no taxes, no State Socialism. Why, all your struggles to-day, not only in the workshop and counting-house, but in the political field, are caused by the stupid laws of property and money, which result in a never-ending scramble.
Anarchy means peace; it means every one getting what he's worth and no more,—no thieving at all, neither by landlords, usurers, lawyers, tax-collectors, nor even by pick-pockets and burglars when the present contrasts of wealth vanish.
Your property laws are just as stupid as any other laws. They defeat their own ends.
In Mr. Herbert's rejoinder the case against Anarchism is exceptionally well put, and for this reason among others I give it in full:
It is not enough for our correspondent, Mr. Tarn, to say that Anarchy does away with scramble; we want to know "the how" and "the why." Our contention is that under the law of the free market everybody knows, first, who owns a particular piece of property, and, secondly, the conditions under which property can be acquired. All is clear and definite, and that clearness and definiteness are worth far more to the human race in the long run than any temporary advantage to be gained by forcible interferings with distribution. On the other hand, we say that under Anarchy nobody would know to whom a piece of property belonged, and nobody would understand how it was to be transferred from A to B. Take any instance you like. Anarchists generally define property by use and possession; that is, whoever uses and possesses is to be considered owner. John Robins possesses a plot of three acres, and manages to feed two cows on it. John Smith possesses neither land nor cow. He comes to John Robins and says: "You are not really using and possessing these three acres; I shall take half of them." Who on earth is to judge between these men? Who is to say whether John Robins is really possessing or not? Who is going to say to John Smith that he shall not get a bit of land by "scramble" from John Robins, seeing that under the Anarchist system that was the very way in which John Robins himself got these three acres from the big landowner, who, as he said at the time, was not truly owning, because he was not possessing.
Mr. Tarn finds fault with us for saying that Anarchy, or no fixed standard of acquiring or owning, must lead either to rigid crystalline custom or to scramble. But is that not almost absolutely certain? At first it must be scramble. Everybody who could would take or keep on the plea of possession. We presume even a weekly tenant could claim under the same plea. But even when the first great scramble was over, the smaller scrambles would continue,—the innumerable adjustments between John Robins and John Smith having to be perpetually made. But after a certain time the race would tire of scramble, as it always has done, and then what would happen? Why, necessarily, that a community would silently frame for itself some law or custom that would decide all these disputed cases. They would say that no man should hold more than two acres; or that no man should be disturbed after so many years' possession; or they would fix some other standard, which would tend to become rigid and crystalline, and be very difficult to alter, just because there was no machinery for altering it.
We say that our friends the Anarchists—with whom, when they are not on the side of violence, we have much in common—must make their position clear and definite about property. They are as much opposed as we are to State-regulated property; they are as much in favor of individualistic property as we are; but they will not pay the price that has to be paid for individualistic property, and which alone can make it possible. When once you are away from the open market, there are only two alternatives,—State regulation (or law) and scramble. Every form of property-holding, apart from the open market, will be found to be some modification of one of these two forms.
This criticism of Anarchism, reduced to its essence, is seen to be twofold. First, the complaint is that it has no fixed standard of acquiring or owning. Second, the complaint is that it necessarily results in a fixed standard of acquiring or owning. Evidently Mr. Herbert is a very hard man to please. Before he criticises Anarchism further, I must insist that he make up his mind whether he himself wants or does not want a fixed standard. And whatever his decision, his criticism falls. For if he wants a fixed standard, that which he may adopt is as liable to become a "rigid crystalline custom" as any that Anarchism may lead to. And if he does not want a fixed standard, then how can he complain of Anarchism for having none?
If it were my main object to emerge from this dispute victorious, I might well leave Mr. Herbert in the queer predicament in which his logic has placed him. But as I am really anxious to win him to the Anarchistic view, I shall try to show him that the fear of scramble and rigidity with which Anarchism inspires him has little or no foundation.
Mr. Herbert, as I understand him, believes in voluntary association, voluntarily supported, for the defence of person and property. Very well; let us suppose that he has won his battle, and that such a state of things exists. Suppose that all municipalities have adopted the voluntary principle, and that compulsory taxation has been abolished. Now, after this, let us suppose further that the Anarchistic view that occupancy and use should condition and limit landholding becomes the prevailing view. Evidently then these municipalities will proceed to formulate and enforce this view. What the formula will be no one can foresee. But continuing with our suppositions, we will say that they decide to protect no one in the possession of more than ten acres. In execution of this decision, they, on October 1, notify all holders of more than ten acres within their limits that, on and after the following January 1, they will cease to protect them in the possession of more than ten acres, and that, as a condition of receiving even that protection, each must make formal declaration on or before December 1 of the specific ten-acre plot within his present holding which he proposes to personally occupy and use after January 1. These declarations having been made, the municipalities publish them and at the same time notify landless persons that out of the lands thus set free each may secure protection in the possession of any amount up to ten acres after January 1 by appearing on December 15, at a certain hour, and making declaration of his choice and intention of occupancy. Now, says Mr. Herbert, the scramble will begin. Well, perhaps it will. But what of it? When a theatre advertises to sell seats for a star performance at a certain hour, there is a scramble to secure tickets. When a prosperous city announces that on a given day it will accept loans from individuals up to a certain aggregate on attractive terms, there is a scramble to secure the bonds. As far as I know, nobody complains of these scrambles as unfair. The scramble begins and the scramble ends, and the matter is settled. Some inequality still remains, but it has been reduced to a minimum, and everybody has had an equal chance with the rest. So it will be with this land scramble. It may be conducted as peacefully as any other scramble, and those who are frightened by the word are simply the victims of a huge bugbear.
And the terror of rigidity is equally groundless. This rule of ten-acre possession, or any similar one that may be adopted, is no more rigid crystalline custom than is Mr. Herbert's own rule of protecting titles transferred by purchase and sale. Any rule is rigid less by the rigidity of its terms than by the rigidity of its enforcement. Now it is precisely in the tempering of the rigidity of enforcement that one of the chief excellences of Anarchism consists. Mr. Herbert must remember that under Anarchism all rules and laws will be little more than suggestions for the guidance of juries, and that all disputes, whether about land or anything else, will be submitted to juries which will judge not only the facts, but the law, the justice of the law, its applicability to the given circumstances, and the penalty or damage to be inflicted because of its infraction. What better safeguard against rigidity could there be than this? "Machinery for altering" the law, indeed! Why, under Anarchism the law will be so flexible that it will shape itself to every emergency and need no alteration. And it will then be regarded as just in proportion to its flexibility, instead of as now in proportion to its rigidity.
MERE LAND NO SAVIOUR FOR LABOR.
[Liberty, May 7, 1887.]
Here is a delicious bit of logic from Mr. George: "If capital, a mere creature of labor, is such an oppressive thing, its creator, when free, can strangle it by refusing to reproduce it." The italics are mine. If capital is oppressive, it must be oppressive of labor. What difference does it make, then what labor can do when free? The question is what it can do when oppressed by capital. Mr. George's next sentence, to be sure, indicates that the freedom he refers to is freedom from land monopoly. But this does not improve his situation. He is enough of an economist to be very well aware that, whether it has land or not, labor which can get no capital—that is, which is oppressed by capital—cannot, without accepting the alternative of starvation, refuse to reproduce capital for the capitalists.
It is one thing for Mr. George to sit in his sanctum and write of the ease with which a man whose sole possession is a bit of land can build a home and scratch a living; for the man to do it is wholly another thing. The truth is that this man can do nothing of the sort until you devise some means of raising his wages above the cost of living. And you can only do this by increasing the demand for his labor. And you can only increase the demand for his labor by enabling more men to go into business. And you can only enable more men to go into business by enabling them to get capital without interest, which, in Mr. George's opinion, would be very wrong. And you can only enable them to get capital without interest by abolishing the money monopoly, which, by limiting the supply of money, enables its holders to exact interest. And when you have abolished the money monopoly, and when, in consequence, the wages of the man with the bit of land have begun to rise above the cost of living, the labor question will be nine-tenths solved. For then either this man will live better and better, or he will steadily lay up money, with which he can buy tools to compete with his employer or to till his bit of land with comfort and advantage. In short, he will be an independent man, receiving all that he produces or an equivalent thereof. How to make this the lot of all men is the labor question. Free land will not solve it. Free money, supplemented by free land, will.
HENRY GEORGE'S "SECONDARY FACTORS."
[Liberty, September 24, 1887.]
In trying to answer the argument that land is practically useless to labor unprovided with capital, Henry George declares that "labor and land, even in the absence of secondary factors obtained from their produce, have in their union to-day, as they had in the beginning, the potentiality of all that man ever has brought, or ever can bring, into being."
This is perfectly true; in fact, none know it better than the men whom Mr. George thus attempts to meet.
But, as Cap'n Cuttle was in the habit of remarking, "the bearin' o' this 'ere hobserwation lies in the application on't," and in its application it has no force whatever. Mr. George uses it to prove that, if land were free, labor would settle on it, thus raising wages by relieving the labor market.
But labor would do no such thing.
The fact that a laborer, given a piece of land, can build a hut of mud, strike fire with flint and steel, scratch a living with his finger-nails, and thus begin life as a barbarian, even with the hope that in the course of a lifetime he may slightly improve his condition in consequence of having fashioned a few of the ruder of those implements which Mr. George styles "secondary factors" (and he could do no more than this without producing for exchange, which implies, not only better machinery, but an entrance into that capitalistic maelstrom which would sooner or later swallow him up),—this fact, I say, will never prove a temptation to the operative of the city, who, despite his wretchedness, knows something of the advantages of civilization and to some extent inevitably shares them. Man does not live by bread alone.
The city laborer may live in a crowded tenement and breathe a tainted air; he may sleep cold, dress in rags, and feed on crumbs; but now and then he gets a glimpse at the morning paper, or, if not, then at the bulletin-board; he meets his fellow-men face to face; he knows by contact with the world more or less of what is going on in it; he spends a few pennies occasionally for a gallery-ticket to the theatre or for some other luxury, even though he knows he "can't afford it"; he hears the music of the street bands; he sees the pictures in the shop windows; he goes to church if he is pious, or, if not, perhaps attends the meetings of the Anti-Poverty Society and listens to stump speeches by Henry George; and, when all these fail him, he is indeed unfortunate if some fellow-laborer does not invite him to join him in a social glass over the nearest bar.
Not an ideal life, surely; but he will shiver in his garret and slowly waste away from inanition ere he will exchange it for the semi-barbarous condition of the backwoodsman without an axe. And, were he to do otherwise, I would be the first to cry: The more fool he!
Mr. George's remedy is similar—at least for a part of mankind—to that which is attributed to the Nihilists, but which few of them ever believed in,—namely, the total destruction of the existing social order and the creation of a new one on its ruins.
Mr. George may as well understand first as last that labor will refuse to begin this world anew. It never will abandon even its present meagre enjoyment of the wealth and the means of wealth which have grown out of its ages of sorrow, suffering, and slavery. If Mr. George offers it land alone, it will turn its back upon him. It insists upon both land and tools. These it will get, either by the State Socialistic method of concentrating the titles to them in the hands of one vast monopoly, or by the Anarchistic method of abolishing all monopolies, and thereby distributing these titles gradually among laborers through the natural channels of free production and exchange.
THE STATE SOCIALISTS AND HENRY GEORGE.
[Liberty, September 24, 1887.]
Just as I have more respect for the Roman Catholic Christian who believes in authority without qualification, than for the Protestant Christian who speaks in the name of liberty, but does not know the meaning of the word, so I have more respect for the State Socialist than for Henry George, and in the struggle between the two my sympathy is with the former. Nevertheless the State Socialists have only themselves to blame for the support they have hitherto extended to George, and the ridiculous figure that some of them now cut in their sackcloth and ashes is calculated to amuse. Burnette G. Haskell, for instance. In his Labor Enquirer, previous to the issue of August 20, he had been flying the following flag: "For President in 1888, Henry George." But in that issue, having heard of the New York schism, he lowered his colors and substituted the following: "For President in 1888, any man who will go as the servant of the people and not as their 'boss,' and who understands that poverty can only be abolished by the abolition of the competitive wage system and the inauguration of State Socialism." When Haskell hoisted George's name, did he not know that his candidate believed that poverty was not to be abolished by the abolition of the wage system? If he did not know this, his knowledge of his candidate must have been limited indeed. If he did know it, the change of colors indicates, not the discarding of a leader, but a revolution in ideas. Yet Haskell is undoubtedly not conscious of any revolution in his ideas, and would admit none. All of which tends to show that he has no ideas definite enough to be revolutionized.
LIBERTY AND THE GEORGE THEORY.
[Liberty, November 5, 1887.]
There is much in Liberty to admire, and in Anarchism that I believe has a divine right of way. But I see little of these qualities in the criticisms made by Editor Tucker on the George movement, and much, as I think, of the exaggeration and inconsistency inherent in the Anarchistic temper and teachings.
You have "more respect," you say, "for the State Socialist than for Henry George," and "in the struggle between the two your sympathy is with the former." This is vague, to say the least; and the meaning is not helped by the comparison with "the Roman Catholic who believes in authority without qualification, and the Protestant who speaks in the name of liberty, but does not know the meaning of the word." Such expressions seem to me to point no issue, but to dodge or confuse issues. The question is threefold, relating to tactics, spirit, and doctrine, which are not always one, or of the same relative importance. You do not say whether the expulsion of the Socialists was just, whether they acted in good faith as members of the United Labor party, or believed their doctrine had any logical filiation with its platform. This ought to have something to do with our "respect" and "sympathy." To hold to the belief of a Roman Catholic is one thing, and to enter an evangelical body as an emissary of the Pope is quite another. You seem to slur this issue in speaking merely of "the ridiculous figure the Socialists now cut in their sackcloth and ashes," for "ridiculous" is not a word of a very specific meaning. But your closing remark appears to be a contradiction of the first so praiseful of the simple stable views of the State Socialist; for of the act of the Labor Enquirer in hoisting Henry George's name one day and pulling it down the next you say it shows, not a revolution in ideas, but that it had "no ideas definite enough to be revolutionized."
And do you really believe that Protestantism is not an advance on Roman Catholicism; that such men as Luther, Wesley, Channing, are not as "respectable" as the Roman pontiffs? Do you think the apostate or rebellious element in both Church and State is not as deserving of respect as the older body, simply because it does not reach the goal of freedom at a bound? Have you more sympathy with Asia than Europe, with Europe than America, with unqualified despotism than with a constitutional monarchy, with monarchy than with republicanism? And is there no room for theory or experiment between State Socialism and Anarchism, no foothold for large views and manly purposes? Are Henry George and his co-workers of the class who "speak in the name of liberty, but do not know the meaning of the word"? Is their talk and spirit rubbish by the side of Anarchism, but its opposite. State Socialism? Did liberty have nothing to do with the writing of "Progress and Poverty,"—that book that has set so many to thinking and acting, and has done more to popularize the science of political economy than the writings of any dozen men, if not of all men, on that theme? Had liberty nothing to do with the starting of the Standard, the Anti-Poverty Society, the anointing of McGlynn, Pentecost, Huntington, Redpath, McGuire, and the rest of the new apostolate of freedom? I am aware there are things connected with this reform to which exceptions can and must be made; but they do not prove it is not Liberty's offspring, an onward movement freighted with benefit for the race.
Of a piece with this criticism is another article in the same number, in which you go even farther, and say: "Mr. George may as well understand first as last that labor will refuse to begin this world anew. It never will abandon even its present meagre enjoyment of wealth and the means of wealth which have grown out of its ages of sorrow, suffering, and slavery. If Mr. George offers it land alone, it will turn its back upon him. It insists upon both land and tools." That is an astounding assertion that he asks labor to "begin this world anew," and to "abandon" what it already has, and ought to be backed by some show of argument; but I see none. How are the people to lose by being made their own landlords? How are they to be robbed of their present advantages in having the land made free? Your whole argument, filling a column, is that "the city operative will not be tempted to leave what he has for the semi-barbarous condition of the backwoodsman without an axe, building a hut of mud, striking fire with flint and steel, and scratching a living with his finger nails"! Now, if the vacant lots and tracts of land in and about all the cities are brought into use by being built upon or cultivated, will not the stimulus given to industry and the increased opportunity for employment resulting therefrom not only enable the operative to buy an axe, rake, hoe, hammer, saw, and even a horse and plough? And not only this, but to find a suitable patch of land without going so far beyond the boundaries of civilization as you imagine? But the idea is not that every one will become a farmer or landowner, but that the cheapening and freeing of this primary factor of production, the land, will make it possible for those of very limited means and resources to do more for themselves and for the world than now, besides rendering capital more active, more productive; the clear tendency of which would be to relieve the labor market, and make the demand for labor greater than the supply, and so raise wages and secure to labor its just reward. And you do not see how this is in the interest of freedom; how the freeing of land will enable men to become the possessors, not only of the tools they need, but of their individuality as well! Taking taxes off industry, and substituting therefor the social values given to land, you call retrogression, or rather "a remedy similar—for a part of mankind at least—to that attributed to the Nihilists, the total destruction of the existing social order, and the creation of a new one on its ruins"! This is wild talk, and is none the less so because of the use of the feeble adjective, "similar," and (he halting phrase, "at least a part of mankind," which destroy the value of the comparison for the purpose of argument, and, like the words "respect," "sympathy," "ridiculous," and "semi-barbarous," show that Liberty, the Anarchist organ par excellence, may dogmatize instead of reason, and make personal dictum or caprice the standard of right.
But there is something of more consequence than the vulnerable points in Liberty's logic, for it goes deeper. Granting that this reform does mean the creation of a new order involving losses and sacrifices to the individual for a generation, is that its condemnation? Words cannot express my astonishment at the manner in which Liberty tells its readers that the city operative cannot be tempted "to begin life as a barbarian, even with the hope that in the course of a lifetime he may slightly improve his condition," for he would be a "fool" not to prefer to this the city with its "street bands," "shop windows," "theatres," and "churches," even though he have to "breathe tainted air" and "dress in rags." Ah, it is indeed true, as you say, "man does not live by bread alone," and for that reason he prefers pure air and independence along with isolation and struggle, to tainted air and serfdom along with brass bands and hand organs, gaudy windows, and Black Crook performances. But is that " beginning life as a barbarian," no matter with implements however rude, at places however remote from the centres of pride and luxury, with fruits of toil however slow in ripening, if the persons are moved by the thought of bettering, not their own condition merely, but that of the world, of the generations to come? Have not the pioneers of freedom, the vanguards of civilization, again and again "begun life as the barbarian," so to speak? This reform, it is true, means "bread," but bread for all, though there be luxury for none. We know the advantages of city life, and for that reason we would deny ourselves those advantages in order that cities might spread and civilization expand.
We want the earth, but do not mean to run away with if, there will still be plenty of room,—yes, more than before, far more. It will be the beginning, not the end, of reform; not the last step, but a great stride forward. Socialism and Anarchism will both have a better chance then than now. If the insufficiency of the principle is proven. For it is Socialistic in asserting the common ownership of the soil and governmental control of such things as are in their nature monopolies, while it is Anarchistic in leaving all else to the natural channels of free production and exchange, to free contract and spontaneous co-operation.
T. W. Curtis.
Mr. Curtis's criticisms are based upon a series of misapprehensions of Liberty's statements, and in one instance upon something that looks very like deliberate misrepresentation.
In the first place, he misapprehends my expression of greater respect for and sympathy with the State Socialists than Henry George, seeming to think that this preference included in its sweep not only matters of doctrine, but matters of tactics and spirit. The form of my assertion shows that I confined it to doctrine simply. The declaration was that I have more respect for the State Socialists than for George, "just as I have more respect for the Roman Catholic Christian, who believes in authority without qualification, than for the Protestant Christian, (who speaks in the name of liberty, but does not know the meaning of the word." No one but Mr. Curtis would dream of inferring from these words that I prefer the tactics and spirit of Torquemada to those of Channing. I left tactics and spirit entirely aside in making the above statement. In respect to conduct I asserted superiority neither for the State Socialist nor for George. Whether the State Socialists went to George or he went to them, or which seceded from or betrayed the other, are questions which interest me only in a minor degree. To me reason is the highest and grandest faculty of man; and I place George lower in my esteem than the State Socialist, because I consider him the greater offender against reason. This is the sense in which I prefer Catholicism to Protestantism, Asia to Europe, and monarchy to republicanism. The Catholic, the Asiatic, and the monarch are more logical, more consistent, more straightforward, less corkscrewy, more strictly plumb-line than the Protestant, the European, and the republican. This is not a novel idea, and I am at a loss to account for Mr. Curtis's suprise over it. Did he never hear that there is no half-way house between Rome and Reason? Likewise there is no room for logical, consistent theory or intelligent, systematic experiment between State Socialism and Anarchism. There is plenty of room between them to jumble theories and to experiment blindly, but that is all. The pity is that room of this kind should be so popular.
Yes, Henry George and his co-workers are of that class who "speak in the name of liberty, but do not know the meaning of the word." Mr. George has no conception of liberty as a universal social law. He happens to see that in some things it would lead to good results, and therefore in those things favors it. But it has never dawned upon his mind that disorder is the inevitable fruit of every plant which has authority for its root. As John F. Kelly says of him, "he is inclined to look with favor on the principle of laissez faire, yet he will abandon it at any moment, whenever regulation seems more likely to produce immediate benefits, regardless of the evils thereby produced by making the people less jealous of State interference." The nature of his belief in liberty is well illustrated by his attitude on the tariff question. One would suppose from his generalization that he has the utmost faith in freedom of competition; but one does not realize how little this faith amounts to until he hears him, after making loud free-trade professions, propose to substitute a system of bounties for the tariff system. If such political and economic empiricism is not rubbish beside the coherent proposals of either Anarchism or State Socialism, then I don't know chaff from wheat.
Liberty, of course, had something to do with the writing of "Progress and Poverty." It also had something to do with the framing of divorce laws as a relief from indissoluble marriage. But the divorce laws, instead of being libertarian, are an express recognition of the rightfulness of authority over the sexual relations. Similarly "Progress and Poverty" expressly recognizes the rightfulness of authority over the cultivation and use of land. For some centuries now evolution has been little else than the history of liberty; nevertheless all its factors have not been children of liberty.
Mr. Curtis tries to convict me of contradiction by pointing to my statement that Burnette Haskell, a State Socialist, has no definite ideas. This he thinks inconsistent with my praise of the simple stable views of the State Socialist. Here is where the color of misrepresentation appears. In order to make his point Mr. Curtis is obliged to quote me incorrectly. He attributes to me the following phrase: "the ridiculous figure the Socialists now cut in their sackcloth and ashes." My real words were: "the ridiculous figure that some of them now cut in their sackcloth and ashes." It makes all the difference whether in this sentence I referred to the whole body of State Socialists or only to a few individuals among them. It was precisely because I was about to criticise the conduct of one State Socialist in order to show that he had no real idea of State Socialism that I felt it necessary to preface my criticism by separating doctrine from conduct and declaring my preference for the State Socialist over George in the matter of doctrine. But Mr. Curtis will have it that I took Haskell as a typical State Socialist, even if he has to resort to misquotation to prove it.
He next turns his attention to the editorial on "Secondary Factors." He thinks that my assertion that George asks labor to "begin this world anew" ought to be backed by some show of argument. Gracious heavens! I backed it at the beginning of my article by a quotation from George himself. Dislodged by his critics from one point after another, George had declared that "labor and land, even in the absence of secondary factors obtained from their produce, have in their union to-day, as they had in the beginning, the potentiality of all that man ever has brought, or ever can bring, into being." When such words as these are used to prove that, if land were free, labor would settle on it, even without secondary factors,—that is, without tools,—what do they mean except that the laborer is expected to "begin this world anew"? But if this is not enough for Mr. Curtis, may I refer him to the debate between George and Shewitch, in which the former, being asked by the latter what would have become of Friday if Crusoe had fenced off half the island and turned him loose upon it without any tools, answered that Friday would have made some fish-hooks out of bones and gone fishing? Isn't that sufficiently primitive to substantiate my assertion, Mr. Curtis? Tell Mr. George that the laborer can do nothing without capital, and he will answer you substantially as follows: Originally there was nothing but a naked man and the naked land; free the land, and then, if the laborer has no tools, he will again be a naked man on naked land and can do all that Adam did. When I point out that such a return to barbarism is on a par with the remedy attributed to the Nihilists, the total destruction of the existing social order, Mr. Curtis asserts that "this is wild talk;" but his assertion, it seems to me, "ought to be backed by some show of argument."
He is sure, however, that there is no need of going to the backwoods. There is enough vacant land in the neighborhood of cities, he thinks, to employ the surplus workers, and thus relieve the labor market. But this land will not employ any workers that have no capital, and those that have capital can get the land now. Thus the old question comes back again. Make capital free by organizing credit on a mutual plan, and then these vacant lands will come into use, and then industry will be stimulated, and then operatives will be able to buy axes and rakes and hoes, and then they will be independent of their employers, and then the labor problem will be solved.
My worst offence Mr. Curtis reserves till the last. It consists in telling the workingman that he would be a fool not to prefer the street bands, the shop windows, the theatres, and the churches to a renewal of barbaric life. Mr. Curtis again misapprehends me in thinking that I commend the bands, the windows, etc. I said explicitly that there is nothing ideal about them. But society has come to be man's dearest possession, and the advantages and privileges which I cited, crude and vulgar and base as some of them are, represent society to the operative. He will not give them up, and I think he is wise. Pure air is good, but no one wants to breathe it long alone. Independence is good, but isolation is too heavy a price to pay for it. Both pure air and independence must be reconciled with society, or not many laborers will ever enjoy them. Luckily they can be and will be, though not by taxing land values. As for the idea that persons can be induced to become barbarians from altruistic motives in sufficient numbers to affect the labor market, it is one that I have no time to discuss. In one respect at least Mr. George is preferable to Mr. Curtis as an opponent: he usually deals in economic argument rather than sentimentalism.
A CRITICISM THAT DOES NOT APPLY.
[Liberty, July 16, 1887.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
It pains me to see your frequent attacks on Henry George, as they make the defenders of monopolies secure in the knowledge that there is discord in the ranks of the reformers. It appears to me—though I may be mistaken and will gladly accept arguments and refutation—that one important point of the land question has escaped your attention, just as the vital point of the money question does not seem to be clear to the editor of the Standard. It is my conviction that in a state of perfect liberty, assuming the existence of "intelligent egoism," the people will combine for mutual protection, and among other things will enter a social compact creating an equitable right of property. They will also protect their members in the possession of the land they till, or on which they ply their trade or build their homes. But since some land possesses advantages over other land, they will demand an equitable remuneration for this protection and renunciation, especially if it can be shown to cost the consumers of what- ever is produced under these special advantages exactly as much as the holder of land is able to obtain as "rent" (Ricardo's "rent," John Stuart Mill's "unearned increment"). The community would therefore collect the rent in the form of taxes,—i.e., equitable pay for the right of possession,—and, to be perfectly fair, should divide the proceeds among those consumers who, through the operation of the law of supply and demand, were forced to pay more than the average cost. But as such distribution would be practically impossible, the proceeds of this taxation should be used as nearly as possible to the advantage of those to whom it equitably belongs. Can you suggest a better disposal than Henry George does? If so, we are ready to hear. But please admit, or else refute, the statement that the collection of rent by the community would be the natural outgrowth of equitable social compact entered for the sake of order and peace in a state of perfect liberty among intelligently egoistical beings. You cannot convince Henry George of the error of his position in relation to capital, if you deride the truths he advances together with his errors. Let us reason together, and I am sure we can ultimately unite on one platform,—i.e., the abolition of all unjust laws, of which the permission given to individual persons of appropriating the unearned increment (which has a natural, not an artificial, origin) is not by any means the least.
Philadelphia, May 11, 1887.
My correspondent, who, by the way, is a highly intelligent man, and has a most clear understanding of the money question, should point out the truths that I have derided before accusing me of deriding any. I certainly never have derided the truth contained in Ricardo's theory of rent. What I have derided is Henry George's proposal that a majority of the people shall seize this rent by force and expend it for their own benefit, or perhaps for what they are pleased to consider the benefit of the minority. I have also derided many of the arguments by which Mr. George has attempted to justify this proposal, many of which he has used in favor of interest and other forms of robbery, and his ridiculous pretence that he is a champion of liberty. But I have never disputed that, under the system of land monopoly, certain individuals get, in the form of rent, a great deal that they never earned by their labor, or that it would be a great blessing if some plan should be devised and adopted whereby this could be prevented without violating the liberty of the individual. I am convinced, however, that the abolition of the money monopoly, and the refusal of protection to all land titles except those of occupiers, would, by the emancipation of the workingman from his present slavery to capital, reduce this evil to a very small fraction of its present proportions, especially in cities, and that the remaining fraction would be the cause of no more inequality than arises from the unearned increment derived by almost every industry from the aggregation of people or from that unearned increment of superior natural ability which, even under the operation of the cost principle, will probably always enable some individuals to get higher wages than the average rate. In all these cases the margin of difference will tend steadily to decrease, but it is not likely in any of them to disappear altogether. Whether, after the abolition of the State, voluntary co-operators will resort to communistic methods in the hope of banishing even these vestiges of inequality is a question for their own future consideration, and has nothing whatever to do with the scheme of Henry George. For my part, I should be inclined to regard such a course as a leap not from the frying-pan into the fire, but from a Turkish bath into the nethermost hell. I take no pleasure in attacking Mr. George, but shall probably pursue my present policy until he condescends to answer and refute my arguments, if he can, or gives some satisfactory reason for declining to do so.
LAND OCCUPANCY AND ITS CONDITIONS.
[Liberty, August 27, 1887.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
Your reply of July 16, 1887, to my letter is not at all satisfactory to me. I cannot with my best endeavor harmonize your statement: "I am convinced, however, that the abolition of the money monopoly and the refusal of protection to all land titles except those of occupiers would … reduce this evil to a very small fraction of its present proportions" (the italics are mine), with your opposition to all government. The natural inference of your statement is that you are in favor of protecting the occupier of land. Who is to give this protection? Who is to wield this authority? As regards the application of authority, I can see a distinction in degree only, none in principle, between the tacit, unwritten agreement of an uncultured tribe to ostracize the thief and wrong-doer and the despotic government of a tyrannical autocrat. Without authority of some kind, rights cannot exist. The right of undisturbed possession, called ownership, is invariably the result of an agreement, by which all others not only abstain from taking possession, but even give assistance socially or physically, should any one trespass this agreement. But just therein consists the authority which the strong exercise over the weak, or the many over the few. In my opinion there can be no objection to such agreements or laws, when they are strictly based upon equity,—nay, they are the necessary basis of order and civilization; they are, in fact, my ideal of a government. Only when they favor one class at the expense of another, when they are inequitable, can they become the instrument of oppression, and some men will find it to their supposed advantage to support such laws by fair or unfair means, most frequently by making use of the ignorance and superstition of the masses, who are known to fly to arms and shed their blood even for the most tyrannical dictator.
I understand you to favor the ownership of land based upon occupancy. You believe that under absolute individual freedom all men will abstain from disturbing the occupier of land in his possession. To this view I take exception. The choice spots will be coveted by others, and it is not human nature to relinquish any advantage without a sufficient cause. If you say the occupiers of these choice spots should be left undisturbed possessors without paying an equivalent for the special advantage they enjoy, you will find many of contrary opinion who must be coerced to this agreement. Egoism, when coupled with the knowledge that iniquity must inevitably lead to revolution, will accept as a most equitable condition that in which the recipient of the necessary protection pays to the protector the value of the right of undisturbed possession; in which he returns to those who agree to abandon to him a special natural or local advantage its full value—i.e., the unearned increment—as a compensation for the grant of the right of ownership.
The defence of occupying ownership of land seems to me at a par with the frequent retort to money reformers that everybody has an equal right to become a banker or a capitalist. An equitable relation will be prevented by the natural limitation of land in one, by the artificial limitation of the medium of exchange in the other case. You may perhaps have reason to object to applying the rent, after it has been collected, in the manner suggested by Henry George; but I fail to see how you can reasonably oppose the collection of rent for the purpose of an equitable distribution.
Egoist's acquaintance with Liberty is of comparatively recent date, but it is hard to understand how he could have failed to find out from it that, in opposing all government, it so defines the word as to exclude the very thing which Egoist considers ideal government. It has been stated in these columns I know not how many times that government, Archism, invasion, are used here as equivalent terms; that whoever invades, individual or State, governs and is an Archist; and that whoever defends against invasion, individual or voluntary association, opposes government and is an Anarchist. Now, a voluntary association doing equity would not be an invader, but a defender against invasion, and might include in its defensive operations the protection of the occupiers of land. With this explanation, does Egoist perceive any lack of harmony in my statements? Assuming, then, protection by such a method, occupiers would be sure, no matter how covetous others might be. But now the question recurs: What is equity in the matter of land occupancy ? I admit at once that the enjoyment by individuals of increment which they do not earn is not equity. On the other hand, I insist that the confiscation of such increment by the State (not a voluntary association) and its expenditure for public purposes, while it might be a little nearer equity practically in that the benefits would be enjoyed (after a fashion) by a larger number of persons, would be exactly as far from it theoretically, inasmuch as the increment no more belongs equally to the public at large than to the individual land-holder, and would still be a long way from it even practically, for the minority, not being allowed to spend its share of the increment in its own way, would be just as truly robbed as if not allowed to spend it at all. A voluntary association in which the landholders should consent to contribute the increment to the association's treasury, and in which all the members should agree to settle the method of its disposition by ballot, would be equitable enough, but would be a short-sighted, wasteful, and useless complication. A system of occupying ownership, however, accompanied by no legal power to collect rent, but coupled with the abolition of the State-guaranteed monopoly of money, thus making capital readily available, would distribute the increment naturally and quietly among its rightful owners. If it should not work perfect equity, it would at least effect a sufficiently close approximation to it, and without trespassing at all upon the individualities of any. Spots are "choice" now very largely because of monopoly, and those which, under a system of free land and free money, should still remain choice for other reasons would shed their benefits upon all, just in the same way that choice countries under free trade will, as Henry George shows, make other countries more prosperous. When people see that such would be the result of this system, it is hardly likely that many of them will have to be coerced into agreeing to it. I see no point to Egoist's analogy in the first sentence of his last paragraph, unless he means to deny the right of the individual to become a banker. A more pertinent analogy would be a comparison of the George scheme for the confiscation of rent with a system of individual banking of which the State should confiscate the profits.
[Liberty, October 13, 1888.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
You have more than once expressed the view that in an Anarchistic state even the police protection may be in private hands and subject to competition, so that whoever needs protection may hire it from whichever person or company he chooses. Now, suppose two men wish to occupy the same piece of land and appeal to rival companies for protection. What will be the result?
It appears to me that there will be interminable contention as long as there is a plurality of protectors upon the same territory, and that ultimately all others must submit to, or be absorbed by, one, to which all who need protection must apply. If I am right, then Anarchy is impossible, and an equitable democratic government the only stable form of society. Moreover, as it can be shown that the value of the protection to the possession of land equals its economic rent, free competition will make the payment of this rent a condition of protection. Thus the payment of rent would become an essential feature in the contract between the landholder and the government,—in other words, the payment of rent to the people as a whole will become one of the features of that social system of an intelligent people which must evolve from anarchy by the process ofnatural selection.
Under the influence of competition the best and cheapest protector, like the best and cheapest tailor, would doubtless get the greater part of the business. It is conceivable even that he might get the whole of it. But if he should, it would be by his virtue as a protector, not by his power as a tyrant. He would be kept at his best by the possibility of competition and the fear of it; and the source of power would always remain, not with him, but with his patrons, who would exercise it, not by voting him down or by forcibly putting another in his place, but by withdrawing their patronage. Such a state of things, far from showing the impossibility of Anarchy, would be Anarchy itself, and would have little or nothing in common with what now goes by the name of "equitable democratic government."
If "it can be shown that the value of the protection to the possession of land equals its economic rent," the demonstration will be interesting. To me it seems that the measure of such value must often include many other factors than economic rent. A man may own a home the economic rent of which is zero, but to which he is deeply attached by many tender memories. Is the value of protection in his possession of that home zero? But perhaps Egoist means the exchange value of protection. If so, I answer that, under free competition, the exchange value of protection, like the exchange value of everything else, would be its cost, which might in any given case be more or less than the economic rent. The condition of receiving protection would be the same as the condition of receiving beefsteak,—namely, ability and willingness to pay the cost thereof.
If I am right, the payment of rent, then, would not be an essential feature in the contract between the landholder and the protector. It is conceivable, however, though in my judgment unlikely, that it might be found an advantageous feature. If so, protectors adopting that form of contract would distance their competitors. But if one of these protectors should ever say to landholders: "Sign this contract; if you do not, I not only will refuse you protection, but I will myself invade you and annually confiscate a portion of your earnings equal to the economic rent of your land," I incline to the opinion that "intelligent people" would sooner or later, "by the process of natural selection," evolve into Anarchy by rallying around these landholders for the formation of a new social and protective system, which would subordinate the pooling of economic rents to the security of each individual in the possession of the raw materials which he uses and the disposition of the wealth which be thereby produces.
PROTECTION, AND ITS RELATION TO RENT.
[Liberty, October 27, 1888.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
Referring to your favored reply of October 13, I fail to find an answer to the question as to the result of the attempt of two rival protectors to secure to different persons the same territory. I cannot see how, under such conditions, a physical conflict can be avoided, (1) nor is it clear why the best and cheapest protector will be most patronized if he is not at the same time the strongest. It would be the power rather than the quality of protection that would secure patronage. (2) But if the tyrant by sophistry could convince the masses, as he now does, that his policy is to their benefit and could obtain their support, Anarchy would inevitably lead to despotism. (3) The present State, to my mind, is indeed the natural outgrowth of Anarchy, its absurd character being due to shortsighted intelligence and sustained by a copious amount of sophistry. (4) My remarks about equity do certainly not refer to what is now termed equity, but to the genuine article.
The statement that the value of the protection in the possession of land equals its economic rent I consider true, even if there is no direct labor of protection involved.
By rent I mean, of course, that which Ricardo terms rent,—i.e., the difference between the productivity of a particular piece of land and the marginal productivity; the excess of the value of a product over the value of the labor producing it.
The observation regarding the sentimental value of protection is certainly out of place, since in economic discussion none other than exchange value can be considered. (5) Even in a society in which the policeman is superfluous, the value of protection in the possession of land can be shown to be equal to its economic rent. The right of possession to land consists in an agreement of the people to forego the special advantages which the use of such lands affords to an undisturbed possessor. It represents a giving-up, by the community, of that which they could obtain for themselves,—the cost of the community being certainly that which they have relinquished, and equals in value the special advantage which is the cause of rent. In view of this, it seems to me that affording this protection is to the community an expense equal to the rent. (6) Moreover, assuming that owing to the favorable locality or fertility (eliminating a difference of skill or other merit) the production on that land of one year's labor (say three hundred days) will exchange for five hundred days' of other men's labor who must work without such special advantages, it will be difficult to show that the occupier of that land is equitably entitled to this \exchange value. (7) Those who buy his products really produce and actually pay the excess of two hundred days' labor. Are they not entitled to a distribution of this rent which they, in the course of exchange, have paid to him? If the people of a community are endowed with intelligent egoism, they cannot give that protection to any one who is not willing to pay the rent; and, if the occupier refuses to do so, the right of occupation will simply be given to one who is willing. (8) This is no invasion, but a bargain, (9) What right has he to expect the community to secure him an opportunity to make inequitable exchanges, (10) when others are willing to pay the full value of the advantages offered, whereby equity is established? I can conceive of no other individualistic measure (11) by which the cost principle of value can be realized in those cases in which the cost of producing equal quantities is different on account of a variation of local opportunities than to add rent to the cost where the immediate cost is naturally less than the value of the product. All men are then upon an equitable plane regarding the gifts of nature; and none can, as none should in this respect, have an advantage that is notsimilarly enjoyed by all. (12)
(1) A physical conflict may or may not occur. The probability of it is inversely proportional to the amount of education in economics and social science acquired by the people prior to the inauguration of the conditions supposed. If government should be abruptly and entirely abolished to-morrow, there would probably ensue a series of physical conflicts about land and many other things, ending in reaction and a revival of the old tyranny. But if the abolition of government shall take place gradually, beginning with the downfall of the money and land monopolies and extending thence into one field after another, it will be accompanied by such a constant acquisition and steady spreading of social truth that, when the time shall come to apply the voluntary principle in the supply of police protection, the people will rally as promptly and universally to the support of the protector who acts most nearly in accordance with the principles of social science as they now rally to the side of the assaulted man against his would-be murderer. In that case no serious conflict can arise.
(2) Egoist neglects to consider my statement in reply to him in the last issue of Liberty, to the effect that the source of the protector's power lies precisely in the patronage. The protector who is most patronized will, therefore, be the strongest; and the people will endow with their power the protector who is best fitted to use it in the administration of justice. (3) That is to say, if the masses, or any large section of them, after having come to an understanding and acceptance of Anarchism, should then be induced by the sophistry of tyrants to reject it again, despotism would result. This is perfectly true. No Anarchist ever dreamed of denying it. Indeed, the Anarchist's only hope lies in his confidence that people who have once intelligently accepted his principle will "stay put."
(4) The present State cannot be an outgrowth of Anarchy, because Anarchy, in the philosophic sense of the word, has never existed. For Anarchy, after all, means something more than the possession of liberty. Just as Ruskin defines wealth as "the possession of the valuable by the valiant," so Anarchy may be defined as the possession of liberty by libertarians,— that is, by those who know what liberty means. The barbaric liberty but of which the present State developed was not Anarchy in this sense at all, for those who possessed it had not the slightest conception of its blessings or of the line that divides it from tyranny.
(5) Nothing can have value in the absence of demand for it. Therefore the basis of the demand cannot be irrelevant in considering value. Now, it is manifest that the demand for protection in the possession of land does not rest solely upon excess of fertility or commercial advantage of situation. On the contrary, it rests, in an ever-rising degree and among an ever-increasing proportion of the people, upon the love of security and peace, the love of home, the love of beautiful scenery, and many other wholly sentimental motives. Inasmuch, then, as the strength of some of the motives for the demand of protection bears often no relation to economic rent, the value of such protection is not necessarily equal to economic rent. Which is the contrary of Egoist's proposition.
(6) All this legitimately follows, once having admitted Egoist's definition of the right of possession of land. But that definition rests on an assumption which Anarchists deny,—namely, that there is an entity known as the community which is the rightful owner of all land. Here we touch the central point of the discussion. Here I take issue with Egoist, and maintain that "the community" is a nonentity, that it has no existence, and that what is called the community is simply a combination of individuals having no prerogatives beyond those of the individuals themselves. This combination of individuals has no better title to the land than any single individual outside of it; and the argument which Egoist uses in behalf of the community this outside individual, if he but had the strength to back it up, might cite with equal propriety in his own behalf. He might say: "The right of possession of land consists in an agreement on my part to forego the special advantages which the use of such land affords to an undisturbed possessor. It represents a giving-up, by me, of that which I could obtain for myself,—the cost to me being certainly that which I have relinquished, and equals in value the special advantage which is the cause of rent. In view of this. It seems to me that affording this protection is to me an expense equal to the rent." And thereupon he might proceed to collect this rent from the community as compensation for the protection which he afforded it in allowing it to occupy the land. But in his case the supposed condition is lacking; he has not the strength necessary to enforce such an argument as this. The community, or combination of individuals, has this strength. Its only superiority to the single individual, then, in relation to the land, consists in the right of the strongest,—a perfectly valid right, I admit, but one which, if exercised, leads to serious results. If the community proposes to exercise its right, of the strongest, why stop with the collection of economic rent? Why not make the individual its slave outright? Why not strip him of everything but the bare necessities of life? Why recognize him at all, in any way, except as a tool to be used in the interest of the community? In a word, why not do precisely what capitalism is doing now, or else what State Socialism proposes to do when it gets control of affairs? But if the community does not propose to go to this extreme; if it proposes to recognize the individual and treat with him,—then it must forego entirely its right of the strongest, and be ready to contract on a basis of equality of rights, by which the individual's title to the land he uses and to what he gets out of it shall be held valid as against the world. Then, if the individual consents to pool his rent with others, well and good; but, if not—why, then, he must be left alone. And it will not do for the community to turn upon him and demand the economic rent of his land as compensation for the "protection" which it affords him in thus letting him alone. As well might the burglar say to the householder: "Here, I can, if I choose, enter your house one of these fine nights and carry off your valuables; I therefore demand that. you immediately hand them over to me as compensation for the sacrifice which I make and the protection which I afford you in not doing so."
(7) Precisely as difficult as it would be to show that the man of superior skill (native, not acquired) who produces in the ratio of five hundred to another's three hundred is equitably entitled to this surplus exchange value. There is no more reason why we should pool the results of our lands than the results of our hands. And to compel such pooling is as meddlesome and tyrannical in one case as in the other. That school of Socialistic economists which carries Henry George's idea to its conclusions, confiscating not only rent but interest and profit and equalizing wages,—a school of which G. Bernard Shaw may be taken as a typical representative,—is more logical than the school to which Mr. George and Egoist belong, because it completes the application of the tyrannical principle.
(8) Here again we have the assumption of the community's superior title to the land.
(9) Yes, the bargain of the highwayman to deliver another's goods.
(10) The cultivator of land who does not ask protection does not expect the community to secure him the opportunity referred to. He simply expects the community not to deprive him of this opportunity. He does not say to the community: "Here! an invader is trying to oust me from my land; come and help me to drive him off." He says to the community: "My right to this land is as good as yours. In fact it is better, for I am already occupying and cultivating it. I demand of you simply that you shall not disturb me. If you impose certain burdens upon me by threatening me with dispossession, I, being weaker than you, must of course submit temporarily. But in the mean time I shall teach the principle of liberty to the individuals of which you are composed, and by and by, when they see that you are oppressing me, they will espouse my cause, and your tyrannical yoke will speedily be lifted from my neck."
(11) "No other! Is Egoist's measure individualistic, then? I have already pointed out its communistic and authoritarian character.
(12) If the cost principle of value cannot be realized otherwise than by compulsion, then it had better not be realized. For my part, I do not believe that it is possible or highly important to realize it absolutely and completely. But it is both possible and highly important to effect its approximate realization. So much can be effected without compulsion,—in fact, can only be effected by at least partial abolition of compulsion,—and so much will be sufficient. By far the larger part of the violations of the cost principle—probably nine-tenths—result from artificial, law-made inequalities; only a small portion arise from natural inequalities. Abolish the artificial monopolies of money and land, and interest, profit, and the rent of buildings will almost entirely disappear; ground rents will no longer flow into a few hands; and practically the only inequality remaining will be the slight disparity of products due to superiority of soil and skill. Even this disparity will soon develop a tendency to decrease. Under the new economic conditions and enlarged opportunities resulting from freedom of credit and land classes will tend to disappear; great capacities will not be developed in a few at the expense of stunting those of the many ; talents will approximate towards equality, though their variety will be greater than ever; freedom of locomotion will be vastly increased; the toilers will no longer be anchored in such large numbers in the present commercial centres, and thus made subservient to the city landlords; territories and resources never before utilized will become easy of access and development; and under all these influences the disparity above mentioned will decrease to a minimum. Probably it will never disappear entirely; on the other hand, it can never become intolerable. It must always remain a comparatively trivial consideration, certainly never to be weighed for a moment in the same scale with liberty.
LIBERTY AND LAND.
[Liberty, December 15, 1888.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
Encouraged by the prompt and considerate attention given to my letter (in your issue of October 27), I beg leave to continue the discussion, especially since some of your arguments are not at all clear to me.
You say that my definition of the right of possession of land rests on an assumption "that there is an entity known as the community, which is the rightful owner of all land." I do not understand what you mean by "rightful ownership." Ownership outside of a combination of individuals is to me as inconceivable as "distance" would be were there but one grain of matter in the universe. And regarding the community formed by a compact entered into or sanctioned by a dynamic majority of individuals as an entity, I can conceive only the physical relation of "possession" and that of "ability to maintain it"; but "ownership" I can recognize only as the result of this ability of the community, applied for the benefit of individuals. Hence I deny that my definition is based upon the premise stated by you, unless you have a conception of the term "ownership" unknown to me. (1) If I had "the strength to back it up," all land would be mine, and egoism would prompt me to dominate over mankind as naturally as mankind now dominates over the animal kingdom. (2) But since my egoism is not coupled with such a power, submission to the stronger is a necessity which maybe good or evil. "Community" I only mention in recognition of its supreme power. It can have and need have no title to the land while there is no other power capable of successfully disputing its possession, a title being nothing else than an effective promise of those who wield the supreme power. Nor can I agree that the right of the strongest will lead to serious results, except when applied to create an inequitable relation between individuals; and for the same reason that I advocate the distribution of rent as conducive to the establishment of an equilibrium, I do object to the collection of any other tribute. (3) Suppose I were to discover a gold mine that would enable me to command, by one hour's work, one year's labor of other men: a refusal to pool the rent with others with the expectation to be let alone in the exclusive enjoyment of this mine would imply that I consider all others to be devoid of even a trace of egoism, which my experience forbids. (4) There is one vital difference between the advantage which a man possesses by reason of superior skill and that due to the possession of valuable local opportunities: the one is inseparably attached to the individual; the other can be transferred by a mere transfer of the possession of the territory. The former will therefore always remain the individual's; the disposition of the latter will invariably be controlled by the strongest. (5)
If you can convince the majority that occupation is the proper title for the ownership of land, your measure will be adopted. But local opportunities being of different values and the most valuable limited, those who are less liberally provided by the existing social conditions will covet the superior advantages possessed by others. This dissatisfaction, this germ of social disturbances and revolutions, will grow as the existing valuable opportunities are more and more appropriated and those who must do without them increase in numbers. Under such conditions it will be easy to convince the masses that, by giving the local opportunities to the highest bidder and equitably distributing the rent, all will feel that they have an equal share in the blessings of social peace and all egoism in that direction is as fully satisfied as any intelligent man can expect. (6)
As to the question of how to accomplish the end and what to do first, I agree with you when you wish the first blow directed against the monopolization of the medium of exchange; I only hold that, if the social state following would not imply a nationalization of the rent, the measure would be incomplete. (7)
From all appearances the differences between us is this: You consider that the rule of the superior will invariably lead to serious results, and in this respect you place yourself in opposition to what must naturally result from an association of egoists, i.e., the rule of the superior, while I hold that superior ability will always rule and that this rule will be beneficial if administered so that no individual has any reasonable cause for complaint, which implies that all have an equal share in the transfer- able opportunities. I admit that what I consider a reasonable cause may not be so considered by others: the decision must be left to the intelligence of the people, as there is no other tribunal. (8)
(1) It was only because I conceived it out of the question that Egoist, in maintaining that "the value of protection in the possession of land is equal to its economic rent," could be discussing value without regard to the law of equal liberty as a prior condition, or soberly advocating the exercise of the right of might regardless of equity, that I interpreted his words as implying a superiority in equity in the community's title to land over that of the individual,—a superiority other than that of might; a superiority, in short, other than that by which the highwayman relieves the traveller of his goods. I was bound to suppose (and later statements in his present letter seem to strengthen the supposition) that he looked upon the "giving up, by the community," of its right to land as the giving up of a superior equitable right; for otherwise, in demanding value in return for this sacrifice, he would be compelled in logic to demand, on behalf of a burglar, value in return for the sacrifice made in declining to carry off a householder's wealth by stealth. But Egoist repudiates this supposition (though he does not follow the logic of his repudiation), and I must take him at his word. He thus lays himself open to a retort which I could not otherwise have made. In his previous letter he criticised me for making sentiment a factor in the estimation of value. Whether or not this was a transgression, on my part, of the limits of economic discussion, he certainly has transgressed them much more seriously in making force such a factor. Exchange implies liberty; where there is no liberty there is no exchange, but only robbery; and robbery is foreign to political economy. At least one point, however, is gained. Between Egoist and myself all question of any superior equitable right of the community is put aside forever. Equity not considered, we agree that the land belongs to the man or body of men strong enough to hold it. And for all practical purposes his definition of "ownership" suits me, though I view ownership less as the "result of the ability of the community to maintain possession" and an application of this result "for the benefit of individuals," than as a result of the inability of the community to maintain itself in peace and security otherwise than by the recognition of only such relations between man and wealth as are in harmony with the law of equal liberty. In other words, ownership arises not from superiority of the community to the individual, but from the inferiority of the community to the facts and powers of nature.
(2) This would depend upon whether such domination would prove profitable or disastrous to Egoist. I contend that it would prove disastrous, and that experience would lead him to abandon such a policy if foresight should not prevent him from adopting it.
(3) Here we have an acknowledgment of a principle of equity and a contemplation of its observance by the mighty, which goes to sustain my original supposition, despite Egoist's protest. It implies an abandonment by the mighty of their right of domination and a willingness to contract with the weak. Now, I agree that the contracts thus entered into will not lead to serious results, unless they create inequitable relations between individuals. But the first of all equities is not equality of material well-being, but equality of liberty; and if the contract places the former equality before the latter, it will lead to serious results, for it logically necessitates the arbitrary levelling of all material inequalities, whether these arise from differences of soil or differences of skill. To directly enforce equality of material well-being is meddlesome, invasive, and offensive, but to directly enforce equality of liberty is simply protective and defensive. The latter is negative, and aims only to prevent the establishment of artificial inequalities; the former is positive, and aims at direct and active abolition of natural inequalities. If the former is the true policy, then it is as equitable to enforce the pooling of interest, profit, and wages as the pooling of rent. If the latter is the true policy, we have only to see to it that no artificial barriers against individual initiative are constructed. Under such conditions, if the natural inequalities tend to disappear, as they surely will, then so much the better.
(4) Not at all. It would only imply that Egoist considers others wise enough to see that, from the standpoint of self-interest, even so great a natural inequality as is here supposed is preferable to an arbitrary distribution of the products of labor.
(5) In speaking of skill as "inseparably attached to the individual," Egoist surely does not mean to argue the impossibility of seizing and distributing the results of skill, for that would be a ridiculous contention. Then he can only mean that there is something sacred about the individual which the mighty are bound to respect. But this again is inconsistent with his theory of the right of might. If the strongest is to exercise his might, then he need stop at nothing but the impossible; if, on the other hand, he contracts with the weaker on a basis of equal liberty, then both strong and weak must be left secure in their possession of the products of their labor, whether aided by superior skill or superior soil.
(6) This is not true, unless Malthusianism is true; and, if Malthusianism is true, it is as true after the pooling of rent as before. If the encroachment of population over the limit of the earth's capacity is inevitable, then there is no solution of the social problem. Pooling the rent or organizing credit would only postpone the catastrophe. Sooner or later the masses would find nothing to share but the curses of war rather than the "blessings of peace," and at that stage it would matter but little to them whether they shared equally or unequally.
(7) And I only hold that, if in that case rent were to be nationalized by force, liberty would be incomplete; and liberty must be complete, whatever happens.
(8) No, I too hold that superiority will always rule; and it is only when real superiority is known and recognized as such, and therefore allowed to have its perfect work unresisted and unimpeded, that the minimum of evil will result. The really serious results are those that follow the attempts of inferiority, mistaking itself for superiority, to fly in the face of the real article. In other words, when individuals or majorities, seeing that they are stronger for the time being than other individuals or minorities, suppose that they are therefore stronger than natural social laws and act in violation of them, disaster is sure to follow. These laws are the really mighty, and they will always prevail. The first of them is the law of equal liberty. It is by the observance of this law, I am persuaded, rather than by "an equal share in the transferable opportunities," that the ultimate "intelligence of the people" will remove "every reasonable cause of complaint."
RENT, AND ITS COLLECTION BY FORCE.
[Liberty, January 19, 1889.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
I must confess that I may not fully grasp what its advocates exactly mean by Anarchism. Referring to the reply to my letter, in the issue of December 15, I cannot harmonize the sentiments of an opponent of even a temporary monopoly of inventors and authors with the defence of an indefinite monopoly of the discoverer of a gold mine. Moreover, the reference to the "law of equal liberty" appears to me inconsistent with your standpoint. If I understand this law, it can be thus expressed: Given a community of intelligent beings, who wish to live in peace and enjoy a maximum of happiness, what must they do to attain this result? Proposition: They must mutually combine and form such an agreement as will secure equal freedom to all; and if any one takes liberties at the expense of others, he must be restrained, even by force, if necessary.
This, however, appears to me a sound democratic doctrine and a repudiation of the doctrine of non-interference. Without a forcible measure against transgressors, equal freedom is unattainable. Force, therefore, appears to be a most important factor in political economy, the creator of all rights. Now, in respect to rent, I would advocate compulsion against those only who violate the law of equal freedom in relation to local opportunities. Surely, if I had discovered a gold mine, unless I knew that the supreme power of society would protect me unconditionally in the sole possession, I would willingly give the economic rent, in order to prevent others, less blessed in the possession of natural opportunities, from doing that which their egoism would naturally prompt them to do. This you appear to recognize in your answer. (2) Only those who fail to see that peaceful enjoyment of man's labor depends upon social equality will expect to occupy land free, for the possession of which others are willing to give a consideration, and they must suffer the natural consequences, either by the invasion of the State, in confiscating rent, or by the more disastrous interference in the form of social disturbances and revolutions.
You are correct in surmising that I can recognize no right but that of might or ability, not referring, of course, to that concept of the ambiguous term "right" which is synonymous with righteousness; and as to that might which results from the social compact, I must accept it as a social right, whether or not it is in harmony with my notions of what it should be. This, however, does not prevent me from protesting and agitating against any of the laws that violate equity, being convinced that inequitable laws will bring disaster unless abolished before the oppression leads to extreme measures. Enlightened self-interest is no doubt the most forcible incentive to maintain equity, and history amply proves that the strong will never enter into a compact with the weak unless their power is threatened. This does not preclude the power of the weaker from being reinforced by the compassion of a portion of the strong; sentiment, in this sense, has often an indirect influence in the distribution of the social power. Our aim, as individualists, should therefore be to so direct the power of the State that it will maintain the equal liberty of all.
I find so little attempt to meet the various considerations which I have advanced that I have not much to add by way of comment. The monopoly of mining gold at a particular point exists in the physical constitution of things, and a pooling of the results thereof (which would be a virtual destruction of the monopoly) can only be directly achieved in one of two ways,—mutual agreement or an invasion of liberty. The monopoly of inventors and authors, on the contrary, has no existence at all except by mutual agreement or an invasion of liberty. It seems to me the difference between the two is sufficiently clear. Egoist's statement of the law of equal liberty is satisfactory. Standing upon it, I would repel, by force if necessary, the confiscator of rent on the ground that he "takes a liberty at the expense of others." I have no objection to forcible measures against transgressors, but the question recurs as to who are the transgressors. If the piece of land which I am using happens to be better than my neighbor's, I do not consider myself a transgressor on that account; but if my neighbor digs some of my potatoes and carries them off, I certainly consider him a transgressor, even though he may name his plunder economic rent. But Egoist, viewing this case, considers me the transgressor and my neighbor the honest man. I believe that education in liberty will bring people to my view rather than his. If it doesn't, I shall have to succumb. It is to be noted that Egoist makes no further reference to my argument regarding skill. I urged that the levelling of inequalities in land logically leads to, the levelling of inequalities in skill. Egoist replied that skill is inseparably attached to the individual, while land is not. I rejoined that the results of skill are not inseparably attached to the individual, and that the right of might recognizes nothing sacred about the individual. To this Egoist makes no reply. Hence my argument that the nationalization of rent logically involves the most complete State Socialism and minute regulation of the individual stands unassailed.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF RENT.
[Liberty, February 23, 1888.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
Before replying to your rejoinder regarding land vs. skill, I should be pleased to know whether in an Anarchistic state, in the event of a transgression of equal liberty, the injured party is to resent the act according to his judgment and caprice, or is repression to be exercised by an organized power according to rules determined by previous agreement? In the one case the unavoidable difference of opinions must be a source of interminable disturbances; in the other, we have the operation of an organized society with laws and supreme power,—in fact, a political State. If an agreement exists, who is to execute its provisions? And if some refuse to assist, and shirk social duties, have they any claim to the assistance of the organization, have they any social rights? Until we have a clear understanding on these points, we might argue forever without avail.
Assuming that equal liberty can be attained only through some social compact, I fail to see a distinction between the monopoly of a gold-mine and that of an invention. The exclusive possession of either is the result of a social compact, all persons agreeing not to exploit the natural deposit of the precious metal, or to make use of the device suggested by the inventor. The monopoly of a gold-mine can, therefore, have no existence except by mutual agreement, or eventually a forcible prevention of those who claim equal liberty and attempt to extract gold from the same deposit. In like manner, every other peaceable enjoyment of a natural or local advantage is a result of mutual agreement, supported by the power without which the agreement would be a dead letter. The occupier of superior land or location is therefore indebted to society for the right of undisturbed possession, and a society of egoists will naturally confer this right to the highest bidder, who will then, as now, determine the rent. An occupier is not a transgressor of equal liberty unless he claims and receives this right without giving an equivalent in return, and the return is equitable if it equals what others are willing to give for the same right.
If we keep this, in view, I may be able to more intelligently convey my views on the land vs. skill question. The social agreement, and not the "physical constitution of things," is the factor determining the distribution of land, while the distribution of skill is absolutely independent of this agreement, depending upon the physical and mental constitution of men. Some men may have reason to be dissatisfied with the distribution of land, knowing that it can be changed, while a dissatisfaction with the distribution of skill is like the crying of a child because it cannot fly. Having shown that a vital difference exists between land and skill, the distribution of the one being due to human laws, that of the other to natural laws, I wish to further demonstrate that only by inequitable, despotic laws can an equalization of natural opportunities be prevented. In a state of liberty rent will invariably be offered, by the occupiers of the poorest land yet needed, for the possession of better or more favorably located land. Shall law forbid such offers, or invalidate contracts made in compliance therewith, incidentally suppressing competition; shall it permit certain individuals, i.the so-called land-owners, to appropriate this rent; or shall society so distribute it that no citizen has any reason to complain of political favoritism? Is there a fourth possibility, and if not, which of the three is consistent with the law of equal freedom? Which tend to establish artificial inequalities? I reiterate my conviction that a nationalization of rent will be an inevitable result of the establishment of equal liberty.
If I were the possessor of land on which the productivity of labor exceeds that obtainable on land held by others, they would be willing to lease my land and pay a rent of nearly the excess of productivity. But since under the system of occupying land-ownership such a contract must be void, I shall never vacate the land, whatever inducements should be offered me; for, upon leaving it, I and my descendants would forever receive for the same efforts a less return than if I had retained possession of the said land. If for any reason some valuable land should become vacant, the number of applicants would naturally be very large. Each would be willing to give very nearly the annual excess of productivity afforded by this land, in his competitive attempt to outbid others. Who shall become the future occupier? Shall appointment decide, or shall the land be given to the highest bidder? In the one case, favoritism would reign; in the other, the nationalization of rent would be realized, which you condemn. Moreover, it production is carried on in groups, as it now is, who is the legal occupier of the land? The employer, the manager, or the ensemble of those engaged in the co-operative work? The latter appearing the only rational answer, it is natural that those in possession of the lesser opportunities will offer themselves lo the favored groups for wages slightly greater than what they can obtain on the less favorable land and less than the members of the favored group would obtain as a share of their co-operation (which is only another form of an offer of rent). But as such an accession to a group would displace some of those previously employed, pushing them upon the less favorable land, such competitive applications will be resisted to the utmost, and competition would be harassed. A development of a class distinction could not be avoided.
The relation of social agreement to the distribution of the products of skill is totally different. An attempt to distribute by law the products of labor will discourage production, diminish happiness, and reduce the power to resist adverse influences, enabling those people to survive in the struggle for existence who encourage production by protecting the producer in the peaceable enjoyment of the fruits of his labor, provided he pays thevalue of that protection.
I cannot excuse Egoist, for several years a subscriber for Liberty, when he requires me to answer for the thousand-and-first time the questions which he puts to me in his opening paragraph. It has been stated and restated in these columns, until I have grown weary of the reiteration, that voluntary association for the purpose of preventing transgression of equal liberty will be perfectly in keeping with Anarchism, and will probably exist under Anarchism until it "costs more than it comes to"; that the provisions of such associations will be executed by such agents as it may select in accordance with such methods as it may prescribe, provided such methods do not themselves involve a transgression of the liberty of the innocent; that such association will restrain only the criminal (meaning by criminal the transgressor of equal liberty); that non-membership and non-support of it is not a criminal act; but that such a course nevertheless deprives the non-member of any title to the benefits of the association, except such as come to him incidentally and unavoidably. It has also been repeatedly affirmed that, in proposing to abolish the State, the Anarchists expressly exclude from their definition of the State such associations as that just referred to, and that whoever excludes from his definition and championship of the State everything except such associations has no quarrel with the Anarchists beyond a verbal one. I should trust that the "understanding on these points" is now clear, were it not that experience has convinced me that my command of the English language is not adequate to the construction of a foundation for such trust.
The fact that Egoist points out a similarity between the monopoly of a gold-mine and that of an invention by no means destroys the difference between them which I pointed out,—this difference being that, whereas in the former case it is impossible to prevent or nullify the monopoly without restricting the liberty of the monopolist, in the latter it is impossible to sustain it without restricting the liberty of the would-be competitors. To the Anarchist, who believes in the minimum of restriction upon liberty, this difference is a vital one, quite sufficient to warrant him in refusing to prevent the one while refusing to sustain the other.
Egoist says that "an occupier is not a transgressor of equal liberty unless he claims and receives the right of undisturbed possession without giving an equivalent in return." Anarchism holds, on the contrary, in accordance with the principles stated at the outset of this rejoinder, that an occupier is not a transgressor even if, not claiming it or paying for it, he does receive this right. This question of "Liberty in the Incidental" has been elaborately and clearly discussed in these columns within a few months by J. Wm. Lloyd, and an extract in confirmation of his position has been reprinted from Humboldt. I refer Egoist to those articles.
The assertion that "the distribution of skill is absolutely independent of social agreement" is absolutely erroneous. In proof of this I need only call attention to the apprenticeship regulations of the trade unions and the various educational systems that are or have been in vogue, not only as evidence of what has already been done in the direction of controlling the distribution of skill, but also as an indication of what more may be done if State Socialism ever gets a chance to try upon humanity the interesting experiments which it proposes. On the other hand, the collection of rent by the collectivity does not necessarily affect the distribution of land. Land titles will remain unchanged as long as the tax (or rent) shall be paid. But it does distribute the products resulting from differences of land, and it is likewise possible to distribute the products resulting from differences of skill. Now until this position is overthrown (and I defy any one to successfully dispute it), it is senseless to liken "dissatisfaction with the distribution of skill" to "the crying of a child because it cannot fly." The absurdity of this analogy, in which the possibility of distributing products is ignored, would have been apparent if it had been immediately followed by the admission of this possibility which Egoist places several paragraphs further down. To be sure, he declares even there that it is impossible, but only in the sense in which Proudhon declares interest- bearing property impossible,—that of producing anti-social results which eventually kill it or compel its abandonment. I contend that similarly anti-social results will follow any at- tempt to distribute by law the products arising from differences of land; and I ask, as I have asked before without obtaining an answer, why the collectivity, if in its right of might it may see fit to distribute the rent of land, may not find it equally expedient to distribute the rent of skill ; why it may not reduce all differences of wealth to an absolute level; in short, why it may not create the worst and most complete tyranny the world has ever known?
In regard to the attitude of Anarchistic associations towards rent and its collection, I would say that they might, consistently with the law of equal freedom, except from their jurisdiction whatever cases or forms of transgression they should not think it expedient to attempt to prevent. These exceptions would probably be defined in their constitutions. The members could, if they saw fit, exempt the association from enforcing gambling debts or rent contracts. On the other hand, an association organized on a different basis which should enforce such debts or contracts would not thereby become itself a transgressor. But any association would be a transgressor which should attempt to prevent the fulfilment of rent contracts or to confiscate rent and distribute it. Of the three possibilities specified by Egoist the third is the only one that tends to establish an artificial inequality; and that the worst of all inequalities,—the inequality of liberty, or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it the equality of slavery. The first or second would at the worst fail to entirely abolish natural inequalities.
The possibility of valuable land becoming vacant is hardly worth consideration. Still, if any occupant of valuable land should be foolish enough to quit it without first selling it, the estate would be liable to seizure by the first comer, who would immediately have a footing similar to that of other land-holders. If this be favoritism, I can only say that the world is not destined to see the time when some things will not go by favor.
Egoist's argument that free competition will tend to dis- tribute rent by a readjustment of wages is exactly to my purpose. Have I not told him from the start that Anarchists will gladly welcome any tendency to equality through liberty? But Egoist seems to object to reaching equality by this road. It must be reached by law or not at all. If reached by competition, "competition would be harassed." In other words, competition would harass competition. This wears the aspect of another absurdity. It is very likely that competitors would harass competitors, but competition without harassed competitors is scarcely thinkable. It is even not improbable that "class distinctions" would be developed, as Egoist says. Workers would find the places which their capacities, conditions, and inclinations qualify them to fill, and would thus be classified, or divided into distinct classes. Does Egoist think that in such an event life would not be worth living? Of course the words "harass" and "class distinction" have an ugly sound, and competition is decidedly more attractive when associated instead with "excel" and "organization." But Anarchists never recoil from disagreeable terms. Only their opponents are to be frightened by words and phrases.
[Liberty, November 5. 1892.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
I have often seen it claimed that under the Anarchistic organization of society economic rent would disappear, or be reduced to an insignificant amount. But I have never yet been satisfied with any explanation of the way in which this is to be brought about.
Some speak as if the abolition of rent were to be an immediate result of the abolition of interest, apparently taking the ground that rent is a product of the selling price of land and the interest of money. But according to the accepted theory of economists (the only one that I have learned to understand), rent is the independent factor, and the selling price is the product of rent and interest.
I have also seen it claimed that under liberty there will be no great cities, and therefore no city prices for land. I can understand that liberty will make the masses richer, so that they will be better able to choose the home which pleases them; and that it will make them saner, so that they will better appreciate the attractions of country life. But cities will still offer the greatest opportunities for making money, and many social and aesthetic advantages. I cannot believe, therefore, that great cities will disappear.
As to the freeing of vacant land, I do not remember to have heard that this would destroy any but "speculative" rent. There might perhaps be a greater relief at first, while the vacant land was being taken up. But certainly within a short time—within a year, I should say—all land which had any special advantage over ordinary farming land would be occupied, and these special advantages would be in the hands of the occupiers.
On the other hand, it must be remembered that, if any economic rent is left, every advance in prosperity will naturally tend to increase this rent. And liberty is to cause an advance in prosperity.
Again, when vacant land is free, cities can be settled more compactly. This will intensify the peculiar advantages of city life, and thereby in- crease the demand for city and suburban land. The effect of free vacant land would, I imagine, be closely analogous to that of rapid transit, which was expected to decrease rent, but has instead increased it.
How, then, is economic rent to be got out of the way?
Stephen T. Byington.
Liberty has never stood with those who profess to show on strictly economic grounds that economic rent must disappear or even decrease as a result of the application of the Anarchistic principle. It sees no chance for that factor in the human constitution which makes competition such a powerful influence—namely, the disposition to buy in the cheapest market—to act directly upon economic rent in a way to reduce it. This disposition to buy cheap, which in a free market is fatal to all other forms of usury, is on the contrary the mainstay of economic rent, whether the market be free or restricted. When, through freedom of banking, it shall become possible to furnish money at cost, no one will pay for money more than cost; and hence interest on money, as well as on all capital consisting of commodities which money will buy and to the production of which there is no natural limit, will necessarily disappear. But the occupant of land who is enabled, by its superiority, to undersell his neighbor and at the same time to reap, through his greater volume of business, more profit than his neighbor, enjoys this economic rent precisely because of his opportunity to exploit the consumer's disposition to buy cheap. The effect of freedom is not felt here in the same way and with the same directness that it is felt elsewhere.
There are other grounds, however, some of them indirectly economic, some of them purely sentimental, which justify the belief of the Anarchist that a condition of freedom will gradually modify to a very appreciable extent the advantage enjoyed by the occupant of superior land. Take first one that is indirectly economic. I agree with my correspondent that great cities are not destined to disappear. But I believe also that they will be able to maintain their existence only by offering their advantages at a lower price than they now exact. When the laborer, in consequence of his increased wages and greater welfare resulting from the abolition of interest, shall enjoy a larger freedom of, locomotion, shall be tied down less firmly to a particular employment, and shall be able to remove to the country with greater facility and in possession of more capital than he can now command, and when the country, partly because of this mobility of labor and partly because of the advances in science, shall continually offer a nearer approach to the undoubted privileges of city life, the representatives of commercial and other interests in the great cities will be able to hold their patrons about them only by lowering their prices and contenting themselves with smaller gains. In other words, economic rent will lessen. Here the disposition to buy cheap, not any special commodity, but an easy life, does exert an indirect and general influence upon economic rent. And, under this influence and yielding to it, the city may increase in prosperity simultaneously with the decline of economic rent. Nay, the increase in prosperity may accelerate this decline; for under liberty increased prosperity means also well-distributed prosperity, which means in turn a lowering of the barriers between classes and a consequent tendency to equalize the different localities of the city one with another.
Upon the sentimental grounds for believing in the evanescence of economic rent it is perhaps not worth while to dwell. I have an aversion to definite speculations based on hypothetical transformations in human nature. Yet I cannot doubt that the disappearance of interest will result in an attitude of hostility to usury in any form, which will ultimately cause any person who charges more than cost for any product to be regarded very much as we now regard a pickpocket. In this way, too, economic rent will suffer diminution.
I think my correspondent fails to understand what is meant by the freeing of vacant land. It does not mean simply the freeing of unoccupied land. It means the freeing of all land not occupied by the owner. In other words, it means land ownership limited by occupancy and use. This would destroy not only speculative but monopolistic rent, leaving no rent except the economic form, which will be received, while it lasts, not as a sum paid by occupant to owner, but as an extra and usurious reward for labor performed under special advantages.
But even if economic rent had to be considered a permanency; if the considerations which I have urged should prove of no avail against it,—it would be useless, tyrannical, and productive of further tyranny to confiscate it. In the first place, if I have a right to a share of the advantages that accrue from the possession of superior land, then that share is mine; it is my property; it is like any other property of mine; no man, no body of men, is entitled to decide how this property shall be used; and any man or body of men attempting so to decide deprives me of my property just as truly as the owner of the superior land deprives me of it if allowed to retain the economic rent. In fact, still assuming that this property is mine, I prefer, if I must be robbed of it, to be robbed by the land-owner, who is likely to spend it in some useful way, rather than by an institution called government, which prob- ably will spend it for fireworks or something else which I equally disapprove. If the property is mine, I claim it, to do as I please with ; if it is not mine, it is impertinent, dishonest, and tyrannical for anybody to forcibly take it from the land-occupant on the pretence that it is mine and to spend it in my name. It is precisely this, however, that the Single-Taxers propose, and it is this that makes the Single Tax a State Socialistic measure. There was never anything more absurd than the supposition of some Single-Taxers that this tax can be harmonized with Anarchism.
But I now and then meet a Single-Taxer who allows that the government, after confiscating this economic rent, has no right to devote it to any so-called public purposes, but should distribute it to the people. Supposing the people to be entitled to the economic rent, this certainly looks on its fate like a much saner and more honest proposition than that of the ordinary Single-Taxer. But the question at once arises: Who is to pay the government officials for their services in confiscating the economic rent and handing me my share of it? And how much is to be paid them? And who is to decide these matters? When I reflect that under such a Single-Tax system the occupants of superior land are likely to become the politicians and to tax back from the people to pay their salaries what the people have taxed out of them as economic rent, again I say that, even if a part of the economic rent is rightly mine, I prefer to leave it in the pocket of the land-owner, since it is bound to ultimately get back there. As M. Schneider, the Carnegie of France, said in a recent interview with a Figaro reporter: "Even if we were to have a collectivist system of society and my property should be confiscated, I believe that I am shrewd enough to find a way to feather my nest just the same." M. Schneider evidently understands State Socialism better than the State Socialists themselves. The Socialists and Single-Taxers will have attained their paradise when they are robbed by officials instead of by landlords and capitalists.
In my view it is idle to discuss what shall be done with the economic rent after it has been confiscated, for I distinctly deny the propriety of confiscating it, at all. There are two ways, and only two, of effecting the distribution of wealth. One is to let it distribute itself in a free market in accordance with the natural operation of economic law; the other is to distribute it arbitrarily by authority in accordance with statute law. One is Anarchism; the other is State Socialism. The latter, in its worst and most probable form, is the exploitation of labor by officialdom, and at its best is a régime of spiritless equality secured at the expense of liberty and progress; the former is a régime of liberty and progress, with as close an approximation to equality as is compatible therewith. And this is all the equality that we ought to have. A greater equality than is compatible with liberty is undesirable. The moment we invade liberty to secure equality we enter upon a road which knows no stopping-place short of the annihilation of all that is best in the human race. If absolute equality is the ideal; if no man must have the slightest advantage over another,—then the man who achieves greater results through superiority of muscle or skill or brain must not be allowed to enjoy them. All that he produces in excess of that which the weakest and stupidest produce must be taken from him and distributed among his fellows. The economic rent, not of land only, but of strength and skill and intellect and superiority of every kind, must be confiscated. And a beautiful world it would be when absolute equality had been thus achieved! Who would live in it? Certainly no freeman.
Liberty will abolish interest; it will abolish profit; it will abolish monopolistic rent; it will abolish taxation; it will abolish the exploitation of labor; it will abolish all means whereby any laborer can be deprived of any of his product; but it will not abolish the limited inequality between one laborer's product and another's. Now, because it has not this power last named, there are people who say: We will have no liberty, for we must have absolute equality. I am not of them. If I can go through life free and rich, I shall not cry because my neighbor, equally free, is richer. Liberty will ultimately make all men rich; it will not make all men equally rich. Authority may (and may not) make all men equally rich in purse; it certainly will make them equally poor in all that makes life best worth living.
LIBERTY AND PROPERTY.
[Liberty, December 31, 1892.]
To the Editor of Liberty:
I can agree with much that you say in your answer to my letter in No. 244 of Liberty, but I do not think you have proved your case.
In the first place, I object to your assumption that the plan proposed by Anarchists would realize equal liberty with regard to the land. You praise the idea of "letting wealth distribute itself in a free market." I echo your praises; but I cannot see that they are anything to the point of this discussion, for you do not offer a free market.
It is a part of my liberty to use any land that I can use. When another man takes a piece of land for his own and warns me off it, he exceeds the limits of equal liberty towards me with respect to that land. If equally valuable land were open to me, the importance of his invasion would be mainly theoretical; but when he shuts me out of a corner lot on lower Broadway, and asks me to console myself by taking up a New England "abandoned farm," it seems to me that I am receiving a very practical injury. It might be a sort of reason in his favor if he were putting the land to better use than I could. His title rests simply on the fact that he was there first, either by accident or because he had better speculative foresight than I. The presence of his improvements on the land is the result of his invasion, and therefore cannot justify it.
The case of the man who receives what you call "the economic rent of strength and skill" is not parallel, for he has not gained his advantage by hindering another from using the strength and skill which were within that other's reach.
Now, I say: "I am not willing to waive my rights in this land unless the holder will buy me off by paying a fair equivalent. I see no way in which I can collect this equivalent by myself, or through an organization representing only a part of the people. Therefore I consent that one board of authority shall assume to represent the whole people for this purpose, in order to prevent what seems to me a greater invasion on the part of the land-owner." You say "I consent to this invasion on the part of a bona fide occupier, rather than to admit a compulsory tax; for I think that the latter is in itself a greater invasion, and also that it would be an entering wedge for the whole mass of government." Each of us proposes to waive one part of equal liberty for the sake of preserving another part. The only question is on which side the maximum of liberty lies. Certainly any force which I might use in carrying out my principle would be "against force"; and I think that, if private possession of land is responsible for as much evil as I suppose, it constitutes an emergency great enough to justify me in overriding the opposition of those who do not agree with me.
I am not convinced by your objection that the single-tax money would be used up in paying tax-collectors' salaries. There is nothing to hinder paying them by voluntary taxation. If I were enacting a law to suit my own fancy, I would confiscate rent, and then let every one who chose draw his per capita share, with no deduction for salaries or anything else. But I should expect that comparatively few would choose to take out their shares under penalty of paying at retail prices for privileges which would be free, or below cost, to those who remained partners in the large fund. Collectors' salaries should be paid out of this large, undivided fund, which would be a voluntary tax on those who chose not to take out their shares. At any rate, whether this is possible or not, if the people believe that the advantages of confiscating rent are worth the sum spent for collection, they will be willing to pay that sum voluntarily ; if they do not believe so, they will not confiscate rent.
Of course distribution at so much per capita is a terribly wooden way of trying to give every man his own, and 1 should be glad of a better. Aside from that, I cannot see how my plan, if carried out in good faith, would disagree with the law of equal liberty. I expect you to answer that it could not be carried out in good faith.
Your editorial makes two points against the single tax. You say first that the money would be badly spent. I answer, then let us spend it better. Then you say, very soundly, that it is idle to discuss what shall be done with the confiscated rent when the question is as to the propriety of confiscating it at all. Your second point is that the single tax is authoritarian, and you favor liberty. I answer that you propose to use force to support the occupier of land in a plain invasion of my rights. You have no right to call that liberty. Perhaps it may be the nearest possible approach to liberty; I think not.
As to the relief that your system might bring, I object to your "sentimental" ground for expecting rent to diminish. If I understand you, you expect the occupier of valuable ground to sell his goods below competitive prices. The result might be that some lucky ones would get special bargains, while their neighbors must go without, or that people would stand in line before this merchant's door till they had wasted time enough to make up the difference in price, or that he would employ extra men till the Jaw of diminishing returns brought his prices up to an equality with others. In the first case the rent would simply be divided among a larger number, while others would be left out in the cold as much as before. In the second and third cases, it would be disposed of by what is equivalent to throwing it into the river. Neither way suits me. Of course, the result I should expect in practice would be a complex of thethree in disguised forms.
Stephen T. Byington.
Let me begin my brief rejoinder by expressing my appreciation of my opponent. Once in a great while one meets an adversary who confines himself to the question at issue, resorts to no evasion, reasons himself, and is willing to listen to reason. Such a man, I am sure, is Mr. Byington, though I know him only by his writings. It is pleasant to debate with him, after having had to deal so continually with the Merlinos, the Mosts, the Hudspeths, and the whole host of those who cannot think.
Mr. Byington's erroneous conclusions regarding the confiscation of economic rent are due, as I view it, to his confusion of liberties with rights, or, perhaps I might better say, to his foundation of equality of liberty upon a supposed equality of rights. I take issue with him at the very start by denying the dogma of equality of rights,—in fact, by denying rights altogether except those acquired by contract. In times past, when, though already an Egoist and knowing then as now that every man acts and always will act solely from an interest in self, I had not considered the bearing of Egoism upon the question of obligation, it was my habit to talk glibly and loosely of the right of man to the land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago sloughed it off. Man's only right over the land is his might over it. If his neighbor is mightier than he and takes the land from him, then the land is his neighbor's until the latter is dispossessed in turn by one mightier still. But while the danger of such dispossession continues there is no society, no security, no comfort. Hence men contract. They agree upon certain conditions of land ownership, and will protect no title in the absence of the conditions fixed upon. The object of this contract is not to enable all to benefit equally from the land, but to enable each to hold securely at his own disposal the results of his efforts expended upon such portion of the earth as he may possess under the conditions agreed upon. It is principally to secure this absolute control of the results of one's efforts that equality of liberty is instituted, not as a matter of right, but as a social convenience. I have always maintained that liberty is of greater importance than wealth,—in other words, that man derives more happiness from freedom than from luxury,—and this is true; but there is another sense in which wealth, or, rather, property, is of greater importance than liberty. Man has but little to gain from liberty unless that liberty includes the liberty to control what he produces. One of the chief purposes of equal liberty is to secure this fundamental necessity of property, and, if property is not thereby secured, the temptation is to abandon the régime of contract and return to the reign of the strongest.
Now the difference between the equal liberty of the Anarchists and the system which Mr. Byington and the Single-Taxers consider equal liberty is this: the former secures property, while the latter violates it.
The Anarchists say to the individual: "Occupancy and use is the only title to land in which we will protect you; if you attempt to use land which another is occupying and using, we will protect him against you; if another attempts to use land to which you lay claim, but which you are not occupying and using, we will not interfere with him; but of such land as you occupy and use you are the sole master, and we will not ourselves take from you, or allow any one else to take from you, whatever you may get out of such land."
The Single-Taxers, on the other hand, say to the individual: "You may hold all the land you have inherited or bought, or may inherit or buy, and we will protect you in such holding; but, if you produce more from your land than your neighbors produce from theirs, we will take from you the excess of your product over theirs and distribute it among them, or we will spend it in taking a free ride whenever we want to go anywhere, or we will make any use of it, wise or foolish, that may come into our heads."
The reader who compares these two positions will need no comment of mine to enable him to decide " on which side the maximum of liberty lies," and on which side property, or the individual control of product, is respected.
If Mr. Byington does not accept my view thus outlined, it is incumbent upon him to overthrow it by proving to me that man has a right to land; if he does accept it, he must see that it completely disposes of his assertion that "when another man takes a piece of land for his own and warns me off it, he exceeds the limits of equal liberty toward me with respect to that land," upon which assertion all his argument rests.
I see an excellent opportunity for some interesting and forcible remarks in comment upon Mr. Byington's concluding paragraph, but, desiring to confine the discussion to essentials for the present, I refrain.
GOING TO PIECES ON THE ROCKS.
[Liberty, March 12, 1887.]
Some of Henry George's correspondents have been pestering him a good deal lately with embarrassing questions as to what will become, under his system, of the home of a man who has built a house upon a bit of land which afterwards so rises in value that he cannot afford to pay the taxes on it. Unable to deny that such a man would be as summarily evicted by the government landlord as is the Irish farmer in arrears by the individual landlord, and yet afraid to squarely admit it, Mr. George has twisted and turned and doubled and dodged, attempting to shield himself by all sorts of irrelevant considerations, until at last he is reduced to asking in rejoinder if this argument has not "a great deal of the flavor of the Georgia deacon's denunciation of abolitionists because they wanted to deprive the widow Smith of her solitary 'nigger,' her only means of support." That is, Mr. George virtually asserts that the claim to own a human being is no more indefensible than the claim of the laborer to own the house he has built and to the unincumbered and indefinite use of whatever site he may have selected for it without dispossessing another. The editor of the Standard must have been reduced to sore straits when he resorted to this argument. With all his shuffling he has not yet escaped, and never can escape, the fact that, if government were to confiscate land values, any man would be liable to be turned out of doors, perhaps with compensation, perhaps without it, and thus deprived, maybe, of his dearest joy and subjected to irreparable loss, just because other men had settled in his vicinity or decided to run a railroad within two minutes' walk of his door. This in itself is enough to damn Mr. George's project. That boasted craft, Land Nationalization, is floundering among the rocks, and the rock of individual liberty and the inalienable homestead has just made an enormous hole in its unseaworthy bottom which will admit all the water necessary to sink it.
[Liberty, September 10, 1887.]
Henry George's correspondents continue to press him regarding the fate of the man whose home should so rise in value through increase of population that he would be taxed out of it. At first, it will be remembered, Mr. George coolly sneered at the objectors to this species of eviction as near relatives of those who objected to the abolition of slavery on the ground that it would "deprive the widow Smith of her only 'nigger.'" Liberty made some comments on this, which Mr. George never noticed. Since their appearance, however, his analogy between property in "niggers" and a man's property in his house has lapsed, as President Cleveland would say, into a condition of "innocuous desuetude," and a new method of settling this difficulty has been evolved. A correspondent having supposed the case of a man whose neighborhood should become a business centre, and whose place of residence, therefore, as far as the land was concerned, should rise in value so that he could not afford or might not desire to pay the tax upon it, but, as far as his house was concerned, should almost entirely lose its value because of its unfitness for business purposes, Mr. George makes answer that the community very likely would give such a man a new house elsewhere to compensate him for being obliged to sell his house at a sacrifice. That this method has some advantages over the "nigger" argument I am not prepared to deny, but I am tempted to ask Mr. George whether this is one of the ways by which he proposes to "simplify government."
ON PICKET DUTY.
Henry George, in the Standard, calls Dr. Cogswell of San Francisco, who has endowed a polytechnic college in that city, and for its maintenance has conveyed certain lands to trustees, a "philanthropist by proxy," on the ground that the people who pay rent for these lands are really taxed by Dr. Cogswell for the support of the college. But what are Henry George himself, by his theory, and his ideal State, by its practice, after realization, but "philanthropists by proxy"? What else, in fact, is the State as it now exists? (Oftener a cannibal than a philanthropist, to be sure, but in either case by proxy.) Does not Mr. George propose that the State shall tax individuals to secure "public improvements" which they may not consider such, or which they may consider less desirable to them than private improvements? Does he not propose that individuals shall "labor gratis" for the State, "whether they like it or not"? Does he not maintain that what the State "does with their labor is simply none of their business"? Mr. George's criticism of Dr. Cogswell is equally a criticism of every form of compulsory taxation, especially the taxation of land values. He has aptly and accurately described himself.—Liberty, April 23, 1887.
There must be a limitation to great fortunes, says Henry George, "but that limitation must be natural, not artificial. Such a limitation is offered by the land value tax." What in the name of sense is there about a tax that makes it natural as distinguished from artificial? If anything in the world is purely artificial, taxes are. And if they are collected by force, they are not only artificial, but arbitrary and tyrannical.—Liberty, May 7, 1887.
Henry George answers a correspondent who asks if under the system of taxing land values an enemy could not compel him to pay a higher tax on his land simply by making him an offer for the land in excess of the existing basis of taxation, by saying that no offers will change the basis of taxation unless they are made in good faith and for other than sentimental motives. It seems, then, that the tax assessors are to be inquisitors as well, armed with power to subject men to examination of their motives for desiring to effect any given transaction in land. What glorious days those will be for "boodlers"! What golden opportunities for fraud, favoritism, bribery, and corruption! And yet Mr. George will have it that he intends to reduce the power of government.—Liberty, May 28, 1887.
Henry George thinks the New York Sun's claim, that it is "for liberty first, last, and forever," pretty cool from a paper that supports a protective tariff. So it is. But the frigidity of this claim is even greater when it comes from a man who proposes on occasion to tax a man out of his home, and to "simplify" government by making it the owner of all railroads, telegraphs, gas-works, and water-works, so enlarging its revenues that all sorts of undreamed-of public improvements will become possible, and unnumbered public officials to administer them necessary.—Liberty, July 2, 1887.
The idiocy of the arguments employed by the daily press in discussing the labor question cannot well be exaggerated, but nevertheless it sometimes makes a point on Henry George which that gentleman cannot meet. For instance, the New York World lately pointed out that unearned increment attaches not only to land, but to almost every product of labor. "Newspapers," it said, "are made valuable properties by the increase of population." Mr. George seems to think this ridiculous, and inquires confidently whether the World's success is due to increase of population or to Pulitzer's business management. As if one cause excluded the other! Does Mr. George believe, then, that Pulitzer's business management could have secured a million readers of the World if there had been no people in New York? Of course not. Then, to follow his own logic, Mr. George ought to discriminate in this case, as in the case of land, between the owner's improvements and the community's improvements, and tax the latter out of the owner's hands.—Liberty, July 2, 1887.
Henry George was recently reminded in these columns that his own logic would compel him to lay a tax not only on land values, but on all values growing out of increase of population, and newspaper properties were cited in illustration. A correspondent of the Standard has made the same criticism, instancing, instead of a newspaper, "Crusoe's boat, which rose in value when a ship appeared on the horizon." To this correspondent Mr. George makes answer that, while Crusoe's boat might have acquired a value when other people came, "because value is a factor of trading, and, when there is no one to trade with, there can be no value," yet "it by no means follows that growth of population increases the value of labor products; for a population of fifty will give as much value to a desirable product as a population of a million." I am ready to admit this of any article which can be readily produced by any and all who choose to produce it. But, as Mr. George says, it is not true of land; and it is as emphatically not true of every article in great demand which can be produced, in approximately equal quality and with approximately equal expense, by only one or a few persons. There are many such articles, and one of them is a popular newspaper. Such articles are of small value where there are few people and of immense value where there are many. This extra value is unearned increment, and ought to be taxed out of the individual's hands into those of the community if any unearned increment ought to be. Come, Mr. George, be honest! Let us see whither your doctrine will lead us.—Liberty, July 30, 1887.
Cart and horse are all one to Henry George. He puts either first to suit his fancy or the turn his questioner may take, and no matter which he places in the lead, he "gets there all the same"—on paper. When he is asked how taxation of land values will abolish poverty, he answers that the rush of wage-laborers to the land will reduce the supply of labor and send wages up. Then, when somebody else asks him how wage-laborers will be able to rush to the land without money to take them there and capital to work the land afterwards, he answers that wages will then be so high that the laborers will soon be able to save up money enough to start with. Sometimes, indeed, as if dimly perceiving the presence of some inconsistency lurking between these two propositions, he volunteers an additional suggestion that, after the lapse of a generation, he will be a phenomenally unfortunate young man who shall have no relatives or friends to help him start upon the land. But we are left as much in the dark as ever about the method by which these relatives or friends, during the generation which must elapse before the young men get to the land, are to save up anything to give these young men a start, in the absence of that increase of wages which can only come as a consequence of the young men having gone to the land. Mr. George, however, has still another resource in reserve, and, when forced to it, he trots it out,—namely, that, there being all grades between the rich and the very poor, those having enough to start themselves upon the land would do so, and the abjectly poor, no longer having them for competitors, would get higher wages. Of course one might ask why these diminutive capitalists, who even now can go to the land if they choose, since there is plenty to be had for but little more than the asking, refrain nevertheless from at once relieving an over-stocked labor market; but it would do no good. You see, you can't stump Henry George. He always comes up blandly smiling. He knows he has a ready tongue and a facile pen, and on these he relies to carry him safely through the mazes of unreason.—Liberty, July 30, 1887.
The Providence People having declared that "every tax is in the nature of a tax to discourage industry," I asked it if that was the reason why it favored a tax on land values. It answers that it favors such a tax because it would discourage industry less than any other tax, and because some tax is necessary in order to govern people who cannot govern themselves. In other words, the People declares that it is necessary to discourage industry in order to suppress crime. Did it ever occur to the People that the discouragement of industry causes more crime than it suppresses, and that, if industry were not discouraged, there would be little or no crime to suppress?—Liberty, October 8, 1887.
Perhaps no feature of Henry George's scheme is so often paraded before the public as a bait as the claim that with a tax levied on land values all other taxes will be abolished. But now it is stated in the Standard that, if any great fortunes remain after the adoption of the land tax, it will be "a mere detail to terminate them by a probate tax." This is offered for the benefit of those who believe that interest no less than rent causes concentration of wealth. To those who fear the effects upon home industry in case of an abolition of the tariff Mr. George hints that he will be perfectly agreeable to the offering of bounties to home industries. To be sure, he would pay the bounties out of the land tax; but the use of the proceeds of the land tax for a new purpose, after existing governmental expenses had been met, would be equivalent to a new tax. So we already have three taxes in sight where there was to be but one,—the land tax, the probate tax, and the bounty tax. Presently, as new necessities arise, a fourth will loom up, and a fifth, and a sixth. Thus the grand work of "simplifying government" goes on.—Liberty, November 5, 1887.
"What gives value to land?" asks Rev. Hugh O. Pentecost. And he answers; " The presence of population—the community. Then rent, or the value of land, morally belongs to the community." What gives value to Mr. Pentecost's preaching? The presence of population—the community. Then Mr. Pentecost's salary, or the value of his preaching, morally belongs to the community.—Liberty, August 18, 1888.
- The speech in which Michael Davitt, in the summer of 1882, first publicly endorsed the doctrine of land nationalization.
- Meaning by rent monopolistic rent, paid by tenant to landlord; not economic rent, the advantage enjoyed by the occupant of superior land.