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EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

feudal dues, turn into the blessing of the free tenant, who has fixity of tenure, but works and enjoys subject to taxes? Evidently it is at that point where the rights and benefits of holding and using become equal to the burdens and duties of taking and using—always with reference to the comparative value of other chances which present themselves. If a villain wants to stay, it is a privilege that no one can evict him; if he wants to go, it is a servitude that some one can retain him. If the landlord wants to force tenants to stay and till his land, it is a privilege for him to be able to force them to stay;[1] if the landlord wants to turn his land to other use, it is a servitude for him if he cannot evict his tenants. The modern peasant proprietor is one in whose status all these privileges and servitudes have met, coalesced, and disappeared, so that they are all summed up in the question whether his land is worth holding and tilling, subject to the taxes which must be paid on it.

In all these variations and mutations of social status and of the relations of classes, which we might pursue with any amount of detail through the history of the last fifteen hundred years, where is there any such thing as personal liberty of the sort which means doing as one likes? None have had it but those who were privileged—that is to say, it has lain entirely outside of civil liberty. It has had the form of an artificial social monopoly, and the fact has come out distinctly that liberty to do as you please in this world is only possible as a monopoly, but that it is the most valuable monopoly in the world, provided you can get it as a monopoly. You would realize it when you got into the position of Nero, or Louis XIV, or Catharine II.

  1. It was so in Denmark in the last century. See Falbe-Hansen, "Stavnsbaands-Løsningen," and the "Nation," 1889, p. 123.