Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/69

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
43
EARTH HUNGER

out of itself. It is only necessary to look about us in the world of to-day to see how true this all is.

We may be very sure that the wheat from America has had far more effect on ideas in Europe than the ideas from America, and that the Old World aristocracies need care little for American notions if only American competition would not lower the rent of land. For the outlying continents affect not only those who go to them but also the whole labor class who stay at home. Even while they stay there the pressure of the whole reachable land-supply weighs upon the labor market and the land market at home; and it makes wages high, food cheap, and the rent of land low, all at once. That is what exalts the laborer and abases the landed aristocrat, working both ways in behalf of democracy and equality. To it we can trace the wild passion for equality and all the leveling philosophy of the age. This is what makes that passion and that philosophy so irresistible, whether for the weal or the woe of the human race. For each man to have a wide area at his disposal, whether actually or only by economic effect spreading through the industrial organization, means that he has the conditions of existence within his control, that he is not ground down by poverty, that he is forced to seek no man's protection, that he is cowed by no fear, that he is independent and "free," that he can provide for his family without care and can accumulate capital too. If you ask him the reasons for all this, he will probably begin to talk about institutions and doctrines; but if you will study the case, you will find that the same forces made him and the institutions too; and his faith in the institutions is like that of a savage who thinks that he would not have had success in hunting but for the fetish around his neck.

We may now see the real philosophy of colonization.