be a fallacy or sophism, it may readily be detected, to set out the essential reasons for adopting George’s plan, and to point out, with reference to the principal current criticisms upon his doctrines, wherein they fail to meet those reasons.
Why should land be singled out and its holder made to bear a burden from which the owners of other sorts of property are exempt?
This is the vital question. Unless the answers to it are seen clearly and in right perspective, any judgment that may be made upon their sufficiency is bound to be defective. George gives two answers. The first, which is founded on purely economic considerations, in effect is: because material progress, in a community where absolute private property in land is maintained by law, acts, by force of that fact, like a wedge thrust midway into a social structure, to raise a few, without effort or merit on their part, and to grind down the masses of men however meritorious they may be; and because property in land being qualified in the way proposed, poverty will be abolished for every man who is willing to work according to his ability. It is by focussing attention upon the argument from which this answer is drawn to the exclusion of another much simpler and very different answer that the able editors of influential journals confuse George with the German socialists, that Mallock glibly dismisses George’s plan as “monstrous,” that Walker declines with a sneer to consider George’s extra-economic reasoning, and that the Duke of Argyll, himself appealing to the very principles upon which, unperceived by him, the second answer is based, describes his summary of George’s writings as a “reduction to iniquity,” and does not hesitate to say that “the world has never seen such a Preacher of Unrighteousness as Mr. Henry George.”
The second answer, in substance, is: because land is not rightfully the subject of absolute property, and because the injustice of allowing it to be so acquired and held, will be remedied by the exaction and application to common uses of economic rent.
So many fantastic schemes have been put forward in the name of man’s natural rights that there is, undeniably, some excuse for the incredulity with which propositions purporting to have that
- “Property and Progress,” p. 7.
- “Land and its Rent,” pp. 141–2.
- See the pamphlet “Property in Land,” containing a reprint of the Duke of Argyll’s Essay and of Mr. George’s reply.