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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/284

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labor, and nothing else is done or happens. Between the two series of acts there is no difference whatever, save in the quantity of matter appropriated; and that difference, enormous though it be, may not in fact be relatively greater than exists, as to quantity of matter appropriated, between the same statue and an animalcule which a microscopist has caught and caged, and stored in his cabinet. George’s opponents, seeing this, assert that there is no valid basis for distinguishing between the animalcule, the statue, and the land as subjects of property; the counter argument (they say) must necessarily be unsound, or it opens wide the door to communism. But do they not overlook something?

One consideration, at least, is lost sight of, which is, that the deduction of a right to land from the right to life is quite as simple and quite as obvious as the deduction from the right to one’s self of a right to hold and enjoy what one can by the exercise of his faculties. If there really be a conflict between the latter right and the former, the latter should certainly yield far enough at least to allow the maintenance of life. It may be said with truth, however, that this consideration of itself makes no greater concession than that necessary; and we must look farther.

If we add a human being to the list of typical things which we have taken for illustration, we shall be certain that some essential consideration is ignored by those who argue that because by the exertion of mind and muscle the land, the animalcule, and the marble statue can be, and are in fact, reduced to possession, therefore no distinction is to be made between them, and all are to be deemed rightful subjects of property; for men can make slaves of their fellow-men, and they have done so frequently, with the exertion of considerable mental and much physical force. Yet it is certain that human beings are not rightfully the subjects of property.

The thing forgotten is this: the natural rights are not absolute, but as to every man are limited by the corresponding rights of other men. This is the only qualification, and it is not easy always to keep it in sight; but it is unquestionably a real and a most important one. By virtue of it a man alone upon a prairie may rightfully do pretty much everything that it is within his natural powers to do, while the same man in a crowded church or theatre is practically restricted to keeping his eyes and ears open. With this qualification before the mind, the reason is plain for distin-