not carry with it a right to the means whereby alone life can be sustained. Land is, literally, indispensable to life, — it is man’s foothold, the only source of the means of nourishment and of comfort, the basis of all that man has power to form from matter. Since every man, then, has a right to life, he has a right to land; and since the rights of all men to life are equal, their rights to land are equal. A system, therefore, which fails to distribute the land equally among the inhabitants is wrong, and should be overthrown.
Where, in this argument, does the fallacy lie? Is it not in the word “equal”? What do we mean by saying that all men have equal rights to life? One child may be born strong and healthy, another weak and sickly; and in no way is their condition due to themselves. Do we mean that the weak child is, of right, entitled to a portion of the other’s vitality? No, not that; we mean that each child has the right to keep whatever of life is his; and the strong child has no greater right to his larger share of life than the weak child has to his smaller portion. In the course of years their positions may be reversed; but, at all times, they have equal rights to their own. In the same way the portion of property to which each child is entitled at birth may be greater or smaller, but the rights of each to his own are equal; and in this sense it is true that all men have equal rights to land as well as to everything else that this world contains.
But George and his followers, while they use the word equal in the above sense when applied to rights to life, and even when applied to rights to commodities, give the word a different meaning when applied to rights to land: their proposition is, that since the rights of all men to live are equal, therefore all men are entitled to equal portions of the earth’s surface. The Communists make the same mistake, but carry their argument to its logical conclusion, saying that since all men have equal rights to life and happiness, all men are entitled to equal shares of everything in the world necessary for, or conducive to, the attainment of these ends. George and the Communists are alike illogical, but the Communists are at least consistent. Let us examine the grounds for distinction that enable Mr. Clarke to hold with George, that while absolute property in land is unjust, absolute property in things other than land is justifiable.
That land is essential to life offers no ground for a discrimination, for land alone will not support life. Food, and, in this climate, shelter and clothing, are equally indispensable; yet George does not hold that these should be equally divided. “Land,” says Mr. Clarke, “can be acquired by the exercise of one’s natural faculties as readily and effectually as can any other physical thing. . . . In neither case is any matter created, that being beyond man’s power to do. In both cases possession is taken and form is changed by brain-directed labor, and nothing else is done or happens.” What, then, is the distinction? The reducing to possession, says Mr. Clarke, will not always give a good title, for a human being may be reduced to possession, and it is admitted that slavery is unjust. But the reducing of another’s person or property to possession is clearly a violation of the other’s rights. Possession will give a good title when no better title can be set up against it, and wherein does the possession of an unused block of stone give a better title as against the public than the possession of an unused acre of land? The appropriation of land interferes with the exertion of one’s natural powers, says Mr. Clarke, which is not the case with the appro-