HENRY GEORGE'S "SECONDARY FACTORS."
[Liberty, September 24, 1887.]
In trying to answer the argument that land is practically useless to labor unprovided with capital, Henry George declares that "labor and land, even in the absence of secondary factors obtained from their produce, have in their union to-day, as they had in the beginning, the potentiality of all that man ever has brought, or ever can bring, into being."
This is perfectly true; in fact, none know it better than the men whom Mr. George thus attempts to meet.
But, as Cap'n Cuttle was in the habit of remarking, "the bearin' o' this 'ere hobserwation lies in the application on't," and in its application it has no force whatever. Mr. George uses it to prove that, if land were free, labor would settle on it, thus raising wages by relieving the labor market.
But labor would do no such thing.
The fact that a laborer, given a piece of land, can build a hut of mud, strike fire with flint and steel, scratch a living with his finger-nails, and thus begin life as a barbarian, even with the hope that in the course of a lifetime he may slightly improve his condition in consequence of having fashioned a few of the ruder of those implements which Mr. George styles "secondary factors" (and he could do no more than this without producing for exchange, which implies, not only better machinery, but an entrance into that capitalistic maelstrom which would sooner or later swallow him up),—this fact, I say, will never prove a temptation to the operative of the city, who, despite his wretchedness, knows something of the advantages of civilization and to some extent inevitably shares them. Man does not live by bread alone.
The city laborer may live in a crowded tenement and breathe a tainted air; he may sleep cold, dress in rags, and feed on crumbs; but now and then he gets a glimpse at the morning paper, or, if not, then at the bulletin-board; he meets his fellow-men face to face; he knows by contact with the world more or less of what is going on in it; he spends a few pennies occasionally for a gallery-ticket to the theatre or for some other luxury, even though he knows he "can't afford it"; he hears the music of the street bands; he sees the pictures in the shop windows; he goes to church if he is pious, or, if not,
perhaps attends the meetings of the Anti-Poverty Society and