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Land and rent.

present commercial centres, and thus made subservient to the city landlords; territories and resources never before utilized will become easy of access and development; and under all these influences the disparity above mentioned will decrease to a minimum. Probably it will never disappear entirely; on the other hand, it can never become intolerable. It must always remain a comparatively trivial consideration, certainly never to be weighed for a moment in the same scale with liberty.




[Liberty, December 15, 1888.]

To the Editor of Liberty:

Encouraged by the prompt and considerate attention given to my letter (in your issue of October 27), I beg leave to continue the discussion, especially since some of your arguments are not at all clear to me.

You say that my definition of the right of possession of land rests on an assumption "that there is an entity known as the community, which is the rightful owner of all land." I do not understand what you mean by "rightful ownership." Ownership outside of a combination of individuals is to me as inconceivable as "distance" would be were there but one grain of matter in the universe. And regarding the community formed by a compact entered into or sanctioned by a dynamic majority of individuals as an entity, I can conceive only the physical relation of "possession" and that of "ability to maintain it"; but "ownership" I can recognize only as the result of this ability of the community, applied for the benefit of individuals. Hence I deny that my definition is based upon the premise stated by you, unless you have a conception of the term "ownership" unknown to me. (1) If I had "the strength to back it up," all land would be mine, and egoism would prompt me to dominate over mankind as naturally as mankind now dominates over the animal kingdom. (2) But since my egoism is not coupled with such a power, submission to the stronger is a necessity which maybe good or evil. "Community" I only mention in recognition of its supreme power. It can have and need have no title to the land while there is no other power capable of successfully disputing its possession, a title being nothing else than an effective promise of those who wield the supreme power. Nor can I agree that the right of the strongest will lead to serious results, except when applied to create an inequitable relation between individuals; and for the same reason that I advocate the distribution of rent as conducive to the establishment of an equilibrium, I do object to the collection of any other tribute. (3) Suppose I were to discover a gold mine that would enable me to command, by one hour's work, one year's labor of other men: a refusal to pool the rent with others with the expectation to be let alone in the exclusive enjoyment of this mine would imply that I consider all others to be devoid of even a trace of egoism, which my experience forbids. (4) There is one vital difference between the

advantage which a man possesses by reason of superior skill and that due