The Three Pillars of Civilization
[A paper presented at the Centennial Celebration of
Progress and Poverty,
San Francisco, August 1979]
There are few today who would dispute that change is necessary. If
the West is to survive, that change must be orderly. Seldom has the
world been so ready for change. As yet it has not committed itself to
any particular kind of change, meaning there is ample opportunity
still to direct it towards good. That does not mean that there is time
for delay as time is on the side of the forces of evil and
The spectre of human suffering is constantly before us. It is always
a result of ignorance about basic laws and the brotherly association
of men in society. When man turns his back on Truth and Justice, when
the Will arid Love of the Creator and the love of mankind are replaced
by greed, separation and selfishness, whatever follows will be
ill-founded. Cause and effect become confused. Politicians and
economists flounder about in a quagmire of theories, opinions and
beliefs that bear no resemblance to true principles. They consequently
show no way out of the quagmire.
In the history of colonialism, land was usually taken by unfair
treaty or by force. Land tenure in the hands of a few was enshrined in
law while masses were and still are exploited: exploited for economic
gain under the guise of free enterprise. "Free enterprise", "Capitalism"
and even "Democracy", have often been discredited, with the
result that few leaders of emergent states are prepared to be seen
openly supporting the West. This is easily explained by the history of
exploitation now often accompanied by a fruitless quest for basic
human rights. In Africa, for example, modern conditions are compared,
rightly or wrongly, with people's recollection of a past tribal
socialism with an availability of land.
This yearning for access to land has been manipulated by modern
socialism with promises of equality and distribution. The West appears
to offer no acceptable alternative. Economic conditions under various
dictatorships, under socialism or even communist dominance have been
no better and regard for life has been infinitely worse.
In Tanzania, Julius Nyerere saw clearly the cause, of poverty as
related to land ownership. He may have seen the solution as well
had he not mistakenly believed that socialism could correct the
situation. After seventeen years of independence Tanzania still has
one of the lowest per capita incomes in Africa.
Men today seem unable to free themselves from this web of poverty;
destructive forces are set in motion which easily run out of control
with disastrous effect. The masses become easily swayed by ideas which
would use them to specific ends. Where Governments have been
overthrown by violence, conditions for the masses have normally been
far worse than before.
Since 1951 in Africa alone 49 nations have been given independence.
This has often been followed by violence and war. There have, been at
least 40 Coups d'Etat and since 1961 alone 12 black heads of State
have been assassinated. There are many wars raging. Africa has not
known a single day of peace since independence began some twenty years
Not only in Africa, but almost throughout the world, land lies idle
for the want of labour while labour is idle for the want of land.
Wherever poverty grinds hardest, ask one question only, namely "Who
owns the land"?
Susan George quoted from the F.A.O. Land census of 1960 as follows:
" A mere 2,5% of landowners with holdings of more
than 100 hectares control nearly three quarters of all the land in
the world - with the top 0,23% controlling over half."
The green revolution has further aggravated the position since
Among Jefferson's writings on the subject is this passage from a
letter to the Rev. James Madison 1785:
"Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated
lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property
have been so far extended as to violate natural right."
In desperation men demand human rights and are prepared to take these
by force. They do not realize that rights can only be attained by
everyone exercising the corresponding duties. Rights may be said to be
the negative side of the same coin as duty. When Thomas Jefferson
drafted the American Bill of Rights, rights and the corresponding
duties were regarded as one and the same; inseparable! In today's
world the connection has been lost. The demand for rights merely adds
to disruption of law and order with ensuing chaos.
And so the world is heading towards its harvest of Chaos. Where did
it all go wrong?
It would almost be a truism to say: "Because too many men wanted
something for themselves at the expense of everyone else". This
meant sacrificing the rule of simple goodness. The West's threatening
collapse has not so much to do with forces from across the sea, but
forces from within its own body and soul; forces from across the sea
are simply aided by these. So there is no point in looking at the
Communists, we have to look at ourselves.
Our hope lies in the general recognition of the need for change. This
desire for change indicates a general recognition that all is not
well, that there is something better to be attained.
This is an important fact about the nature of mankind.
According to Aristotle "It belongs to the wise man to consider
the Highest causes".
Men need to perceive again the true laws of nature, governing man.
They need to recognise the foundation on which a stable and happy
society may be built; the foundation on which may stand the three
pillars of Civilization; Love, Honour and Dignity.
Based on Love; Truth, Justice and Freedom of Worship may uphold
Based on Honour; knowledge and the willing acceptance of Human
Rights, may uphold Mental Wellbeing; and
Based on Dignity; the ability to work and support oneself and family
upholds Physical Wellbeing.
These three can only stand secure if the acceptance of duty forms an
integral part of the foundation along with Social Order.
The quality of society will depend upon this foundation of Duty and
Social Order together with the recognition of the "Three Pillars
of Civilization" by men of learning and political leaders. A
diagram or word picture may be used only as an aid to understanding.
Such a diagram which is static attempts to depict the
interrelationship between the Three Pillars as outlined and the moral
state of any society. Like a tree and its roots, each is dependent on
the other. An unhealthy society is a progressive action arising from
the denial of basic laws.
Change should start with true knowledge and understanding of the
interaction between society and the Pillars of Civilization as
depicted; change germinates in the mind of men. This understanding
requires an in depth study of the teachings and history of men like
Moses, Christ and other spiritual leaders; the writings of Plato and
Shakespeare and in the economic sphere of men like Henry George.
If the ultimate aim in life is to consider the highest causes, then
all true work should be directed at creating conditions conducive to
this aim for all men.
Great work has and is being done by religious men and there are today
signs that a spiritual revival may take place. Christianity appears to
have gone through a period of restless slumber and is now once more
arousing and preparing for action.
Christians from all parts of the world have recently met at the South
African Christian Leadership Assembly in Pretoria. Men of all colours
and many nationalities mingled freely as brothers with no
interference; something new to South Africa.
The message that came across was of concern for the millions of
people throughout: the world who are denied access to spiritual
teaching through poverty of both body and mind. Dr. Orlando E. Costas
of Costa Rica spoke of Latin America as the Christian continent of the
Third World, But he also spoke passionately about the 130 million
people who live in abject poverty whilst others live in luxury.
Little can be done on the spiritual level without first raising these
millions from their mental and physical poverty.
For men to enjoy a full life in today's advanced society they need to
be educated at least to the level of literacy. This opens a vast field
of scripture, culture and scientific development so that a man may
gain knowledge and possibly wisdom.
Bills of Human Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights are noble attempts to alleviate the situation. Without
the underlying foundation of duty and an understanding of the cause of
poverty the results are usually limited. Everyone ends up trying to
take and there is no one to give.
At this level it is necessary to link the three pillars with
knowledge and duty. Knowledge needs to be accumulated so that it is
available when required. Wisdom is required to bridge the gap between
knowledge and understanding, between theory and practice.
Henry George understood all that you have just been reminded of. He
set out the knowledge and principles appropriate to his time and
place. One hundred years later we have to admit with regret that
nowhere is there a healthy living progeny of the seed he has sown.
The need now arises for Henry George's work to be placed in context;
to be adapted in time and place to modern local situations. This would
be more feasible in the Third World than in the more highly developed
If personal contact could be made with certain leaders of the third
world it may be possible to adapt land value rating to suit their
requirements and fulfill a need. For example, based on the knowledge
that Julius Nye displayed in his book "Ujumaa" it may not
be too large a step for hi to apply the principles of taxation
propounded by Henry George. This could possibly provide the impetus
needed to get the Tanzanian economy moving.
Some two years ago a group of students carried out a brief research
of economic and tribal conditions in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and submitted a
report to various political parties.
The main features which emerged were related to poverty in the
tradition or tribal sector of land. These comprise of 42% of the land
area and 58% of the population. The major portion of land is freehold
and is held by a relatively small portion of the population. Much is
withheld from use. In the tribal areas land is allocated by tribal
chiefs and there is little security of tenure. Because of this, the
tribal land is underdeveloped, often overcrowded and badly farmed.
This area only attracts 3% of the total national investment per annum
but 40%, of new workers have to be accommodated in this agricultural
sector; an impossible task.
The report set out the need for and outline of annual land value
taxation as applicable to both freehold land and Tribal Trust Land.
A more detailed study was carried out in Swaziland and proposals were
submitted to the authorities.
In Swaziland slightly more than half the land is privately owned,
mainly by Whites as freehold or concession title land. This includes
some of the best land. Much of it lies idle; held by non-residents and
withheld from use. This contributes nothing to the nation's economy.
Two Acts were passed with the intention of bringing idle land into
use. These Acts had the effect of causing a stalemate in the property
market and made matters worse. Again through lack of security of
tenure, tribal land is badly used and not developed.
Copies of the above reports are available for perusal.
The above examples are typical of problems common throughout Africa
and the Third World. A dichotomy exists between free enterprise,
capitalism, land enclosure and wealth on the one hand and poverty on
the other. This poverty is usually related to overcrowded tribal land
with little security of tenure, thus little progress.
The blame for poverty is also unjustly coupled to free enterprise
rather than where it truly belongs, the enclosure of land and
resultant under-utilization. But this dichotomy could more easily be
identified and separated in a simple economy than in a complex economy
where they appear to be interwoven.
By taxing land directly all idle land would in time be put to use,
sold or forfeited. To be effective, a programme of increasing
percentages of tax on annual rent or taxable capacity could be set out
in advance thus giving natural market forces a chance to adjust the
market prices without undue hardship. I believe that an ultimate
figure of 80%, should be aimed at. At the same time, this amount
payable on annual rent or taxable' capacity should be offset against
company or income tax already being paid, with no adverse effect on
the existing economy.
In this area there is much scope for in depth studies to be made and
change could be brought about in the long term interest of mankind.
The story "A Memory of Civilization" with which this paper
began, is a reminder of the deterioration which has taken place in the
relationship of men in society. This has taken place in spite of
technological and scientific developments which should have benefitted
everyone on earth; in spite of labour saving inventions which should
have taken away the drudgery and left man to enjoy a fuller life in
the exercising of his God given talents.
The concept of "The Three Pillars of Civilization" has been
expressed in various forms throughout the ages. It forms the basis for
the economic and social relationship between men.
Man, who is made in God's image, is a caretaker of the earth. This is
the Law, and Man's duties follow from it.
Man is a land animal and must have access to land in order to work
and develop his talents. This is natural to man and is one of his few
rights; most other rights arise naturally when everyone observes his
duties in the form of service and catering for the needs of humanity.
"The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof" "Enjoy,
do not covert His property".
The scriptures recognise these basic laws and it was never intended
that individuals or nations would claim land or raw materials to the
extent of holding the rest of humanity to ransom.
Any conditions which withhold labour from land or land from labour,
prevent men from fulfilling their natural function, reduce the total
wealth available to society and prevent the peaceful association of
men in society.
It is given to us to consider the highest causes; to give to the
whole of humanity love, honour and dignity; to do all in our power to
bring about economic justice for all people.
1. "Ujamaa, Essays on Socialism" By Julius Nyerere.
2. "How the Other Half Dies" By Susan George. Penguin
3. "Land Tax : A new Vision of Free Enterprise for Zimbabwe",
by S.W.P. Meintjes.
4. "Land Taxation for Swaziland". by G.R.A. Dunkley .