The Workman Still is Greater Than His Work
Henry J. Foley
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom,
There must be some reason why, of all the works of God and man,
human society is the only one which is apparently incomprehensible,
unworkable and unsolvable. The planets have moved in their orbits for
millions of years with perfect regularity, plants and animals develop
into symmetry and beauty, and individual man stands at the summit of
creation, "the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals."
But the greatest work of man, society, is another name for chaos.
These lords of creation, on an earth which is a storehouse of riches,
and equipped with all strength and wisdom to turn these natural riches
to the satisfaction of every desire, stand more helpless than a
tethered animal, more helpless than the trees of the forest, and die
of hunger or live in wretchedness on "charity" and doles.
But this helplessness comes only with the development of society.
Perhaps the reason for this chaos in society is that society has been
organized upon a principle which is absurd, and therefore
incomprehensible and unworkable.
As the Declaration of Independence recites, and as common sense
perceives, "governments were instituted among men," that is,
instituted by men. Governments are the work of men, men are the
workmen, the makers of governments, and "The Workman Still is
Greater than His Work."
By what distortion of human intelligence can we now build a society
on the principle that government is the master, that the province of
government is to direct human activity, and that human activities may
be carried on only subject to the approval of government? When men
create governments and then endow them with power to direct the
activities of men, they have created a Frankenstein monster which can
only drive men to destruction. The Sabbath was made for man, not man
for the Sabbath. Governments were made by men, for the uses of men.
Men were not created for governments, to be the puppets of government.
The doctrine that the work is greater than the work- man, that
governments were instituted to control the lives of men, is as
ancient, as honorable, and as absurd, as the doctrines that the earth
is flat. No man can serve two masters, and one must be supreme. Either
man is the lord of creation and government is his work and his
servant, or government is supreme and men's province is only to be
Men who have turned over to government the direction of their lives
can have no reasonable grounds to object to any form which that
direction may take. They must willingly accept the mode of life laid
down by their government, whether it be fascist, communistic, or nazi.
If government wisdom must direct the economic lives of men, how much
more important that government direct men rightly in the matter of
religion and in the realm of thought.
A government which has been given power to bar its citizens from the
natural resources of the earth and from a place to work, a government
which, in consequence, must either watch its citizens starve, or
institute a system which directs every act of employer and employee,
must end in a totalitarian state which controls the thought and the
religion of its "subjects."
The justification for government interference with personal freedom
is the helplessness of the poor, and the poor are helpless because
government has sanctioned the appropriation and the control of the
earth's resources by individuals. Populations are barred from any
chance to employ their labor, their labor is "dumped," and
government can save them only by interfering with employers. This is a
vicious circle which will never be broken except by throwing open the
natural resources of the earth on equal terms to all. A government
which would rent the lands, the patrimony of all the citizens, on
equal terms to all, would collect such ample rents that it would have
no occasion for taxes, and every man's earnings would be left to him
in their entirety.
In a society where all men were free on equal terms to the earth's
resources, and where government was barred from interference with any
man's work, and above all, barred from piecing out the earth to the
more successful, every man would be employed, he would employ himself
or take employment where his work would produce the maximum in wealth
or services, and he would exchange this maximum of wealth for the
forms of wealth he desired. There is no imaginable interference of
government which could increase this man's comfort and happiness; but
it could put an end to his work and conduct him to the bread line.
The root of all evil in the society of men is that men, the lords of
creation, have abdicated their lordship, and of government, the work
of their hands, they have made a golden calf before which they fall
down and worship, a Frankenstein monster which will grind them to
powder. Government is absolutely necessary for the protection of human
rights against the assaults of the criminal. When government goes
beyond this duty and assumes control of human life, and interferes
with the natural rights of men, it can produce nothing but the
infinity of mischiefs we see around us.
No laws which legislators may enact will ever make human society
workable; nothing but a fundamental change in the constitution of a
state, restricting the duties of government to guaranteeing the
complete and equal freedom of all men, and prohibiting interference by
government with the natural rights of any man. This sounds radical,
and it is. When a pyramid is standing on its point, when a tree is
planted with its roots upward, nothing less radical than a complete
reversal will restore them to their normal functions. When men have
been reduced to the status of cogwheels in a tractor, when intelligent
human beings have placed the direction of their lives in the care of a
bodiless, soulless, mindless abstraction, the work of their hands, the
inevitable chaos can never be restored to order except by a complete
reversal, with every man as the sole arbiter of his destinies, and
government protecting him against any interference with his freedom.
I appeal to:
Americans who see communist, nazi, fascist, and twelve
other varieties of terrorism, tearing apart the Americanism we used
Victims of religious, race, and class persecution.
The man out of work.
The man whose income is too low to provide decently for his family.
The high school and college graduate for whom the world has nothing
to offer but the park bench.
The employer who is burdened with income taxes, capital gains
taxes, and a hundred other taxes, with sitdown strikers, and with
15,000 government "regulations," until he does not know
how a business can be run.
Those who would like to keep the money they make, instead of being
the target for the next tax raid.
Those who believe that government could be run on business
principles, paying for what it gets, and getting what it pays for.
The man who is willing to work for what he wants, rather than to
live on the labor of others.
The man with a sense of fair play, willing to take his chances with
a fair field and no favor.
I appeal to every man except the men who have monopolized the earth
and its resources, and who make a living by keeping the world out of
WE CAN HAVE PROSPERITY AND PEACE WHEN WE WANT THEM
There is no reform which can correct the evils of society so long as
government stands upon the necks of men; no "back to the land,"
no old-age pensions, no wage and hour laws, no New Deal can correct
the evils which will pour in an endless stream from the mindless,
soulless abstraction, government, so long as government is given the
power of direction. A government authorized to direct will direct, it
will set its own bounds to the limits of its direction, and the sky
will be the limit.
Every evil from which any of the above-mentioned [unreadable] is
suffering is one form of perversion of government functions, and there
is not one of the evils which would not be cured automatically by the
restriction of government to its function of protection, and the
restoring to men of their natural rights. In the limits of this
article it would be impossible to go into these manifold evils, but
the writer would be glad to correspond with any one who should feel
that the above claim is in error. Liberty would cure every evil of
society as surely as the sun lights every nook and cranny of the
The day on which these classes decide to forget their classes, and
join in one universal demand for the restoration of men's natural
rights and the restriction of government to its proper function, will
see the end of all persecution, religious, race, and class, the end of
unemployment and exploitation. It will also sound the death knell of
wars, because there would be nothing for which nations could go to
war. And nothing else will ever end these abominations, because an
absurd system can produce nothing but abominations.
Perhaps, among the classes I have mentioned, may be found a new Moses
who will lead us out of the wilderness and into the daylight of human
freedom, where man will be once more the lord of creation, and
government his able assistant, helping him to heights beyond "the
glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome."