Insufficiency of Henry George's Theory
This criticism is not intended to be a gage of battle to Henry
George, but a warning to the members of, and sympathizers with, the
United Labor Party. Not only do we highly esteem the noble qualities
of his head and heart; not only do we warmly recognize the great
services he has rendered to the cause of reform, as well by his
splendid refutation of the hateful Malthusian doctrine, as by his
fusion of so many progressive elements into a political party; but,
more particularly, we consider Henry George the forerunner of
Socialism in these United States, and the entering wedge for our ideas
into American minds.
Just now, however, we Socialists, feel a solemn duty devolving upon
us. A short time ago a call was issued for the meeting of a convention
of the United Labor Party of this State a couple of months hence,
which call on the one hand omits all mention of, and even allusion to,
"the perverse economic system which robs the producer of a large
share of the fruits of his labor" that had such a prominent place
in the constitution adopted by the Party of New York county; and, on
the other hand, lays almost exclusive stress on the land-theories and
"remedy" of George. We deem this a most unfortunate,
retrograde step, the more so as the constitution itself did not
condemn -- the wage-system sufficiently to perfectly satisfy us; but
this retreat is a sharp reminder to us that it is high time to examine
these theories from a Socialist point of view and, especially, to show
that they are by no means a universal panacea for our social troubles
as some consider them. This criticism, therefore, will attempt, in as
few words as possible, to prove first, that the doctrines of George,
though to a certain extent truer, are altogether too narrow and
I. 0NE-SIDEDNESS OF HIS ARGUMENTS
George, in his celebrated work
Progress and Poverty seeks an answer to the question: "What
is it that produces poverty amid advancing wealth?"
Seeks an answer? No; it is just the trouble that he is not seeking
the answer. It is, precisely, the peculiarity of Progress and
Poverty, and the feature that causes, as we shall see, a great
deal of mischief, that he is, evidently, from the start determined on
a certain solution; that the answer is, and probably for a long time
previous to writing his book was, a foregone conclusion in his mind.
This foregone conclusion is, that what produces poverty is land and
landholders. We know that in his book he boasts, and probably in all
sincerity, of having reached this conclusion "by an examination
in which every step has been proved and secured," (page 237),
but, as a matter of fact, we find him, at every step that he takes,
confining himself to the examination of but one side of the road.
Indeed, he seems to be stone-blind in one eye. This is apparent at the
very first fact which he advances, after having made his preparations
and cleared the road, and which is to conduct himself and his readers
to the right solution. This first fact settles his conclusion, and
settles, also, our criticism.
Here is the fact: interest does not increase. "Increase of rent,
rise of land-values," is the invariable mark of material
progress, "while neither wages nor interest anywhere increase.
The increase of rent explains why wages and interest do not increase.
The cause which gives to the landholder is the cause which denies to
the laborer and capitalist." (Page 162.)
Interest does not increase! What does this mean? "Interest"
is a very ambiguous word. Is it possible that George can mean, that
the sums which annually are paid into capitalist pockets in the form
of interest, that the incomes of capitalists do not increase ? It is
difficult for the thoughtful reader to believe that it is really this
which George affirms, and yet so it is. In the above passage he speaks
of the capitalist being wronged, "denied." On page 267 he
says: "The improvements which increase the productive power of
labor and capital, increase the reward of neither." However
astounding, then, George comes to the conclusion, affirms and
reaffirms, that only landholders grow richer and richer by our
material progress, while capitalists do not get their proper share and
are, in fact, in the same boat as the wage-workers. But how, may be
asked, can he come to such a preposterous conclusion, since if he but
glances at the other side, he will see that landholders constitute but
a small portion of our monied class, and by no means the richest
Well, as was said, he is stone-blind in that eye.
In the next place, it is by the shifting use of an ambiguous word
that he imposes on himself, and more remarkable still, on thousands of
quick-witted wage-earners. When at first he says "interest does
not increase" he means, that the rate of interest does not
We see that the rate of interest constantly diminishes, is, of
course, a fact; but what of that? This does not at all, as every
schoolboy knows, prevent the income of the capitalist; from constantly
growing, from growing at a tremendous rate, from growing much faster
than the income of the landlord from increasing rent. The capitalist
has a greater income from $2000 at 4 per cent, than from $1000 at 5
per cent. Indeed, the increase of rent and decrease of the rate of
interest have at bottom the same cause, for the landowner's fortune
can increase in no other way than by a rise in rent, since the land
cannot increase in area as George so often insists on, while in spite
of diminishing rate of interest, the fortune of the capitalist
increases to such gigantic proportions that, to be profitably
employed, it necessitates a still lower rate.
The conclusion, that only landholders benefit from our material
progress, he is thus brought to by the most astonishing piece of
Again, we find that George is blind to the most important element in
the up-building of these fortunes. He refuses to acknowledge that
there is anything that, properly, can be called profits. He calls
(page 116) Buckle " inextricably confused," because this
author "persistently speaks of the distribution of wealth into
rent, wages, interest and profits." " We want to find,"
he says, (page 118), "what it is that determines the division of
the joint produce between land, labor and capital, and 'profits' is
not a term that refers exclusively to any one of these three
divisions," and so he wants to have nothing at all to do with it.
Yet our whole industrial system is founded, precisely, on profits.
Our wage-system might be called the profit-system. It is the
enterprising fellow (whom, since George cannot help to mention him, he
very happily calls "the mover in production") who hires the
wage-earner and pays him wages, who borrows from the capitalist and
pays him interest, who leases from the landlord and pays him rent, all
in order that he may pocket the profits, all EXCLUSIVELY for the sake
of the profits, and that he may, himself, become a capitalist.
Sometimes these enterprising fellows club together, and then they also
hire a manager, and pay him wages of superintendence, so as clearly to
show that their profits, which they call "dividends," are
unearned. And it is these profits that, under our industrial system,
give rise to wages, interest and rent, these profits which serve as
steam to our industrial machinery, and form the foundation of the
fortunes of the world, that George unceremoniously eliminates.
But there are other pages of George's book that show how the foregone
conclusion has not merely blinded his one eye but "inextricably"
twisted his mind, and that is his original argument in justification
of interest. It is, indeed, more than original; it is artful. We read
(page 133.) "It seems to me, that it is this which is the cause
of interest." What? Here it comes: "While many things might
be mentioned which like money, or planes, or planks, or engines, or
clothing," or, in fact, nearly all that we call wealth, "have
no innate power of increase, yet other things are included in the
terms wealth and capital, which like wine, will of themselves increase
in quality up to a certain point; or like bees, or cattle, will of
themselves increase in quantity; and certain other things, such as
seeds, which, though the conditions which enable them to increase may
not be maintained without labor, yet will, when these conditions are
maintained yield an increase, or give a return over and above that
which is to be attributed to labor."
This, then, is what, on page 133, seems to me, (mark that!) to be the
cause of interest. But a little further on, on page 138, there is no
doubt of it, there it is settled that it is, for we read: "Thus
interest springs from the power of increase which the reproductive
forces of Nature give to capital. It is not an arbitrary,- but a
natural thing. It is not the result of a particular social
organization, but of laws of the universe. which underlie society. It
is therefore, just."
Why, this argument is the most extraordinary sophism that ever
deceived an author! And then it is so evident that it was suggested to
George by his desire to give his whole attention to the case of
landowners. It is hardly worth while to notice that Nature always
works gratis, and that if wine, cattle, bees and seed create values,
it is because they require human labor and receive human attention.
There is another, and very different consideration, that at once
disposes of the argument. George himself says in another connection
(page 247): " It is the greater that swallows up the less, not
the lesser that swallows up the greater." Exactly, and that
applies here. Wine, cattle, bees and seed form such an insignificant
part of all values, that they could not possibly govern and lay down
laws for the rest, and they do not do it.
No, it is quite another thing which-does not justify, but- makes
interest perfectly legitimate under the present profit system. Our
enterprising fellow whom we spoke of above, the "mover" in
production, borrows money, in order to make more money by it-make
profits by it-and he generally succeeds. It is therefore only just,
that he share his profits with the capitalist. Interest thus is simply
a fair divide, therefore legitimate, as long as this system lasts, but
no longer. As soon as this profit-system falls, interest will again
become usury as of old, when people only borrowed, because they were
in distress. But all the time interest is from the monopoly-price,
paid for the use of capital, as rent is the monopoly-price, paid for
the use of land.
By these fallacies and expedients George has had no difficulty in
convincing himself that it is rent (page 163) "that swallows up
the gain, at the expense of wages (the share of the laborer) and
interest (the share of capital), and pauperism accompanies progress,"
and also, that (page 149) "capital is but a form of labor,"
a twin-sister so to speak, equally suffering.
But now we come to the climax, the argument which in Progress and
Poverty George merely considers a test, to -which he is willing to
submit, but which in all his later books and writings he insists on as
his chief and unanswerable reason for his theory of the absolute
wrongfulness of private property in land. It is, by the way, an
argument in the style of the French philosophers of the last century
who delighted in starting from one axiom or another, derived from
their own inner consciousness, and making deductions therefrom till
they arrived at such conclusions as suited them. This argument of
George is found on page 239 and following pages, and is this: A man
has a right to himself, therefore a right to the fruits of his own
exertions, therefore no right to what is not the fruit of his own
exertions, therefore not to land.
Now it must be observed that the "land" George here means,
is, on the one hand, bare land, bereft of all improvements; and on the
other hand, land which has got value. By saying that no individual has
a right to land, he then means that no individual has a right to what
is generally called ground-values. Again, land in that sense he
distinguishes from capital, saying that the latter is the fruit of a
man's exertions, but that the former is not, is "an element like
air, water and sunlight." That is, precisely, what land is not.
How can he say that, when he insists on the value of land? Has air and
sunlight value? Has water value except that of Chicago, which is
tapped from Lake Michigan, pumped up into peoples' houses, and which
they pay for? And what distinction is there between such water and
capital? In fact, the distinction he makes between land and capital is
There was a time when land had no value; that was during the Middle
Ages, when the workers belonged to, were a part of the land, and when
it could not be bought and sold. Now when it is bought and sold like
any other ware, it has value like any other ware, that is to say a
value determined by the human labor embodied in it, above and below
which demand and supply make its price vibrate. George himself says,
(Protection and Free Trade, page 291): "Land in itself has no
value. Value arises only from human labor." It is, then, not God
who has created the value of land, but Man.
Further, bare, valuable land stands exactly on the same footing as
capital. The valve of both is created by the labor- not of their
possessors, but-OF OTHER PEOPLE. Such land value is created by the
surrounding improvements, by grading, by streets, railroads, etc.
Growth of population alone creates nothing; there must be some that
work. And capital is accumulated from rents, interests and profits,
all together constituting fleecings from the fruits of labor. It is,
then, land and capital that are twin-sisters.
Land and capital, together, constitute means of labor, means of
production. We are living in an age when we can do without neither. We
now have nothing to do with ages when one would get along with bow and
arrow, canoe and such things that one could make for himself. That is
the reason why progress demands that both land and capital be placed
under collective control.
It is then clear that Henry George has not surveyed the whole field,
and that his theory for that reason is entirely too narrow, but he has
at all events brought his disciples out on the road that leads to
socialism, that is to say to a position where they must come to find
it illogical to remain.
II. INADEQUATENESS OF HIS "REMEDY"
But not merely is his theory too narrow, we insist that his "remedy,"
that of confiscating all rent, will not accomplish what he predicts,
when reduced to practice.
We, then, lay no stress here on two objections that might be made to
its practicability and expediency, but shall only just mention them.
George claims that such a tax as he proposes, confiscating all
land-values, is constitutional and, particularly, does not require a
change in the Constitution of the United States. This is doubtful. And
if that constitution is to be changed, it is certainly better to
agitate for complete instead of partial Socialism.
Again, there are many persons with tender consciences, will say that
it is one thing to make all means of production! into collective
property, as we Socialists propose; that, a measure would be proper
enough, even if no compensation were paid, since all proprietors would
be treated alike; but to deprive one class, the landowners, of their
possessions, without compensation, and at the same time leave all
other capitalist classes in quiet enjoyment of their wealth is quite
another thing, is, in fact, nothing but downright robbery.
But we pass over to far more serious objections. First consider the "remedy"
as a fiscal policy. It is evident that George expects enormous
revenues to flow annually into the coffers of the nation from the
confiscation of rent. Thus he says (page 326,
Progress and Poverty): "It will become possible for it to
realize the dream of socialism. Government could take upon itself the
transmission of messages by telegraph, as well as by mail, of building
and operating railroads, as well as of opening and maintaining common
roads. There would be a great and increasing surplus revenue from the
taxation of land values, for material progress which would go on with
greatly accelerated rapidity would tend constantly to increase rent.
We might not establish public tables-they would be unnecessary-but we
could establish public baths, museums, libraries, gardens,, lecture
rooms, music and dancing halls, theaters, universities,, technical
schools, shooting galleries, play-grounds, gymnasiums, etc. Heat,
light and motive power, as well as water, might be conducted through
our streets at public expense, our roads be lined with fruit trees;
discoverers and inventors rewarded, scientific investigations
supported, and in a thousand ways the public revenues made to foster
efforts for the public benefit. We should reach the ideal of the
Socialist, but not through governmental repression. Government would
change its character and would become the administration of a great
co- operative society."
Now remember the enormous sums that the above magnificent schemes
would cost are to be defrayed out of what is left after providing for
the ordinary running expenses of the federal government, the several
States, counties, cities, and townships, for all other taxes, of
whatever nature are in-tended by him to be abolished. But what reason
is there to expect any such revenue from this single tax, or anything
like it? No government, to our knowledge, never framed a budget, based
on his ideas. The whole proposition is thus a leap into the dark, but
perhaps it is possible to throw a ray of light into the darkness.
The federal census report of 1880 estimates all the real estate of
the Union for that year, that is to say all farms, and all land with
its improvements, all mines, all churches and public buildings at
something less than $23,000 million. But do not for a moment take that
as the amount on which to levy rent. First all improvements should be
deducted. Then, should George's "remedy" ever be adopted,
there will be a vast shrinkage in land-values, for at present the
greater part, thereof is purely speculative, as he not merely admits
but insists upon. And to this must be added an item of immense import.
The agricultural lands of the Union, instead of now furnishing ten
thousand millions of the above estimate, will furnish a comparatively
very, very small part of the taxes under George's scheme. Among his
answers to queries in his journal, the Standard, George has
this: "So far from expecting to raise taxes from farmers by
taxing land-values, we expect to lessen the taxes from farmers and
raise most public revenues from mines and city lots." And here
another: " If the owner of a farm increases its productiveness,
the increase belongs not to the category of land but to that of
improvements, and would on the plan proposed in Progress and
Poverty, be exempt from taxation." So on this plan the cities
would have to provide for the country, an arrangement that might not
be satisfactory to either party.
Let us now see how the "budget" would balance. Five per
cent, annual rent of $23,000 millions makes $1100 millions, deduct
from that the taxes paid on improvements; then the shrinkage caused by
speculative values being eliminated, and then the loss of taxes from
agricultural land. On the other hand consider that the federal
revenues now amount to about $300 million, and the revenues of the
States, counties, cities and townships to 312 million, in all more
than IP $600 million, and it is evident that both ends will not
meet-not to speak of any surplus with which to realize his magnificent
schemes. It is clear that the mind of George has been dazzled by the
extraordinary wealth of a few silver-mines and by the very rise in the
speculative value of city lots which he denounces.
No, then the plan of Godin, of Guise, France, is more practical. He
and George have many things in common; he has the same fondness as
George for abstract reasoning and general principles, but lacks
George's eloquence and personal magnetism. He also wants to put an end
to the monopoly by the rich of Nature's gifts, but proposes for that
purpose, instead of taking away the possessions of a single class,
that the State shall on the death of proprietors, confiscate part of
their estates, a small proportion of small fortunes, and an increasing
one as the estates are larger until it be one-half of the very large
fortunes. These funds Godin then, further, like George, wants to
substitute for all other taxes, which the surplus, also with him a
very large one, he proposes to use in abolishing pauperism. But he
meets in France with about the same obstacles as George in America.
The possessing class ignore him, rather than violently oppose him, as
they do here George, and the Socialists will have nothing to do with
his "remedy," as being nothing but a weak, illogical
But the greatest illusion of George as to the practical consequences
of confiscating rent is still to be considered. It is as to the
remarkable increase of well-being for the wage earners which he
confidently expects. He thinks their homes will be vastly improved,
that they never more will be dependent on the employing classes, that
production will assume wondrous proportions, and wages reach their
very highest point.
What an illusion!
This illusion is caused, precisely by this that George wants by hook
or by crook, to make Capital and Labor into twin-sisters-which they
are if the horse-leech and the horse can be called "twin-sisters."
Capitalists, including landowners, are in possession of all the means
of labor, including raw materials; the workers have, as a rule,
nothing but their naked labor. In order to live, they are therefore
under the necessity of accepting employment from the capitalist
classes on the best terms they can obtain; and these terms are, as a
matter of fact, to work, say five hours for themselves daily, on
condition that they will work the other five hours daily for their
masters' gratis. This gratuitous work results in what we may call
fleecings, and these fleecings are then distributed I among the
capitalist classes under the names of rent, interest and profit. Now
it is clear as sunlight, that immunity from taxation would, benefit
the capitalist classes solely; it will not diminish the items profit
and interest. It cannot possibly increase wages, for free land will
not enable the workers to create with their bare hands raw materials
and other means of labor, but it may actually bring wages down to the
increased cheapness of living that might follow.
But, says George, production will increase so much, that instead of
laborers competing for work, the employers will compete to get
workers. Well, when land has been closed to the "enterprise"
of capitalists, they very likely will invest more capital in
industry-and thereby, by the way, create a still wilder competition,
more "overproduction," and more crises. But there will be
just as many "hands" seeking work as now, and if not,
immigration will soon bring them in. But, replies George, a worker
with a home will not accept such low wages as a homeless man. Indeed
he will; experience, precisely, teaches that a man with a home, thus
nailed to a given spot, a certain locality, since he cannot live off
his home, is the very man to cut down wages, the very man to hold
aloof from his comrades in a strike. And, then, how can George be so
sure that the workman will have a "home?" A bare lot does
not make a home; how is he going to have a house built?
These considerations show that George's "remedy" is no
remedy at all. Confiscation of rent, or even State ownership of all
land, standing alone, will accomplish nothing, or next to nothing.
True, land should be nationalized; as part of a comprehensive
programme such nationalization is the right thing, but to commence the
programme with such a demand is, in the United States, commencing from
the wrong end; it is antagonizing the very class, the farmers, whom we
want to benefit, for they, in the first place, will lose the grip on
their farms. Why, the nationalization of agricultural land is here the
very last thing to be thought of. The writer of this had a short time
ago, a talk about George, in London, with Rev. Stewart Headlam, of the
Church Reformer. At the close he said: "So you think me a fool
for being a disciple of Henry George!" "A fool! No. Why, if
I were a citizen here, I should be a follower of George to a great
extent." In Great Britain land is the first "means of labor"
to revolutionize. This is the most remarkable thing about George, that
he, an American, should have hatched such a British idea, and one at
the same time so un-American.
There are other things that render George's "remedy "impracticable,"
that he must first convince his countrymen that Free Trade is such a
blessed thing, but of these matters we need not insist.
III. ABOLITION OF THE WAGE-SYSTEM AND THE SUBSTITUTION OF SOCIAL
So far, however, we have really, but unavoidably, been beating round
the bush; we shall now go to the kernel of the difference between
Henry George and Socialists. He says in
Social Problems, (page 66): "There are deep wrongs in the
present constitution of society, but they are not wrongs inherent in
the constitution of man, nor in those social laws which are as truly
the laws of the Creator as are the laws of the physical universes.
They are wrongs resulting from bad adjustments which it is within our
power to amend."
Of the above we only agree with him in this: that "they are not
wrongs inherent in the constitution of man." For the rest, George
only wants to "amend" "bad adjustments," but not,
of course, "social laws." But what are, in his eyes, such "social
laws?" Ah, here comes in his fundamental blunder; he calls the
wage-system, competition, the capacity of capital to absorb interest,
"social laws, as truly the laws of the Creator, as are the laws
of the physical universe "-and yet they have only played a role
for a couple of hundred years at most. He, however, considers them as
existing from eternity and destined to last forever. He wants simply
to cure the bad effects of our social arrangements; he has had his
whole attention directed to one bad symptom, and, like an empiric "doctor,"
he brings his "remedy," and another, "doctor "
Godin, brings his "remedy"-both being led by the noblest and
most generous instincts. But neither of them has the smallest idea of
changing our present social arrangements. We, as much as George, wish
to do away with private property in land. Why, then, do we not follow
his lead? Because he wants to keep the land in the hands of private
individuals as at present, to be exploited for private profit. There
is where we fundamentally differ from him. And this is not merely a
matter of difference in policy: it is a matter of difference in social
We have, we think, a good illustration at hand. We Socialists, say
that society is precisely in the state of a child who is about
shedding its first teeth and getting its second permanent set. This is
a transition period for the child. So society is now in a transition
period, during which social cooperation is to be substituted for
competition. It is a change for which wicked Socialists are not
responsible, but one decreed by the power behind evolution. But it is
a period of discomforts, of sufferings. What, however, would be
thought of a quack who came with his "remedies" for keeping
the first set of teeth in the jaws of the child? This is absolutely
the analogous position of George and Godin.
Just as the first set of teeth is of excellent service to the child
during some years, so the wage-system, competition, "private
enterprise'' were for a period an unmixed good to humanity and have
conferred lasting benefits on society; even private ownership of land
was instituted, when it was, because it was an advantage to society at
large and is not such an absolute, universal evil as George wants to
make it out. A few hundred years back all nations were very poor; if
all wealth then had been impartially distributed, it would have
constituted the poverty of all. The first necessary step therefore to
take, in order to raise society up on a higher plane, was to cause
production to increase. This was the ultimate result of the English,
the American and the French Revolutions. By these revolutions the rich
middle classes, the Plutocrats, were little by little raised to
supreme power in the State, and with them came the wage-system,
competition and "Private Enterprise." These plutocrats were
raised to power with the specific mission of increasing production,
and they have done this work so well that society at present would be
able, with the inventions, the machinery, the division of labor, now
at her service, to satisfy the reasonable wants of all her members,
with ease, and require but a very moderate amount of labor, perhaps,
but four hours daily labor in return-if she were permitted.
Some may here object that even the richest nations of our time are
poor; that also now if the wealthiest society would distribute her
riches impartially to all, many would be in want. Suppose we grant
that? But there is this difference that while society formerly could
not with her best efforts produce sufficient, now she can. Society can
now produce. in abundance, if she be permitted to employ all willing
hands and heads. But we again repeat: she is not permitted. She dares
not produce, all she can. Who prevents her? The Plutocrats, who have
supreme power in this nation, as in every other nation. They who
monopolize all capital and land. They produce for the sake of profits,
as already observed. They do not care a snap for society or social
wants. They do not produce to satisfy wants, but to insure profits,
and they stop production as soon as their profits are threatened-as
soon as it does not pay.
But that is not all. It is to the rule of these selfish plutocrats,
and to their wage-system, competition and "private enterprise"
that the so-called "overproduction" and our crises are due,
and not at all to the speculative rise in the value of land, as *
-eorge declares-a most far-fetched reason and one he never would have
hit upon, if land had not filled ' his whole horizon. We have seen
that under the wage-system, as it at present attains, one part of the
product of labor goes to the workmen under the form of wages, the
other part, in the shape of rent, interest and profits, goes into the
pockets of landowners, capitalists, employers and other "gentlemen
at large.' Statistics, taken from the Census Reports of the United
States, show us that these two shares are about equal. The work people
thus receive in wages only about half of what they produce,
consequently they cannot with their best will buy back what they
produce. On the other hand, the "gentlemen at large" who
pocket the other half, get so much that they cannot with their best
will consume it all.
Here we have an all-sufficient reason for "overproduction,"
which curious term, of course, does not mean that there are not always
plenty of empty stomachs that want to be filled, and plenty of bare
backs that want to be covered, but does mean that those who have money
do not want any more goods, and those who do want them have no money
wherewith to buy them. The above reason explains the whole thing we
say. It explains why goods are heaped up in warehouses on one side,
and why, on the other side, vast amounts of capital are lying
idle-capital that ought to be used in buying up the goods, but is not.
It is by thus being the proximate cause of "overproduction"
that the wage-system, hitherto exclusively an evil to the workpeople,
is fast becoming a social curse.
Then it is, that in order to get rid of this "overproduction"
somehow, that the capitalist classes of all countries raise that cry,
which is constantly dinned into our ears: "Foreign markets! we
must have foreign markets!" And all our governments, being really
nothing but governing committees of these same classes, do their best
to secure foreign markets for their clients. They send diplomatic
notes, protesting against exclusion of their pork, or sack Alexandria,
or rouse the sleepy Chinese with the roar of cannon, all in order to
get other people to trade. But these foreign markets are already
beginning to dry up. Even half-savages learn sometime or other to
manufacture for themselves. What then? Then this capitalist system
must fall; there is no help for it. For then the only way of creating
an effective home demand for the products is to give workpeople the
full reward for their labor, that means to revolutionize the present
system. Thus we see, that the wage-system which has built up this
capitalist system is also, under our very eyes, digging its grave.
And competition is helping along. Competition makes our whole
production planless, anarchic. It makes our producers each produce for
himself, sell for himself, all in secrecy, though their success and
failure depend exactly upon how much their rivals produce and sell.
This is the proximate cause of our crises-those social pestilences
that produce more misery than did the plagues of the Middle Ages.
The wage-system and competition have thus in our days become more
harmful than useful; they, together, are now undermining the
Established Order, so-called, and will, inevitably, before long,
unless forestalled, lead to a catastrophe and a crash.
Unless forestalled! Can it be forestalled? Yes, it can. Evolution,
indeed, is pointing out to us the outlines of the New Social Order.
We can see all around us a constantly growing concentration of
production and distribution, which is more and more absorbing the
efforts of isolated individuals; in fact, making all efforts of
isolated individuals impossible. On the other hand, we find in the
nations that are politically most developed, in the United States and
Great Britain-yes, Great Britain, the country of Herbert Spencer and
the home of the "let alone " doctrine-a constantly growing
centralization of the Collective Will, which is more and more
curtailing and contracting the proprietary sphere of
individuals--governmental control of telegraphs and railroads. This is
a very proper first step. Thereafter insist on governmental control of
the express business, and, thus, of one of the larger of the national
enterprises after the other.
Is it not easy to see that the time will surely come when these two
opposing forces will come in contact ? Are they not already in contact
in the nations we have mentioned? Is not here and in Great Britain the
Collective Will, the nation, face to face with overgrown corporations,
whose private interests are diametrically opposed to those of the
community at large?
Can any one doubt the issue? Of course, private control will have to
give way to public control. Capitalists-who, in truth, have simply
been performing the function of pay masters for society-will have to
give way to society, to the nation, democratically organized. That is
why Socialists demand that ownership of all means of production, land
and capital be abolished, and all these means of production placed
under the supreme control of the Collective Will, and forever after
worked for the collective benefit. We are the only party that
formulate a programme which fulfills the requirement of George
himself, "it must swim with the current of the times." We
are the true co-operators of the Power behind Evolution, and our plan
is the only one that possibly can forestall the catastrophe and crash
that is surely approaching.
The day after the means of production are placed under collective
control, we have not a particle of doubt, that, even if the present
ratio of wages be for a time maintained, the wages themselves can
safely be doubled and the daily hours of labor reduced to six.
But George reproaches us that we are not willing to go step by step.
Oh, yes, we are. But it will be seen from the above that George will
really not at all that which we will. He wants Society to stand still,
while Evolution demands a change. But we are perfectly willing to
admit that this change in the control of the means of production need
not be accomplished all at once; only this must be insisted on: that
one step must involve and be followed by an other sometime. And as
such a first step, we greet the demand in the call for a convention of
the United Labor Party
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And so we should like to see the municipalization, the taking under
municipal control, of the sale of coal, of milk, of ice, the operation
of gas-works and horse-railroads, the carrying on of bakeries and drug
stores-yes, and of saloons, too.
But George will insist, that such control by the collective will is
destructive of liberty, will crush individuality and make all personal
property impossible. This is a perfect misapprehension of the matter.
It will do no such thing.
We do not for a moment contemplate that the State, even when
democratically organized, shall do all the nation's business, or even
a considerable part thereof. Not to speak of this, that all local
affairs will be controlled by the various localities, we contemplate
that the business of the nation will be carried on as a co operative
business is carried on now, by Associations, or Trades Unions, if you
will call them so, which themselves determine the functions of their
members, their hours of work, and freely distribute their earnings
among themselves. The collectivity will only have the three functions,
of being General Manager, General Statistician and General Arbitrator.
As Statistician, it will determine how much is to be produced; as
Manager, distribute the work and see to it that it is performed; as
Arbitrator, it will see justice done between association and
association, between association and members.
Then liberty will be realized for the first time, for dependence on
individuals will cease; individuality will, for the first time, have a
real opportunity of developing itself, and property will be placed on
an unimpeachable basis, that of being the result of one's own
exertions. Everybody will, for the first time, have a chance of
But Interdependence will be strong. George is a thorough
Individualist. He says in Social Problems, (page 108): "A
man has no right to compel any one else to work for his benefit; nor
have others a right to demand that he shall work for their benefit.
This right to himself, to the use of his own powers and the results of
nis own exertions, is a natural, self-evident right, which, as a
matter of principle, no one can dispute, save upon the blasphemous
contention that some men were created to work for other men." And
so in one of his answers in his Standard, we read: "
Society had no right to command the labor of Sir Isaac Newton. He owed
it no labor."
These "principles," drawn from George's inner consciences,
are false, "blasphemously" false. We belong to each other,
and this rests upon the contention that all men are created to work
for other men. George would, if he could, separate the Individual
entirely from Society. But Society is an organism, whose members are
interdependent even now to a much greater degree than it seems. We are
destined to become much more interdependent and, indeed, entitled to
no blessings that our fellows cannot legitimately share.
We are confident that the members of the United Labor Party are in
that respect far more advanced than Henry George, and that just for
this reason they will, in convention assembled, insist that their
Party is a party of the-workers against those that monopolise the
means of labor; a party whose aim is the abolition of the wage-system,
and, in the end, UNDER THIS SIGN THOU WILT WIN!