I had the pleasure of stumbling across a piece of writing from about 100 years ago. It is in one of quite a large number of books written by enthusiastic admirers of the ideas of Henry George, put online by Google Books. This is from a book by one James Love (written under a pseudonym). I've reformatted it a bit to make it easier to read here. It is a good summary of "Progress and Poverty," still the best book I know on political economy and economic justice -- why we suffer from wealth concentration, income concentration, poverty, sprawl, and a number of our other most serious social and environmental problems. Here's the excerpt; read it slowly and consider its implications!
This man, who I believe to be the completest in thought and language that the world has seen, and his book the most precious ever given by man to men, concludes
- that the world (even more necessary to our existence than our own bodies are) is intended for all men of all generations, and not for some men alone.
- That every human being born into the world has a natural right in it equal to that of every other human being born into it.
- That as man by his nature seeks to gain his ends in the easiest way, some parts of the earth on which he can accomplish much become more desirable than other parts on which he can accomplish less.
- That this varying desirability, causing competition for the use of certain lands, shows itself in "rent," which is thus a communal product, and as clearly belongs to communities as the remainder of the produced wealth belongs to the individual producers.
- That it is as impolitic and unjust to take from the individual for the use of the community what has been produced by the individual as it is impolitic and unjust not to take for the use of all, or of the community, that which is produced in common by the community.
- That, in short, "rent" is the natural, God-intended fund for general public use. And
- that in denying this moral law of equal rights to land there is brought about a pitiful inequality of true wealth, and a sordid struggle for existence, destructive of human freedom and eventually bringing progress to a halt.
- And that we are at last learning that in setting up "vested rights" — based whether on ancient force or ancient law — developed into modern custom — and denying this equality, we rob men and deny the truly sacred right of every man to the product of his labor; deny the sacred right of property in "wealth."
- And that in treating private property in land as sacred (worse than treating property in man as sacred) "there never was a more degrading abasement of the human mind before a fetich."
- But that, on the contrary, "by conforming our institutions to this divine law of justice we will bring about conditions in which human nature can develop its best;
- will permit such enormous production of wealth as we can now hardly conceive;
- will secure an equitable distribution;
- will solve the labor problem and dispel the darkening clouds now gathering over the horizon of European civilization.
- We will make undeserved poverty an unknown thing;
- will check the soul-destroying greed of gain, and
- will enable men to be at least as honest, as true, as considerate and highminded as they would like to be.
- We will open to all, even the poorest, the comforts and refinements and opportunities of an advanced civilization; and
- we will thus, so we reverently believe, clear the way for the coming of that kingdom of right and justice, and consequently of abundance and peace and happiness, for which the Master told his disciples to pray and work."*