The idea of socialism is based upon the theory that each person should have an equal share of all that is produced, irrespective of what the person produces. Lawrence Grunland wishes to make modifications in that plan by establishing grades according to the different kinds of work,but to that extent is he compromising with our present system and discountenancing ideal socialism.
The theory is summed up in their demand that "all means of production and distribution be owned and operated by the government," as the chief plank of their platform. As every person who works intelligently is employed in either production or distribution, every one would be in the employ ol the Government.
The curse of the race today is the concentration of power in a few hands. It was concentration of power that made slaves of nearly all the people of Egypt, of Rome, and the same is being repeated today. And yet the socialists want to enter upon such a system of concentration as the world has never seen.
But it is claimed that the people would choose their own overseers. The people of San Francisco, of Chicago, of New York, elect the members of the city councils, but who would want to place in the hands of these men the control of all the means of production and distribution — the management of every conceivable line of business and pursuit — and consequently the wages that shall be paid in the different grades, the hours of work, and also the assignment of the kinds of work that each one shall do. Pause a moment and think of the rings that must of necessity spring up under such a system. Or who would want to place in the hands of Grover Cleveland the destiny of the 70,000,000 people of the United States? The president now has more power than any human being should be entrusted with, but it is not a drop in the ocean compared to the power he would have under the co-operative commonwealth.
Instead of giving our government heads and legislative bodies more power, we need to curtail them in that which they already have. Give the people of the smallest political divisions local option in taxation and other matters to the fullest extent possible, and take from Congress the power to build up one industry or one section at the expense of another, under the guise of raising revenue or protecting certain grades from competition, and they, the people, will soon learn what is best for them, for, by experiments, that which proves to be the best for one will be adopted by others.
One of the proper functions of government is to own and operate natural monopolies, because individuals or corporations will not operate them for the benefit of the public where it conflicts with their own interests. But because the government should own and operate a natural monopoly, such as the telegraph, where in the very nature of things there can be no real competition that is no reason why the government should own and operate the bake shops, the barber shops, and the truck gardens.
In opposition to the claim that "each is entitled to an equal share of all that is produced, irrespective of what he produces," I claim that each is entitled to all that his labor produces and no more, and that the community should take for governmental expenses that which the community produces and no more, viz.: land values.
Judge Maguire of San Francisco, in the course of a speech in congress, said: "There is a natural right of ownership existing between everything produced by labor and the labor that produced it. That right springs from every man's ownership of himself and of his mental and physical powers. Owning himself, he has a natural right of ownership in the things and values that his own mental and physical powers produce, and he can manifestly, without violating any principle of natural justice, transfer his right in such things to another upon any terms which may be satisfactory to him. This is a matter with which neither society at large nor any individual can properly have any concern. The things that he produces are his, because he has produced them; because their forms of utility would not have existed but for his productive effort, and it is no hardship to any other man in the world to be deprived of that which would not have existed at all but for the labor of him who produced it.
"If the labor of a dozen men indisguishably contributes to the production of anything of value, it belongs, by the same law, not to any one of them, but to the whole dozen. So, if a value be produced by the indistinguishable labor of a community of one hundred thousand or a million people, it belongs by the same law of natural right to all, and not to any individual, or to any number less than the whole. Therefore the rental value of land belongs to the community which produces and maintains it by the same natural right which gives to each individual man the wealth which his labor entirely produces."
To give this practical effect, the single taxers would take all taxes off labor and labor's products and put them upon land values. This would make it unprofitable for individuals to hold large tracts of land unused — in fact impossible, as the taxes on large tracts of idle land would soon eat up all the owner's income from the other sources. The Miller & Lux estate, comprising 14,500,000 acres, which includes more than one-fourth of the arable land of the state of California, is almost wholly unused. Under the single tax, this would soon be open to the people who actually wanted to use it, and every man in the state who wanted a home and a place to make a living could have one. Fully nineteen-twentieths of the arable land of California is unused or nearly so.
By our indirect manner of raising government revenue each producing family pays $40 yearly government tax; $40 of protected monopoly tax in higher prices for goods, and $80 per year that is now taken to pay dividends on watered stocks in railroads, telegraph and kindred monopolies. All these as well as state and county taxes would be done away with, except on land values irrespective of improvements. This would make land freer to labor than it was in California forty years ago; freer than it was on the Atlantic seaboard two hundred years ago. With the land open to all, none need to work for another for less wages than his labor is worth. Under such conditions who need be in want?
Karl Marx, the noted socialist, relates the incident of a rich English capitalist conveying to one of the British colonies a vast store of machinery and materials for the establishment of a great factory, together with three thousand people of the working class — men, women and children — to work in the projected factory. How immediately after landing at their destination, men, women and children left him without so much as a servant to carry water from the river to cook a meal; left him and his machinery; and the machinery lay and rotted on the ground and the factory was never erected. Why did they leave him? The same inducement that brought him and his capital from the shores of "Merrie England" — they could get free land, all they wanted of it, for the taking. With land free to use capital can not oppress labor, and the single tax would make land free to use.
—G. K. Estes, Journal of the Knights of Labor.