Land Value Taxation will solve many of the 21st century's most serious social, economic and environmental problems, and promote justice, fairness and sustainability. We CAN have a world in which all can prosper.
Progress and Poverty, by Henry George Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It! This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at progressandpoverty.org and http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm
Where Else Might You Look?
Wealth and Want The URL comes from the subtitle to Progress & Poverty -- and the goal is widely shared prosperity in the 21st century. How do we get there from here? A roadmap and a reference source.
Reforming the Property Tax for the Common Good I'm a tax reform activist who seeks to promote fairness and reduce poverty. Let's start with the enabling legislation and state requirements for the property tax. There are opportunities for great good!
The land question . . . means hunger, thirst, nakedness, notice to
quit, labor spent in vain, the toil of years seized upon, the
breaking up of homes, the miseries, sicknesses, deaths of parents,
children, wives; the despair and wildness which spring up in the
hearts of the poor, when legal force, like a sharp harrow, goes over
the most sensitive and vital right of mankind. All this is contained
in the land question.
— CARDINAL MANNING, Letter to Earl
Grey (1868), Miscellanies, Vol. I.; p. 251
Millions of human creatures are housed worse than the cattle and
horses of many a lord or squire. Nearly, a million of the London
poor need re-housing; the medical authority has reported against
141,000 houses as insanitary, in which the poor are huddled
together, in numbers varying from four to twelve and more in a
single room. What delicacy, modesty or self-respect can be expected
in men and women whose bodies are so shamefully packed together?
— CARDINAL VAUGHAN, Inaugural
Address to the Annual Conference of the Catholic Truth Society at
Stockport, published in the St. Vincent de Paul Quarterly, New
York, November, 1892, p 286.
"Yes, ah yes, there is frightful misery in the world," answered
Gabriel tenderly and sadly. "Yes, many of the poor, cut off
from all joy, all hope, are cold and hungry and in want of shelter
and raiment, in the midst of the immense riches which the Creator
has provided, not for the happiness of a few, but for the happiness
of all, for his wish was that they should be equitably divided — but
a few have acquired the common inheritance by fraud and violence."
— EUGENE SUE, The Wandering Jew,
Part XVI., Chap. 34.
Look hence, ye wretched ones, upon those blessed fields ye now flit
through as thralls, as aliens. Free shall ye wander there, free from
the yoke of the living, free from the chains of the dead. What
Nature made, what men have tilled and turned into a fruitful garden,
belongs to men, the needy,
and none shall come and say, "To me
alone belongs all this; ye are but guests I tolerate so long
as I may please, and they shall yield me tribute, guests I drive
forth when so inclined. To me belongs
what Nature made, what Man has wrought, and the living needs."
Away with that lie; to Need alone
belongs what satisfies it, and such is offered in abundance
by Nature and your own strong arm.
— RICHARD WAGNER, The Revolution,
Prose Works, Vol. VIII., Chap. 14, p. 235. (Translation of
W. A. Ellis.)
God has ordered all things to be produced, so that there should be
food in common to all, and that the earth should be a common
possession to all. Nature therefore has produced a common right for
all, but greed has made it a right for a few.
— ST. AMBROSE, On the Duties of
the Clergy (A. D. 391), Chap. XXVIII., Sec. 132. Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. X., p. 23.
The Creator has made ample provision for all men in the storehouse
of nature and in the faculties and powers of man. To do God's will,
we must make room at the Father's table for all His children.
— FATHER EDWARD McGLYNN, Lecture
on the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man.
The ground was in common and no part of it was the permanent
property of any man in particular; yet whoever was in occupation of
any determined spot of it, for rest, for shade or the like, acquired
for the time a sort of ownership, from which it would have been
unjust and contrary to the law of nature to have driven him by
force; but the instant that he quitted the use or occupation of it
another might seize it without injustice.
— SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE,
Commentaries, Book II., Chap. I, p. 3.
I stumbled across an excerpt from this in The American Cooperator, and when I couldn't find the material in any of George's other books, I went looking for the source, an 1887 book with chapters by 16 authors.
Enjoy! (It prints out as about 9 pages, if you're so inclined)
THE HISTORY, PURPOSE AND
POSSIBILITIES OF LABOR ORGANIZATIONS
IN EUROPE AND AMERICA; GUILDS, TRADES-
UNIONS, AND KNIGHTS OF LABOR; WAGES AND PROFITS;
HOURS OF LABOR; FUNCTIONS OF CAPITAL; CHINESE LABOR:
COMPETITION; ARBITRATION; PROFIT-SHARING AND
CO-OPERATION; PRINCIPLES OF THE KNIGHTS OF
LABOR; MORAL AND EDUCATIONAL AS-
PECTS OF THE LABOR QUESTION.
EDITED BY GEORGE E. McNEILL,
First Deputy of Mass. Bureau of Statistics of Labor; Sec.-Treas. of D. A. 30, Knights of Labor.
ASSOCIATE AUTHORS: TERENCE V. POWDERLY, G. M. W., K. of L.; DR. EDMUND J. JAMES, University of Pennsylvania; HON. JOHN J. O'NEILL, of Missouri;
HON. J. M. FARQUHAR, of New York; HON. ROBERT HOWARD, of Massachusetts; HENRY GEORGE, of New York;
ADOLPH STRASSER, Pres. Cigar Makers' Union; JOHN JARRETT, of
Pennsylvania; REV. R. HEBER NEWTON, of New York; F K. FOSTER, of
Massachusetts; P. M. ARTHUR, Chief Engineer Locomotive Brotherhood; W.
W. STONE and W. W. MORROW, of California; FRANKLIN H. GIDDINGS,
"Springfield Union"; JOHN McBRIDE, Secretary Coal Miners' Union;
D.J.O'DONOGHUE, of Toronto, Canada; P. J. McGUIRE, Secretary Carpenters'
NEW YORK: THE M. W. HAZEN CO.
Copyright 1886, by
A M. BRIDGMAN & CO.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE LAND QUESTION.
MAGNITUDE OF THE QUESTION — FIRST PRINCIPLES — THE
LAND-OWNER THE ABSOLUTE MASTER OF MEN WHO MUST LIVE ON HIS LAND — THE
ORDER OF NATURE INVERTED — EQUAL RIGHTS TO THE USE OF THE EARTH —
SELFISHNESS, THE EVIL GENIUS OF MAN — THE IRISH PEOPLE FORCED TO BEG
PERMISSION TO TILL THE SOIL — APPROPRIATION OF THE CHURCH-LANDS — LAND
IN ITSELF HAS NO VALUE — THE GREAT CAUSE OF THE UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF
WEALTH — NO HOPE FOR THE LABORER, SO LONG AS PRIVATE PROPERTY IN LAND
EXISTS — NOTHING MYSTERIOUS ABOUT THE LABOR QUESTION — THE DIFFICULTY IN
FINDING EMPLOYMENT — NATURE OFFERS FREELY TO LABOR — NATURAL MEANS OF
EMPLOYMENT MONOPOLIZED — SPECULATION IN THE BOUNTIES OF NATURE.
BENEATH all the great social questions of our time lies one of primary
and universal importance, the question of the rights of men to the use
of the earth.
The magnitude of the pecuniary interests involved, the fact that the
influential classes in all communities where private property in land
exists are interested in its maintenance, lead to a disposition to
ignore or belittle the land question: but it is impossible to give any
satisfactory explanation of the most important social phenomena without
reference to it; and the growing unrest of the masses of all civilized
countries, under conditions which they feel to be galling and unjust,
must at length lead them, as the only way of securing the rights of
labor, to turn to the land question.
To see that the land question does involve the problem of the equitable
distribution of wealth; that it lies at the root of all the vexed social
questions of our time, and is, indeed, but another name for the great
labor question in all its phases, it is only needful to revert to first
principles, and to consider the relations between men and the planet
We find ourselves on the surface of a sphere, circling through
immeasurable space. Beneath our feet, the diameter of the planet extends
for eight thousand miles; above our heads night reveals countless
points of light, which science tells us are suns, that blaze billions of
miles away. In this inconceivably vast universe, we are confined to the
surface of our sphere, as the mariner in mid-ocean is confined to the
deck of his ship. We are limited to that line where the exterior of the
planet meets the atmospheric envelope that surrounds it. We may look
beyond, but cannot pass. We are not denizens of one element, like the
fish; but while our bodies must be upheld by one element, they must be
laved in another. We live on the earth, and in the air. In the search
for minerals men are able to descend for a few thousand feet into the
earth's crust, provided communication with the surface be kept open, and
air thus supplied; and in balloons men have ascended to like distances
above the surface; but on a globe of thirty-five feet diameter, this
range would be represented by the thickness of a sheet of paper. And
though it is thus possible for man to ascend for a few thousand feet
above the surface, or to descend for a few thousand feet below it, it is
only on the surface of the earth that he can habitually live and supply
his wants; nor can he do this on all parts of the surface of the globe,
but only on that smaller part, which we call land, as distinguished
from the water, while considerable parts even of the land are
uninhabitable by him.
By constructing vessels of materials obtained from land, and
provisioning them with the produce of land, it is true that man is able
to traverse the fluid-surface of the globe; yet he is none the less
dependent upon land. If the land of the globe were again to be
submerged, human life could not long be maintained on the best-appointed
Man, in short, is a land-animal. Physically considered, he is as much a
product of land as is the tree. His body, composed of materials drawn
from land, can only be maintained by nutriment furnished by land; and
all the processes by which he secures food, clothing and shelter consist
but in the working up of land or the products of land. Labor is
possible only on condition of access to land, and all human production
is but the union of land and labor, the transportation or transformation
of previously existing matter into places or forms suited to the
satisfaction of man's needs.
Land, being thus indispensable to man, the most important of social
adjustments is that which fixes the relations between men with regard to
that element. Where all are accorded equal rights to the use of the
earth, no one needs ask another to give him employment, and no one can
stand in fear of being deprived of the opportunity to make, a living. In
such a community, there could be no "labor question." There could be
neither degrading poverty nor demoralizing wealth. And the personal
independence arising from such a condition of equality, in respect to
the ability to get a living, must give character to all social and
On the other hand, inequality of privilege in the use of the earth must
beget inequality of wealth and power, must divide men into those who can
command and those who are forced to serve. The rewards which nature
yields to labor no longer go to the laborers in proportion to industry
and skill; but a privileged class are enabled to live without labor by
compelling a disinherited class to give up some part of their earnings
for permission to live and work. Thus the order of nature is inverted,
those who do no work become rich, and "workingman" becomes synonymous,
with "poor man." Material progress tends to monstrous wealth on one
side, and abject poverty on the other; and society is differentiated
into masters and servants, rulers and ruled.
If one man were permitted to claim the land of the world as his
individual property, he would be the absolute master of all humanity.
All the rest of mankind could live only by his permission, and under
such conditions as he chose to prescribe. So, if one man be permitted to
treat as his own the land of any country, he becomes the absolute
sovereign of its people. Or, if the land of a country be made the
property of a class, a ruling aristocracy is created, who soon begin to
regard themselves, and to be regarded, as of nobler blood and superior
rights. That "God will think twice before he damns people of quality,"
is the natural feeling of those who are taught to believe that the land
on which all must live is legitimately their private property.
Researching the post immediately below this one, I came across an interesting item which ends with these paragraphs. I've highlighted the piece that caught my eye:
WHY DO WE LOOK AT EACH NEW birth as the arrival on earth of another hungry mouth? Why are we incapable of seeing that along with each new mouth comes a pair of hands? The world does not have six billion mouths to feed — it has six billion hard-working human beings whose creativity and ingenuity must be unleashed.
In the next decade India and China will each add to the planet about 10 times as many people as the US. But the stress on the “world’s carrying capacity” caused by the new Americans will far exceed India’s and China’s combined.
In any case even if, as predicted by the UN, Asians and Africans will make up 80 per cent of humanity by 2050, they will simply have returned to being proportionately as numerous as they were before the Industrial Revolution.
seems a hard thing for many to understand how the single tax, as
applied at Fairhope or elsewhere, can benefit both those who have little
and those who have much. They think that if the tax burden upon the
wealthy man's fine improvement is decreased, it must be at the expense
of his poorer neighbor; or on the other hand, if the poor man's burden
is lightened, it must be because it is shifted to the well-to-do. The
fact is that the wealthy man whose wealth is genuine wealth, houses,
stores, stocks (of goods) and other things which are the product of
labor — not the possessor of monopoly privileges — will be benefited by
the freeing from taxation of these forms of wealth, and the poor man
will be benefited by the exemption of his smaller improvement if he be a
home-owner, and if he be not, by the destruction of land speculation,
making it easy for him to secure land for a home or for cultivation, and
by an increased demand for his labor from others and the increased
ability of others to buy his products if he be a producer.
somebody must be hurt by your policy. You can't benefit everybody, the
beneficiaries of the present system as well as its victims," will say
the skeptic. To which we say: There is plenty of room for the argument
as to whether the enthronement of Justice ever did or can hurt anybody;
but so far as the colony is concerned, there are no beneficiaries of
injustice. No one has ever been given the privilege of collecting
tribute in the form of unearned land values, and the wealthy and the
poor are alike benefited by the taking for public use of that which
belongs and has been held from the beginning to belong to the public,
but elsewhere is made the privilege of a favored few.
the colony the application of the single tax to present conditions
would take somebody's privileges and profits, and it will be those who
are "reaping where they have not sown" in the collection of land values
rightly belonging to the public for the two highest reasons: first,
because their collection for the common benefit is necessary to insure
to each his inherent right to live upon the earth; and second, because
such values are the result of their joint presence and activity, and not
traceable to individual exertions.
-- Fairhope Courier, quoted in The American Cooperator (1903)
The final sentence: "The law of gravitation is not more clearly demonstrable than the law of taxation which Henry George, the Newton of Political Science, has revealed to the world."
Another from The American Cooperator (1903):
A Work for the Church
Rev. Herbert S. Bigelow
the average church-member what is the mission of the church? He has a
readymade phrase for you. He says it is to "save souls." In the
theological seminaries young men are taught that to he good preachers,
they must have a "passion for souls." A certain missionary society of a
church in this city reported at the end of the year, "Two souls saved
and one sanctified."
it the paramount duty of the church to save souls? That depends on what
is meant by the phrase. Save them from what? From hell, of course. Is
it the mission of the church to save souls from hell? That depends upon
the location of hell. Do you mean by hell some place of torment in the
next world or do you mean the torment of body, mind and soul that is
produced in this world, by greed of gain, and slavish prejudice, and
bigotry and hate, by oppressive monopolies, and corrupting power, and
take no stock in your God-made hell, but I know there is a hell on
earth which man has made. Here on this earth I have witnessed the
torture of the damned. Let us storm one hell at a time and the nearest
there are many church members who do not know what we mean by a hell on
earth. They are able to go to the sea-shore in the heat of summer. They
can go to Florida or California and eat strawberries in winter.
seldom come in contact with poverty. From the very air they breathe,
they have imbibed the prejudice that poverty is mostly a result of
depravity; that for the "deserving poor," there is no help but charity;
that the masses who toil are by nature unfit for a happier lot; that the
man who imposes an extra tax of two cents a gallon on oil and
contributes a million to a university is a paragon of virtue, and the
institutions which make it possible for him to do this are ordained of
of these more comfortable churchmembers visited recently in Cincinnati.
She heard men in the street crying "Coal, coal!" She asked what it was
they were selling. When told, she expressed amazement that the people of
Cincinnati did not buy their coal in the ton. She declared she had
never heard of such a thing. Indeed she was certain that in Cleveland
where she lived, there was no coal sold by the bushel. This woman is
typical of her class. Within a narrow sphere, she is generous to a
fault. There is no question about the genuineness of her piety. She will
shed sincere tears over the tragic sufferings of the Nazarene, and
contribute for the preaching of the gospel in foreign parts, but of the
appalling misery in her own city and of its cause, she is as grossly
ignorant as the Australian Bushman is of the doctrine of salvation by
duty of the church to save souls? Yes, it is the duty of the church to
save the souls of men and women from that ignorance and indifference
which makes them oblivions of the sufferings of their fellowmen.
every great city you will find a little group of earnest men and women
who are trying to bring to the notice of the public, the desperate
conditions under which their brothers and sisters live and to show the
economic cause of this destitution and its remedy. And while such bands
are few and weak, you will find scattered here and there and everywhere
thru the city, churches, often costly edifices, religious organizations,
representing a vast expenditure of wealth and energy. All the reformers
in the city could not contribute for their work what is paid in a year
to one of these clergymen. Fancy how things would begin to move if this
tremendous energy were directed toward the solution of the problem of
poverty! If all this thought and sentiment and power of wealth were only
hitched to this car of progress, how the wheels would start out of the
Edwards used to say to his audience: ''The God that holds you over the
pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over
the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you
burns like fire. . . . It would be a wonder if some who are now present
should not be in hell in a very short time . . . There is reason to
think that there are many in this congregation, now hearing this
discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all
long as men believed in that sort of a God, they naturally expected the
church to help them flee from the wrath to come. But from the various
sources of modern thought has come a better thought of God. He is still
the Creator but he is not the bungler. He made a good world. This world
is "lapt in universal law." In his benevolence, the Creator contrived
these laws so that in the keeping of them, men should find great reward.
Hell on earth-is due to the breaking of these laws. To learn to obey
them, is to find heaven here.
teach men these laws is the mission of the church. There is no law of
the Decalogue which is more self-evident than the law that the land is
the inheritance of all and its monopoly by the few a crime against the
many. The law of gravitation is not more clearly demonstrable than the
law of taxation which Henry George, the Newton of Political Science, has
revealed to the world.
"God gave the earth to all the people, and not to some of them. The privileges should be for all of them, and not bartered off to
some of them. That, gentlemen, constitutes my political economy, my
politics, and (I say it reverently) my religion. And it is, I believe,
the religion that Christ taught the people many years ago."
-- Tom Johnson, mayor of Cleveland and U. S. congressman
As to that which is produced by Nature, without any aid from human
industry, I mean the land, since its vast extent provided enough for
all, in the early times when the human race was small, in numbers,
men appropriated at first as much as they thought they had need of;
the rest was left in common.
— PUFENDORF, Law of Nature and
Nations (1672) Book IV., Chap. 4, Sec. 6.
No generation of men can or could, with never such solemnity and
effort, sell land on any other principle; it is not the property of
any generation, we say, but that of all the past generations that
have worked on it, and of all the future ones that shall work on it.
— THOMAS CARLYLE, Past and
Present, Book III., Chap. 8.
"Of course the fact that a chief or land-owner has bought and paid
for a particular privilege or species of taboo, or has inherited
from his fathers, doesn't give him in any moral claim to it. The
question is, Is the claim in itself right and reasonable? for a
wrong is only all the more a wrong for having been long and
— GRANT ALLEN, The British
Barbarians. (Words spoken by Bertram.)
Being himself heir to a large property, he was especially struck by
the position taken up by Spencer in "Social Statics" that justice
forbids private land-holding, and with the straightforward
resoluteness of his age, had not merely spoken to prove that land
could not be looked upon as private property and written essays on
that subject at the university, but had acted up to his convictions,
and, considering it wrong to hold landed property, had given the
small piece of land he had inherited from his father to the
— COUNT LEO TOLSTOY, Resurrection,
Book I., Chap. 3.
'Tis ever from the darkest cloud,
Brooding in mourning deep,
The crackling thunder volleys loud,
And jagged lightnings leap;
And from the gloom o'er wood and lake
A warning murmur thrills
Woe to the hand that tries td take
The freedom of the hills
— ROBERT BIRD, The Freedom
of the Hills, Songs of Freedom, p. 295.
There's them living who say that Nathaniel Bumppo's right to shoot
on these hills is of older date than Marmaduke Temple's right to
forbid him," he said.
— J. FENIMORE COOPER, The Pioneers
(1822), Chap. I., p. 12.
Each bit of land is a fortress, and the law makes a crime of every
step which a man dares to take on the jealous and forbidding
property of another man. "There is nature as we have made it,"
thought Pierre Huguenin, as he traversed these deserts created by
humanity; "can God recognize His handiwork in it? Is this the
beautiful earthly paradise He once confided to us to embellish and
extend from horizon to horizon over the whole face of the globe?"
— GEORGE SAND, Le Compagnon du
Tour de France, Vol. II., Chap. 22, p. 18.
And so that he unstinted may abide
In all the pomp and power of lordly pride,
Riot in lawless loves, or, if he please,
Have a refreshing change of palaces;
Or softly warmed in scented orange bowers,
Shun his moist land of mist and mountain showers,
The far-off master hath declared his will,
To have the crofters swept from every dale and hill.
We have the landowner first, who is always becoming richer. .
. . But if you come to the laborers, who cultivate the land, by
whose toils and whose sweat your tables are furnished with bread and
with beef and with many other things that they produce, you find
these laborers at this moment, I believe, at a comparatively greater
distance from the landlord . . . than they were at any former
— JOHN BRIGHT, Speech at
Birmingham, January 26, 1864.
The most impudent hypocrite of all is the great proprietor who,
being a principal cause of the misery which he affects to deprecate,
would be disgusted and furious if he were to be shown in his true
colors, and so trusts in ignorance and sophistry when he laments the
condition of the poor, but secretly and steadily adds to their
— PROFESSOR THOROLD ROGERS, Work
and Wages, Chap. XVI., p. 457.
Me voici, owner of some
four hundred well developed pines, a few thousand tons of granite
scattered in blocks at the roots of the pines, and a sprinkling of
earth. That's a town lot in Vancouver. You or your agent hold to it
till property rises, then sell out and buy more land further out of
town and repeat the process. I do not quite see how this sort of
thing helps the growth of a town, but the English Boy says that it
is the "essence of speculation," so it must be all right.
He may, and often he does, engross the first necessity of labor,
land, and neither use it himself or allow anyone else to use it, and
though it is clear that . . . he is injuring the community, the law
is sternly on his side.
— WILLIAM MORRIS, Signs of Change,
Land should be given to those who can use it.
— JOHN RUSKIN, Fors Clavigera,
Part II., Letter ii, p. 96.
A sig-file on a listserv brought to my attention a quote from St. Ambrose, which, to my surprise, Ernest Crosbydidn't include in his Earth-for-All Calendar:
"You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich."
In the very first pages of Scripture we read these words: "Fill the
earth and subdue it."(19) This teaches us that the whole of creation is
for man, that he has been charged to give it meaning by his intelligent
activity, to complete and perfect it by his own efforts and to his own
Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with
the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows
that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The
recent Council reiterated this truth: "God intended the earth and
everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus,
under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created
goods should flow fairly to all." (20)
All other rights, whatever
they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be
subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in
fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting
these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an
important and urgent social duty.
The Use of Private Property
"He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and
closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (21)
Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the
rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: "You
are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are
giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are
meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to
everyone, not to the rich." (22) These words indicate that the right to
private property is not absolute and unconditional.
No one may
appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others
lack the bare necessities of life. In short, "as the Fathers of the
Church and other eminent theologians tell us, the right of private
property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good."
When "private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another,"
it is for the public authorities "to seek a solution to these
questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social
The Common Good
certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are
extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to
peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common
good sometimes demands their expropriation.
Vatican II affirms
this emphatically. (24) At the same time it clearly teaches that income
thus derived is not for man's capricious use, and that the exclusive
pursuit of personal gain is prohibited. Consequently, it is not
permissible for citizens who have garnered sizeable income from the
resources and activities of their own nation to deposit a large portion
of their income in foreign countries for the sake of their own private
gain alone, taking no account of their country's interests; in doing
this, they clearly wrong their country. (25)
Those interested in Catholic Social Thought should look for a new book which came out of a 2007 conference held at the University of Scranton, and edited by Professor Kenneth R. Lord of UScranton, entitled "Two Views of Social Justice: A Catholic/Georgist Dialogue." The version I've seen is the October, 2012, issue of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, and I understand that it will be made available in other forms as well.
The abstract for the book:
Sixteen scholars have come together in this issue to examine eight social-justice themses from the perspectives of Catholic Social Thought and the philosophy of Henry George. The themes they address are natural law, human nature, the nature of work, the nineteenth-century papal encyclical Rerum Novarum, causes of war, immigration, development, and wealth, and neighborhood revitalization. While they sometimes wrangle with each other, their common aspiration is the same as their nineteenth-century predecessors,: to find solutions to the human suffering caused by injustice.
The use of a certain area of the earth's surface is a primary
condition of anything that man can do; it gives him room for his own
actions, with the enjoyment of the heat and the light, the air and
the rain which nature assigns to the area; and it determines
his distance from, and in a great measure his relations to, other
things and other persons. We shall find that it is this
property of "land" which, though as yet insufficient prominence has
been given to it, is the ultimate cause of the distinction which all
writers on economics are compelled to make between land and other
— PROF. ALFRED MARSHALL, of the
University of Cambridge,
Principles of Economics, Vol. I., Book 4,
Chap. 2, Sec. I.
I suppose the result must be . . . the establishment of society
under a wholly new idea. . . The leading features of any such
radical change must be a deep modification of the institution of
property — certainly in regard to land, and probably in regard to
— HARRIET MARTINEAU (1853),
Autobiography, Vol. II., Sec. 10, p. 119.
But if Egyptian civilization had its victims, it had also its
favorites. . . . There stood . . . that upper class . .
. owners of a large portion of the soil, and so possessed of
hereditary wealth, one which seemed born to enjoy existence and
"consume the fruits" of other men's toil and industry.
— GEORGE RAWLINSON, History of
Ancient Egypt, Vol. I., Chap. II., p. 533.
But yet in other scenes more fair to view,
When Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few —
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore —
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.