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 PROBLEM OF TODAY.
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' Brotherhood, Ohio.
NEW YORK: THE M. W. HAZEN CO.
Copyright 1886, by
A M. BRIDGMAN & CO.
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 they inhabit.
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 ships.
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 political institutions.
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.