John J. Daily: Harmony vs. Discord (1900)
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This work is the outgrowth of a long-felt desire to do something towards dispelling the confusion of thought regarding political and social relations, which it is clear arises from the failure to grasp first principles. The original intention was only to place the theories enunciated by Henry George in Progress and Poverty, in a condensed form. But in the course of a careful study of his theory of interest, which I had been unable to harmonize with first perceptions and logical deductions, I discovered its erroneous character. This led to a more independent investigation and closer study of his theories. I saw that the law of interest as he expressed it, not only does not agree with natural perceptions, but is erroneous, an incongruity in his philosophy and the molehill magnified to the size of a mountain that hides its real greatness and efficiency from many. And to his failure to perceive the true law of interest, is largely due his faulty conception of the reason for the unstable equilibrium of supply and demand, and the cause of commercial depressions.
But perceiving the indifference with which people have from disappointment come to view proposed reforms and the general belief that social advance or retrogression is entirely within the power of man to control, I was impressed with the possible hopelessness of any effort to better the condition of man. This led to a deeper study, and to the discovery that human progress has been one continual advance, and that the forces that compel advancement increase with advancement. I saw that what man had gained during his existence upon this earth was knowledge and power—the ground work for a future social state—and that conditions were not growing worse, from a reformer’s standpoint, but better. I realized that, though social advance depended more on individual effort as we advanced, the dependency of individual happiness on individual effort increased much faster. I, then, decided to clear away the doubts and fears regarding social advance, before entering upon the main purpose of the work.
The first part of this book, which might be considered as preparatory to the second, makes clear that social advance has been continuous; that harmony reigns in the efforts and relations of men, no less than in all the material universe; that all real advantages gained have never been lost, and that the growth and decline of what we call civilizations, are only the alternating play of the balancing forces of social life. Then, following the growth of the present civilization, we see how the pressure evolved compelled us to make one advance after another; and how the advances in knowledge and power, which are capable of great elevation, arc counterbalanced by forces that threaten the dissolution of society and deprive us of the greater part of their advantages. We see that these evil forces, ever growing, are what compels us to advance; that suffering is only the penalty of either wrong effort or no effort at all.
Then taking up the economic problem and reducing it to the simplest form in which it presents itself to our minds, that of the lack of equilibrium between supply and demand. The cause of this condition is clearly explained. It points unerringly to the remedy—the taxation of land values. Then, examining the nature of the value of land, we see its effectiveness. Turning to a consideration of the laws of distribution, we see that the single tax will effectually abolish interest as a division of wealth and make two divisions of the aggregate product, namely, rent and wages; the first being absorbed by taxation of land values, going to meet the expenses of government, supplying social necessities and common needs—; the latter going to each in the proportion that each contributes, through the operation of the law of supply and demand.
Taking up the question of public utilities, we see that this is a question which, though it now offers almost insurmountable difficulties and no solution, after the great economic problem is settled, its solution will follow as a natural sequence. The final chapter shows the true welfare of the individual, and its complete harmony with the welfare of society.
This work, though principally intended to clear away the incongruities of error that becloud a great truth, is nevertheless a clear and complete, though brief, exposition of that truth. It contains the germ of a philosophy which I have dared hope, with the aid and encouragement this effort might bring, to do something towards developing. I present it to the thoughtful consideration of my fellow-man, confident that as a result of several months’ intense effort, it contains thought, though perhaps poorly expressed, for which the world hungers.