by Charles Daniel (1913)
The Papers on
“Two Democratic Delusions”
not reproduced here…
I—Socialism not Scientific
II—Socialism Not The Remedy
III—Socialism And Land Reform
IV—The Single Due
V—The Procedure of Wise Rule
JUST as ‘Christians,’ in all ages, have confused Christianity with what is not the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, so have Socialists confused Socialism with what is not Socialism.
In the following papers I have avoided attributing to Socialists sentiments which are no more peculiar to them than to many of their opponents. It is no argument to talk of Brotherhood and Altruism as characteristic of Socialism. It is likewise no argument to assert, as many Socialists do, that Socialism is synonymous with Christianity.
Socialists may, or may not, be brotherly and altruistic. They may, or may not, believe Christianity to be synonymous with Socialism. But all this does not define Socialism for us. It is as illogical to credit Socialism with the intentions and beliefs of some Socialists as to credit the Roman Church with the virtues of some of its saints.
Socialism is a politico-economic theory for the organisation of social life.
Its political proposals are: (1) That basic natural human rights do not exist; (2) that the State gives to men all the rights they have. This implies the denial of the right of individuals to physical freedom, and to the possession of the products of their labour; and conversely implies the right of the State to control individuals, and to appropriate and apportion the results of individual efforts.
Its economic proposals are: (1) That the land and all instruments of production should be held and organised by the State; (2) that the distribution of the National Income should be decided upon by the State, either according to services rendered (the value of which would perforce be determined by the State), or according to individual needs (which again would be determined by the State), or according to a scheme of dead-level equality (manifestly unworkable because detrimental to the interests of State officials); (3) that co-operation of labour should be enforced to provide the National Income.
It is not difficult to infer from all this that Socialism would involve many subversive changes, which need not be considered here. The above definitions, when carefully considered, will be found to express what is involved in all theories of Socialism, and will enable the reader to understand what it is I am criticising.
IT is said by Socialists that Socialism is scientific. But can this be substantiated?
What is science? The word literally means knowledge; used technically, it means that knowledge which relates phenomena to laws of nature, i.e. relates effects to their proper causes. The object of science is to discover laws of nature and apply the knowledge of them to human activities.
No social system, therefore, can be scientific which ignores, or denies the existence of, the natural laws which underlie social phenomena.
Political economists admit natural law in the region of production, but when they come to the sphere of distribution, they, with very few exceptions, deny the existence of any natural law. The laws of distribution, they say in effect, are entirely man-made. And Socialists, although at enmity with the orthodox economists on most other points, are here at one with them.
Our social ills and miseries come from the same cause as all other ills, from the disregard of natural law. Laws of man can be broken and set aside; they must be enforced by artificial penalties. But laws of nature cannot be broken; they may be ignored, but retribution is sure. We have ignored the natural law of distribution, and the result is apparent to the most superficial observer.
Socialism seeks to remedy this evil, not by setting out to discover and abide by the natural law of distribution, but by devising and enforcing fresh and more numerous man-made laws. This is why I contend that Socialism is not scientific.
If one attempts to reason with the typical Socialist, he repudiates the idea of the operation of natural law in the distribution of wealth, until he is forced by a process of logic to admit that nothing really can happen without the operation of natural law. But he then proceeds to argue as follows: “Everything is a part of nature, everything is natural. Man is part of nature, and therefore everything that he does is natural. Therefore man-made laws are natural laws.” This is equivalent to the following argument I once heard put forward by a meat-eater in order to prove that he was really a vegetarian: “I only eat animals that feed on grass, therefore I really live on vegetable food.”
There are three great natural laws that it is necessary to understand and act in harmony with before we can attain to social welfare. They are as follow:
- The law that all wealth is the offspring of the union of land and labour.
- The law that men always seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion.
- The law of justice.
The first law is a physical law. We cannot get wealth from land alone, because it is only the passive factor in production. We cannot get wealth from labour alone, because man could not even live apart from land (natural opportunities), let alone produce wealth. In order to produce wealth the active factor of labour must be applied to the passive factor of land. If a man merely takes away wealth produced by another, no matter by what fancy name he chooses to call his activity, he certainly is not a wealth producer. He is only a wealth appropriator.
The second law is a mental law. We should call a man unreasonable who went to the top of a hill to fetch a pail of water when there was a good clear stream flowing away at the foot. Of course, he might go up the hill to observe the view and carry down the water in order to strengthen his muscles. But then he would not only be seeking to satisfy his desire for water, but also his desire for aesthetic and athletic gratification.
The third law is a moral law. It is instinctively recognised that each man has a right to the proceeds of his own labour. This is the natural law of distribution, and to the extent that human bylaws, so to speak, are not in harmony with it the whole community suffers.
Production may be classed under three headings:
- Agriculture or cultivation.
- Manufacture or adaptation.
- Commerce or exchange.
For all these land is needed. And man applies his labour in two capacities, as an individual and also as part of another and greater individual the community. Differences in land values (economic rent or unearned increment), when they do not, result from superiority of soil or situation, are created simply by the presence of men. The land of the City of London, for example, is valueless in itself. Millions of pounds in the form of ‘ground rents’ can be taken from the people upon it, only because they engage there in commerce. This y wealth is communally created, and therefore, in strict justice, belongs to the community. This is the great natural law that has been ignored to our hurt, and which Socialists do not propose to recognise and abide by, but rather to ignore still further. It is true that they do propose that this ‘unearned’ increment shall be restored to the community which earns it. But they propose also to impose artificial laws; to nationalise the land and all the means of production, i.e. to curtail men’s freedom even more than it is curtailed at present. This is unscientific, because it is against nature, since freedom is naturally and instinctively desired.
John Stuart Mill says that the laws of distribution are of necessity man-made, because, the “things once there,” man can do as he will with them! The “distribution of things already there is determined entirely by human will backed by human force.” But, as Henry George shows, if the things produced to-day were treated as the things produced centuries ago the relics of past civilisations (revealed, say, by shifting desert sands), which could be picked up and appropriated by any passer-by the result would be unthinkably disastrous. For the moment that the producers clearly saw that what they produced might be taken from them without their consent, production would cease.
The natural laws of distribution are not ignored openly. The best part of the produce of his labour is withheld from the producer by a multitude of subtle tricks and deceptions. It is withheld, not directly but indirectly, by interfering with production, not distribution. Direct interference with distribution is quickly noticeable. For instance, if 5 be due to a man and he only receives 3, it is quite clear to him that he has been robbed of 2. But if the reward of his labour is taxed during the process of production, and it is represented that only 3, not 5, is his just due, then it is not so easy to detect the robbery.
If the normal function of the social organism is interfered with, either directly through distribution or indirectly through production, it is inevitable that the supply of wealth will in the long run be diminished. In the human body there are organs which manufacture blood and there are organs which distribute it. It does not matter whether we disregard a law of nature by injuring the organs which produce blood, or divert from its proper course blood already produced, the result is the same: cessation of blood supply and consequent illness or death. Equally true is it that to interfere with the natural laws of the distribution of wealth is to bring about illness or death to the social organism. Socialism would strike at the very heart of civilisation by its meddlesome legislation for the distribution of wealth. And its proposals are none the less pernicious because associated with talk of altruism, brotherhood, and religion. We should not think a physician’s lack of science was atoned for by good intentions and pious platitudes! Rather should we say that love to his neighbour could only be demonstrated through the proper understanding of the science that he was supposed to practise. And we should doubt his credentials, both as a religionist and scientist, if he told us that there were no such things as laws of nature applied to medicine.
Coming now to the second great natural law, we find that Socialists, in common with orthodox political economists, observing that men always seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion, assume universal selfishness to be the great fundamental principle of social economy. And Socialists justify their repudiation of competition and their proposals to substitute coercive co-operation for the natural subconscious co-operation, on the score that men need to be protected from one another’s selfishness. But the assumption of universal selfishness does not necessarily follow from the universal law that men seek to economise time and energy by preferring, metaphorically speaking, to fetch water from the nearest spring rather than from one farther off. It is true that in some men the instinct to act in harmony with this natural law has become perverted. They substitute for the action of going to the nearest spring for their water that of annexing tribute from the pails of their neighbours. Here what we call ‘selfishness’ comes in. It is not the fact of an action being performed for oneself that makes it what is ordinarily understood by ‘selfish.’ We do not dub a man selfish because he fetches his water from the spring at the foot of the hill instead of taking a wholly unnecessary journey to the top of it. We call him selfish only when he attempts to save himself exertion by stealing from his neighbours’ pails, or when he refuses to share superfluous water with a neighbour too weak to take the necessary journey to the spring.
While all men have a tendency to be thus selfish, and some men are inordinately so, the majority of men have also a tendency to be what we call ‘just,’ ‘honest.’ That is to say, they are actuated by other motives apart from the desire to save themselves exertion at their neighbours’ expense. They act in harmony with the instinct which impels them to economise their time and strength; but another instinct, the sense of justice, of orderliness, prevents them from allowing the first instinct to overstep its bounds prevents them from stealing the water from the pails of their neighbours. And there is still more than this in human nature; there is sympathy, which leads a man to share the contents of his own pail with the weak and needy neighbour.
Thus it may be seen that while it can be laid down as a fundamental principle that men always seek to go the shortest and easiest way to work, it cannot be said that men always seek to economise time and strength at the cost of violating the equally human instincts of justice, honesty, and benevolence.
Political economists generally, and Socialists in particular, have confounded a fundamental principle with one of the multitude of men’s warring instincts, because at certain points the two seem to be identical, and much confusion of thought has resulted. So that Socialism, which owes a large part of its propaganda to the self-denial and benevolence of men actuated by sympathy for their fellows, actually denies the very existence of those sentiments while arrogating to itself the power to create them. And Socialism is said to be scientific!
THAT Socialism is not a cure for our social miseries, but is calculated to produce an aggravation of the disease, is what I hope to make clear to the reader in this and succeeding papers. The remedy of the Socialist is, in some respects, analogous to that of the doctor who merely covers his patient’s rash with an ointment, which drives it in to work more subtle injury to the vital parts, instead of removing the cause of the disease and setting free the vital force to eradicate the effect. For what is the cause of the rash? Some impurity of the system which the vital force is trying to throw out and off.
Now, we cannot manufacture vital force; we do not even know what it is, and there is no substitute for it. The only sensible proceeding, therefore, is to help it when we are quite certain that we know how to; and to acknowledge our own ignorance, and refrain from running risks of hindering it when we are not quite certain. Above all things, we must cease taking in more impurities.
The true function of the physician is the discovery of the laws of health, not in the multiplying of prescriptions. The true function of a ruler lies, as Proudhon said, in the discovery of law, not in the making of laws.
It is our business to discover how the vital forces of society act, and then to remove the obstructions which clog and hinder their working. Above all things, we must cease taking in more moral impurities.
Now, the very first condition of existence is struggle. It will, I believe, be found that the final condition of existence is the cessation of struggle, by the substitution of universal free association, fellowship, and goodwill.
Man struggles first with Nature, then with his fellows, and lastly with himself. All three forms of struggle are going on at one and the same time, and often in one and the same individual. The final struggle that of man with himself is the struggle to relinquish the struggle.
However immoral we may think the struggle in its second aspect that of man with his fellows we have to recognise that it is. It is to some, and amongst them those who are most involved, one of the very mysterious conditions of social life. To others, and amongst them those who are effecting the transmutation of energy, that is, shifting the struggle from the second to the third sphere, it is acknowledged to be a very satisfactory provision of Nature.
Man must always make conscious efforts if he is to live—physical efforts, mental efforts, and moral efforts.
Most readers are familiar with the incident in “Dombey and Son,” where Mrs. Dombey’s sister-in-law exhorts her to “make an effort.” But Mrs. Dombey couldn’t or wouldn’t “make an effort,” and so she died.
The incident is caricature, of course, but there is a great truth underlying it. Mrs. Dombey really needed some incentive to struggle to live. Most doctors are familiar with these cases—cases in which the patients would live if only they had some incentive; and other cases where patients have lived and recovered as by a miracle, because of their determination and effort to do so in spite of all the doctors in creation.
It is natural for man to struggle and natural for him to have an incentive to struggle. Take away his incentive to struggle, and the consequence will be mere selfish cessation of struggle, with resultant apathy and death. The moral incentive and effort to live, contradictory as it may seem, results in a man continually laying down his life for others. When this incentive and effort are fully manifested, such a man is called a saviour of the world, and one is reported to have said that he had power to lay down his life and power also to take it again.
As I have said, man’s first struggle is with Nature. The incentive is his need and desire. For the furtherance of his existence and the gratification of his desires, he requires the constant provision of material things. Nature herself, apparently, independently of man’s assistance or influence, makes bountiful provision for him in the fertility of the soil, in air, water, sunlight and climate. And these, together with man’s capacity for increasing, adapting and distributing Nature’s wealth, make up the supply of his demands, induced by the varying nature of his desire.
Man struggles with Nature for food, clothing and shelter, and he is so constituted that he naturally and inevitably goes the shortest and easiest way to work. If he did not go the shortest and easiest way to work the possibility of progress would cease. If a man walked a mile to fetch water from a river, when equally good and abundant water might be had from a stream a few yards away from his cottage, we should regard him as an unreasonable waster of time and energy; and unless he were satisfying some further craving of his nature by so doing, our opinion of him would be reasonable. (One could name instances where our regard might be superficial and wrong, and the so-called longest way, the shortest.)
The instinct to go the shortest and easiest way to work is implanted in the very animals. But man has acquired reason and has enlisted it in the service of his desire. He thinks that he has discovered that the shortest and easiest way to struggle is to force others to do all the struggling and then filch from them the proceeds. Thus the so-called shortest way proves the longest in that this employment of his reason, which is for a higher purpose, diminishes instead of increases that after which he is striving, namely, welfare.
It must be admitted that the sort of reasoning which makes out this pseudo struggle to be free competition is false; but it nevertheless seems as sound to its devotees as Socialism does to Socialists, and quite possibly for the same reason, namely, that neither have seriously thought the matter out for themselves.
Free competition is wholesome and natural, say the supporters of the old order. For answer the Socialists point to the horrible state of present-day society, and argue that co-operation, not competition, is the only way by which men may obtain welfare. Competition—individualism—say the Socialists, is a case of every man for himself. They are right; it does mean that, but it also means something infinitely greater. Rockefeller is an individualist, and so was Jesus Christ.
The supporters of the old order and the Socialists are both right and both wrong; the solution lies in the maintenance of a true equilibrium between competition and co-operation. I will try and explain what I mean.
I have said that the struggle necessary for life’s maintenance may be divided into three parts: (1) man’s struggle with Nature; (2) his struggle with his fellows; and (3) his struggle with himself. Now, there are two ways of doing everything, a right way and a wrong way. In the struggle with Nature there is a point up to which we may cultivate our fruit trees, for instance, with advantage and profit. But there is a point beyond that when, in greediness of gain and impatience at the slowness of Nature’s methods, we may over-manure and over-force to such a degree that the resulting fruit ceases to be wholesome food for man.
The same thing obtains in the struggle with man. So long as two men have free and equal opportunities, the struggle of each to produce more potatoes, or a better table, than the other, is good and beneficial. It brings an added incentive to work—a higher incentive, too, than the mere desire to satisfy their need of food, clothing and shelter; higher, not in the sense of being more altruistic, but higher in the sense of being more impersonal; it is just one stage farther than the mere satisfaction of bodily needs. It acts beneficially in another way also; it ‘speeds up,’ ‘sets the pace,’ for the stupider, weaker, or lazier of the two. Understand, I am not referring to the horrible forced ‘speeding up’ of our present-day conditions. I am rather thinking of what happens when two children set out to compete as to which one can gather the most blackberries. The failure to come in first does not entail deprivation of blackberries, or even disappointment, among happy, healthy children. But the exhilaration consequent upon playing the game incites them to put forth their best powers. And it is only by putting forth our best powers that we can gain increase of power.
Now, what I have described is the right way of struggling, real free competition. But there is also a wrong way of struggling, the pseudo competition which obtains to day.
This method of competition is analogous to the action of a child who gets in first by the simple method of stealing the berries from its companion’s basket, or by reason of superior strength ties his competitor’s hands, or else prevents him, by force or trickery, from participating in the advantages of some particularly well-laden bush.
This is not free competition. It is the very antithesis of this.
What we need, and what we most emphatically lack to day is this very free competition which the orthodox economist tells us that we have got. We want to be free to freely struggle with Nature. But we are withheld from Nature—the land on the one band, while our hands are tied on the other. Free competition implies equal opportunities for all. But while some men may own thousands of acres of land and hold them out of cultivation, when other men need to live and work upon them, while other men as a consequence may own the means of production against their fellows, and still other men may impose taxes upon people in order to do things which the people do not approve, it is folly to talk of freedom or free competition.
The remedy for all this iniquity and misery, however, is not Socialism; at any rate not that Socialism which means the destruction of private enterprise. For Socialism, if it could ever be realised in its entirety, would entirely destroy that incentive to struggle upon which progress depends. It is only the very exceptional individual who will put forth the whole of his powers without any external incentive.
Socialists forget, or seem to forget, that there is a negative force in man as well as the positive desire to be up and doing. There is the force of inertia, a force with which every man has to struggle in himself. Under conditions where everybody was a State employee this force would impel him to do the minimum amount of work by which he could secure the maximum of salary, and after that he would have no incentive to do more.
But what about the incentive of duty, of altruism? some may ask. When men put forth their powers out of altruism, or a sense of duty, they are beyond and outside of the supposed need of State interference altogether. Men generally are not so altruistic and so dutiful, as witness our present awful social conditions. Among a mass of altruistic and dutiful people there could not be both superfluity and starvation. And it is not possible to make a man righteous or helpful by merely robbing him of the incentive to be otherwise. It is really not in the nature of things for a man with initiative and intelligence to take the same pleasure and interest in working as an employee in some large Government business, as he would in running his own little business. Given his choice, such a man would always prefer to take his chances of making a living and keeping his freedom, to a large and assured salary as an employee. I say such a man. There are others, of course, who really prefer the fixed wage, so it be large enough, and with the absence of responsibility. And under free conditions I do not see why they need have any reason to be disappointed with their conditions as employees. Such people are being more and more attracted to Socialism, seeing that it promises them the very thing they want, namely, a large wage, with freedom from worry. Even if it could fulfil that promise and this is not at all certain—it is clear that “their liberties must be surrendered as their material welfares are cared for.”
Under present conditions a large majority of people are debarred from free competition and handicapped in the struggle with Nature. And Socialism proposes to remedy this state of things by handicapping all the rest. Instead of equalising opportunities by freeing those that are enslaved, Socialism proposes to equalise conditions by enslaving even those that are free.
Now, to deprive the ‘strong’ of the power and initiative to wrest more from Nature than the ‘weak’ is just as great an injustice as to deprive the ‘weak’ of the fruits of their labour. I know Socialists do advocate that State employees should not all be paid an equal rate per hour, per day, or week, or month, regardless of the work done. It may be that what they do advocate in this respect would be carried out. Nevertheless, it does not appreciably affect the main trend of their doctrine or destroy its devastating logic.
There is the third aspect of struggle to consider: Man’s struggle with himself. The struggle with his own inertia I have mentioned, and I have indicated that it is not well to deprive him of the incentive of competition, ambition and responsibility. There is another struggle—the struggle between altruism and self-indulgence—the struggle, as I have said, against the struggle. What will the strong man do with the abundance of energy which enables him to produce more than the weak man and more than he needs? Will he spend it in aiding the weak, or ministering to his own lusts?
“From all according to their ability, to all according to their need.” This is the ideal. But it will not be brought about by Socialism. It may be possible to deprive men of the power of taking more than they need, and to compel them to work for what they do take. But no power outside of man himself can force him to use and give of his ability to the utmost. The real help which the weak get from the strong must and will always be voluntary. And under free conditions man does, for the most part, give and help, willingly, nay joyfully.
I SAID in the preceding paper that Socialism is not the cure for social miseries, but is itself calculated to produce an aggravation of the disease.
Now, what is the cause of our bad social conditions?
Speaking metaphysically, the root-cause of all suffering and misery is shown in the oldest philosophical teaching the Vedanta to lie in men’s ignorance; lack of the knowledge of their own and Nature’s underlying unity, which implies that the welfare of each is only attainable in the welfare of all, and therefore that not one man can be sinful, sorrowful, or suffering without all men being the worse for it.
A younger philosophical teaching—the Christian—shows the root-cause of suffering to lie in men’s egoism; in perversity of will; in lack of that love which implies desiring and seeking the welfare of each in the unity of all, and therefore that men could not see or know of the sin, sorrow, or suffering of another without seeking to help him.
The same truth is approached from two standpoints—the intellect and the will. True knowledge inevitably leads to love, and true love to enlightenment. The one bids us love our neighbour as ourselves, and the other gives us the reason for so doing, viz. that we are one with our neighbour, that our neighbour, in a sense, is ourself. It is only, therefore, by the communication of true knowledge and the manifestation of true love that it is possible to achieve real deliverance for the ‘captives.’
Be it noted that I say true knowledge and true love, for there is an ignorance that is more than mere negative lack of knowledge, namely, the positive ignorance of false knowledge. And there is more than the mere negative lack of love, and more even than the positive presence of malice and revenge, namely, the simulative love evidenced in mere pagan politeness, and the false care or protection of others evidenced in our ‘civilising’ institutions and schemes for social amelioration.
The root-cause of our bad social conditions, speaking materialistically, is the private ownership of the land, which carries with it the ownership of men.
The ownership of things is comparatively unimportant, for any accumulation of things beyond a certain quite moderate point is not only useless but positively inconvenient to solitary possessor.
The possessions of an Eastern Potentate always included slaves, to guard, preserve, and recreate his possessions.
It is too often forgotten that Capital is perishable and needs constant preservation and renewal. That is to say, Capital, apart from Labour, is useless. One cannot keep sacks of corn for an indefinite period, and costly machinery will rust away if not attended to.
The possession of more wealth than the owner can utilise for his immediate needs is only advantageous if it includes the possession of power over other men. Two spades are of no use to a man unless he has a slave whom he can force to use the second spade, or a friend who renders voluntary service.
But what about money? it may be asked. That, surely, is advantageous to the individual and may be stored up indefinitely? Precisely, money is the medium of exchange and the symbol of power. Apart from this it is useless. One cannot eat, drink, wear and take shelter under money. At the most it could only be melted down and fashioned into metallic utensils.
Now, there is no way of getting into possession of money except either by exchanging something for it, or by robbery, or by gift. And there is no method of obtaining commodities apart from producing them, stealing them, or receiving them as gifts, unless one has the money to exchange for them.
And since the possession of superfluous wealth is useless apart from the possession of power over other men, and property in land which is necessary for them to work upon in order to produce wealth, the real struggle is for land and money.
In tracing back how the present state of society arose, our economists are fond of imagining an empty world upon which one man suddenly appears and pre-empts the best site, which he promptly stakes round and claims as private property to be used, let, or bequeathed, by right of priority of appearance.
Although private property in land did arise in this way to some extent, in America for instance, it is more commonly based upon what is called ‘the right of conquest.’ That is to say, it follows upon murder and robbery, supplemented by the gentle practice of ‘enclosing,’ which we know obtains to this day.
But however private property in land arose, it is quite obvious that the first comers, whether colonists or conquerors, would pre-empt the most valuable sites. After the best land was all taken, other aspirants to the use of land would have to be content with land of the second quality. That is, less advantageous land, either from the point of view of soil if wanted for agriculture, or situation if wanted to live upon or conduct exchange transactions, or perhaps of both if wanted to pursue those manufacturing industries which, to be profitable, require both.
It is obvious that as soon as this state of things obtains land begins to have value. If A can obtain an income of £500 per annum, say, on the best land, while B, with equal exertions, can only make £300 on the second-best land, it is obvious that B will lose nothing if he rents the first plot from A at £200 per annum. Not only does he not lose, he gains in pleasantness of situation, nearness to society, etc.
This difference in land values, arising out of the fact that Nature gives unequal returns to equal exertions, is ‘unearned increment’; it is not produced by A or B, and the only reason that A pockets it if working his land himself, or takes it from B and retires as an ‘independent gentleman,’ is in the fact that he got there first.
When with increasing population all the land is ‘owned’ there is nothing for the next comer except one of two things. If he has inventive genius he may hit upon a plan by which he can make the soil more productive than some working occupier. In that case it will pay him to rent the land. If not he must starve, unless some one in possession of land, either as owner or tenant, sees it to be worth while to buy his services. Thus, with still increasing population, he eventually becomes a wage slave, to be had for nothing beyond his bare subsistence, like a cow or a horse. In fact, cows and horses are much more mercifully considered than some men, because they are not so easily obtained.
The same thing happens, therefore, with us as happened under the Eastern Potentates, only in place of slave owners we have landlords and capitalists. We have changed the name but not the thing. Men are now called free, but are still as mercilessly ‘owned’ as ever. We have apparently only progressed in a circle.
I say apparently, because the progress is real after all. The apparent circle is really the round of a spiral, and though we may seem to come back to the point from whence we started, we have really mounted one grade higher. For this very change of name, which repudiates the contention that some men are enslaved by others, is tantamount to the acknowledgment that they ought not to be so enslaved. It is this acknowledgment that is going to undermine the foundations upon which the power of the slave owner rests.
Men no longer own slaves, they own land and the means of production: Land and Capital, apart from which Labour is helpless. How can a man be said to own himself, to be free, when the bare means of subsistence is obtainable only by obtaining permission to work on land owned by some one else, with tools or machinery owned by another, at the price of surrendering the produce of his labour in return for the minimum amount upon which he can live the life of an animal and reproduce his kind?
The remedy of the Socialist is to nationalise the land and all the means of production. In place of some men working on land and with tools owned by other individuals, all men must work upon land and with tools owned by the whole people. Which means, in other words, if it does mean anything, that they must be owned by bodies of officials. It is not only land and Capital that will be nationalised, but, seeing that men cannot live apart from these two, it is Labour also that will be nationalised. How is the slave freer because he is owned by a million men in place of one? Rather is he the greater slave. From one man he might escape, but from a million men escape is wellnigh impossible.
What does it matter that he has a millionth share in the ownership of all the rest: in other words, a vote? It does not make him a proprietor, and if it did it wouldn’t make his title right; it only means that he, a slave, sanctions slavery. He is, therefore, a self-constituted slave. With rare exceptions he is always at the mercy of leaders, who in nine cases out of ten are people who have risen to the position of leaders out of the mere lust for power, apart from any real desire to serve those they lead.
We know this is so. We know that nine out of ten leaders are more or less corrupt and self-seeking. (I admit there may be wide stretches of difference between the more and the less.) What guarantee, therefore, can we have for the future? How can there be safety apart from freedom?
The Socialists have fallen into two great errors, made two gigantic blunders. One is, strangely enough, the very error they attribute to the Christian idealists. They say to the latter, “Your ideals may be all very well a million years hence, when men have changed their natures and become altruistic and loving; they fit well into the scheme of things that may obtain at the millenium, but they won’t wash now. We have to deal with men and things as they are.”
Now, as men are at present, it is notorious that even private individuals do not always find it easy to be wise, sincere and disinterested. But the temptations of the private individual seem to become multiplied a hundredfold when he becomes an official. Whether it is that the official really has more temptation to insincerity and dishonesty than the private individual, or whether it is that the potential sinner is more prone to compete for official posts, it is perhaps difficult to say, but the results are the same.
It may be argued that wise and enlightened people, such as Socialists, will only vote for the really wise, sincere and disinterested people among them. But a very wise man has said that hypocrisy is the one sin that can deceive even angels.
The second error, the second gigantic blunder of the Socialists, is the way they have confused cause and effect. The source of our social miseries they assert lies in the private ownership of land and capital. And their efforts are ostensibly directed equally against both. I say ostensibly, for really they are directed only against Capitalism, because the landlord is in a far more unassailable position.
“The struggle for the land,” said an eminent Socialist,” will come last. Meantime, while we cannot get all we want, we will take all we can,”
But a wise physician, who understands that the cause of his patient’s delirium is alcohol or opium, concentrates his attention upon weaning him from the alcohol or opium in the quickest and safest fashion. He may indeed advocate a few other remedial and palliative measures alongside of this. But he never loses sight of the main fact; never confuses effect with cause, and never diverts his main energies and attention from it.
Now, Capitalism, as it exists to-day, is not a cause so much as an effect—the effect of landlordism, and in the term Landlordism I here wish to be understood to include Manlordism. Get rid of Capitalism in one place, and like the rash driven in by the quack, it will appear under a new name, as a different disease, in some other part of the body politic.
We need to direct all our energies against the cause of the rash—the cause of Capitalism—the cause of the power that the few have to enslave the many. I know that the land cannot be freed all at once. Socialists do not expect to get Socialism all at once. Revolutions are as unnatural as the helleborism of the ancients and are followed by as deadly reactions. You cannot cut the knots without destroying the string. The knots which Capitalism has tied will come undone, one by one, and little by little, as the land becomes free. Free, not to be merely cut up into small plots of private property, in the place of large ones, as some anarchists vainly contend, but unowned even by the individuals who work upon it. Unowned but not unpossessed; held in undisturbed possession by the occupier, who will pay into the common stock its real rent, economic rent the unearned increment which accrues to him, not from his labour, but from advantages of soil or situation which he did not create.
The nationalisation of the land will come last, say the Socialists; that is to say, when the majority of men are no longer slaves of a minority of private individuals, but of a minority of public officials. Still slaves, but slaves whose last state would be worse than their first, if such a thing could ever really come to pass.
If it could—but things fortunately don’t work out in real life as they seem to theoretically when driven to their logical conclusions. Science teaches us that a ball thrown into the air tends to travel on through space for ever and ever. But in actual fact the force of gravity comes along to pull the ball back to earth before it gets out into space. Thus Individualism will hold back Socialism from working itself out to its logical conclusions.
This paper, which first appeared in The Open Road for March 1909, is printed also as an Appendix to a book by Mrs. Ethel Wedgwood, entitled “Tolstoy on Land and Slavery” at Tolstoy’s request.
THE cry of the Socialist is a contradictory one. It is for equal opportunity for all to make a living and also for State control. It is asking for freedom and slavery, both. While it can be taken for granted that the vast majority of Socialists are sincere in their cry for equal opportunity for all to live, it is certain that the methods they countenance are a menace to its accomplishment.
‘Livings’ (food, clothing and shelter) come from man’s labour applied to land (natural resources), so that it is obvious that there can be no equal opportunity apart from equal opportunity to use land whether for agriculture, manufacture, or exchange. In order that this should be not merely in name, but in fact, it is necessary that men should have the right to use the land freely, without State interference or control; be free to reap the reward of their labour, whether it be more or less, according to their strength and intelligences; not to have their wages regulated and hours controlled by a body of officials for whom there can be no guarantee that they will act either wisely or justly, and who are no more likely to be elected by wise and just majorities than they are at present.
There is only one way in which men’s opportunities to earn a living may be equalised and at the same time their freedom preserved. It is by the restitution of land values to the people and the abolition of all rates and taxes. It is a misnomer to call this a single tax. A man is not taxed who yields value for something which belongs to everybody. He is a robber if he refuses to pay. It is due from him.
It is a right of every man that he should have a share of the land. It is robbery if he appropriates that increase in land values arising out of the presence of many people, the superiority of one situation over another, the superiority of one kind of soil over another, or the existence of useful minerals underneath. The natural law of association demands the pooling of these differences and their appropriation for common needs. This is not taxation, it is equalisation. Taxation is imposition, therefore ‘single tax’ is a wrong term. It should be called the single due.
The acceptance of this principle and the restitution of this right would result in, among other things, the following:
- The lowering of the prices of all products of the labour.
- The abolition of landlords.
- Employment for everybody.
- The raising of wages.
- The abolition of large and idle capitalists.
- The abolition of usury and spurious interest.
The practicability of this is very simple. The difficulty in the way is men’s ignorance, which is the root-cause of their misery.
It is the presence of a vast collection of people in our ‘great city’ that causes land roundabout the Bank of England to be valued at millions of pounds, while the same quantity in an Essex district, only forty minutes’ train journey away, is valued at £25 per acre. Thus every city presents the paradox of men paying excessive rents for land which their presence makes valuable
It is the exorbitant rents—unearned increments—that should be paid to the community instead of to individuals. It may very easily be seen that the enormous revenues thus obtainable would suffice for all public uses and communal needs, thus making the imposition of rates and taxes wholly unnecessary. The inevitable result of this would be, on the one hand, decrease of prices, and, on the other, increase of purchasing power.
Landlordism, which is the holding of land for extortion and not for use, would become abolished, because landlords would have to hand over to the community the whole of the unearned increment they were receiving from their tenants. Seeing also that it would no longer pay to either allow land to remain idle or even neglect to use it to the best possible advantage, there would be created an enormous demand for labour of all kinds, which would result, as the originator of the single tax idea shows, in the phenomenon of employers competing with one another for labour instead of, as at present, men competing for employment.
The outcome of this would be that the income of employees would be very little less than that of employers. The difference between the wages of employers and employees would probably not be anything like so great as the difference between those of the workers and the State officials under Socialism. Because natural ability, not party influence or political jugglery, would regulate them.
The large capitalist class would inevitably disappear, because an individual cannot become possessed of capital that he does not earn, that is, capital to any large extent, except by appropriating unearned increment or by obtaining a monopoly of some commodity or trade.
Monopoly, which is the power of pricing an article regardless of its value, would be impossible under the single tax (due) except by special legislation prohibiting people with free access to the land from setting up competitive industries.
But what about interest—usury—the Socialist will ask. Usury will cease to exist. Interest may or may not remain according as the community find it convenient or not.
Interest in the real sense of the word is to-day confounded with—
- Profits of monopoly.
- Profits filched from wages; i.e. dividends.
- Spurious interest.
Interest is that particular increase, says Henry George, “which, though it generally requires labour to utilise it, is yet distinct and separable from labour—the active power of Nature.” It is true that all capital is not increased by the forces of Nature. But on the other hand, seeing that in every community the members use both species that is, capital which the forces of Nature do and do not increase—a pooling of benefits is found to be to the advantage of all, and thus interest strikes an average.
In a series of articles entitled, “The Earth for All,” which it is hoped will shortly appear in book form, the justice of interest is illustrated by two typical cases.
A calf, borrowed from one man by another in order to improve the value of his field by eating the long grass and manuring the land, will return at the end of six months a cow, not a calf. A man who borrowed a plough from another, in order to save the trouble and time of making or the expense of buying one, would in fairness have to return not only a new plough or make good the depreciation, but share with the lender the advantages of a superior crop owing to a week’s earlier sowing.
Usury is money paid for the use of capital over and above its real increase, and could only be extorted from people who have already been deprived of their free access to natural resources.
Spurious interest is that paid on capital which has long ceased to exist, a good example of which is the case of incomes derived from government bonds, representing capital long since blown away out of the mouths of cannons. The money received by the holders of such bonds is not interest, but the proceeds of taxation.
The ‘single due’ system is one which is applicable to all states of society—to a society which suffers an armed government to enforce payment or one in which there is sufficient common sense to realise in what direction the best interests of men lie. It is a system which will not allow millionaires on the one hand nor paupers on the other. It will combine all the advantages promised by Socialism with the freedom we are supposed to get, but do not, under so-called individualism.
True it is that in a society from which an armed government extorts taxes there will be much more difficulty in establishing such a system, than in one where common sense prevails. Probably, the disappearance of violence would be in proportion to the advance of such a system. That is very likely the reason why Socialist leaders and collectivists generally object to what is called the taxation of land values because it is the most difficult to obtain and the most likely to reduce governmental activity. The single tax (due) is certainly not easily to be wrung from a Parliament which is based upon landlordism and ‘vested interests.’ It can only be established by the force of public opinion. And is not public opinion that which our legislators tell us to appeal to in order to bring about any reform? Then why not concentrate on that work? Let the people beware of sophistical arguments about getting other things first. Getting other things first means the expenditure of the same energy as in getting the right thing. Thus in addition to wasted energy the people saddle themselves with heavier burdens in the form of increased rents, rates and taxes, which are piled up as their labour increases and these ‘other things’ are procured. They had better by far do without the benefits and concentrate on this radical reform.
The cry of the small investor is usually brought in to re-enforce the arguments against the single tax. It is said that under a system of Land Nationalisation he would be compensated, but that, by the single tax system his property would be confiscated. Which, of course, is ridiculous. The small investor who has purchased land for use would be benefited, not injured by the system. He would pay less in land-value-due then than he does now in rates and taxes. It is the large investor, who has purchased for profit, for extortion and not for use who would be affected. And no real injury would be inflicted on him, since he would be given the opportunity of becoming a human being and not a parasite; he would be deprived of the power to live idly upon the backs of others. It is astonishing how quick politicians are to talk of injury when it is a question of depriving land holders and monopolists of their immoral privileges. But what about the injury that these privileges are inflicting upon the millions of men whose miseries are periodically the subject of congresses and royal commissions, which can only advocate selling them piecemeal, through the channels of semi-private ‘charity’ or right out to the State?
To effect any real reform there is need for a “new philosophic fulcrum”—a new social principle a new motive of action—capable of sustaining all social activities. We are afflicted in mind, body and estate; we are living in the midst of great disturbances—religious unrest, social misery and political bankrupted. The failures of false theories and treacherous practices confound us.
We are already moving out into a new life, but with doubt and uncertainty, notwithstanding that many are rallying round a new standard, symbolising a new social order based upon liberty and fraternity.
There is a great need for a centric philosophy—one which recognises that all real reforms begin at the centre and not upon the circumference of human life. And yet it is the advocacy of this which is most likely to call forth the charge of eccentricity.
ALTHOUGH it may not be counted unto me for righteousness by many for saying so, it is just at the point where ethical principle and economic law are applied to human conditions that the principle and the law part company with Socialism. I single out Socialism for criticism because it is painfully evident that the other old and thoroughly tried political systems must have long since separated from principle and law. And also, because Socialists sincerely profess to have regard for ethical principles, it is necessary for all who perceive the discrepancy to endeavour to make it known, even at the risk of antagonising those good people who are likely to construe one’s disagreement with their methods into repudiation of their aim.
It almost goes without saying that the intentions of Socialists are in the main good—viz. to uplift humanity, equalise opportunities, and secure freedom. Nevertheless, the political activity known as Socialism is in the main bad viz. in the direction of restriction and State tyranny. Something more than good intentions is needed if we are to save ourselves from conditions by no means remote from that region, the road to which we are told is paved with good intentions. We need wisdom as well as love if social life is to be commensurate with well-being.
We have had despotic monarchies—the government of the many by one. We have had and have still what we call constitutional government the government of the majority by a minority. It is mistakenly termed Individualism, the principle of which is said to be exhausted, whereas we have only witnessed the consequences of a contrary principle or lack of principle, viz. Protectionism.
Socialism proposes majority or democratic government, i.e. taking the power away from one set of officials and transferring it to another set (or perhaps giving it back to the same set), elected by the votes of the people.
Already there are ominous signs which foretell a coming revelation that this state of affairs will be no improvement on its forerunners. It will be slavery sanctioned by universal suffrage. People who profess and call themselves Socialists are unwittingly allying themselves with forces which are killing out the very things they are seeking, viz. liberty and equality of opportunity.
If, as the banners of the pitiable processions of poor men proclaim, Socialism is their only hope, then their case is hopeless indeed.
Anarchy the negative state of no rule has been proposed as a further remedy, but men instinctively feel that even a bad rule is better than none at all. The danger of anarchism is, as Mazzini points out, that by concentrating merely upon individual desires, progress is abandoned to the arbitrary rule of an unregulated and aimless liberty.
Freedom is what all men desire, and paradoxical as it may seem, freedom is only found in obedience: in obedience to That “whose service is perfect freedom,” as the old prayer says. Not in obedience to man-made laws, as Socialists erroneously teach; nor in yielding to our own desires, as some anarchists vainly contend; but in Thearchy—the rule of God.
I am here confronted with the danger of being misunderstood by many, because the words “service of God” have been perverted and misused to such a horrible extent, and convey to so many minds nothing but the idea of performance of rituals and obedience to priests, all of which is rather the service of that mythical personage called the Devil.
If you ask me what I mean by God, I am inclined to reply that He is the supreme principle of the universe—the First Cause. If you ask me how I know, I should reply that I explain Him through the first principle of myself, viz. my soul, which is known to me. But to amplify all this would mean a lapse into metaphysics, which is not my intention.
It is more correct, perhaps, to say that I do not know. After all, we know no more what we mean by God than we know what we mean by electricity. “The true function of the statesman,” said a great but unpopular writer, “is to discover law, not to make laws.” This is the key to a Thearchical government the foundation upon which the Thearchical commune of the future will rest. The idea is not a new one. So far as we have any records, it originated with that great law-giver, not lawmaker, Moses; but it is a truth which must always have been known to the wise men of all ages.
It is to be noted that Moses never prefaced a command with “Do this because it is my will, or the State’s will, or the will of the majority,” but “Do this and ye shall live.” For this is the Law! Whose law? Literally nobody’s law. Thus saith the Lord God, the Law-maker whom the ancient Israelites did not define but called the “I Am.” If the use of the word is objected to because of its anthropological associations, then we can just as easily call it Nature’s Law.
The Thearchy of Moses was naturally not perfect. In the light of what modern revelation—modern science, if the word is used in its real sense—has to teach us, it can be very much improved upon. Nevertheless, it succeeded in making a remarkable nation for time, and a virile race seemingly for eternity, since no amount of oppression and persecution has succeeded in annihilating it. And the whole structure of that wonderful old government rested upon that simple foundation,” Thus saith Nature, Do this and ye shall live.” And a successor to that wonderful man Moses foretold what would happen when the Israelites forsook their Thearchical government and followed the example of the nations round them by instituting kingship. It was the beginning of the end so far as the nation was concerned, notwithstanding that the space between the beginning and the end was a wide one.
The system of Moses had its weakness and mistakes; it bore within itself the seeds of its own destruction. But then every human system must pass away and be replaced by others. They are not like the laws of the Medes and Persians.
God’s law does not change, but no one time or man can comprehend the whole of it. Jesus added to the revelation of Moses and corrected his mistakes. And adherence to His teaching would eventually have restored the temporal welfare as well as added to the spiritual greatness of the Israelites. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these temporal blessings shall be added unto you. He did not insinuate that the righteousness and rule of God related to a life apart from this, but that it is only by obedience here and now to God’s government—His Kingdom upon earth—that true welfare is attainable. The meek shall inherit the earth—not the tyrant nor the slave.
Moses discovered laws of Nature and taught them to the people. After that he made one big mistake: he instituted a system by which they were to be enforced by men upon one another. In reality, men cannot be forced by others to do God’s will. Force—punishment, which is simply man’s vengeance—may temporarily suppress the external manifestations of evil, as a suppressive ointment may drive in a rash, to work more deadly and subtle mischief. Men can be helped by others to see and do God’s will, but not compelled.
Jesus said, “I came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it.” He also said, “Salvation is of the Jews,” i.e. salvation is of those who worship the Unity. But he denied the punitive measures of the Jews by saying, “Resist not him that is evil, but overcome evil with good.” This was the addition that the Jews rejected and for which He was crucified.
It was not patriotism that made Jesus say that salvation is of the Jews, nor sentimentalism that evolved the rule to “do good to them that hate you.” It was science. Jesus was a scientific man among other things; he saw that Thearchy was the only form of government to make a happy and prosperous people. In addition he put his finger on the great mistake of Moses.
The essential difference between the Divine law, which Jesus enunciated, and the caricatures which men in their ignorance make of it, is that whereas with the latter men are brought into subjection to the laws, in the former case they put themselves into unison with the law.
We cannot escape law of some sort, and there will always be government of some kind. If a man were alone, so far as human beings are concerned, upon a desert island, he must even then govern himself if he would live. He must keep in check the forces of inertia which tempt him to laziness when he has no real need of rest; gluttony, which might tempt him to overfeed upon the luscious fruits he might find growing, with the possible consequences of illness or death; cruelty to animals, the remote result of which might be mutilation or death at their hands.
It is somehow inherent in man’s nature that he is constantly tempted to do things which at the time gratify some desire, but which in the long-run react to his disadvantage. There is a law of life which man must discover and obey if he would live. Just as there are laws of musical harmony which must be discovered and obeyed by one who desires to be a musician.
The solitary musician needs no one to beat time for him. But directly he would perform in harmony with others, a conductor is necessary.
The conductor beats time, and every performer, by taking his time from the same leader, is thus enabled to keep in harmony with his fellow-players. In addition, the conductor signals to each performer when to come in or drop out, and indicates also the appropriate intrusion of loud or soft tones, etc. Very often the conductor is teacher, and can play every instrument in the orchestra. He is, or should be, the wisest and most experienced musician of them all. He is the teacher, guide and leader of the rest. But let it be remembered that, however proficient a musician and wise a conductor a man may be, he cannot produce harmony out of the orchestra unless the laws of harmony are recognised by the individual players, and the love and knowledge of music inherent in their souls, or, rather, consciously proceeds from them, for it is inherent. Given this, and the conductor can be of service.
This does not include the slavery of the members of the orchestra to the conductor, or even blind and slavish obedience? By no means! Every member has a copy of the musical score; all are acquainted with laws of harmony. At a pinch each one of them could conduct more or less well. If the conductor does not conduct properly, does not render his part of the communal performance well, the orchestra will naturally choose another leader. The conductor is only chosen because of his efficiency, and only rules by virtue of his service. He is conductor not by heredity, but by divine right. He rules not by material but musical power.
The function of the true ruler is exactly analogous to that of the conductor. Rulers and leaders have a definite function and are necessary. There is just this difference, however, that whereas few orchestras will tolerate indifferent and bad conductors, the people do tolerate indifferent and bad, that is false, rulers.
Perhaps there is some good reason why they do, until such time as they are able to control themselves. Otherwise the oppressed would have risen long ago and murdered the masters and instituted what is called anarchy. But men seem to feel instinctively that anything is preferable to that. The instinct of law and order is as keen and strong as the instincts of self-preservation and reproduction, and serves and defeats its own end as effectually. In all ages men through ignorance and indifference have tolerated bad rulers rather than no rulers.
The real and rightful ruler, however, is he who discovers and teaches law which is eternal and not man-made. He is the server, not the enslaver, of men. He demands and takes nothing that is not voluntarily pressed upon him. If he appears to have privilege beyond the rest of men, it is accorded him in much the same spirit as many loving children voluntarily yield to a good mother the easiest chair or softest cushion. “It is for mother, because she works so hard and does so much for us.”
There are, then, natural spheres of leadership reciprocally occupied by men in accordance with their culture, and with which the State is impotent to interfere. Any man of superior wisdom compels the adherence of those others who are seeking it. Directly he presumes to conjecture what is good for them and attempts by artificial means to control them, he loses his wisdom, diminishes his natural power and steps into false relations.
Man has always and will always instinctively or intuitively yield to the influence of natural leaders, just as children yield cheerfully to the authority of wise parents. The State, as we understand it, abhors natural leaders, and when it cannot convert them into politicians, statesmen and tyrants, persecutes them, or, what is more common in these days, causes them to be unheeded.
Natural instincts seem inevitably to become perverted. Directly men begin to reason self wards and to find that a certain situation is attended with particular advantages or delights, they seek to attain to the situation, to assert a sovereignty apart from use or service. Disaster inevitably follows. Just as drunkenness, disease, and weakness follow upon the abuse of the food and sex instincts, so slavery and oppression follow upon the abuse of the ruling instinct.
If we would have harmony in social life, we must substitute the conductor’s baton for the policeman’s truncheon.
 Herbert Spencer.
 In a future book it is proposed to consider more fully the question of money.
 See “The Master Keys of the Science of Notation,” by Mary Everest Boole.