In the last article we discovered that the real strength of Protection lay in the fact of unemployment, wherefrom anything that will “make work” is taken to be a blessing. Similarly the effects of machinery, and of labor-saving inventions, have frequently been looked at with dismay by those whom these things ought to benefit, because, as a matter of fact, the benefit did not often come. Trade is, indeed, a labor saving invention, and protective tariffs, in their effort to prevent or restrict trade, are analogous to any legislation which would put a restraint upon the use of labor saving machinery. Thus it has come to pass that many anti-social policies have had popular support, because the abolition of them, in themselves, would not bring any relief. For example, what is the use in driving away one robber if another still stronger be left to plunder? The driving away of the first robber merely leaves more for the second one to take.

“Labour may be likened to a man who, as he carries home his earnings, is waylaid by a series of robbers. One demands this much, and another that much; but last of all stands one who demands all that is left, save just enough to enable the victim to maintain life and come forth next day to work. So long as this last robber remains, what will it benefit such a man to drive off any or all of the other robbers?”

Now, the fact that “Labor” views with distrust may things which are in themselves beneficial to “Labor” - free trade, machinery, etc. - is pretty good evidence that there remains the greatest robber of all. And on this basis rests all the socialistic and Bolshevist propaganda, which is turning the world upside down. Get rid of this last great robber and many things will be simplified, for he is responsible for the social unrest that impresses one so forcibly at the present time.

What is the robber that takes everything that is left? It is private appropriation of the “unearned increment,” monopolization of the earth’s natural resources, private property in that which God has given to mankind as a whole. Labor can produce nothing without having something to apply itself to, and consequently no improvement or reform, however great, can benefit a class who have nothing but their labor, who are permitted to produce wealth by their labor only on the other man’s terms. There are many smaller robbers - monopoly of machinery and processes. Tariffs, corrupt governments, public debt, standing armies, war, etc.; but the annihilation of all these lesser robbers (great as many of them are) would but leave more for the greatest of all - private ownership of the earth’s natural resources. Give to one class of men the exclusive ownership of such natural resources - of the earth - and all others would live only by sufferance. And under such conditions the advantages of machinery, free trade, pure and economical government and peace would be appropriated by that class who possessed absolute power over the other class.

And this fact explains why it is that the laboring classes are indifferent to the lesser robbers: it makes no difference to them whether the robbers be many or few, it matters only how much of their earnings is left. And there are two classic methods of taking away people’s earnings: One is by chattel slavery, such as existed in the Southern States prior to 1860, and the other is by “wage slavery.” The one makes private property of man, the other of the earth; and in both cases the owners can take everything but a bare subsistence for the slaves. That they do not always take this much; that they are frequently kind and wise and generous, makes no difference; they possess a power over the lives of other which is inherently wrong, and no progress is possible until this fundamental wrong is righted. And this power is really greater through private property in land than through private property in human beings. For, as Mr. George says: “it would be foolish for an English duke or marquis to come over here and contract for ten thousand American babies, born, or to be born, in the expectation that when able to work he could get out of them a large return. For, by purchasing or fencing in a million acres of land that cannot run away and do not need to be fed, clothed or educated, he can, in 20 or 30 years, have ten thousand full-grown Americans, ready to give him half of all that their labor can produce on his land for the privilege of supporting themselves and their families out of the other half. This gives him more of the produce of labor than he could exact from so many chattel slaves. And, as time goes on and American citizens become more plentiful, the ownership of this land will enable him to get more of them to work for him and on lower terms. His speculation in land is as much a speculation in the growth of men as though he had bought children and contracted for children yet to be born. For, if infants ceased to be born and men to grow up in America, his land would be valueless. The profits on such an investment do not arise from the growth of land or increase in its capabilities, but from growth of population.”

It is thus seen that the power which ownership of valuable land gives is that of getting human service without giving any, a power of blackmail, of theft. Now it is important to note that while the value of such things as grain, cattle, houses and clothing tends to diminish with social growth, owing to the adoption of labor saving machinery, the value of the land tends to increase, because of the increased demand for it. And thus, under private property in natural resources, a continually increasing share of the products of labor goes to those who perform no social service themselves, but merely “own the land.” And this is the great robber who takes all that is left, whose exactions make futile all efforts in the direction of peace and progress. No fiscal policy that does not take this into consideration can be permanently beneficial.

By W.C. Good


Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture

follow us on twitter #cdnaghistory