Land and Liberty!
by Alfonso RomeroSocial justice requires economic justice. The science of political economy contains the knowledge of how that ideal will be realized. The most significant axiom yet proposed within that study has been Ricardo’s Law: "The rent of land is determined by the excess of its produce over that which the same application can secure from the least productive land in use." Understanding this economic and moral principle, Henry George was able to conceive a method for the fair distribution of the wealth. The particular laws he asserted regarding wages, interest on capital, and the single tax on rent have arisen from the law of rent.
To convert into reality such a radical change should be our battle. When a principle is not followed fairly, it is due to selfish and conspiratorial interests which seek to prevent the free development of a natural action. The first opposition to the total compliance with this law began with the so-called "single tax," which has done and is still doing much harm to the progress of the Georgist movement. That proposal does not consider the real cause of poverty nor the profundity of social injustice which proceeds from the possession of land for the hidden purpose of disallowing workers to freely access land. This is how workers are held captive, with miserable pay and conditions, by vested interests owning farms, factories, industries, etc. If labor were free to move toward the land, oh! Capitalists would be forced to compete for workers rather than the other way around.
The "single tax" proposes the confiscation of a determined percentage of "land value." This does not respect the law of rent. It would leave what is necessary to go on maintaining the amoral institution of private property in land. Also, to merely decrease speculation in land would be a convenient action for vested interests, for they would, then, be freer to move, while leaving labor in the same condition as now, still unable to access land, the natural right of all workers. This is the essence of the stratagem of the "single tax." It is an aberration from George's original proposal and should be stopped; it has the seed of corruption. The true goal, faithful to the principles previously mentioned, would be full recovery, by society, of economic rent.
Unfortunately, due not only to the corruption of political economy and the distortion of the doctrine of George which has taken place, but since, now, the whole of land has been monopolized under the control of vested interests, it will require an even greater effort to bring about the ideal of social justice. Since all land is now appropriated, even recovery of the whole rental value of land will not sufficiently establish social justice.
The intention founded in land retention is not only to obtain speculative gains but to prohibit labor's access to land, the purpose being to continue the sophisticated system of modern slavery we currently endure. So, to prevail, we must add this new challenge, an energetic and definitive remedy: the abolition of private property in land. This does not mean State ownership of land. This is essential in order to free the land of those parasitic and enslaving interests which currently appropriate it. Only in this way can workers be, finally, free.
Until this has been achieved, we must go on fighting. Our fight, however, must assume a more organized form, in order to have an influence over the masses of people and create a direct mass action, because if the struggle is between labor and privileges of monopolies, obviously it's the State which is the foundation of evil and only by this direct action of masses could be ejected such alien organism, the State, the historical creator of these privileges.
We must set aside all the economic byzantinism and focus on fundamental questions. The ethical side is the real side; the other, the endless technical economic debate is obfuscation and diversion. The concealed service of vested interests permeates our organizations with intentions to cloud the right path, to divide us and to manipulate our fates. I feel that the whole thing needs to be reconsidered.
Alfonso Romero is a thinker and long-time reader of The Progress Report.
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