Norman Thomas on Land Reform
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Norman Thomas on Land Reform
Top Socialist Admitted Need for Henry George’s Reform
Norman Thomas is the man who ran national campaigns for President more times than anyone else. Thomas also did more to popularize socialist ideas in the USA than anyone else. Although The Progress Report opposes socialism, we find many of Thomas’ views to be worth note. Here is an excerpt from his 1951 book, A Socialist’s Faith.
I am less puzzled by British socialist difficulties with wage problems than by Labour s neglect in promise and performance of that nationalization of land long dear to the heart of British socialists. For a good many years, British socialists and laborites were inclined to accept the Henry George principle of the expropriation of the rental value of land by a tax as the primary element in asserting social claim to land. But almost nothing has been heard of it under the Labour government.
Yet from all sorts of angles the land problem is pressing in Britain. For centuries it was preeminently true in that country, as Lloyd George used to say, that to prove one s legal title to land one must trace it back to the man who stole it. Highhanded land enclosures in the eighteenth century were a major factor in driving landless men into the factories. Land ownership is still highly concentrated.
At the same time in that crowded island land is scarce and precious. It is needed for conflicting purposes. Much good agricultural land must be sacrificed to the growth of urban areas and the desire of the people for well-ordered suburbs. More is necessary to supply parks and recreation for a growing population. At the same time, an increase of the domestic supply of food is vital. These problems are interrelated yet the tendency has been to treat agriculture and town and country planning as separate matters.
In both fields something good has been done. The theory and practice of town and country planning are far more advanced than in the United States, and theoretically at least the government has asserted the right of the nation to the unearned increment arising from the future development of land.
In agriculture much power was given to the Minister of Agriculture in the interests of a program of stability and efficiency. All parties in Britain have agreed to controls to achieve these ends which have been bitterly and often unfairly attacked by American critics in the name of free enterprise. There has been genuine improvement in agricultural production, despite some irritation at bureaucratic control. There has not been the correlation one would expect between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. By and large a final socialist answer to Britain s land problem is yet to be found.
On this complicated subject I refer readers to Robert Brady: Crisis in Britain, Plans and Achievements of the Labour Government (University of California), a mine of information apparently fairly presented; I do not, however, wholly agree with the author’s standards of judgment or his application of them.
Is Mr. Thomas clear, or muddled? What is the main point? Tell The Progress Report!