Liberation for the Race
Noah D. Alper
[Reprinted from the Henry George News,
WE HEAR a good deal about pre-Civil War slavery, but we seldom
discuss a pervasive continuing enslavement from which there seems to
be no escape. This slavery affects all races without discrimination
and has nothing to do with color or nationality. It has kept the
entire human race in economic chains.
Perhaps it could be said that the Caucasians had the best opportunity
to establish individual freedom from economic exploitation and they
failed to do so. Wherever they have been conquerors they have repeated
the historic pattern of exploitation and have added a few forms of
their own. They had for their heritage the teaching that "the
heaven is the Lord's
the profit of the earth is for all."
They should have given more thought to this ethical precept - the
penalty for their neglect is great.
Moses was keenly aware of the social problems arising from an unjust
land tenure system. He knew from experience the land policies of the
Pharaohs which still exist in Egypt but which have been largely
eliminated or greatly modified in modern Israel. The land reform which
Moses originated, known as the year of the Jubilee (return of land to
the former owners every 50 years), would not be suitable today.
Nevertheless the just spirit of the proposal should not have been
The free enterprise system demands the use of title to land. It also
demands the full responsibility of title holders to pay fairly for
what they enjoy from society, just as renters of office or factory
space are expected to pay for what they get. But we must remember that
whereas land is deemed to be the common heritage of all, under our
present high cost system, ownership is becoming ever more illusory.
It is unfortunate that when "experts" attempt land reform,
as in Japan, they revert to the ancient agrarian concept which ignores
the urban, industrial, financial and commercial aspects of
natural-resource-land where oil, minerals, water power and chemicals
are available. The answer lies not in redistribution of the land
itself but in its rental value. This can be shared even though the
land cannot be equitably divided.
In the free world where there have never been so many people calling
themselves economists, all of them should have probed Ricardo's law of
rent. Too many have failed to see how this law could be used as a
nearly perfect method of achieving economic justice. Simple as it is,
it points to the natural and equal (or equalized) right to all land in
common and, at the same time, it affords assurance of his rights to
each private title user.
A question arises as to whether other races would have acted more
ethically where the white man failed. Some races, the Indians for
example, have a history of non-exploitative land tenure, yet if their
production had evolved as the industrial economy has, even they might
have bowed to expediency.
As spokesmen for the black race crowd the scene, the criticism is
sometimes made that they have no positive proposal for betterment. It
may be their turn to struggle for an environment of freedom and for
conditions of outstanding justice which others have missed. For
themselves and for history they do well to take it as their principal
task to serve humanity by conducting an intensive scientific inquiry
such as Henry George initiated in Progress and Poverty.
If leaders of the emerging black race reached a firm conviction for
achieving equal rights and justice to land they might lead the way for
the entire human race to experience economic freedom. It would be
ironical, but a boon to mankind, if the Caucasian race was freed of
its repressive land tenure system and tax practices and of its own
economic enslavement by the descendants of a less privileged race. If
such an honor can come to anyone may it be the blacks who achieve it.
Today it is their turn to seek an enlightened land policy which has
been dismissed too lightly.