How Long, O Lord, How Long?
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, July-August
NOT long ago I attended a dinner at which were a score or more of the
pioneers in the movement to collect the economic rent of land for
public purposes and use and abolish all taxation. I doubt if any there
present were less than thirty years old in the movement, and most of
them dated back to or before Henry George's campaign for the office of
Mayor of New York in 1886, when I cast my first vote for George and
could not for my life have given an intelligent reason for doing so.
The after dinner talk developed into a free for all inquest into the
whys and wherefores of the movement's slow progress, progress that
seemed to some to be actually retrograde. The fact that no young
recruits were present was commented on, though there was an obvious
reason for this the dinner was given on short notice to one of the
pioneers who had been abroad for many years, whom the young recruits
do not know.
The enthusiasm of the crusades of the 80's and 90's was recalled
where was it now? The dispersion of the movement after strange gods
Clevelandism, Bryanism, Watsonism, etc., was dilated on regretfully as
having led us nowhither. Matters of policy were touched on is it a
great moral movement or merely a fiscal reform, Is it wise to try to
run a political party, or must we still confine our efforts to the
economic education of the people? Did our "howling dervish"
enthusiasm, the spiritual exaltation of which has been felt by us all,
get us anywhere, and would its revival, if this were possible, do any
good? Ways and methods of propaganda, form of argument to be addressed
to men of varying degrees of perception, letters to the press, soapbox
and other public speaking, private argument and appeal, all were
canvassed and no new method was discovered, yet the fact of our small
progress proved too stubborn to move.
Is it in ourselves, or in our stars, or in the public, that in nearly
half a century we have failed to "put across" the gospel of
Henry George which we know will set the world in the right direction
for the millenium of which prophets and seers have been telling us for
thousands of years?
Well, men are but children of a larger growth, after all. I can
recall the days when I simply could not stand being "called names"
or ridiculed. I'd "lick him" if I could and weep tears of
bitter mortification if I couldn't, and all the wise counsels of my
elders couldn't make me see the foolishness of it all. I had to
So with humanity. It hasn't grown up to mental maturity.
Psychologists assure us the average mentality is that of a normal boy
or girl of 14, and the extent to which mankind puts its happiness in
superficial and unimportant things the course of which they cannot
control seems proof that the psychologists are right. How many things
men want that aren't good for them! How many things they need that
they do not want! What ambitions they cherish which, when realized,
are mere apples of Sodom, vanity and vexation of spirit!
That they are immature children may be seen in the fact that they do
not even know how to go about the realization of their ambition for
wealth and ease, but insist on the erection of all manner of barriers
to their economic endeavors, from tariffs to prevent trade to private
"vested rights" in the table which God has spread for them.
They have invented money for the facilitation of bartering with one
another, trading the things they mutually desire, a means of
cooperation in economic endeavor that no Socialist has ever improved,
and proceeded to invest these poker chips with all the attributes of
wealth itself, reckoning and thinking of wealth only in terms of the
chips. What wonder that "economics" is a maze of
It was suggested that we concentrate our propaganda work on the
education of the young. There lies the way of hope. You may write on a
white sheet of paper what you will. To write a palimpsest you must
erase the old writing. The minds of the old are too filled with things
which are not so to make erasure and rewriting a success.