Future of the Georgist Movement
Sanford J. Benjamin
[A response to W.R.B. Willcox. Reprinted
from Land and Freedom, January-February 1941]
Mr. W.R.B. Willcox's article, "A Challenge to Pessimism," I
gather, was partially intended as a refutation of my article, "The
Price of Freedom." It is not. It is but an example of the
confused thinking one falls into when a distinction between "landowners"
on the one hand and the "power to collect economic rent" on
the other hand is attempted. Actually, the two terms are identical,
because whoever collects the economic rent is the landowner, whether
it be the community or an individual. Thus Georgeists are a body of
land reformers, are a minority fighting landlordism.
The gist of Mr. Willcox's argument, however, is to be found in the
following statements, after each of which I append my answer:
"Why do Georgeists antagonize, or want to fight
landlords? Will there not of necessity always be landlords to
administer the land to which they hold titles?"
If Mr. Willcox means by "fighting" the landlords, the
teaching of the philosophy of Henry George, then the answer is
self-evident. If he means physical force, my answer is this: I have no
objection to that course provided the people want to take it because
the landlords block peaceful reform. As to the landlords being
indispensable to the collection of rent, as agents of the community,
they certainly are not. True, George said they might be used in that
function but so might anybody else. As a matter of fact, landowners of
huge estates employ agents to administer their investments. Thus, to
argue, as Mr. Willcox does, that titles to land will pacify
landowners, is to say the exiled aristocracy of past monarchies revel
in their titles when the truth of the matter is they are hopeful of
regaining their confiscated lands, of which their titles are "legal"
"Georgeists should know that the
claim ... weak as it is, is far stronger than that of the public. He
usually can submit a title deed in legal evidence of ownership,
which in most instances is more than the public can do."
Mr. Willcox might be interested to know that the Constitution of the
State of New York vests the land in the people's ownership, which is
not a bad start from a legal point of view. However, for a Georgeist
to admit the legality of a perpetuated fraud which is all the legal
aspect of the situation is to acknowledge the right of private
property in land, for how else is landlordism justified?
"If force is to be the arbiter in this case,
Georgeists should know that the decision will go to the landowners,
who have all of the legal, educational, financial and military power
in their hands; and that to oppose this power means persecution and
Mr. Willcox, who claims to challenge the pessimists, should challenge
himself at this point, because if his statement is true we might just
as well tear up Progress and Poverty and deny that the people
desire to better their existence. Many influential colonists held Mr.
Willcox's view when debating the issue of independence or continued
subservience to England. The Tories who were the landowners opposed
independence, aided England in the struggle, and were deported to
Canada for their truculence their lands confiscated after the war. I
do not wish to imply that civil war is the only way to attain the
single tax society, but if that day should come if it will prove to be
the only efficacious manner of gaining our objective because the
landlords will have contrived a way to block peaceful reform it is
logical to believe the people will fight. In a sense, Mr. Willcox
answers the question himself when he says later on, "So
desperately do men want land that down through the ages, if not
otherwise to be had men have fought and still fight to possess the
land." Exactly. And I might add that men will continue to fight
until they realize that the single tax society is the only society in
which they will not have to fight in order to gain access to the land.
"Is it possible that ... Georgeists are becoming
merely another group such as socialists or communists blindly,
fanatically adhering to still another 'ism,' hypocritically
denouncing the evil doctrine of Karl Marx of the inevitability of a
class war between Labor and Capital, while ... propounding a
doctrine no less evil, the inevitability of a class war between
landlords and non-landlords...?"
Is it the method of achievement which interests Mr. Willcox, or the
validity of the Georgeist philosophy? Lastly I must take issue with
Mr. Willcox's implication that landlords are not at war with
non-landlords. Of course they are! If this were not so, what other
issues could be ascribed to the present war or any past war? (This is
not to justify Hitler's attempt to displace England as No. I land-
owner; his idea is displacement, not common property.) Why are there
depressions and poverty throughout the world if not for the wars the
landlords are constantly waging against the rest of mankind? Certainly
Georgeists are adhering "fanatically to still another "ism'-"