In Defense of the Philosophy of Individualism
Herbert S. Bigelow
[A radio address before The People's Lobby, 13 February 1737.
Land and Freedom, March-April 1937]
Our Problem is not to level down incomes and pass them around. Our
problem is to free men and let them produce their own incomes. May I
There are two opposing philosophies of statecraft. One is socialistic
the other individualistic. One makes in the direction of a managed and
regimented society the other seeks to limit government to essential
function and leaving our commercial and industrial life to automatic
action in a free and open field.
The socialistic philosophy now has the right of way. The philosophy
of freedom is becoming a cry in the wilderness. Most persons would say
that it is a lost cause. While despising the name, we are rapidly
going the way of Communism.
It is undeniable that modern life must submit to controls that were
not called for in a more primitive economy.
But much of our socialistic legislation is an attempt to correct
evils which might better correct themselves, if we could first uproot
monopoly privilege the weeds with which our garden has become choked.
It seems a folly of statecraft that we should be trying to impose
socialism on top of private monopoly. We should first destroy private
monopoly and see how many, or how few, ailments then are left for
which we need socialistic treatment. We have patent laws which foster
monopoly. Anybody and everybody should have the right to produce and
give the public the benefit of any patented commodity subject to the
condition of paying the patentee a reasonable royalty.
The private ownership of public utilities has developed into a
gigantic monopoly. Private monopoly should never be tolerated. We
cannot afford to leave natural monopolies in private hands.
There is no way of measuring the injury inflicted by patent monopoly.
Mr. Morris Cooke estimates that the light and power monopolies alone
are exacting from the public an excess toll of four hundred million
dollars a year.
Down at the bottom of all other monopolies is the monopoly privilege
that individuals have of appropriating to themselves ground rent.
Owning ground rent is like owning black slaves. It is an economic
fallacy which involves the power of some to appropriate the earnings
What is somebody's cabbage patch in one generation will be in another
generation a million-dollar lot in the center of a city. That ground
rent value is a community value. We let that value slip into private
pockets, although it is clearly a community product. And because our
communities do not take these ground rents, which in all reason and
right belong to them, they have to sup- port themselves by making tax
raids on private property. To shift taxation from tax-loaded
commodities to ground rents, would reduce by billions the cost of
things and it would open and free for use half of the American
continent which is still unused. Much of our trouble is due to the
misuse of this power of taxation.
We cry for slum clearance. But, if anybody does build a decent
habitation, he is penalized by taxes. If, instead of fining men with
annual taxes for the crime of building houses, we were to shift these
taxes on land values, we would not have to pay fifty thousand dollars
an acre in the very worst slum districts of Cincinnati for slum
clearance land. The more we tax the land, the less it will cost. Tax
down the price of land. That's good for everybody but a private
monopolist. Untax houses. That will make for slumless cities.