Can We Escape Communism?
Harry Gunnison Brown
[Reprinted from The Freeman, February, 1942]
What is the significance of the fact that we are now allied with
Soviet Russia? What if we win -- as we expect to do and are determined
to do? If we do win, there can be no doubt that our victory will have
been due largely to the military successes of the great Russian army.
Americans pretty generally realize this, and since we, like other
peoples, are affected in our thinking by our emotions, there is almost
certain to be an increasingly receptive attitude towards communistic
arguments. Who, therefore, can feel at all certain that in some
imminent future we shall not ourselves be far more regimented than
now, and much nearer to communism or socialism?
The arguments against socialism and communism of the garden variety
of apologist for capitalism are none too convincing. Such conservative
defenders of capitalism weaken their case by giving at least tacit,
and often truculent, support to all elements in the present economic
setup, good and bad alike.
Thus, they fail to distinguish income earned by productive labor from
income received by landowners for permitting men to work and live on
the earth in those locations where work is reasonably productive and
life relatively enjoyable. In particular, they fail to distinguish
between capital -- the buildings, orchards, vehicles and machinery of
industry, which can be brought into existence only by work and saving
-- and, on the other hand, sites and natural resources.
Defense of the capitalistic system commonly runs in terms of its
rewards to effort and efficiency. Those who produce most, those who
strive to acquire skill, those who by their thrift add to the
available amount of serviceable capital, those whose efficiency
enables them to offer the public the best goods at the lowest prices,
are rewarded; such is the contention.
But capitalism contains within it elements inconsistent with this
defense, and the most fundamental of these inconsistencies is the
private enjoyment of the royalties and rents of natural resources and
community-produced situation advantages.
Readers of The Freeman understand how, through a modification
of our system of taxation, this fundamental inconsistency of
capitalism can be removed and capitalism made to conform much more
nearly with the ideas on the basis of which it is defended. But about
this, apparently, few or none of its conservative defenders either
know or care.
What if the refusal of these defenders of capitalism to take any
interest in reforming it in those respects which are most imperative
for its proper operation should result in its being gradually
discredited among the masses? What if then the growing prestige of our
brave and presently successful Russian allies -- a prestige in which
the Russian economic system inevitably shares -- should really lead to
a progressive admiration and an eventual adoption of this system? Such
a denouement does not seem to be beyond the bounds of possibility.
Perhaps, indeed, only a growing general comprehension of Henry
George's philosophy of a free economic system and a free earth can
prevent it. Will our conservative "defenders" of capitalism
nevertheless continue their indifference or opposition to this
philosophy until capitalism has altogether vanished from among us and
a completely regimented economy has taken its place?