Your Work And Mine

Bolton Hall

[An address delivered at the sixth annual Henry George Congress, Baltimore, Maryland, 12 October, 1931. Reprinted from Land and Freedom, January-February, 1932]

WE have been divided divided between those who, headed by the London Land and Liberty, advocate the "step-by-step" method of restoring the land to the people, taking a penny in the pound at first, and those "one-steppers" who, with the Forum of Stockton, Calif., ask for the immediate collection of all rents of land apart from any improvements to be used for all public expenses.

We must not forget that the great obstacle to our immediate success is ignorance and indifference. Anyone who brings attention to the right of the use of the earth is helping both methods. Besides that, each person must work in his own method. If we could not do that, the most of us would not work at all.

We have been handicapped by putting the financial or tax side of our moral reform first. The masses do not even know what their taxes are, and do not realize that they pay almost all of the taxes.

For myself, I find a new inspiration in saying that the land belongs to the people morally, and even legally, and that we should take its rent instead of taxes. Everyone can understand that, and it raises no difficulties of what taxes are or who pays them. This is the simple presentation.

Production is simply the application of manual or mental labor to land and other natural resources. A house, for example, is merely land changed in form. The bricks are clay, the mortar is limestone, the cement is clay and silicate all burned with coal. The wood is trees, the metal is ore. All materials come out of the land, and if we check or stop the production of any of them or the exchange of any of them, building is checked. The same with machines and the materials that are worked up by machines.

Is not then waste land one of the greatest wastes whether it be the poorly worked farms, idle water power, or ten-thousand-dollar buildings on million-dollar sites?

Every year the necessity grows for more expenditure of tax money ; every year the State is compelled to assume new duties. Concomitantly with this there is a vast increase in the value of land, caused by the increase of population and of accessibility of the land. Every increase in the population, every road, every church and school in short, every advance, whether social, mechanical, educational, political, special or general, raises the value of some land.

But we now allow nearly all of this to be appropriated by private holders, and private with-holders, of the resources of the earth. At present, this causes speculation and results in the with-holding of much land from its best uses.

To cure this, there need be no disturbance of land tenures. It is necessary only to require each holder to pay fairly for the particular privilege he holds. Why not avail ourselves of the value created by the public for the public expenses?

Among our own people there is another obstacle to our success: the preposterous claim that we have made little progress in these fifty- two years! The reason that eyes are shut to the advances we have made is mainly that some of us see the Poverty, but unconsciously do not want to see the Progress. We have some method of our own to which we are attached, and at which we work devotedly, believing that ours is the only method, and that anyone who is not helping us at that is not helping at all.

Or we think accordingly that the other methods must have been without results. We think that the truth we have to publish is so evident that men have only to understand it in order to embrace it. Neither of those thoughts is correct. That was the tragedy of Jesus' life: that he saw so clearly that if men would only love one another, armies, kings, courts, crime, involuntary poverty, and all other evils that afflict mankind, would disappear. That the rulers knew this, too, was exactly why they crucified him.

To me, it is marvelous that we have gotten so far. Think: the agitation for equal rights for women began with Mary Wolstoncraft, and after all these years it is still to be won in most of our countries and is nowhere complete! ft was two hundred and fifty years ago that the agitation against chattel slavery began an abuse that affected only a few million people and we have not got it abolished yet! Even we Americans have it as peonage and as the enforced, unfair and unprofitable labor of convicts.

But the injustice that we attack now affects every man, woman and child. We attack the longest established and universal wrong in the world, for if slavery was the sum of all villainies the private appropriation of land rent is the undamental iniquity.

We are all of us a little blind to something, and it ill jecomes us to condemn our brothers who are blind to something else. One of the wisest things that Jesus said was 'Judge not that ye be not judged;" to which we might lave added, "for your judgment will probably be wrong."

Nevertheless, this despair keeps us from our best work we think our influence is so small that it is not worth while r or us to strive for the main object.

We must not blame men for their blindness. If they cnew better, they would do better; light may have been icld up to them, but they being blind did not see it. We ind our fathers, who have failed to educate them, are as much responsible for that as they are. Their eyes are not yet opened, or, at least, they are like babies who can not distinguish what they see. We can not be angry at one another for childish failings when we learn in our hearts that we are all children of one God. Well, we are all children in some respect. One is ignorant or unreasonable, another unsympathetic, but maybe the unreasonable one is loving and the cold one logical. Anyhow, each is doing the best he can as far as he has got, morally and intellectually.

The foundation principle of business, of political economy and of religion, is that we are of one flesh. Our interests are inextricably bound together, so closely that a killing of a kinglet of whom most of us had never even heard precipitated a war that affected our fortunes, our families and our lives. It must be so; no one does any good that is not for everyone, no one can do any evil that does not hurt mankind. We have heard that we are in the hands of God ; in truth we are the hands of God.

He who created the world made it that way ; made it so that it develops itself, or rather that we develop it; so that the Kingdom is really at hand to him whose eyes are open to see it; yes, so that the economic millennium will come even if we do not work, but it won't be our millennium when it comes.

As I went to Portsmouth Harbor I saw the Eddystone lighthouse, which has been an inspiration to me because of Jean Ingelow's beautiful ballad of Winstanley. Winstanley was a ship owner, and the poor drowned sailors who went on the submerged rock made his heart sore, so he resolved to build a lighthouse. Everyone laughed at the absurd idea of building where no foundation could be had. But Winstanley devoted his life and his money to that one thing; and year after year at each flood tide he followed in the beams he had laid at ebb tide. At last he got a foundation on the Eddystone Rock.

Winstanley set his foot on shore;
Said he, " My work is done
I hold it strong to last as long
As aught beneath the sun.

"But if it fall as fall it may,
Borne down in ruin and rout,
Another than I shall build it high
And brace the girders stout.

"A better than I shall build it high,
For now the way is plain,
And though I were dead," Winstanley said,
"The light shall shine again.

"But if it fall, then it were well
That I should with it fall,
Since for my part I have built my heart
In the courses of its wall."

Again, Olive Shreiner tells of the hunter who caught one glimpse of the bird of Truth and followed it over mountains. He scaled height after height, only to see other mountains beyond.

At last he came to a sheer wall of rock and climbed, painfully hewing the steps as he rose, with sweat and groans. At last, gasping for breath, he reached the top, only to find another height in front. But his last words are:

"Where I lie down worn out, others will stand young and fresh. By the steps that I have made they will rise; by the stairs that I have built they will mount. They will never know the name of the man that built them ; at the clumsy work they will laugh; when the stones roll they will curse me but they will mount by my steps; they will rise on my stairs; for no man liveth to himself and no man even so much as dieth to himself."