What Proportional Representation Offers
For the Single Tax Movement
George H. Hallett, Jr.
[An address of George H. Hallett, Jr., Secretary
Proportional Representation League, at the Henry George Congress, 3
September 1926. Reprinted from Land and Freedom,
I am speaking this afternoon as a member of the Henry George
Foundation. There are many believers in proportional representation
who are not believers in Single Tax, but I personally am working for "P.
R." because of what it can do for this and other fundamental
We have listened to cheering evidence of the spread of Henry George's
ideals and heard many suggestions for spreading them more effectively
in the future. That brings us to the very practical question, How
shall we make those ideals take form in actual legislation? How shall
we get full representation for the Single Tax sentiment that has been
created, so that it may have its full weight whenever our lawmaking
bodies consider the raising of revenues?
Most of our lawmaking bodies are controlled by political machines.
Can we hope to persuade those machines to espouse our programme? If
our programme were less fundamental, perhaps we could. The machines
are on the lookout for ways to win the favor of even small groups, and
many an idea with less following than Single Tax they have enacted
into law. But Single Tax strikes at the root of the special privilege
whose political instruments they are. Whatever else they may
surrender, they will not surrender that.
We must beat the machines. How? Suppose first that we organize a new
party. Our difficulties begin with the plat form. If we confine it to
the Single Tax, we lose those who want a platform more inclusive. If
we make it more inclusive, we divide our ranks by the other things we
Suppose that we do get a platform on which all Single Taxers agree.
Still we cannot get all Single Taxers to vote for it. For many who
would favor the taking of the full rental value of land give their
first allegiance to one of the established parties, say the Democratic
or the Socialist. And many, many others think a vote for a new party
would be just thrown away.
You all remember the campaign of 1912, when the Progressives
overwhelmed the G. O. P. so that you had to look for its presidential
electors with a microscope. The Progressives didn't elect
Progressives, they elected Democrats, whom many of them wanted least
of all. A new party may have its educational value, but our prospects
of electing members by it are not bright.
Now suppose instead we try to capture one of the old parties, as the
farmers of North Dakota have done on occasion. Right away we lose the
support of the many Single Taxers who think so little of the party we
want to capture that they will not vote in its primary under any
circum stances. Also we lose the vast numbers who will not trouble to
vote in the primary at all enthusiasts are a minority in the camp of
any cause. But the machine turns out in force, for elections are their
means of getting a living. Again the prospect is not bright.
To beat the machine and make it stay beaten we must change the rules
of the game. We must find rules that will let us all start even. The
present "majority" system is anything but that. It gives all
the representation in each district to the one group that is largest,
whether it is a majority or not. Since there is nowhere any united
majority, the representation goes to the best organized minority. That
is pretty sure to be a machine which can add to the natural following
of its candidates a nucleus of votes purchased by jobs or the promise
of jobs. The divided and unorganized majority does not even put its
candidates in the field.
Since we cannot hope to get the true majority united, we must find
some means of representing it when it is not united. That means is
The best form of P. R., the one used in the Alberta election and also
in Cleveland and Cincinnati, not only gives fair representation to
each party but gives it also to the different elements within parties.
It selects to represent each party the particular individuals who are
most representative of the party's voters.
Now suppose this system were in effect for all our city councils and
state legislatures and for Congress. The task of making effective the
full strength of Single Tax sentiment, now almost hopelessly
difficult, would be easy. All kinds and degrees of Single Taxers would
get representation, without any necessity of concerted action. Single
Taxers within the Republican party and there are such, of course, for
party labels may mean anything nowadays would elect Single Tax
Republicans. Single Tax Democrats would elect Single Tax Democrats.
Single Tax independents and new party people would also elect their
fair share. And when a question of public revenue came up in the
legislative body they would all be there to influence the decision. If
a majority of the people were favorable to the ideals of Henry George,
a majority of the legislators would almost surely be also.
is for us Georgists to point to the real value of Free Trade both for
industry and its workers. But we must also show that Free Trade itself
is not enough to solve the problem; that the campaign for access to
land and against monopolies, which can gorge themselves also in Free
Trade countries, must be taken up with far more energy and
understanding than we have yet seen in ordinary Free Trade circles.