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, January-February 1927]

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 reforms.

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 put in.

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 proportional representation.

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.