Natural Law

Henry H. Hardinge

[An address at the Henry George Congress, 11 September, 1928.
Reprinted from Land and Freedom, November-December, 1928]

American people are doing their level best to harmonize two things, that in the nature of things are wholly irreconcilable. A perfectly modern system of production and an ancient system of distribution.

The one is typical of the present and the future, the other belongs to the past. The one is characteristic of the democratic state, the other is the direct descendant of monarchy and aristocracy. The one is honest and square and the other is out of square, and the two things cannot be harmonized; they are irreconcilably hostile. The one is cast in the mold of equal rights, the other in the mold of privilege, and we must abandon one or the other. We cannot keep both.

The one is rapidly growing, evolving, changing; it is scientific, productive, modern, wonderful and gigantic, and its marvelous productiveness is the only thing that keeps the whole structure from collapsing right now.

Under the hood of the modern automobile, can be found one of the most remarkable contrivances that the resilient wit of man has ever developed to cater to both pleasure and profit. It is the internal combustion engine. In this device is involved every law of kinetics, every law of electro -chemical metallurgy, geologic metallurgy and metal working.

Every law of electricity is involved in the self starter and battery, every law of physics is in it, every principle, almost every force, and they are all the product of nature.

There is a law of inertia that the self starter overcomes. There is the law of momentum in the fly wheel. There is the law of induction, compression, explosion, and exhaustion in the four cycle principle, and every law, every force, and every bit of material in that wonderful device are contributed by nature, not one single, solitary thing under the hood is furnished by legislation or legislators.

What is true of the hydro-carbon engine, is true of all engines, and devices for the rapid production of wealth.

The whole arena of modern production is fashioned and based upon the same foundation; the laws, materials and forces of nature, and upon nothing else.

Indeed! modern science in its endless ramifications is based exactly upon the same thing, and a real scientist is distinguished by the fact that he bases his conclusions, his discoveries, and his whole life work upon exactly the same enduring foundation.

Now, does it stand to reason that fecund and generous nature, that has given us every law, every force, and every bit of raw material, out of which we fashion the modern industrial state, has suddenly become bankrupt on the subject of distribution? Not only is it not reasonable. IT IS NOT TRUE.

Our socialists and communist friends assume nature's bankruptcy in this matter; in fact you can run the whole gamut from Tory to Communist and you will not find a champion of liberty in the lot. The Tory, the paternalist, the protectionist, the trade unionist, the syndicalist, the socialist and the communist are drawn from the same stock. They have a common ancestor, and that ancestor is force, brute force.

It finds expression in the dictatorship of the proletariat, "The Class Struggle," "Collective Bargaining," and the Tory demands for armies, navies and policemen. Not one of the lot has any broad gauged understanding of, or confidence in the natural laws of freedom. It is the last thing, not the first thing, that your one hundred per cent. American thinks of, or believes in as a remedy for the multitudinous evils that beset our industrial society, and yet freedom is the only possible solution.

Every fungus-brained Tory in the world is against it. Shaw, the Fabian, laughs at it. Mussolini, the socialist, despises and flouts it. Every rattle-brained radical on earth today, has neither conception of it nor faith in it, because he lacks knowledge of it, and yet it is the only way.

Until Wilbur and Orville Wright mastered the principles of flying, they did not fly, because they could not.

That is why Langley's plane fell in the river. In flying he was not a scientist, he had not mastered the first principles. The Wright brothers had. That is why they flew successfully; they were real scientists and they proved it.

It is the same in political economy. Henry George was a real scientist. He based his findings on the natural law of rent The Ricardian Law that rent is the difference between the least and the most valuable land in use with the same amount of labor, and he demonstrated beyond contest that rent being as it is the automatic reflector of social benefits, it will also be the automatic absorber of social benefits, and if left in private hands as now, the few will get the benefits that ought to accrue to the many, and that under the Single Tax, "rent" would be the automatic distributor of social benefits, as it is now the absorber.

George proved that the benefits of invention, discovery and general social advance, increase the value of land and tend to decrease the value of everything else. He proved that the logical result of invention should be to cheapen goods, instead of raising rent.

He proved that rent is an exaction in private hands, not a contribution, and that the reverse should be the case, and he showed conclusively that the major values and organization are today reflected in the value of land, as distinguished from all other values, and that the only rational way to socialize the modern mechanism of production is to socialize the thing in which all modern methods are reflected, that is the high capitalized value of land.

Every imaginable expedient, every artifice, every possible device that selfish ingenuity can marshal will be resorted to by the beneficiaries of privilege to avoid substantial change in our system of distribution which automatically levies private taxes in colossal amounts upon the industrialists of this country. A system that charges about half of everything produced for the mere privilege of producing anything cannot be successfully defended.

A system where unemployment is chronic just as it is under aristocracies as in England, and where producing useful things and exchanging them is regarded as a privilege to be paid for and not as a right to be taken and held against all owners as it is in new countries that have not yet passed into the possession of speculators and monopolists. Civil government is now and always has been the agent of privilege and the destroyer of equal rights and it always will be as long as the present system of taxation obtains that levies its burdens upon labor-made values instead of law-made values. Heroic action must be preceded by heroic thinking; the outstanding characteristic of American life today is muddy thinking on all matters economic and has been from the beginning.

Our chairs of Political Economy in the great universities are for the most part filled with professional obscurantists like Seligman and Ely, and their understudies are little better than intellectual tightrope walkers, who are much more expert at balancing than they are in expounding the laws that govern the distribution of wealth in the modern state. Think of a system so devastating mentally and morally, that can compel and that does compel thousands of alleged teachers of the youth and maidens of this country, whose real office is to tell our boys and girls the truth about political economy who dare not do it, and who in order to make a living, and very often a mean living at that, are compelled to "crook the pregnant hinges of the knee that thrift may follow fawning," Can anything be more contemptible? This, too, in the face of demonstrable fact that the laws of distribution are as natural, as rhythmic, as harmonious, as beautiful and as wonderful as the blending colors of a sunset.

They are just as harmonious as the marvelous laws that govern production and infinitely more useful because we live in a world overstocked with goods on the one hand and charity-mongers on the other, and both out of balance, the one in economics and the other in mental equipment.

Any system that will bring the purchasing power of the worker up to par with the producing power will settle this question and nothing else can. Toryism will not do it; it is too stupid. Charity will not; it is too ignorant. Trade Unionism will not; it is too circumscribed and too self-centered.

Socialism and communism will not, not so much from lack of will but from sheer lack of ability; favoritism and colossal overhead charges alone prevent it to say nothing of their ignorance of economic principles and inability to distinguish between equality of opportunity and equality of income, which are antipodal principles.

Only one practical suggestion has ever been made looking to an intelligent and scientific solution of this problem and that is the one made by Henry George in 1879.

Almost half a century ago Henry George wrote the one outstanding classic that has been written upon the subject of political economy. He did for this science what Copernicus did for astronomy, and what Darwin did for biology. Three great outstanding heroic contributions to the intellectual and the material advance of the human race.

That book today rests upon the granite pedestal of truth, face up, open for the thinking world to scan. There it is, matchless in logic, beautiful in diction, perfect in illustration, unchallenged and unchallengeable, unanswered and unanswerable, an everlasting monument to the intellectual and moral integrity of the man who wrote it, and there it will remain forever.

In our opinion, to Hon. Anthony J. Griffin, member of the House of Representatives from New York City, goes the credit of having made in April last the best speech delivered in the House against the McNary-Haugen Bill. Mr. Griffin is one of the outstanding free traders in Congress and a friend of former register Edward Polak.