Where Do Jobs Come From?

Henry H. Hardinge

[Reprinted from Land & Liberty, September 1939]

IMAGINE IF you can a national convention of sausage makers and dealers in which a delegate arises in his place and says, " Mr Chairman: I am a delegate to this convention. I buy and sell sausage. I also like them. I eat them for breakfast, but there is one thing I have never been able to discover, and that is, where do sausages come from? That is a profound mystery, and I have never been able to solve it." What would the delegates do to that fellow ? They would all laugh at him and the chairman would rule him out of order, and he certainly would be especially funny in his upper balcony.

Now here is a parallel case. In the United States, we, as a nation, have been discussing for nearly four years the question of work and workless men, and in all of that time not a man whose name is known to the nation has had the native wit to ask a few simple, childlike questions about this matter about which so much printer's ink has been spilled. Yet it is perfectly obvious to us that the very first question that an intelligent and thoughtful people should ask is this. What is work? Why does anyone want work? Where do they get work from in the first place?

Who gave the Indians work before we arrived? Who gave work to the early colonists ? How did they obtain employment?

These are simple questions and susceptible of simple answers. Does not our food, our clothing, our shelter, all of our supplies come from the same source as did the early settlers? How does it happen that we have suddenly run out of work, and are now making the most heroic yet futile efforts to create work by law, by borrowing money, by running into debt in unthinkable billions when as a matter of fact work should be as plentiful as wants, since all work comes from wants. If people did not want things they would certainly not want work. How does it happen that there is this vast disparity between work and wants, since all work originates in wants. These are searching questions, and yet they have not been raised by the gentlemen who essay the role of leaders in this country. No consecrated absurdity would long have survived in this world if the man had not suppressed the eager questions of the child.

These questions should be on the lips of every voter in this country, but so badly warped and twisted is the thinking of the average citizen that he finds himself in a perfect maze of contradictions and impossible absurdities, and the brain trust of Washington simply adds to the babel of confusion.

If our schools were one half as efficient as we like to believe they are, there is not a boy or girl of twelve who should not be able to answer these simple questions fight off the bat, but also, even our muddled statesmen lack the necessary gumption to either ask or answer these simple questions. They are exactly on a par in their intellectual equipment with the puzzled delegate to the sausage makers' convention.

Everyone knows that it takes work to make sausage. They also know that if no one ate sausage there would be no work for sausage makers. This goes also for everything else that the human race eats, uses or wears. It goes for every cigarette that is smoked and turned from tobacco and paper to ashes. It goes for everything that is turned from cotton field to rag bag, from orchard to apple pie and iron ore to locomotives. It goes for everything that makes life livable, women lovable, and children adorable. It all comes from the same source, from land. I feel sometimes like screaming it at you, it is so obviously, urgently, insistently and undeniably a land question. The ignorant hypothetical sausage dealer is in no worse condition mentally than are tens of millions of American citizens who, with votes in their hands and possessed of political power are as helpless as a lot of voteless helots in the Middle Ages, because they are reared under an economic system they are afraid to discuss or even to examine. It is the most appalling, intriguing, exasperating and wholly disturbing situation that the human race has ever faced. It requires just two qualities to settle the question now before the house. One is moral courage, the other is a modest sum of intelligence unclouded by prejudice and tradition. This sounds simple, and it yet remains to be proven whether the American people possess either of these qualities in sufficient amounts to solve the problems which to-day confront them. Time alone will tell.

There is no indication as yet that the leaders of American public opinion possess the discernment and the courage to raise and to discuss in thinking terms the land question, which contains not only the basic elements of ships and soap and sealing wax, cabbages and kings, but it will be found on close inspection that little farm sausages come from land just as does corn whiskey, sauerkraut, and ink, and especially the printer's ink which is so cleverly used all over this broad land to camouflage the land question. There is not a silly experiment with money now being tried out in Washington to secure a better and fairer distribution of wealth which has not been tried over and over again ever since money was invented and with exactly the same result, either a stalemate or a disaster. Saucepan thinking never yet solved a major problem in economics and it never will. In the whole history of the American people they have got away from and ran away from their economic problems by going west across the vast and unmonopolized acres of a new and undeveloped continent, and they have now reached the Pacific Ocean, but they have not reached a Pacific land. On the contrary, they are now on the edge of more turmoil than this country has known, since the Civil War, and we have the biggest job of constructive thinking just ahead of us that we have ever faced. To help us out on this ambitious job, we have the finest assortment of imported European superstitions to light our path that ever discredited, distracted and bedevilled a nation and the "trained seals " of the Universities merely add squeals and roars to the general clamor which assail the cardrums of every man whose tympanums are in working order and who knows the difference between a charlatan and a scientist or between a professional obscurantist and a philosopher like Henry George.