Review of the Book
Imputed Rights: An Essay in Christian Social Theory
by Robert V. Andelson
[Published by the University of George Press, 1971.
Reviewed by in the Henry George News, November-December 1974]
Could freedom be "an end in itself?" No, cogently argues
Professor Robert V. Andelson in a thoroughly-reasoned, well-written
book on human rights. "Personal fulfillment requires that freedom
be directed toward an object that transcends the self," namely,
God. Without such direction, freedom has no meaning.
Does man, qua man, possess rights automatically, as argued by many
humanists? No, answers Andelson. However, "in spite of man's
total depravity he still possesses rights by virtue of the image of
God." Thus preaches Calvin, and Andelson accepts the thesis.
Furthermore, although "strictly speaking, only the elect may be
said to possess rights 'de jure' rights accrue 'de facto' also to the
non-elect. This is because there is no absolute objective human means
of determining who are elect and who are not. Hence, rights must be
attributed to all who accept their correlative obligations
Thus the title: "Imputed Rights." (Apart from God,
emphasizes the noted Russian philosopher Berdyaev, rights are
meaningless, and Andelson agrees, although he disputes Berdyaev's
claim that religious rights should be zealously safeguarded while "other
rights" could be encroached upon by the state.)
Is the Henry George philosophy obsolete? No, replies the author. "This
'simple and sovereign remedy' is not a dream. While it has nowhere
been applied in toto, it has had sufficient application to confound
the dire predictions of its adversaries and to vindicate the
commendations of its firends."
Is the United Nations, as it is envisioned by liberals, the answer to
the world's ills? No, declares Professor Andelson. "Only a
Hobbesian would be willing to exchange the anarchy of competing
national sovereignties for the leviathan of world sovereignty... Not
until the covenant is internally embraced can it become the basis of
an authentic world community..."
Are freedom and order antithetical? Again, no. It is a "false
analysis" to consider the two contradictory.
Does the end justify the means? There are times, indicates our
author, when "reciprocal freedom is an end which hallows any
means required for its defense --" although he urges (for each
circumstance where this may appear necessary) a "prayerful and
diligent contextual study and consideration."
The book itself, as was stated in the beginning of this review, is a
thoroughly -reasoned text. It is scholarly, serious, well-meaning,
timely, and extremely fascinating to students of political, economic,
and religious philosophies. Even though the reviewer disagrees with
several of the author's contentions, the book is a much-needed
Those who are familiar with the Georgist teachings are aware of
George's stress on the theory of human rights. How foreign it is to
the average college student (or teacher) who today accepts the thesis
that rights are privileges "conferred" upon the populace by
an all-powerful state!
It is Andelson's contention that the function of government is to
guarantee the right of self-expression. All other rights are dependent
upon such basic, primary, right. Andelson is emphatic in his
philosophy: "The only legitimate goal of any nation as a
political unit is that of insuring the reciprocal freedom of its
citizens to pursue goals of their own choosing." (Freedom is, of
course, necessary, according to the author, so that each person may
worship God and recognize the reciprocal freedoms of his
The Calvinist view, even though it is as pessimistic about man as is
the Lutheran view, does not stress blind obedience to the state but,
on the contrary, limits the power of the state. "And when the
expanding state, forgetful of its proper task of guaranteeing rights,
engulfs whole spheres of service it is extending the borders of the
Realm of Caesar at the expense of the territory of the Realm of
Spirit." ("For the use of coercion," says Andelson
elsewhere, "other than to guarantee rights, is an infringement
upon rights,..." Thus, drunkenness, gluttony, sex abuse,
perversion, and other moral violations are not, "in themselves,"
grounds for state interference.)
The second half of the book deals with the specific "rights"
(although, our author informs us, basically all rights are "one").
Such rights, all to be "protected" by the government, are
the rights to 1) physical integrity, 2) freedom of expression, 3)
freedom to pursue an occupation of one's choice (but not the "right
to work"), 4) ownership of labor products (but not private
ownership of land and natural resources. "They were not created
by human labor... And regardless of how innocently bought and sold,
how toilsomely acquired, or how ancient its pedigree, every existing
land title will be found to be spurious if traced to its origin.")
Government exists to protect individual rights, not to perpetuate
privilege, dispense welfare, cause wars, or regulate morals. This is
the theme of the second half of the book.
The reviewer recommends perusal of Professor Andelson's definitive
volume on human rights. No follower of Henry George should be
unacquainted with this additional advocacy of human dignity and the
rights of man. For to read Andelson's book is to appreciate George the