The Road To Freedom,
And What Lies Beyond


Josiah and Ethel Wedgwood

[Published in London by C.W. Daniel, Ltd., 1913]


"There is a slavery which locks up men's bodies; and there is a freedom which sets, indeed, men's bodies free, but locks up all that they need for subsistence."


(1) Individualism.

THERE stand before us, then, from which to choose, two half-finished social structures. There is the so-called Individualist edifice, which is supposed to be based on personal and economic liberty, but rests, in fact, upon forced competition, and is maintained by unfree labour. In practice it is the model for all business dealings, and is supported in theory by the Manchester School of economists.
It found a fancied reinforcement in the Darwinian science, which seemed to give a kind of moral sanction to the scramble of egoisms. Business men have liked to think that in relentlessly pursuing their own interests, they were obeying Nature's law of the survival of the fittest. But it is worthy of notice that the Manchester School had its vogue at just that time, when not only had pushful men unprecedented openings for success, but when the relations of employers to their employed were becoming wholesale and impersonal. A humane man can with difficulty bring himself to exact the last farthing's worth from the workman who lives at his door and boards at his table; but it is easy for him to persuade him- self that the competition, which causes his hundred factory hands to work at starvation wages, is all for the good of society. The Merchants of Venice had their deathbed repentances, but the American boss tramples his rivals complacently in the hope of evolution.
In social matters no one consistently adheres to this school of individualism -- except when it is necessary to find an excuse for refusing an alms or a subscription. Nearly all, by personal acts of mercy and weakness, seek to mitigate the severity of the business methods they profess to approve. The strongest advocates of "Get on, or get out" will invoke the State to neutralise the effects of their own policy by factory laws, or to keep alive those whom the processes of evolution have thrown on the scrap- heap. Without recognising the fundamental lack of freedom in this so-called free competition, people yet see that, as the world now is, a logical application of individualist doctrines involves intolerable cruelty above and suffering below ; and so, perceiving no other alternative, in desperation they seek refuge in State slavery.

(2) State Slavery.

State Slavery, by a system of communal exploitation, would prevent the exploitation of one individual by another; it would lessen the struggle for existence, and probably increase the physical comfort of the larger number of citizens. But to succeed in this, each individual must be subjected to the thorough and intimate control of the executive. This executive may be elected and democratic ; but, if it is to control the business affairs of an intricate community, it will require despotic powers and security of office; and if its officials are honest, zealous and intelligent, they cannot remain content with broad and superficial regulations, but must extend their disciplinary and preventive measures into the minutest details of public and private life.
Until quite recently, the nature of our experiments in social reform has not been clearly recognised. It has been masked by the fact that the leisured and influential are not affected by such legislation, and that those to whom it applies are too ignorant and too occupied to protest with effect. Hitherto, the superior classes have played with the poor as a child plays with its doll's-house. But nothing is doing so much to disturb popular submissiveness as recent practical experience of such officious beneficence. An opposing current has set in, and now the popular choice hovers undecided between these two types of society: Industrial Slavery, with so-called Individualism on the one hand, and, on the other, Chattel Slavery under the State.
Or rather, it would be more accurate to compare society in its present stage to an edifice of two styles blended -- a superstructure of new art upon an eighteenth-century basement.
Is there any third practicable alternative: any form of social life which is not merely a selection of evils, or a compromise between them?
Is it possible to find an individualism which does not lead to industrial slavery, and a communism which does not involve chattel slavery?
Is there no society possible in which true personal liberty and true economic liberty can be secure for every man alive, and in which there is neither temptation nor opportunity for greed and despotism?
To find an answer, it is necessary to consider the basis of slavery.

Force is the immediate basis of Chattel Slavery.
Chattel slavery, in its crudest form, depends on individual strength. Thus we find it practised of old by the trading pirates of the Mediterranean, by the Norsemen, and, to-day, by the caravans of Central Africa.
When states superseded temporary chieftains, and armies succeeded to banditti, slave-owning acquired the sanction of civil law and religious custom, and was protected by public opinion as a form of property, and had at its disposal the machinery of government. When superseded by industrial slavery, it partially disappeared, but is now re-emerging under a new form, in which individuals are no longer subject to individuals, but all become the property of the government, acting in the name of the corporate nation and backed by the police forces.
Anyone who doubts this, has only to recall some of the familiar phenomena of government that surround us, and consider, not their desirability, but their nature.
If a mediaeval baron, inspired by a passion for hygiene, had ordered the dirty children on his estate to be led to the bath, and, amidst a chorus of protesting parents, taught that cleanliness was next to godliness, we should quote the circumstance as an instance of serfdom in the Middle Ages. It is no less an instance of serfdom because the County Council does it in the name of something called the Community.
If Haroun al Raschid, desiring to purify the breed of the Followers of the Prophet, had seized and castrated all who showed signs of mental or physical decay, we should regard him as a despot ahead of his age. It will be no less despotism (though possibly behind the age) when it is done at the bidding of the Eugenics Society in the interests of something called the Race.
Chattel slavery still exists, and is now -- as it has always been -- supported by force, having at its back the practical, philosophic and religious reasoning predominant in the epoch and locality. And, whereas of old there was for the escaped slave a sanctuary, there is for the modern slave no escape and no refuge, for his chain has been lengthened to encircle the whole globe.
Monopoly is the immediate basis of Industrial Slavery.
With industrial slavery the case is different. It does not rest ostensibly upon force, and because the force which ultimately supports it is not in evidence, it is very commonly supposed to be a state of freedom. Those who have prospered under it usually see in their success the triumph of individual liberty and free competition ; and therefore those who have suffered by it attribute their misfortunes to overmuch individual freedom, and clamour for greater control and further checks to free enterprise.
In truth, the present industrial system is based on a forced and slavish competition brought about because a few persons own the means of livelihood of all; so that the majority are not only forced to sell themselves to a master in exchange for a living, but also, by their excessive numbers, are driven into a deadly undercutting of one another.
Thus we have a society which has the image of freedom, but it is the freedom of prisoners left at large within the walls of their dungeon. The movements and possibilities of men in the social conditions of to-day no more correspond to the actions of a really free society than the dynamic facts of a world which has air correspond to the results of calculations that neglect atmospheric friction.
Monopoly of the means of life is the immediate cause of industrial slavery, and this monopoly is recognised by custom and protected by the armed force of law. The same monopoly is also the indirect cause of State chattel slavery, since the nations are being driven to this as an alternative preferable to the horrors of the present industrial system.
All established systems have their advocates. All three successions of slavery -- individual chattel slavery, industrial slavery, and State chattel slavery -- have each in its turn been excused, even advocated, on excellent utilitarian grounds, and arguments of expediency and philanthropy are every day advanced for retaining, or adopting, some instance of one of them.
State chattel slavery and all other kinds will finally cease when public opinion ceases to furnish recruits to force -- perhaps a distant day.
But, to end industrial slavery, it is only necessary at any time to abolish the monopoly of the sources of life, and this could be done immediately. To do this, it is not necessary to introduce State slavery, but only that governments should respect the true property that is owned in justice, and cease to protect the false property which is held by privilege.

It becomes necessary, then, at this point to discuss the nature of a monopoly and what we understand by the expression, Land Monopoly.
What kind of exclusive possession constitutes a monopoly in the familiar sense.
The exclusive possession of any particular thing constitutes in the strictest sense a monopoly, since no two things can be identical. For purposes of use, however, identity is rarely of importance, and similarity is all that matters. So that, if sufficient other things can be obtained exactly similar to the one exclusively possessed, that particular thing is not commonly spoken or thought of as monopolised; since it is only when a monopoly causes inconvenience that it is regarded as being one.
For instance: the exclusive possession of King- Alfred's sword would possibly be spoken of as a monopoly, and permits to view would certainly be at a monopoly price.
But the exactly analogous possession of a particular penknife would not be regarded as a monopoly, because a supply, equal to the demand, of other similar penknives can be readily obtained. If other penknives were not obtainable, and I refused to lend mine, or charged a high rate of hire for it, then the penknife too would be called a monopoly, and its hire would be a monopoly price. Or if there were other penknives obtainable but not sufficient for all those who wanted them, then my possession would be approximate to a monopoly, and my penknife would fetch an inflated, if not a monopoly price.
But neither King Alfred's sword nor my pen- knife would be regarded as monopolies unless I withheld them from other people who wished to see or use them.

Monopoly is the power of withholding from use.
It appears, then, that the word "monopoly," as commonly used, implies the power to withhold from use either the whole of a class of things, or some of a class of things which are not numerous enough to satisfy the demand.
King Alfred's sword is a class by itself. It is unique. The exclusive possession of it is similar in character to the exclusive possession of all the present and possible penknives that could be obtained by those wanting them.

Time a factor of importance.
A very temporary monopoly, save under exceptional circumstances, is usually of small importance, because most things that are made by labour can be reproduced, given time; and then that class of things will cease to be a monopoly.
For instance, the exclusive possession by an enemy of all available bandages might be a monopoly of importance when a man was bleeding to death; but, except in matters of such urgency, it would be unimportant, because any required number more of bandages could be in short time made by other people.

Price a measure of monopoly.
If an article is sold or hired, the price it fetches is a test as to whether there is a monopoly (whole or partial) in it. The price of an article in which there is no monopoly is determined by the cost of reproduction. The price of a monopolised article is what the would-be purchaser, or hirer, will pay, rather than go without it.
For instance: under the usual free competition of makers and sellers, the price of a box of matches is, to all alike, about a farthing. But, in a street where there are no shops, the price paid to a solitary street hawker by a rich man wanting to light his pipe may be a penny or twopence; because the street vendor has a temporary monopoly.
Monopolised things, when not in the market, raise the price of similar things that are in the market.
Some monopolised things have no price, because the owner does not wish to sell them, or is not tempted by any price that a buyer will offer.
This is specially the case where a monopoliser of the thing or things has been put to no outlay in acquiring them, and has therefore nothing for which to recoup himself.
For instance : a man who has inherited a picture by Michael Angelo may very likely refuse to part with it for any sum. Whereas a picture-dealer, who has acquired another Michael Angelo on speculation, will sell it, but at what approaches a monopoly price, which will be lower or higher as there are more or fewer pictures by Michael Angelo in the market. Incidentally, therefore, the refusal of the hereditary owner to part with his picture will raise the price of all other pictures by the same master.
In like manner, the owner of a vacant plot in the centre of a city, by withholding it from use, enhances the price of the limited number of similarly situated plots all round.

Two conditions under which monopoly prices are created.
There are two sets of circumstances under which a monopoly price may be created for any class of things, both being dependent on the power to withhold from use.
(1) When the supply is equal to the demand, but one man or combination of men controls the whole supply.
If this sort of monopoly is to be permanent it must, of course, be in something which is by nature irreproducible from outside; or, if the things so monopolised are reproducible, then the monopoly must be patented by law so as to extend to all future things (or sources of the things) of that class. These legal monopolies are sometimes the only kind intended by the name.
(2) When the supply is not equal to the demand, and is in one or in many hands.
In both cases monopoly prices, or extremely inflated prices, are obtainable.
(1) Supply equals demand, but supply all in one set of hands.
An instance of the first would be the total control by one soapmaker, or combine of soapmakers, of all palm-oil forests. The amount of soap produced would continue to be equal to the demand, but each quality of soap would reach approximately the maximum price at which it could be sold, because the soapmakers would always have the power of withholding soap from the market. The combine would be forced to sell, because otherwise their capital expenditure would not be recouped; but the less their outlay compared to the monopoly price, and the longer their business would permit them to withhold supplies, the nearer the price would approximate to an absolute monopoly price.
(2) Supply less than demand, and in many hands.
The second case might be illustrated by supposing that twenty thousand people were assembled for many hours to witness a Coronation procession; and that it was known that only nineteen thousand chairs were available. The price that would be paid for the hire of these chairs would certainly not be the "natural" price (i.e. the normal return for the wear and tear of the chair, plus the labour of those who brought them to the route). They would let at prices measured only by the urgency of individuals to sit down and the length of their purses. It would be approximately the same whether one man owned them or one thousand men. The one thousand men would not need to combine. They would be sure of their monopoly price, because the supply fell short of the demand ; and the possession of those chairs would be tantamount to a monopoly, although in numerous hands. And if, after all, the demand turned out to be less than the supply, or the prices were found to be more than people would pay, then the prices would come down with a run on the last day; but they would come down to the same extent if the chairs were all in one man's hands instead of in a thousand.
Now if, on the other hand, there were known to be along the route twenty-five thousand chairs, instead of nineteen thousand, for the twenty thousand spectators, then the dealers in chairs, who wished to hire them out, would be reduced to letting them at a price which would only repay them for the wear of the chairs and their labour in bringing them. (In any case, of course, the better-placed chairs will command a better price than worse placed ones, under the same conditions.)
But suppose that some of the owners of these twenty-five thousand chairs, having had no trouble themselves in the matter, or being in no need of money, proceeded to occupy chairs themselves, and, for the sake of air and elbow-room, to spread themselves out and keep a large number of chairs all round them vacant, so that the number of the chairs for hire was again reduced to less than the number of the crowd demanding them. Then those people appropriating the chairs would be exerting the monopoly power of withholding, in an exactly similar way to the hereditary possessor of the famous Michael Angelo picture; and, like him, they would be raising the price of the rest of similar commodities to a monopoly pitch.

Land Monopoly.
The land monopoly is exactly parallel with the monopoly of these seats.
There is enough land to employ, at good remuneration, the whole population (whether in agriculture or industry), and to give independent occupation to such as desire it; but there is no possibility of increasing its extent from without.
Many of that minority, who exclusively possess the control of portions of the earth's surface, have not only occupied what will satisfy their own needs, but have also exercised their monopoly power of withholding from use, so as to keep other land vacant or half used . They have no necessary inducement or need to do otherwise; and that it is actually done, is shown by the fact that many country landlords get no more than 2 per cent, on the capital value of their land ; thus proving that ownership, without even normal return, is all they want.
In withholding these portions from use for privacy or pleasure, like the owners of the seats, they create a shortage in the remaining land, and cause an undue competition for it which results in monopoly rents to the owners.
This effect reacts on the cause; for monopoly rents, received by a landowner from one place, put him in a position to despise or neglect any advantage to be gained from using or selling his inferior sites, and encourage him to keep them unused.
Thus the monopoly appropriation of land first drives the population off some land; and then takes tribute of them in monopoly prices and rents, owing to the artificial shortage which this first appropriation creates.
The robbery which drives them away enslaves them. The robbery which taxes them in monopoly rents beggars them, and also confirms their slavery by making them unfit to seize such opportunity of freedom as might yet present itself.
Land Monopoly is the most unjust of monopolies, because monopoly in things created by labour is justifiable, but natural resources cannot be justly appropriated.
Of all monopolies, the Land Monopoly is the most unjust, and the most deadly in its effects on humanity.
There are some monopolies with which society cannot in justice interfere, however great the inconvenience it may suffer from them.
To anything made by labour, the makers alone have any claim, or those to whom they may transfer it under free conditions. Society cannot with justice take it away from them. If a man has invented, or has had voluntarily transferred to him by the inventor, a sovereign cure for cancer, of which no one but himself knows the secret, then it is hard to find any injustice, although there may be great inhumanity, in his keeping such a thing to himself, or hiring it out at a price unpayable by the mass of mankind. Or if Stephenson, having made the only steam-engine, had then refused to sell or use it, society could not rightly have sent policemen to take it from him, however badly trade might have been suffering from want of it. All society could justly have done, would have been to try and construct others in place of it.
Such things are not natural resources, but the product of labour, and are the rightful property of the producer.
But land, being a natural resource, like air, water, light, is the birthright of every creature. It belongs to everybody, and therefore belongs exclusively to nobody. Each individual has a right to a potential share of it for use ; and none has a right to exclude other individuals from their share, nor to arrogate to himself any benefits arising from the possession of any specially advantageous portion of it.

Land Monopoly the most pernicious of monopolies.
Besides being the most unjust, land monopoly is also the most pernicious of monopolies. Things created by labour, being subsequent to human life, are not generally essential to it. But land is, like other natural resources, a prior condition of human existence and an absolute necessity for the exercise of all human faculties ; so that whoever controls land, controls through it the life and labour of his fellowmen.

Subsidiary monopolies.
It is possible that, besides this appropriation by individuals of natural resources, there are other monopolies which help to maintain industrial slavery, but, on examination, it appears that these monopolies are subsidiary to the main one, and either are tyrannical because they include ownership of certain natural resources, or would lose their power of exploitation if the monopoly of natural resources ceased. Such is that kind of quasi-monopoly which is created when some individuals, owing to the primary monopoly of land, succeed in amassing the wealth produced by others -- a subject which will be discussed in the next chapter.
Industrial slavery, then, would be destroyed by doing away with the unjust monopoly that is its primary cause -- exclusive landownership.
With free access to land, there would be no necessity to make masters, and less temptation to make slaves.
It is obvious that if the power to withhold land be withdrawn from individuals, and free access to land restored to the whole population, any necessity for industrial slavery ceases. With sufficient free land available for use, no men need perforce work for masters, but could at will support themselves, singly or co-operatively, either directly by the food they produce, or by whatever trade the soil and site make most remunerative, whether by horticulture, mining, pot-throwing, brickmaking, or any other occupation.
On the other hand, there would be less temptation for men to enslave each other by laws, for the sake of peace and order: First, because the interaction of individuals on each other would be less incessant, irritating and intolerable; there would be, in short, more room, physically, mentally and morally; and so less urgency for repressive legislation. For instance, with less wealth and less poverty, less idleness above and below, there would be less crime, less envied property to protect, and less need to protect it, less call for prisons, police, madhouses and armies. Second, with better conditions of housing, work and general circumstances of life, there would be less temptation to, and less excuse for, charitable legislation of the social-reform type, with its administrative train of hospitals, medical inspectors, C.O.S. secretaries, and compulsory schools.
Indeed, reflection will show that land monopoly is by itself capable of causing the most significant of our modern social and industrial phenomena; and that it is sufficient to account for the sullen crowds of trades unionists, police and blacklegs on the London wharves and jetties to-day, as well as for the guns that are shaking the city in proclamation of a royal birthday.

* Economists call this the "natural" price. Such an expression is misleading. For the cost of reproduction depends on the standard pay of the producer and on the rate of interest, which are all, at the present time, most "unnaturally" affected by land monopoly.


Chapter I
Where The Road Leads
Chapter II
On Free and Forced Exchange
Chapter III
On Social Reform
Chapter IV
The Strengthening of Government
Chapter V
The Roots of Slavery
Chapter VI
On Land and Capital
Chapter VII
Various Theories About Land Reform
Chapter VIII
Marginal Land and Economic Rent
Chapter IX
The Single Tax as a Method of Destroying Land Monopoly
Chapter X
The Next Revolution
Chapter XI
The Steps of the Change
Chapter XII
What It Would Mean
Chapter XIII
What Lies Beyond
* *