The Road To Freedom,
And What Lies Beyond


Josiah and Ethel Wedgwood

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



If the destruction of land monopoly did not carry with it the destruction of capitalism, it would be insufficient, and land reform would be preached in vain.

The evil of capitalism is so self-evident that no argument could override the instinct which tells us that there is something wrong in the society which authorises it. To the plain mind it is inconceivable that the amazing disproportions of wealth, with which we have grown familiar, can rest upon a just foundation.

This possession of great wealth and consequent power by some persons, contrasted with the poverty and dependence of others, is in itself shocking to humanity ; and at various times various arguments have been used to try and reconcile the conscience to such disparities.

The Customary Apologies of Riches.

The religions of the East and of the European Middle Ages placed Sanctity in Poverty. God looked more favourably upon the poor; and the rich were more likely to burn in hell-fire. Thus a rough balance was dressed between material and spiritual advantages.

With the growth of Protestantism and similar creeds, and the contemporaneous rise of a sober and intelligent manufacturing class, riches were explained as the reward of virtue -- the correlated idea being, that the rich man was the virtuous citizen and benefactor of society.

Modern social developments have, to some extent, dispelled this idea ; and most of us now are ready to admit, that reward and merit do not always -- nor indeed frequently - walk hand in hand. Very great wealth, although it may result from special diligence and skill, yet can only be created by them under those forced conditions, which enable a clever man to retain more of the produce of other people's labour than they would voluntarily give him in exchange for his special skill, if they had the ability to bargain freely.

This is so obvious, that such defence of our present capitalistic system as is nowadays made on the ground of individual freedom of competition, only rouses general suspicion of so-called Individualism; and social revolutionaries, however widely they differ, nearly all agree in concentrating their attack on the Capitalist.


By "Capital" is here meant wealth that is used to bring about the production of more wealth, and by " Capitalism," the amassing in certain hands of great wealth -- since all wealth has at present latent in it the power of becoming Capital.

The word "Capitalist" is used in the loose sense in which social revolutionaries use it, to mean a person who controls large masses of Capital. For the purposes of the argument it is needless to discuss exactly what kinds of wealth under what circumstances make a Capitalist.

Assaults on Capital.

While the ordinary semi-socialist legislature (Liberal or Conservative) is content to lop his crest by death-duties, increment- and income-taxes, the professed Socialist would like to abolish the Capitalist altogether, by in some way transferring all wealth produced by the people to a central trust. (Some, indeed, actually favour the concentration of capital in a very few hands for convenience of this future transference.) This socialistic method, of course, merely transfers the ownership of the serfs from private individuals to the State. In short, it destroys Capitalists but leaves Capitalism; and, while attempting to equalise wealth, perpetuates slavery.

In what the Evil of Capitalism consists.

For the distinctive evil of Capitalism lies not in the unequal distribution of riches, but in the power which it gives over an enslaved and bread-seeking population. The social sin of the Capitalist is not that he has more comforts than his neighbours, but that he is their taskmaster, and that he has become their taskmaster by niching the results of their labour under forced conditions of exchange.

The Real Enemy.

But cruel as it always is, and insolent as it often is in its ostentation, Capitalism needs no direct attack ; because it is not the primal cause of industrial slavery, but its result. We will not here discuss the question whether it is even possible to attack it directly with success. The Capitalist has hitherto drawn the fire of both Socialists and Anarchists, because he bulks large and showy, because his gold and fatness are obvious to the world. In truth, he is only the scarlet and brocaded porter who struts under the public eye. The real master is his employer, the little man in black, hidden away, whom the public ignore -- the landowner.

The wealthy man, who figures prominently in the Press or on the Stock Exchange, the Capitalist and so-called Employer of Labour, is not the first cause of the competition and attendant degradation of the people ; he only takes advantage of these evils. The causes of the evil may be quite poor men. One of them, for instance, may be an agricultural landlord, who from indolence, or to avoid high rating, or from want of capacity, keeps his paternal acres half used -- an unfruitful waste of field, copse and pleasure- ground, fenced round against a dwindling population. Or he may be a small speculator, who with his scrapings has bought a plot of urban land cheap, to hold as a good investment for his son against the time when it shall be sold at a famine price. It is not necessary to be rich to be a robber.

Diverse views as to the part played by Land Monopoly.

Hitherto, revolutionists against the present system have, for the most part, ignored the fundamental character of Land Monopoly ; they have regarded it, if not with indifference, yet as merely one of a long row of monopolies which must all in turn be smashed by strikes or controlled by legislation. They have tended to regard the preaching by Henry Georgeites of the " Single Tax " as a political red-herring, and treated the movement with great suspicion and some hostility, as a doctrine subtly formed to reinforce the capitalist, under the pretence of doing justice to the proletariat.

The Communal-Anarchists fear that the Land Reform crusade will draw off attention from the chief feature of their programme -- the communalisation of all produce and means of production. They look upon it as a game by the way, which will leave Capitalism, the enemy, untouched.

The Bureaucratic Socialists, again -- the I.L.P., Fabians, etc. - see that the result of the Single Tax would be to leave the individual free and render the State impotent. 2 And since their aim is to rule the community for the community's good, they oppose free land as hostile to land nationalisation and a barrier to their plans.

Indeed, so long as the ultimate results of the destruction of Land Monopoly are thus partially understood, there can appear to be only two methods of assailing the capitalists: either

  1. The State-Socialists' scheme of giving all rights over the soil and the control of its use into the hands of a central bureau (or sub-bureaux); and this, as was said before, involves complete chattel slavery for the whole population. Or

  2. The Communal -Anarchist plan of abolishing money (as facilitating accumulation) and pooling all produce of labour for common use; and

    (1) There is a hint of some such divergence in point of view in the Preamble to the Provisional Rules drawn up in 1864 by the first council of the "International." The English version (paragraph 2) runs: "The economical subjection of the man of labour to the monopoliser of the means of labour, that is, the sources of life, lies at the bottom of servitude in all its forms, of all social misery, mental degradation, and political dependence." The French version is simply: L'assujettissement du travailleur au capital est la source de toute servitude : politique, morale, et materielle." (The italics are mine.)

    (2) Or, perhaps they do not see it after all! this too would be an infringement of individual rights.

The end of Land Monopoly is the end of Capitalism.

But a deeper consideration of the relation of Capitalism to Land Monopoly shows that neither of these courses is necessary. It is only needful to restore to each and all of the population ready access to land, for them to escape from the dominion both of the Capitalist and of the State, and attain to complete personal and economic freedom, retaining each for himself the work of his own hands. Because -

If Land Monopoly ceased, the employers of labour would no longer be able to exploit their workers by keeping down wages and keeping up prices ; and therefore would be also unable to accumulate capital and give it that concentration which is a monopoly power.


The power of the Capitalists to exploit the community comes in three ways, and all three are due to Land Monopoly.

(1) From the actual possession of special land and the sources of wealth inherent in it, which enables them to forestall competition with themselves, and so to raise prices.

(2) From taking advantage of the overcrowding and undercutting in the labour market, which is due to the general restriction of the use of land, and which enables all employers to get cheap labour.

(3) From the monopoly power which capital acquires from mere mass, when it becomes concentrated -- a concentration rendered possible by the two preceding causes.

Power of Capitalists arising directly from possession of land.

In the first case, where the capitalist has obtained possession of sites and natural resources valuable to his industry, the monopoly profits which he makes are due to his ownership of such land -- although he need not actually work it -- and are a landlord's profits. In such cases the scarlet porter and the man in black are fused in one person, and the result is a landlord -capitalist, or pseudo-capitalist, owing his power to exploit directly to the ownership of a monopoly of natural resources.

Anyone who will glance down the Stock Exchange Share List will find that at least three-quarters of the companies there scheduled are this sort of pseudo- capitalist. They have got a "cinch." The modern tendency of business men seems to be to despise the now precarious profits that depend on special skill and personal industry, and to direct their efforts always to securing some partial monopoly. It is in this way that the biggest fortunes are made; and the more striking illustrations are what may be called he "Vertical Trusts."

It is common to find many firms, where great profits are made, owning, abroad or at home, those lands on which the material of their trade is raised, and having control of the routes and terminal sites whereby alone it can be brought to market. Thus, the two great English soap-producers are acquiring in rivalry the virgin palm-forests of West Africa and of the Islands of the Pacific. Chemical manufacturers own their own brine-fields. Beef-extract manufacturers control estancias in the Argentines. And so they are not only safe from the extortion of other landlords, but are able themselves to secure monopoly profits on their goods. Thus, too, the big Trusts in America and Cartels in Germany are apt to be "vertical" trusts -- i.e. to have a foot on the soil, and to own (or control) the raw material, and often also the means of transport. So the United States Steel Trust controls the easily worked ore deposits at the head of Lake Superior; so the Oil Trust controls, not only the oil-fields of half the world, but the pipe-lines of America. So the great newspapers control, not only their own paper-mills, but forests and water-power in Norway, Canada and Newfoundland to make the pulp. The German Finished Steel Cartel has worked back to the control of the Westphalian iron and coal fields; Armstrongs, Vickers, Palmers, etc., control their own iron-mines in Spain or elsewhere.


Owing to such grounding, these landlord-capitalists are more or less able to control the market for their special product; and the profits of their investment do not correspond to any normal rate of interest upon the capital actually invested in plant, etc., but are a monopoly rent extorted from the community. The capital has been "watered."

The "vertical" trust, or industry, is thus the particular landlord-capitalist's special creation for restricting production and raising prices, and thus exploiting the community. But the whole world of landlords is banded together to restrict employment and depress wages. It is true that, but for the original possession of more than average capital, the capitalist employer would neither have possessed the information nor the cash and credit to secure a monopoly of such natural resources. And this brings us to the second point.

Power of Capitalists arising from cheap labour due to restricted use of land.

Both large and small employers are able to exploit their workpeople by depressed wages. They are able to do this, thanks to the competition in the labour market caused by restrictions on the use of land and the natural sources of work. Whether the individual employer himself amasses capital in this way, or no, the result is to put the whole wage-earning class in a position of dependence on capitalists. They are dependent on the capitalists for the tools of even the simplest industry. Both causes -- this and the preceding -- act and react, multiplying the slightest advantage gained in any business transaction, and making each low vantage- ground a jumping-off place for a higher.

Why Labour is cheap.

An "employer," under the present system, finds it possible to hire men at a price below the full reward of their labour, because men are legally debarred from working for themselves on the only source of production, the land (whether as miners, potters, farmers, etc.), or from getting, except at a monopoly price, the raw material for any trade, and so are forced to sell themselves to some master, who is able to "give employment" -- that is, to sell a permit to work.

If, under existing circumstances, the employment offered were equal to the numbers of the landless population, if there were one job for every man, there would, be no undercutting in the price of labour from competition. Working men would then temporarily receive good wages from their employers. They would thus temporarily escape that middleman, the capitalist exploiter, but would fall directly into the clutches of the landowner, who, owing to the increased general prosperity, would promptly raise rents and royalties, thus reducing the workman ultimately to his first condition.

As it is, however, a great deal of land is actually held out of use, or in partial or unsuitable use, so that the opportunities of employment are much fewer than the numbers of those seeking it. In popular terms, there are at least three men after one job. The result is an undercutting in wages, and consequently the workman receives in payment only a very small proportion of the value of his labour.

The balance is divided between the permanent monopoly of the landlord (that is, the rents for sites and natural resources) and the temporary monopoly of the employer, of which the amount depends on the competition then prevailing in that trade. If competition in his trade is keen, the employer makes no monopoly profits, and works himself at a "management" wage, and -- under present conditions -- for whatever is the normal rate of interest on the capital he actually employs.

Thus, though the Land Monopoly enables an employer to get what is virtually serf-labour at an unduly low price, he himself only gets the benefit of low wages so long as competition does not spring up in the industry; for competition, besides lowering the price of his goods, immediately increases the demand for both land in that district and for the raw material of that industry ; so rents rise, and the landlord eventually sops up the advantages. It is therefore only under peculiar circumstances that the small employer is able to become a large capitalist and acquire any monopoly power, unless he contrives to make himself at least partially landlord of his own industry. The worker gets the least he can in any case. Capitalist and landlord divide the profits in varying proportion.

Power of Capitalists arising from concentration of capital.

As we have shown, then, capitalists hold a monopoly power : first, from direct ownership of land, the source of wealth and field of labour, when -- as pseudo-capitalists -- they draw profits identical with the monopoly rents drawn by landlords; secondly, from the restriction in the use of land which forces all workers to work at low wages. But as the peaks of Capitalism emerge, they begin to overshadow the lesser hills below them; and concentrated capital, so acquired through land monopoly, gains a peculiar monopoly power through its very size. The scale on which excessive wealth enables a financier to carry on his operations makes it possible for him to freeze out competitors. He has a controlling interest in the railways, the steamships, the newspapers, the parliaments; he can secure for his own industry special terms; he can have special sources of information in every corner of the globe. He can afford to bribe or overbid small budding concerns. He can afford to undercut less wealthy rivals at a temporary loss. He can -- as in the Tobacco Trust -- get control of the retail trade. He can advance his friends and ruin his enemies; and the consumers of his products cannot escape him. Moreover, in so far as the industries over which he has a monopoly control is a specially skilled one, he has a monopoly hold also over the skilled and specialised workers engaged in that trade, who are not fitted for employment elsewhere.

Effect on Capitalism of the destruction of Land Monopoly.

But suppose the land monopoly to be broken down, the power of acquiring exclusive control of certain kinds of sites and natural resources would be at an end.

All the artificial scarcity of opportunity due to the disuse or misuse of land must cease. Sites for industry would be obtainable at prices possible for persons in small circumstances, and the capitalist would find competitors in the field. As all land fell into full use, more enterprises would be started and more labour required, so that the undercutting of wages would be lessened and quite cease. Workmen would then demand, and be able to get, full pay -- a tendency seen now in countries where labour is scarce. Temporary and monopoly profits must vanish, since competition in industry, difficult now, would be easy then, when the raw materials were thrown open and their price sank.

It is true that the extra demand for capital to start new businesses would, at first, tend to raise or keep up the interest on borrowed capital. But labour, being no longer over-plentiful, would have the game in its own hands ; and the workers, no longer squeezed between the employer and the landlord, would become independent of the financier, as high wages enabled them to save and create in co-operation their own capital.

The effect of Free Marginal Land. Destruction of the "Iron Law" and fixing of a Full Wage Standard.

But also there would be another result -- in our opinion the most important of all: -- the absolute freeing of the worker from the necessity of wage labour. With the disappearance of land monopoly, there would be spare free land on the margin of cultivation, land that could be worked by the independent workman, paying neither rent nor rates, but secure in his occupation, instead of being, as at present, lost to use among the property of country landowners. Thus, anyone who found it impossible to get work from a master, or who was discontented with the conditions of his service, would be able, as an alternative, to employ himself directly on the land, producing for his own support. This land on the margin of cultivation would in effect form a reservoir for the overflow of the labour market, preventing undercutting, and fixing a standard by which the wages of hired workers would regulate themselves. Every improvement in labour-saving devices would then go -- not, as now, to increase the landlords' rents or add to the profits of the capitalists, but to lessen the amount of land having high site- value and raise the margin of cultivation. This would leave better land free, thus making the profits to be got by self -employment greater, and heightening the general level of wages. [Note: For a discussion of the whole subject of land on the margin of cultivation and of economic rent, see Chapter VIII.] If this be so, then the end of land monopoly is the end not only of capitalists, but also of capitalism -- not only of taskmasters, but of slavery and unjust inequality.

With the downfall of Land Monopoly, Riches will lose their purchasing power.

The above is by far the most important aspect of the question. But, as a corollary, it should be noted that, even if after the destruction of land monopoly a certain amount of capital still lingered on, amassed in private hands owing to inheritance or in some other manner, yet its purchasing power would be gone. Not only would the profits of capital fall (as shown), since monopoly profits could no longer be made out of depressed wages, and since capital would be in a greater number of hands, but also, it would no longer be able to command men nor to force them to exchange the produce of their labour.

One reason why a rich man can get a poor man to work for him is that £10 represents a different order of things to the rich man and to the workman whose work he wishes to get. To the rich man it means a superfluity of goods over and above his ordinary wants : if not used as capital, it would be translated into such things as books, motor tyres, greenhouses, pictures, trips abroad - in short, luxuries. To the working man, under stress of competition, the same sum represents bread, boots, house, bedding, doctors' fees -- necessaries.

This is the special quality of the rich man's wealth. He is exchanging articles of indifference for articles of great urgency under cover of the same coin. But if the land monopoly were broken, so that employment offered itself to all men, either independent labour on the margin, or certain work at a safe and high wage (a wage that would not be leveled continually by proportionately rising rent), then the coin would represent to the workman the same order of things that it represented to the rich man; and Dives in quest of labour would be bargaining superfluities against superfluities, not superfluities against necessities.

A man who can at will, by his own labour, be secure of liberty, house, food and fire, will not readily sell himself to another, even now, for the sake of a few extra comforts. He will be still less likely to do so, when there is no longer in society the rivalry and snobbishness induced by the perpetual spectacle of a wealthy and exclusive class.

The man whose income is £20,000, is a thousand times richer than he who has £20 a year, and a hundred times richer than he who has £200; but the latter, in bargaining power and independence, is past comparison more than ten times better off than he who has the £20 a year. The possessor of the £20,000 income can and will buy the man of £20 a year; but if he had £200,000 he could not buy the man of £200 a year. For a man can live free and comfortable on £200 a year; on £20 a year he cannot: he must get more somehow, even by selling himself.

Thus, even if a few wealthy persons for a while lingered on until their inherited possessions were consumed, their power to command and enslave as capitalists would be gone. To destroy capitalism, it is not necessary to introduce the plane and spirit- level, nor to abolish true private property (the work of a man's own hand or brain), nor to hinder exchange and stop accumulation by prohibiting any token of value, nor to make any fresh bonds and barriers at all, but merely to cease legalising and protecting the fundamental injustice of land monopoly.

Justice and Expediency.

It is because this fact is not clearly recognised, that social reformers are disposed in their despair to throw justice and individual freedom overboard, and try to right social misfortunes by laws of expediency. They seem to assume that the bulk of mankind if left to itself must go wrong, and that only the utmost ingenuity of repression, subvention and guidance can save the world from shipwreck; and they are urged on by sheer compassion for the sufferings of the submerged thousands.

But they might as well try to "put a bit in the jaws of the sea." Humanity is too big for their strait -- waistcoats, and needs nothing but to be rid of its irons in order to stretch its limbs and walk upright, alone.

How to attack land monopoly is the subject next to be considered.


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
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