The Road To Freedom,
And What Lies Beyond


Josiah and Ethel Wedgwood

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


By what steps would this change in civilisation probably take place, if the land monopoly were done away with in the manner suggested -- that is, if superior land became available at its true economic rent (far below the present monopoly rents), and if land which had no economic rent were free to everyone to use with security in improvements and without taxation?

Independent agriculturists.

At first probably but few workers -- and fewer still of the chronic unemployed -- would avail themselves of the opportunity to use this rentless land as agriculturists. Long habit and all the circumstances of their education have rendered them shy of a lonely life and isolated effort. The unsuccessful and the wastrels are, as a rule, demoralised by their own failure, and are the least fitted of all to be thrown on their own resources, and the least likely to make a bold and successful bid for independence. In addition, the town-dweller is usually very gregarious, fond of conversation and amusement, nervous and -- when not acting under excitement -- downright timorous. The conditions of his work have made work itself distasteful to him. The want of natural, varied occupations has given him a taste for artificial pleasures -- just as a badly nourished child rejects bread and craves for sweets. Such a type has lost much of its original manhood and usually makes a poor colonist - either at home or abroad. It must be added, that the Municipal Councils and the various departments of State (including the compulsory elementary school) have done what they could to render him incapable of walking alone.

These characteristics, however, have been acquired, and would probably disappear again rapidly under different conditions. Even now among such men there are many who have preserved a latent independence and resourcefulness, which asserts itself directly there is an opening. And every piece of colonisation that is effectively carried out would make it easier and more attractive to new-comers.

Among the best of the workers there are already plenty who would directly choose an independent life -- even though a hard one -- rather than continue in comparatively comfortable servitude. It is such men - capable, courageous and already fairly successful -- who would be perhaps the earliest to avail themselves of free land, leaving their old position as wage-earners to be filled up from the ranks of the less competent unemployed.

In addition to such people, whose colonisation of their mother country would usually be a permanent success, there would be all manner of temporary squatters on still poorer unoccupied land, ex- "casuals" of the workhouse, hoping for odd jobs on the new road -making, hedging and draining and building which the fresh country population were undertaking; men in temporary difficulties "hanging on" till things came right. Consider what it would have meant to the miners, the railwaymen, and, above all, the dockers of the last two years' strikes had they been able to secure land where they and their families could have had temporary shelter and carried on a little rough gardening until terms were arrived at; and consider the difference it would have made in the nature of those terms.

Co-operative and Syndical Use of Land.

But though free conditions can only be ensured when each and every individual has the possibility of himself living in independence, yet it is not necessary for the attainment of social freedom that a large number -- nor even any particular person -- should actually lead this life of ultra-individualism. Its very possibility is enough to secure social liberty.

In fact, where the new conditions would first manifest themselves, would probably be in the new possibilities afforded to syndical unions and co-operative associations -- meaning by the former, associations for production in a particular industry, and by the latter, associations in which the members combine to produce not for the outside world, but for their own consumption, and aim at being generally self-supplying.

The destruction of monopoly rents, and the facilities for getting cheap land, combined with the general rise in wages, would make it at once possible for groups of men, clubbing their capital, to acquire direct use of the material for any primary trade; or to form communities for mutual support. Free from interference and able to keep the full proceeds of their work, the only payment demanded from them by the rest of the population would be the site- values -- or economic rent -- of the land they used.

This would secure the object of syndicalism, whilst obviating the risk of the principal syndicates becoming in their turn "holders-up" and blackmailers of the rest of the community. The syndicalists propose to meet this very obvious danger by some kind of conference between delegates of world-wide unions in order to settle questions of output and exchange according to the common interests -- a scheme which, it is easy to see, is nothing but the re-introduction of parliamentary control on a trades basis. But the simple provision for the payment of the site-value of the land worked would prevent the syndicate, as it would prevent private employers, from withholding their raw material from use, or acquiring any monopoly power from their possession of valuable sites and minerals.

Free land combined with a single tax on site-value would be the opportunity of both syndicalist and co-operator. Such associations would, however, lose their closely organised and militant character (which, moreover, would be no longer needed), since it would be possible for their individual members to escape from them on the first signs of tyranny -- just as they escaped from the capitalists -- by becoming individual workers.

It is possible that such associations as trades unions and co-operative societies might very rapidly split up, after they had taken the first step in assisting the workers to independence. For these organisations owe their existence more to the need for mutual defence against outside oppression, than to any natural desire for association, or recognition of the advantages to be got from subdivision of labour.

The history of co-operative societies and trades unions, and all similar semi -compulsory groupings, shows that they start well and with elevated motives, but that internal dissensions arise immediately to weaken and disintegrate them, despite the uniting pressure from without. Such strength and unity as they do possess, is drawn from those evil conditions, which crowd men together in towns and factories in such a way, that only organisations of a militant nature can survive.

The direction of "Progress".

It is commonly objected that "progress" is all in the direction of still greater social complexity, closer co-operation, more subdivision of labour, more massing of men to perform works of communal utility; and every suggestion of the possibility of a return to more individual methods is derided as an attempt to set back the clock.

Probably under the present system of monopoly and enforced labour-competition, the tendency may be towards even greater centralisation. But accidents occur in history to falsify the most acute predictions; and such an accident would be the freeing of the population by the freeing of land -- a change in the factors of the problem which would give quite a new direction to the line of "progress."

In any case, historically viewed, progress has not been steadily from individualism towards combination. The primitive races have not been the most individualistic. Amongst savage tribes of hunters, or semi-civilised nomads, the need of mutual defence and lack of the tools of independence keeps the members of a community strictly united, and subordinates all individual rights to tribal necessities. It is the early communities who are State socialists.

We have no experience of social liberty, and therefore cannot exactly predict how it may affect "tendencies." What is certain is, that under such a society true mutual assistance and true charity will for the first time become possible.

At the present time such virtues are almost impossible to practise. The rich cannot be charitable towards the poor, for their gifts and sympathy are only part payments of a debt; and when they are charitable towards each other, their assistance is tainted with the injustice on which all their leisure and culture and wealth are founded. The poor cannot be charitable towards the rich, towards whom their natural feelings are suspicion and covetousness. At present only the poor can be charitable towards the poor, for they lend to each other out of their necessities.

The fundamental injustice makes Christian society an impossibility. It is only under a state of freedom, economic and political, that the best possibilities of human society can ever reveal themselves.

But, whatever type of society may result from the abolition of industrial slavery, and whatever form of civilisation a free people may build up on a free basis, the rightfulness of that free basis is what concerns us -- not the result. Perhaps it is not in the capacity of people, reared in the present system, to value aright any scheme of life that would evolve itself under free conditions. Our mental nature, as well as our physical, has been vitiated by our unjust and false relation to our surroundings.

Any social scheme which the people of our day can imagine must be largely wrong in ideal as well as methods, and to confirm it by law and force is not only to prolong the error but to stifle the elements of progress in society itself. All we can do, is to remove the oppression which cramps and crushes individuals, and leave the human spirit at liberty to find and follow its lights -- whether the light be, in our opinion, a will-o'-the-wisp or a pole star. Industrial freedom is not a final end in itself, but a necessary condition for humanity to realise its fullest possibilities.

For industrial freedom, free access to land is a necessity; and even after the destruction of land monopoly there may be other minor monopolies -- though of comparatively small importance -- to be abolished, before industrial freedom can be fully realised.

But whatever is done towards that end will not be in the erection of new dykes and barriers for the regulation of human energies, but in the removal of the old ones.

The new order may be, as we believe, a return to a less artificial and greedy social life, decentralised, peaceful, laborious and reflective; or the result may be, temporarily, a rush of industrial energy, strenuous concentrated effort after material production, for the old ideals and habits engendered by the present system may die hard.

Merging of Classes.

One thing, however, is certain : that the downfall of monopoly will be the downfall of classes, and that the privileged position of the wealthy, the educated and the middle class will come to an end.


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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