The Road To Freedom,
And What Lies Beyond


Josiah and Ethel Wedgwood

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



It seems, then, that the exclusive ownership of land lies at the base of our existing social state, of much that is pleasing, as well as of what is displeasing in it ; and that if this injustice were removed, society, as we know it, must fall to pieces and be replaced by a new form. For however much the application of the terms, i.e, "slavery," "monopoly," "capitalism," "robbery," may be disputed, yet the fact remains, that the labour, by which all the subtle conditions of our thoughts and habits have been created, is unfree labour; and that it is unfree primarily because men have been fenced off from the sources of life and production that lie in the land. This crime runs like a flaw through the whole structure, making true social life impossible. For a civilisation founded in monopoly and maintained by force is an anti -social one ; it excludes what alone can create a stable social state, free and mutual service.

But people will not face the downfall of the house they live in, however bad it be; and therefore preachers, teachers and legislators spend their knowledge and strength in shoring-up this society and clamping it together against disruption. Their remedial measures are largely futile, for they only transform the evil instead of destroying it.

A century ago reformers thought they could make the nations free and happy by transferring political power from a king to a republican senate. Now they think they can make society prosperous by transferring industrial power from men called capitalists to other men called a state or a workers' union. They are afraid to bring about the real revolution by restoring to everybody the only means of individual liberty, and letting them alone to shape their own destiny.

The New Civilisation: Social Relations.

What form of society might grow up after such a revolution it is impossible to foretell. Certainly it would be a better form than this, because a free one. Whatever the true civilisation may be, the present civilisation is overlaying and crushing it -- stifling the best things in human nature by its atmosphere of suspicion, envy and rivalry. Yet, in spite of this fraudulent civilisation, honesty and human kindliness still struggle up and keep alive; and in the new society, virtues so tough of life may spread and prosper. If to sketch a Utopia were at all permissible, it might at least be predicted that under just conditions men will venture to practise on terms of equality the brotherhood which all the churches preach, and that it will be common to show charity without patronage and to receive it without sycophancy.

The New Civilisation: Wealth.

Some writers think that in a just society the production of wealth would go on at the same pace as now, only with much less expenditure of time and effort by individuals ; and that applied science would continue increasingly to lighten and simplify all sorts of work. This may be so, but it is doubtful. It is difficult to believe, for instance, that the numberless ingenious applications of electricity, the specialised tools of all trades, the diversified appliances of luxury, would have been so readily invented, had not the twofold spur of wealth and poverty sharpened the inventors' brains and quickened their activities. Thanks to the relentless industrial slavery in which we now live, the whole of human effort is being perpetually whetted by necessity, and is devoted mainly to the achievement of any material result which may give a foothold for climbing above the struggling masses. If a society ever comes in which each man is free and safe, this will be so no longer, and it may be expected that men will then be satisfied with such moderate comforts and appliances as will ensure their health and leisure. Tastes become revolutionised with circumstances, and much that is involved in our present ideas of comfort may seem to a saner generation as fantastic as the elaborate items of a chef's menu seem to the vegetarian who lives on fruit. The passion for rapid locomotion and communication, for living in a rush, for amusements, for sensations, for delicacies, may be looked back on and despised by the coming age as the tossings of a sick society on an ill-made bed.

Nor would such reversion to calm and simplicity be a retrograde step towards barbarism. The savage is placid and simple, because he is limited, and has not tasted the fruit of the civilised tree. If free men in a free society adopt the less strenuous life, it will be from deliberate choice.

The New Civilisation. Science.

It may be, that in the new civilisation science itself may be directed into quite other channels. The progress of applied science and the progress of the human race are so often assumed to be one and the same, that we forget that research into the unknown is not identical with improvements in machine construction. Scientific knowledge has hitherto been acquired in a state where restless wealth and aimless energy are side by side with incessant unreasoning production, and where things are made, not to satisfy wants, but according to the changing fancies of the rich. The great discoveries have been applied first and foremost to increase rapidity of motion and novelties in food, dress and amusements, such things as may give a temporary advantage in the market that supplies the rich. People have utilised the few facts they have discovered about matter to make themselves playthings, and have dignified them by the name of " the benefits of civilisation." But in our haste to utilise the laws of nature we may well have missed their true significance. There may be possibilities of science equally or more valuable to the human race than its use in industrial invention; and our commercial preoccupations may have warped, not only the application, but the nature of our knowledge itself. Who can say, whether in utilising natural laws we have not been blind to what lay behind them of more vital importance. Speculations, which in our civilisation have not emerged from the cloudland of mysticism, may be fruitfully pursued by a race less condemned to greedy pursuits, more honest and more leisured; and the new civilisation may acquire scientific knowledge concerning time and space, matter and spirit, compared with which our present conjuring tricks with physics will seem childish.

But the decisions of a free posterity do not concern our age, whose first business it is to remove the obstacles from their path and our own. We cannot yet see the goal, nor know what our race is capable of doing or being; for at present we are forced along one path and into one set of ideas by the system that enslaves body and soul.


And therefore any reformation which tries to regularise present conditions by equalising the production and distribution of wealth, without first restoring individual freedom, must be a failure from the point of view of progress. The alternative to a free state is the perfectly organised state; and if the perfectly organised state is the ideal of humanity, then socialists are quite justified in the most extreme proposals, with which their opponents ever credit them; such proposals are, in that case, perfectly logical and perfectly right. To make society safe, it will be their duty -- not to have prisons where offenders are punished, but to forestall all possibility of offence; to have, not only State factories where the necessary wealth is produced in the approved manner under proper inspection, but to have also suitable factories for the human instruments of production, marriage provisions for improving the breed, nurseries for their physical culture, schools above all that the minds of the growing race may be trained in such beliefs as are necessary to preserve the State, in order that this superstition may receive the full strength of the soil, and that the seed of every other idea may be destroyed before it can germinate.

This is all necessary for the preservation of the perfectly organised State, but let no one imagine that it is compatible with Progress.


There are blind alleys in nature which are entered when any system is brought to work so perfectly that divergence from it, and advance beyond it, become impossible. The community of the bees is such a one. They are creatures of remarkable intelligence and subtlety, in whom the civic virtue of honey- making has became an ingrained habit, and, by subdivision of labour, been brought to extraordinary perfection; and their communal organisation is so complete that it gives no opportunity for error.

It is common to compare to the community of the bees the ideal community of socialised mankind. If this ideal be ever attained, the achievement will no doubt be hailed with pride by the smooth automatons of the day; but it will mean that men, like the bees, are rotating instead of progressing, and that their powers have become limited to performing with admirable regularity the r6le of citizen in a perfectly administered state.

The Logic of Facts.

The ending of robbery -- the robbery of men's rights to the earth- - is an ethical duty. The restoration of freedom -- through the restoration of these rights -- is a philosophic aim. They go hand in hand of necessity. And if critics say that such principles are doctrinaire, and that it is foolish to seek to destroy the present order, without first deciding what should replace it, the reply is: that the opportunism which places expediency above justice and above freedom is equally based upon a doctrine, and one that in its effects is disastrous.

Those who discard first principles in political and social action are apt to find themselves forced by the hard logic of facts along to the path to which reasoning pointed in vain.

The principle of human rights to the earth is being already forced on a reluctant society by the growing restlessness and hostility of the dispossessed workers, -- by the invidious disparities of wealth due to the growing differences in site values, and the power they give of increased exploitation, -- by the crimes and vices of the idlers of all classes divorced from labour, -- by the dangerous diseases engendered by overcrowding and physical degeneration, -- by the alarm and danger caused to the propertied classes by all these things.

It may require a hopeful temerity to face a peaceful revolution now, by resolutely restoring the land to the people; it will require more courage to face that blind revolution that may come if the discordant elements break loose ; but it will need a courage without hope to face the world as it may be preserved, so doctored and so disciplined that no revolution is any longer possible.


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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