Frederic Clemson Howe.

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and Ireland as well. By means of the enclosure
acts and the exemption of the land from direct
taxation, by means of settlements and entails, the
land of Great Britain is more closely held than any-
where else in the world. According to the British
Doomsday Book of 1875, 1,200 persons own one-
quarter of the soil of England, Ireland, Scotland,
and Wales. The average size of these estates is
16,200 acres. Another quarter of the land is owned
by 6,200 persons, whose holdings average 3,150

« Land Nationalization, p. 180.


acres. In Scotland the land is even more closely
owned. A single owner is possessed of more than
a million and a quarter acres. Seventy persons own
one-half of the land, and 1,700 nine-tenths of it.
In Ireland the conditions are the same. In that
unfortunate land two-thirds of the soil is owned by
1,700 landlords. Great Britain is carved up into
great territorial estates like those of France under
the feudal regime.

A great part of the land is used for hunting pre-
serves and idle pleasure. Much of it is devoted
to the grazing of cattle and indifferent cultivation.
But an insignificant portion is cultivated intensely,
and practically all of it is worked by a tenant class.
Less than one-fifth of the population is engaged in
agriculture. The nation is face to face with the
problem of poverty produced by the rack-rents of
country and city and the exclusion of humanity
from the land, while a handful of landlords enjoy
rent-rolls running into the hundreds of millions of
dollars. In this is to be found the explanation of
Britain's decay. For nearly eight millions of her
people live on the border-land of starvation, and
fully two-thirds are very poor. One person out
of seven dies in a public hospital, asylum, or work-
house. In the cities of London and Liverpool one
person in every four dies in some public institu-
tion. Nearly fifty per cent, of the army candi-
dates from the cities are rejected as physically un-


fit for service, while the condition of the peasant
class is but little better.

These are the fruits of land monopoly in Great
Britain, where the withholding of the land from
use and the competitive rents for that which is
used have reached their final consequences. They
are not dissimilar from the conditions which im-
poverished Ireland a generation ago.

But the costs of land speculation are not con-
fined to the agricultural worker. They are not
limited to the tenant class on the plantations of
the West. The cost of monopoly is scarcely less
obvious in the mineral resources as well.

In the upper lake regions of Minnesota, Wiscon-
sin, and Michigan are to be found the most mar-
vellous iron-ore deposits in the civilized world.
Not far away are similar deposits of copper. All
through the central West are coal, oil, and gas ade-
quate for the needs of generations. Yet the amount
of iron, the amount of copper, the amount of coal,
oil, and gas that humanity may use is determined
by those who have appropriated these deposits.
The supply is doled out as cupidity or greed may
determine. The resources of the earth are closed
to labor and industry. Humanity is warned off the
land in order that the prices of these great ne-
cessities may be fixed by the needs of life itself.

In the anthracite fields of Pennsylvania are great
areas of coal lands that are not operated. Upon


this supply the life of the Eastern seaboard de-
pends. Yet it is surrounded as by a Chinese wall.
Labor may not enter and no fuel may go forth ex-
cept on the terms which monopoly dictates. A
generation ago competition prevailed in these
regions. Then the output of coal was governed
by the same law which regulates the output of
wheat, of potatoes, of shoes, of clothes, of all those
commodities which are governed by the law of
competition. Under competitive conditions prices
are fixed by the relative amount of labor which
enters into each commodity. There is no overpro-
duction of these things. Society instinctively pro-
duces what it needs with something like divine
foresight. And in the days when competition
ruled in the anthracite coal-fields, the price of coal
at the seaboard ranged from $2.55 to $2.60 a ton.
Twenty years ago it sold for $3.00 a ton.^ To-day
it sells for approximately $6.00 a ton. It is fixed
by the railroad syndicate which controls the region.
A generation ago there were more than a hun-
dred operators in this field. Each operator strove
for the greatest economy in production, and the
best market for his output. The railways and
canals were eager for traffic. They sought the con-
venience of the shipper. The operator had no dif-
ficulty in securing cars. He was offered compet-
ing outlets to the seaboard. Finally the railroads

' The Anthracite Coal Industry, Roberts, p. 74.


entered the mining business. Then they discrim-
inated against the independent operator. They
refused to give him cars. In time they crushed him
out and acquired control of his property. Com-
petition was ultimately destroyed. To-day the
coal is bottled up as completely as were the Rus-
sians at Port Arthur. There is opportunity here
for labor, limited only by the needs of man. But
the storehouse of nature has been closed, and the
railroads carry the keys. They have decreed that
only a limited portion of the capacity shall be
worked. Prices are maintained by charging '^what
the traffic will bear," while labor is excluded from
the opportunity of employment. By this process
they exact from the life and industry of the country
at least $2.00 a ton more than was paid in the days
of free competition.

In our cities the cost of land monopoly is equally
manifest. The speculator retards development.
He strangles the city. It is estimated that at least
one-half of the area of every large city is inade-
quately developed. It is held for the purposes of
speculation or covered with 'Hax earners." A
scarcity value is created. On such land as is used
rents are forced up in consequence. The private
dwelling gives place to the apartment house. Where
once there were homes now there are tenements.
City land values have become prohibitive to the
great mass of people. Only a diminishing minor-


ity own their own homes. They could build and
would build were it not for the initial cost of the
land. Labor is thus limited in its opportunities,
as is the production of other wealth.

City building is strangled by the same influences.
Streets are cramped; beauty is subordinated to the
use of every inch of soil. Great public improve-
ments are rendered impossible. The building of
schools and libraries, the opening of parks and play-
grounds, the development of docks, the making of
the city what it should be, are throttled by the
land monopolist, whose dead hand makes the cost of
city building prohibitive.

Everywhere untouched resources in abundance.
Everywhere land inviting labor to bring forth
wealth for our use. Close beyond the walls of the
city, with its disease-breeding slums and tenements,
is land upon which homes could be erected did its
price not prohibit its purchase. Mines, forests,
quarries, and resources more ample than those of
all Europe, are kept out of use by the monopolist
and speculator. Within our cities are strength,
talent, and genius, trained by a system of universal
education and eager for the expression of their life.
So eager is labor for a chance, and so limited are its
opportunities for expression, that the sweat-shops
are crowded to suffocation, while the mining regions
swarm with men fighting for a chance to spend
their lives underground. At the same time millions
of men are constantly out of employment, while


millions more are on the dead-line of poverty.
Between labor and opportunity the land-owner
has drawn a dead-line which may not be crossed.

Were a syndicate from Wall Street to gather
together all of the bread of the city of New York;
were it to say to the people of the metropolis,
*'You may have so much food as we daily deter-
mine, on condition that you labor for us a certain
number of days each week, " riots would ensue, riots
which the police and militia could not check. Yet
such is the notice which has been served upon
America. For land is as essential to life as bread
itself. It is the source of all wealth.

Charles Stewart Parnell used to quote with ap-
proval, in explanation of the misery of his own
unhappy land, the following words of Henry George:

"Man is a land animal. A land animal cannot live
without land. All that man produces comes from
the land; all productive labor, in the final analysis,
consists in working up land or materials drawn
from land into such forms as fit them for the satis-
faction of human wants and desires. Man's very
body is drawn from the land, and to the land we
must return. Take away from man all that belongs
to the land, and what have you but a disembodied
spirit? Therefore, he who holds the land on which
and from which another man must live is that
man's master, and the man is his slave. The man
who holds the land on which I must live can com-
mend me to life or to death just as absolutely as
though I were his chattel. Talk about abolish-
ing slavery — we have not abolished slavery; we


have only abolished one rude form of it, chattel
slavery. There is a deeper and more insidious
form, a more cursed form yet before us to abolish,
in this industrial slavery that makes a man a virt-
ual slave, while taunting him and mocking him in
the name of freedom."

It is only the ingrained usage of generations
that blinds our eyes to the devastating effects of
the private ownership of the land. It is far more
costly than the tariff, far more ruinous than dis-
criminating freight rates. It is not so much the
burden of rent, it is the strangling of wealth
production that makes the private ownership of
the land so costly. It affects the industrial life
of a people like an invading army. It is not the
burden of its maintenance that makes it so costly,
it is the abandoned fields, the deserted workshops,
the confusion to all trade and industry, and the
blight which settles on the country which makes a
defensive war so exhausting. It is not the amount
destroyed, it is the wealth that is never pro-
duced that measures the cost. At the close of the
Franco-Prussian war an indemnity of one billion
dollars was exacted from the people of France.
This colossal tribute was paid with comparative
ease. But had the nation been devastated by an
army of occupation, had the mills and the factories
been closed, had the peasants been driven from the
fields, as were the people of the Southern States of


America, such an indemnity would have been out
of the question. It could not have been paid by
a prostrate people.

And it is the wealth which is never produced by
the labor which is never employed, or is badly em-
ployed, that measures the loss from the private
ownership of the land. This is the costliest price
of all. And the correction of this injustice has en-
gaged the attention of almost every people, from
the early Hebrews down to the land of legislation
of Great Britain to-day. In some form or other
the agrarian question is uppermost in every coun-
try of Europe, but it is only in far-off New Zealand
and New South Wales that a democratic solution
is being tried, a solution that not only recognizes
the right of the community to the unearned in-
crement in the value of the land, but strikes at the
root of land monopoly by forcing the owner either
to use that which he holds or to sell it to some one
who will.^

' England herself is following in the footsteps of her colonies. The
Liberal budget for the year 1909 was avowedly a social as well as a
fiscal measure. In presenting it to the House of Commons the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, said that its purpose
was to stimulate the vise of the land and aid in the breaking up or
forcing into use of the land which was held idle in the kingdom.
The means employed was the taxation of undeveloped land on its
capital value. The rate of taxation imposed was not high, but the
promoters of the measure undoubtedly contemplated the increase
in the rate as soon as a valuation had been made or the cities and local
authorities had been authorized to levy a local rate on land values.
It was the fear of this that influenced the House of Lords to reject
the measure.


From now on the struggle for existence will in-
crease in intensity. From now on the cost of liv-
ing will be more exacting. The chance for a decent
human existence is daily narrowing. The number
on the border-line of poverty is constantly increasing.
All this is inevitable. For the supply of land is
constant, and a large part of it is kept out of use.
The demand for standing-room is increasing with
every tick of the pendulum of time.

The real explanation of the labor problem is ob-
scured by the appearance of things, by the wages
system, and the struggles of capital and labor. We
do not see through the industrial question into the
real struggle of classes which lies back of it all.
For lack of employment, hard times, the wages
question, and the poverty everywhere appearing
are but part of a larger problem, a problem which
can only be cured by going back to its cause, a
cause which is to be found in the private owner-
ship of the land and the resources of the nation.

This being true, labor can no more improve the
general standing of living by organization than a
man can lift himself by his boot-straps. Trades-



unionism may maintain the scale of wages in certain
trades; it may even increase nominal wages in the
highly skilled industries. But even in these trades
the improvement will be only an apparent one.*
For the increase in the cost of living will more than
absorb the increase in nominal wages. No array of
statistics can modify this tendency, a tendency
which has been very manifest during the past few
years. But the investigations of public and pri-
vate agencies show that wages have not been ris-
ing as rapidly as has the cost of living. It
cost fully one-third more to maintain life in 1905
than it did eight years before. Wholesale prices
were higher in 1905 than at any time in the recent
history of America. It required $1.30 to purchase
as much in that year as was attainable for $1.00
in 1897. It is estimated that during the ten years
prior to 1907 the cost of living went up forty per
cent., while the wages for unskilled labor remained
practically stationary. During this period the
wages of organized labor increased but seventeen
per cent., and organized labor as a whole does not
include more than three million of America's work-
ing population.^

• As a matter of fact even nominal wages have fallen. The Census
Bulletin on Manufactures, covering thirty-three states, shows that
whereas the average wage in 1890 was $418.48 a year or $1.39 a day,
in 1900 the average wage was but $397.53 a year or $1.29 a day.

* The Bulletin for the United States Bureau of Labor for March,
1908, presents a study of the variations in the wholesale prices of


But nominal wages form only one factor in the
equation of real wages. The actual income of
any class can only be ascertained by the amount of
goods which the income of that class will purchase.
Wages are high or low, according to the comfort
and happiness of the worker. Nominal wages may
be very high, as they are in the Yukon or in
the new mining camps of the West, but if every
cent that is received is expended for the barest ne-
cessities of life, real wages are very low.

It is the unskilled worker who is suffering most
from the increasing cost of living. And the un-
skilled laborer comprises at least two-thirds of the
working population. He does not organize. His
employment is precarious. His work is of transi-
tory nature. There is no cohesive trade sympathy
to keep him united with his fellows.* The agri-
cultural worker falls into the same class. He, too,
is suffering a progressive diminution in his wages
as well as in his standard of living. The same is
true of the salaried and professional classes.

From now on the cost of the necessities of life
must continue to increase. This is already apparent

258 representative articles from 1890 to 1907. It states that the
average price of all articles for the year 1907 was 44.4 per cent higher
than that of 1897.

• The Journal of Political Economy (June, 1905, p. 359), in a scien-
tific analysis of the wages of unskilled labor shows that " the wages
of common laborers remained practically unchanged from 1890 to
1900, " while the increase in the cost of living has materially reduced
their real wage.


in rent. The increase in the tenement districts of
New York has been so rapid as to lead to organized
resistance. The cost of coal, of beef, of foodstuffs,
of cotton, of leather, of wool, of transportation, of
coal, iron, copper, of all of the elemental products
which come directly from the land, has been going
up with great rapidity during the past few years.

This increase in the cost of living is due to mo-
nopoly in its various forms, but most of all to the
monopoly of the land and the storehouse of nature.^
It is this that limits labor to the job that is nearest
at hand; it is this that herds population into the
cities; it is this that closes the resources of nature
to humanity and strangles the production of wealth.
While men and women are suffering from cold and
hunger all over the land, the cotton-growers are
destroying their cotton in the fields of the South
in order that they may obtain an increased price
for that which remains. A great part of the coal
land of the country is withheld from production
in order that a scarcity price may be exacted for
that which is used. Hundreds of millions of fertile
acres are kept out of tillage in the West, and to
an increasing extent in the East as well, for the
purpose of speculation. The railways in many in-
stances fix their charges at the point which will
absorb everything that the farmer produces and still

•The percentage of increase in rent from 1897 to 1902, as ascer-
tained by the Labor Bureau of Massachusetts, was 52.43 per cent.


keep him at the plough. The packing-houses and
warehouses have adopted the same rule of charges.
They depress the price of raw material on the farm,
and by a similar understanding exact all that the
consumer can pay at the other end of the line.
The sugar, tobacco, beef, leather, wool, iron, steel,
oil, and copper monopolies screen themselves be-
hind a tariff wall, and collect such tribute as their
owners see fit to charge through their alliance with
the government and the transportation agencies
of the nation. It is these influences that are in-
creasing the cost of living in America. And so
long as man remains a land animal and the people
permit the highways to be privately owned and
used for stock-gambling purposes, the cost of living
must continue to increase.

The landlord is the paymaster of all other classes.
He limits the opportunities of labor and profits by
every babe that is born. For the growth of popu-
lation is increasing the demand for standing-room.
It raises the rent which must be paid for its use as
well as the cost of all the necessities of life. So-
ciety increases the value of the land, and then is
charged a tribute for that which it has created.

When one contemplates the methods which have
been pursued in the abandonment of our public
lands, it seems as though our policy had been in-
spired by the employing classes, just as is the
immigration of cheap labor from Europe. For had


the lands been opened up to use only as they
were actually needed by settlers, wages would
have continued to rise for many generations to
come, while homes for many times our present
population would have been available. Then the
employer would have been forced to compete with
the free lands of the West. Under these condi-
tions labor would have continued to receive some-
thing like the full value of its services. For wages
are determined by the existence of free lands and
the outlet which they offer to increasing population.
When such an alternative exists it is not necessary
for men to shift their employment to agriculture
in order to secure the full return of their labor.
The very existence of an alternative automatically
keeps wages at the amount or somewhere near
the amount that can be produced on the free land.

But the enclosure of the public lands has de-
stroyed this alternative. The worker is reduced
to a competitive scale. His wages are determined
by the hunger of those outside of the gates of the
factory. The alternative of being a free man,
upon a farm of his own, is now gone forever.

That free land is the determining factor in fix-
ing wages has been recognized by at least one

''Free land being given," says Achille Loria,
''the division of society into a class of non-labor-
ing capitalists, and a class of non-capitalistic la-


borers, is, in either case, out of the question; for,
under such circumstances, it is impossible for an
idle capitalist to acquire any profit.

^'Colonial countries where free lands abound
offer striking illustrations of these propositions, and
any one who has rightly comprehended the devel-
opment of these interesting lands must recognize
the truth of our assertions. Note, for example, in
the descriptions of the early days of the United
States, how this fortunate country is depicted as
inhabited by a noble race of independent laborers,
ignorant of the bare possibilities of capitalistic
property; read Washington's letters, which tell
how impossible the farmers found it to acquire
any income whatever from their lands unless they
cultivated them along with their laborers; and
mark how Parkinson, Strickland, and other Euro-
peans who travelled in America during the eigh-
teenth century, were one and all struck with amaze-
ment at this strange land where money did not
breed money. We can also understand why the
slave system of the ancient world and the serf-
dom of the middle ages were both reintroduced
into our modern colonies; for it was only by re-
sorting to such means that profits could be acquired
during these epochs preceding the appropriation
of the soil."'

We are fearfully afraid of names and phrases in
America. We resent the suggestion of '^industrial
servitude." Do not our written constitutions de-
clare that ''there shall be no slavery nor involun-
tary servitude" within the commonwealth? Are
we not protected by manhood suffrage and the

' Economic Foundations of Society, p. 3.


guarantees of personal freedom? But economic
laws recognize no bill of personal rights, and eco-
nomic servitude is no more incompatible with Magna
Charta and the Declaration of Independence than
it is with the despotism of the czar. We can en-
slave ourselves through the forms of democracy as
completely as we may be enslaved by the Sultan of
Turkey. And chattel slavery has probably disap-
peared among the civilized nations as much through
the change in economic conditions as through the
growing humanity of man. Cheap labor was only
possible by legalized slavery when free land was open
to all. Then the slave could only be kept in subjec-
tion by positive law. But as soon as all of the land
had been taken up, the necessity as well as the econ-
omy of chattel slavery disappeared, and the relation
of employer and employee, of landlord and tenant
arose to take its place. It is probable that the labor
cost of the bonanza farms of the West is far less than
the labor cost on the plantations of the South prior to
the Civil War. Free labor is more efficient than
slave labor. The slave must be reared to maturity.
He must be maintained in a certain degree of physi-
cal efficiency. He must be cared for in old age.
Slave labor is notoriously shiftless. It is inspired
neither by the hope of reward nor the fear of want.
The wage-earner, on the other hand, comes to the
employer with none of the costs of rearing. He is
impelled by the hope of promotion and the fear of

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Online LibraryFrederic Clemson HowePrivilege and democracy in America → online text (page 11 of 19)