Wealth and Want
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Lord's Prayer

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen!

Let us not be tempted to let some of us privatize that which is inherently common property — even if we hope ourselves to be net beneficiaries of that system at some point in our lives. Deliver us from the evil of poverty created by the privatization of that which God created for all of us!

What is a trespass? Is privatization of the economic value of land — rent — a trespass against the rights of our fellow human beings? When some get to privatize what should really be passed along to the commons as the basis of our common spending, isn't there a major injustice taking place? Should we forgive it, or seek to change it?

Do we envision it as God's will that some of us should grow rich by collecting rent on what God provides, while others are forced to pay them for what God provides?

Let us not forget that our forefathers prayed that prayer, even while we had chattel slavery in America. We need to look closely at our current institutions.

Henry George, in Progress and Poverty, sought the cause of poverty in a society in which technological progress and population moved forward rapidly, leading to extremes of wealth and extremes of poverty, and found both the cause and the remedy.

D. C. MacDonald: Preface (1891?) to Ogilvie's Essay (circa 1782)

Do we not find the Birthright of Man stereotyped in the words “OUR FATHER”? The Faiths of the world, ancient and modern, whether considered natural or revealed, have all something in them, in common with genuine Christianity, which declares “Equality of Rights” between man and man. 

Professor Ogilvie’s Essay is a pastoral prose poem, through which we can realise this beautiful world, with its ample provision for satisfying man's instinctive and rational faculties of enjoyment. The “Sovereign Power” from which all blessings flow is manifested as a wise, just, and impartial Creator, who invites us to make His laws our laws, and who in these latter days has delegated to us some wonderful powers, by which -- with equality of rights and freedom of labour -- the comforts of this life, and the products of the world, may be multiplied more than a thousand fold, purposely (shall we not say?) to increase the happiness and virtue of mankind.  ...   Read the entire preface

Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come (1889 speech)
We have just joined in the most solemn, the most sacred, the most catholic of all prayers: “Our Father which art in Heaven!” To all of us who have learned it in our infancy, it oft calls up the sweetest and most tender emotions. Sometimes with feeling, sometimes as a matter of course, how often have we repeated it? For centuries, daily, hourly, has that prayer gone up. ...

We have become accustomed to think that God’s kingdom, is not intended for this world; that, virtually, this is the devil’s world, and that God’s kingdom is in some other sphere, to which He is to take good people when they die — as good Americans are said when they die to go to Paris. If that be so, what is the use of praying for the coming of the kingdom? Is God the loving Father of whom Christ told — is He a God of that kind; a God who looks on this world, sees its sufferings and its miseries, sees high faculties aborted, lives stunted, innocence turned to vice and crime, and heartstrings strained and broken, yet, having it in His power, will not bring that kingdom of peace, and love, and plenty and happiness? Is God indeed a self-willed despot, whom we must coax to do the good He might?

Think of it. The Almighty — and I say it with reverence — the Almighty could not bring that kingdom of Himself. For, what is the kingdom of God; the kingdom that Christ taught us to pray for? Is it not in the doing of God’s will, not by automata, not by animals who are compelled, but by intelligent beings clothed with free will, intelligent beings knowing good from evil? ...

“Thy kingdom come!” When Christ taught that prayer He did not mean that humans should idly phrase these words, but that for the coming of that kingdom humanity must work as well as pray! ...

“Our Father!” “Our Father!” Whose? Not my Father — that is not the prayer. “Our Father” — not the father of any sect, or any class, but the Father of all humanity. The All- Father, the equal Father, the loving Father. He it is we ask to bring the kingdom. Aye, we ask it with our lips! We call Him “Our Father”, the All, the Universal Father, when we kneel down to pray to Him.

But that He is the All-Father — that He is all people’s Father — we deny by our institutions. The All-Father who made the world, the All-Father who created us in His image, and put us upon the earth to draw subsistence from its bosom; to find in the earth all the materials that satisfy our wants, waiting only to be worked up by our labour! If He is the All-Father, then are not all human beings, all children of the Creator, equally entitled to the use of His bounty? And, yet, our laws say that this God’s earth is not here for the use of all His children, but only for the use of a privileged few!

There was a little dialogue published in the United States, in the west, some time ago. Possibly you may have seen it. It is between a boy and his father when visiting a brickyard. The boy looks at the men making bricks, and he asks who those dirty men are, why they are making up the clay, and what they are doing it for. He learns, and then he asks about the owner of the brickyard. “He does not make any bricks; he gets his income from letting the other men make bricks.”

Then the boy wants to know how the man who owns the brickyard gets his title to the brickyard — whether he made it. “No, he did not make it,” the father replies: “God made it.” The boy asks, “Did God make it for him?” Whereat his father tells him that he must not ask questions such as that, but that anyhow it is all right, and it is all in accordance with God’s law. The boy, who of course was a Sunday school boy, and had been to church, goes off mumbling to himself “that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for all men”; but that He so loved the owner of this brickyard that He gave him the brickyard too.

This has a blasphemous sound. But I do not refer to it lightly. I do not like to speak lightly of sacred subjects. Yet it is well sometimes that we should be fairly shocked into thinking.

Think of what Christianity teaches us; think of the life and death of Him who came to die for us! Think of His teachings, that we are all the equal children of an Almighty Father, who is no respecter of persons, and then think of this legalised injustice — this denial of the most important, most fundamental rights of the children of God, which so many of the very men who teach Christianity uphold; nay, which they blasphemously assert is the design and the intent of the Creator Himself.

Better to me, higher to me, is the atheist, who says there is no God, than the professed Christian who, prating of the goodness and the Fatherhood of God, tells us in words as some do, or tells us indirectly as others do, that millions and millions of human creatures — [at this point a child was heard crying] — don’t take the little thing out — that millions and millions of human beings, like that little baby, are being brought into the world daily by the creative fiat, and no place in this world provided for them.

Aye! Tells us that, by the laws of God, the poor are created in order that the rich may have the unctuous satisfaction of dealing out charity to them, and attributes to the laws of God the state of things which exists in this city of Glasgow, as in other great cities on both sides of the Atlantic, where little children are dying every day, dying by hundreds of thousands, because having come into this world — those children of God, with His fiat, by His decree — they find that there is not space on the earth sufficient for them to live; and are driven out of God’s world because they cannot get room enough, cannot get air enough, cannot get sustenance enough.

I believe in no such god. If I did, though I might bend before him in fear, I would hate him in my heart. Not room for the little children here! Look around any country in the civilised world; is there not room enough and to spare? Not food enough? Look at the unemployed labour, look at the idle acres, look through every country and see natural opportunities going to waste. Aye! That Christianity puts on the Creator the evil, the injustice, the degradation that are due to humanity’s injustice is worse, far worse, than atheism. That is the blasphemy, and if there be a sin against the Holy Ghost, that is the unpardonable sin!

Why, consider: “Give us this day our daily bread.” I stopped in a hotel last week — a hydropathic establishment. A hundred or more guests sat down to table together. Before they ate anything, a man stood up, and, thanking God, asked Him to make us all grateful for His bounty. And it is so at every mealtime — such an acknowledgement is made over well-filled boards. What do we mean by it?

If Adam, when he got out of Eden, had sat down and commenced to pray, he might have prayed till this time without getting anything to eat unless he went to work for it. Yet food is God’s bounty. He does not bring meat and vegetables all prepared. What He gives are the opportunities of producing these things — of bringing them forth by labour. His mandate is — it is written in the Holy Word, it is graven on every fact in nature — that by labour we shall bring forth these things. Nature gives to labour and to nothing else.

What God gives are the natural elements that are indispensable to labour. He gives them, not to one, not to some, not to one generation, but to all. They are His gifts, His bounty to the whole human race. And yet in all our civilised countries what do we see? That a few people have appropriated these bounties, claiming them as theirs alone, while the great majority have no legal right to apply their labour to the reservoirs of Nature and draw from the Creator’s bounty.

Thus it happens that all over the civilised world that class that is called peculiarly ‘the labouring class’ is the poor class, and that people who do no labour, who pride themselves on never having done honest labour, and on being descended from fathers and grandfathers who never did a stroke of honest labour in their lives, revel in a superabundance of the things that labour brings forth. ...

Mr Abner Thomas, of New York, a strict orthodox Presbyterian — and the son of Rev Dr Thomas, author of a commentary on the bible —wrote a little while ago an allegory. Dozing off in his chair, he dreamt that he was ferried over the River of Death, and, taking the straight and narrow way, came at last within sight of the Golden City. A fine-looking old gentleman angel opened the wicket, inquired his name, and let him in; warning him, at the same time, that it would be better if he chose his company in heaven, and did not associate with disreputable angels.

“What!” said the newcomer, in astonishment: “Is not this heaven?”

“Yes,” said the warden: “But there are a lot of tramp angels here now." ...

You laugh, and it is ridiculous. But there is a moral in it that is worth serious thought. Is it not ridiculous to imagine the application to God’s heaven of the same rules of division that we apply to God’s earth, even while we pray that His will may be done on earth as it is done in Heaven?

Really, if we could imagine it, it is impossible to think of heaven treated as we treat this earth, without seeing that, no matter how salubrious were its air, no matter how bright the light that filled it, no matter how magnificent its vegetable growth, there would be poverty, and suffering, and a division of classes in heaven itself, if heaven were parcelled out as we have parceled out the earth. And, conversely, if people were to act towards each other as we must suppose the inhabitants of heaven to do, would not this earth be a very heaven?

“Thy kingdom come.” No one can think of the kingdom for which the prayer asks without feeling that it must be a kingdom of justice and equality — not necessarily of equality in condition, but of equality in opportunity. And no one can think of it without seeing that a very kingdom of God might be brought on this earth if people would but seek to do justice — if people would but acknowledge the essential principle of Christianity, that of doing to others as we would have others do to us, and of recognising that we are all here equally the children of the one Father, equally entitled to share His bounty, equally entitled to live our lives and develop our faculties, and to apply our labour to the raw material that He has provided. ...

Early Christianity did not mean, in its prayer for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom in heaven, but a kingdom on earth. ...

What was persecuted was a great movement for social reform — the gospel of justice — heard by common fishermen with gladness, carried by labourers and slaves into the imperial city of Rome. The Christian revelation was the doctrine of human equality, of the fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. It struck at the very basis of that monstrous tyranny that then oppressed the civilised world; it struck at the fetters of the captive, and at the bonds of the slave, at that monstrous injustice which allowed a class to revel on the proceeds of labour, while those who did the labour fared scantily.

That is the reason why early Christianity was persecuted. And when they could no longer hold it down, then the privileged classes adopted and perverted the new faith, and it became, in its very triumph, not the pure Christianity of the early days, but a Christianity that, to a very great extent, was the servitor of the privileged classes.

And, instead of preaching the essential Fatherhood of God, the essential brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, its high priests grafted onto the pure truths of the gospel the blasphemous doctrine that the All-Father is a respecter of persons, and that by His will and on His mandate is founded that monstrous injustice which condemns the great mass of humanity to unrequited hard toil. There has been no failure of Christianity. The failure has been in the sort of Christianity that has been preached.

Nothing is clearer than that if we are all children of the universal Father, we are all entitled to the use of His bounty. ...

If the loving God does reign, if His laws are the laws not merely of the physical, but of the moral universe, there must be a way of carrying His will into effect, there must be a way of doing equal justice to all of His creatures.

There is. The people who deny that there is any practical way of carrying into effect the perception that all human beings are equally children of the Creator shut their eyes to the plain and obvious way....

Yet, while in looking through the laws of physical nature, we find intelligence we do not so clearly find beneficence. But in the great social fact that as population increases, and improvements are made, and men progress in civilisation, the one thing that rises everywhere in value is land, and in this we may see a proof of the beneficence of the Creator.

Why, consider what it means! It means that the social laws are adapted to progressive humanity! In a rude state of society where there is no need for common expenditure, there is no value attaching to land. The only value which attaches there is to things produced by labour. But as civilisation goes on, as a division of labour takes place, as people come into centres, so do the common wants increase, and so does the necessity for public revenue arise. And so in that value which attaches to land, not by reason of anything the individual does, but by reason of the growth of the community, is a provision intended — we may safely say intended — to meet that social want.

Just as society grows, so do the common needs grow, and so grows this value attaching to land — the provided fund from which they can be supplied.  ...

“Thy kingdom come!” It may be that we shall never see it. But to those people who realise that it may come, to those who realise that it is given to them to work for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, there is for them, though they never see that kingdom here, an exceedingly great reward — the reward of feeling that they, little and insignificant though they may be, are doing something to help the coming of that kingdom, doing something on the side of that Good Power that shows all through the universe, doing something to tear this world from the devil’s grasp and make it the kingdom of righteousness.

Aye, and though it should never come, yet those who struggle for it know in the depths of their hearts that it must exist somewhere — they know that, somewhere, sometime, those who strive their best for the coming of the kingdom will be welcomed into the kingdom, and that to them, even to them, sometime, somewhere, the King shall say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” ... Read the whole speech

Henry George: Justice the Object -- Taxation the Means (1890)
And there arises in me a feeling of what the world might be. The prayer that the Master taught His disciples: 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,' was no mere form of words. It is given to men to struggle for the kingdom of justice and righteousness. It is given to men to work and to hope for and to bring on that day of which the prophets have told and the seers have dreamed; that day in which involuntary poverty shall be utterly abolished; that day in which there shall be work for all, leisure for all, abundance for all; that day in which even the humblest shall have his share, not merely of the necessities and comforts, but of the reasonable luxuries of life; that day in which every child born among us may hope to develop all that is highest and noblest in its nature; that day in which in the midst of abundance the fear of want shall be gone.

This greed for wealth that leads men to turn their backs upon everything that is just and true, and to trample upon their fellows lest they be trampled upon; to search and to strive, and to strain every faculty of their natures to accumulate what they cannot take away, will be gone, and in that day the higher qualities of man shall have their opportunity and claim their reward.

We cannot change human nature; we are not so foolish as to dream that human nature can be changed. What we mean to do is to give the good in human nature its opportunity to develop.

Try our remedy by any test — the test of justice; the test of expediency. Try it by any dictum of political economy; by any maxim of good morals; by any maxim of good government. It will stand every test. What I ask you to do is not to take what I or any other man may say, but to think for yourselves!   Read the entire article

Henry George: The Wages of Labor
In seeking to restore to all men their equal and natural rights we do not seek the benefit of any class, but of all. For we both know by faith and see by fact that injustice can profit no one and that justice must benefit all. Nor do we seek any futile and ridiculous equality. We recognise that there must always be differences and inequalities. In so far as these are in conformity with the moral law, in so far as they do not violate the command, “Thou shalt not steal,” we are content.

The equality we would bring about is not the equality of fortune, but the equality of natural opportunity; the equality that reason and religion alike proclaim – the equality in usufruct of all His children to the bounty of Our Father Who art in Heaven!

In doing this, we would not levy the slightest tax on the possessors of wealth, no matter how rich they might be.

Not only do we deem such taxes a violation of the right of property, but we see that it is impossible for any one to produce wealth for himself without adding to the wealth of the world. ...

Now, consider the moral aspect of the present condition of labor.

What is “the question of the hour,” the question that is filling minds with painful apprehension? Reduced to its lowest expression it is the poverty of men willing to work. And what is the lowest expression of this phrase? It is that they lack bread – for in that one word we most concisely and strongly express all the manifold material satisfactions needed by humanity, the absence of which constitutes poverty.

Now, what is the prayer of Christendom – the universal prayer; the prayer that goes up daily and hourly wherever the name of Christ is honoured; that ascends from the high altar of St. Peter’s at Rome, and that is repeated by the youngest child that the poorest Christian mother has taught to lisp a request to her Father in Heaven? It is: “Give us this day our daily bread!” Yet, where this prayer goes up, daily and hourly, men lack bread! Why?

Here is the answer, the only true answer! If men lack bread, it is not that God has not done His part in providing it. If men willing to labor are cursed with poverty, it is not that the storehouse has failed, that the supply He has promised for the daily wants of His children is not here in abundance.

It is, that, “impiously violating the benevolent intentions of their Creator,” men have made land private property, and thus have given into the exclusive ownership of the few the provision that a bountiful Father has made for all!...  read the whole article

Henry George: The Condition of Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)

For in this beautiful provision made by natural law for the social needs of civilization we see that God has intended civilization; that all our discoveries and inventions do not and cannot outrun his forethought, and that steam, electricity and labor-saving appliances only make the great moral laws clearer and more important. In the growth of this great fund, increasing with social advance — a fund that accrues from the growth of the community and belongs therefore to the community — we see not only that there is no need for the taxes that lessen wealth, that engender corruption, that promote inequality and teach men to deny the gospel; but that to take this fund for the purpose for which it was evidently intended would in the highest civilization secure to all the equal enjoyment of God’s bounty, the abundant opportunity to satisfy their wants, and would provide amply for every legitimate need of the state. We see that God in his dealings with men has not been a bungler or a niggard; that he has not brought too many men into the world; that he has not neglected abundantly to supply them; that he has not intended that bitter competition of the masses for a mere animal existence and that monstrous aggregation of wealth which characterize our civilization; but that these evils which lead so many to say there is no God, or yet more impiously to say that they are of God’s ordering, are due to our denial of his moral law. We see that the law of justice, the law of the Golden Rule, is not a mere counsel of perfection, but indeed the law of social life. We see that if we were only to observe it there would be work for all, leisure for all, abundance for all; and that civilization would tend to give to the poorest not only necessities, but all comforts and reasonable luxuries as well. We see that Christ was not a mere dreamer when he told men that if they would seek the kingdom of God and its right-doing they might no more worry about material things than do the lilies of the field about their raiment; but that he was only declaring what political economy in the light of modern discovery shows to be a sober truth. ... read the whole letter

Henry George: The Single Tax: What It Is and Why We Urge It (1890)

From the Single Tax we may expect these advantages:
1. It would dispense with a whole army of tax gatherers and other officials which present taxes require, and place in the treasury a much larger portion of what is taken from people, while by making government simpler and cheaper, it would tend to make it purer. It would get rid of taxes which necessarily promote fraud, perjury, bribery, and corruption, which lead men into temptation, and which tax what the nation can least afford to spare--honesty and conscience. Since land lies out-of-doors and cannot be removed, and its value is the most readily ascertained of all values, the tax to which we would resort can be collected with the minimum of cost and the least strain on public morals. ...

...  These are the fundamental reasons for which we urge the Single Tax, believing it to be the greatest and most fundamental of all reforms. We do not think it will change human nature. That, man can never do; but it will bring about conditions in which human nature can develop what is best, instead of, as now in so many cases, what is worst.
  • It will permit such an enormous production as we can now hardly conceive.
  • It will secure an equitable distribution.
  • It will solve the labor problem and dispel the darkening clouds which are now gathering over the horizon of our civilization.
  • It will make undeserved poverty an unknown thing.
  • It will check the soul-destroying greed of gain.
  • It will enable men to be at least as honest, as true, as considerate, and as high-minded as they would like to be.
  • It will remove temptation to lying, false, swearing, bribery, and law breaking.
  • It will open to all, even the poorest, the comforts and refinements and opportunities of an advancing civilization.
It will thus, so we reverently believe, clear the way for the coming of that kingdom of right and justice, and consequently of abundance and peace and happiness, for which the Master told His disciples to pray and work. It is not that it is a promising invention or cunning device that we look for the Single Tax to do all this; but it is because it involves a conforming of the most important and fundamental adjustments of society to the supreme law of justice, because it involves the basing of the most important of our laws on the principle that we should do to others as we would be done by.

The readers of this article, I may fairly presume, believe, as I believe, that there is a world for us beyond this. The limit of space has prevented me from putting before them more than some hints for thought. Let me in conclusion present two more:

1. What would be the result in heaven itself if those who get there first instituted private property in the surface of heaven, and parceled it out in absolute ownership among themselves, as we parcel out the surface of the earth?
2. Since we cannot conceive of a heaven in which the equal rights of God's children to their Father's bounty is denied, as we now deny them on this earth, what is the duty enjoined on Christians by the daily prayer: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven?" read the whole article



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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper