Wealth and Want
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Both Ethical and Fiscal


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

Your Holiness will see from the explanation I have given that the reform we propose, like all true reforms, has both an ethical and an economic side. By ignoring the ethical side, and pushing our proposal merely as a reform of taxation, we could avoid the objections that arise from confounding ownership with possession and attributing to private property in land that security of use and improvement that can be had even better without it. All that we seek practically is the legal abolition, as fast as possible, of taxes on the products and processes of labor, and the consequent concentration of taxation on land values irrespective of improvements. To put our proposals in this way would be to urge them merely as a matter of wise public expediency.

There are indeed many single-tax men who do put our proposals in this way; who seeing the beauty of our plan from a fiscal standpoint do not concern themselves further. But to those who think as I do, the ethical is the more important side. Not only do we not wish to evade the question of private property in land, but to us it seems that the beneficent and far-reaching revolution we aim at is too great a thing to be accomplished by “intelligent self-interest,” and can be carried by nothing less than the religious conscience.

Hence we earnestly seek the judgment of religion. This is the tribunal of which your Holiness as the head of the largest body of Christians is the most august representative. ... read the whole letter



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