Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.
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Land and Labor


Louis Post: Outlines of Louis F. Post's Lectures, with Illustrative Notes and Charts (1894)

Thus all artificial objects external to man — Wealth, are found to have their ultimate source in the conjunction of man's activities — Labor, with natural objects external to man — Land. ...

Wealth is produced solely by the application of Labor to Land.51

50. It may at first seem like a great waste of time and space to have gone through this long analysis for no other purpose at last than to demonstrate the self-evident fact that land and labor are the sole original factors in the production of Wealth. But it will have been no waste if it enables the reader to firmly grasp the fact. Nothing is more obvious, to be sure. Nothing is more readily assented to. Yet by layman and college professor and economic author alike, this simple truth is cast adrift at the very threshold of argument or investigation, with results akin to what might be expected in physics if after recognizing the law of gravitation its effects should be completely ignored.

51. There is ample authority among economic writers for this conclusion.

Professor Ely enumerates Nature, Labor, and Capital as the factors of production, but he describes Capital as a combination of Nature and Labor — Ely's Introduction, part ii, ch. iii.

Say describes industry as " nothing more or less than human employment of natural agents." — Say's Trea., book i, ch. ii.

And though John Stuart Mill and numerous others speak of Land, Labor, and Capital as the three factors of production, as does Professor Jevons, most of them, like Jevons, recognize the fact, though in their reasoning they often fail to profit by it, that Capital is not a primary but a secondary requisite. See Jevons's Pol. Ec., secs. 16, 19.

Henry George says: "Land, labor, and capital are the factors of production. The term land includes all natural opportunities or forces; the term labor, all human exertion; and the term capital, all wealth used to produce more wealth. . . Capital is not a necessary factor in production. Labor exerted upon land can produce wealth without the aid of capital, and in the necessary genesis of things must so produce wealth before capital can exist." — Progress and Poverty, book iii, ch. i.

Also : "The complexities of production in the civilized state, in which so great a part is borne by exchange, and so much labor is bestowed upon materials after they have been separated from the land, though they may to the unthinking disguise, do not alter the fact that all production is still the union of the two factors, land and labor."— Id., ch. viii.

By intelligent observers no authority is needed. In all the phenomena of human life, whether primitive or civilized, the lesson of the chart stands out in bold relief. Nothing can be produced without Labor and Land, and nothing can be named which under any circumstances enters into productive processes that is not resolvable into either the one or the other. To satisfy all human wants mankind requires nothing but human labor and natural material, and each of them is indispensable.

This is the final analysis. In the union of Labor, which includes all human effort,52 with Land, which includes the whole material universe outside of man,53 we discover the ultimate source of Wealth, which includes all the material things that satisfy want.54 And that is the first great truth upon which the single tax philosophy is built.

52. The term labor includes all human exertion in the production of wealth." — Progress and Poverty, book i, ch. ii.

53. "The term land necessarily includes, not merely the surface of the earth as distinguished from the water and the air, but the whole material universe outside of man himself, for it is only by having access to land, from which his very body is drawn, that man can come in contact with or use nature." — Progress and Poverty, book i, ch. ii.

54. "As commonly used the word 'wealth ' is applied to anything having exchange value. But ... wealth, as alone the term can be used in political economy, consists of natural products that have been secured, moved, combined, separated, or in other ways modified by human exertion, so as to fit them for the gratification of human desires." — Progress and Poverty, book i, ch ii. ...

e. Effect of Retaining Rent for Common Use.

If society retained Rent for common purposes, all incentive to hold land for any other object than immediate use would disappear. The effect may be illustrated by a comparison of the last preceding chart with the following: [chart]

There is but one difference between this chart and the chart immediately preceding. In that Rent is confiscated to private use, whereas in this Rent is retained for common use. All the labor force indicated with red in the first of the two charts would not more than utilize the space to the left and part of the adjoining one, which would elevate Wages to what, with the given labor force, could be produced from the poorer of the two spaces. After that, increase of Rent would not enrich land-owners at the expense of other classes; it would enrich the whole community.108

108. The laborer would receive in Distribution all that he earned and no more than he earned in Production; and that is the natural law.

In social conditions, where industry is subdivided and trade is intricate, it is impossible to say arbitrarily what is the equivalent of given labor. Hence no statute fixing the compensation for labor can really be operative. All that we can say is that labor is worth what men freely contract to give and take for it. But it must be what they freely contract to take as well as what they freely contract to give; and men are not free to contract for the sale of their labor when labor generally is so divorced from land as to abnormally glut the labor market and make men's sale of their labor for almost anything the buyer offers, the alternative of starvation. Laborers may be as truly enslaved by divorcing labor from land as by driving them with a whip. ...

Q36. How is it possible to determine what part of a man's product is due to land, and what part is due to labor?
A. All products are due wholly to the union of land and labor. Labor is the active force, land is the passive material; and without both there can be no product at all. But the part of a man's product that he individually earns, as distinguished from the part that he obtains by virtue of advantageous location, is determined by the law of rent — by what his location is worth.

Q57. If land and labor are equally indispensable factors of production, why are they not equally entitled to the product?
A. The laborer justly owns his labor, but the land-owner cannot justly own his land. The question is not one of the relative rights of men and land, but of men and men. ... read the book



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