As Went Slavery Will
Eventually Go Landed Property
H. J. Chase
[Reprinted from the Single Tax Review, 1915]
I think I understand how Mr. Bastida feels. I don't believe in
property in land any more than he does -- I even go further, perhaps.
The land doesn't belong to the people collectively any more than to
any of them individually. It's the use of the land, not the land
itself, to which everybody has an equal right. And in the use of the
land it is the duty of each generation to remember that there will be
Property in land is the bane of all progress. The day is coming when
those who uphold it, or even condone it, will be classed with those
who upheld or condoned chattel slavery. This talk about recognizing
the ownership of land itself but not of its rent, is like saying to a
slaveholder, "You own the negro but not his wages; we are going
to confiscate them."
Nevertheless, it proved impossible to found a successful political
party upon the principle that property in human beings was wrong and
should be abolished.
The beginning of the end of slavery was when its further extension
was voted down. The argument that killed slavery was that it didn't
pay. Hinton Rowan Helper failed to open the eyes of the South to that
fact, but he did open the eyes of the North. The North had found out,
long before Helper's time, that slavery in this latitude didn't pay;
but the "Impending Crisis" showed that it wasn't paying in
the South, either; that, consequently, it wasn't likely to pay
anywhere in the country. It wasn't by talking about the wickedness of
slavery that Ely Thayer got the money to colonize Kansas with
anti-slavery settlers, but by reminding Northern business that Kansas
as a free State would be a better customer than Kansas as a slave
We've got to open the eyes of business to what property in land is
doing to business -- hampering and throttling it at every step,
preventing the possible production of wealth to an extent beyond
present computation. We've got to show that collecting ground rent
every year and dumping it into the middle of the Atlantic ocean would
be a far better business policy than its present disposition.
All over this country production is being carried on on inferior land
while any quantity of better land is held idle. The business world is
beginning to comprehend the situation, and a few object lessons like
that of Houston are going to accelerate the process.
Cheer up brother Bastida; the beginning of the end of industrial
slavery is with us already!