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land-tenure is sure to be called a Communist, just let me endeavour to lay that harmless spectre.
Communism is, in fact, an attempt to deprive people of the result of their labour. So far from proceeding upon the sacredness of individuality and property, it sets at nought those principles, and proposes to make every individual labour for the benefit of all the others, not of himself. It is in fact slavery disguised—slavery where men would work, not for a single master, but for that great collective master, the community. The shoemaker of the phalanstery shall make so many shoes per diem, and the pbalanstery shall take them from him as soon as made, giving him so much of other products as it thinks good for him. There is consequently the germ of Communism in every proposal to tax classes for the advantage of other classes. There is the germ of Communism in poor laws, and in all mob rule such as the Municipal Government of Paris, and still more of New York. There is the germ of Communism in many measures which our most Conservative legislators approve and applaud. But there is no Communism at all in enquiries which tend toward the equitable apportionment of raw material between the various individuals in the State. It is a Communistic proposal to take books from their authors for the advantage of the public, without compensation ; but it is not a Communistic proposal to look existing land-laws in the face, in order to see how they arose, and what 'slow modifications in them may tentatively be necessary to secure the greatest enjoyment to every citizen of the results of his own industry. Enthusiastic young men revolted by existing inequalities, are apt to take refuge in ideal Communism as a remedy; and so perhaps foment revolutionary schemes with which they have no real underlying sympathy. But the way to prevent them from doing so is to point out the true demands of individualism—the freest possible market for industry, and the justest possible distribution of raw material.
And now let us try to answer briefly the three questions propounded above. First of all, how ought an ideal society to proceed in the apportionment of raw material amongst its members ?
Let us suppose we have a clear field, with no old abuses to get rid of or minimize. Let us be a body of settlers, with our present developed sense of justice, going to colonise a wholly unoccupied New Zealand, in a distant hemisphere. Clearly, under such circumstances, we, the first shipload of colonists, have no abstract right to seize upon the whole country as our own private property, and divide it up in large tracts amongst ourselves, so preventing other colonists from settling in any part of it unless they choose to buy land from us. We are not the holders of any letters patent from God or Nature entitling us to usurp for ever so much raw material, and taboo it for our own use and benefit, against the equal right of all later comers ; por do I see that we shall mend matters much if we hold letters patent from any lesser potentate, such as the Pope, the King of Spain, or the President of the United States. Again, we have no abstract right to buy portions of the land from our own colonial Government, which is after all only another expression for our collective selves. We cannot rightly thus usurp the raw material belonging to the whole future community, and capitalize its present value for the benefit of the existing generation. The absolutely fair and equitable plan will be for us to vest all land in perpetuity in the State, that is to
say, in the collective body of citizens, and then to let out portions of it among ourselves at fair and equitable rentals, such rentals being subject to revision at certain stated intervals. Of course I cannot pretend here to sketch out even in outline the necessary provisions under such a scheme for guarding the rights of the existing individuals on the one hand, and of the body corporate with its successors throughout all posterity, on the other. It would, of course, be needful to make various minute arrangements as to possible raisings of rental, unexhausted improvements, hypothetical discoveries of gold, iron, coal, and so forth, just as it is in agreements between landlord and tenant under our existing system; while on the other side, it would be desirable to hold out every inducement to settlers to bring the land into good cultivation as early as possible, and to develop its various mineral or other natural resources, with every reasonable hope on the guarantee of the community, that they should enjoy the results of their labour to the utmost, so far as compatible with the equal right to the potential enjoyment of raw material on the part of every other person in the present and the future. In such a State, at first, the rental of land would be low, and the population small; but as the population increased, the value of raw material would increase also, and the unearned increment' so accruing would justly flow, not into the coffers of any individual, but into the treasury of the State. It would thus be available for all the purposes to which taxes may lawfully be applied, while it would in all probability leave a large surplus (in any wealthy state) to be employed on those purposes of education, relief of distress, ästhetic embellishment, and public amusements to which taxes (as I think) cannot justly be applied. Every individual would thus benefit directly by the raw material which is the common heritage of all
. This is a Utopia, of course, but it is a Utopia which may help us the better to realize how matters really stand in existing States.
But when we ask the second question, How have communities actually apportioned raw material ?—the answer is a complicated one. Only a single comprehensive reply can be given, embracing all the varieties of tenure in different countries. Just as communism consists of an attempt to deprive individuals of the result of their labour, so land-owning, as everywhere practised, consists in a now consolidated system for depriving individuals of their fair share in the raw material belonging to the community. The origin of land-holding is manifold: but its results are everywhere in the end pretty much the same. The simplest form is that of squatting, whereby a man merely settles on unoccupied ground, and makes it his own by culti
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vation or fencing, becoming thereafter entitled, not only to its soil and products, but also to all possible mines or minerals underneath. Hence may arise enormous unearned fortunes-appropriations of valuable raw material which are not in any way products of individual industry-silver mines, oil wells, collieries, and the like. In other cases, land is granted by some Elizabeth, George III., or Louis XIV., as in Lower Canada, Virginia, and other extra-European colonies of ancient kingdoms. Among older historical countries, land owning has sprung up by conquest, by distribution of folk-land, by usurpation of communal rights. For the Aryan race generally, the village communal system is the original form, and it survives in India, wherever native princes or English ignorance have not changed the hereditary revenue farmers into land-owners in the ordinary sense. rule it has yielded to individual proprietorship. In England, tenure of land traces back to the original English conquest, when it became the property of the community, mostly granted out in pieces to individuals, not themselves as a rule cultivators. From the Norman Conquest, however, or at least from William's great confiscation, the larger part of it came into the hands of great feudal owners, lay or spiritual. Land in England is really held for the most part on titles indirectly going back to Domesday, and Domesday in its real nature (in spite of legal fictions) is mainly the record of a practical redistribution of conquered lands among the conquerors. Ireland is in great part similarly held on tenures of one conquest or another, from Strongbow's to Cromwell's, and William's. In Scotland, much of the Highlands is really clan land, made into the property of the chief by the errors of southern lawyers. In France, where the great upheaval of '89 utterly changed the land system, the soil still remains in the hands of a new proprietary body-a numerous body of small proprietors, it is true, yet none the less monopolists of raw material. It seems to me that too much stress has been laid in all these questions on the mere legal and historical aspects of each particular case, to the detriment of the far more important social aspect—the underlying point that the land is everywhere held in taboo by somebody or other, few or many, to the exclusion of the community, as a community. Legal fictions about the Queen's supreme title to the land, and so forth, have been allowed to cover over and obscure the ultimate truth, that in all advanced societies the whole body of raw material practically belongs to somebody or some set of persons, instead of belonging to the community at large. If we import distinctions of folk-land, and book-land and terra regis into the question, we only lose sight of the real principles involved. In this kingdom the central fact is this. Sometimes by grant of the community through its recognised mouthpiece, the king; sometimes by right of conquest, more or less veiled, and similarly disguised as royal grant; sometimes, perhaps, by mere immemorial usage; sometimes by conversion of tribal headship into territorial right—land has in the end become vested in individuals, and these individuals now derive from it, in most instances, a large unearned revenue, due in some cases to the agricultural value of the soil, in some cases to the importance of the sites as contiguous to great industrial centres, and in some cases to minerals or other special objects of value, naturally existing in or beneath the ground. These are the revenues which in the Utopia supposed above, would go into the treasury of the community. To them the existing proprietors have merely the artificial right arising from prescription, not the natural right arising from the exercise of productive industry.
The third and really practical question, How can we remove the existing inequalities is a serious and a difficult one. Of course, if any community were wise, it would never have allowed such complications to arise. But they have unfortunately arisen, and the only question is how to minimize the necessary evils resulting from them. More unfortunately still, every new country is going forward in just the same heedless path as the old ones before it-preparing for itself in the future all the problems and dangers of a land-question.
The Conservative answer to the difficulty is a very simple one. Tories insist upon treating land as though it were property in the same sense as that in which the products of labour are property. When practical difficulties arise, as they have arisen lately in Ireland, The Tory refuses to see any side of the question except the landlord. The one fixed principle with him is this, that the land is the landlord's, and that he has in some way an eternal and immutable right to gather from it a fixed revenue of so many thousands a year. The people of the country have no right in it at all, except on sufferance from the landlord : their claim to a share in the raw material of the world he does not admit in any shape. Some people have been born heirs to the soil of the earth, and some people have been born disinherited, with only such rights as the heirs choose to allow them. The Tory doctrine does not go very far back in time: it avoids detail as to the origin of land-holding, which it treats always as in some way sacred or divine; and it studiously endeavours to mix up questions of land-owning with questions of property in general. But as far as it goes, it is simple and comprehensible enough.
The Liberal doctrine, on the contrary, is necessarily vague, being a mere temporary compromise—an attempt to do the best possible under difficult circumstances. The Liberal recognises, on the one hand, the right of all people born in the country to share, so far as possible, in that stock of raw material which none of us produced, and which none of us has a natural right to appropriate. But on the other hand, he also recognises the grave responsibilities which we have, as a community, incurred towards all the holders of land; first, in more or less sanctioning its appropriation, and then in giving a tacit but distinct guarantee for its fixity. To touch the right of socalled property in land is to touch a vast number of clustered interests and rights, which can hardly be shaken ever so slightly without the danger of destroying our whole national credit. For in spite of their original distinctness, every kind of genuine property is now mixed up with property in land. First of all, endless capital has been expended on improving, draining, mining, and building upon it, on the understanding that it formed a perfectly secure investment. Then money earned by personal exertion has been expended in its purchase. We have not to deal with original conquerors, or original grantees, but with every kind and degree of descendant, money purchaser, and mortgagee. We have to deal with complicated systems of railways, canals, towns, streets, mines, quarries, manufactories, and products of labour in all conceivable forms, inextricably mixed up with the raw land itself. The least threat held out against the future stability of the land system—such a threat as that involved in Mr. Forster's Bill, for example—is really quite enough to make all thoughtful men hesitate and tremble. I would not for a moment attempt to explain away the reality of such a danger. Any measure which even remotely savours of revolution must be carefully guarded against in so complex a society as that in which we live. If a few sentences written above may have seemed in their abstractness and isolation to suggest the possibility or desirability of making a tabula rasa of our land laws at one fell swoop, I hope this paragraph will be accepted as putting the
I opinion intended in a truer form. The fact is, no Conservative can feel more deeply than many Liberals feel the enormous responsibility of making a first step towards an alteration of our landi laws. And, say what we will, Mr. Forster's Bill does constitute such a first step. We may hope the matter will stop there; but when we once open the flood-gates ever so little, we shall need strong and steady hands to keep them from yielding inch by inch under constant and progressive pressure. That they must so yield, more or less, in the end, is indeed certain ; and our object must be to let them open gently and gradually, without a sudden rush or overwhelming disaster.
On the other hand, Conservative as we may be by nature, we Liberals cannot avoid seeing that other side to the question, whose existence the Tory refuses to grant. The ownership of land is a mere convention. It is a convention sanctioned by immemorial usage, guaranteed by tacit or explicit agreement, bound up with every form of acquired or natural right; but it is a convention none the less. Opposed to it stands a native claim for justice, a claim which sometimes cannot be withstood. The necessities of the people may at times rise so high that the prescriptive titles and expectations of landowners must undergo some modification. When such a crisis arrives, all we can do is to balance the conflicting claims as evenly as possible—to manage the best in our power for the landless, while making the most equitable allowance that we can for the natural expectations and just demands of the landlords. They must suffer undoubted hardship; but so do the peasantry under existing laws. Great as are the dangers attending such a declaration, we cannot at such times avoid laying down the general principle that so-called property in land is not fixed, absolute and inalienable, like property in the proNo. 609 (NO. CXXIX. X. 8.)