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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

The Necessity of the Movement

The Necessity of the Movement.

A few words as to the necessity of this movement in our own colony, and in our own time, before closing this address. I would urge with all the force of which I am capable, the importance of immediate and united action. It is ours to profit by, not to fall into, the mistakes committed by other countries in the past. It is not because of the great extent of our unoccupied country, or our limited population, that we can afford to let things continue as they are. The evil result of monopoly in land is already upon us, and it grows with our growth. It is at the root of the hard times that the toilers in our towns are suffering from, and an element in the present commercial depression Is it not monstrous in this young colony, not yet 50 years of age, with its enormous extent of land is it not monstrous, I ask, that in parts of Adelaide and its suburbs, yes, and in some of the country towns also, we should see vacant acres and vacant sections, and in others should witness the vile overcrowding of dwellings, built in blocks, and with only a few square feet of yard to each? No proper provision for decency, no garden in which to grow fruit and vegetables for the household, no poultry yard, no plot of pleasant flowers to brighten the wife's eyes and gladden the young children's hearts, nothing to elevate or refine—only mean, low, unhealthy, ignoble surroundings. As Carlyle says, "Such an arrangement must end. Ought it not?" And great as this evil of overcrowding is already, it is nothing to what it will be in the future, despite our enormous territory. Look at New York. Who would have dreamt 50 years ago that it would ever be possible for such a state of things to exist there as we see at the present day. Some writers assert that parts of that j city are, more overcrowded than the worst page break parts of London. I daresay many of you read the extracts, published in last Friday's Herald, from the "Report of the Royal Commission on the housing of the working classes in England," and noted the description given of the conditions under which a largo portion of the poorest workers of London always live; "whose existence," as Ruskin said, "whose existence—not the ceasing of it—is death." Can any of you contemplate, without a thrill of horror, the possibility that your children, or your children's children, may, some day, come to this? Can any of you contemplate, without a thrill of horror, that other people'schildren should ever come to this? But come to it they will, most assuredly, spite of all building or sanitation laws or any such impotent remedies, unless you strike at the root of the evil and apply the only effectual preventive—the nationalization of the land. I do not propose to-night to dwell on those considerations of self-interest which should prompt all classes to rally round the standard which we have raised, or I might go on to show the pecuniary and other advantages which each would derive from an equitable system of land tenure. These would be shared by all. The abolition of taxation—for, by whatever name you call it, the price paid for the use of the soil is not a tax, but rent the destruction of the speculative value of land in and around all centres of population; the enormous increase in the number of persons cultivating the soil, and consequent increased demand for the labor of those engaged in the mechanical arts; the more equal distribution of wealth, for the unearned increment would no longer go to swell the pocket of the private owner, but would be national property; a slackening of competition and the struggle for existence; more leisure, with that advance of true art which cannot be born, or exist, without it; the opening of equal opportunities—although not of equal results—to all: these would be some of the results of the nationalization of the land.