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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Socialists and Single-Taxers

Socialists and Single-Taxers.

Many people attribute our state of social unrest, the ruinous conflicts between labour and capital, the fall in values of land and its products, and our social ills generally to what they are pleased to describe as the "blight," "the curse of Socialism," but how do they account for the fact that we have the same state of things all the world over, and under every form of government, including countries like Russia, where Socialism has had no influence whatever on the Government?

That the trouble exists no one can deny, and I think it is the duty of all right-minded men to earnestly endeavour to find out the cause, and take stops to remove it, and not content themselves with throwing the blame on any one section of the community.

For my own part, I may say at once that I am not a Socialist, nor do I believe in Socialistic methods. Rut when we remember that this movement has been led by such men as Robert Owen, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Lassalle, Friedrich Engels, William Clarke, William Morris, and many other highly educated and prominent men, it is mere presumption on our part, to treat this movement with contempt, and, without the most careful examination, to speak of it as a "blight" and a "curse."

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I have devoted some little time and thought to this subject, and the more I study it, the less I like it; but there is urgent need for something to be done, and done effectively, to give the great mass of people better opportunities for acquiring something more than a bare existence, otherwise this Socialistic wave will spread and overwhelm all individualism.

The question arises, and is worth considering: How did this "blight of Socialism" arise, and why is it with us? My reply is this: That the great growth of riches on the one hand, and of poverty and misery on the other hand, have caused the masses to ask why this unequal distribution should exist, and to seek for methods for bringing about a fairer and more equal one.

During the last few years a great deal has been done to relieve and improve the condition of the poorer classes, but much—very much—remains to be done.

There are many men who do not belong to what are called the masses, men of noble minds and brilliant, education and attainments, who have seen the trouble coming, and have cast about for means of meeting it. Among these are the leading Socialists. Many confuse the Socialists and the Single Taxers, whose Socialistic proposal is better known and understood here, but they are totally different. There are many profound thinkers among the Socialists; I do not know of one among the Single Taxers. Their leader, Henry George, is a powerful writer, but if he had been a deep thinker he would long ago have found out that his proposed remedy is not only impracticable but positively mischievous. Probably there never has been another man who while seeking to do good has done so much harm as he has.

By proposing a measure sure to take with the unthinking crowd, and those who had nothing to lose, he frightened holders of real estate and prevented the expenditure of capital. At one time it seemed possible that his proposal might be tried, and investors knew that that would mean a state of commercial and financial chaos, therefore they held back, and vast numbers of people were thrown out of employment.

Both the Socialists and the Single Taxers saw that the trouble arose because the people as a whole cannot obtain land when and in such situations as they want it, and they both thought that the difficulty could be got over by nationalising the land. The Socialists, however, were clever enough to see that if the land were nationalised, that everything else must become national property also, and that individualism must be clean swept away.

The Single Taxers, on the other hand, thought they could nationalise the land, and at the same time retain individualism. The idea is an absurdity: everything goes with the land, and if that becomes national property so must everything else, and individualism must absolutely cease.

I dread the Socialistic movement, and believe it will lead to nothing but evil, but there is no use in blinding our eyes to the page 94 fact that it is a growing power, and that it is ably led, and we may rest assured that it is absolutely necessary to arrest the movement by doing something to render the existence of Socialism unnecessary.

We must by some means make the land available. Leaders of thought in England see this, and they hope to do it by means of the allotment system, "three acres and a cow," but so far this movement has failed, and fail it must, until the transit system is so altered that the workers can live on land, and at the same time have cheap and easy access to districts where they can sell their labour. If this were done we should soon, cease to hear the words Socialism and Single Tax. Every man who has an acre becomes interested in conserving the rights of property.

It is all very well to rail at Socialism, but we must remember that Socialism, Single Tax, One-man-one-vote are not to any extent responsible for the present state of things, for these movements are but of yesterday. The present trouble is the result of the work of ages.

From remote periods property and the propertied classes have governed the world, and with but few exceptions still govern it, and it is because they have neglected their duties and have so much ignored the wants and requirements of the poorer classes that we have this "blight," this "curse of Socialism" among us.

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