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By C. F. Hunt.
With Reply By Herman Kuehn.
Mr. Kuehn hopes that, through his efforts, some few readers may be spared “falling into the absurdities to which Mr. Hunt commits himself.” He will find more than a few in that position; in fact I would be pleased to have a vote.
The world contains two sorts of people: the votaries of science and the votaries of faith. Each sort forms hypotheses from facts; the former suspends judgment until the hypotheses are repeatedly proved; the latter posits gods and ideals, and defends them form all attacks, holding: the fort though it be riddled, and not hesitating sometimes to use unfair means of combat.
Mr. Kuehn belongs to the latter class. He asserts the unity of nature and his faith in it. He rejects worn out faiths, preferring up-to-date fallacies. He says mankind is ideally good, in the face of the fact that many men are hopelessly bad. He deals with extremes, like heaven and hell, rejecting medium conditions. Liberty is all good, compulsion all bad.
His methods resemble those of other faithist who oppose science; for example, I never said that the mouse-eating instinct of a cat proves a right to life of a mouse. It is utterly false that single taxers and the like “do not believe in voluntary action at all—except so much as the State cannot very well control.” Nor am I committed to the doctrine that mankind is naturally all vile. Such conclusions are possible only with faithists, who think only in extremes. Further, my words: “knowledge of these laws (science)’’ would have prevented most intellectual giants from crediting a layman with the “common error” of thinking that phenomena, and not knowledge, constitutes science.
Will Mr. Kuehn state when mankind became all good? We are told there was a time when men readily killed each other, even when there was no compelling government: and killing is the extreme limit of compulsion. In a previous, still cruder, period (and even now) living beings lived only by killing. When did the race become saints, and when did compulsion destroy the saintliness?
“Now Therefore” is the language of science. No wonder the faithist ridicules it. Superstition has always opposed deduction, except it furnish the premises.
“Whatsoever liberty cannot accomplish authority cannot achieve. All human experience shows that nothing has ever been attained for human progression by coercion.”
Coercion has been used to preserve liberty. Every being has power that may be used for right or wrong. When coercion was used to stop the maiming of pigeons by certain of Mr. Kuehn’s saints. I for one, justify that coercion. When it used to place people in dungeons for harmless acts, I condemn that coercion. But what are “right” and “wrong?” The cat or mouse may have a viewpoint, but it is not ours. Human welfare, then, is the basis.
Whatever promotes this is right, whatever opposes it is wrong. One might judge that Mr. K. never had heard of this proposition. Coercion used for the one is justified and necessary; coercion used for the other is tyranny. Coercion lies in every man’s biceps. He should use it in a manner he deems right, to defend his “rights” or those of others. Likewise the state uses the police as its right arm, enforcing such ideas of right as are evolved by the controlling element in society. Some are not pleased, but there seems no way but to evolve new ideas of right. I think it “scientific” to recognize this fact.
Mr. K. answers only such questions as he can easily. He ignores my request to reconcile coercion in his system of Nature in which all is in unison. Kuehn and Coercion are working in unison, though they appear as antagonists.
Mr. K. never heard of the “Rule of the Road,” that vehicles must go to the right. There is such a law, and I have known of persons who turned to the left being “coerced” to bear the loss of both parties to the collision. Mr. K. thinks without any law people would act “decently.” that is. he has faith that they will, just as other faithists hold that all knotty points will be settled if one only believes in the atonement.
As Mr. K. is utterly ignorant of the single-tax theory, I will outline it by an illustration :
A man leaves three farms to three sons. A, B and C. The farms will each yield to equal labor $1,000, $1,100 and $1,200 respectively. Being individualists the sons wish each to work a farm. How shall they inherit equally? C paid A $100 per year and all shared equally. Afterwards, wanting $300 worth of common improvements. B paid $100, and C $200 into a common fund, and still each had $1,000 yearly, and the benefit of the improvements.
Any one who says the single tax is more or less than the above is ignorant or untruthful. It is not fair to say, in criticism, that B and C are compelled to pay a tax. It is simply a just payment. Under the single tax there is no taxation. What advocates of the idea claim is that this surplus over the ordinary reward to labor, due to fertility or location, shall be collected in the FORM of a tax, that is the existing forms of taxation shall be used. Any sincere critic of the theory will limit himself to the above principles.
To say that any majority can accomplish any desired end without coercing a minority, is to advocate the principle that it is just to consume without producing: the worst evil on earth to-day. Mr. K. says there are essentially collective thing’s. Xo doubt he will admit that a highway is essentially collective. If the majority shall decide to build a pavement, and furnish all the labor, an opposing minority will necessarily help consume the pavement and pay nothing. Mr. K. has faith that they will do right. I have not. It is right to say to them: Your share is so much; pay it, or move to a place without pavement.
Why do not Mr. Kuehn’s saints who drive vehicles act decently at crossings when no policemen is present. Pedestrians, old people and pregnant women, have been seen to jump for their lives, while the saints laugh at their antics.
For an example of an “evanescent” science, Mr. K. cites astronomy, the one having the least proportion of exact knowledge and the largest ratio of speculation, which latter, of course, is not science. He makes no distinction, but is absolutely sure that the laws of gravitation; parallax; Kepler’s law, and the approximate measurements, “must” all be corrected. The only system thus far that corrects them is the silly theory of “Koresh” which defeats itself on analysis. This makes the earth a shell, with all things inside, but the conditions do not meet the facts. Name a scientist who ever asserted that the scientific principles that have been repeatedly certified, can ever be corrected. Faith in twaddle must indeed be strong to make that seem uncertain which is proved every day to be true.
So Mr. Hunt would like a vote! Not necessary. I admit in advance that the vast majority is with him.
Most people labor under the delusion that the killing of one human being by another is possible without the exercise of the governmental function. All murder is government, whether it be organized government or not. So. indeed, is all robbery. In fact the test of governmentalism is the levying of tribute, either in service, goods, treasure or life. Mr. Hunt has a dim perception of this. He says, ut supra: “Men killed each other when there was no compelling government, and killing is the extreme limit of compulsion.” Which is only another way of saying: “Men governed each other when there was no government.”
Whether the highwayman levies tribute at the point of his trusty six-shooter or the tax-gatherer in the name of the king. there is no difference in principle. Nor is there any difference in principle between murder committed by the individual slaver and that perpetrated by organized government.
Government and compulsion are synonymous terms. Tin’s Mr. Hunt has not vet discovered. Most people also believe that government and organization arc interchangeable terms.
The majority is also with Mr. Hunt in the belief that “coercion has been used to preserve liberty.” One must have a queer concept of a “liberty” that can be preserved by the denial of liberty. Mr. Hunt, and his vast majority. are simply mistaken, that’s all. Not a single incident in all history can be construed as evidencing the preservation of liberty by its denial. It gives me much pleasure to be in the minority.
Mr. Hunt cites, presumably as an instance of the preservation of liberty by a denial of liberty, the laws that inhibit the “sport” of trap-shooting. He forgets that only men perverted by governmentalism indulge in such sport. Free men kill harmless animals only for necessary food and raiment.
Mr. Hunt casually stumbles upon a truth in this: ‘‘Whatever promotes human welfare is right, whatever opposes it is wrong.” But he shrinks from applying the very test he invokes, else he would find that coercion never promotes, but always retards human welfare. The superficial majority justifies one form of tyranny in dealing with the effects of preceding tyrannies. When they see something: amiss—something that “opposes human welfare,” they never think of trying freedom as a remedy—always more tyranny. They would treat the baby’s diaper with eau de Cologne instead of soap and water.
I had said that I knew of no law making it incumbent on drivers to keep to the right. Mr. Hunt works his Now Therefore thus: “Mr. Kuehn never heard of the ‘rule of the road,’ etc.” Yes, I have practiced and acquiesced in that custom all my life, except in the countries where driving- to the left is the custom!, and still I say that I know of no law to that effect. Nor is one necessary. Men are always clad to abide by any common-sense understanding of that kind, and it is only among benighted perverts that there is ever any disposition to embody such tacit agreements into legislative enactments.
And so Mr. Hunt thinks that I am utterly ignorant of the single tax theory. Well. Henry George did not think so meanly of my intelligence. The only letter of introduction I brought to Chicaco on my first visit here seventeen years ago was one from Henry George to John Z. White. I understood the single tax theory very well in those days. But Mr. Hunt thinks I don’t understand it now. In those days I understood it precisely as Hunt does now. I now understand it better than I did then, or than he does now. Far better. He cites an illustration and then adds: “Any one who says the single fax is more or less than the above is ignorant or untruthful.” Well. I’m used to being called a liar by the majority. I don’t mind it in the least, because I know how poorly equipped the majority is in the matter of unbiased judgments.
I understand the single tax theory precisely like my friend Henry George understood it. All that is good in that theory will work far better under voluntary co-operation than by any process of compulsion.
Mr. Hunt’s assurance that the single tax is no tax at all is on a parity with the protectionist plea that the tariff is not a tax, but a just payment by the foreigner for the use of our home market.
Henry George wrote a great book. I commend a closer reading of Progress and Poverty to Mr. Hunt. He will find that even so great an authority as the author of the theory found more in it than Mr. Hunt proclaims. Mr. George advocated the single tax in order that the state might become the universal landlord. Yes, a great hook, that. It states many truths in a masterly way. and abounds in fallacies innumerable. Mr. George, an excellent man, with a large capacity for human sympathy, lacked woefully in imagination. He could not project his mind into a contemplation of human association under freedom. His advocacy of free trade was limited to the custom-house phase of the subject. His chapter on interest is one of the most ludicrous performances in the realm of serious literature, and his ready acceptance of the ‘‘margin of cultivation” theory shows that he was more credulous than analytic. George instils into the minds of those of his readers who accept him as infallible a reliance upon the Ricardean theory of rent—a theory that has no cogency whatever aside from its base upon the principle of royalty. George wrote an eloquent apostrophe of liberty, and had no comprehension of what liberty really is.
One is to be pitied who has never read Henry George. One is to be more pitied who has read nothing but Henry George.
Mr. Hunt’s illustration is based upon the “margin of cultivation” theory. George swallowed that Ricardean fallacy whole, and those who read only George are likewise committed to it. Mr. Hunt has given us his assurance that he has shown “all there is” of the single tax, and that any one is a liar or damphool who does not acquiesce in his views.
Let us examine this illustration. We are shown three brothers who have inherited title to land. We are to presume that the three farms are of equal area, and that the diversity of results from its tillage arises from a qualitative difference in the soils. And the brother occupying the better location is expected to indemnify (and under the single tax is to be compelled to indemnify) the brother who occupies the poorer land, in such measure as that all may fare equally. Mr. Hunt leaves out of the account three considerations:
As to the first, it probably has never occurred to him that a diversity of product may arise from variant degrees of industrious endeavor. It is possible that if Brother C were cultivating A’s plot the yield would be just about the same as that of C’s present site. Now. if society undertakes to compel the more industrious brother to take his less diligent confrere into participation, then the single tax will be an admirable method to facilitate that sort of “justice.”
Secondly, it is possible that with more extended intelligence A would employ the land he uses in the cultivation of crops that would yield him at least as much as his more fortunate brother produces. Much of the land that was presumed to be below the margin of cultivation has not remained so after some fellow with brains and enterprise came along and did things. For instance, the lands about Kalamazoo, Mich., were deemed waste until some Dutchman applied the celery remedy. Lands about Niles, Mich., were rated as below the margin until brains tried mint. Many a poor wheat field has turned out to be prime onion ground. If, however, it is the aim of society to undertake to equalize intelligence toward a low standard the single tax will do it.
Thirdly, and of greater importance than either the first or second of these considerations, is the factor of brotherliness. If, for any reason, one of three brothers makes a smaller crop than his needs require, and his brothers a larger, then, under free trade (1) the less fortunate will not only be permitted to share with the more fortunate, but will be besought to do so, and his refusal to do so would be unbrotherly and unsocial. This latter consideration cannot be understood by the governmentally-minded. They see human nature only through a glass, darkly. They have no comprehension of the innate brotherliness of mankind, because their experience has been only with government-perverted people, who manifest in accordance with their training and their fears.
That these three brothers could occupy and use land without reference to the royal scheme of grafting involved in royal titles does not occur to Mr. Hunt. Well, he is in good company, for it did not occur to Ricardo, either. George had some vague apprehension of the benefit that would accrue to society by “making land common property.” though it seems never to have occurred to him that land is always and everywhere common property, only that most people have not the intelligence to understand this, and consequently they acquiesce in various royal schemes to obviate that natural condition, thus losing the benefit of the fact to grasp at the shadow of “the blessings of government.”
Mr. Hunt comes tilting at me with his deadly “Now Therefore”‘ in his comment on the building of a highway. With his ever-ready weapon he convicts me of advocating the principle that it is just to consume without producing. But free men are never sponges and shirks. I have lived among such and therefore (Now Therefore) I know. Sponges and shirks are the products of governmentalism. always and everywhere. I have lived in communities where roads were built by voluntary co-operation, and where schools were so maintained, and if any of the neighbors had not been permitted to help in the building of the road or allowed to contribute toward the maintenance of the school it would have been a casus belli.
The people who drive vehicles so recklessly as to endanger the limbs or lives of pedestrians are not my saints, Mr. Hunt, but years, made measly mean and “triflin’” by fool laws. Under free trade—real free trade—people wouldn’t have to be in such a devil of a hurry, anyway. But it never occurred to Mr. Hunt—indeed how could it?—that congested street traffic can be managed and regulated by voluntary agreement, and functionaries to so regulate it would not have to exert any authority, but merely give each teamster a friendly nod when it came his turn to pass “a given point.”
As to Cosmogony, I shall let Mr. Hunt have the triumph of the last word, and if he is satisfied that we derive our heat from the sun, through millions upon millions of miles of space refrigerated to some thousands of degrees below zero, it cannot matter to me. I cited astronomy for no other reason than that the scientific people of a former age were quite as sure that the earth is flat as Hunt is that single tax is not a tax, or that the best medium of exchange is one that hinders rather than facilitates exchanges, or that free people who want roads will not volunteer to build them, but must be coerced into so doing.
(1) I mean real free trade not custom house free trade.
C. F. Hunt and Herman Kuehn, “Nowthereforeism,” To-Morrow 2, no. 10 (October, 1906): 58-64.