Free Trade and the Single Tax vs. Imperialism:
A Letter to Andrew Carnegie
You have given ten million dollars to an international peace fund.
The object is worthy. The donor's intentions are good. But a worthy
object and a good intention cannot alone make a gift a real
benefaction. Donations, no matter how large, to suppress evils, no
matter how great, can accomplish nothing unless they should be used
to remove the fundamental cause of the evils.
Aggressive warfare is always the result of what appears to be an
economic necessity. The last great war, that between Russia and
Japan, will serve as an illustration. Those two nations fought over
the possession of Korea. Russia wanted Korea because she feels the
need of a seaport accessible all the year round, that she may be
able to export and import merchandise freely without being bothered
with any tariff restrictions other than those of her own making.
Japan felt that her independence would be threatened -- that is, she
realized that her refusal to trade freely with the rest of the world
would create a temptation for other nations sufficiently strong to
deprive her of independence.
If conditions of absolute free trade had prevailed, Russia would
no more have felt the lack of an accessible seaport than does the
State of Ohio. If Japan maintained no custom houses, the power that
would try to rob her of her independence would have nothing to gain
and very little to lose. Henry George made this clear in his Protection
or Free Trade.
"What," he wrote, "are the real substantial
advantages of this Union of ours? Are they not summed up in the
absolute freedom of trade which it secures, and the community of
interests that grows out of this freedom? If our states were
fighting each other with hostile tariffs and a citizen could not
cross a state boundary without having his baggage searched, or a
book printed in New York could not be sent across the river to New
Jersey until duty was paid, how long would our Union last, or what
would it be worth? The true benefits of our Union, the true basis of
the interstate peace it secures, is that it has prevented the
establishment of state tariffs, and given us free trade over the
better part of a continent."
The "need of foreign markets" which is so frequently
used as an argument to justify wars of criminal aggression is a "need"
that would not be felt if the aggressing nation enforced justice at
home. Our own war in the Philippines would not have received popular
endorsement but for the false hopes of "new foreign markets"
held out to commercial interests. This bait was held out and was
swallowed, in spite of the fact that potential new markets exist
here at home.
The unemployed and partially employed population and the underpaid
workers form a potential market far greater than any war of conquest
could secure. To secure this new market, labor need but be given
access to the natural resources now withheld by private monopolists.
The vacant and the partially used city lots, and the valuable mining
and agricultural lands held out of use for speculation, are causing
poverty, unemployment, and low wages. The result is
under-consumption of manufactured products, which manufacturers and
merchants are bamboozled into believing can be relieved by forcing
the people of weaker nations to purchase.
Then again, the interests which dragged the United States into the
disgraceful Philippine adventure would not and could not have
succeeded in doing so, had not the existence of land monopoly at
home made it evident that the same institution would surely be
continued by our government in the Philippines.
Will the Carnegie Fund be used to any extent in abolishing land
monopoly, thus checking any possible repetition of successful
appeals to commercial cupidity in support of land-grabbing schemes
A gift of ten millions to secure relief from malaria in a swampy
district, which could not be used to secure the draining of the
swamps, or the destruction of the mosquitoes would be just as
effective as your peace donation.