Single Taxers Should Support
Norman Thomas for President

Chester C. Platt

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, Vol. XXVIII, No.5, September-October 1928]

So you advise us to vote for Norman Thomas, the Socialist candidate! Good. "New powers bring new duties." Henry George says so in Chapter XVII of Social Problems entitled "The Functions of Government." Here he presents about all the arguments which are urged by present-day socialists in support, not only of the public ownership of railroads, the telegraphs and telephones, electric light, heat, power and gas, but also of all those businesses that are in their nature monopolies.

But he goes still further, and says, beyond owning those businesses which in their nature involve monopoly, there is a field in which the state may operate beneficially as the executive of the great co-operative associations into which it is the tendency of true civilization to blend society.

He also tells us in this chapter that the natural progress of social development is unmistakably towards Socialism.

He speaks of the development of species and says, as the powers of conscious co-ordinated action of the whole being must assume greater and greater relative importance to the automatic action of parts, so it is in the development of society. "This is the truth in Socialism", he declares.

During the past summer I visited seven European countries, where I met and discussed social affairs with representative socialists. Nearly all recognized the fundamental doctrine of Henry George that all mankind have an equal right to the use of the earth, and that the way to secure that right is through the collection of economic rent, by the state, for governmental expenses.

I believe in Henry George, but I do not believe that he was infallible. And I think one of the greatest mistakes of his life was when in 1887, at the State convention on the United Labor party he parted company with the socialists, who had supported him in his campaign for Mayor in 1886.

The hostilities then aroused have led many Georgests to always speak slightingly of socialism, and often sarcastically of socialists, as if they were enemies in a hostile camp instead of allies.

I hope our joining with the Socialists in support of Mr. Thomas, (as many of us will) may bring about a friendly and co-operative feeling towards socialists, by all land reform advocates.

I said so to a Single Tax friend and he answered "I do not like this mixing up of socialism with the Single Tax."

Well, Henry George started it. In Progress and Poverty, chapter I of Book VI, he says: "The ideal of socialism is grand and noble, and it is, I am convinced, possible of realization."

And in chapter IV of Book IV he tells us that the revenue arising from the taxation of land values would enable us to establish public baths, museums, libraries, gardens, lecture-rooms, music and dancing rooms, theatres, universities, technical schools, shooting galleries, play grounds, gymnasiums, etc. Heat, light, and motive power as well as water, might be conducted through our streets at public expense; our roads be lined with fruit trees; discoverers and inventors rewarded, scientific investigation supported; and in a thousand ways the public revenue made to foster efforts for the public benefit.

"We should reach the ideal of the socialist, but not through governmental repression. Government would change its character, and become the administration of a great co-operative society."

I am aware that Mr. George said and wrote some things seemingly contradictory of some of the things I have quoted. Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? It is well, I contain multitudes." Henry George too contained multitudes.

I am aware that Henry George did not believe in the wisdom of abolishing competition. Neither do I. It is the law of life. It is one of the main-springs of progress. It also often produces injustice and cruelty also and so needs to be restrained and guided.

And I find that most of the socialists in this country and abroad question the wisdom of abolishing all competition, and believe that there should be along with the public ownership of many things a broad field left for private initiative and private enterprise. The Russian fiasco has taught many reformers that evolutionary progress is better than revolutionary progress and that it is not wise to turn society and our economic system upside down.

"Ah Love, could you and I conspire, to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would we not smash it into bits, and then rebuild it nearer to our heart's desire?"

Thus wrote a very old-time poet. But this idea of reform is absurd. The bit by bit method is the scientific one. Experiment is necessary in the field of social reform. The only way to tell whether some of our Utopian theories will work or not is to begin with small doses.

Joseph Dana Miller

Mr. Platt goes us one better, and we do not follow him so far. We do not believe that the law of competition produces injustice and cruelty where left free to work. Under the one-sided competition that prevails ("jug-handled competition" was the happy phrase of Louis Post) it does work injustice. But free competition has not yet been tried. Nor do we think a natural law needs to be restrained and guided.

And the things we can do cooperatively with the surplus of the land rent fund remaining after governmental expenses are provided for if there is any remainder -will be few in number.

Nor can we endorse the argument that because the Russian experiment has failed we must therefore substitute evolutionary for revolutionary progress. It is conceivable that the Russian experiment might have succeeded if it had begun right. Even now it has a better opportunity of working around right a better opportunity than we have, since mountains in the way have been removed. The Russian experiment failed not because it was accompanied by revolutionary methods but because its leaders did not know. If they had known there would have been no need at all of evolutionary processes after the overthrow of Czarism. Power was in their hands, and therefore Mr. Platt's argument seems to us to lack force. And this does not mean that we are disregarding the evolutionary processes either.