The Power of Money

Bertrand Russell

[An excerpt from "Freedom versus Organization," reprinted from
The Standard, published in Australia; date not provided]

AS regards the analysis of the power of money, I think that Henry George was more nearly right than Marx. …All power to exploit others depends upon the possession of some complete or partial, permanent or temporary monopoly, but this monopoly may be of the most diverse kinds. Land is the most obvious. If I own land in London or New York, I can, owing to the law of trespass, invoke the whole of the forces of the State to prevent others from making use of my land without my consent. Those who wish to live or work on my land must therefore pay me rent, and if my land is very advantageous they must pay me much rent. The capitalist has to organize a business, the professional man has to exercise his skill, but the landowner can levy toll on their industry without doing anything at all.

Similarly, if I own coal or iron or any other mineral, I can make my own terms with those who wish to mine it, so long as I leave them an average rate of profit. Every improvement in industry, every increase in the population of cities, automatically augments what the landowner can exact in the form of rent. While others work, he remains idle; but their work enables him to grow richer and richer.

The men who have most economic power in the modern world derive it from land, minerals and credit, in combination. Great bankers control iron ore, coal fields and railways; smaller capitalists are at their mercy, almost as completely as proletarians. The conquest of economic power demands as its first step the ousting of the monopolists. It will then remain to be seen whether, in a world in which there is no private monopoly, much harm is done by men who have achieved success by skill without the aid of ultimate economic power. The harm that is done by great industrialists is usually dependent upon their access to some source of monopoly power. In labor disputes, the employer is the immediate enemy, but is often no more than a private in the opposing army. The real enemy is the monopolist.