Why Follow the Follies of the Fathers?

Henry L.T. Tideman

[Reprinted from the Henry George Fellowship News, June 1938]

In his economic adjustments man suffers mostly the results of a superstitious reverence the alleged wisdom of the past. In physics and chemistry and in the engineering arising from these sciences, man is quick to abandon old shiboleths and ancient judgments. While those who had advanced new ideas and new methods of approach in an age of ignorance are honored later for their intellectual courage, no theory and no practise which they offered is ever permitted to stand in the way of further progress in these sciences.

But in economic matters man suffers from his own folly in following the folly of the "fathers". He elects legislatures for city, county, state and nation in regular and predictable succession to preserve his rights and make adequate legal adjustments in harmony with the results of material progress. But he insists that these legislators stick to theorems and beliefs of the past without regard to new discoveries and the uncovering of overlooked facts and viewpoints. In doing these things man assumes responsibility and victimizes himself.

He complains of the high cost of living and supports the taxes which are part of the high cost of living. He complains of the difficulty of finding profitable work, and supports a system of taxation which penalizes industry and encourages men to hold idle the land, the only means of employment.

In poverty he envies the rich, their lives of idleness and ease, and does not even Inquire how they come to have all the comforts which labor does not have although labor produces them. He observes that with special taxation of the incomes of his rich neighbors, they only grow richer, and It does not occur to him to Inquire whether it is probable that he pays their taxes when he works.

He daily passes vacant lots which might be the site of homes or busy places of business in which he could take a profitable part, but his reverence for the ideas of the past prevents his inquiring why this condition exists. Giving up his rights to produce wealth and have it, he insists upon schemes to take wealth from others, who do produce it, to give him an Inadequate pittance in the name of relief.

He permits a sales tax which robs him of his products, and watches complacently his legislative friends abolish the state levy on real estate. Abolishing this levy not only relieved the rich land holders of our cities from contributing to the relief funds proportionately to the advantages they enjoy, but actually gave, and continues to give, them subsidies (to the extend of millions of dollars) out of the products of the few who can find Jobs. And In the political campaigns that followed instead of overwhelmingly repudiating the raiders, they actually supported them to victory. Can you beat it?