Review of the Book

The Economic Democracy
by Horace Joseph Haase

Cecil Carroll Tucker

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, November-December 1940]

With the advantage of, among other things, some seventy years of criticism of Henry George, Mr. Haase launches forth into a fresh elucidation of the social sciences. He directs his appeal less to the dreamer is after Utopia than to a generation who, taught in the harsh school of the materialistic sciences, require of the social philosopher the same kind and degree of evidence that they demand of those who demonstrate the simplest propositions of physics and chemistry.

The pace of the book is set in the seven-page chapter on definitions. The attention of the reader is invited to the fact that "a scientific definition is a description of a phenomenon, as well as the explanation of the meaning of a term," and that "thus within any one science the question of definitions resolves itself into a question of logic." The scientific procedure consists of nothing more than observation, classification, assignment of an exclusive nomenclature, and the determination of causal relationships.

Mr. Haase does not differ from Henry George in any important conclusion. From one end to the other his book is a cold, merciless condemnation of the private collection of land values. But if nothing more could be said, it might well be asked, "Why, then, write another book?"

The purpose is exhibited in the pattern. Strongly influenced by Dove, and under the necessity of adhering to his definition of a definition, Mr. Haase rigidly excludes from each branch of the subject all phenomena that are not peculiar to it. Thus we have the science of economics, dealing with the production of wealth; the science of political economy, dealing with exchange and the phenomena to which exchange gives rise; the science of sociology, concerning the ethical relations between men in their commercial dealings; and the science of politics, "treating of the natural laws governing the regulation of man's conduct by men."

This breakdown of the subject matter yields a perspective of the entire field of the social sciences which lays the axe to a good deal of fruitless quibbling. Of more specific interest, however, is Mr. Haase's elucidation of the nature and relation of utility and value; his simplification of distribution by classing interest as the wages of the capitalist and rent as the wages of society; his identification of Individualism and true Socialism, and the consequent discarding of the latter term as superfluous and, in its present connotation, misleading; and his demonstration that while planning is obviously necessary as a prelude to action, the character of the plan determines whether its fruits will be freedom or slavery.

"The Economic Democracy" makes no pretense of competing for George's place in the hearts of men. No knowledge that can ever come to light will dim the lustre of that man's fame. Yet the temper of the times makes it advisable to divest these extremely controversial subjects of even the most fleeting suspicion of personal sponsorship and emotional bias. This is true even of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. People have been betrayed by opinion and seduced by appeal to their sympathy until at last they have turned their faces from anything but the most incontrovertible fact.

The presentation of the argument for land-value taxation in textual form is never wasted effort. The volume under consideration is filled with up-to-date material and references with which the modern student will have become familiarized through his newspaper reading. And after the process of the true democracy has been developed step by step, the student is presented with a Platform of Freedom, containing specific application of principles to practice, and he is invited to cooperate in the movement through an existing organization with which he is made acquainted.

In addition to the original contributions mentioned above, the book is roughly a combination of Progress and Poverty, The Science of Political Economy, and Democracy Versus Socialism. The style in parts is somewhat labored, in parts inspired, on the whole unemotional. In the crucible of classroom work some few defects may rise to the surface. Nevertheless, in the opinion of this writer, its method of treatment makes it superior as a teaching text to Progress and Poverty. It has the approval of many substantial Georgeists.