The more you study this question, the more you will see that the true law of social life is the law of love, and law of liberty, the law of each for all and all for each; that the golden rule of morals is also the golden rule of the science of wealth; that the highest expressions of religious truth include the widest generalizations of political economy.
Henry George died in Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven. Nearly twenty years have passed since men heard his voice, looked on his strong, lithe, active form, saw the gleam of his honest eyes, and felt the presence of a man–a man who wanted nothing and gave everything–a man who gave himself. Twenty years!
And in those years the world has experienced, and is now passing through, a peaceful revolution such as men have never before seen. Those years have given us a new science of religion; a new education; a new penology; a new healing art; a new method in commerce.
The wisdom of honesty as a business asset is nowhere questioned, and the clergy has ceased to call upon men to prepare for death. We are preparing to live, and the way we are preparing to live is by living.
The remedy Henry George prescribed for economic ills was as simple as it was new, and new things and simple things are ever looked on as objectionable. The universality of conservatism proves that it must have its use and purpose in the eternal order. It keeps us from going too fast; it prevents us from bringing about changes for which mankind is not prepared. Nature’s methods are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Slaves can not be made free by edict. Moses led his people out of only one kind of captivity, and in the wilderness they wandered in bondage still. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not free the colored race, because it is the law of God that he who would be free must free himself. A servile people are slaves by habit, and habit is the only fetter. Freedom, like happiness, is a condition of mind. A whining, complaining, pinching, pilfering class that listens for the whistle, watches the clock, that works only when under the menacing eye of the boss, and stands in eternal fear of the blue envelope here, and perdition hereafter, can never be made free by legislative enactment. Freedom can not be granted, any more than education can be imparted: both must be achieved, or we yammer forever without the pale. A simple, strong and honest people is free. People enslaved by superstition and ruled by the dead have work at filing fetters ahead of them, which only they themselves can do. Henry George did not realize this, and his strength lay in the fact that he did not. He did not know when men get the crook out of their backs, the hinges out of their knees, and the cringe out of their souls, that then they are free. Slaves place in the hands of tyrants all the power that tyrants possess. Fortunate it was for Henry George, and for the world, that he did not know that any man who labors to help the workingman will be mobbed by the proletariat for his pains a little later on. Monarchies maybe ungrateful, but their attitude is a sweet perfume compared to the ingratitude of the laborer. He can be helped only by stealth, and his freedom must come from within. The moral weakness of man is the one thing that makes tyranny possible.
Tyranny is a condition in the heart of serfs. Tyrants tyrannize only over people of a certain cast of mind. Tyrants are men who have stolen power–convicts who have wrested guns from their guards. Watch them, and in a little while they will again shift places. Henry George was a very great man: great in his economic, prophetic insight; great in his faith, his hope, his love. He gave his message to the world, and passed on, scourged, depressed, undone, because the world did not accept the truths he voiced. Yet all for which he strived and struggled will yet come true–his prayer will be answered. And the political parties and the men who in his life opposed him are now adopting his opinions, quoting his reasons, and in time will bring about the changes he advocated. Of all modern prophets and reformers, Henry George is the only one whose arguments are absolutely unanswerable and whose forecast was sure.