Stop the Main Leak First.

Stop the Main Leak First.

[Liberty, May 1, 1886.]

In answer to my article, Free Money First, in Liberty of March 27, in which was discussed the comparative importance of the money and land questions, J. M. M’Gregor, of the Detroit Labor Leaf, says: I grant free money first. I firmly believe free money will come first, too, though my critic and myself may be widely at variance in regard to what would constitute free money. I mean by free money the utter absence of restriction upon the issue of all money not fraudulent. If Mr. M’Gregor believes in this, I am heartily glad. I should like to be half as sure as he is that it really is coming first. From the present temper of the people it looks to me as if nothing free would come first. They seem to be bent on trying every form of compulsion. In this current Mr. M’Gregor is far to the fore with his scheme of land taxation on the Henry George plan, and although he may believe free money will be the first in time, he clearly does not consider it first in importance. This last-mentioned priority he awards to land reform, and it was his position in that regard that my article was written to dispute.(88 ¶ 1)

The issue between us, thus confined, hangs upon the truth or falsity of Mr. M’Gregor’s statement that to-day landlordism, through rent and speculation, supports more idlers than any other system of profit-robbing known to our great common-wealth. I take it that Mr. M’Gregor, by rent, means ground-rent exclusively, and, by the phrase supports more idlers, means takes more from labor; otherwise, his statement has no pertinence to his position. For all rent except ground-rent would be almost entirely and directly abolished by free money, and the evil of rent to labor depends, not so much on the number of idlers it supports, as on the aggregate amount and quality of support it gives them, whether they be many or few in number. Mr. M’Gregor’s statement, then, amounts to this: that ground-rent takes more from labor than any other form of usury. It needs no statistics to disprove this. The principal forms of usury are interest on money, loaned or invested, profits made in buying and selling, rent of buildings of all sorts, and ground-rent. A moment’s reflection will show any one that the amount of loaned or invested capital bearing interest in this country to-day far exceeds in value the amount of land yielding rent. The item of interest alone is a much more serious burden on the people than that of ground-rent. Much less, then, does ground-rent equal interest plus profit plus rent of buildings. But to make Mr. M’Gregor’s argument really valid it must exceed all of these combined. For a true money reform, I repeat, would abolish almost entirely and directly every one of these forms of usury except ground-rent, while a true land reform would directly abolish only ground-rent. Therefore, unless labor pays more in ground-rent than in interest, profit, and rent of buildings combined, the money question is of more importance than the land question. There are countries where this is the case, but the United States is not one of them.(88 ¶ 2)

It should also be borne in mind that free money, in destroying the power to accumulate large fortunes in the ordinary scramble for corner-lots and other advantageous positions, and thereby have a considerable influence upon ground-rent itself.(88 ¶ 3)

How can capital be free, asks Mr. M’Gregor, when it cannot get rid of rent? It cannot be entirely free till it can get rid of rent; but it will be infinitely freer if it gets rid of interest, profit, and rent of buildings and still keeps ground-rent than if it gets rid of ground-rent and keeps the other forms of usury. Give us free money, the first great step to Anarchy, and we’ll attend to ground-rent afterwards.(88 ¶ 4)