“Helicopter Story” was one of the best pieces of sci-fi I’ve read in a while. All the more galling that it was ripped apart in a culture war free-for-all.
I have a special amount of hate especially for those people who feel like they’re on the good side but have an understanding of literature that is too shallow to contain something like this. I blame MCU, games and Disney for letting these people believe that what happens there is what’s possible and allowed in fiction.
He believed that the ‘blood sacrifice’ of a few would regenerate the national consciousness and lead, by force of Irish arms, to the eventual withdrawal of Britain from Ireland.
MacSwiney took his place in history not just because of his sacrifice but because of his portentous words. ‘It is not those who can inflict the most,’ he warned, ‘but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.’
Eight months earlier, Lloyd George had likened the prospect of meeting Collins to that of meeting a murderer and had described the IRA as ‘a small body of assassins, a real murder gang, dominating the country and terrorizing it’. Now he described its commander as ‘one of the most courageous leaders ever produced by a valiant race’.
An armed struggle on its own was getting nowhere unless you had the political support of the population.
weeks. There were twenty-seven of us at the beginning. The recruiting officer was very resolute and he put the fear of God into you. He told you that if you’re joining the IRA, it was a total and absolute commitment. It required sacrifice and it required dedication and it required honour above all. He told us everything that was bad about joining: imprisonment, death, very little money in your pocket, very few friends; it was going to be a hard slog, and a long hard road ahead of us. So gradually people st
It’s a situation somewhat analogous to Israel’s West Bank. We’re part of a state which we never wanted to be part of.
The ultimate aim of the Irish nation will never emerge from the political or constitutional platform. Indeed one is now expected to be more conversant with the teaching of Chairman Mao than those of our dead patriots.
You’re all asking me to get the army in?’ And they all said yes. So I picked up the phone and rang him. I said, ‘I’m pleading with you, Jim. Send in the army.’ And I’ll never forget his reply. ‘Gerry,’ he says, ‘I can get the army in but it’s going to be a devil of a job to get it out.’
Seeing British soldiers on the street, I got this sense that there’s someone there now to protect us, to defend us against these incursions into our area.
he had never fully embraced Goulding’s policy of taking the IRA ‘into the never-never land of theoretical Marxism and parliamentary politics’.
We realized that the Dublin crowd and the Dublin leadership were nothing other than con-men. They were only using the North as a base, a springboard to help them in their left-wing political field.
Although republicans could stand in elections to the parliaments at Westminster, Stormont and Dublin, no successful candidate ever took his or her seat since to do so would be to recognize the legitimacy of these institutions. The IRA’s whole existence and self-styled legitimacy rested on its refusal to recognize these parliaments which, to republicans, had no moral or legal authority.
But the people who defended the street stood their ground. The following morning there was just sheer elation and relief that the IRA were there to deal with that situation.
The army had done exactly as the Unionists’ Security Committee had demanded four days earlier – it had got tough. The result was summed up by Gerry Adams. ‘Thousands of people who had never been republicans now gave their active support to the IRA; others, who had never had any time for physical force now accepted it as a practical necessity.’
They are terrorists and that’s the end of the story. No rank, no glamour. They are terrorists. What did we do in Kenya? We didn’t call them Colonels or Majors or Brigadiers. We called them terrorists and they were hung. Same thing in Palestine. Terrorists there were caught and they were executed. No glory. Nobody cries over a dead body too long. A couple of days and they forget all about it.
If any young men had previously held back because they felt morally uncomfortable about killing, ‘Bloody Sunday’ removed any lingering restraint.
Every day they passed the office as they passed by in a black taxi [the ‘People’s Taxis’ that provided cheap transport] up and down the Falls Road and people would say, ‘there’s the Sinn Fein office’. The incident centres gave the party a physical presence.
Scant progress was being made. The British were offering the release of more prisoners but this did not ‘begin to meet the minimum of requirements’.
But the Provisionals were not interested in public relations. They wanted to talk about the declaration of intent which, to them, was the whole point of the truce. Allan and ‘HM’ said the Government could not now give this for three reasons: the Convention ‘must be given a chance publicly’; the Government was waiting for ‘a consensus of opinion to emerge in Britain’; and there was the danger of ‘a Congo-type situation resulting’.
How they fight is a matter of tactics and conditions, but fight they must. There can be no question of that. The enemy allows us no choice. It is an armed struggle because the enemy is armed. Because he establishes and protects his vested interests by force of arms. The cabinet ministers, the politicians, the warlords, the business interests, the profit makers – the Establishment – have all agreed on their objects and the course they will follow. They are armed mercenaries. We must be armed revolutionaries. We must be Active Republicans.
The warning, it said, ‘proved totally inadequate given the disastrous consequences. We accept condemnation and criticism from only two sources: from the relatives and friends of those who were accidentally killed, and from our supporters who have rightly and severely criticized us.’
If you could, you saved a bit of margarine or butter from your breakfast that morning and took it with you when you were brought out of the cell. They took you up to a small room at the top of the wing and all the uniforms were lined up there. As soon as you got the trousers on, you ripped the bottom off them to expose your back-end. Before you went out to the visit, you rubbed a bit of the margarine or butter on your rear-end. So when you got the parcel on the visit, you had to get your hand in between your legs and pass the thing up your rear-end. That’s how most things came in. Radios came in that way. Everything came in that way. It took a wee bit of skill and sleight of hand to do it. And you had to be quick.
The hatred prison officers and prisoners felt for each other was mutual and lasting. Nothing brought it home to me more forcefully than a production of Bobby Sands’ epic ‘The Crime of Castlereagh’ which I watched in a parochial hall in West Belfast. It was staged by former prisoners and prisoners out on parole or home leave. One scene depicted a prisoner being turned upside down whilst a prison officer with rubber gloves gloatingly searched his anus. As the officer was walking off stage, a shot rang out and he fell down dead. It was a dramatic piece of theatre. The packed audience, among whom were many of the Republican Movement’s most prominent figures, including members of the leadership, broke out in spontaneous applause and cheering. It was a chilling moment.
Furthermore, by the mid-eighties, the intelligence on which such interceptions and ambushes were mounted was far more precise, with sophisticated electronic surveillance supplementing the information supplied by agents and informers within the IRA’s ranks.
Such operations were, on the whole, difficult to carry out in urban areas like Belfast and Derry because of the risk to civilians and extremely difficult in South Armagh where the locals knew every suspicious-looking hedge, barn and ditch. Under the right circumstances rural areas like Tyrone offered a perfect killing field.
The IRA took hostage the family of Patsy Gillespie, strapped him into a car loaded with a thousand pounds of explosives and told him to drive to the checkpoint. The IRA told his family he would be released when he had carried out their orders. Patsy Gillespie became a ‘human bomb’ and when he arrived at the checkpoint the IRA detonated the explosives by remote control, killing him and five soldiers.
Because I totally distrust the British Government. I’ve had too many experiences in the past to be so naive as to trust the British Government.
The final solution is union. It is going to happen anyway. The historical train – Europe – determines that. We are committed to Europe. Unionists will have to change. This island will be as one.
And from that point on she micromanaged me, and I realized that she was fear-based, both in how she thought of her bosses and in terms of how she ran her team.
The good news in all this for you, the team leader, is that what people care most about at work is within your control.
The big thing is that only on a team can we express our individuality at work and put it to highest use.
1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
5. My teammates have my back.
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
The amounts of time and energy it takes to make a plan this thorough and detailed are the very things that doom it to obsolescence. The thing we call planning doesn’t tell you where to go; it just helps you understand where you are. Or rather, were. Recently. We aren’t planning for the future, we’re planning for the near-term past.
Their underlying assumption is that people are wise, and that if you can present them with accurate, real-time, reliable data about the real world in front of them, they’ll invariably make smart decisions.
Planning systems take the interpretation of the data away from those on the front lines, and hand it off to a select few, who analyze it and decipher its patterns, and then construct and communicate the plan. Intelligence systems do precisely the opposite—because the “intelligence” in an intelligence system lies not in the select few, but instead in the emergent interpretive powers of all front-line team members.
Each check-in, then, is a chance to offer a tip, or an idea that can help the team member overcome a real-world obstacle, or a suggestion for how to refine a particular skill.
And their shared insight, across the span of sixty years, is that it is far more powerful for a leader to free the most information and the most decision-making power than it is for that leader to craft the perfect plan.
Self-evaluation of goals isn’t really about evaluating your work, in other words: it’s a careful exercise in self-promotion and political positioning, in figuring out how much to reveal honestly and how much to couch carefully.
The company has asked you to evaluate yourself against a list of abstract goals that were irrelevant a couple of weeks after you wrote them down.
These leaders strive instead to bring to life for their people the meaning and purpose of their work, the missions and contributions and methods that truly matter. These leaders know that in a team infused with such meaning, each person will be smart enough and driven enough to set goals voluntarily that manifest that meaning.
A strength, on the other hand, is an “activity that makes you feel strong.”
The simplest answer is that, though we are deeply aware that each of us is unique, and that no amount of training or badgering will remove that uniqueness, it is still quite overwhelming for a busy team leader to allow himself to come face-to-face with the fact that each of his team members thinks differently, is motivated by different things, responds to relationship cues differently, and gets a kick out of different sorts of praise.
that leaders can’t be in the control business and must be in the intelligence, meaning, and empowerment business—the outcomes business.
As the author and speaker Simon Sinek said recently in his spot as guest editor for Virgin’s workplace blog, “So here’s a way you can fulfill your potential in the workplace: negative feedback . . . Negative feedback is where it’s at . . . After every project or anything that I do, I always ask somebody, ‘What sucks? What can I do better? Where is there room for improvement?’ I’m now to the point where I crave it. That’s what you want. You want to get to the point where you crave negative feedback.”
The truth, then, is that people need attention—and when you give it to us in a safe and nonjudgmental environment, we will come and stay and play and work.
People don’t need feedback. They need attention, and moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.
For a team member, nothing is more believable, and thus more powerful, than your sharing what you saw from her and how it made you feel. Or what it made you think. Or what it caused you to realize. Or how and where you will now rely on her. These are your reactions, and when you share them with specificity and with detail, you aren’t judging her or rating her or fixing her. You are simply reflecting to her the unique “dent” she just made in the world, as seen through one person’s eyes—yours. And precisely because it isn’t a judgment or a rating, but is instead a simple reaction, it is authoritative and beyond question.
If you see somebody doing something that really works, stopping them and replaying it to them isn’t only a high-priority interrupt, it is arguably your highest-priority interrupt. Get into this habit and you’ll be far more likely to lead a high-performing team.
We tend to think that subjectivity in data is a bug, and that the feature we’re after is objectivity. Actually, however, when it comes to measurement, the pursuit of objectivity is the bug, and reliable subjectivity the feature.
Only certain people have “potential”; everyone has momentum. One team member’s might be more powerful than another’s, or speedier than another’s, or pointed in a different direction, but everyone has some. The question isn’t whether you inherently possess a lot of it or not. Instead, when it comes to momentum, the question is how much of it you have at this very moment, right now.
namely, that the speed and trajectory of her momentum at this very moment are a) knowable, b) changeable, and c) within her control.
And if we then institutionalize this thinking through our people-management processes and systems in the name of bringing predictability and control to our organization, we find that we have sacrificed common sense and humanity at the altar of corporate uniformity, and we shouldn’t be very surprised if our people chafe at the result.
Obviously, triage can be necessary in life, but it surely is not enough—it keeps things at bay, but it takes us away from ourselves. And in the end, balance is an unachievable goal anyway, because it asks us to aim for momentary stasis in a world that is ever changing. Supposing we ever get things just exactly in balance, we know for sure that something will come along and unbalance them and that we’ll be back to pushing our balance rock up the hill again.
You—and your organization—get them only if you create them, and you create them only through love.
Organizations are not powerless, but their power (and their name) comes from their ability to organize what is already there in plain view. Your organization, if it is careless, can crush your spirit, can diminish or ignore your daimon. But only you can animate it. Only you can bring love into your world at work.
This person didn’t find this work—she didn’t happen upon it, fully-formed and waiting for her. Instead, she made it. She took a generic job, with a generic job description, and then, within that job, she took her loves seriously, and gradually, little by little and a lot over time, she turned the best of her job into most of her job. Not the entirety of it, maybe, but certainly an awful lot of it, until it became a manifestation of who she is. She tweaked and tweaked the role until, in all the most important ways, it came to resemble her—it became an expression of her.
The same is true for you, of course. You have a unique relationship with the world, a relationship that reveals to you things that only you can see. It offers thread-weaving opportunities all the time, but the only person who knows if those threads are red is you. The world won’t do your weaving for you—it doesn’t care about your red threads. The only person who can stop and be attentive enough to identify these threads, and weave them intelligently into the fabric of your work, is you.
Ballet, as you know, is an unremittingly technical and demanding craft, but if you build technical craft on a loveless foundation, you net only burnout, because technical mastery absent love always equals burnout. Burnout isn’t the absence of balance but the absence of love.
If the people coming to work on your team could feel more like this, if you could help them take their red threads this seriously—not to make your people feel good about themselves, although that helps, but so they could share more with the world—what a beautiful and lasting contribution you and your team would make.
And yet these characteristics are curiously circumscribed: authenticity is important, right up until the point when the leader, authentically, says that he has no idea what to do, which then fractures his vision. Likewise, vulnerability is important until the moment when the leader’s comfort with her own flaws causes us to doubt her, and to question whether she is sufficiently inspirational. Apparently, we require authentic sureness and reassuring vulnerability, however contradictory those things may be.
If leading were easy, there would be more good leaders. If there were more good leaders, we might be just a little less focused on it.
The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following.
More specifically, we follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future.
Your ability to create the outcomes you want in your followers is tied directly to how seriously and intelligently you cultivate your own idiosyncrasy, and to what end. The deeper and more extreme your idiosyncrasy becomes, the more passionately your followers follow—and while this is frustrating to us when we happen to disagree with the ends of a particular leader, it is so nonetheless.
As a leader, you can’t be dismissive of this fear. You can’t tell your people to “embrace change” and to “get comfortable with ambiguity.”
We follow people who are really good at something that matters to us. We follow the spikes.
The truth that no two leaders do the same job in the same way.
The truth that as much as we follow the spikes, they can also antagonize us.
The truth that no leader is perfect—and that the best of them have learned how to work around their imperfections.
The truth that leaders are frustrating—they don’t have all the abilities we’d like them to have.
The truth that following is in part an act of forgiveness—it is to give our attention and efforts to someone despite what we can see of their flaws.
The truth that not everyone should be, or wants to be, a leader—the world needs followers, and great followers at that.
The truth that a person who might be a great leader for me might not be a great leader for you.
The truth that a person who might be a great leader for one team, or team of teams, or company, might not be a great leader for another.
The truth that leaders are not necessarily a force for good in the world—they are simply people with followers. They aren’t saints, and sometimes their having followers leads to hubris and arrogance, or worse.
The truth that leaders are not good or bad—they are just people who have figured out how to be their most defined selves in the world, and who do so in such a way that they inspire genuine confidence in their followers. This isn’t necessarily good or bad. It just is.
The truth that leading isn’t a set of characteristics but a series of experiences seen through the eyes of the followers.
The truth that, despite all this, we reserve a special place in our world for those who make our experience of it better and more hopeful.
And the truth that, through it all, we follow your spikes.
When we feel a fresh rush of energy after talking with someone, we need to stop and ask why. When we feel, in response to another human being, that mysterious attraction tugging on us—like a fish on a line, or like a needle twitching in a compass, an attraction that says Here, something is happening, something true and visceral and substantial, something that will change, however slightly, the arc of our future—we need to stop and ask why.
Rather, there was a clarion vision—“let freedom ring”—and then an unswerving commitment to intervene whenever and wherever progress toward that vision could be made, and to do so regardless of the personal or physical risks that any such action entailed. His approach was contingent, opportunistic, and incremental. It focused on imagined change, not on predictable execution.
Leading and following are not abstractions. They are human interactions; human relationships. And their currency is the currency of all human relationships—the currency of emotional bonds, of trust, and of love. If you, as a leader, forget these things, and yet master everything that theory world tells you matters, you will find yourself alone. But if you understand who you are, at your core, and hone that understanding into a few special abilities, each of which refracts and magnifies your intent, your essence, and your humanity, then, in the real world, we will see you.
And we will follow.
I am immensely happy to see two friends launch Branch, a magazine about creating a sustainable internet. The way they put the magazine together mirrors the best practices of the future we should live in right now.
A lovely interview about the magic bus and the hippie period in Istanbul revolving around the Lale Pudding Shop which is still in business.
Een heerlijk artikel over het reilen en zeilen van de Oranjes en hoe het instituut niet veel meer dan een vehikel is voor zelfverrijking en slecht gedrag.
“The technology is not the hard part. It’s already invented, but we have to pay ourselves to install it fast. So, again, that’s an economic question, and it doesn’t work in capitalism. We have the means right now to arrange for everybody alive today to have adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and healthcare, within the biosphere’s carrying capacity.”
A market of some sort may always exist, because we need to trade, but it could be so sharply regulated that it could exist on what economists call the margin, suitable for the toys, but not for the necessities of life, which should all be public utilities and part of a job guarantee and a living wage.
Foul things fled, fierce things tame; discord turned to harmony! For how could there be greed where all had enough? How could the vice, the crime, the ignorance, the brutality, that spring from poverty and the fear of poverty, exist where poverty had vanished? Who should crouch where all were freemen; who oppress where all were peers?
Where the conditions to which material progress everywhere tends are most fully realized—that is to say, where population is densest, wealth greatest, and the machinery of production and exchange most highly developed—we find the deepest poverty, the sharpest struggle for existence, and the most of enforced idleness.
This fact—the great fact that poverty and all its concomitants show themselves in communities just as they develop into the conditions toward which material progress tends—proves that the social difficulties existing wherever a certain stage of progress has been reached, do not arise from local circumstances, but are, in some way or another, engendered by progress itself.
The new forces, elevating in their nature though they be, do not act upon the social fabric from underneath, as was for a long time hoped and believed, but strike it at a point intermediate between top and bottom. It is as though an immense wedge were being forced, not underneath society, but through society. Those who are above the point of separation are elevated, but those who are below are crushed down.
The miner who, two thousand feet under ground in the heart of the Comstock, is digging out silver ore, is, in effect, by virtue of a thousand exchanges, harvesting crops in valleys five thousand feet nearer the earth’s center; chasing the whale through Arctic icefields; plucking tobacco leaves in Virginia; picking coffee berries in Honduras; cutting sugar cane on the Hawaiian Islands; gathering cotton in Georgia or weaving it in Manchester or Lowell; making quaint wooden toys for his children in the Hartz Mountains; or plucking amid the green and gold of Los Angeles orchards the oranges which, when his shift is relieved, he will take home to his sick wife. The wages which he receives on Saturday night at the mouth of the shaft, what are they but the certificate to all the world that he has done these things—the primary exchange in the long series which transmutes his labor into the things he has really been laboring for?
Increase in the amount of bonds, mortgages, notes, or bank bills cannot increase the wealth of the community that includes as well those who promise to pay as those who are entitled to receive. The enslavement of a part of their number could not increase the wealth of a people, for what the enslavers gained the enslaved would lose. Increase in land values does not represent increase in the common wealth, for what land owners gain by higher prices, the tenants or purchasers who must pay them will lose. And all this relative wealth, which, in common thought and speech, in legislation and law, is undistinguished from actual wealth, could, without the destruction or consumption of anything more than a few drops of ink and a piece of paper, be utterly annihilated.
Thus wealth, as alone the term can be used in political economy, consists of natural products that have been secured, moved, combined, separated, or in other ways modified by human exertion, so as to fit them for the gratification of human desires.
Capital is only a part of wealth—that part, namely, which is devoted to the aid of production.
For labor always precedes wages. This is as universally true of wages received by the laborer from an employer as it is of wages taken directly by the laborer who is his own employer.
For the creation of value does not depend upon the finishing of the product; it takes place at every stage of the process of production, as the immediate result of the application of labor, and hence, no matter how long the process in which it is engaged, labor always adds to capital by its exertion before it takes from capital in its wages.
It is never as an employer of labor that any producer needs capital; when he does need capital, it is because he is not only an employer of labor, but a merchant or speculator in, or an accumulator of, the products of labor.
Nor what Malthus failed to show has any one since him shown. The globe may be surveyed and history may be reviewed in vain for any instance of a considerable country20 in which poverty and want can be fairly attributed to the pressure of an increasing population. Whatever be the possible dangers involved in the power of human increase, they have never yet appeared. Whatever may some time be, this never yet has been the evil that has afflicted mankind.
The millions of India have bowed their necks beneath the yokes of many conquerors, but worst of all is the steady, grinding weight of English domination—a weight which is literally crushing millions out of existence, and, as shown by English writers, is inevitably tending to a most frightful and widespread catastrophe.
The real cause of want in India has been, and yet is, the rapacity of man, not the niggardliness of nature.
Labor was thus applied in the most inefficient and wasteful manner, and labor was dissipated in aimless idleness that, with any security for its fruits, would have been applied unremittingly.
I know of nothing better calculated to make the blood boil than the cold accounts of the grasping, grinding tyranny to which the Irish people have been subjected, and to which, and not to any inability of the land to support its population, Irish pauperism and Irish famine are to be attributed; and were it not for the enervating effect which the history of the world proves to be everywhere the result of abject poverty, it would be difficult to resist something like a feeling of contempt for a race who, stung by such wrongs, have only occasionally murdered a landlord!
I assert that, other things being equal, the greater the population, the greater the comfort which an equitable distribution of wealth would give to each individual. I assert that in a state of equality the natural increase of population would constantly tend to make every individual richer instead of poorer.
Stop labor in any community, and wealth would vanish almost as the jet of a fountain vanishes when the flow of water is shut off. Let labor again exert itself, and wealth will almost as immediately reappear.
Land, labor, and capital are the factors of production. The term land includes all natural opportunities or forces; the term labor, all human exertion; and the term capital, all wealth used to produce more wealth.
The natural order is land, labor, capital; and, instead of starting from capital as our initial point, we should start from land.
Rent, in short, is the price of monopoly, arising from the reduction to individual ownership of natural elements which human exertion can neither produce nor increase.
Thus interest springs from the power of increase which the reproductive forces of nature, and the in effect analogous capacity for exchange, give to capital. It is not an arbitrary, but a natural thing; it is not the result of a particular social organization, but of laws of the universe which underlie society. It is, therefore, just.
Nothing can be capital, let it always be remembered, that is not wealth—that is to say, nothing can be capital that does not consist of actual, tangible things, not the spontaneous offerings of nature, which have in themselves, and not by proxy, the power of directly or indirectly ministering to human desire.
Every one knows the tyranny and rapacity with which capital when concentrated in large amounts is frequently wielded to corrupt, to rob, and to destroy.
For labor and capital are but different forms of the same thing—human exertion. Capital is produced by labor; it is, in fact, but labor impressed upon matter—labor stored up in matter, to be released again as needed, as the heat of the sun stored up in coal is released in the furnace. The use of capital in production is, therefore, but a mode of labor.
One man will not work for another for less than his labor will really yield, when he can go upon the next quarter section and take up a farm for himself. It is only as land becomes monopolized and these natural opportunities are shut off from labor, that laborers are obliged to compete with each other for employment, and it becomes possible for the farmer to hire hands to do his work while he maintains himself on the difference between what their labor produces and what he pays them for it.
Wages depend upon the margin of production, or upon the produce which labor can obtain at the highest point of natural productiveness open to it without the payment of rent.
Three things unite to production—labor, capital, and land.
Three parties divide the produce—the laborer, the capitalist, and the land owner.
If, with an increase of production the laborer gets no more and the capitalist no more it is a necessary inference that the land owner reaps the whole gain.
And, hence, that the increase of productive power does not increase wages, is because it does increase the value of land. Rent swallows up the whole gain and pauperism accompanies progress.
The changes which constitute or contribute to material progress are three: (1) increase in population; (2) improvements in the arts of production and exchange; and (3) improvements in knowledge, education, government, police, manners, and morals, so far as they increase the power of producing wealth.
Under such circumstances, though nature is prolific, the man is poor. It is an easy matter for him to get enough to eat; but beyond this, his labor will suffice to satisfy only the simplest wants in the rudest way.
For, if labor-saving inventions went on until perfection was attained, and the necessity of labor in the production of wealth was entirely done away with, then everything that the earth could yield could be obtained without labor, and the margin of cultivation would be extended to zero. Wages would be nothing, and interest would be nothing, while rent would take everything. For the owners of the land, being enabled without labor to obtain all the wealth that could be procured from nature, there would be no use for either labor or capital, and no possible way in which either could compel any share of the wealth produced. And no matter how small population might be, if anybody but the land owners continued to exist, it would be at the whim or by the mercy of the land owners—they would be maintained either for the amusement of the land owners, or, as paupers, by their bounty.
The steam plow and the reaping machine are creating in the modern world latifundia of the same kind that the influx of slaves from foreign wars created in ancient Italy. And to many a poor fellow as he is shoved out of his accustomed place and forced to move on—as the Roman farmers were forced to join the proletariat of the great city, or sell their blood for bread in the ranks of the legions—it seems as though these labor-saving inventions were in themselves a curse, and we hear men talking of work, as though the wearying strain of the muscles were, in itself, a thing to be desired.
Free trade has enormously increased the wealth of Great Britain, without lessening pauperism. It has simply increased rent. And if the corrupt governments of our great American cities were to be made models of purity and economy, the effect would simply be to increase the value of land, not to raise either wages or interest.
Periods of industrial activity always culminate in a speculative advance of land values, followed by symptoms of checked production, generally shown at first by cessation of demand from the newer countries, where the advance in land values has been greatest.
Take the case of any one of these vast masses of unemployed men, to whom, though he never heard of Malthus, it to-day seems that there are too many people in the world. In his own wants, in the needs of his anxious wife, in the demands of his half-cared-for, perhaps even hungry and shivering children, there is demand enough for labor, Heaven knows! In his own willing hands is the supply. Put him on a solitary island, and though cut off from all the enormous advantages which the co-operation, combination, and machinery of a civilized community give to the productive powers of man, yet his two hands can fill the mouths and keep warm the backs that depend upon them. Yet where productive power is as its highest development they cannot. Why? Is it not because in the one case he has access to the material and forces of nature, and in the other this access is denied?
The proximate cause of enforced idleness with one set of men may be the cessation of demand on the part of other men for the particular things they produce, but trace this cause from point to point, from occupation to occupation, and you will find that enforced idleness in one trade is caused by enforced idleness in another, and that the paralysis which produces dullness in all trades cannot be said to spring from too great a supply of labor or too small a demand for labor, but must proceed from the fact that supply cannot meet demand by producing the things which satisfy want and are the object of labor.
When we speak of labor creating wealth, we speak metaphorically. Man creates nothing. The whole human race, were they to labor forever, could not create the tiniest mote that floats in a sunbeam—could not make this rolling sphere one atom heavier or one atom lighter. In producing wealth, labor, with the aid of natural forces, but works up, into the forms desired, pre-existing matter, and, to produce wealth, must, therefore, have access to this matter and to these forces—that is to say, to land. The land is the source of all wealth.
The reason why, in spite of the increase of productive power, wages constantly tend to a minimum which will give but a bare living, is that, with increase in productive power, rent tends to even greater increase, thus producing a constant tendency to the forcing down of wages.
Land being necessary to labor, and being reduced to private ownership, every increase in the productive power of labor but increases rent—the price that labor must pay for the opportunity to utilize its powers; and thus all the advantages gained by the march of progress go to the owners of land, and wages do not increase.
That as land is necessary to the exertion of labor in the production of wealth, to command the land which is necessary to labor, is to command all the fruits of labor save enough to enable labor to exist.
No increase of the effective power of labor can increase general wages, so long as rent swallows up all the gain.
Wherever the material condition of the laboring classes has been improved, improvement in their personal qualities has followed, and wherever their material condition has been depressed, deterioration in these qualities has been the result;
To make people industrious, prudent, skillful, and intelligent, they must be relieved from want.
Capital not only ceases to earn anything when not used, but it goes to waste—for in nearly all its forms it can be maintained only by constant reproduction. But land will not starve like laborers or go to waste like capital—its owners can wait. They may be inconvenienced, it is true, but what is inconvenience to them, is destruction to capital and starvation to labor.
The advantage but adds to rent.
We have passed out of the socialism of the tribal state, and cannot re-enter it again except by a retrogression that would involve anarchy and perhaps barbarism.
To affirm that a man can rightfully claim exclusive ownership in his own labor when embodied in material things, is to deny that any one can rightfully claim exclusive ownership in land.
The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world and others no right.
The wide-spreading social evils which everywhere oppress men amid an advancing civilization spring from a great primary wrong—the appropriation, as the exclusive property of some men, of the land on which and from which all must live. From this fundamental injustice flow all the injustices which distort and endanger modern development, which condemn the producer of wealth to poverty and pamper the non-producer in luxury, which rear the tenement house with the palace, plant the brothel behind the church, and compel us to build prisons as we open new schools.
If chattel slavery be unjust, then is private property in land unjust.
There is nothing strange in the fact that, in spite of the enormous increase in productive power which this century has witnessed, and which is still going on, the wages of labor in the lower and wider strata of industry should everywhere tend to the wages of slavery—just enough to keep the laborer in working condition. For the ownership of the land on which and from which a man must live is virtually the ownership of the man himself, and in acknowledging the right of some individuals to the exclusive use and enjoyment of the earth, we condemn other individuals to slavery as fully and as completely as though we had formally made them chattels.
The ownership of land is the basis of aristocracy. It was not nobility that gave land, but the possession of land that gave nobility.
Whatever be the increase of productive power, rent steadily tends to swallow up the gain, and more than the gain.
The direct responsibility of master to slave, a responsibility which exercises a softening influence upon the great majority of men, does not arise; it is not one human being who seems to drive another to unremitting and ill-requited toil, but “the inevitable laws of supply and demand,” for which no one in particular is responsible.
Because I was robbed yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, is it any reason that I should suffer myself to be robbed to-day and to-morrow? any reason that I should conclude that the robber has acquired a vested right to rob me?
The primary and persistent perceptions of mankind are that all have an equal right to land, and the opinion that private property in land is necessary to society is but an offspring of ignorance that cannot look beyond its immediate surroundings—an idea of comparatively modern growth, as artificial and as baseless as that of the right divine of kings.
The child of the people, as he grows to manhood in Europe, finds all the best seats at the banquet of life marked “taken,” and must struggle with his fellows for the crumbs that fall, without one chance in a thousand of forcing or sneaking his way to a seat.
It is not that there is any real scarcity of land in California—for, an empire in herself, California will some day maintain a population as large as that of France—but appropriation has got ahead of the settler and manages to keep just ahead of him.
E. R. Taylor.
What is necessary for the use of land is not its private ownership, but the security of improvements.
It is not necessary to say to a man, “this land is yours,” in order to induce him to cultivate or improve it. It is only necessary to say to him, “whatever your labor or capital produces on this land shall be yours.”
Give a man security that he may reap, and he will sow; assure him of the possession of the house he wants to build, and he will build it. These are the natural rewards of labor. It is for the sake of the reaping that men sow; it is for the sake of possessing houses that men build. The ownership of land has nothing to do with it.
The complete recognition of common rights to land need in no way interfere with the complete recognition of individual right to improvements or produce.
If the best use of land be the test, then private property in land is condemned, as it is condemned by every other consideration.
A great wrong always dies hard, and the great wrong which in every civilized country condemns the masses of men to poverty and want, will not die without a bitter struggle.
That is to say, while the value of a railroad or telegraph line, the price of gas or of a patent medicine, may express the price of monopoly, it also expresses the exertion of labor and capital; but the value of land, or economic rent, as we have seen, is in no part made up from these factors, and expresses nothing but the advantage of appropriation.
The employers of labor would not have merely to bid against other employers, all feeling the stimulus of greater trade and increased profits, but against the ability of laborers to become their own employers upon the natural opportunities freely opened to them by the tax which prevented monopolization.
All fear of great fortunes might be dismissed, for when every one gets what he fairly earns, no one can get more than he fairly earns. How many men are there who fairly earn a million dollars?
We should reach the ideal of the socialist, but not through governmental repression. Government would change its character, and would become the administration of a great co-operative society. It would become merely the agency by which the common property was administered for the common benefit.
And so in society, as at present constituted, men are greedy of wealth because the conditions of distribution are so unjust that instead of each being sure of enough, many are certain to be condemned to want. It is the “devil catch the hindmost” of present social adjustments that causes the race and scramble for wealth, in which all considerations of justice, mercy, religion, and sentiment are trampled under foot; in which men forget their own souls, and struggle to the very verge of the grave for what they cannot take beyond. But an equitable distribution of wealth, that would exempt all from the fear of want, would destroy the greed of wealth, just as in polite society the greed of food has been destroyed.
Want might be banished, but desire would remain. Man is the unsatisfied animal. He has but begun to explore, and the universe lies before him. Each step that he takes opens new vistas and kindles new desires. He is the constructive animal; he builds, he improves, he invents, and puts together, and the greater the thing he does, the greater the thing he wants to do. He is more than an animal. Whatever be the intelligence that breathes through nature, it is in that likeness that man is made.
There is no such thing as the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure. Our very amusements amuse only as they are, or simulate, the learning or the doing of something. The moment they cease to appeal either to our inquisitive or to our constructive powers, they cease to amuse.
And it shows how prolific is our human nature. As the common worker is on need transformed into queen bee, so, when circumstances favor his development, what might otherwise pass for a common man rises into a hero or leader, discoverer or teacher, sage or saint.
Consider these things and then say whether the change I propose would not be for the benefit of every one—even the greatest land holder? Would he not be safer of the future of his children in leaving them penniless in such a state of society than in leaving them the largest fortune in this? Did such a state of society anywhere exist, would he not buy entrance to it cheaply by giving up all his possessions?
That each society, small or great, necessarily weaves for itself a web of knowledge, beliefs, customs, language, tastes, institutions, and laws. Into this web, woven by each society, or rather, into these webs, for each community above the simplest is made up of minor societies, which overlap and interlace each other, the individual is received at birth and continues until his death. This is the matrix in which mind unfolds and from which it takes its stamp. This is the way in which customs, and religions, and prejudices, and tastes, and languages, grow up and are perpetuated. This is the way that skill is transmitted and knowledge is stored up, and the discoveries of one time made the common stock and stepping stone of the next. Though it is this that often offers the most serious obstacles to progress, it is this that makes progress possible. It is this that enables any schoolboy in our time to learn in a few hours more of the universe than Ptolemy knew; that places the most humdrum scientist far above the level reached by the giant mind of Aristotle. This is to the race what memory is to the individual. Our wonderful arts, our far-reaching science, our marvelous inventions—they have come through this.
The incentives to progress are the desires inherent in human nature—the desire to gratify the wants of the animal nature, the wants of the intellectual nature, and the wants of the sympathetic nature; the desire to be, to know, and to do—desires that short of infinity can never be satisfied, as they grow by what they feed on.
and this unequal distribution of the wealth and power gained as society advances tends to produce greater inequality, since aggression grows by what it feeds on, and the idea of justice is blurred by the habitual toleration of injustice.
A community divided into a class that rules and a class that is ruled—into the very rich and the very poor, may “build like giants and finish like jewelers;” but it will be monuments of ruthless pride and barren vanity, or of a religion turned from its office of elevating man into an instrument for keeping him down.
It is in this way that petrifaction succeeds progress. The advance of inequality necessarily brings improvement to a halt, and as it still persists or provokes unavailing reactions, draws even upon the mental power necessary for maintenance, and retrogression begins.
Political economy and social science cannot teach any lessons that are not embraced in the simple truths that were taught to poor fishermen and Jewish peasants by One who eighteen hundred years ago was crucified—the simple truths which, beneath the warpings of selfishness and the distortions of superstition, seem to underlie every religion that has ever striven to formulate the spiritual yearnings of man.
What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power.
That our legislative bodies are steadily deteriorating in standard; that men of the highest ability and character are compelled to eschew politics, and the arts of the jobber count for more than the reputation of the statesman; that voting is done more recklessly and the power of money is increasing; that it is harder to arouse the people to the necessity of reforms and more difficult to carry them out; that political differences are ceasing to be differences of principle, and abstract ideas are losing their power; that parties are passing into the control of what in general government would be oligarchies and dictatorships; are all evidences of political decline.
There is a vague but general feeling of disappointment; an increased bitterness among the working classes; a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution. If this were accompanied by a definite idea of how relief is to be obtained, it would be a hopeful sign; but it is not.
This is the truth that we have ignored. And so there come beggars in our streets and tramps on our roads; and poverty enslaves men whom we boast are political sovereigns; and want breeds ignorance that our schools cannot enlighten; and citizens vote as their masters dictate; and the demagogue usurps the part of the statesman; and gold weighs in the scales of justice; and in high places sit those who do not pay to civic virtue even the compliment of hypocrisy; and the pillars of the republic that we thought so strong already bend under an increasing strain.
For the man who, seeing the want and misery, the ignorance and brutishness caused by unjust social institutions, sets himself, in so far as he has strength, to right them, there is disappointment and bitterness. So it has been of old time. So is it even now. But the bitterest thought—and it sometimes comes to the best and bravest—is that of the hopelessness of the effort, the futility of the sacrifice. To how few of those who sow the seed is it given to see it grow, or even with certainty to know that it will grow.
I thought this was a great interview with Kim Stanley Robinson but it turns out the Corona virus has not rewritten our imaginations enough, not enough at all.