Equality of political rights will not compensate
For the denial of the equal right to the bounty of nature.
Political liberty, when the equal right to land is denied,
Becomes, as population increases and invention goes on,
Merely the liberty to compete for employment at starvation wages.
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 who 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.
We honor Liberty in name and in form.
We set up her statues and sound her praises.
But we have not fully trusted her.
And with our growth so grow her demands.
She will have no half service!
Liberty! it is a word to conjure with,
Not to vex the ear in empty boastings.
For Liberty means justice,
And justice is the natural law —
The law of health and symmetry and strength,
Of fraternity and co-operation.
They who look upon Liberty
As having accomplished her mission
When she has abolished hereditary privileges
And given men the ballot,
Who think of her as having no further relations
To the everyday affairs of life,
Have not seen her real grandeur—
To them the poets who have sung of her
Must seem rhapsodists,
And her martyrs fools!
As the sun is the lord of life, as well as of light;
As his beams not merely pierce the clouds,
But support all growth, supply all motion,
And call forth from what would otherwise be a cold
And inert mass all the infinite diversities of being and beauty,
So is liberty to mankind.
It is not for an abstraction that men have toiled and died;
That in every age the witnesses of Liberty have stood forth,
And the martyrs of Liberty have suffered.
We speak of Liberty as one thing,
And of virtue, wealth, knowledge, invention,
National strength and National independence as other things.
But, of all these, Liberty is the source,
The mother, the necessary condition.
She is to virtue what light is to color;
To wealth what sunshine is to grain;
To knowledge what eyes are to sight.
She is the genius of invention,
The brawn of national strength,
The spirit of national independence.
Where Liberty rises,
There virtue grows,
Invention multiplies human powers,
And in strength and spirit the freer nation
Rises among her neighbors …
Where Liberty sinks, there virtue fades,
Knowledge is forgotten,
Invention ceases, and
Empires once mighty in arms and arts
Become a helpless prey to freer barbarians!
(Culled and Rearranged from Book X, Chapter 5 – The Central Truth in Progress and Poverty by Henry George, 1808)