THE INQUISITIVE BOY
By “SPOKESHAVE” (circa early 1900’s)
Out of the vault – this sums up our message like few others – please pass it on
What place is that, pa?
That is a brickyard, my son.
Whose brickyard is it, pa?
It belongs to me, my son.
Do all these piles of bricks belong to you?
Yes, my son, every brick of them.
My! How long did it take you to make them? Did you make them all alone by yourself?
No, my son; those men you see working there make them for me.
Do the men belong to you, pa?
No, my son; those men are free men. No man can own another. If he could the other would be a slave.
What is a slave, pa?
A slave, my son, is a man who has to work for another all his life, for only his board and clothes.
If a slave gets sick, who pays for the doctor, pa?
Well, his owner does; he can’t afford to lose his property.
Why do men work so hard, pa? Do they like it?
Well, no, I don’t suppose they do, but they work or starve.
Are these men rich, pa?
Not to any great extent, my son.
Do they own any houses, pa?
I rather guess not, my son.
Have they any horses or fine clothes, and do they go to the seaside when it is warm, like we do, pa?
Well, hardly; it takes them all their time to work.
What is a living, pa?
Why, a living – well, for them a living is what they eat and wear.
Isn’t that board and clothes, pa?
I suppose it is.
Well, are they any better off than slaves, pa?
Of course, they are, you foolish boy. Why, they’re free; they don’t need to work for me if they don’t like to; they can leave whenever they choose.
And if they leave, won’t they have to work, pa?
Yes, of course they will; they will have to work for someone else.
And will they get any more than a living from him?
No, I suppose not.
Well, then, how are they any better off than slaves?
Why, they have votes; they are free men.
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If they get sick do you pay for the doctor, pa?
Catch me! What have I got to do with it? They must pay for their own doctor.
Can you afford to lose one of the men who work for you, pa?
Of course I can; it don’t make any difference to me. I can hire another when I like.
Then you aren’t so particular about them as if they were your slaves, are you?
No, I suppose not.
Then how is it better for them to be free?
Oh, don’t ask foolish questions, boy.
What are bricks made of, pa?
Of clay, my son.
Do the bricks belong to the men when they make them, pa?
No, my son, they belong to me.
Why, when the men make them?
Because the clay is mine.
Did you make it, pa?
No; God made it, my son.
Did He make it for you, pa?
No, I bought it.
Bought it from God?
No, from a man.
Did the man buy it from God?
No, of course not; he bought it from another man, I suppose.
Did the first man it was bought from buy it from God?
No, I suppose not.
How did he get it then? How was it his more than anybody else’s?
How, I don’t know! I suppose he just claimed it.
Then, if these men should claim it now, would it be theirs?
Oh, bother ! Don’t be asking such foolish questions.
If you didn’t own the brickyard and the clay, how would you make your living?
Oh, I don’t know. I suppose I would have to work.
Would you make bricks, pa?
Maybe I would.
How would you like to make bricks for only your board and clothes, and let the man who claimed the brickyard have everything else?
Nobody’d care how I liked it. Poor people must work for their, living.
If these men had brickyards of their own, would they work for you, pa?
Not likely; they’d work for themselves probably.
Isn’t it lucky that that man claimed this land first, and that you bought it?
If he hadn’t, maybe somebody else would have claimed it, and then maybe one of these men would own it now, and then you’d have to work for him for your board and clothes.
Maybe. You ought to be thankful to Providence for His goodness to you in giving you a father who can support you without working.
Should these men’s little boys be thankful to Providence, too, pa?
Well, I suppose they should.
What for, pa?
Because their pa’s have steady work.
Is steady work a good thing, pa?
Of course it is, my son.
Then why don’t you work, pa? Nobody could keep you from making bricks, could they, pa?
No. I don’t want to keep men out of a job. If I worked I would be keeping one of them out of a job.
That’s kind of you, pa. Do you think if you was to wheel that man’s barrow once while he rested, he’d get mad about it?
Oh pshaw! Gentleman don’t wheel barrows.
What’s gentlemen, pa?
Why, gentlemen – men who don’t need to work – the upper class.
I thought there wasn’t any upper class in this country. I heard a man say all men were equal. The man who said it was a socialist, or anarchist, or something, or maybe it was election time and he was trying to catch votes.
Say, pa, my Sunday School teacher says we are all God’s children. Is she a socialist, or anarchist, or is she trying to catch votes?
Oh no, that’s the right thing to say in Sunday School and churches.
Well, pa, honest now; are these men God’s children, just as much as we are?
Why, yes, my son, to be sure they are.
Say, pa, do you remember when you bought the dozen marbles for brother Jim and me, and I grabbed them all, and made Jim give me his top, before I’d let him play with them, and you called me a greedy little hog and gave me a licking?
Yes, my son, I remember.
Well, do you think you did right?
Certainly, my son; a parent does right to correct his children and keep them from acquiring bad principles. I bought the marbles for you both. Jim had as much right to them as you.
Well, pa, if those me are God’s children just as much as you, then you and them are brothers, and if you make them give you nearly all the bricks they make, for allowing them the use of the clay which God made, isn’t that the same as making Jim give me his top for a chance to play with the marbles?
Oh, bother, don’t ask such stupid questions.
Say, pa, do you think God thinks you a greedy little hog, and that he will punish you for grabbing that clay?
Oh, don’t talk so much. Say, ma, put this child to bed; he makes me tired.
The foregoing gives a hint of the injustice of allowing the value of land, which rightfully belongs to all, to be appropriated by a few. It is true that the man who is born into this world without inheriting “a title” to certain of the natural opportunities to produce wealth, is powerless to utilise his labour, except by dividing the results with those who have appropriated before him the source from which all wealth must be drawn – the land. Such men live, therefore, only by the sufferance of those who “own” the land, and on such terms as landowners concede them, which, needless to say, is generally a bare living only.
The Single Tax will rectify this wrong.