The Big Questions

Our movement has always been about the big questions. We often point out that the single tax is no mere fiscal adjustment; fully applied, it is a comprehensive economic reform, capable of reconciling justice and efficiency. From there it is no great leap to the insight that the single tax is no mere economic reform but, indeed, the sort of all-encompassing mission that the theologian Paul Tillich called an “Ultimate Concern”. The subjects dealt with in political economy touch every aspect of human community. A just resolution of “the land question” holds the prospect of reconciling technological progress with our eternal — sometimes forgotten, but never lost — relationships with the earth, and each other.

Henry George himself was not ashamed to profess his Christian faith in such writings and speeches as “Thou Shalt Not Steal”, “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Moses”. It was Dr. Edward McGlynn, George’s colleague and staunch advocate, who brought him into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Leo XIII. Leo’s encyclical Rerum Novarum was a response to strident cries for economic and social justice, of which the single tax movement was a prominent part. However, Leo suggested that a just society could be achieved without doing away with private ownership of land. George was compelled to reply, and in so doing, he allowed his work to take on an even more “prophetical” cast than it already had.

This year’s conference at the University of Scranton will examine many of these themes, engaging in a dialogue between “two views of social justice”. It is a complex and difficult dialogue, for theological questions are always entangled with complex historical and political issues.

The natural place to look for reconciliation/synthesis between Georgist and Catholic thought is in liberation theology. This movement, which began in the poorest parishes of Latin America, unites faith with hands-on work in the creation of a just society. And the goal of this work must be, as Robert Andelson and James Dawsey made clear in their groundbreaking book From Wasteland to Promised Land: Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World, to secure the equal rights of all people to the natural opportunities, which are God’s gift. Without this fundamental commitment, no social reform, no matter how well-intended, will ultimately succeed.

In this spirit, we are proud to present the collection of paintings for The Stations of the Cross, by the Argentinian artist, and 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. The paintings are interspersed through the magazine, allowing the reader to take some time moving from one to the next, as in the traditional devotional exercise. They are accompanied by exegetical commentary by Alastair McIntosh, the activist, writer and social ecologist from Glasgow, Scotland. I wish we could present these incredibly moving paintings in color — but you may view them here.

Not everything in this issue is “spiritual”, of course — we present some straight-ahead economic analysis as well. As always, the common thread is the commitment, the urgent need, the supreme imperative of justice. The need is evident; its achievement is a matter of faith and hope.

— Lindy Davies

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