In the Old Testament we are told that when the Israelites journeyed
through the desert, they were hungered, and that God sent manna down out
of the heavens. There was enough for all of them, and they all took it and
This is the story, we read. But let us tell it again with a small
Suppose that the desert had been held as private property, as the
soil of Great Britain is held, as the soil even of our new States is being
held; suppose that one of the Israelites had a square mile, and another
one had twenty square miles, and another one had a hundred square miles,
and the great majority of the Israelites did not have enough to set the
soles of their feet upon, which they could call their own.
What would become of the manna?
What good would it have done to the majority?
Not a whit. Though God had sent down manna enough for all, that manna
would have been the property of the landholders; they would have employed
some of the others perhaps, to gather it up into heaps for them, and would
have sold it to their hungry brethren.
This purchase and sale of manna might have gone on until the majority
of Israelites had given all they had, even to the clothes off their backs.
Then they would not have had anything left to buy manna with, and
the consequences would have been that while they went hungry the manna
would have lain in great heaps, and the landowners would have been complaining
of the over-production of manna.
There would have been a great harvest of manna and hungry people,
just precisely the phenomenon that we see to-day.
Henry George: The crime of poverty