And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
Leviticus 25: 23-24
he next morning Alfred went to see Chaka at his house. "I have been talking to the priest who was with Wilson Radebe when you spoke on banking." "Oh! you mean Kazamulu," said Chaka. "He didn't say very much." "That's probably because he has to talk so much in his job as it is. Also, perhaps, because he is a little unusual in that he is neither the hyperactive politically outspoken type of priest like his Archbishop Desmond Tutu, nor the church-mouse type. In any case, when he heard you would be at home this morning, he said he'd like to see you again."
Sure enough, Kazamulu arrived a minute later saying, "I was interested in the things you talked about, and have discussed them at length with Wilson. I know you say you are not interested in politics; neither am I as such. But many of my brothers in the Church are worried when the people say we are collaborators because we are not active enough in the struggle. Now, I have no problem with my brothers when they speak out against the obvious injustices of apartheid, which I do myself. However, I worry when they go further and propound political solutions or actions which would lead to violence. Our Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, says many things which are popular with our people but which infuriate whites. But even he has admitted he knows nothing about economics. In fact, he has asked for help from businessmen in addressing the problem of poverty. So this has led me to think again and again about what Jesus meant when he said: 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's'."
"Yes, and what came to mind when you did that, Kazamulu?" asked
"Well, I think in the first place Jesus was telling his disciples not to worry about material matters like money and taxes, or about political power, all of which are pretty paltry things compared with the real riches with which he has endowed Mankind. But in another sense his words raise in my mind the question 'What is Caesar's?'. Now, what you seem to be saying is that, insofar as the natural working of the economy is concerned, the natural rent of land is what people should be rendering to Caesar, not taxes. Is this right?"
"Yes, but you put it better than I could, Kazamulu," said Chaka.
"Does this mean, then, that we in the Church should be studying economics in order to point people in the right direction? If so, we shall have precious little time left over for our real task of tending His flock."
"Quite so, Kazamulu. Like you, I have no problem with the Church speaking out against injustice and violence. What's more, if the Church succeeds in its real task, which is spiritual upliftment, its criticisms should be enough to spur men to seek real justice. But, again like you, I think that when the Church goes one step further and propounds solutions, it is falling into the typical error made by Western critics of capitalism."
"It is to assume that because 'capitalism' seems always to include poverty along with progress, that which is thought to be the only alternative, namely socialism or communism, must be better. But this is typical of the polarised type of thinking of this day and age.
"For instance, if Islam is good, then all other religions are bad, or if the arms race is wrong, then disarmament must be good, or if the previous distinctions between men and women in society were unjust, then all distinctions must be removed, and so on."
"And I suppose you would add to that, if white rule is wrong, black rule must be right," said Alfred.
"Yes, that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. But the list is endless. We could go on all night," said Chaka.
"So you don't go along with the social gospel or Liberation Theology?" asked Kazamulu.
"Not at all. As I said before, the Church is right to stand up against injustice. And it is true to say that when it doesn't, as has happened from time to time all over the world, it becomes part and parcel of an unjust establishment. Now, although the political and economic pronouncements of churchmen here and elsewhere have sometimes been debatable, the Church should always be taken seriously when it points to basic wrongs in society. For example, the Bishops said before the last British election that Mrs Thatcher had not addressed the fundamental problem of poverty in Britain, and the Catholic Bishops in the U.S. said much the same thing when Reagan stood for his second
term of office. Well, they were right, because in neither country has poverty been approached properly. And this is the sort of thing which thinking people in those countries, including politicians, economists and businessmen, should take
"Hang on a minute, Chaka!" said Alfred. "With due respect to my friend Kazamulu here, why do we have to treat their opinions on these matters so seriously? Haven't we agreed that they do not necessarily know any more about politics or economics than the rest of us?"
"Yes, but first of all, Alfred, please remember we are not talking about their political ideas but about fundamental injustice. In the second place, as I explained to the people at Soweto Suzy's the other day, the Church, in the natural order of things, acts at the level of government. We called this the fourth level in the hierarchy of mankind, with the first three levels making up the economic organism. So if those who lead the Church are men of integrity and true devotion, then they are right to point out basic wrongs, and when they do so, they speak with proper authority at the level of government. That is why when the spiritual leaders of government in this broad sense speak like this, the temporal leaders in government, and all the rest of us, ought to listen." "Yes, I suppose so," said Alfred.
"Perhaps," said Kazamulu, "we should be thankful that despite attempts at manipulation from all sides, the churches in this country are still a force for peaceful, rather than violent, change. To their ranks we can now probably add the Dutch Reformed Church, which has at last rejected apartheid and asked for forgiveness for condoning it in the past. No wonder that the ultra right-wingers are trying to set up their own apartheid Churches."
"Yes, so the turbulent relationship between P.W. Botha in his Tuynhuis and our Archbishop in his Cathedral a few metres away was very much what one would have expected at that stage of affairs," said Alfred.
"That's right. But if F. W. takes the bull by the horns and gets our people to the conference table, I am sure that my Archbishop would no longer be a thorn in his flesh. On the contrary, I think De Klerk would soon see our Cathedral, standing as it does a stone's throw away from Parliament, symbolising the proper place of the Church as a bulwark against violence and injustice in the State. No longer would he have the remotest excuse for hinting that the Church has betrayed reform. Far from it. We would be his most powerful ally against those who might continue to promote or condone violence."
"And if Tutu, to cap it all, calls off the boycott brigade, then indeed 'the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb'," said Chaka.
"In the meantime, Chaka, do you think churchmen like Archbishop Tuta. are right to be so outspoken?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, except that it would help if they understood that the cause of poverty lies deeper than apartheid. For example, it would be much better if they called
for collection of natural rent instead of boycotts and disinvestment. We have shown that if you don't collect rent you will have poverty. As Henry George said in his book Progress and Poverty,' you may have progress, especially if you do not otherwise interfere with the workings of the free market. But with it, if you do not collect rent, you will always have poverty.' That is why, even in boom times, the prosperous West cannot get rid of poverty. Like Brer Rabbit's Tarbaby, it just sticks to the system."
"Yes, but what did George mean when he said, '...otherwise interfere with the free market', Chaka?"
"Well, Kazamulu, you know, those who argue that the Government must leave almost everything to the free market forget about a free market in the most important thing of all!"
"Well, Chaka, people buy and sell land freely now — apart from the Group Areas Act, that is."
"But Kazamulu, suppose St Mary's Cathedral is expropriated for a new fire station and Archbishop Tutu wants to use the compensation to buy land for another cathedral in the centre of Johannesburg. Let us say that his agent quietly manages to buy the one-acre city block that he needs — all except for one little piece of ground, 500 m2 or one-eighth of an acre. Let us say the owner has emigrated to America and leases the shabby little shop on the stand to a dry-cleaning depot or shoe-mender. Meanwhile the owner's agent learns that Tutu's man has bought the rest of the block for an average of R3 000 per square metre or over R10 million for 3 500 m2. He now asks R8 000 per square metre or R4 million for his little piece, without which the Church can't hope to put up its lovely new Cathedral. Do you think that would be fair, that a man who doesn't even live in South Africa could hold up the development of the city and the Church, by holding out for a ridiculous price?"
"That doesn't sound right, Chaka," said Kazamulu, "but isn't that an isolated example?"
"Not at all, Kazamulu. Whenever the economy enjoys a spurt of growth land prices go up — especially in places which are needed for new developments. Usually they get to a point where the new developers fail because they pay too much for the land, or the buildings have to be of poorer quality. Then other developers see they can't afford to buy the land and cancel their plans and the economy slows down. Or else they may be forced to buy land further away from the city in a less suitable place. This is why you get leapfrogging of new townships with empty land between them and the other houses. This urban sprawl adds enormously to the cost of providing facilities as well as transport. Meanwhile, the landowners in the middle just sit and watch the value of their land go up — thanks to all the development around them to
which they have contributed nothing."
"So what's the difference between this and a free market in land?" asked Alfred.
"Well, my brother," said Chaka, "taken together, owners of land ripe for development or re-development have a kind of monopoly position as against those who need to use the land. What's more, they haven't even created or added value to the ground they're selling, whereas other monopolists, such as S.A. Breweries, at least have to brew the stuff. Many goods and services have a limited shelf life or their producers have laid out money for raw materials and labour which they need to recover, and are therefore under some pressure to sell. This is not so with land. Land that has become ripe for new uses can very often still be used for grazing or parking or anything that does not require it to be developed properly, and the income will be enough to cover the owner's carrying costs, if any. Meanwhile, the owner bides his time waiting for the inevitable buyout at many times the price he paid for it. For to develop, the community needs land — it has no choice. That is why land ownership which is not subject to collection of rent becomes a kind of monopoly."
"And you reckon collecting natural rent will put an end to this nonsense?"
"Yes, and it will free up the market in land because people won't be able to afford to hoard land they don't use properly," said Chaka.
"Mdala, goodbye, and may the Lord truly bless you," said Kazamulu, standing up suddenly.
"What's the hurry? Where are you going, my brother?" asked Alfred.
"To seek an audience with His Grace the Archbishop!"
"What for, Kazamulu?"
"I want to show him how to get anothefNobel Prize — only this time it will be for freeing the economy!"